My Network TV Invites Marketers Into New Genre: 'Participatory TV'

Product Placement, Text Messaging Fuel Ad-Free Game Show

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NEW YORK -- My Network TV has launched a new genre of daytime TV, creating an opportunity for marketers looking for the next big game show.
'My Games TV' runs commercial free for two hours in the afternoon and is supported through text-messaging revenue and product placements rather than ad revenue.

The News Corp. network rolled out "My Games Fever" in December. The two-hour daily show asks the audience to play along with quizzes and word games and bills itself as the latest thing in "participatory television," a concept born in Germany five years ago, according to the show's producers.

Commercial free

The show runs commercial free for two hours, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST, and is supported through text-messaging revenue and product placements rather than ad revenue. A recent episode featured a 20-minute segment that asked viewers to spot the difference between two pieces of visual content offered up by resort operator Sandals.

Text messages to the show cost 99 cents. Viewers can also respond via

The show is produced by Twentieth Television and Shine Matrix, a U.K. joint venture founded by Elizabeth Murdoch, the daughter of News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch, and Debbie Mason. Ms. Murdoch famously advocated for News Corp.'s Fox TV network to acquire "American Idol." (Twentieth Television is also a unit of News Corp.)

Ms. Mason, executive producer of "My Games Fever" and an expert on the "participatory TV" genre, explained that the show used a middleware provider to enable text messaging from any cellphone service. "It is ideal for the U.S. market and it's perfect for product integration. We can be on air talking about Sandals while playing the game. I encourage a dialogue with the advertiser," she said.

Database of consumer info

The producers have compiled a database of information about who's watching, something that may appeal to marketers looking for a specific segment. Cellphone codes allow producers to pinpoint the geographic location of the contestant while follow-up questions to winners have identified gender, purchase intent and occupation. According to Shine Matrix, viewership is evenly split between men and women and skews young, with 18- to 24-year-olds the predominant viewing group (contestants must be 18 or older to play).

The show airs in 11 markets: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Phoenix and Washington.

The company is talking to other TV channels about expanding the new format beyond My Network TV -- the show is carried only by Fox owned-and-operated stations at present. Shine Matrix is in discussion with agencies and marketers who want to know more about the genre. The producers are offering theme weeks or specific platforms for advertisers based on the games.

Not a brain teaser

The show is fronted by two upbeat hosts who give big hints to questions they are posing. Many of the clues are hidden in the oft-name-checked New York Post, another News Corp. property. One question featured yesterday asked viewers to fill in a blank ahead of the word "book." The host told viewers to listen for the sound of a cracking whip before telling them the missing word rhymed with "whip." The host also said the full word was a precursor to modern-day animation as she made a flipping motion with her hands.

One viewer called in to answer the question but was unable to come up with anything when his moment came. Pushed for an answer, he responded, "cookbook," rather than the correct answer, "flipbook."
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