The Million Second Quiz

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The Million Second Quiz
Genre Game show
Created by Stephen Lambert
Presented by Ryan Seacrest
Theme music composer Brian Lee, Elof Loelv
Opening theme "All Night" by Icona Pop
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 10
Executive producer(s)
Running time 44 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original channel NBC (television)
Webcast (internet)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original run September 9, 2013 (2013-09-09) – September 19, 2013 (2013-09-19)
External links
Official website

The Million Second Quiz is an American television game show, hosted by Ryan Seacrest,[1] and produced by All3Media America. It commenced broadcasting on NBC on September 9, 2013. The show follows a group of contestants who compete for up to $2 million in a quiz competition across 1,000,000 seconds (or 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds). NBC aired one-hour segments each day (except that it did not air Sunday the 15th, and the finale was two hours), while the rest of the show was viewable from within the Million Second Quiz app,[2] available on iOS and Android devices, and on It is executive produced by Stephen Lambert, Eli Holzman, and David Hurwitz.[3][4]

Andrew Kravis was the winner of the first season, taking home a total of $2.6 million, the highest grand prize in American game show history.[5][6]


The concept of The Million Second Quiz was intended to make the show a "national event"; while pitching the format to NBC, creator Stephen Lambert compared the game itself to being like a tennis match, and ultimately considered it to be "the Olympics of quiz." To promote the series, NBC relied on a cross-platform promotional strategy similar to what it had used in the past for The Voice; including appearances by host Ryan Seacrest on other NBC programs to support the show (including the network's NFL pre-game show, Football Night in America), and tie-in advertisements for programs airing across other NBCUniversal properties (such as USA Network).[7][8]


The giant studio in the shape of an hourglass.

The quiz is set in a huge hourglass-shaped structure in midtown Manhattan near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, on the roof of a building that was formerly occupied by the "Mercedes-Benz of Manhattan" dealership in Hell's Kitchen. An indoor set within the building was also constructed for use during the non-prime time portions of the game and in inclement weather situations, as was the case for Day 4.[9] Contestants compete in a quiz competition played 24 hours a day for 1,000,000 seconds, or about eleven and a half days. At any given time, one contestant is sitting in the "Money Chair" and accumulating money, while defending his/her position against a series of challengers in head-to-head quiz bouts. Winnings are accumulated at a constant rate at $10 per second spent in the chair, even when bouts are not being played and during commercial breaks when airing in prime time. Contestants in the chair earn money until they are defeated by a challenger, who replaces the occupant of the chair. Only the four contestants with the highest total winnings get to keep their money once the million seconds are up.

Each bout lasts for a set number of seconds. In all bouts, both participants use keypads to secretly lock in their answers and have five seconds to do so after the question is asked.

Prime time bouts[edit]

During prime time, there are three bouts: the "Challenger" bout (300 seconds, or 5 minutes), the "Line Jumper" bout (300 seconds, or 5 minutes, in episode 1; 400 seconds, or 6 minutes 40 seconds, from episode 2 on), and the "Winner's Defense" bout (400 seconds in episodes 1-9; 500 seconds, or 8 minutes 20 seconds, in episode 10). Questions start at one point each, with the value increasing by one every 100 seconds. If a question is in play when the clock reaches one of these 100-second marks, it is completed for its original value.

At any time, either contestant may choose to "double" instead of answering; doing so doubles that question's value and forces the opponent to act. A doubled opponent may either answer or "double back," quadrupling the point value and forcing the original contestant to answer. If a doubled or doubled-back contestant answers incorrectly or fails to act within five seconds, the points are awarded to his/her opponent. Contestants may double as often as they wish during a bout.

At the end of the bout, the contestant with the higher score wins and either retains the Money Chair or replaces its current occupant. If the bout ends in a tie score, a tiebreaker question is asked; the contestant who locks in the correct answer first is the winner. If both of them miss, the contestant who has accumulated more money wins the bout. If a question is in play when the clock runs out, it is completed under the normal rules.

The "Challenger" bout features a person who has successfully completed an on-site tryout process. The "Line Jumper" bout of each episode features a contestant who has achieved a sufficiently high score on the official Million Second Quiz app, allowing him/her to skip the tryouts and advance directly onto the show.

At any given time, the four contestants who have accumulated the most money in their bouts live in "Winners' Row," an area of living quarters set up next to the hourglass. They are at risk of being displaced if someone else out-scores them. During a "Winner's Defense" bout, the current "Power Player" chooses one of the four Winners' Row occupants (including himself/herself) to face off against the current Money Chair occupant. The winner claims the loser's entire winnings in addition to his/her own and takes/keeps the Money Chair, while the loser is eliminated. In episode 1, the Power Player was the contestant with the most winnings; starting with episode 2, it was the contestant who had the highest number of correct answers from playing along in Winners' Row that day.

Contestants who are defeated in the Winner's Defense bouts lose all winnings they have accumulated. All other defeated contestants, including those displaced from Winners' Row by being out-scored, may try out again for a chance to win their way back into the Money Chair.

Non-prime time bouts[edit]

Outside of the one-hour television segments, bouts last 500 seconds (8 minutes 20 seconds), and every question is worth one point; no doubling is allowed. Four bouts are played per hour, with a five-minute pause after each of the first three. The fourth bout is followed by an 11-minute break, in which the contestant may eat, drink, or use the restroom as necessary. Money continues to accumulate during the five-minute pauses, but not during the 11-minute break.


Once the countdown clock reaches zero, the four contestants with the highest totals keep all of their credited winnings and compete in a series of three elimination bouts, as follows:

  1. Fourth- and third-place winners face off (400 seconds)
  2. Victor of bout #1 faces the second-place winner (400 seconds)
  3. Victor of bout #2 faces the first-place winner (500 seconds)

The victor of bout #3 receives an additional $2,000,000.

In the season finale, Andrew Kravis defeated Brandon Saunders to win the grand prize, for an overall total of $2,326,346. Seacrest then announced that Kravis' winnings would be increased to $2,600,000; this made him the all-time biggest regular-season winner on a single American game show, surpassing Ken Jennings' $2,522,700 run on Jeopardy! in 2004.

Broadcast history[edit]

The Million Second Quiz premiered on September 9, 2013; however, the non-primetime quiz began a day earlier at 7:17 AM EDT. The first episode started with 867,826 seconds remaining. The show ran for ten episodes before it concluded on September 19, 2013.[10]


No. Title Original air date Rating/Share
U.S. viewers
1 "Day 1" September 9, 2013 1.7/5[11] 6.52[11]
2 "Day 2" September 10, 2013 1.5/5[12] 5.83[12]
3 "Day 3" September 11, 2013 1.3/4[13] 5.17[13]
4 "Day 4" September 12, 2013 1.1/3[14] 4.16[14]
5 "Day 5" September 13, 2013 0.8/3[15] 3.97[15]
6 "Day 6" September 14, 2013 0.7/3[16] 3.03[16]
7 "Day 7" September 16, 2013 1.0/3[17] 3.59[17]
8 "Day 8" September 17, 2013 1.1/4[18] 5.22[18]
9 "Day 9" September 18, 2013 1.1/4[19] 4.87[19]
10 "Finale" September 19, 2013 1.3/4[20] 4.95[20]


The series has received mixed reviews from television critics and the public alike, and ratings went down over time.[21] Critics say that the show's confusing format, unnecessary rules, technical glitches and lack of drama caused viewers to lack interest in watching the show.[6]

The app was also criticized for crashing. This became the center of attention when the app crashed during broadcast of episode 2. On the episode after that, Seacrest said "Last night so many of you were playing along on your MSQ apps that you actually crashed the system. The good news is you made us the No. 1 free app on iTunes," leading to applause from the audience. He then added “But wait, there’s more good news. They tell me it’s actually fixed – I hope so."

On December 15, 2014, the app's online servers were shut down, therefore canceling the series.


  1. ^ Live + Same Day viewers


  1. ^ Rose, Lacey (July 9, 2013). "Ryan Seacrest Nears Deal to Host NBC's 'Million Second Quiz'". Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ McAllister, James (August 16, 2013). "Revolutionary New Game Show "The Million Second Quiz" Lets You Play From Home". Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Million Second Quiz | A Test of Trivia & Endurance Live from NYC". NBC. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Lawler, Richard (April 25, 2013). "NBC plans 'The Million Second Quiz,' a twelve-day, 24 / 7 game show". Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  5. ^ Bibel, Sara (September 19, 2013). "Champion Crowned on Finale of NBC's 'The Million Second Quiz'". TV by the Numbers (Press release). 
  6. ^ a b Oldenburg, Ann (September 20, 2013). "'Million Second Quiz' wraps with $2.6 million winner". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Inside NBC's 'Million Second Quiz' Marketing Bonanza". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ "If ‘Million Second Quiz’ Succeeds, NBC Gets the Grand Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ Hayes, Dade (August 30, 2013). "5 Reasons Ryan Seacrest's New Game Show Could Remake TV - Forbes". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  10. ^ "MILLION SECOND QUIZ, THE on NBC". The Futon Critic. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Kondolojy, Amanda (September 10, 2013). "Monday Final TV Ratings: 'American Ninja Warrior' Adjusted Up, 'Mistresses' & 'Siberia' Adjusted Down + Final US Open Numbers". TV by the Numbers. 
  12. ^ a b Kondolojy, Amanda (September 11, 2013). "Tuesday Final Ratings: Final Ratings for 'So You Think You Can Dance' Finale and 'America's Got Talent'". TV by the Numbers. 
  13. ^ a b Kondolojy, Amanda (September 12, 2013). "Wednesday Final Ratings: 'Big Brother', 'Million Second Quiz' & 'America's Got Talent' Adjusted Up; 'Camp' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. 
  14. ^ a b Kondolojy, Amanda (September 13, 2013). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'Big Brother', 'Rookie Blue' & 'CBS Fall Preview' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. 
  15. ^ a b Bibel, Sara (September 16, 2013). "Friday Final TV Ratings: 'America's Next Top Model' Adjusted Up". TV by the Numbers. 
  16. ^ a b Kondolojy, Amanda (September 15, 2013). "TV Ratings Saturday: Notre Dame vs Purdue Triumphs Over Ohio State vs. California + 'Million Second Quiz' Dips from Friday". TV by the Numbers. 
  17. ^ a b Bibel, Sara (September 17, 2013). "Monday Final TV Ratings: 'Sleepy Hollow' & 'Bones' Adjusted Up, 'Dancing With the Stars', 'Million Second Quiz', 'American Ninja Warrior' & 'Siberia' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. 
  18. ^ a b Bibel, Sara (September 18, 2013). "Tuesday Final Ratings: 'Dads', 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' & 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Adjusted Up; 'Capture' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. 
  19. ^ a b Bibel, Sara (September 19, 2013). "Wednesday Final Ratings: 'Big Brother' Adjusted Up; 'Million Second Quiz' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. 
  20. ^ a b Bibel, Sara (September 20, 2013). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'The X Factor' Adjusted Up; 'Million Second Quiz', 'Wipeout' & 'Valerie's Story' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. 
  21. ^ "Million Second Quiz Misfire". Hollywood Reporter. August 16, 2013. Retrieved September 21, 2013.