NBC’s ‘Million Second Quiz’ struggles in the ratings as viewers struggle to understand the game
NEW YORK – TV viewers are sophisticated. They want to be challenged. They want to analyze and ponder while they sit in front of the tube watching the primetime lineup, right? Um, no.
Obviously, there are some successful shows that really make us think, but it seems NBC’s “Million Second Quiz” has simply managed to puzzle viewers instead of intrigue them. With its viewership declining daily, the obviously pricey endeavor may be NBC’s latest programming mistake.
On its Monday premiere night, the hyped 8 p.m. hour-long game show saw only 6.5 million viewers, according to Deadline Hollywood. By 8:30 p.m., more than 500,000 viewers had changed the channel. And viewership has continued to decline ever since.
The show is set to go on for 12 days straight—or 1 million seconds. But by its second day, things weren’t looking too hot for the Ryan Seacrest-hosted quiz series. On night two, the show dropped 12 percent in the ratings and on its third night, Wednesday, it dropped another 20 percent from the previous night’s already low marks. The problem? Viewers are complaining they just can’t understand the complex show, which both tests their knowledge and their attention spans.
Set in an ostentatious 18,000 pound-custom-made glass hourglass atop a Midtown Manhattan building, “The Million Second Quiz” is continuously being played, 24 hours a day. Players sit in a “Money Chair” where they earn $10 per second by answering quiz show questions against contestants and previous big money winners. The top show winners head off to “Winner’s Row” where they sleep and live --“Big Brother” style-- in the “Million Second Quiz” hourglass. They can get booted from Winner’s Row if a contestant tops another player’s monetary winnings, thus stealing their spot in the finals. At the end of the 12-day run, the contestants left in Winner’s Row get to keep their winnings and face off for the “largest prize in game show history.” Phew.
As for the quiz questions, they’re much easier than the types of trivia found on “Jeopardy” and even simpler than some of the mid-level “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” ones. Seacrest hosts one-hour during primetime, asking mostly current events and pop culture themed questions, and the rest of the constant money battle can be viewed online.
It seems the only major fans of the series are the users who play along on the show’s app. But even the mobile version of the game hasn’t been without flaws. On the show’s Monday night debut, the app crashed leading to scores of viewer complaints, an error Seacrest was forced to openly address during the Tuesday episode.
“Last night so many of you were playing along on your MSQ apps that you actually crashed the system,” he said. He then went on to say the problem had been fixed. Still, users on Twitter continue to post about issues with the app.
During Wednesday night’s broadcast there was a similar awkward glitch. The final question of the episode was only flashed on the screen briefly and Seacrest had to ask multiple times for the answer so he could relay it to viewers at home. The awkward confusion ended as the show closed.
The network is apparently pulling out all the stops to try and boost viewership, with cameos from nearly every major NBC personality—Jimmy Fallon and “Today’s” Kathie Lee and Hoda have popped up to read questions. The series is also keeping up with a vicious social media campaign. “The Million Second Quiz” account often appears to be tweeting more than 10 times an hour, yet as The Hollywood Reporter first noted, it has yet to become a Twitter trending topic.
Still, NBC’s Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late-night programming, told The Hollywood Reporter he thinks viewers will become more attached to the show as the days go on.
“Every hour that passes, they'll care more about these contestants whose journeys they'll want to follow. That takes time,” he said.
He also admitted that the series had a bit of a learning curve... to say the least.
“The understanding of the social experiment component and the endurance component -- which is winner's row -- people are just getting to grips with what it means, both the contestants and the viewers.…” he said.
And Telegdy wasn’t ready to comment on whether or not the series would warrant a second season. “No one is making any presumptions about a second season at this stage.”
NBC did not return FOX411’s request for further comment.