Game Show Network, which launched a new daily primetime
show last week called All New 3's a Crowd, hopes to benefit from the national
sensation created by ABC's Regis Philbin-hosted hit, Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire?, network officials said.
"It kind of bodes well for us in the long haul,"
GSN senior vice president of programming Jake Tauber said. "It justifies what we have
been doing. We know game shows are a powerful genre. It's interesting, compelling
GSN -- which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this
month by passing the 25 million-subscriber mark -- may specialize in game shows, but it
isn't the only cable network that's staked a claim with them. VH1, Nickelodeon
and Comedy Central have made them a mainstay. And MTV: Music Television last week debuted webRIOT,an interactive game show that employs the Internet. MTV will also premiere The
Blame Game Jan.8.
GSN is anticipating a halo effect from Millionaire on
several fronts. Tauber noted that following the success and buzz of Millionaire,
veteran game shows such as Jeopardy have seen bounces in their ratings. In line
with that, he has high hopes that the primetime game-show revival will drive demand for
such programming, prompting some viewers to call their cable operators and ask for GSN.
GSN president Michael Fleming said his service has already
gained 6.3 million subscribers this year, and by the end of December, it may actually take
that number to 7 million. Of GSN's 25 million homes, the lion 's share are
analog, with only about 1.3 million -- from AT&T Broadband & Internet Services --
"Over the next year, we'll exceed 30
million," Fleming said. "And we've about turned the corner on
Most of GSN's subscriber gains next year will be via
digital carriage, according to Fleming, from MSOs such as Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable
and Cablevision Systems Corp.
GSN has been paying upfront cash launch fees, but that will
taper off, he added. GSN will instead spend on marketing the service, building consumer
awareness so that the network will be an asset to draw subscribers to digital tiers and
broadband applications, according to Fleming.
GSN is focusing on the network's interactive
applications for cable operators through enhanced-TV services such as ACTV Inc. GSN is
even working with the same Internet media company -- Spiderdance Inc. -- that MTV is using
for webRIOT, Fleming said.
Apart from possibly helping to boost GSN's
distribution, Tauber forecast that Millionaire'ssuccess will help GSN
in terms of its dealings with the creative community.
In the past, the brightest stars in the TV-production world
were loath to do game shows, he said. Now, Tauber believes TV producers will be rushing to
try to duplicate the ratings phenomenon of Millionaire,and not all those
pilots and shows can find homes on broadcast. This means some of those shows may wind up
being offered to cable, and GSN, he added.
GSN's program lineup is a mix of classic game shows
from the network's library and, at this point, a half-dozen original game shows. The
latest one is All New 3's a Crowd,which debuted Nov. 29 and is airing
nightly at 9:30 p.m.
In January, GSN and Pax TV will both begin airing a game
show they are co-financing, Hollywood Showdown. Pax TV will get the first play of Hollywood
Showdown's episodes, with GSN able to run then very shortly thereafter.
GSN, part of Sony Corp., has ordered 65 episodes of All
New 3's a Crowd, which features Alan Thicke as its host. The show is an updated
version of an old game show that GSN has the rights to, and has been airing, called 3's
The original series, from The Newylwed Game producer
Chuck Barris, was dropped midseason in 1980, with some saying it was just a little bit too
risqué for its day.
GSN has updated and "broadened" its new version
of 3's a Crowd, according to Tauber. In what he described as the
"politically incorrect" first game show, the object was to see -- via a set of
questions -- who knew a husband better, his wife or his secretary.
"That created a lot of heat" and sexual tension,
Tauber said, since in many cases, the secretaries seemed to know the husbands better than
the wives. And there was the undercurrent that the husband might be romantically
interested in his secretary.
But with All New 3's a Crowd, different trios
will be brought together -- such as a woman and her current and ex-boyfriend, or a man and
his wife and mother -- to see who knows whom the best, according to Tauber.
"Typically, there is a reasonable amount of tension attached to such things," he
Shows such as webRIOT and Millionaire fall
under the genre of quiz game shows, according to Tauber, In contrast, he noted, All
New 3's a Crowd is a relationshipgame show. Other types include
communications games, like Password, and panel shows, such as What's My
Tauber said the best and most popular quiz-type game shows,
Millionaire included, all have enough easy questions so that everyone in the
audience believes they could go on that show and win. "It's enough to make you
feel smart," he added.
He also attributed Millionaire's success, apart
from its snazzy production values, to the way ABC shrewdly programmed and debuted it
during the summer, when little new programming was on.
GSN, which averaged a 0.5 primetime rating in October,
tweaked the quiz-show genre with Inquizition, which it just renewed by ordering a
second season of 130 episodes. Unlike the typical game show, Inquizition takes
place on a stark set with an acerbic host, the "Inquizitor," who belittles
contestants for missing questions and even makes fun of the show's questions
Inquizition is GSN's highest-rated original show,
averaging a 0.6 to a 0.8 rating, according to Tauber. The "dark, offbeat" show
has attracted a good number of men 18 to 34, an attractive demographic, he added.
Cable has avidly programmed game shows for some time, with
shows such as MTV's Remote Control standing out, according to Tauber.
"Cable has always embraced the game-show format because it's relatively cheap to
produce and it is compelling television," he added.
GSN's deal with Pax TV to co-fund Hollywood
Showdown provides the cable network with a more economical way to finance original
programming. The goal is for GSN to offer, by the end of 2003, 50 percent library
programming and 50 percent first-run shows.
When Pax TV airs Hollywood Showdown,as part
of the deal, it will also have to run promos for GSN, according to Tauber.
"That's really a home run for us," he said.
Like several other networks, GSN has a millennium event
set. It will air a stunt, "Y2Play," hosted by Charles Nelson Reilly, featuring
the final episodes of a number of game shows. The stunt will air from 4 p.m. through
midnight Dec. 31.