Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ratings: it's close at the top

The top three syndie game shows staged a near photo finish for the week of July 13-19. Pat and Vanna won on total viewers, though. Which is only fair because they don't get to pad their numbers with multiple daily runs. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.1 - down four ticks to help create the close finish
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - flat
Jeopardy 6.0 - down a tick into a tie with the Sony soulmate
Millionaire 1.6 - flat as Terry lingers through reruns
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick, in a rare bit of movement

As I said, the big wheel rolled to the top spot in total viewers among all syndies. The averages from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 9.5M (weekend repeat 4.2M), Jeopardy 9.1M (weekend repeat 3.0M), Family Feud 9.1M.

GSN enjoyed a hot July (bad pun intended). 465K/348K/482K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 28th and 28th in the windows for the month. Summer has been very, very good to our little game show network so far.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Living color

At least Buzzr hasn't gone after any of the color syndie What's My Line eps on YouTube. Though maybe I shouldn't give them any ideas.

I always liked the syndie, which loosened up (and freshened up) WML's format but didn't destroy the basic premise. Still, game show freaks have usually regarded the seven seasons from 1968 to 1975 as little more than an afterthought to the "real" black and white What's My Line.

As a result, there's only a small number of syndie videos on YouTube compared to the CBS original. But the videos are still well worth a peek for classics fans. This one dates from 1970 and offers ice skating legend Peggy Fleming (looking about eighteen and about to get married to her teenage sweetheart Craig Jenkins) as the mystery guest.

Another contestant - you might call him a semi-civvie - was Oscar-winning makeup artist John Chambers. He created the then-revolutionary masks and makeup effects for the original Planet of the Apes series. Mr. Chambers brought along a series of photos showing Kim Hunter getting transformed into a lady ape. This was typical of the I've Got a Secret style bits that the syndie WML used effectively.

The panel was Soupy Sales, who did a lot of the syndie eps, Sandy Duncan (also looking absurdly young), Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis. Bennett and Arlene proved they hadn't lost a step by guessing all of the contestants. Arlene also got pretty angry when host Wally Bruner read a question from a home viewer which implied that panelists were cheating by peeking under the masks in the mystery guest segments.

Arlene more or less read the riot act to the viewer. She really got p.o.ed.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Feuding for fun and profit

Celebrity Family Feud wraps its season tonight, and ABC execs are burbling with joy. As Adweek points out, Steve Harvey's romp with celebs of all sorts is "the top new show in total viewers (8.3 million) and adults ages 18-49 (with a 2.0 rating)...the rare exception - a true summer TV hit."

Although nobody is saying when the show will return - Steve is busier than the fabled one-armed paperhanger - another run is certain. I doubt that ABC will go hog wild on the show as they did with Millionaire all those many years ago. But nobody can pass up more ratings like these.

The real question is whether more celebrity versions of old formats are in the offing. A six-ep run of To Tell the Truth (Mark Goodson's favorite show, just ahead of - you guessed it - Family Feud) is coming to ABC. But can host Anthony Anderson duplicate the Harvey splash? Well, other game shows have hunted the next Steve Harvey for a while, and he's been very elusive.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Get me outa here

Science Channel debuts their new locked-room game show Race to Escape today at 10:00 PM.

But the dirty little secret is that you can watch the debut ep right now on their website. So I snuck a peek because I just couldn't help myself. The format is simple to begin with and gets ridiculously more elaborate as the show goes along. Two teams - blue and red for the colorfully minded - are locked in identical rooms stuffed with artifacts. The effect is something like getting locked into a leftover set from Win Ben Stein's Money. Each team then has to figure out five clues from the artifacts to unlock the doors of the room and rejoin the rest of the civilized world and win some money. Not much money but some.

There are all sorts of special rules and helps in the format, and I'm not even going to try to explain it all. This is Science Channel and the show has to seem arcane and complex. Just to add the required dose of jargon, host Jimmy Pardo appears now and then and explains that the teams are showing "selective perception" or "the availability heuristic" or "cortisol" or some damn thing or another.

If any game show is too complicated for its own good, Race to Escape qualifies. Anyway, I won't spoil the outcome. I will say the game was close throughout. Both teams got a little frazzled, and there were plenty of bleeps as they cussed their way through the clues. Just remember to squirt champagne all over France.

UPDATE: Race to Escape pulled 242K viewers with a 0.08 18-49 rating. So-so by Science Channel standards. By comparison, the network averaged 272K/179K viewers prime time/total day for the full month of July.

Friday, July 24, 2015

GSN money

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner notes that Nielsen now estimates GSN is available in 80 million households in the U.S. I offer a few comments...

Just found a very early estimate from TV by the Numbers. 68.5 million households for GSN in June, 2009. And the New York Times number I goofed from 2007 was 64 million, not 68 million. It's been slow but steady growth. GSN's creaky demos and lack of sister channels with clout have not helped the spread of the network.

You should know better than to get an actuary going on numbers. The growth from 64M to 80M for GSN households 2007-15 means an annual growth rate of 2.8%. Not huge but decent growth.

What literally counts is the bottom line, of course. The most recent financials I could find for GSN come from 2013. $97 million in earnings on $216 million in revenue.

These are SNL Kagan estimates, which the industry regards as pretty close. So my guess is that GSN - both the cable network and the gaming operation - will earn more than $100 million in 2015 on around $250 million in revenue. Sure, this guess might be off a little. But there's no doubt that GSN has become a tidily profitable enterprise, thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Usually I don't make a big deal about game show hosts' birthdays. They come around every year, after all, just like mine. And I don't like to be reminded of all the birthdays I've piled up.

But yesterday Alex Trebek hit the big 75, which is something of a milestone. Not long ago wumors were wunning wampant that Alex would soon let somebody else remind everybody about the form of a question. Rumored replacements ranged from Matt Lauer to Dan Patrick to (my offbeat dark horse) Mark Walberg.

The Alex re-upped for another three seasons through 2017-18, and such talk quieted down. The guy will be 78 when the contract extension runs out, though, so the talk has only been postponed for another day. Meanwhile, Jeopardy has prospered in the ratings, even nosing ahead of its Sony housemate, Wheel of Fortune. Sure, Alex gets a boost from his daily double-run compared to Pat and Vanna, but that's the way Nielsen counts the beans.

So I'll send slightly belated birthday greetings to Mr. Trebek, along with hopes for many more. Not to mention a lot more categories and clues.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Not knockin' on heaven's door

Ambush game shows are getting on my nerves. Yes, Cash Cab is a classic. But I'm tired of smarmy hosts surprising contestants with silly games.

So I wasn't thrilled with the premise of Knock Knock Live. The idea is that cut-rate celebs knock on unsuspecting people's doors and give them money. Sometimes the people have to meet some kind of challenge (or sometimes they don't even have to do that).

Ross Matthews, not my favorite cut-rate celeb, kicked off the show by knocking on some poor family's door in Covina, CA. The mom in the family had to answer a tough question: what is her neighbor's favorite baseball team? She guessed the Dodgers, which is a good guess in that neighborhood, right?

In response to answering this difficult query, the show blasted $25,000 in various bills all over the street. We then got to watch the superb spectacle of people from the neighborhood going down on their hands and knees and scooping up the money as fast as they could. It reminded me of that memorable scene from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, where all the money blows away to the crowd below. Except it wasn't nearly as entertaining.

At this point I checked out. If I want an ambush game show, I'll stick with Ben and his cab.

Knock Knock Live got croak croak dead ratings. 1.7M total viewers with a 0.6 18-49 rating. At least Ross Matthews probably won't be annoying too many more families.