1992–1994: Pre-launch: Game Show Channel
On May 7, 1992, Sony Pictures Entertainment joined forces with the United Video Satellite Group to launch Game Show Channel, which was set to launch in 1993. The announcement of the channel was made by SPE president Mel Harris. Sony Pictures' holdings included those by Merv Griffin Enterprises and Barris Industries, Inc. SPE was in competition with The Family Channel in launching a game show-oriented channel when The Family Channel announced the launch of its own service called Game Channel.
On December 2, 1992, Sony Pictures Entertainment made a deal to acquire the Barry & Enright game show library, and in a separate deal, struck a 10-year licensing agreement for the rights to the Mark Goodson game show library of more than 20,000 episodes including among others, What's My Line?, Family Feud and To Tell the Truth. Upon the deal, Sony said it would sell an equity stake in the network to Mark Goodson Productions, including the production of new original series by Jonathan Goodson Productions. Both deals were completed on December 7, 1992, eleven days before Mark Goodson's death. On June 6, 1994, Mark Goodson Productions pulled out of the venture.
1994–1997: Game Show Network
Game Show Network launched at 7:00 p.m. ET on December 1, 1994. The first aired game show was What's My Line?.[a] From 1994 until about 1997, the network aired classic pre-1972 game shows as well as game shows made after 1972, most of which came from the Mark Goodson–Bill Todman library. The network aired game shows in a 24-hour cycle, and also used live interstitials as wraparound programming. In its first few months, GSN's commercials consisted of public service announcements (PSAs), promotions for its programming and commercials related to network parent company Sony. By 1995, when the network began to expand, the network began accepting conventional advertising as it gained new sponsorships. On March 17, 1997, the Game Show Network rebranded with a new presentation package and a new logo (which had the network's name in boxes and a colorful swirling ball) and a new slogan "All Play, All Day". While the logo changed, its programming remained unchanged, the network also debuted new promos and new idents on that day, which were designed by graphics agency Lee Hunt Associates.
On October 11, 1997, the network's rights to the Goodson-Todman library expired, with the exceptions of The Price Is Right and the 1994–95 season of Family Feud (the only season in the second Richard Dawson era), which were both allowed to continue airing on the channel on a separate contract. This period lasted until April 18, 1998. With the other Goodson-Todman shows gone, lesser-known Sony properties such as Juvenile Jury, The Diamond Head Game, the 1976–77 version of Break the Bank, and the Bill Cullen-hosted games Chain Reaction and Pass the Buck all found their way onto the schedule. Shows from Chuck Barris also aired during this time, including The Newlywed Game, The Dating Game, The Gong Show, Treasure Hunt and 3's a Crowd.
Game Show Network also aired a children's game show block at this time, highlighted by Joker! Joker! Joker!, Jep!, and Wheel 2000 – the respective adaptations of The Joker's Wild, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
On April 18, 1998, Game Show Network bought back the rights to the Goodson-Todman library. In late 1998, GSN eliminated all of its live programming, replacing them with in-show advertisements like Win TV. In 1999, the network began a slate of original programming, including Inquizition, All New 3's a Crowd and Hollywood Showdown. The channel also launched original shows such as Extreme Gong (a remake of the classic Gong Show). In 2000, the network faced another setback when GSN lost the rights to broadcast The Price Is Right, with the last episode airing on April 3 of that year.
In 2001, a massive change in both leadership and programming at the network took place. Liberty Media acquired a 50% stake in the network and changed its leadership. President Michael Fleming and vice president Jake Tauber were both fired and former Fox Family Channel president Rich Cronin was hired to head the network. He and incoming vice president Bob Boden began the biggest original programming venture since the network's inception, launching Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, Friend or Foe?, Russian Roulette, Lingo, WinTuition and Cram. In addition, in the fall of 2001, the network acquired the rights to air the classic Press Your Luck (excluding the Michael Larson episodes, due to pressure from CBS; this angered many fans, resulting in CBS eventually giving Game Show Network the rights to the Larson episodes, airing them in a separate package, as well as in conjunction with the documentary Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal).
In the fall of 2003, Game Show Network picked up the rights to the ABC version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with Regis Philbin, and in December, began airing GSN Video Games, the first program to air on the network that had nothing to do with traditional game shows. Although the show – a repackaging of somewhat dated British video game review shows (mostly Gamer.tv) – was short-lived, it was a sign of the network's change of format from Game Show Network's "all game shows, all the time" to what eventually became "GSN: The Network for Games". Its last program using Game Show Network was Lingo.
GSN Logo from June 3, 2015 to September 30, 2018
On March 15, 2004, Game Show Network began using the abbreviation "GSN" and introduced the tagline "The Network for Games", a move in line with the network expanding its programming to include the genre of reality television and various other competitions. GSN also introduced the original series at 10:00 p.m. weekdays, World Series of Blackjack, National Lampoon's Greek Games, Kenny vs. Spenny (a Canadian import) and the short-lived Fake-a-Date, a find-a-mate program with host Evan Marriott, the original Joe Millionaire. GSN also added reruns of The Mole and Spy TV.
Blackjack and Poker Royale signified the beginnings of GSN's attempts to cash in on the TV poker craze at the time. In 2006, GSN introduced High Stakes Poker, a poker show with a private game format among professional players, and also aired additional series World Series of Blackjack and a spinoff, Celebrity Blackjack. One of the most popular shows from the initial TV poker boom, the World Poker Tour, was slated to move from the Travel Channel to GSN on March 24, 2008. Within a year of GSN's revamp, it began returning its focus primarily to studio-based game shows.
On February 25, 2008, GSN returned to live television games and debuted GSN Live, a live interactive call-in show, hosted by Heidi Bohay and Fred Roggin. The show was similar in format to a former Game Show Network program, Club A.M., and aired weekdays from Noon to 3:00 p.m. ET during breaks between the programming line-up at the time. The show featured calls from viewers, interviews with classic game show hosts and behind-the-scenes features of game shows. At three separate points in each day, interactive games were played with at-home contestants. Contestants could win anything from jewelry to GSN merchandise, or during month-long contests, a new car or a hot tub.
In March 2011, DirecTV (which by this point had taken over Liberty Media's stake in the network, which had increased to 65%) sold a 5% stake in the network back to Sony Pictures Entertainment; although DirecTV nominally remained the majority owner, it had ceded control of the network to Sony, and has the right to force Sony to increase its stake in GSN to 58%.
On August 23, 2012, GSN debuted The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, which became the channel's most popular program of all time, with the series premiere being watched by two million viewers. On September 3, 2012, GSN debuted a revival of The $25,000 Pyramid, called The Pyramid hosted by Mike Richards. On November 8, 2012, DirecTV sold an 18% interest in GSN to Sony.
GSN premiered an American version of the UK game show The Chase on August 6, 2013, hosted by Brooke Burns and featuring Mark Labbett, one of the "Chasers" on the UK version, as the sole "Chaser", known as "the Beast". The show received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Game Show in 2014, and Burns received a nomination for Outstanding Game Show Host two years later.
2018–present: Return to Game Show Network
GSN began referring to itself by its former on-screen name of Game Show Network for brief periods from November 4, 2013 to June 2, 2015. The network did so again, while keeping the then-current GSN logo, starting on December 26, 2017 to coincide with the launch of a new "Saturday Night Classics" block, featuring reruns of the game shows Match Game, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks, and Let's Make a Deal. The block was short-lived, ending in January 2018.
GSN premiered the original series America Says, hosted by John Michael Higgins, on June 18, 2018, and the video clip game show Caroline & Friends, hosted by actress Caroline Rhea, on July 16, 2018. On October 1, 2018, the network officially dropped the "GSN" branding, reverted its name back to Game Show Network for the first time since March 14, 2004, and introduced a new logo to coincide with the return to the Game Show Network branding.