The owner of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" put the worldwide intellectual property rights and the UK library of programmes for the hit quiz show up for sale on Thursday in what television executives said was the first auction of its kind.
Complete Communications Corp Ltd hired advisory firm LongAcre Partners to help with the sale, and said that if it could find a buyer for the show, it would encourage and support a management buyout of its London-based Celador Productions and Celador International arms.
"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" has captivated viewers with its simple but suspense-filled format of asking 15 increasingly difficult multiple-choice trivia questions, the last of which is worth 1 million pounds ($1.74 million) in the UK, or whatever currency applies elsewhere.
"Millionaire" launched in September 1998 on ITV1 in Britain, and reached a peak of 19 million viewers before going on to becoming a global phenomenon. Celador has licensed 67 versions into 105 countries, and the show remains a mainstay on ITV1, drawing an audience of about 7 million on Saturday nights.
It was a one-time smash hit in the United States, helping to revive Walt Disney Co's then-struggling ABC network in 1999. After the broadcaster tried to milk the Regis Philbin-hosted show four nights a week, it lost some of its cachet and its popularity waned.
As of last August, there had been 76 top prize-winners around the world, with 11 in the US and 12 in Japan.
Production companies routinely sell off rights to their shows, but TV executives said they could not recall the sale of an entire format so big. Programming that can be adapted to local markets, such as Millionaire, Pop Idol and Dancing with the Stars, has become increasingly popular in recent years.