QuizUp app to be turned into TV show

NEW YORK • In this era of "peak television", with nearly 400 scripted series being produced, broadcasters are searching for novel programming ideas to break through the clutter.

Executives at NBC have placed a bet that one of the world's most popular mobile game apps will translate into a hit show.

The network announced plans to develop the trivia game QuizUp into a prime-time game show that will invite viewers to use the app during the broadcast.

It ordered 10 episodes of QuizUp America and British network ITV has ordered a pilot. NBC is also in talks to sell the show in 18 other countries, including China.

QuizUp joins the ubiquitous game Angry Birds, which now doubles as a cartoon series in Finland, where it originated. (A feature film based on Angry Birds is scheduled for release next year.)

Brands including Candy Crush have also tried to gain a foothold in television, albeit through a strong advertising presence.

Mobile gaming is on track to be a US$29-billion (S$40-billion) industry this year, according to a May report from the investment bank Digi-Capital.

While broadcasters have been fascinated by apps for the past couple of years, they have mostly tried to create companion apps for existing television shows.

"In our case, we're seeing the reverse," said Mr Thor Fridriksson, 36, founder and chief executive of Plain Vanilla Games, the Icelandic company that developed QuizUp. "We're seeing an existing brand in the app market being transferred onto TV."

QuizUp, which in its first three weeks of existence in 2013 became the fastest-growing mobile game of all time, has more than 75 million users around the world and has been downloaded in 131 countries. Players face off in more than seven million trivia matches a day, testing their knowledge by answering timed questions on an array of subjects including American history, The Simpsons, beer and Game Of Thrones.

Mr Fridriksson will be one of the executive producers of QuizUp America. Contestants will be able to use the app to qualify for the show and, if selected, to compete with in-studio contestants. When the show airs, viewers tuning in at home will be able to win prizes by playing along with QuizUp.

An earlier attempt by NBC to allow viewers to play along with a televised game show had disappointing results. When The Million Second Quiz, hosted by Ryan Seacrest, aired in September 2013, a corresponding app allowed viewers to play along with, and qualify for, the show from home.

But The Million Second Quiz was criticised as being confusing and was plagued by technical problems, including the crashing of the app during the premiere. It was not renewed for another season after a 10-episode run.

The creators of QuizUp America hope to avoid the technical problems faced by the show's predecessor.

"Of course I'm worried, I'm concerned about the technical part," Mr Fridriksson said. But given QuizUp's traffic on a day-to-day basis, he said he was "pretty confident" in the app's ability to handle the inevitable surge when the show premieres.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2015, with the headline 'QuizUp app to be turned into TV show'. Print Edition | Subscribe