Game Shows Are TV’s First Stop On The Road To Interactivity

Many in the veteran genre are introducing apps, QR codes, the metaverse and more to retain and engage audiences, grow viewers and optimize monetization.

Game shows are one of the most tried-and-true forms of entertainment, with programs like JeopardyWheel of FortuneFamily FeudThe Price is Right and more having been around for decades.

Now programmers are using these formats to bring viewers into a much more interactive age of television. Right now, this means QR codes on screens, companion apps and early metaverse experiences, but it’s quickly evolving into ever more immersive applications.

This all dovetails with networks, syndicators and streaming services increasingly leaning into game and reality competition shows because they are popular while being efficient to produce, panelists said at TVNewsCheck’s Programming Everywhere event at the NAB Show in Las Vegas on Sunday.

During the panel, Fremantle gave attendees a first look at its “Beat the Buzzr” application, which is being showcased for the first time in Microsoft’s booth at NAB. The application uses a QR code to allow viewers watching Fremantle’s Buzzr free ad-supported (FAST) channel to interact with its classic game shows such as Match GameTo Tell the TruthPassword and many more. To use it, players scan a QR code to play along on their mobile devices. The application was designed to retain and engage audiences, grow new audiences and optimize monetization.

“Some 75% of people are watching along while doing something else on their phone,” said Laura Florence, Fremantle SVP, global FAST channels. “Now we can get them a lean-in experience.”

The app gives Fremantle’s classic game shows a modern update and also travels with them around the world because anyone with a smartphone can access the app, Florence said.


Similarly, Fox First Run has included interactive audience experiences with its game show 25 Words or Less starring and executive produced by Meredith Vieira. The show puts a QR code up on screen for long enough that viewers can capture it with their phone to access behind-the-scenes content as well as acquire points through playing that can lead to prizes, merchandise and fan experiences. Fox First Run, which produces shows for syndication, is expanding that effort to two of its other game shows: Pictionary, starring Jerry O’Connell, and Person Place or Thing, starring Melissa Peterman.

In addition, each episode of the three games will feature an interview with a specially selected “super fan” and the opportunity for that person to win a prize. Each show will execute its super-fan experience a little bit differently. On 25 Words or Less, if either team wins $10,000, the super fan is awarded $1,000. On Pictionary, if the super fan can guess what O’Connell is drawing, they win a prize. And on Person, Place or Thing, if a contestant wins the grand prize, the super fan is awarded $500.

“I think this is what we have to do,” said Stephen Brown, executive vice president, programming and development, Fox First Run and Fox Television Stations. “We have to do more than say ‘here’s our TV show, watch it.’”

Beat Shazam, which is produced by Apploff Entertainment for Fox, includes an interactive app that allows viewers to play along with the show, guessing the songs and trying to beat the contestants.

“We would watch along with it and people on Twitter/X were freaking out and having so much fun with it,” said Jeff Apploff, CEO of Apploff Entertainment. “In Season 2, they came back to me and were like ‘listen, we love the show, but we want to change this, this and this.’ I’m like, ‘why would we change these things’ and they’re like ‘well, we did research’ and I was like ‘well, we’ve got research too.’ And then they were like ‘what’s your research?’ I go ‘you know, the breeding ground for hate, which is Twitter. If they hate you, they’re gonna tell you. And they love this!’ We didn’t … change a thing.”

Finally, CBS is dipping its toes into the metaverse with an interactive experience created for Survivor fans – “Survivor: Horizon Island” – that allows them to play the game in a VR environment. While it’s currently metaverse 1.0, CBS Chief Marketing Officer Mike Benson expects the experience and others like it to evolve into a much more life-like platform.

“It really is a fun experience and when you’re wearing the headset and playing the game, you feel like you’re in the game and that’s really what we wanted to create here,” Benson said. “I do think it’ll eventually get to the place where the technology will feel like you step onto the island and you are really playing.”

While technology is fun to play with, what programmers and marketers really want to use it for is to make it easier for consumers to find, interact and engage with their shows.

“The most important thing is what’s in it for the audience,” Brown said.

Looking ahead, Brown would like to produce a live game show to offer the ultimate in audience interactivity and engagement. “If you can interact with your audience in real time, that’s a great value proposition.”

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