Let the games begin

Big Four getting quizzical

The success of “Deal or No Deal” has sparked a case of gameshow fever at the networks, with new quizzers now in the works at each of the Big Four.

Capitalizing on the craze: “Deal” producer Endemol USA, which late Friday snagged series commitments from ABC and Fox for new hourlong gameshow concepts.

Alphabet has ordered “For the Rest of Your Life,” a skein in which players compete to win a monthly stipend that lasts as long as they live.

Over at Fox, net has greenlit “Show Me the Money,” in which prize coin rises and falls dramatically based on a sometimes cruel mechanism not in the player’s control.

Both shows have also been bought by Blighty’s ITV, insiders said.

Add in CBS’ previously ordered “Gameshow Marathon” — scheduled for a summer bow — and production of primetime quizzers will soon be at its highest levels since “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” ushered in a slew of copycats in 2000.

Deals at ABC and Fox cap a busy frame for Endemol, which just a few days earlier sold “1 vs. 100” to “Deal” home NBC (Daily Variety, April 25) — allowing the U.S. arm of the Dutch conglom to claim the extremely rare feat of landing series deals at three nets in the course of one week.

Endemol USA topper David Goldberg said that shortly after “Deal” hit it big in December, the company crafted a plan to take advantage of what it knew would be a hunger for new gameshow concepts.

“I suspected that after ‘Deal or No Deal’ became a hit, every company in the world would be gathering up formats and pitching shows to the networks,” Goldberg said. “We felt we had a limited window of opportunity. So rather than wait for a show to be created in Holland or another country and slowly make its way around the world, we wanted to specifically develop shows for the United States.”

Goldberg said he’s actually surprised more gamers haven’t been announced by the networks since “Deal or No Deal” emerged in December.

“They’ve heard hundreds of pitches, but (until last week) they just haven’t jumped on anything,” he said.

Goldberg’s strategy centered on flying in “Deal” creator Dick de Rijk from overseas to lead the Endemol team in fleshing out literally hundreds of ideas. Producer flew back and forth between L.A. and Holland over the last few months to tweak potential concepts and stage run-throughs of promising ideas.

Endemol narrowed the list down and set up pitch meetings last week.

NBC quickly snapped up “1 vs. 100” with a preemptive bid Monday. On Wednesday, Endemol met with all the major broadcasters to pitch two other concepts, and by late Friday, it had deals in place for both.

As part of its pitch to networks, Endemol stages mock versions of its ideas for execs so that they can actually play the game and see how it works. In separate meetings, ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson and Alphabet alternative topper Andrea Wong played for ABC, while Fox reality guru Mike Darnell repped his network.

Endemol and the nets aren’t saying too much about the concepts, in part for fear of idea theft from competitors.

The monthly stipend for which contestants on ABC’s “For the Rest of Your Life” will vie elevates the potential prize money into the millions. How much a player wins is determined not by knowledge or physical abilities but rather gut instinct and an ability to control one’s greed.

There’s also a twist at the end of each game that can radically alter just how much coin players take home.

“It really adds to the fun of the show and taps into something about human relationships,” McPherson said of the twist.

As for the overall show, “It’s just a concept you immediately get,” he said. “Part of our alternative brand is fun and wish fulfillment, and this fits right in with that.”

As for “Show Me the Money,” set up at Fox, game has players answering trivia questions and taking chances to rack up prize money. The twist: what Endemol calls “a never-before-seen mechanism” that can reduce a contestant’s winnings to zero or multiply it into the millions.

“The show is full of cruel fates,” Darnell said. “It’s a constant roller coaster where one minute you think you’re winning hundreds of thousands of dollars and the next minute, you’ve got nothing.”

Other than “Millionaire” — which still lives on in syndication — none of the quizzers that emerged during TV’s last gameshow craze lasted more than a couple seasons. Coming up with primetime-worthy concepts is tough, and nets also tend to run the sprocket.

Endemol is repped by Jeanne Newman.

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