It’s Anyone’s Game

TV competition shows are a growing area of interest for brand extension, particularly for properties from the worlds of board games, interactive gaming, and character/entertainment. Some of the IPs, gaming-based and otherwise, that are lending their names to current and upcoming reality competition shows include:

  • Harry Potter. A four-part quiz show, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses, was announced in September. Plans call for the show to air later this year on Cartoon Network and TBS, with future streaming on HBO Max. The series, hosted by Helen Mirren, is being produced by WarnerMedia; Warner Bros. Consumer Products is the licensor. The show tests contestants on their knowledge of Harry Potter trivia and is timed to the 20th anniversary of the film series.
  • Uno. Mattel partnered with Propagate to create a game show that combines trivia and physical challenges as well as audience participation. Game play mirrors that of the card game, which will mark its 50th anniversary in 2022.
  • Mouse Trap. According to a July announcement, the Hasbro game is the basis of a series being developed by Hasbro subsidiary eOne for Fox. Contestants navigate obstacles that require both mental and physical endurance and are patterned after the board game, including the possibility of capture on the course.
  • Whac-A-Mole. In February came news that Mattel Television had paired with Fremantle to develop an obstacle course game based on its classic arcade property. Mattel is also rejuvenating the brand in other ways, rereleasing its tabletop version as well as a matching card game version in spring of this year.
  • Frogger. In September, streaming platform Peacock debuted a 13-episode game show based on Konami’s Frogger. Contestants navigate a course similar to what is depicted in the classic arcade game, with spinning platforms, conveyor belts, and other obstacles to overcome through agility and strategy. The show is hosted by Kyle Brandt and Damon Wayans Jr. Eureka Productions produces with licensor Konami Cross Media.
  • Disney. Disney’s Magic Bake-Off is a baking competition for kids featuring Disney-themed challenges, such as creating a cityscape cake inspired by the Disney Channel animated series Big City Greens, with the challenge judged by the creators of that show. The 13-episode first season launched in August 2021 on the Disney Channel and is hosted by Dara Reneé and Issac Ryan Brown.  
  • Ben & Jerry’s. Food Network and Discovery Plus debuted Ben & Jerry’s Clash of the Cones, produced by Triage Entertainment, in August of this year. The four-episode series challenged six contestants to create a new ice cream flavor inspired by a celebrity or pop culture figure. Molly Yeh hosted the show, which took place in an ice cream lab built on the Ben & Jerry factory campus in Vermont.
  • Candy Land. This candy-making competition series, based on the Hasbro board game, premiered in November 2020 on Food Network. Hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, it pitted five teams of professional cake and sugar artists on a series of challenges sparked by the game. The brand also prompted a one-hour special about the making of the set for the show, as well as a digital series, Inspired by Candy Land, in which baker Dan Langan creates cakes and candies taking their cues from the classic property.
  • Lego. Lego Masters, in which teams of freehand builders complete themed challenges using Lego bricks, just completed Season 2 on Fox last month; the first season premiered in February 2020. The U.S. show is a spin-off of a series that debuted in the U.K. and led to subsequent versions in Australia and Spain. The host of the U.S. show, Will Arnett, voices Lego Batman in the Lego feature films.
  • Shazam. Beat Shazam, based on the music-identification app, has had four seasons on the air on Fox and at press time is awaiting news on whether it will be renewed. The series, hosted by Jamie Foxx with his daughter Corinne Foxx as the DJ, is a Name That Tune-style show where contestants have to identify songs as quickly as possible.
  • Slip ’n’ Slide. NBC was in production earlier this year on The Ultimate Slip ’n’ Slide, a game show produced by Universal Television Alternative Studio. The show, based on the Wham-O outdoor game, was almost complete when it was put on hold and then cancelled after staffers were infected by the parasite guardia. Hosts were Bobby Moynihan and Ron Funches.

There have been competition series in the past tied to characters and brands connected to licensing, from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge to The Glee Project, among others. But 2021 seems to be a golden age for such shows. And the trend is likely to remain strong into the foreseeable future, especially with the rise of family TV co-viewing that occurred during the pandemic. Many observers expect that to continue, which bodes well for this type of programming.

Such content ventures bring several advantages to the partners. Being based on a well-known IP helps the show stand out from the crowd and makes it easy for fans to understand the basic concept, even before tuning in. For the IP owners, competition shows are another means of expanding their brands into new arenas, generating revenue and engaging fans in a new way.

While not all of these productions will be successful in ratings, revenues, or reviews, for a variety of reasons, they do exemplify one the core factors behind success in licensing: a good fit. Especially for properties with roots in gaming, whether board or card games, video game or arcade titles, or outdoor challenges, these pairings simply make sense.

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