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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 18:17 GMT
Millionaire show earns owners a fortune
Judith Keppel and Chris Tarrant
Judith Keppel, Millionaire's first jackpot winner, with presenter Chris Tarrant
The TV hit Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the first UK show to hand out a 1m prize, is earning its backers a fortune, figures from media firm Avesco have revealed.

It took until November for the two-year-old quiz show, broadcast on the UK's ITV network, to hand out its first seven-figure prize to a contestant.

But Complete Communications, the firm which owns the rights the show, has been reaping rewards from the show at a somewhat faster rate.

Avesco's 49% stake in Complete Communications returned pre-tax profits of 2.8m between April and September alone, a profits statement on Thursday revealed.

The sum is almost eight times higher than in the same period last year.

And Avesco predicts even higher contributions from Complete Communications, thanks to buoyant autumn and Christmas sales of products related to the show.

Computer game first

The Who Wants to be a Millionaire? computer game in October became the first product to top the PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast and all-format charts at the same time.

The show's branded board game has become one of the fastest selling ever in the market, Avesco claimed in Thursday's statement.

"This year's first half demonstrates the success of [the show] starting to come through in terms of profits," the firm said.

"Complete Communications will make a significantly higher contribution to the group's profits this year, with the major proportion expected... in the second half due to the timing of merchandise launches together with the anticipated effects of Christmas sales."

Global reach

The show has, in various versions, been broadcast under licence in 35 countries, helping turnover at Complete Communications also rocket almost eight times in a year.

But the City was unimpressed with Avesco's overall figures, which showed a pre-tax profit of 5.7m, up 86% year on year.

Shares in Avesco closed 4.5% lower at 730p on Thursday.

The firm also provides video and graphics services for corporate presentations, operates giant screens, and, through Fountain Television, runs the largest broadcast television studio in the country.

Garden designer Judith Keppel in November became the first person to scoop the top 1m prize from Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

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See also:

01 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire 'toff' fights back
20 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Questions on the path to 1m
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire moments
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