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CBS to adapt Zynga game ‘Draw Something’ for TV

Sony, Ryan Seacrest get pilot order for gameshow

CBS has emerged the winner of a bidding war for the pilot of a primetime gameshow based on the Zynga mobile game “Draw Something” from Sony Pictures Television, Ryan Seacrest Prods. and Embassy Row.

No on-air commitment is being made but the Eye is expected to fast-track the project considering it had to take “Draw” away from multiple networks that were ultimately outbid on the project. Seacrest, Michael Davies and RSP CEO Adam Sher are executive producers.

Reps for CBS, Sony and RSP declined comment.

Teams of celebrities and everyday users will test their skills in front of a studio audience to earn money and big laughs. Viewers can also play along at home for a chance to win prizes and compete with the celebrities.

The “Draw” concept comes from Zynga, the social-game maker that has turned previous titles like “Farmville” and “Words With Friends” into international phenomenons on the Facebook platform. But the game has gotten some bad buzz as of late as its once-surging traffic, while still impressive, has tailed off considerably. Zynga itself has seen its stock drop off dramatically in recent months, and its $200 million of the company that created “Draw,” OMGPOP, has been blamed for that decline.

The “Draw” game involves competing players drawing a picture to convey a word for a fellow player to guess. Similar games have been adapted into TV series in the past, including syndicated fare during the 1980s and ’90s like “Pictionary” and “Win, Lose or Draw.”

But “Draw” will have the 21st century spin of incorporating second-screen devices like phones and tablets that are increasingly common in the laps of U.S. viewers. No specifics are available on how that will be executed.

Hollywood has sought to capitalize on the humongous success of select social games. Last year, 20th Century Fox TV marketed theatrical “Rio” by lending its characters to a version of the Rovio mega-franchise “Angry Birds.” Disney has taken the opposite tack, creating its own gaming phenomenon, “Where’s My Water?” in hopes of cultivating the intellectual property for other platforms like movies.

In February, Zynga signed a broad licensing deal with Hasbro to bring popular franchises like “Farmville” to the world of toys and merchandise. The San Francisco-based company recently announced plans to push “Draw,” which launched in the U.S. in March, to 12 other countries.

This isn’t Zynga’s first foray into TV. The social-gaming giant partnered in April with Ford and Telemundo for unscripted series “Great Escapes,” which included product integrations for Ford vehicles and Zynga games.

Project marks another unscripted production for the “American Idol” host’s bustling shingle. TV credits include “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and its various E! spinoffs, as well as the upcoming “Married to Jonas” for the network; “Shahs of Sunset” at Bravo, and “Melissa and Tye” at CMT.

Seacrest is not expected to take an on-air role in “Draw.” No host has been named.

In 2009, Sony acquired Embassy Row, production home to “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” producer Michael Davies, in order to bolster its capabilities for unscripted programming. Embassy’s current credits include “The Glee Project” and “Talking Dead.”

“Draw” marks the second unscripted order by CBS from Sony and Embassy this year. Davies and Mark Burnett Prods. are teaming up for “The Job,” which pits contestants in competition for their dram jobs.

If ordered as expected to series, “Draw” isn’t likely to hit the CBS sked this year given the network already has its fall lineup in place but could have a good shot at the midseason. Series launching on the Eye in early 2013 could find themselves with a great promotional launch pad between its telecasts of the Super Bowl, The Grammys and the AFC championship game.

Game shows have gone in and out of vogue in primetime since “Millionaire” first brought the genre back with a vengeance on ABC in 2000. NBC ordered one, “Howie Mandel’s White Elephant” in April but hasn’t scheduled the series yet.

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