TV Guide (August 20, 1955)

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'Now, for $8,000;' Hal March pops question to Bayard MacMichael. tured the public imagination. On a hot July evening, when the most avid viewers usually would shun their TV sets to stay outdoors, millions of people throughout the country rushed to tune in The $64,000 Question. You can walk down almost any residential street when the show is on and hardly miss a word of the dialog. The pro¬ gram probably has caught on faster with viewers than any show since Milton Berle first hit television. Although The $64,000 Question reaped the usual advance publicity, no one could have predicted that its rise to the top of the rating lists would be so phenomenal. The pro¬ gram was launched June 7. Within four weeks it had zoomed to No. 1 spot in the Trendex line-up with a 23.1 rating. A week later, on the night Mrs. Kreitzer decided to go home with her $32,000 winnings, the rating al¬ most doubled at 43. Even more strik¬ ing was the fact that 79.4 percent of all TV sets in use that night were tuned to The $64,000 Question. No show in his company’s history, says a Trendex spokesman, has done so well in the summer. Numerous TV GUIDE readers have written in to ask how the sponsor can afford to give away all that money. Actually, even with the jack¬ pot prizes, the program is not ex¬ pensive in terms of current TV bud¬ gets. While producer Louis G. Cowan declines to reveal the show’s cost, the best trade estimate puts it at about $15,000 a week (exclusive of network time charges). That includes the sal¬ aries paid emcee Hal March, the or¬ chestra, camera crew and stagehands, the sets, props and incidentals. In the first six weeks, some $65,000 was awarded in prizes, or an average of $10,833 a week. Even adding that to the show’s budget, the total would be only about $25,833. And in terms of the millions of viewers who see the sponsor’s commercials each week, the cost of the program is almost un¬ believably low. Other Top 10 shows cost much more. Last season’s Jackie Gleason Show cost $72,500 and the Milton Berle and Disneyland shows were $90,000 a week each. The Jack Benny Show, a half-hour program like The $64,000 Question, cost $42,500. Groucho Marx’s is $35,000; George Gobel’s is $35,000 and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts is about $30,000. Among the panel quiz shows. I’ve Got a Secret cost $22,500 and What’s My Line, about $27,500. All these figures ex¬ clude network charges. The sponsor of The $64,000 Question is the first to ad¬ mit that he has a good “buy.” A new product introduced on continued How much does a contestant have left, after taxes, at the various stages of The $64,000 Question? Assuming a wife and two children, a gross annual income of $5,000 and the stand¬ ard 10% tax deduction, here is how much he has: PRIZE $ 1,000 $ 2,000 $ 4,000 $ 8,000 $16,000 $32,000 $64,000 AFTER TAXES $ 820 $ 1,640 $ 3,246 $ 6,324 $11,956 $ 21,220 $34,460 5