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Price Is Right for Game Shows

Programming genre heats up on networks, remains staple of syndication 3/12/2010 01:03:00 PM Eastern

In TV’s tough economic times, a few
networks are turning to a syndication
staple—game shows—to provide
compelling programming at lower
costs. This fall, MyNetworkTV will
air Don’t Forget the Lyrics and Are You
Smarter Than a 5th Grader
? on Tuesday
nights, while CBS is having success with
the daytime pairing of The Price Is Right
and Let’s Make a Deal. The latter replaced
soap opera Guiding Light.

The moves are proving to be winners for
the games’ distributors, too. Lyrics and 5th
work for MyTV—and its corporate
sibling, Twentieth Television—because
Twentieth also distributes them in syndication
and to cable. Lyrics is sold in 55% of
the country for fall debut in syndication and
will bow this fall on VH1, while 5th Grader
is renewed for year two in 65% of the country,
according to Greg Meidel, president of
Twentieth Television and MyTV. Meidel and
his team are also working on brand integrations
for both shows that they expect will
deliver significant revenue streams.

“Twentieth definitely had a price point we
had to hit,” says Tony Yates, COO of RDF
Media and executive producer of Don’t Forget
the Lyrics
. To keep costs down, RDF
will produce 160 half-hours of the show
within a two-month period.

Soap operas typically remain in production
year-round, driving costs up. Meanwhile,
ratings for soaps have declined over
the past several years, leading to several
longtime franchises getting the ax. CBS canceled
Guiding Light last year, and this fall,
As the World Turns goes off the air.

The downward trend for soaps sent network
execs looking for new models for daytime.
CBS found an old one instead by reimagining
Price Is Right. “As we looked to
expand our daytime ratings, one of the first
places I looked was at this core business that
we’ve had on the air for 38 years,” says Barbara
Bloom, CBS’ senior VP of daytime.

Comedian Drew Carey took over as Price
Is Right
host from the retiring Bob Barker in
2007. Mike Richards, the show’s executive
producer, has spent three years adapting it to
Carey’s style. The results are in the ratings:
Price is up 9% among households and up 11%
among adults 18-49 compared to last year.

Let’s Make a Deal, also executive-produced
by Richards and hosted by Wayne
Brady, has improved its time period in
households by 13% (1.7 versus 1.5), in
adults 18-34 by 67% (0.5 versus 0.3) and
women 18-34 by 20% (0.6/0.5).

CBS’ success with game shows may indicate
that the network is leaning toward
picking up a third game to replace As the
World Turns
, but Bloom remains mum on
what will replace the soap.

Networks, producers and distributors agree
that the game-show moves that have paid off
did so because they were calculated—not
quick—bets. “I don’t look at game shows as
a format that might work because they are
inexpensive,” says one syndicator. “I look at
it from the point of view of, ‘Does this show
have a chance to get a rating?’”


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