Millionaire to Create Gamer for ESPN


Pasadena, Calif.-ESPN has lined up Michael Davies, executive producer of ABC's hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, to create a sports-trivia game show called ESPN's 2-Minute Drill.

Jumping on the game-show bandwagon, ESPN's version will debut Sept. 11, a Monday, at 7 p.m., continuing on Mondays, with Thursday editions added starting Oct. 12.

The half-hour show will be taped in front of a live studio audience in New York. Its 26-episode fall season will culminate with a championship on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.

Davies was part of ESPN's presentation at the Television Critics Association summer tour here, where the new trivia show was announced.

He told writers he was a longtime fan of ESPN who produced a number of game shows for cable networks-such as Debt for Lifetime Television-before helming Millionaire for ABC. "Long before I worked in network television, my career started in cable," he added.

ESPN's 2-Minute Drill will feature three contestants and three rounds. In the first round, questions will come from a panel of four celebrities, including ESPN commentators, in a category of the contestant's choosing.

In the second round, the contestant takes two minutes of questions from the panel and the host.

The final round has the high-score contestant facing a multiple-part question in his or her preselected area of expertise.

Davies conceded that ESPN's quiz show won't have the kind of potential prize-$1 million-ABC's Millionaire does. But he argued that he doesn't think this will hurt ESPN's show, and pointed out that Millionaire has seen only has six millionaires out of 250 contestants and noted that its highest-rated shows have been ones where contestants haven't won $1 million.

Davies said he is working with ESPN to create "customized ESPN prizes" for ESPN's 2-Minute Drill, such as allowing winners to cover events for ESPN or go to the Final Four and report for SportsCenter. He joked that the consolation prizes would have "an ESPN flair"-items like Dan Patrick's coffee mug.

Davies said there had been initial talks to do a sports version of Millionaire for ESPN, but they were abandoned. There was a Super Bowl version of Millionaire that aired on ABC the night before the Super Bowl this year.

ESPN also talked with the producers of Jeopardy! about getting a sports version of that game show on the 24-hour sports network, officials at the TCA said.

As for the decision by ESPN to create its own game show, ESPN Classic general manager Mark Shapiro said, "It's original and it's proprietary. And we think this will hit."

Davies said he was looking for someone from ESPN's talent roster to host 2-Minute Drill.