After reverting to traditional game show formats in 2018 and dropping the moniker GSN during last upfronts season, Game Show Network says it is done transforming. Now, the cable network is pushing further into what’s working, and will double its output of original episodes this upcoming year.
This year’s upfront conversations with buyers will focus on that expansion of programming, and emphasize that the network represents a “safe haven” for brands seeking an escape from off-putting or risky programming, said evp of ad sales John Zaccario.
“Our customers know what they get here: They get game shows,” Zaccario said. “They can plan for it, it’s predictable, and that’s comforting for people who are buying media three or four months out.”
Game Show Network plans to double the 550 episodes of original programming that it released last year. It has greenlit two new series: People Puzzler, based on the Puzzler crossword that runs in People magazine; and Master Minds, a celebrity trivia game show hosted by actress Brooke Burns.
Returning to the network this year are originals America Says, Catch 21, Common Knowledge and Get a Clue, as well as syndicated episodes of Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey.
Those new and returning programs are in line with Game Show Network ’s program definition, which pivoted away from modern formats to the traditional, comfort-food fare its audience was craving.
“We’re not in a mode of transforming the audience and chasing hits that may be outside of our genre,” Zaccario said. “We’re chasing hits that are inside the program definition, and advertisers are responding to that.”
People Puzzler, which was in production during last year’s upfront, will present an opportunity for the network to forge new brand partnerships, which it will pursue in tandem with People magazine publisher Meredith Corp. The show is the first time that the network has partnered with a brand with People’s scale and name recognition, which Zaccario said will help draw audiences and attract advertisers.
True to its long-term message to advertisers, Game Show Network will also emphasize its family-friendly programming lineup going into the 2020-21 upfront.
“There are a lot of places, both in linear television and outside linear television, that aren’t brand safe or that may be off-putting for reasons like overt conflict,” Zaccario said. “We’re a safe haven from that, and when the marketplace dictates, we remind people of that.”
Game Show Network will continue with its strip scheduling approach, in which shows air subsequent episodes across all five weeknights. Most of Game Show Network’s audience watches live, and its lineup of originals is bringing in new viewers, Zaccario said. In the last year, 10 million new viewers watched the network, according to Nielsen figures provided by Game Show Network.
“Our audiences watch Game Show Network in a way that is advantageous to advertisers: They watch live, which is extremely important because it means they’re watching the commercials, and they also buy the stuff that our advertisers sell, which is really the point of it all,” Zaccario said.
That doesn’t mean the network isn’t thinking about opportunities in the streaming world. While Game Show Network hasn’t seen a loss in viewership like the industry’s average decline across linear, according to Zaccario, it is working to determine the best way to capitalize on the on-demand space. It won’t announce anything during this year’s upfront, but Zaccario said the network is charting a plan.
“We have this enormous library of originals that will only get bigger, and it makes sense for us to, at some point, get that in front of a nonlinear television audience,” Zaccario said. “When we’re ready to talk about an over-the-top and streaming platform that is ad-supported and measurable, it will get included in all of our conversations with advertisers.”