Millionaire to be scaled back

It's a pretty safe bet that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire will leave ABC's schedule as a regular weekly series in the
2002-03 season.

That's according to Michael Davies, who ought to know because he is executive
producer of the series.

'ABC ran out of ways to promote the show' as a regular
series, Davies said. 'You can build a lot more marketing heat if you strip the
show as a two-week event,' he told reporters after a press conference Tuesday
that confirmed previous reports (B&C, 4/25/02) The View co-host Meredith Vieira would serve as
host of the syndicated version of Millionaire, which debuts this

Vieira signed on for an initial three-year stint as host of the game show and
at the same time reupped for another five years at The View.

Some TV-station executives who have
bought the show were taken by surprise by the Vieira announcement.

They claimed that Buena Vista Television had told them it was looking for a
young male comic to front the new show.

But according to Davies, that was never in the works. 'Being a comic isn't
enough,' he said, adding that someone with 'weight, credibility and authority'
is needed when you're potentially giving away a million bucks each night. 'My
list contained no one but broadcasters.' What Vieira and other good broadcasters
have the ability to do is convey a sense of genuineness on camera. 'The Meredith
Vieira you see on camera is very much like the one you see off camera,' he added.

For next season and beyond, Davies said, 'We will drive the
Millionaire brand with the syndicated version.'
And that version will be different than the network version in one respect --
the so-called fastest-finger round, where one-dozen potential contestants
compete to get to the hot seat, will be eliminated. Instead, all contestants
will be pre-selected in an effort to get a more diverse crowd of players. In the
network version, white males have dominated.