This summer, game shows are taking over prime time TV. Across the major networks, there is a surge of light-hearted, family-friendly game show programs that are free of politics, social issues and controversy, and just focus on fun. Unlike TV narrative series where viewers need to watch each week to stay current, game shows allow viewers to drop in and out of episodes without missing a beat. All feature popular celebrities and contestants competing for cash prizes. The networks hope this formula will draw viewers during June, July and August when ratings are often down to due to disrupted viewing patterns.
Many of the featured programs are revivals of past successful series. ABC devoted a generous amount of summer air time to the game show platform, bringing back three classics:
- Battle of the Network Stars brings two teams of TV celebrities together to compete in a battle of athleticism and antics
- To Tell the Truth is hosted by Anthony Anderson, and features a cast of celebrity judges who have to discern which of three people is telling the truth about their identity
- The Gong Show is hosted by a disguised Mike Myers and features talent show contestants who try to avoid being “gonged” by a panel of celebrity judges.
ABC also brought back The $100,000 Pyramid for a second season. Hosted by GMA co-anchor, Michael Strahan, the show features a cast of celebrities partnered with everyday contestants to compete for the ultimate prize of $100,000.
CBS and NBC each introduced new shows to compete for prime time summer ratings.
- Candy Crush airs on CBS as a live action version of the app-based mobile game. Hosted by Mario Lopez, pairs compete on an enormous interactive game board to be crowned Candy Crush champions.
- The Wall on NBC is produced by LeBron James and hosted by Chris Hardwick, featuring a four-story wall with free-falling balls. Contestants must race against time to answer questions to win cash.
This cohesive shift of summer programming is no fluke. Game shows are the perfect summer filler due to their lower production value, requiring fewer talent costs, writers, sets and reduced licensing fees. CNN recently analyzed the economics of producing game shows, citing lower costs to air game shows compared to traditional series: “Costs vary, but networks usually pay less than $1 million per hour of a game show.” (Lowry, Gonzalez). Even on a show like Candy Crush, where CBS invested $2M to construct two super-sized interactive game boards, they saved money. According to Matt Kunitz, the cost still falls well under the license fee on a primetime drama.” (Lowry, Gonzalez).
Whether the influx of game shows in prime time TV is due to an increased appetite on the part of viewers or pure economics for the affiliates, one thing is certain: Summer is the new season for game shows. Check one of these and out and let us know what which one is your favorite!