Davies builds new 'Empire'


Veteran reality producer Michael Davies has teamed with U.K.-based Fluorescent Media for "The Empire," a live game show touted as the first true cross-platform format that would allow thousands of players to compete simultaneously in a live TV broadcast.

It took Davies, the mastermind behind ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," eight years to pitch another game show to the broadcast networks — that was CBS' "The Power of 10."

"I never found a game show good enough (before 'Power')," he said.

He was mentally prepared to go another eight years until his next game show when he saw Fluorescent's pilot presentation of "Empire" at MIPCOM.

"It was like revealed truth," Davies said. "I've been waiting for someone to crack the multiplatform game show for a decade, and this is far beyond what I could have imagined. It is young, visual, dynamic and frankly, revolutionary."

"Empire" is a live quiz show that would allow hundreds of thousands of viewers to play simultaneously via cell phone, land line or the Internet. Unlike other reality series, where viewer participation is mostly limited to voting, "Empire" will have players "projected" into the studio of the show. Participants will be presented through their Internet profile or live video through Fluorescent's proprietary participation technology Phoenix, which bridges broadcast TV, online, mobile and telephony. (Phoenix has been used on a number of shows, including GSN's "QuizNation" and PlayMania.")

"We are creating a gigantic social gaming contest across the nation, set within the venue of a live TV studio," Fluorescent managing director Carolyn Maze said. "Technologically and creatively, this show is pushing boundaries; it's a new category of game show."

Davies is executive producing "Empire" with Fluorescent. Sony Pictures TV will distribute the format under its deal with Davies' Embassy Row.

" 'The Empire' is an amazing concept, and Michael is just the person to make it a hit in the U.S," SPT co-president of programming and production Zack Van Amburg said.

In addition to the weekly TV show, "Empire" will feature a 24/7 Internet component building up to the live broadcast.

Davies plans to pitch "Empire" to the networks in early December. While the networks are on the lookout for more unscripted fare as the writers strike is cutting short the seasons of their scripted series, Davies called the timing of taking out "Empire" unfortunate.

"One of things I find sad is that so much of the alternative business is focused around strike contingency, and this show has nothing to do with the strike," Davies said. "This is a ground-breaking show that is good to enough to get on the air at any time."