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Col’s hep to ‘Jep!’

Game Show Net sets kids version of TV vet

Just call it “Jeopardy!” for Generation Y.

In another sign of gameshow synergy at Sony, Columbia TriStar TV is developing a kids version of “Jeopardy!” to premiere this fall on the Sony-owned Game Show Network.

“Jep!” is the working title for the teen-oriented quiz show, which will broaden the format of its hugely popular forerunner with MTV-style visual effects and segments taped outside the studio, among other fresh elements. A nationwide contestant search is under way, as are auditions for a twentysomething host.

The half-hour show, which will lead off a new family-oriented Friday-night block on the Game Show Network this fall, is being executive produced by “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” helmer Harry Friedman.

“On top of our mandate to do more original programming for the Game Show Network, gameshows are some of (the studio’s) best assets that can be exploited around the world,” said Andy Kaplan, executive VP of Columbia TriStar TV.

“Jep!” marks the first time Col TriStar TV has dipped into its vast gameshow library to produce new episodes of a tried-and-true format for Game Show Network. At present, Col TriStar produces “Wheel,” “Jeopardy!,” “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” for firstrun syndication.

“Wheel 2000,” a youthful version of syndication’s top-rated strip, is set to bow on CBS’ Saturday-morning schedule this fall. But “Jep!” was reserved for the Game Show Network in an effort to give the 2-1/2-year-old cabler a brand-name property to promote. Episodes of “Wheel 2000” will air on GSN about one month after their debut on CBS.

“This is a great opportunity for us to grow our business,” said Michael Fleming, president of GSN. “This is the first time we’ve been able to tap fully into the incredible resources of our parent company to launch a line extension of an existing brand we own.”

Like most new cable networks, GSN has gotten off to a slow start on the distribution front, but new carriage agreements with major system operators will push the network over the 10 million subscriber mark by the end of the year. Kaplan projects GSN will hit 15 million subs by this time next year.

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