'Million Second Quiz': What the American Experience Reveals

Million Second Quiz

New All3media format is far from being the best game show ever, but it might work after some improvements. Analysis of 'Million Second Quiz' NBC performance.

Friday, November 22, 2013

NBC recently tried new live interactive game show 'Million Second Quiz' and All3media International introduced the format to international broadcasters at MIPCOM in Cannes. Smartshow.tv reviews its US ratings performance and format potential.

Ratings: Not a disaster, but far from "bringing America together"

'Million Second Quiz', hosted by Ryan Seacrest, achieved 0.6-1.7 ratings in 18-49 target group (live+SD) according to Nielsen Media Research. NBC aired the show as 10-episode special scheduled for daily prime-time run from September 9 to September 19. First episode was the strongest with 1.7 rating in the demo, later during the week it declined hitting 0.6 season low on Saturday. The show got back to 1.0+ ratings next week and finished with 1.3.

Rating performance of 'Million Second Quiz' was mediocre, slightly below NBC averages at that time (between summer off-season and fall high-season). Not a disaster, but definitely not what NBC hoped for by saying "One event this fall will bring America together like never before" in on-air promos.

Ratings 18-49 (live+SD, source: Nielsen)

What did not work: Format and unusual scheduling

'Million Second Quiz' is a format that calls for daily scheduling - contestants participate for "million seconds" or 12 consecutive days and nights. NBC accepted it and aired it every day except Sunday. But US prime-time is structured on a weekly basis respecting viewers' behavior so decline on Friday and Saturday was expectable and harmed the show.

Another problem is format itself. It started on NBC with 1.7 rating and three days after only 1.1 left. Strong start was supported by high-freqency promotion, decline was affected by daily scheduling, but also confirms that viewers' interest in the whole show was getting weaker.

Not a hopeless project

Despite mixed results in the US 'Million Second Quiz' is not hopeless. The format has very strong elements, especially high level of viewers' interaction and inclusion of social media tools - in this show they are not just secondary, but vital. Airing each episode live makes viewers more involved. Quite unusual for game show genre.

Unlike many other unscripted formats 'Million Second Quiz' started in America. Without previous experience from format hubs like UK or Netherlands NBC had to try it and find what works and what doesn’t. Let’s call it an experiment.

Now All3media knows 'Million Second Quiz' is not a TV event; it is just a regular quiz show with same potential as others. It can work, but some adjustments are needed: at first to make the format easier, less complicated and less perplexing than now. At second to create different scheduling plan. Daily programming might work at territories that are used to it such as CEE, but not US prime-time which needs weekly run. Both changes mean significant but not impossible format makeover.

'Million Second Quiz' is not "the most dynamic, ambitious entertainment show ever" as All3media hoped. But as a regular game show it might work. Especially in countries with good history of prime-time game shows looking for second screen experience projects.