A year after launching his latest company, Big Brother and The Voice creator John de Mol is taking out what he hopes to be a successful global format with Marble Mania on the heels of a promising launch for the celebrity marble-racing show in his native Netherlands.
In each self-contained episode of the family-friendly game show, three celebrities who have something in common and play for charities, face off — each competing with their own color marbles that are sent racing on elaborate tracks, including a Formula 1 track, a Luna park, an outdoor Winter track and a Jungle track.
Each round starts with a skill assignment, such as bowling, mini golf or a special version of penalty shooting, which earns the celebrity contestants marbles for the races. They culminate in the finale, where no fewer than 6,000 marbles take part in the race.
Last week, Marble Mania got off to a strong ratings start on de Mol-owned SBS6 where he often tries out new formats.
The show’s premiere drew 1.4 million viewers for a 22.8% market share in the 18-44 demographic and boosting its time slot by more than 221%. After three days of playback, the debut’s viewership grew to 1.9 million.
“It’s a dream start,” said de Mol, who also created the hit reality formats Deal or No Deal and Fear Factor.
While at Endemol and working on the 1998 series Domino Day, de Mol and his team also developed a marble racing concept, which was ultimately shelved. But in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, marble racing videos soared in popularity online amid stay-at-home orders and suspension of all professional sports. In light of the online videos’ massive success, de Mol dusted off the old idea, which underwent extensive development and led to the creation of a commercially producible format in Marble Mania.
The format was sold to Germany’s RTL ahead of the series’ debut on SBS6, with the first local version of Marble Mania slated to premiere Feb. 4. De Mol and his team are in contact with most American networks and platforms and are fielding interest in the concept, he said.
Marble Mania is looking to follow in the footsteps of hit global formats de Mol has generated through his previous companies, Endemol (Big Brother) and Talpa (The Voice). He owns the Talpa moniker, so his new company also is called that.
Talpa owns four TV stations in the Netherlands, and de Mol plans to launch 10-12 new formats on them this year, at least another big-event program like Marble Mania and about 7-8 smaller ones. The concepts include a singing competition and game shows.
The new Talpa doesn’t have a formal presence in the U.S. yet, and de Mol has not decided whether he will set up an outpost as a subsidiary or as a joint venture with an established entertainment company.
Even with a brand-new concept, de Mol said it was very easy to recruit celebrities for Marble Mania.
“Everyone in their youth has played with marbles,” he said.
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