"Instantly Rich," which the quasi-indie studio announced today, is already a hit in Spain (where it's called "Rico al Instante," which I must admit is a cooler sounding name). Contestants compete in contests, as well as for viewer support, to win up to $1 million.
Nothing too innovative there, right? The big new feature is that viewers become contestants to by competing in contests via text messaging. As millions of "American Idol" viewers know, those premium texting contests cost money. Which means the network to which Lionsgate (potentially) sells the show is earning revenue before a single ad airs.
Viewers who win those SMS (aka "short message service" aka texting) contests will be surprised by a TV view at their house, where they'll compete in that week's episode. The winner is then picked, in party, by votes from their local community and the viewing audience. Which means more texts. Which means more revenue.
Lionsgate Television president Kevin Beggs was explicit in describing the plan, stating "We expect mobile multimedia to generate a significant portion of the show's overall revenues."
There has been a lot of talk about how networks and studios can make money via digital, given how little they've made online so far. But here's an example of how, in a recession, digital could be used to help prop up traditional outlets.