NEW YORK — A giant hourglass structure being built on the rooftop of an abandoned Manhattan car dealership may look like Godzilla’s futuristic toy but instead represents NBC’s hope for the television event of the season.
It’s the set for “The Million Second Quiz,” a prime-time competition with Ryan Seacrest as host that will play out over two weeks starting Sept. 9.
Someone adept at trivia will win a $2 million prize on the Sept. 19 finale.
The physical structure includes a chamber for the top four players to stay day and night, and a duplicate indoor set in case of rain.
Producers also built the infrastructure: composing nearly 25,000 quiz questions, processing applications for the estimated 800 to 1,000 participants in the round-the-clock contest, and building an app that allows people to play at home.
The free tablet app became available two weeks ago; NBC estimated that 4.5 million “bouts” have already been played online.
With the play-at-home app, NBC hopes to capture the imagination of people who have grown accustomed to watching television with a second screen open, said David Hurwitz, an executive producer.
Seacrest is a big “get” for producers. “It was something that really stood out to me as big and different and ambitious,” Seacrest said.
During the prime-time broadcasts, local NBC personalities will arrive at the door of a person playing online somewhere in the country and send them to New York where they will play on TV the next night.
The game literally lasts a million seconds, or 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes and 40 seconds. Ten hours will be seen on TV, with the rest available on NBC’s website.
A player’s goal is to stay in the “money chair.” The number of seconds they control the game equals the cash prize. The chamber for top players includes cots and televisions because some of the quiz questions are plucked from the day’s headlines.
“The Million Second Quiz” begins on NBC at 8 p.m. on Sept. 9.