The team behind CBS format Million Dollar Mile hope that tweaks and international ratings success for the LeBron James-exec produced competition challenge can help give the show another life in the U.S.
The ten-episode series, which is produced by James and Maverick Carter’s Springhill Entertainment, Big Brother producer Fly on the Wall Entertainment and Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative Television, has been adapted in France and Germany with a number of small changes designed to give a local flavor.
In Germany, the series has aired as a four-part run of 120-minute episodes on Pro7, while the format, set in the famous Stade De France, airs later this month on France 2.
The format sees contestants have the chance to win a major cash prize every time they run the Million Dollar Mile. Standing in their way is the most challenging course ever designed and a group of elite athletes with one mission – stop the contestants from winning the money at all costs. Fronted by Tim Tebow with Matt Smith and Maria Taylor in the U.S., the series was set on an obstacle course through LA’s Westlake District and Downtown.
Rich Meehan, who exec produced the series with Fly on the Wall partner Allison Grodner, as well as James, Carter, Jamal Henderson and Philip Byron at SpringHill, told Deadline that it always thought the show would travel.
“From the original concept we thought it would be a format that would travel well and we’ve seen that from the interest in France and Germany. We wanted the backdrop of downtown LA to give size and scope to the look of the show, but the format itself can exist anywhere, it doesn’t need to have giant skyscrapers in the background, that’s kind of the icing on the cake. Ultimately, it’s about the drama of the runs and the chase and the fact that you can win it all,” he added.
The team, helped by Fly on the Wall’s Jeff Anderson, who worked closely with producers in Europe, have made a number of tweaks to the format in Europe including bringing some of the decision making about whether to carry on an on-screen decision rather than off-screen as well as slightly more humor.
Meehan added, “The great thing about the show is you can shift the tone depending on where you’re at and what your audience enjoys; you can go more pure entertainment with this show and not have an athlete as a host or keep it fun, big, entertainment, live action gameshow or you can dial it more in the sporting direction and have more sports people associated with it. It is malleable depending on the audience.”
Warner Bros’ international division is now considering the launch of an international hub for the format – ala Wipeout. “Once we engineer and build those challenges, they go in storage and can be set up and utilized in other countries or we could build a hub and run multiple countries through the same set. An international hub has always been a consideration. The countries that have larger budgets and can afford to do their own version of the show will do their own but it’s also possible to do a hub where we can run other countries through and go back to back,” said Meehan.
The show launched on CBS in March in a Wednesday night slot but was moved to Saturday nights after its first two episodes. It struggled to beat the ratings of CBS’ usual Crimetime Saturday strand and was pulled before airing its remaining episodes in July.
However, Meehan and Grodner are still hoping that there may be life left in the States and said that there were a lot of positives about the format.
Meehan said, “When you look at how the show performed on its first two episodes, the midweek airings, in relation to shows that aired in the spring and summer, it was an upper/middle rated show, when you compare it to shows that were successes over the course of the summer. We’re going to wait to see how the show does internationally and then we’ll have a follow up call with CBS about all of these positives about the show.”
Grodner added, “It’s an opportunity for us to learn what they’re doing in Germany and France that we might be able to adopt in the U.S. if we were to do it again. It’s a great opportunity to experiment with the format.”
SpringHill’s Henderson said that it was important to note that this was a U.S.-originated format rather than an import and one that has subsequently been sold abroad – as opposed to the other way around, which is more often the case. “It highlights the importance of an original format working abroad; so often these things are coming from abroad to the States. We’re really, really bullish on what we’ve built and the learnings from abroad will only help give this show more life in the States,” he told Deadline.
The traditional network non-scripted business is tougher than ever with fewer original hits breaking through on the schedules. Grodner said that this is being caused by erosion from the streaming services, while Meehan added that fewer people are watching live shows. “Everyone is just trying to get a handle on that right now,” she added.