NEW YORK – Memo to Anne Robinson: You say "good-bye" — now say hello to Regis Philbin in head-to-head competition.
ABC is expected to announce that, starting this fall, Philbin's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire will go up against Robinson's Weakest Link at 8 p.m. Monday — pitting TV's two prime-time quiz shows against each other in a battle for ratings supremacy.
ABC is looking to beef up ratings for Monday Night Football, which begins at 9 p.m. and has experienced a falloff in ratings the past few years with 8 p.m. lead-ins including 20/20 and a movie.
"I think ABC wants to get the best possible lead-in for Monday Night Football," says industry analyst Marc Berman of Mediaweek.com.
"I think Millionaire will have the advantage over Link," says Berman. "Millionaire has been around for two years now and is much more established.
"And if you had to pick Regis over Anne Robinson, it's going to be Regis."
Robinson, the snippy host of NBC's Weakest Link, has become famous for her catchphrase, "Good-bye!" which she hurls snidely at contestants tossed off the quiz show for being the "weakest link" during competition.
By comparison, Millionaire host Philbin is known for his geniality and often jokes around with guests on the "hot seat," trying to relax them while they're going for the Big Kahuna.
ABC is expected to announce the Monday night edition of Millionaire today when it unveils its fall schedule, which will also include a Thursday edition of Millionaire.
NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker addressed theLink-Millionaire dust-up yesterday in a conference call with reporters about NBC's fall schedule.
"All I would say is [that] we would welcome the challenge," Zucker said of the match-up.
"It's been clear in the four weeks that [Link] has been on the air that these programs, Weakest Link and Millionaire, compete for different audiences.
"The average median age of Weakest Link is 13 years younger than Millionaire — and I think that these are two programs looking for different viewers."
But industry analyst Paul Schulman of Schulman/Advanswers says there's an important factor favoring Millionaire in a showdown: The show's ability to get strong ratings later in the night — important for the West Coast since it would be airing after Monday Night Football.
"It's an interesting battle," Schulman says. "But if those two shows end up going head-to-head, they're certainly going to hurt each other."