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Millionaire sees revival

11/17/2002 07:00:00 PM Eastern

While King World's Dr. Phil has gotten the lion's share of press allocated to this year's batch of rookie syndicated shows, Buena Vista's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire has been quietly settling in as the second-highest-rated new strip of the 2002-03 season.

In the week ended Nov. 3, Millionaire
hit a 3.0, according to Nielsen national numbers, up 25% from its 2.4 premiere. And in weighted metered markets, the show hit a 3.4 last week, says Lloyd Komesar, BVT senior vice president of strategic research, meaning the show "has a decent prospect of building again or at least holding."

Millionaire
went from prime time glory on ABC to its well-documented burn-out just as it hit syndication, and that may have hurt the show initially, says Executive Producer Michael Davies. But he and BVT made several changes to help it along. The View's
Meredith Vieira hosts, bringing with her an established daytime audience, and the show is quicker as well as tougher off the bat.

Increasing the difficulty of the first five questions is not so much to save BVT money, Davies says, as to make the show more interesting day in and day out. "I have an enormous prize budget on this show, certainly bigger than any other game show on daytime TV," he points out, meaning he doesn't necessarily have to scrimp. "We heard in focus group after focus group that viewers felt the first five questions were a giveaway and not worth watching."

The "beautiful thing about this show" is its broad appeal, Davies says. "I have a friend who has a 3-year-old daughter, and, every time a question comes up, she shouts 'B.' She's right about 25% of the time, and she gets excited about that. And she has a 98-year-old grandmother who loves it, too, and they watch it together."

Davies' story also illustrates another point: Millionaire
tends to skew old, although maybe not as old as 98, as well as to women. He says both are to be expected with a game show that is cleared 70% in early fringe, since most game shows skew older and it's mostly women who are available to watch TV in the daytime.

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