Early in the second season of Buena Vista's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, the game show is showing the biggest ratings growth of any show in syndication.
has jumped 35% season-to-date, to a 3.1 national household rating from 2.3 at launch last year. In 53 metered markets, it has shown growth in all the dayparts in which it is cleared: 19% in its 23 daytime clearances, 26% in 16 access clearances, and 7% in 17 early-fringe clearances, including double-runs.
"Access has been particularly rewarding," says Lloyd Komesar, executive vice president for strategic research at Buena Vista, "because we are seeing the greatest gains in syndication's most difficult time period."
When asked what's contributing to the growth, executive producer Michael Davies says, "Meredith, Meredith, Meredith. Meredith," referring to host Meredith Vieira, who supplanted Philbin in the syndicated version.
"I walked into her dressing room before we started doing the show this year and told her, 'By the end of this season, you'll have done more Millionaires than Regis.' She was very conscious that she was hosting Regis's show, but, this year, she is has taken complete ownership of the show. We've released her to just have more fun with it."
By more fun, Davies means Vieira is wearing fewer pinstripe, tailored suits and more leather pants and colorful outfits. She also is taking more freedom with her role as the show's hostess and letting her flirtatious personality shine through.
"When you've got a host who is good at working the game but who also adds some spontaneity on a daily basis, that helps attract people who are not typical viewers," Davies says. "We've got news viewers who watch the news and then stay on for Millionaire
and talk-show viewers who tune in to watch Meredith. We even get off-net sitcom viewers because she's very funny."
This season, Millionaire
took over the time period of ABC's canceled soap Port Charles
in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Raleigh, N.C., and has improved the time periods by 34% in rating and 30% in share, from a 2.9/10 to a 3.9/13.
The show also is performing in its key demos, improving by 25% in women 25-54 and by 14% in men 25-54.