As families, couples and friends battle for cash on beloved game shows such as “The
Newlywed Game” and “Family Feud,” the network that shows their contests in front of a live
studio audience is in its own fight to win first place.
In a time where it seems like every channel has its own competition reality show, the
Game Show Network, which started in 1994, is trying reach 85 million homes rather than just 80
million that they currently are in today. But some may say GSN is in trouble, or that they are
having a hard time competing with other networks. Yet, executives say they are right on track
towards bigger and better things and they have the content to prove it.
According to Todd VanDerWerff, the Culture editor at VOX, ever since the inception of
the competition reality show, “Survivor” in 2000, there has not been a big hit when it comes to
competition reality series, or game shows other than “The Voice” or “Dancing with the Stars.”
“But, these shows have been around forever but there is no replacement for them and in a
way that is similar to game shows,” VanDerWerff said. “Wheel of Fortune,’ ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘The
Price is Right’ are not being replaced and they have been around for decades.”
However, “Wheel of Fortune” “Jeopardy” and “The Price is Right” are not currently
aired on the network.
In a recent survey I conducted through social media, one of the criticisms of the network
was that GSN’s branding has fallen off.
When asked “what do you like most about Game Show Network?” 31 percent of survey
participates said they do not watch it at all or have never heard of the network.
The majority of people who took the online survey were Caucasian men and women
between the ages of 21-29, currently in college or graduated with Bachelor’s degrees and are
working full or part-time.
24-year-old GSN fan, Keith Rangel of Chicago said that as a 90s kid his favorite host was
Marc Summers and viewed him as his “hero.”
“The host is someone that makes you feel at home, if they do it right,” Rangel said.
Summers was most known for hosting Nickelodeon game shows like “Double Dare,”
“Family Double Dare,” and “What Would You Do?”
Yet, the majority also said they are not a fan of the old “phony” game shows and would
like to see more of the new shows with the “better production quality.”
“All it takes for any network is one good show,” said LA Times’ television critic Mary
MacNamara. “If (GSN) is serious and got a host that is good enough, they could bring the return
of the game show because that is something that is gone right now and the only thing that
anybody really watches is ‘Jeopardy.’”
This past summer, Game Show Network introduced two new original programming:
“Skin Wars” and “Idiot Test.”
Actress Rebecca Romijn, from “X-Men,” hosted season one of “Skin Wars,” which
featured an eight episode, hour-long competition show that aimed to find the most talented and
versatile body painters in the country.
“Idiot Test,” hosted by comedian Ben Gleib gives two pairs of contestants the
opportunity to face off in several rounds of rapid-fire questions. The answers should be easy to
figure out, if only they are looking at and thinking about them the right way, according to the
description on GSN’s website.
“Rebecca and Ben have helped shape GSN into what it is today, but we still have a long
way to go,” said Barry Nugent, Head of Talent Development and Casting at GSN. “But we’ve
proven that whether a big name like Rebecca or smaller one like Ben that talent matters. You
can’t just throw a warm body in front of the camera. Lacking detail in talent selection makes the
difference between success and failure in this business. They’re the packaging wrapping and in
many ways the content.”
“Skin Wars” and “Idiot Test” seem to be targeting a younger demographic with the
humor of each show unlike some of their other original content, including “The Great American
Bible Challenge” or “It Takes A Church.”
Assuming that most college students watch Netflix these days and over half of the
anonymous survey takers said they would not pay money in order to access the game show
network, GSN is still confident that once students hear about the network and its new
programming they will want to watch it on cable.
“(Students will) call their cable companies to demand GSN or demand that it move to a
more accessible package,” said David Schiff, Senior Vice President of Programming &
Development at GSN.
“Networks are always competing with each other for ratings,” said Schiff. “Recently, our
daytime ratings have grown softer because we haven’t had as many new acquisitions to refresh
our line-up. Those viewers are going to other networks. Also, as we push the network into new
genres (like “Skin Wars”) that put us in direct competition with more networks that are already
producing the same types of shows.”
Even before “Skin Wars” and “Idiot Test” debuted, Game Show Network celebrated in
January for its highest-rated month in its 20 year run, according to Nielsen data. That news came
right after the cable network drawing its best yearly ratings to-date in 2013, according to media
“When I started six years ago, GSN didn’t produce original programming for primetime,”
said Schiff. “Now, we’re programming three nights in primetime a week and the overall amount
of original programming that we’re producing has nearly tripled.”
Within the next five years or so, executives at GSN would like for the network to be the
greatest TV games producer in the US, with formats being sold all over the world.
“I’d like GSN to be known more as the home of game and competition and not just game
shows,” Schiff said.