Every day when U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Carlos Thrasher, a Time Warner Cable customer stationed in Jacksonville, N.C., came home after a long day at work, he would play Bingo Blitz on Game Show Network's website. He'd then tune in to the TV network to see if he won anything. He didn't ever really expect to win but it was fun to play. But he did win and he won big: Earlier this year Thrasher won $37,000 -- Bingo Blitz's second highest jackpot.
"I was in shock," Thrasher said at the time. "I told several of my staff sergeants that I'd won, and they all thought I was joking."
Thrasher's win was exactly what the honchos at GSN had in mind when they launched the game in the first place, said Nico Fasano, GSN's vice president of distribution, strategy and operations. Participants play games on GSN's website and then they tune into the video channel later that day to see if they won anything. In the meantime, they hopefully watch the programming GSN offers its linear channel viewers.
ABOUT ADDING VALUE
About 7 million people have signed up to play games on GSN's website to date, Fasano said. The website receives over 3 million unique visitors each month, which is up over 100% in the last year-and-a-half. It's not really about ratings even though the games are designed to drive participants to the network, Fasano said. Rather, he sees it as an added value for viewers. GSN gives away about $3 million in cash and prizes each year.
GSN is also using the expertise it has learned from its marriage of online and video content to help its affiliates create and/or expand their online offerings. "Everyone is trying to develop and expand their websites," Fasano said. "We are using gaming to drive behavior and it works. Many of our affiliates are using that expertise to replicate our success."
GSN's motto is "The World Needs More Winners," and all of the network's promotions fall under that umbrella. In addition to its online game opportunities, GSN has spent a good of time in the last couple of years travelling around the country to areas devastated by floods, fires and tornadoes. The network donated games, for instance, to the YMCA in Joplin, Mo., after the devastating tornado there decimated the city. People were living in shelters and GSN's donated games gave them something to do, Fasano said. GSN created ad spots with the local GM there telling folks about the donation and GSN ran uplifting messages on its network to help keep their spirits up, Fasano said.
"We want to create emotional bonds with our viewers," he said. "With our motto as our guide, we want to optimistic and inspirational."
It also is designed to gain carriage. GSN knows where those gamers on the web come from and they can use that data to prove the network is valuable.
Each online game is a little different, but they all have the same end goal: play online and watch on TV. Bingo Blitz participants, for instance, select their numbers from the five Bingo columns, each containing fifteen numbers or select the "Blitz Pick" option, in which GSN automatically generates five numbers. Each Monday through Friday between 7 and 7:30 p.m. ET, viewers tune in to see the 5-digit winning number, and GSN awards a cash prize to any participant who correctly matches all five numbers. If no one correctly picks all five numbers, the $1,000 jackpot rolls over to the next night's drawing for even bigger stakes.
Bingo Blitz is among the most popular games among GSN's online gaming lineup. The net launched the game about a year-and-a-half ago. The largest winner netted $41,000.
"This is a great way to engage our viewers and it supports the bundled package our affiliate partners are pushing from their end," Fasano said. "Because of the way our viewers interact with us, they need high-speed and it drives their bundled package strategies."
CHECK IS ON THE WAY
The best part for affiliates: They don't have to do a thing if they don't want to, he said. GSN contacted TWC Carolinas when Thrasher won and asked if the operator would like to partner in the announcement and TWC Carolinas' vice president of communications Melissa Buscher jumped at the opportunity. Time Warner arranged to have a check-awarding ceremony held at the local USO. TWC has long been a USO supporter Buscher said, and being able to expand that support while celebrating the Marine's winning numbers was a plus all around. TWC, the USO and GSN received plenty of good publicity through the event and everyone went home happy.
"We are always appreciative of the opportunities that networks like GSN offer us," Buscher said. "This was a positive for them and for us as well."
As for Thrasher, he put a lot of money into savings for his kids and after that was taken care of, he took a golf vacation to Puerto Rico. And he continues to play Bingo Blitz every day.