NATPE 2007

PROGRAM PARTNERS INTROS ‘CROSSWORDS’

In partnership with Merv Griffin and the William Morris Agency, the independent distributor is offering the half-hour game show strip on a cash basis. It expects to have deals in place by the end of the week.

If CBS Television Distribution and NBCU won’t do it, Program Partners will.

 

At about the same time was CBS and NBCU were deciding not to bring high-profile game shows to the syndicated market for NATPE, Program Partners was greenlighting the all-new Let’s Play Crosswords.

 

At NATPE today, Program Partners formally announced the half-hour strip in league with the William Morris Agency and Merv Griffin, who is, ironically, the producer of CBS’s indestructible game show tandem, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!

 

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Program Partners’ principal Josh Raphaelson told TVNewsCheck that the show came together in just the last month or so through discussions with Griffin and William Morris. All three parties have a stake in the show, he said.

 

“When we saw the show, it was just irresistible,” Raphaelson said.

 

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist with multiple Ph.D.s to look at Wheel and Jeopardy! and say, ‘A fresh version of one of those shows from the same producer is a bet I ought to make,” he said.

 

Game shows make sense in today’s market, Raphaelson said. “Talk is down, sitcoms are down, court is down. The only genre that is up—and it is only moderately so—is game shows—Wheel, Jeopardy, [Who Wants To Be a] Millionaire and Family Feud.”

 

In Crosswords, contestants are given clues and their answers fill in a crossword puzzle in a way that allows viewers to play along just as they do with Wheel, Raphaelson said. A host has yet to be named, he said.

 

Because time slots are hard to come by in the top three TV markets, Raphaelson said, Program Partners is offering the show on a straight cash basis, hoping to launch the show on a few dozen TV stations outside the very top markets.

 

On Sunday night in Las Vegas, he said, Program Partners and Merv Griffin hosted a “sneak preview” of the show for executives of some of the top non-O&O TV station groups, including Sinclair, LIN TV and Hearst-Argyle Television.

 

Based on reaction to the Sunday-night pitch, Raphaelson said he is confident that he will “lock up some deals” by the time NATPE closes its doors on Thursday. “They have seen everything they need to see.”

 

CBS had hinted that it would offer two games shows for next fall, Combination Lock and Joker’s Wild, but it got cold feet as NATPE approached. And NBCU eventually decided not to create a version of its hit primetime game show Deal or No Deal for syndication.

 

But others have embraced the genre. October Moon Television is offering Laugh Off, a game-show, reality mix in which two comics compete to be the best.

 

And Twentieth Televison and FremantleMedia North America are moving ahead with Temptation, a new half-hour quiz show, using the Fox’s 10 MNT affiliates as a launch platform.


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