The show that reinvigorated the primetime quiz show genre and its most recent, well-hyped competitor will now duke it out in syndication. Buena Vista Television's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and NBC's Weakest Link are poised to start their daytime versions in syndication 2002. Link will debut first, in January, while Millionaire is slated for a fall release.
Millionaire became so powerful on its inception that it was almost solely responsible for halting several industry trends dead in their tracks. Among them: the erosion of broadcast TV at the hands of hard-charging cable, the decline of family viewing, and NBC's decade-plus dominance of Thursday night primetime.
Millionaire also spawned a whole host of copycat programs.
But Millionaire and Link proved that quiz shows, marketed and promoted well, can attract large audiences with a wide demographic.
Now the shows will try to duplicate their primetime success in syndication.
"The one advantage that these shows have is that they are known commodities," media buyer Bill Carroll of Katz Television told The Associated Press. "Both shows have been very much embraced by audiences in primetime. When you have that, you have the potential to translate to daytime."
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is expected to debut as a half-hour weekday syndicated show in the fall of 2002, with the same format as its primetime progenitor on ABC. Primetime executive producer Michael Davies will reprise his duties for the daytime Millionaire. The quiz show is produced by the Disney-owned company, Buena Vista Television.
Rosie O'Donnell--a self-described big fan of the show and Regis Philbin--is rumored to be interested in hosting the show. Buena Vista Television is rumored to be interested in O'Donnell, Reuters reports. Her current contract with Telepictures, and her expected appointment as producer of a Telepictures game show, may preclude the deal.
There are two game shows in development at Telepictures for O'Donnell's debut as a producer: a new version of Let's Make a Deal and a trivia-based quiz show from first-season Millionaire writers.
But Philbin has not ruled himself out of the hosting picture. Jim Griffin, Philbin's agent, told reporters that "[Regis] told the network, if the network needs him or wants him, he's available."
Philbin would bring immediate star presence and publicity to the show, as would O'Donnell, but Buena Vista may be concerned about Philbin's overexposure and the consequent weakening of the primetime version.
Rival NBC's Weakest Link also is going to a half-hour syndicated format, but will roll out in January 2002, nine months ahead of Millionaire.
Surprisingly, WNBC in New York City appears not have exercised its right of first refusal for the syndicated version of Link. Rather, the contract will go to WCBS, Variety reports. WPIX in San Francisco and WJZ in Baltimore, both CBS affiliates, also have signed on for the daytime Link.
CBS also has its eye on acquiring the daytime Millionaire. An hour-long block of Link and Millionaire would help shore up sagging daytime ratings for CBS.
When contacted, WNBC refused to comment on why it did not pick up the option for the syndie Link.
Linda Finnell, NBC Enterprises Domestic Syndication's senior vice president of development, will oversee production of the syndicated version of Link, much as she does for primetime. Additionally, executive producers Phil Gurin and Stuart Krasnow also will pull double duty for the daytime version.
NBC did announce, however, that Link host Anne Robinson would not spit out the questions for the syndicated version.