Sunday, February 29, 2004


Wink Martindale Got Me Laid, interlude

Let me tell you a few things about these game shows.

A show like The Last Word, when you get right down to it, is an infomercial.

It's simple economics. The whole point of broadcast TV is to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. When you hear about a shows ratings, that means the number of people watching, which translates to the number of people who will see the commercials that run during the show.

Take a look at the higher-profile game shows out there. Your Jeopardy, your Millionaire, even your Survivor. On a good day on Jeopardy, a contestant who's really kicking ass, getting in there, hitting the Daily Doubles, answering all the questions, can make, let's say, about fifty grand. Millionaire, one contestant can last for two or three episodes, usually walking away with a lot less than the grand prize. Survivor, you have a single million-dollar prize per season.

Compare that to a show like Friends, where each Friend makes over a million per episode. Not that I'm begrudging them that--the show makes ludicrous amounts of money for Warner Brothers and NBC, both in ad revenues and--chaCHING!--syndication, and the cast naturally deserves a piece of that. But the point is, it costs a lot to make a show like that, and a hell of a lot less for even a "prestige" game show.

Compare that to "lesser" game shows, like Win Ben Stein's Money. Daily grand prize of five thousand dollars, which, if no one wins it, is Stein's salary. Pure genius!

But most game shows, The Last Word included, still rely on prizes.

It works like this: you run a company that makes ceiling fans. You want to advertise your ceiling fans. But when you factor in the cost of hiring someone to develop your marketing strategy, hiring someone else to produce the actual commercials, and then the cost of running those commercials enough to make a difference, it can add up.

So instead, you decide to eat the cost of a few ceiling fans and donate them as game show prizes. You pay a small fee for "promotional consideration," which means that when that ceiling fan is given away, they put up a picture, and the announcer takes a minute to pimp your fine product. You've gotten your ceiling fans on TV, along with a happy game show winner who, fifteen years later, mentions your ceiling fans on his blog. Or would, if he could remember the brand after all these years.

By this logic, what's the most successful show on TV?

The Price is Right.

How long has that show been on? Forty years? The ratings nowadays are as high as they've ever been, thanks to a generation of college kids embracing the kitsch value--and the intensity of these kids for the show is downright scary. But the point is, it delivers eyeballs to advertisers. And what do they do, every weekday, for an hour of power? It's a parade of household goods and luxury items you might like to purchase for your home--complete with retail price! It's like QVC, but with geriatric supermodels!So the sponsors win, the companies that provide the prizes win, and, tangentially, the American Humane Society wins.

Oh, and the contestants too, I suppose.

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

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