MEDIA: WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? INTERACTIVE - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Simon King took the hotseat for a go at ITV2's Who Wants to be a Millionaire? interactive game

I recently met a former contestant on the German Millionaire who

lamented the fact that he could not defer his appearance until the

introduction of the euro. It would seem that one of the euro's hidden

costs is a doubling of the show's purse. Apparently, the German

producers thought that the title Who Wants to Win 560,000 euros? did not

have the same ring.



This occurred to me on Saturday night as I cleared what would otherwise,

of course, be a packed social diary to watch the much-anticipated launch

of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? interactive on ITV2. I wondered how

important the lure of lucre was in the game's attraction.



The Millionaire franchise has spread not just internationally but also

to the internet and mobile phones, so interactive TV was an inevitable

step. It airs at the same time as on ITV1 and operates through a very

simple on-screen overlay which charts your progress. You find yourself

playing along with the on-air contestant having until the contestant

answers to select your own response. The game-play is very

straightforward and should not present any problems for even the most

technophobe Millionaire fan.



Correct answers win the same amount in points as the on-air question is

worth in cash. A high enough total earns you entry to a BT-sponsored

prize draw. I didn't test this, as my points tally wouldn't even pay for

one of Chris Tarrant's suits.



ITV claims that the format is strong enough to hold our attention

without big prizes. Aside from cash, the experience also lacks another

of the key ingredients, the life-lines: 50:50; phone a friend; and ask

the audience.



I watched the show with a group of friends and have to say that it did

add something to the experience and engaged us all, despite my

performance.



The interaction is intuitive and does not break the flow of the

show.



ITV will be looking for a boost to its flagging revenues and to increase

viewing figures for ITV2. Switching channels during the ad break would

mean losing all your points, so advertisers will not object. We will

see, though, whether this means that we watch more ads or just don't

bother with the interactive service.



Millionaire interactive does not constitute a breakthrough. The service

is limited to ITV Digital and cable viewers with digital sets, so it

does not represent mass audience interactivity. Unlike that other

successful franchise, Big Brother, Millionaire brings no innovations in

digital functionality.



Simple, quiz-based interactivity has been around for years. This does

not mean that it will not be a success.



Indeed, its simplicity is probably its greatest strength. The real

question, however, is why has it taken so long?



Channel: ITV2

Frequency: Twice weekly (Tuesday and Saturday evenings)

Audience ITV2 figure not available

Advertisers: include BT (sponsor of interactive show on ITV2), Panadol,

Daz, EA Sports, Co-op