'Deal or No Deal' sees tidy profit from text appeal

NBC show picks up $400 million an episode from viewers via SMS

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"Deal or no deal" has become a big deal for generating revenue from a text-messaging contest conducted during the NBC game show.

While one reviewer called it "the dumbest prime-time show ever," the audience this month has ranged from 14.2 million to 17.7 million viewers. And quite a few people are voting in a separate viewer-participation game integrated into the program called the "Lucky Case Game." In it, viewers are given an opportunity to vote-online for free or by premium cellphone text-messaging for 99'-on which of six suitcases contain $10,000. The winner is selected from a lottery among those who picked the correct suitcase; the winner's name is broadcast live at the end of the program.

Executives at NBC and the show's production company, Endemol USA, declined to say how many mobile votes were generated. However, it's easy enough to estimate.

Jon Vlassopulos, VP-new media, business development and strategic planning for Endemol, said around the world 5% to 10% of viewers participate in the interactive aspects of the program. About 75% vote for free online. That means each episode collects, on average, roughly $400,000 in fees from text messages from viewers.

pales compared to 'idol'

Still, that number is far less than what Cingular Wireless gets from its exclusive association with Fox's "American Idol." For the fourth season of the hit music contest, Fox said it generated more than 41.5 million text messages throughout the show's 12-week voting period.

Industry executives said revenue from text promotions generally is split, 35% to 65%, between the wireless carrier and the content carrier, respectively, and the remainder goes to the aggregator or company enabling the program to work on numerous cellphones and wireless services.

Stephen Andrade, VP, NBC Interactive, said the network is so happy with the results that its "Celebrity Cooking Showdown" program will include a similar 99-cent text-messaging contest. This summer's NBC reality series "Treasure Hunters" also will have a mobile-phone component. In addition, he said NBC's sales department is actively speaking with potential sponsors for other aspects of "Deal or No Deal," including sales of mobile wallpaper, ringtones and even a mobile game.

"Everything to do with digital is a top priority," Mr. Andrade said.
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