EXCLUSIVE: ABC has given a series order to 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, a game show based on Endemol’s international format. Hosted by Jeff Sutphen (BrainSurge) and executive produced by Matt Kunitz (Wipeout), the six-episode series is slated to run this summer. 101 Ways, which shot a pilot for ABC last summer, features contestants competing in a series of multiple-choice questions for a $50,000 cash prize. The twist is that the main attraction comes after a contestant is actually eliminated as each of them is being ejected from the show in a spectacular fashion – i.e., being flown away strapped to the wing of a biplane, shot out of a cannon, pushed off the top of a moving semi-truck, dragged underwater by a one-ton anchor or yanked off a dock by a speedboat. Ouch! “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show is unlike any other show we’ve done before,” said David Goldberg, chairman of Endemol North America, which will produce 101 Ways for ABC. “Incorporating action-packed stunts that will eject contestants so outlandishly within the show, is sure to keep contestants and viewers on the edge of their seats having no idea what to expect next.” The British version of 101 Ways aired on BBC One over the summer.
That’s the only option open to shareholders Mediaset, Goldman Sachs and Cyrte, one media analyst tells me. Whether Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi or TV magnate John De Mol, the man behind Cyrte, will be happy doing so is another question. I’m told De Mol in particular would be reluctant. There’s been speculation here that the super-producer will breach its debt covenants as soon as August. Endemol assures me this is not the case. “Given our current outlook, and taking into account the resources already available to the company and its shareholders, we strongly expect to continue to fully comply with our debt covenants for the foreseeable future,” Endemol says.
The company is €2.4 billion ($3 billion) in debt after a 2007 buyout. Combined with the cancellation of Big Brother on Channel 4 and NBC scrapping Deal Or No Deal in the US, it’s argued that the producer’s future is looking pretty bleak.
On the other hand, BBC1 just started an eight-part primetime summer run of the producer’s format 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow. Fox in the US has commissioned a broadcast pilot of the show. Germany, Brazil and Turkey are making their own versions of the show, where contestants are violently ejected from the quiz.
One option not there anymore is buying back its own debt cheaply and marking it as operating profit. Endemol was rapped on the knuckles for doing that earlier this year, although it was perfectly allowable. Hedge funds representing …