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 Grader 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 re-imagining 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?'"