January 9, 2006

Sudoku solving jumps from print to TV in Britain

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

LONDON (Reuters) - The sudoku craze that has attracted
legions of addicted puzzlers around the world is making the
leap to television from newspapers and books.

ITV2, Britain's most watched digital channel, plans to air
a live sudoku participation program seven days a week through
March starting this week at 1 a.m., as the broadcaster seeks
new ways to generate revenue beyond traditional advertising.

Rather than scribbling in grid numbers on their commute
home, viewers can instead pay 60 pence to call in to the "Play
Sudoku" program for a chance to win from 75 pounds ($132.40) to
5,000 pounds ($8,829) for getting the correct numbers. A
jackpot round will substitute celebrities for the grid's

Sudoku, which gained widespread popularity only last year,
requires filling in a 9x9 grid so that each row, column and 3x3
sub-grid contains the digits one to nine. It is now a daily
staple in dozens of newspapers, and millions of sudoku books
have been sold.

Optimistic Entertainment, the company producing the program
for ITV, has tested sudoku on its own smaller digital channel
QuizNation and found strong viewer response, said David Brook,
Optimistic's chief executive.

"About 20 percent of the people watching call in, which is
very strong," he said, declining to provide the total audience
figure. "If we can carry that through to ITV's audience, it
should do pretty well."

For its part, ITV is planning to launch a branded
participation block of programs later in 2006 called ITV Play,
and is testing to see if sudoku should be part of it.

"These shows will further develop our understanding of the
commercial opportunities presented by quality 'participation
TV' formats as well as begin to broaden their appeal to our
mass-market audiences," said Jane Marshall, the commercial
development director for ITV's consumer unit.

Optimistic and ITV will split the revenue generated by
callers, Brook said.

BSkyB's Sky One channel broadcast a sudoku challenge last
year hosted by maths whiz and gameshow presenter Carol
Vorderman, where teams of players competed to solve a puzzle.