[08/24/04 - 12:00 AM]
Switch the Question' Added as New Lifeline on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'

[via press release from Buena Vista Television]

'Switch The Question' Added as New Lifeline on 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'

'Ask The Audience' Lifeline Expanded Beyond the Studio With America Online and AOL(R) Instant Messenger(TM) (AIM(R))

NEW YORK, Aug. 24 -- "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" with Meredith Vieira continues to break new ground as it enters its third year of syndication on September 13, 2004. The show that experienced ratings growth across demographics and time periods during the 2003-2004 season gives viewers even more reason to watch. "Millionaire" is adding a new fourth lifeline called "Switch the Question." The lifeline will be available to contestants who have successfully answered the 10th question. After reaching this threshold, if a contestant receives a question and they don't know the answer, they can use the new "Switch The Question" lifeline one time and have the question replaced by a randomly selected question at the same dollar value. "We added an extra lifeline to give contestants further incentive to go for the higher dollar values on the show, ensuring more dramatic, high-stakes moments in the game," says Executive Producer, Michael Davies.

In addition, "Millionaire" is making TV history by becoming the first syndicated show where viewers can interact with the show during production tapings. Buena Vista Television (BVT), and America Online, Inc., the world's leading interactive services company, are partnering on a groundbreaking initiative that will allow the tens of millions of AOL(R) members, AOL(R) Instant Messenger(TM) (AIM(R)) users and fans of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" to participate in the show's "Ask The Audience" polling. Available now, those who add the "MillionaireIM" screen name to their Buddy List(R) feature will be ready to receive actual game questions via instant message (IM) and give their answer when any contestant selects the "Ask The Audience" lifeline during the taping of a show. Contestants will see the responses of both the studio audience as well as those participating via IM.

To participate, AOL members and AIM users need only to add "MillionaireIM" to their Buddy Lists. Visitors to http://www.millionairetv.com who are not already AOL members or AIM users will receive instruction on how to participate by downloading AIM for free. Registration is currently open, as of August 16th. "Millionaire's" third season will tape from September 1, 2004 through January 16, 2005, during which time registered "Millionaire Buddies" will receive multiple-choice questions via AIM(R).

"The lifeline changes we've introduced for contestants in season three have been designed to further engage viewers and enhance their experience," said Janice Marinelli, President of Buena Vista Television. "Through this new partnership with America Online we are creating a new facet that will provide contestants access to the combined knowledge of tens of millions of online users, and the additional lifeline will help more players become 'Millionaire' success stories."

Entering Season Three: Feeling Like A Million
"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" with Meredith Vieira continued its extraordinary run in syndication for a second consecutive season, winning both critical acclaim and a ringing endorsement from national audiences. When it launched, "Millionaire" rapidly assumed the position of highest-rated new game/reality strip of the 2002-2003 season, and the show's success only grew during the 2003-2004 season. The continuing growth trend led MediaWeek's Marc Berman to write, "Growth from both the lead-in and year-ago time period averages makes Buena Vista's 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' one of the most underrated hits in syndication." "Millionaire" also won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Game/Audience Participation Show, while also receiving 2004 Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Best Game/Audience Participation Show and Outstanding Game Show host.

* "Millionaire" tops the list of syndicated shows that experienced growth from May 2003 to May 2004 with 31% national growth (1.3 to 1.7) in the key W25-54 demographic. "Millionaire" also posted 16% gains in households and 18% growth in the key W18-49 demographic. May 2004 also featured "Millionaire" among the weekly list of Top 10 nationally rated syndicated strips in households.

* Also in May 2004, "Millionaire" continued to show time period growth locally, with a 25% increase (2.0 to 2.5) in 'Daytime' viewership and an 8% increase in 'Early Fringe' (2.6 to 2.8), while 'Access' maintained a strong 4.7. This is in addition to the impressive time period gains posted during the 2004 February sweep which saw "Millionaire" deliver more growth than ALL returning first-run syndicated strips.

'Life-Changing' Money on "Millionaire"
"Millionaire's" ratings success is due not only to the dramatic and engaging game format, but also to the life changing money it continues to award its contestants. "Millionaire" maintains the most aggressive prizing structure and budget on television. On any given day, contestants have the opportunity to correctly answer 15 questions and walk away with $1 million dollars. Since debuting in syndication, two extraordinary contestants have walked away with the top prize and more than $21 million dollars has been awarded.

Now with the addition of a fourth lifeline, "Switch The Question," contestants will have even more opportunity to walk away with the big bucks. In conjunction with the added lifeline, the mid-level prize money categories have been slightly modified for season three, with cash now being awarded past the $16,000 question in the following increments -- $25,000*, $50,000*, $100,000*, $250,000, $500,000 and $1 million. (*indicates new amounts). "These minor adjustments were made to compensate for the increased winning potential that comes with the addition of a fourth lifeline," added Executive Producer, Michael Davies.

Meredith Vieira and the "Millionaire" Team
Meredith Vieira, host of the half-hour program, is fresh off of her 2004 Daytime Emmy nomination. A critically-acclaimed broadcaster and moderator of ABC's "The View," Vieira has brought her unique style to the game show. TV Guide has dubbed her "the thinking person's game-show host," and raved "Vieira has made the show her own, with daily doses of intelligence, wit and that million-dollar smile. "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" is produced by the same Emmy Award-winning team, Valleycrest Productions, which brought the original "Millionaire" to ABC in 1999. Michael Davies, Paul Smith and Leigh Hampton are executive producers; Vincent Rubino is co-executive producer.

SOURCE Buena Vista Television
Web Site: http://www.millionairetv.com

  [august 2004]  


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