NBC Orders Interactive Game Show Based on QuizUp App to Series

Paul Telegdy Portrait - P 2012
Amy Dickerson

Paul Telegdy Portrait - P 2012

NBC is taking another swing at the game show format.

The network is teaming with the game studio behind the immensely popular trivia app QuizUp for a new interactive series, the network announced Wednesday.

The series, also called QuizUp, will allow in-studio contestants to compete against qualifying viewers playing in real-time from their mobile devices for cash prizes of up to $1 million.

If the in-studio contestant wins eight trivia battles against eight different competitors who are playing from home, they can win up to $1 million. If any players at home win their battle, they’ll take home the money allocated to that round. Potential contestants can get qualified to play from home via the QuizUp app, and even those who don’t qualify will still be able to play along with the weekly episodes.

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NBC has ordered 10 episodes of the series, which was created by Jeff Apploff (Don’t Forget the Lyrics) and Wes Kauble (The Newlywed Game). Apploff will also exec produce and his company’s Apploff Entertainment will produce the series with Universal Television.

Unscripted fare has been a major ratings driver in recent years for NBC thanks to the success of alternative programming like The Voice, America’s Got Talent and America Ninja Warrior, the former two of which allows viewers to participate and vote for their favorites.“The volume of interactions with our audience, it’s just through the roof when we have second-screen real estate tied specifically to TV shows,” Paul Telegdy, NBC's president of late-night and alternative programming, told The Hollywood Reporter in a phone interview Tuesday. “The more that we give certain segments of the audience to do, the happier they are.”

Despite this unscripted push, it’s been more than two years since the network last tried to launch a game show with the heavily marketed Million Second Quiz. Although Telegdy admitted the show “didn’t quite bare the amount of fruit that we would have liked,” he said the network learned several valuable lessons from the failed series.

“What it told us was: Come up with an interactive quiz game,” he said. “What it also said is: You can do that in a very simple-to-understand and stripped-down version that gets to the heart of interactivity quickly.”

Unlike Million Second Quiz, QuizUp will take place in a studio instead of outdoors and look more like a “traditional” game show. Additionally, the series will not be live, which will allow users from different time zones to participate and will, Telegdy hopes, make the show more DVR-friendly. “It takes away that certain aspect of people’s enjoyment if they’re not watching at the time the broadcast happens,” he said. “It couldn’t be more different.”

The staggering success of the app, which has hit No. 1 in 128 countries and boasts more than 75 million users worldwide, gives the network a huge built-in brand awareness. “We need to drive and want to drive downloads of the show app, QuizUp, because we still need to market the playing of an app,” said Telegdy. “The good news is we’re working with an existing downloaded space in the U.S. that has millions of active users already, and we’re going to use them to market the game.”

In addition to appealing to American audiences and specifically younger demographics that have made the app such a success, Telegdy is optimistic about the show’s appeal in foreign markets. “They’re looking for innovative, easy-to-replicate and relatively cost-efficient production models,” he said. “We think that we have now perfected a fully interactive play-at-home quiz and are able to do so at a price that is attractive to both NBC and, we hope, many international markets.”

QuizUp founder and CEO Thor Fridriksson also expressed enthusiasm about the partnership in a statement released Wednesday. “QuizUp in America is an exciting next step for us, and we couldn’t ask for a better partner than NBC,” he said. “In the past five months we’ve completely revamped QuizUp by incorporating social elements and have launched My QuizUp to create an open, user-generated platform. QuizUp in America is bringing engaging, addictive trivia to the masses and we’re incredibly excited about it.”

NBC will formally unveil the format at this year’s MIPCOM, where registered participants will be able to compete on the app for prizes.