Stations Play the Lottery With New Weekly Game Show

The new weekly syndicated game show Monopoly Millionaires' Club, hosted by Mike & Molly’s Billy Gardell, will launch in February on TV stations covering more than 95% of U.S. lottery television homes. The show is a companion to a new national lottery game by the same title that is debuting Sunday, Oct. 19, in several states, and then expanding across the country over the next several months.

The lottery, along with its companion TV show, is a project more than a year in the making, led by Scientific Games Corp., a developer of technology-based products and services for worldwide markets, on the gaming side, and by Barry Wallach, former president of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, on the television side.

“We felt that the power of having a TV show that worked simultaneously with the lottery would be a one-plus-one-equals-three equation,” says Wallach, who’s sold the hourlong show to stations owned by the Tribune, Sinclair, Hearst, CBS, Gannett, LIN, Graham Holdings and other groups.

Monopoly Millionaires' Club will cost approximately $1 million per episode to produce. But since Scientific Games developed the new lottery, which is run by states' official lottery organizations, and will produce the show, there should be plenty of cash coming in. There also will be revenue derived from national advertising sales, which is being handled by Marathon Ventures.

In fact, if it weren’t for lottery regulations, Monopoly Millionaires' Club would likely air on network primetime instead of in prime access and primetime slots on TV stations. But six states—Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah—don’t run lotteries, so the show cannot air in those states, preventing it from being carried nationally. Of the 95% of U.S. TV markets the series can, therefore, legally air in, MMC is cleared in 95%—and there’s still four months to go.

“We certainly think that this show—which is a first-run, sales-friendly, high-budget, weekend-available game show—has broad appeal. It’s working off of a brand that’s been around for decades and is one of the most popular board games in history,” says Sean Compton, Tribune Broadcasting president of strategic programming and acquisition. Stations acquired Monopoly Millionaires' Club as a 50/50 barter split, which is typically how weekend hours are sold.

The show has far more moving parts than the run-of-the-mill game show. The new national lottery offers players three ways to win. Once they buy their $5 ticket (which is more than the typical $1 or $2 Powerball or Mega Millions ticket), they can win the top prize of $25 million if the numbers on their ticket match the six numbers to be drawn on Friday nights. Players also can win one of several $1 million prizes, and each week that the $25 million jackpot is not claimed, more chances to win $1 million are added.

Each ticket also represents a familiar Monopoly property. People who acquire monopolies— just like in the board game—are entered to win an all-expenses-paid, five-night trip for two to Las Vegas, where they will become members of the show’s live, in-studio audience. People who match higher-value monopolies— think Park Place and Boardwalk—have more chances to win a trip.

Stations to Get Local Segments

During each taping, the audience will be divided into five groups. One player will be called from each group to play the game, which involves a game of chance that offers up to $50,000 as its prize. The contestant will take home however much he or she wins in that mini-game, and his corresponding group also will split that much amongst themselves.

At the end of the show, the day’s five players will be given a choice, starting with the day’s highest money-winner: keep what you won or risk it for the chance to win $1 million. The final contestant will get a certain amount of rolls of the dice to make it to or to pass the “Go” square. Passing Go will net the player and his audience group $100,000, while landing on Go will win him and his group $1 million each.

Finally, a locally tailored segment will be produced for every episode, giving stations a unique insert regarding a person from the station’s state who is playing the game. Each studio audience will include people from every state with stations airing the show.

With all that working for it, Wallach expects MMC to become a lasting franchise: “Multiple stations in every market wanted to participate, so we were able to assemble an exceptional lineup of Big Four affiliates in weekend prime access and CW, MyNet and major independents in primetime.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.