Monday, September 24, 2018

Draft kings

By now you've probably heard about Jeopardy's new stunt: the team tournament scheduled for February and March of next year.

But if you're gonna have teams, you gotta have a draft. We're into sports here, folks. So Jeopardy went on Facebook, and the six team captains drafted their squads from a pool of twelve past champs.

Much to my surprise Roger Craig didn't go #1 overall. That honor went to Alex Jacob, who will play on Buzzy Cohen's team. Roger didn't have to wait long, though. Austin Rogers snapped him up at #2 overall. Mr. Craig wasn't going to fall too far down the list.

The last draft pick was Jennifer Giles. So she'll probably do better than any of the higher picks. Isn't that the way it often happens with sports drafts?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A while back

Not much is happening in game shows on the weekend, so I looked far and wide on Google. And I came up with something I should have found a while back.

Last year the then-GM of Buzzr, Ron Garfield, appeared at an industry confabulation on diginets. A lot of water has washed over the dam since that meeting, and Ron is no longer working for Buzzr. But his comments are still interesting. It turns out that Buzzr's general strategic approach was in the making for a while.

Ron started by telling people just what Buzzr is. He noted the Goodson-Todman library and highlighted Buzzr's original reason for existence: make money off those 40,000 eps of old G-T shows.

Ron really caught my attention when he said that Buzzr has bought an "entry-level" package of ratings from Nielsen. So those precious numbers are out there, except none of them are published. Gawd, I'd like to know just how many eyeballs are staring at the diginet.

Another key point was that daytime, and not prime time, is the biggest window for Buzzr. That's because direct response advertisers get the most phone calls during the day. Hm, maybe that's why Classic Concentration will play at 1:00 PM. And maybe that's why Buzzr doesn't waste Match Game on prime time. (There was a comment about "a lot of Gene Rayburn.")

Of course, Ron admitted that general advertisers are a lot more lucrative than the direct response guys. But for now Buzzr is pretty much stuck with "DR," as the execs call it. Ron also talked about the documentary Game Changers, which so far is Buzzr's only foray into original programming. By the way, thanks for the show poster, Ron. It's on the wall of my study and I'm looking at it as I type.

Ron also mentioned the other distribution channels for Buzzr which have now become so prominent in the diginet's strategy, like Amazon Prime and Twitch. The switch away from strictly linear TV was in place a while back. Though no doubt the exec shakeup that made Ron the ex-GM accelerated the move, especially the live feed on Buzzr's web site.

Finally, he played a bit of Match Game from the Twitch feed. It's the greatest game show ever, after all.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stick a fork

A faux tweet noted that GSN will drop Card Sharks and 25K Pyramid on October 1 in favor of three hours of Match Game each weekday.

I'm happy that the greatest game show of all time can still hold its own in the rough and tumble of commercial TV. But I knew the reaction on the oldies boards would be less than favorable. Sure enough, the thread on the subject at Game Show Forum started out by proving my remark that the "online game show community" is often clueless about the real world. A couple posters actually wrote...

I know when most of us heard that BUZZR scored Classic Concentration, most of us were saying something to the effect of “GSN should throw in the towel, BUZZR has won!"

In all honesty, one of my first thoughts when Buzzr scored CC was, "maybe, perhaps, NBC decided to sell it lock-stock-barrel to Fremantle". I wouldn't know if that *was* the case, but nonetheless, that was a heck of a scoop on Buzzr's part. Now if Buzzr lands "Scrabble", I guess we can finally stick the fork in GSN. I have a small feeling that that subject will be more a matter of "when", and not "if".

Uh, yeah. GSN is a top thirty cable network, and Buzzr is a largely unwatched diginet. I'm sure that GSN should "throw in the towel," and Scrabble on Buzzr will be the final death blow. Even if the posters were only talking about GSN's appeal to game show hardcores, the language was way over the top.

Such hilarity was too much even for other Game Show Forum posters. One of them tried to inject a little reality into the thread...

I love what Buzzr is doing, but their viewership is likely made up of hardcore fans and those longing for nostalgia. Even if they get 10-20K at a time, that's a very tiny blip in the world of cable and less than Harvey Feud ratings by a mile. I don't have hard ratings numbers, just speculation.

It's true that there are few if any published numbers on Buzzr's TV viewership, though the diginet's Twitch feed plays to a usual audience of about a hundred or less (seventy-five as I type). There are plenty of hard numbers on GSN, though. The network regularly draws a total day average of over a quarter-million viewers. This is, no doubt, at least an order of magnitude bigger than Buzzr's viewership.

With a bit of the real world acknowledged, other posters noted that GSN shows like Deal or No Deal and Cash Cab are getting plenty of age on them, too. In fact, they're as old as many of the "classics" were on GSN when the channel first flickered into life in 1994. GSN's lineup is downright grizzled by normal TV standards.

UPDATE: The thread went on to chat about GSN's new YouTube logo (see screenshot). One poster showed that he's plenty out of touch when he said that GSN is "rebranding" to "Game Show Network." Of course, GSN has been using that name for a long time now on the TV network. I haven't seen the YouTube logo on TV or the web site, but it might be coming soon.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Buzzr's future

As I've written in comments and blog entries, I think there's a real debate at Fremantle on what to do with Buzzr. The exec shakeup is one symptom of the dispute. The stall in TV distribution is another sign that Fremantle is looking at all possibilities. As far as I can see, there are three genuine options for the future of the game show oldies diginet...

1) Shut it down completely. Nobody's watching it and it's not making a dime. This is what Fremantle did with the original Buzzr YouTube channel. It's not out of the question for the current diginet. Among other things, the careless mistiming of the commercial breaks on the channel tells me that nobody much cares even about basic technical operations.

2) Keep running the diginet for a small group of Internet oldies fans. This seems to be the current plan, and it's the most likely option for the near future, in my opinion. Sure, the combined membership of Game Show Forum and Game Show Paradise isn't huge, but it's an audience of some kind, after all. The recent acquisition of Classic Concentration and the tryout of color versions of several oldies indicate that Fremantle has more or less landed on this option for the moment. A possible variant is to forget about the linear TV channel and make Buzzr into a purely online operation.

3) Go hell for leather and try to make Buzzr into a genuine competitor for GSN. This is the high-risk, high-reward option, and it's the least likely, in my view. If Buzzr starts running current popular game shows like Celebrity Family Feud or Drew Carey's The Price is Right, we'll know that Fremantle is going all out. But this would p.o. GSN, a very good customer over the years, and there's no guarantee of success.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Great white north

Readers of this blog know that I usually focus on U.S. game shows.

Expanding to other countries is tricky because the news on the English Internet tends to come disproportionately from, you guessed it, the Anglosphere. So if I really wanted to cover game shows around the world, I'd have to wear out Google Translate as I rambled though a couple hundred different languages.

Which is something I'd rather not do. But I'll break my usual rule for a bit of news about Game TV, the closest thing to GSN in Canada. This is an oddball network that runs an astonishing mix of real and trash sports, old and new game shows, reality TV, movies, and pretty much anything else they feel like running.

An idea of the variety of their programming comes from the screenshot, which is the new header for their Facebook site. You might notice Mr. Harvey, who will bring Celebrity Family Feud to the network in prime time, beginning October 12. Game TV is obviously over the moon about the acquisition. They're giving Steve a plum time slot and massive exposure as one of the literal faces of the network.

Which brings me to the possible U.S. relevance of the news. How long before Fremantle also leases Celebrity Family Feud to GSN? My guess is, not that long.

In much less important news, at least in the real world, Game TV will also pick up the old Peter Tomarken chestnut Wipeout (no relation to the ABC stuntfest). Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, this oldie won't get anywhere close to prime time. A funny comment from the Facebook page... 

The online game show community is more excited about the 30 year old show Wipeout, not well remembered outside the online game show community (though a computer game of it came out in 1989 and it ran on USA for two years after its less than one season run), coming to GameTV than Steve Harvey Feud.

Which shows how out of touch with the real world the "online game show community" can be. But you probably knew that already.

Also, I just noticed that Anthony Anderson's To Tell the Truth comes to Game TV on October 9. Now that Fremantle seems to be in a leasing mood for all their summer Sunday shows, I expect them to turn up on GSN pretty soon. Or even Buzzr. Hey, the diginet already has Celebrity Name Game, just like Game TV.

UNRELATED HOUSEKEEPING UPDATE: Due to a lot of trolls and trash, I've now limited comments to people with Google accounts. (It's free and easy to set up an account with Google.) Too much spam and nonsense were coming in, and I've got better things to do than take out all the garbage. Sorry if this new policy inconveniences some serious commenters. But a Google account should not be a barrier to anybody who wants to post substantive comments, including criticism of me.

Small details

There are some new graphics wrinkles in our little genre this season. They've gotten a bit of notice, so I'll join in.

Millionaire has done the biggest makeover. The long-standing question graphics have given way to, let's say, a blue parallelogram look. See the screenshot for a sample. There are other graphics tweaks, which give the show a little less traditional look. It's really not a big deal, but that's why this entry has "small" in the title.

Meanwhile, Wheel of Fortune has started displaying letters onscreen as they are called. The screenshot shows a contestant calling a "T". If a hapless player calls an unused letter, a slash appears across the graphic. The slash rather oddly reminds me of no-smoking signs.

Graphics packages have never been a big deal for me in game shows. Jeopardy was just fine with cardboard clues on a manually operated board. But time moves on and the small details change.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Less hairy

Maybe I should retitle this blog Facial Hair Follies.

Having set off Internet alarums and excursions with his full beard, Jeopardy's Alex Trebek has now pared the fuzz down to a goatee and then to a mustache. There's video evidence for this stunning transformation. Not to mention a flock of stories in Google News and a bigger flock of fan reactions on social media.

Have to admit, I'm a little impressed by how much free publicity the show has garnered for a few whiskers here and there. After all those decades it's hard to get much vibe about our venerable and much-awarded quizzer.

The only bigger splash (literally) would be Alex dyeing his hair. I don't think we have to worry about that calamitous event. But you never know.

UNRELATED UPDATE: A commenter got on me for not mentioning Wink Martindale's Facebook version of Tic Tac Dough. Sorry I missed the ginormous story, but some of the video is here. The video quality is not the best, but Wink looks to be in fine form.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ratings: syndies mostly down in last week before debuts

The last week before season debuts was a blah one for syndie game shows. Most lost a little ground and nobody gained. TV News Check has the dreary household ratings for the week of September 3-9...

Family Feud 6.0 - down a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.3 - flat, which was okay for this week
Jeopardy 5.2 - down a tick
Millionaire 1.4 - down a tick to an unusually low number
Funny You Should Ask 0.5 - flat, as usual

Match Game wrapped up its season with the best numbers in a while. 4.31M viewers and a 0.8 18-49 rating. I haven't heard any definite news about a renewal. But any summer show that can get four million viewers has a chance nowadays.

GSN got 364K/265K viewers prime time/total day for the week of September 10-16. The network ranked 39th and 28th in the windows. Pretty much the same as the previous week, though GSN returned to the top 30 in total day. I wonder if the network will try America Says in prime time for the second season. Might perk up the numbers a little.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Party hearty

Readers of this blog know about my sour attitude toward show biz self-congratulation.

But if you win one of the show biz self-awards, you might as well throw a party. So that's what The Price is Right did for its season debut to celebrate its Daytime Emmy win as best game show. Everybody dressed up in formal wear like it was What's My Line (not the color version). And Drew Carey prominently brandished the Emmy statuette.

The linked story tells me that TPiR has now taken home the Daytime Emmy for best game show eight times. This trails only Jeopardy and Pyramid in number of wins, and that makes three of the game shows on anybody's top ten list.

Nothing lasts forever but The Price is Right is showing ominous signs. It's hard to think of any calamity that could knock the show off the air. As long as there's merchandise to give away, TPiR will probably endure.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

To reboot or not to reboot

A commenter has been spamming various entries with an insistence that Card Sharks is the greatest game show ever.

We all know that Match Game's 1973-82 version really holds that title. But what the hey, a difference of opinion makes a horse race. Anyway, the commenter (and others) might be interested in a thread on the game show Reddit board that discusses a possible Card Sharks reboot. Some of the comments are sour and gloomy, but you never know.

In fact, none other than Fremantle CEO Jennifer Mullin has talked vaguely about a possible return of the acey-deucey fest. Buzzr even tried a live version of Card Sharks on their Facebook page, which didn't seem to impress too many viewers.

The most recent TV revival of the format was, of course, the Pat Bullard version in 2001. It died a quick and unlamented death. Card Sharks is hardly a personal favorite of mine, but the show has always had a vocal fanbase on the Interwebs. GSN and Buzzr both run old eps of the show, so maybe a revival is not out of the question at all.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Skipping along

I've mentioned before that myths and legends grow like Topsy on the game show Interwebs.

One of the more persistent myths was that evil forces at NBC were depriving the world of Classic Concentration reruns because that's just what evil forces would do. I've pointed out that probably few people at NBC nowadays can even remember Classic Concentration, much less organize an evil plot to keep gazillions of panting fans from seeing it. In fact, plenty of the show has always been available on YouTube.

Classic Concentration is coming to Buzzr next month, so maybe that myth will go into remission for a while. Other myths swirl around the famous "skipped episodes" on Match Game. Certain weeks of the best game show ever haven't been seen in a while, so Interweb posters form all sorts of ingenious conspiracy theories to explain why. With so many eps of the show bouncing around GSN and Buzzr every week and zillions of eps always available on YouTube, I couldn't care less about the famous skips. But some people do care, a lot.

One set supposedly on the skips list was the Match Game '76 week with Anitra Ford, then a model on The Price is Right. The conspiracy theory was that Anitra wouldn't allow the eps to see the light of day due to whatever. Which is a little strange because Anitra herself said that she really enjoyed doing the show.

Anyway, Anitra's episodes will apparently air on Buzzr soon. Will another myth bite the dust, at least for a few years? We can only hope.