Rates push gameshow prospects

As ABC’s summer phenom “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” soared to incomporable ratings during its run, so too did the interest level at the major webs in primetime gameshow prospects.

A number of projects were in the hopper prior to the bow of the Regis Philbin-hosted quizshow last week, but ABC’s success is sure to encourage more development, particularly with gameshow formats proven overseas, as “Millionaire” was in the U.K.

“There was already a real receptivity to all things English (among U.S. webs). We’re having the hottest sales season we’ve ever had, and it’s only going to increase,” said Ben Silverman, the Gotham-based head of international packaging for the William Morris Agency, who repped the format rights to “Millionaire” for the UK’s Celedor production outfit.

“It’s such a shortcut for buyers in evaluating these shows when they can see finished episodes,” said Silverman, who also helped Granada export the British comedy “Cold Feet” to NBC’s new fall sked.

“Millionaire” exec producer Michael Davies, who resigned his post as ABC’s head of specials and alternative programming to helm the quizshow, also developed ABC’s British import improv comedy gameshow “Whose Line is It Anyway?” from Hat Trick Prods.

ABC is moving forward with another Hat Trick project “Have I Got News For You,” hosted by comedian Norm Macdonald.

WMA’s Silverman is now shopping the BBC sports panel show “They Think It’s All Over” and the quizshow “It’s Only TV But I Like It,” among other show formats for such Brit production clients as Carlton Communications, Granada Entertainment and LWT.

Fox Family Channel has ordered producing a pilot for another WMA-repped gameshow, “Don’t Try This at Home,” to be handled by Vin Di Bona Prods. Set up at Stone Stanley Prods. is the BBC celebrity panel show “Shooting Stars.”

CBS and Miramax TV had planned to revive the gameshow gem “What’s My Line?” as a summer original series this year, but delays in assembling the production elements forced them to hold off until next summer.

“Having ‘Millionaire’ do so well is good for all of us — it’s gotten people excited about gameshows again,” said Miramax TV prexy Billy Campbell.

However, one big success isn’t a guarantee of a major programming trend, despite TV’s penchant for cloning.

Stone Stanley, home of “Shop ‘Til You Drop” and other gameshows, was frustrated in its effort to launch a syndie revival of “Let’s Make a Deal” this year, even though King World Prods. scored in resuscitating “Hollywood Squares” last fall.

“We sent (‘Millionaire’s Davies) a bottle of champagne with a note saying ‘Thanks for making gameshows respectable again,'” said partner Scott Stone.

“But in reality, not every network is going to jump on the gameshow bandwagon … It all has to do with what the show is and who’s hosting it — you can’t underestimate the importance of Regis Philbin to ‘Millionaire.'”

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