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How NBC and Endemol Shine Built ‘The Wall’ Into a Business

In its first season on NBC, “The Wall” proved solid. The Chris Hardwick-hosted game show averaged a 1.7 rating in the 18-49 demo and 6.7 million total viewers, according to Nielsen live-plus-same day data — more than respectable for a freshman primetime unscripted series.

But those numbers are not the only reason that the show was picked up for a second season, scheduled to premiere Thursday night at 9 p.m. “The Wall” is one of the first series to hail from Universal Television Alternative Studio — the production operation launched last year by NBC veteran unscripted exec Meredith Ahr under the network’s alternative programming president Paul Telegdy. Created and produced with Glassman Media and SpringHill Entertainment, the series helped establish the new NBC-run reality studio’s bona fides.

“It’s a calling card,” says Telegdy, noting that the studio followed up “The Wall” with “World of Dance,” the competition series that has also been a “strong new asset” for the network. Of “The Wall,” he says, “If we had the room, we’d probably order 50 of them based on the economics, the ratings, and the sales point of view.”

Created by LeBron James, Maverick Carter, and reality producer Andrew Glassman, “The Wall” is, essentially, a pachinko game blown out to epic scale, with contestants competing for a grand prize of more than $12 million. It also is a rarity in U.S. broadcast — a shiny-floor primetime game show that has earned a second season without being a revival of a classic title.

But perhaps most important, it has established itself as a format that can travel outside the United States and make money in the international marketplace.

“I’m proud of what it’s doing for us here in terms of ratings as a strong new asset that we can employ throughout the year,” Telegdy says. “But it’s also taking off internationally.” A French version of the show is already airing on TF1, with additional iterations set to launch in Germany and Spain. Deals for additional markets are in the works.

“It’s really captured people’s imagination,” says Lisa Perrin, CEO of Endemol Shine Group’s Creative Networks. “It’s a big show that has big, human emotion.”

Though the French version lacks the outsize cash payout that heightens the drama on the U.S. series, it has proven to be a success as a five-day-a-week strip in daytime. That, Telegdy hopes, is a sign that the show can work elsewhere in first-run syndication as well as primetime.

“It’s ticking a number of very commercial boxes for us,” he says. “Not only is it a very valuable asset on NBC, it’s starting to look promising for us that it could work in first-run.”

If it does so, the show will have bolstered Telegdy’s claim that it has achieved what he calls “the Holy Grail” of reality programming — “It is an all new, created-from-scratch format.”

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