‘Millionaire’ Going Interactive In U.K.

LONDON — British commercial network ITV Tuesday said it has signed a multi-million dollar deal to acquire exclusive rights for the first interactive television version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”

ITV has won rights to online betting for the show and will allow viewers to play a number of different games or compete against actual contestants as the show is broadcast. A multi-play game will also allow up to 10 players to compete head-to-head online. ITV will air the show on its digital channel ITV2, and expects to launch the interactive version of the hit quiz show by the end of the year.

ITV2 currently reaches two million homes but is expected to sign a carriage agreement with satcaster BSkyB before the summer, giving it access to more than seven million digital homes by the time the interactive show goes to air. Viewers can also play the game on their computers, via ITV’s website.

ITV said it would also try out a new form of online advertising – which it has dubbed “the e-mercial” – alongside the games. The e-mercial will take the form of a 7-second piece of animation and must be watched by users before they progress to the next round of the game. “The exclusive presence of ‘Millionaire’ games on the ITV website, cross-promoted from the program itself, clearly has the ability to generate enormous traffic,” said ITV marketing and commercial director John Hardie. “This deal also consolidates the strong working relationship between ITV and Celador, and allows the development of one of the U.K.’s most popular television brands onto new platforms in a powerful partnership.”

Ellis Watson, managing director of Celador International, said his company was obviously delighted that ITV had secured the Internet rights for “Millionaire.” “The software applications that we have developed and the business models that they generate are phenomenal,” Watson said, “and we are sure that our partnership with ITV will be a strong and successful one.”