Game Show Network Drafts Dedicated Ad-Sales Team

Buoyed by distribution gains and the arrival four months ago of Rich Cronin as president and CEO, Game Show Network plans to start its own sales division in January.

Currently, the cable network sells through Columbia TriStar Television Advertising Sales, which sells Columbia TriStar’s syndicated shows and DirecTV.

“They did a great job generating revenue and putting us on the map, but we have grown and need our own department,” Cronin said. “The challenge will be to maximize revenue in a tough market, but because we are reasonably priced and becoming a higher priority for advertisers, it will work.” He is looking to hire a sales chief who will report to him.

Cronin has revamped the network’s schedule and increased ratings in several dayparts by using themed program marathons. For example, Game Show Network has sold Merry Blank-A-Thon for December with such notable oldies as Press Your Luck and Match Game. Cronin declined to discuss details of the network?s upfront sales performance.

But ultimately, he wants the network to be defined by original programming, he said. To that end, Cronin hired Bob Boden, former Dick Clark Productions vice president and Family Feud producer, last month to find breakout hits as senior vice president of programming.

Hoping for a hit, the network on Sept. 1 launched Who Dares When, an Australian game show in the style of NBC’s Fear Factor.

All original programming is interactive-enabled in expectation of the growth of interactive-capable set-top boxes, Cronin said.

Owned by Liberty Digital and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Game Show grew distribution by 10 million homes last year and expects to reach 40 million by year’s end. Since June, average prime-time ratings increased 25 percent to 0.5. In August, Game Show pulled a household rating of 0.5 and increased delivery 39 percent to 186,000.