Billion Dollar Game is a difficult book to pitch. On one hand it's the story of how 3 of today's most popular TV formats came into being. On the other it's a business study of the company Endemol and how John DeMol became a rich man. For this reason it's difficult to imagine who this book would appeal to most. As a member of the TV production industry I was fascinated by the story of the 3 shows - from initial ideas, to the constant rejection by networks and subsequent tweaks in format, to eventual success - Bazalgette gives a terrific insiders view. I was less interested though in the big business story - share prices, stock markets, deals and takeovers - all got in the way of the story I wanted to read. I'm sure there are many readers out there who would be fascinated by the business study Bazalgette presents - but it's equally possible that these people couldn't care less about how a TV show comes into being. So Billion Dollar Game is really two books in one - or half a book, depending on your point of view.
The book is actually broken into 2 parts. Part 1 is the story of the 3 formats and the rise of Endemol. Part 2 is a detailed look at Big Brother around the world - the characters and stunts, community reaction, and tales of sex and relationships in the various houses. I enjoyed the first series of my local edition of BB, but as each new series came round the housemates got more annoying and the stunts more contrived. The novelty of the show quickly wore off. So Part 2 really didn't appeal to me and I found myself skipping page after page. Big Brother fans will probably be enthralled - but then they too could well be put off by the earlier study of Endemol's share price and talk of the NASDAQ and the dot.com boom.
The story of the rise of the 3 formats can be difficult to follow too at times. Bazalgette often jumps suddenly from one show to the other, continent to continent, network to network and it can be difficult to keep track of which production head at which network has rejected which show. While obviously well researched, the book names just about every person at every network who was ever approached by the respective creators, and you can easily lose track of who's who.
If you're interested in how a TV show comes into being, or how a company can become a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, or how Big Brother took over the world then you'll undoubtably find parts of this book fascinating. But you may well find yourself wishing Bazalgette had taken a smaller bite of the apple, and eventually put this book back on the shelf with many of the pages untouched.