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With Finger on Buzzr, Fox Taps Into Nostalgia

On June 1, FremantleMedia North America will launch the diginet Buzzr TV, featuring the company’s extensive library of vintage game shows including Family Feud, The Price Is Right, Let’s Make a Deal, To Tell the Truth, Password, Match Game, Beat the Clock, What’s My Line?, Blockbusters and Card Sharks.

For now, Buzzr TV is cleared on the Fox-owned television stations, but additional station groups are slated to come on board. The goal is to reach 40 million viewers at launch, which should be attainable considering that the Fox station group audience reaches approximately 27 million viewers and those stations already have secured cable deals for its diginets.

While Buzzr TV enters an increasingly crowded space, it has at least cornered the market on one type of content: game shows. Many other diginets offer nostalgic programs or classic movies, but no one offers what Buzzr will. The ‘net also won’t be particularly expensive to program since Fremantle fully owns both the channel and all of the programming.

At least initially, Buzzr TV’s success will be determined exclusively by the volume of its direct-response ad sales. Proprietors aren’t currently buying Nielsen ratings for diginets and the only advertising is direct response, with FremantleMedia giving a cut of that revenue to Fox in exchange for Fox airing the programs. Debmar-Mercury is handling distribution.

FMNA has a library that includes more than 40,000 game show episodes, most of which wasn’t being leveraged when Thom Beers was named Fremantle CEO two years ago. Leveraging that library quickly became a priority for Beers.

“All I knew when I came on board was that we had this massive game show library and the only outlet we had at the time was a small amount of hours going to Game Show Network,” says Beers. “We started to talk about other opportunities for this programming besides airing on a cable channel.”

Once the initial deal was done, FMNA hired Ron Garfield to be executive VP and general manager of the channel. Garfield previously was chief revenue officer for FEAR-net and senior VP of distribution for Sony Movie Channel/Cine Sony.

“We’re really going to tap into the emotional side of this, creating that vibe on the air,” says Garfield. “The whole tone of the channel will be this retro, cool feel.”

FMNA already is batting around some fun ideas to promote the channel, such as a Betty White Week, since the octogenarian actress was once a regular on the game show circuit and her husband was Password host Alan Ludden. FMNA also plans to create a Facebook page for the network where it will post call-outs to contestants of game shows past to let them know to tune in to watch themselves.

FMNA also offers a YouTube channel called Buzzr, but the two properties are distinctly different. Buzzr TV will air legacy game shows and target adults 25-54 and older, while Buzzr on YouTube will feature YouTube stars playing new editions of classic formats in short clips.

Eventually, there may be some overlap between the two, with Buzzr perhaps populating late-night hours on Buzzr TV with programming aimed at younger audiences, like an “Adult Swim for game,” says Beers.

Another way that Buzzr and Buzzr TV may evolve is by becoming a development platform for shows that could eventually make their way into first-run syndication or network daytime or primetime. At the moment, however, that is not the focus of either platform.

Game shows have been in retreat in recent years, with only four airing in first-run syndication and none airing in primetime. That’s about to change, however. Fremantle is prepping to announce two new game shows that will air on major networks, and at least two syndicators have games in development. Warner Bros. is developing a remake of Love Connection with The Real’s Loni Love, while Debmar-Mercury and Fremantle have been redeveloping What’s My Line?— both of those shows are possibilities for fall 2016.