The original British version debuted on 4 September 1998 on the ITV network and was aired until its final episode on 11 February 2014. A revived series of seven episodes to commemorate its 20th anniversary aired from 5 to 11 May 2018. The revival received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans, as well as high viewing figures, leading ITV to renew the show for another series. Since its debut, international variants of the game show have been aired in around 160 countries worldwide.
The format of the show was created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill and Steven Knight, who had earlier created a number of the promotional games for Tarrant’s morning show on Capital FM radio, such as the bong game. Tentatively known as Cash Mountain, the show took its finalised title from a song written by Cole Porter for the 1956 film High Society, starring Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm. Since the original version launched, several individuals have claimed that they originated the format and that Celador had breached their copyright. While many pursued litigation, none was successful, and each claim was later settled out-of-court on an agreement/settlement.
In March 2006, original producer Celador announced that it was seeking to sell the worldwide rights to Millionaire, together with the rest of its British programme library, as the first phase of a sell-off of the company’s format and production divisions. British television producer Paul Smith first had the idea to franchise the UK programme internationally. He developed a series of standards for international variants that ensured they mirrored the British original closely. For example, all hosts were required to appear on-screen wearing Armani suits, as Tarrant did in the UK; producers were forbidden from hiring local composers to create original music, instead using the same music cues used by the British version; and the lighting system and set design were to adhere faithfully to the way they were presented on the British version. Some of Smith’s rules have been slightly relaxed over the years as the franchise’s development has progressed.
Dutch company 2waytraffic ultimately acquired Millionaire and all of Celador’s other programmes. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic for £137.5 million. Sony Pictures Television currently owns and licences the show’s format. Disney–ABC Domestic Television, the Walt Disney Company’s in-home sales and content distribution firm controls the US version independently of Sony.
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