'Match' booked with Fremantle

Deal expected for return of long-running game show

FremantleMedia North America is looking to revive "Match Game."

The company is developing a contemporary version of the long-running game show, which is part of the Goodson/Todman library owned by FMNA.

FMNA is in discussions with cable networks and is expected to lock up a deal soon. The company also is looking for an executive producer, with casting to follow.

"Match Game," which debuted in 1962, has had several incarnations. The show, featuring contestants trying to match words up with a panel of celebrity guests, reached its heyday with the Gene Rayburn-hosted version in the 1970s.

FMNA CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz hinted about the company's plans for a new "Match Game" series during a "Coffee With" Q&A session at NATPE moderated by The Hollywood Reporter deputy editor Andrew Wallenstein.

During the session, Frot-Coutaz also admitted that, despite having the top series on television with "American Idol," she still gets nervous about the show's ratings and that the producers are always looking for ways to improve it.

"It's always nerve-racking," she said. "If you told us in Season 1 or 2 that five years later, we'd have 30 million viewers, I'd have thought you were crazy."

She noted that she had expected the ratings this season — the show's seventh — to be down from the previous year and blamed that in part on a halo effect from a so-so pool of finalists last season and the producers' spending too much time on the celebrity mentors rather than the contestants.

"Last year, I don't think we had the best talent, and as producers we made some mistakes," she said. "I thought we might take a hit this year with the premiere. But we're incredibly happy with the number; we still have 12 (million)-15 million more viewers than the No. 2 show on television."

Frot-Coutaz said "Idol" is adding another title sponsor alongside Coca-Cola, Ford and AT&T this season but declined to say who that is, hinting only that it's "something with music devices."

When reached with an inquiry whether its iPod might be the new "Idol" sponsor, Apple declined comment.

Frot-Coutaz, whose company's upcoming shows include "Farmer Wants a Wife" for the CW and a new version of "Password" for CBS, painted a positive picture about the future of reality programming. Her view is that reality has several "subgenres" that are cyclical but the genre as a whole will continue to thrive.

"There's a whole generation of teens brought up with reality and who haven't been brought up with sitcoms," she said. "That's what they know, and they are the 18-49 demo of tomorrow."

Gail Schiller in New York contributed to this report.
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