Ryan Seacrest Hosts The Million Second Quiz, Tonight on NBC

By Jamie Ruby

The Million Second QuizTonight NBC will be premiering the new game show The Million Second Quiz, hosted and executive produced by Ryan Seacrest. This new competition tests not just contestants trivia knowledge, but also their endurance as they battle in head-to-head rounds for twelve consecutive days and nights (one million seconds). The finale will give one winner the largest money prize in game show history.

Contestants can earn $10 for every second they remain the in the "money chair" while answering trivia questions against their component. Each episode during primetime, the contestants will battle it out in a three-story hourglass in Manhattan, New York for all to see.

The top four players will remain in "Winners' Row" while they are not competing and may be replaced if other contestants beat their score. These contestants will come from all across America, including from those playing along live via The Million Second Quiz app.

On saturday, Seacrest, along with executive producers Stephen Lambert and David A. Hurwitz talked to the digital media about the new competition, premiering tonight on NBC.

NBC Conference Call
Ryan Seacrest, Stephen Lambert, and David A. Hurwitz
The Million Second Quiz

September 7, 2013
2:00 pm ET

The Million Second QuizSTEPHEN LAMBERT: Hello everybody. I'm sure you've all read about this already but the way the show works is that we have built a giant hourglass shaped set in the center of Manhattan.

And a thousand contestants will come to the structure and play the game over 11-1/2 days. And the name - the idea of the game is very simple.

We have something called the money chair. And players are competing to sit in the money chair because every ten seconds - every second that they sit in the money chair they make $10 a second.

And they stay in the money chair by beating one by one challenges in head to head quiz trivia battles that last various length of time but essentially 300 seconds, or 400 seconds, or 500 seconds depending on different stages of the game.

If you lose a head to head battle you leave the money chair and you don't take any money unless you're one of the four people who have played in the money chair longer than anybody else in which case you live, eat, and sleep in a place called winners row.

But of course you can only stay there if you're still one of the top four players. If somebody else has a longer period in the money chair they displace you.

If you're one of the four people in winners row at the end of the million seconds in 11-1/2 days you convert all the money that you have been making by sitting in the money chair into hard cash.

And then you compete in a grand finale where the four of you compete in a knockout competition. And whoever wins that gets in addition to the cash that they were already guaranteed because they were there at the million seconds a top up that will ensure that they are the largest - they've won the largest prize in game show history.

QUESTION: Ryan, you've got so many different things on your plate already,but what is it about this show, this opportunity now that made you want to jump at it?

RYAN SEACREST: I think of the ambition that Stephen had in putting this together and the ambitious kind of show that this is the scale of the show, the energy of the show, the fact that it's a live event, all of those things went through my head when I was trying to figure out if this was something that I wanted to do.

And frankly it's really been the first big idea I've heard in almost a decade that I really wanted to get in front of and host in prime time.

And so after he and Paul Telegdy pitched me the idea I said let's go for it. Now that I've gotten here I'm not quite sure what I've gotten myself into.

QUESTION: Ryan, this seems like a really intense game show, and you've already been near a lot of very nervous, tense competitors rather on American Idol.

Does that nervous energy still transfer to you or are you able to separate it and feel calm under all that pressure?

RYAN SEACREST: I think the nervous energy is key to being able to broadcast the excitement of the television show and be in a moment in these live broadcasts.

The energy from a contestant or the energy from a contestant on Idol or a contestant on this show is really a character on the show. I mean that drives the story of what we're trying to portray to the audience.

So I do feel that energy. I try to thrive off of that energy. And hope to be able to deliver the best storytelling through that energy.

QUESTION: Ryan, a lot of your productions take place in the LA area. What about the show made you want to locate it in the Manhattan area?

RYAN SEACREST: Well the original idea was to have it in Manhattan to capture the energy of the city and really showcase the energy while we were doing the quiz show.

The Million Second QuizI don't think that there has been a quiz show done live since 1960s. And certainly not one done in the middle of the city where you've got the environment the surroundings as part of the show.

And so it should seem like a natural fit when you think of what this show is meant to deliver in terms of its pace. And, you know, the contestants dealing with elements that are in Manhattan every night.

STEPHEN LAMBERT: We're trying to turn a quiz into a giant sporting like event a live sporting event. That's what brings people to watch world class television big sporting events.

And the idea here is to have that same feel. And there's nowhere other than Manhattan that has quite the intensity that we were looking for.

SCIFI VISION: I was wondering could you talk a bit about how the fans can interact with the app and end up on the show how that works?

RYAN SEACREST: Well I'll start and then, you know, Stephen if you want to take over. But I, you know, the fans can and have been downloading the MSQ app The Million Second Quiz app at record levels and playing record numbers of games together somewhere over 10 million games have been played.

So, you know, just the sheer excitement and engagement is fantastic going into this show. But when the show is on the air the contestants can play through their MSQ app and answer the exact same questions that I'm asking to the contestants on the stage and answer in real-time.

And the better they do on the app the more likely they are for us to knock on their door and invite them to the primetime show.

STEPHEN LAMBERT: Absolutely. And also players can come or people who would like to take part in the game can come down here to the MSQ compound and they will have the opportunity not just to play along with the primetime game but they'll also have the opportunity to play along with the questions that are being asked in the other 23 hours. So this game never stops.

RYAN SEACREST: It does go 24/7. And what Stephen said at the top of the call we'll cycle through 1000 or more contestants that's how and that's why even though we're only on the air one hour per night the game is played here at our compound 24/7.

STEPHEN LAMBERT: And so the app does those three things. It does - it -when we launched it there is an app game that replicates in a similar way the game play in the show.

And that's what people have them playing as Ryan said in record numbers more than 10 million games already been played.

But now as we approach the start of the game they'll be able to do two other things. They will be able to watch it at home and answer the questions that are being asked on primetime.

And if they come here to Manhattan they will be able to play along with all the questions that we - and all of the games that we're playing 24/7.

QUESTION: My question is basically directed to whoever wishes to answer could you speak a bit about the types of questions that will be asked or what categories there will be if any?

DAVID A. HURWITZ: Yes absolutely. One of the great things about this show and everything that Ryan and Stephen have explained to you is the questions are truly a character.

Not only can anybody come down and play which is great. Not only will we be qualifying somebody every night live on TV knocking on their door and flying them into the game to perform the very next night live in primetime but the questions are characters.

We have all different types of not labeled categories as a traditional game show would have but types of questions.

We've got questions that are just water cooler talk example would be at Walmart last year the top selling item was bananas, beer, diapers or toilet paper? And believe it or not it's bananas.

The Million Second QuizSo there's those ones that you are interesting misses or just water cooler type things. There's ones that you feel that you heard once and should know there's great trivia.

But what is really exciting is that since we're a day and date show we are able to write questions about current events so the other night somebody through for what seven touchdowns? The next night that might be a question in our show.

So we're taking questions from all over the place from pop culture, from the almanac, from your fifth grade textbook, to, you know, just random surveys and stats that are very interesting, compelling, and fun.

So the viewer will always be engaged much like the app. If you've played the app you feel like you know it. It keeps you engaged. You feel the freshness of the certain categories but that pretty much sums it up on the types of questions.

QUESTION: Ryan, we all know that you work 24/7. And that this show is going for 11 straight days. How much of a time commitment is this for all of you guys?

RYAN SEACREST: For those guys I think it's 24/7. I still have to work the first half of the day my other commitment. So my day is split with the radio the first portion of the day. And the second portion of the day here at the MSQ compound.

So that's how I was able to I mean this being in primetime and live at 8:00 o'clock allowed me to have the runway to do it because I have other commitments earlier in the day.

QUESTION: I'm curious how familiar you are with the contestants? Do you know much about them before you meet them on the stage?

RYAN SEACREST: You know I was thinking about that. I mean obviously with the Idol contestants I, you know, I meet them in a city in America and get a chance to say hello to their mom, and their dad, and their brothers and their sisters.

And here there will be some that I won't know until they step out on the stage and there will be others for example those who are in the top four in winners row that I plan to spend some time with certainly early in the day or late at night just to see what they're up to.

And we've never done this before. This is the first time this is truly ever been done. You know, it's the brainchild of Stephen. And it's never been on the air anywhere.

So it is a little bit of a social experiment. And we think we know some outcomes but to be honest we don't know a lot of the outcomes.

But my intent is to get to know the ones that I can and talk to them about how they're doing, and how they're feeling about living in the pods that they're living in or you should think of this, you know, think of this show as it's part game, it's part quiz, it's part sport and it's part rock concert.

You know, there are all of those components that we hope to deliver when you're watching.

STEPHEN LAMBERT: And some of the people who get on to winners row may stay there for quite a long time maybe all the way to the end. And they'll become characters that Ryan will get to know.

The Million Second QuizQUESTION: This question is for everyone. I'm curious, in what ways do you feel that this show is set to fill the void of having a game show in prime time spot and also, you know, kind of get people excited for games shows again?

DAVID A. HURWITZ: Well I think the little snowball effect that's been going on since the app was launched and the awareness due to the great campaign that the whole company has put behind this show and of course having Ryan on the air chatting about it.

So the awareness for the gamers and the people to come witness what, you know, something an event that's going to give away the largest cash prize in television history.

And the gameplay is very compelling. It's something that's engaging to everybody. And if you I'm sure you heard what I was saying about the questions, you know, we traditionally see people on a panel punch in. But here these people are squaring off in win or go home matches.

And the exciting thing is that the person who keeps winning is accumulating $10 a second. And we've never seen a mechanism like that.

So we've taken a lot of traditional game and really amped it up and along with the technology brought it to the viewer.

It's a social media event as well. We're encouraging the viewers to watch with their phones in their hands so they can play along with the game.

They could post their scores and encourage their friends through social media. So it's this huge convergence of everything that is entertainment and media today wrapped around a sporting event type game that's very compelling and exciting.

And, you know, we hope that it does encourage more primetime game. We're sure that we're going to encourage live play along with some of the things that we're introducing into primetime.

RYAN SEACREST: And what I just want to add to one of the things that interested me at the beginning in terms of doing this show was that we all know that it's very crowded it's very cluttered in television.

And to break through you've really got to have an all hands on deck mentality. And I think NBC Universal is positioned in a way that they are unique to bring all of their different assets together to help make some noise and create awareness for a show like this.

SCIFI VISION: Ryan, I was just curious, this obviously sounds like a lot of fun but what do you find the most challenging about hosting it?

RYAN SEACREST: It's brand new. You know, this is new to me. I first started by practicing the gameplay, learning the game, learning how to play the game, learning what could happen during the game.

And I started playing in a little conference room right outside of our production office our RST offices in Los Angeles.

And so we were sitting there with a couple of card tables and light bulbs as podiums inside the little podiums trying to learn the game and play the game.

But, you know, most of all I love the adrenaline rush that we all get when we're participating in something live like this. And hopefully a little bit of rushing people are watching it.

QUESTION: Ryan, I was hearing you talking about meeting up with some of the contestants on the show and getting to know them. Will we get to know some of those back stories on the show especially for the top four contestants?

RYAN SEACREST: Absolutely. You have to. You have to. I mean that's one of the reasons why you want to root for somebody right? You've got to know where they've come from.

And then these contestants that we pull out of their homes essentially on one night and bring them into the next night you'll get to see where they're coming from. And we will be able to tell those stories because I think that's what people get attached to.

There are so - I've never seen and certainly in this style of program I've never seen - and I've looked at a lot of casting over the years and a lot of additions -- I've never seen this quite - this kind of response at this scale that we've had for contestants to participate in a game show I've just never seen it before.

When you look at the applicants and the sheer number of people who have applied, who have showed up and who have played the app it's astonishing.

SCIFI VISION: Ryan I was just curious you said that you practiced the questions and everything. How do you think you would fare in the game? And would you be able to stay that long?

The Million Second QuizRYAN SEACREST: Unfortunately I don't get to practice the questions. The questions come up at the last minute but the - I get to use the fake questions which...

SCIFI VISION: Right, right.

RYAN SEACREST: ...won't be as entertaining.

But how, you know, I played the app. Let's just say there are a lot of people in every state that beat me when I play on the app.

I last a couple of bouts and then I - I'm really good at the pop culture. Once you get outside of that I started to lose my play.

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