A man walks into a bar…

By | March 2, 2011

… and asks the following:

Do you think we miss out by not having a proper, non “old gold”, dedicated gameshow channel in the UK? If we did have one, could it offer more than just repeats? 

Gameshows are big news on the main channels but a dedicated channel might allow for different sensibilities and opportunities for viewers and producers alike… 

You guys are such big gameshow fans. I thought you might have an interesting opinion on this. 

How you choose to respond is up to you.

17 thoughts on “A man walks into a bar…

  1. Brig Bother Post author

    I wrote this off the top of my head:

    My gut says: regrettably not at the moment, or at least I don’t know if it would have the numbers to be financially viable. Challenge’s figures haven’t increased massively since moving to Freeview, and their buying strategy in the last few years has been “old lottery shows”, Golden Balls and that’s about it. Their original programming (non Japanese related) has actually been pretty good – Take It or Leave It was a nice a little show they got three series out of, but whether or not it would have three series if the group didn’t have many channels to repeat it through I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough to comment. Challenge are not making originals at the moment, and haven’t really for a few years now. If it is not working for Challenge I think you would need to have a strong vision for something different. I love the idea of a “modern and indie” gameshow channel.

    It is a shame, because I’m sure you’re aware of Game Show Network in the US which has tried this strategy (it’s been phasing out the older shows to the edges of the schedules) for a while now to varying degrees of success – their originals in the past five years or so like Russian Roulette, that wacky sleep deprivation quiz whose name escapes me right now, their version of Lingo (surprised no-one’s tried that here again since the Martin Daniels version in the 80s) are all pretty good, and in fact one of their latest shows (Baggage) is selling internationally with Jerry Springer being replaced by the legendary Patrice Laffont in France.

    I failed to add that this is clearly the first step towards the Games Network in The Running Man, obviously. And now I’m going to bed.

    1. Alex

      “that wacky sleep deprivation quiz whose name escapes me right now”

      Cram. I liked that one. But yeah, whilst one would be quite a nice idea, I can’t see it being any more than just an idea at the moment.

  2. CMD on his wife's computer

    Even though game shows are notoriously relatively inexpensive to produce, there are very few channels which can afford great deals of original programming without considerable support. Only Connect shows you can do very interesting things on a relatively low budget, but even that is believed to be several times the cost of most of the repeats that Challenge feature. I suspect the output of such a channel would bear distinct resemblance to that of the quiz channels we have had, and lost, and broadly not lamented.

    The demographics of game show audiences are not generally broadly considered lucrative, outside the big-budget, high-profile shows. I have a suspicion, but cannot back this up with data, that Challenge had a notoriously high level of viewers in the DE social groups and consequently that charged less for its ads, per viewer, than most of the channels you might have expected to be competitors.

  3. Jennifer Turner

    Royal television Society award nominations time!

    Deal or No Deal is up for the “Best Daytime or Early Peak Programme” award again. Yet no room for “Pointless”. I mean… really!?

    “Best Entertainment” is is a heavyweight truel betwixt MPDLIVE!, X Factor and The Cube.

    The confused “Features and Lifestyle” category has The Great British Bake Off up against Pineapple Dance Studios and Don’t Tell The Bride.

    And of course Ant and Dec are up for “Best Entertainment Performance”. Against Graham Norton and Charlie Brooker.

  4. Mart with an Y not an I

    I agree.
    Challenge should be the destination of choice for us gameshowheads, but there is only so much Des Lennis era Family Fortunes you can take (for me – it’s during the opening titles and seeing the families being forced to ‘dance’. I feel whatever I’ve digested in the last 24 hours coming around again and I switch over) over the week. I fear In It To Win It will be repeated to death before the rights go back to 12 Yard (or ITV Studios distribution arm)

    You would hope that Sky would have already made noises (they are not normally the silent type) to increase the budget of Challenge and start original commissions again – but alas not.

    So if new stuff is the problem, maybe ultra retro is the way to go? Instead of Family Fortunes from 15 years ago, how about from 30 years ago right at the start with Bob Monkhouse (most exist, as he taped them all) or what about some old Celeb Squares, Blankety Blank, or even Punchlines?

    The Christmas ‘selection box’ season a few years back, showed there is a minor appetite for stuff like that, so it’s worth a try I suppose.

    1. Travis P

      I think a few years ago someone from Challenge said buying the rights to older programming is more expensive than obtaining the rights to newer stuff. When they did the cult selection in 2002, there were only 2-3 episodes for one show. Only Knightmare and The Adventure Game were pursued with full series.

      Although that had a moderated sucess, the game show gods of the 70s/80s/90s (which aired in 2006?) which featured K-Fac 1987 and Family Fortunes from 1986 didn’t fare that well. I’m also sure they said getting BBC shows that were produced by the Beeb and not third party (lottery shows) weren’t also cheap. There are also shows channels/production companies refuse to sell the archive rights to Challenge. Endemol/Channel 4 refuse to sell DoND, same with Countdown as well.

      Challenge have got enough episodes for each show but those who have got Sky/Virgin have got the t-shirt while the Freeview lot will be bored within six-eight weeks.

      “You would hope that Sky would have already made noises (they are not normally the silent type) to increase the budget of Challenge and start original commissions again – but alas not.”

      They have bought something. TNA on a long term deal and seven extra episodes of In It to Win It. Oh and Game Face & Ginx Files from Bravo as well but that’s it.

      To give you a sample idea on what they hold on their channel at the moment

      In It to Win it – 49 episodes
      Golden Balls – 100 episodes
      Take It or Leave It – 91 episodes
      Crystal Maze (O’Brien era) – 52 episodes
      You Bet! (Kelly era) – 57 episodes
      Catchphrase (Walker/Carlton era) 68 episodes
      Classic Millionaire (normal & celebrity) 300+ episodes
      Family Fortunes (1993-2001) – 208 episodes

      They got over 200 episodes of Family Fortunes but as we’ve seen recently. They get through 10 episodes in 5 days and another 10 or so over the weekends.

      Over the last five years there were loads of other shows, mostly BBC but looks like the gave back the rights. Shows such as Wipeout (Daniels & Monkhouse eras), Blankety Blank (1984 series), Big Break, Friends Like These and Dog Eat Dog.

      I won’t be surprised come the summer if they’ll move the Sky1 back catalogue onto the channel and repeat Smarter Than a/Your 10 Year Old, Don’t Forget the Lyrics, Gladiators, Sell Me the Answer etc.. and air old episodes of Coach Trip.

    2. Brig Bother Post author

      So if new stuff is the problem, maybe ultra retro is the way to go?

      This is the sort of thing that always gets suggested peiodically. The problem is once you’ve got past the readers of Bother’s Bar and TV Cream the audience for it will drop fairly quickly, so they will bring some newer stuff in, and then it might as well be Challenge. We all remember how interesting UK Gold used to be, I’m sure.

      1. Gizensha

        All I remember on Gold before they decided ‘it should be comedy exclusive’ is Doctor Who…

  5. Paul B

    As I think I said on twitter a while back, from the briefs I’ve seen floating about I would expect any new commissions on Challenge to be call ‘n’ lose propositions rather than proper quiz formats, as Sky seem to see more of a revenue stream in phone lines than in advertising on the channel. Of course they might change their business plans at any point, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Sky experimented with daytime quizzes a year or two back with Sell Me the Answer and a couple of pilots including a 12 Yard one that I really liked (not mine, I hasten to add). Unfortunately the ratings for SMTA (which weren’t terrible, but no better than repeats of some of Sky’s imports did in the same slot) sort of put an end to that (it didn’t help that the channel’s management changed between recording and transmission).

    As for a dedicated quiz channel, I’m with the majority here – I just can’t see it making business sense at all.

  6. Greg

    Challenge also still have the rights to Strike it Rich and Wipeout as both are joining the channel again in April.

    When i enquired about a raft of shows about 2 years back i was told

    Poker Face, Gameshow Marathon, and Duel were not for sale as they had tried to get the rights.

    They had also tried to get DOND from the USA and Australia, they were close to signing the Aussie version before a stop was put on it.

    Challenge also looked into the US version of Millionaire but they saw it as a risk since the US Weakest Link rated very low on Challenge.

    I was told that a lot of the older shows were no longer of broadcast quality and it would take too much time and money to clean them up.

    It appears that Challenge has come to a natural end. They do not have the budget to keep making new shows and have bought the rights to just about everything they can get that will rate.

    I guess this is why TNA has joined the channel to give it a fresh injection, i see that it is the highest rated show, if that continues i think we can see the gameshow content get pushed out more for mainstream programmes.

  7. Greg

    Side note…..

    Redemption Island was a damp squid though should be more interesting this week.

    I also could not see the benifit of lieing about who won the redemption challenge, as if somebody is randomly selected the following week and tells everybody that the person the previous people said did not win, then that just makes them out to be untrustworthy. Something you never want that tag of in Suirvivor.

  8. Greg

    by this week i mean next week for those that have not watched this week yet.

  9. Weaver

    Two questions arise from this. One, is there a place for a linear television channel showing odds and sods, but mostly game shows? Possibly, is my answer, and I use Current TV in evidence. When it began, that channel (155 on your cable guide, folks) showed short videos, mostly mini-documentaries, mostly shot by the viewers. It was current affairs in four-minute gobbets, and the variability repelled as many viewers as it attracted. Over recent months, Current TV has moved almost exclusively to traditional documentaries, padded out to half-hour slots with shorter works. Replace the documentaries with entertainment shows, and we have a DIY Game Show Channel.

    The only trouble is that this isn’t a terribly stable model. Current TV is owned and bankrolled by some incredibly rich men, and wouldn’t have survived without largesse from its owners. The channel needs to cover its transmission costs on satellite (cheap), inclusion on the EPGs (less cheap), probably transmission on cable (expensive), and internet (not free). Adverts or sponsors or product placement will be required. It’s possible, but only if there’s a financial backer to cover the costs for the first number of years, and I don’t think such a backer exists.

    1. Gizensha

      Of course, if we’re looking at the DIY model, then I’m going to point to stuff like Accumulate! and The Technical Difficulties and wonder why some sort of webcast tv channel model using very indie stuff couldn’t, to some extent, work…

  10. Weaver

    Question two: is Challenge doing the best it can. My answer: no.

    As I see it, there are four distinct strands to the game show world:

    * Shows where the prize is most important (Shafted, Greed)
    * Shows where the game is most important (Gladiators, The Generation Game)
    * Shows where the players are most important (Without Prejudice?, Survivor)
    * Shows that are light entertainment dressed up (Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor)

    Obviously, many shows cross these boundaries. Challenge is very good at showing programmes from the top two categories, but it’s never seriously tried to show programmes in the latter two. It makes for a very unbalanced schedule to begin with, and it’s been relying on the same two dozen titles for about five years now.

    Part of the problem was that its owners could never afford more than a token amount of new programmes. That excuse is no longer valid. If the new owners wanted to bring in some light entertainment programmes, they could. If they don’t, I idly wonder if they might prefer to sell the channel on – could Endemol use the DTTV slot to recycle their back catalogue, in a mixed entertainment channel?

    Travis points out that Challenge can only work within the rights it can buy, which is absolutely fair enough. Even so, I would hope there’s room to look outside of the tried and tested. Why did no British channel buy up rights to show the Man -v- Computer episodes of Jeopardy! recently? Might there be an audience for The Einstein Factor, a less stuffy Aussie take on Mastermind? UKTV Watch has demonstrated that British audiences will follow compelling programmes from English-speaking places other than the US, and if the new owners wanted to make Challenge worth watching, they might enquire after imports from untapped markets. Or leverage corporate synergies within the News International behemoth.

    Brig is correct to dismiss the idea of Retro TV. It’s been tried, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t pay. There is curiosity value in seeing a 1979 episode of We Are the Champions, but not the whole series.

    Mr. His Wife’s Computer is also correct, Challenge (and its predecessor The Family Channel) has traditionally rated highly amongst demographics that advertisers find less desirable. This is one of the more obvious flaws with the advertising-funded model of television: a particular ratings pattern emerges, broadcasters sell based on that pattern, then set their schedules to maintain that pattern.

    I do think it’s a bit early to declare Challenge on Freeview a flop. It always takes a few months for newly-launched channels to settle down, and the channel seems to be building audiences. I don’t understant the new owners’ DTTV strategy, but that is not news.

  11. Brekkie

    Unfortunately I have to agree with the consensus here and even with a mix of old and new, I fear that anyone launching a new Gameshow network in the UK would probably soon fall into the trap of having to show “call and lose” programming as their “new” content.

    I wonder though if Channel6 ever gets off the ground whether we might see some kind of revival of gameshows of the classic kind – i.e, cheap, filler material, rather than big shiny floor showcases. The sustaining national channel will need cheap shows that can be moved around the schedules to suit the local broadcasters needs (as Blockbuster did 20 years ago!) while the local channels will need cheap content of their own.


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