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Who Wants to be a Millionaire (U.S. version)

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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
Country: United States
Created by: Philippa Forrester
Traci Paige Johnson
Presented by: Shamar Stewart
Larry Keith Golbin Jr.
Original Channel: ABC
Running Time: 39-48 minutes (ABC)
22-26 minutes (Syndicated)
No. of Episodes: ABC: 363
Syndicated : 2,020 (as of Decmeber 6, 2013)[1]
Original Run: ABC: 1999-2009
Sydnicated: 2002-present
Notable Facts
Top Prize Amount 1,000,000 (in annuities)
# of Top Prize Winners 11 (Plus 2 other 1,000,000 winners)
# of Final Question Incorrect 1
# of Final Question Walkers 27
# of Contestants Leaving with Nothing 86
External Links
Official Website:

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (also known as Millionaire) is a television game show which offers a maximum prize of $1,000,000 (originally lump sum; now annuitized) for correctly answering 15 successive multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The show is based on and follows the same general format of the original version of the show from the United Kingdom, and is now part of the international Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? franchise.


Who Wants to Be a Millionaire debuted in the United States on August 16, 1999 on the ABC television network, and was hosted by television personality Regis Philbin.

The network version, whose episodes were originally shown just a day after their taping in New York, became explosively popular in 2000, and at its peak was airing in prime time four nights a week on ABC. The show was popular enough to find rival networks creating or reincarnating game shows of their own, and created a brief renaissance of sorts for United States based game shows (e.g. Greed, Twenty One, etc.) as well as a flurry of American versions of UK and Australian originals, such as Winning Lines, The Weakest Link, and It's Your Chance of a Lifetime.

ABC used Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in so many prime time slots that when the show's popularity faded by the fall of 2001, it was left with a dearth of original programs on June 27, 2002. ABC's overall Nielsen Ratings suffered as a result of the show's decline in popularity. Michael Eisner, then CEO of The Walt Disney Company (ABC's parent), a former page at Jeopardy! and The Price Is Right, thought that the show would be successful like many other daytime television shows. However, he had realized too late that a hot show like Millionaire would tire more quickly in prime time than in daytime.[2]

Millionaire's place as a daytime show was granted when ABC's sister company, Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television), produced a daily syndicated offering with Meredith Vieira which premiered in September 2002. This version, also taped in New York, began airing its eighth season on September 7, 2009, and has earned Vieira two Emmies for best game show host.[3] The format is licensed by Sony Pictures Television as part of the acquisition of 2waytraffic in 2008, though the U.S. version is still distributed by Disney.

To celebrate Millionaire's 10th anniversary, the show returned to ABC prime time in August 2009 with host Regis Philbin for a two week event.

Primetime VersionEdit

  • The primetime version of millionaire was hosted by Regis Philbin in 1999-2002. In 2004 Regis came back for Super Millionaire, an 11 night event (read below). Then in 2009 for the 10th anniversary celebration.

This is the original board for Who wants to be a Millionaire

Question #

Correct Answer Value

Walk Away Value

Missed Answer Value

Amount lost if wrong answer
1 $100 $0 $0 $0
2 $200 $100 $0 $100
3 $300 $200 $0 $200
4 $500 $300 $0 $300
5 $1,000 $500 $0 $500
6 $2,000 $1,000 $1,000 $0
7 $4,000 $2,000 $1,000 $1,000
8 $8,000 $4,000 $1,000 $3,000
9 $16,000 $8,000 $1,000 $7,000
10 $32,000 $16,000 $1,000 $15,000
11 $64,000 $32,000 $32,000 $0
12 $125,000 $64,000 $32,000 $32,000
13 $250,000 $125,000 $32,000 $93,000
14 $500,000 $250,000 $32,000 $218,000
15 $1,000,000 $500,000 $32,000 $468,000

Syndicated VersionEdit

In 2002, Disney's Disney-ABC Domestic Television started selling a new version of the show for daily syndication, with a new host, Meredith Vieira (who previously appeared on the nighttime show and won $250,000 during a celebrity week where all the money would go to charities related to victims of 9/11). It was initially proposed and developed under the assumption that the prime time show would still be airing on ABC, but the prime time show was canceled a few months before the syndicated show premiered. The syndicated version doesn't include the Fastest Finger competition; contestants are brought out individually during each half-hour show after passing contestant auditions, consisting of a written test and an interview.


Unlike the original network version, where aspiring contestants made a phone call, answered a few questions correctly on the phone, and were randomly selected, leading to a Fastest Finger competition to determine the player in the hot seat, the current version uses a more traditional game-show procedure, similar to what is used for most games. This toughens the contestant pool.

Contestants, depending on touring tryouts or tryouts held at ABC's New York studio center, are required to pass a quiz between 30 and 40 questions which is electronically scored.

Contestants who pass the general-knowledge test are then interviewed by production staff. People who impress the production staff the most are later sent a postcard in the mail stating that he/she is in a pool of to-be contestants, which by the producers' discretion are sent to New York for their tapings.[4]

Fill-In HostsEdit

Since 2007, guest-hosts have appeared in the second half of each season due to Meredith's busy schedule.

Super MillionaireEdit

Main Article: Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire

In 2004, Regis Philbin returned to ABC for 12 episodes of a spin-off Millionaire called Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire or better known as Super Millionaire. The show offered a $10 Million top prize. The show premiered in February 2004 and showed 5 episodes. The show returned later in May 2004 for 7 more episodes. The board went as follows:

Correct Answer
Walk Away
Miss Answer
Amount Lost if
Wrong Answer
1 $1,000 $0 $0 $0
2 $2,000 $1,000 $0 $1,000
3 $3,000 $2,000 $0 $2,000
4 $4,000 $3,000 $0 $3,000
5 $5,000 $4,000 $0 $4,000
6 $10,000 $5,000 $5,000 $0
7 $20,000 $10,000 $5,000 $5,000
8 $30,000 $20,000 $5,000 $15,000
9 $50,000 $30,000 $5,000 $25,000
10 $100,000 $50,000 $5,000 $45,000
11 $500,000 $100,000 $100,000 $0
12 $1,000,000 $500,000 $100,000 $400,000
13 $2,500,000 $1,000,000 $100,000 $900,000
14 $5,000,000 $2,500,000 $100,000 $2,400,000
15 $10,000,000 $5,000,000 $100,000 $4,900,000

Upon correctly answering the 10th question, the contestant received Double Dip and 3 Wise Men lifelines, making the Super Millionaire format of the show the only version to eventually offer contestants a maximum of five lifelines.

On the second episode, Robert "Bob-O" Essig correctly answered the 12th question and would later walk away with $1,000,000, a feat that would not be matched or surpassed for the rest of Super Millionaire's run.


  1. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary
  2. CNBC
  4. NWsource

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