A Really Long-Running ‘Feud’ - Broadcasting & Cable

A Really Long-Running ‘Feud’

Fremantle, Debmar bank on Harvey to boost profitability
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FremantleMedia North America and Debmar-Mercury hope that by marrying two well-known brands--long-running game show Family Feud and comedian and radio host Steve Harvey--they can revitalize the show and build its core audience.

Family Feud
, which enters its 12th season (of its third incarnation) on Sept. 13, averages around a 2.0 national GAA rating, at which level it covers its costs and makes money, according to sources. However, just a 10%-20% boost in ratings could make it very profitable. Both FremantleMedia, the show's producer, and Debmar-Mercury, its distributor, think Harvey is the man to do that.

"The bottom line is that we have a good show in Family Feud and we are trying to make it into a great show," says Ira Bernstein, co-president of Debmar-Mercury.

Both companies are tackling the show's re-launch on multiple platforms. Working to its advantage is that Harvey, who is nationally syndicated on radio stations in more than 60 markets, has more than seven million listeners to whom he is constantly promoting his new project.

“That’s one of the things we saw with Wendy Williams,” says Bernstein, mentioning the New York-based radio deejay who now hosts her own Debmar-produced daytime TV talk show. “She drove numbers in that market like nobody’s business.”

Fremantle has focused on developing Feud’s online presence, which until recently had been mostly neglected. In February, Fremantle re-launched the show’s Website, which now includes clips from current shows, highlights from classic shows all the way back to when Richard Dawson hosted in the 1970s, and show survey questions for people to answer.

Fremantle is syndicating that Website out to stations. “We own everything inside the module, and we can monetize all of that,” says J.T. Katzman, director of product management for Fremantle North America, who was hired by Fremantle in October 2008 to revitalize many of the company’s Websites, including Feud and The Price Is Right. “Stations own everything outside that module, and they can put banner ads and the like around it.”

Years ago, FremantleMedia Enterprises licensed the rights to any online versions of Feud games to iWin, which offers one online version at Yahoo Games. As part of the show’s reboot, Fremantle has worked with iWin to create another version on Facebook, and that now has nearly seven million monthly users.

“When you create a Website, you have to gradually build traffic and that takes time,” says Olivier Delfosse, director of interactive for FremantleMedia Enterprises North America. “Facebook delivers you traffic overnight— just the amount of people on the platform can do that for you.”

Meanwhile, Fremantle and Debmar have delivered two sets of promos to the show’s station affi liates, and stations in the top 25 markets have already run them some 2,000 times this summer. Last year at this time, stations had only aired about 200 spots in support of the show, according to Bernstein.

“We changed the host and the quality of the promos but more importantly, the promos are really funny and the stations like Steve Harvey,” Bernstein says. “You can pitch all you want, but ultimately the buyer has to like what you are selling.”

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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