NBC's new high-endurance reality show

Looking for a hit that will set it apart, the ailing network is turning to 'The Million Second Quiz,' which will run all day for 12 days.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 24, 2013 3:04PM
An NBC logo hangs in a window of the NBC Experience store in New York, NY in 2009 (© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC, which is under pressure from advertisers to improve its ratings, is betting that viewers will tune into a high-endurance trivia quiz that runs 24 hours per day for 12 days straight.

Called "The Million Second Quiz," the show will air in the fall in prime time, live "from a gigantic hourglass-shaped structure in the heart of Manhattan" that will serve as the living quarters for the champions of "The Game." Exactly what that means isn't clear. But viewers at home will play along and will be able to appear on the show. The top prize for the winner is $10 million. An NBC spokesperson couldn't be immediately be reached.

The show promises to generate plenty of information on viewing habits, especially regarding social media use, that will interest advertisers.

"This is binge viewing at its finest," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media, in an interview. "I don't think there is much downside to it. It's a very interesting initiative."

"The Million Second Quiz" hopefully will do better than another reality show, "Ready for Love," which NBC recently canceled after two episodes. The peacock network slipped from first to fifth place in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic targeted by advertisers during the February sweeps, but it has rebounded since then. NBC recently delivered its highest week-long 18-to-49 and total-viewer ratings in four weeks. Philadelphia-based Comcast, though, would like to see better.

NBC has had a rough few months. First, it categorically denied a report that it was planning to replace Jay Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon, which later turned out to be true. Though relations with Leno soured for a while, the venerable comic has said he welcomes the change. NBC's "Today Show" has also lost ground with viewers after badly botching the ouster of Ann Curry.

Comcast earned $8.15 billion of its $62.6 billion in revenue in 2012 from its Broadcast Television business, which includes the NBC network,  Spanish language broadcaster Telemundo and 10 local TV stations. Although Comcast CEO Brian Roberts probably doesn't appreciate the negative publicity NBC generates, thanks to the parent company's more than $107 billion market cap, it can easily afford to deal deal with these problems.


One thing's for sure: If "The Million Second Quiz" is a hit, then the other networks will try to copy it.


"That's the nature of television," Adgate says.


Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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Apr 24, 2013 6:12PM
I'm sure this fine piece of broadcasting will also be inundated with liberal nonsense and out of touch hipsters like every other show they have.   Hmmm....maybe that's why your ratings suck so bad.
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