Eddie McGuire says axed Hot Seat is ‘too good’ not to return

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Eddie McGuire has claimed Millionaire Hot Seat will be back after the game show he has hosted, in varying forms, since 1999 has been put into “hiatus” by broadcaster Nine (which also owns this masthead).

“Shows sometimes become victims of their own success and their longevity,” McGuire said. “I sat down and said hello to people on the show and made them feel good over 15½ thousand times. Each of those people had their moment on TV, and some of them took home some money.

Going, going, gone: Eddie McGuire will farewell the final episode of Millionaire Hot Seat in January 2024. Credit: Nine

“It’ll come back. It’s too good a format not to.”

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire made its debut as a half-hour show on Mondays at 8.30pm in April 1999, with McGuire hosting. Under that title, the program lasted 292 episodes, mostly in hour-long episodes, though sometimes for as long as 90 minutes.

At its peak, it drew more than 2 million viewers, and was one of the top-rating shows in Australia.

In 2009, a shortened and revised version was launched under the name Millionaire Hot Seat, to do battle with Seven’s ascendant Deal or No Deal in the lead-in to the 6pm news bulletin, which is arguably the most crucial slot in the commercial television schedule.

Eddie McGuire on Millionaire Hot Seat in 2017; the show is about to notch up its 2500th episode.

With many viewers simply leaving the TV on the same channel after the news, winning that battle often sets up the network for victory in the evening primetime race.

Though it trailed Deal or No Deal in its first year, by 2010 Hot Seat had taken the lead. At its peak in 2013, McGuire’s show averaged almost 658,000 viewers a night in the 5.30-6pm slot, compared to the 510,000 tuning into a declining Deal.

Seven replaced Deal with Million Dollar Minute in late 2013, and from late 2015 has run The Chase, which rapidly established itself as the game show champion, overturning Nine’s lead from 2016.

Though the margin has narrowed and widened, Seven has maintained the lead ever since.

The most recent episode of Hot Seat averaged 343,000 viewers in the five metro capitals, against 492,000 for The Chase. That gap makes it all but impossible for Nine to win the 6pm news battle.

McGuire announced on 3AW on Friday morning his show would be going on “hiatus”.

“It is with great pride and joy, but also sadness, that I announce this morning that Millionaire Hot Seat will go into hiatus at the end of January next year,” he said on the breakfast show hosted by Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft.

McGuire claimed the show had given away “$94 million over the years”.

“We’ve had 15,000 contestants and something like 50-odd thousand questions along the journey,” he said.

In a statement confirming the show would cease to air from late January 2024 – taking the program into its 25th year on air – Nine director of television Michael Healy said the show and its predecessor “have been fundamental pillars” of the network’s schedule.

“For the past 2½ decades Eddie McGuire has made the show come to life, uncovered the great stories of our contestants, and has had the pleasure of handing over total prizemoney of more than $90 million,” Healy said.

“We thank him for his commitment to the show over those years and for the shows still to come, and look forward to continuing our successful partnership with Eddie into the future.”

McGuire said his professional connection with Nine, the network of which he was once CEO, would continue.

“It means I can do other stuff,” he said. “I was 32 when I started [on Millionaire] – that’s about five lifetimes of television shows.

“I’m pragmatic about this stuff. You roll on.”

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