ABC Chairman Tom Murphy

8:28 pm Speeches - scripts - annual reports

IRTS Luncheon
May 4, 2000

I thought you might be interested in a story that I think says a lot about the popularity of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” You might have heard that ABC was missing in action for a few hours this week. For Michael Davies, this was extremely bad timing. For months, he had been planning a blockbuster series of four Millionaire shows that had celebrities as contestants. People like Rosie O’Donnell and Drew Carey, if you get the picture.

So when the signal went black in seven ABC cities, including the largest market of all, New York, Michael was pretty upset. But let me tell you what happened, even when 8 million viewers couldn’t see us. In markets that were NOT affected by the blackout, the show was up – over the prior Monday it ran – by 24 percent. In the seven cities that were DARK – viewing was up even more: by 26 percent!

In other words, even when it wasn’t generally available, people found a way to see it. And last night, for those of you who haven’t checked the ratings – last night, Rosie O’Donnell won a half million dollars, and only 35 million people watched it!

There’s an expression that “Success has a thousand fathers, and failure is an orphan!” Well, I want you to know that I was one of the geniuses who saw instantly that this show would be a success! There are legions of us now at ABC!

I’ve been in this business for 50 years, and I’ve seen a lot of hits come and go. But I’ve never seen a hit in prime time that’s an hour – AND in nine months, has aired more than 90 times! This is MY KIND OF HIT! (And now that I think about it, since Regis isn’t here today – who knows – it might be airing right now!)

I met Michael Davies shortly after he arrived at ABC Entertainment – fresh from Buena Vista Television, where he helped develop the Emmy winning programs – “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” I remember thinking, “This guy just has it.” He was a lot of fun, smart and imaginative – absolutely a breath of fresh air.

Michael was also great at ABC Entertainment, heading our specials area and overseeing such creative shows as “Whose Line is it Anyway,” our terrific show on Thursday nights, and our David Blaine specials on magic.

Michael put together the fantastic team that has made this show what it has become. The combination of the production crew, Michael and Regis is our version of winning a trifecta. (And how about that Regis – hasn’t he been perfect for this? … and no one deserves this success more.)

The show has become a phenomenon, and all those famous lines – “Is that your final answer,” “I need a lifeline,” and “I’d like to phone a friend” – the lines have become a part of daily conversation. And the thing that makes us feel great is that American families watch it together.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to present the IRTS Foundation Award to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” – a program that richly deserves it. I also want to recognize a production team that has truly excelled – and the extraordinary producer who made it all happen. Michael Davies, will you accept the award on behalf of the show.

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