TV show research – Countdown

Another one of my favourite format programs has to be Countdown. It has been running since 1982 and has broadcast close to 2000 episodes including special editions. The show is produced by ITV studio and is broadcast on Channel 4. So what makes it so successful as a format?

Here are it’s key points in regards to a solid format production:

  • A simple idea
The show in which two contestants engage in a battle of wits, competing against the clock in games of lexical dexterity and numerical agility.
  • The hook

New contestants each day competing for a prize of being series champion and champion of champions. Seeing how intellectual the contestants are. Jeff Stelling the host is very witty and along with mathematician Rachel Riley who is a very good co-host.

  • Play-along-ability

You can try and get the longest word available along with the contestants and count your score through the game. You can also try and work out the 3 matchs questions during the show.

  • Branding

The name of the show is very recognisable and the 30 second ticking clock is well known.

  • Repeatability

The show doesn’t change. 3 rounds of a word game, word game and number game along with a countdown conundrum.

  • Competition

Becoming the individual show winner, the series champion and becoming champion of champions.

  • Characters

Jeff Stelling as the main presenter. He is very witty and brings a laid back approach to the show unlike previous hosts who I thought was a bit too serious at times. Co-host Rachel Riley is intellectual which works well in the math rounds.

  • Transferability

Format sold to 6 countries. The show would have to be changed for other countries as words may be naturally longer or shorter, and may not work in asian countries such as Japan as they dont have many individual letter.

  • Spin-offs

Lots of merchandise available. Board games, countdown clocks, pens and video games. No real way to make a spin off show, unless when making a childs format of the game, which may not work due to children already taking part in the main format show.

I personally feel the show doesn’t have to change in any way. Its worked so well for over 25 years which shows it’s still being viewed. When it began it was a prime-time evening show, but over the years it has dropped down the scheduling. Maybe they need to think of a new round to be added to the game, just like the conundrum which was added 5 years ago.


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