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Contest to offer chance at winning $1-billion

©Associated Press
April 16, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- The evolution of television continues: A $1-billion prize will be at stake in a WB special and a monkey may help decide if there's a winner.

Play for a Billion will be the culmination of a Pepsi summer promotion in which contestants have the chance to play for the top prize on a live, two-hour show airing in September.

The program, to be produced by Michael Davies (Who Wants to be a Millionaire), represents a partnership between WB and Pepsi-Cola North America.

The two companies are also teaming on a summer variety show, Pepsi Smash, which will feature performances by top musical acts, WB said in a release. The six-week series will begin airing in July.

Play for a Billion guarantees a $1-million winner and a shot at the grand prize for 10 contestants. The contest starts May 1 with the sale of Pepsi products that could lead to a chance to be on the TV special.

Details of the show are under discussion, executive producer Matti Leshem said Thursday. One proposal involves having a monkey put previously selected numbers in an order that must be matched for the $1-billion prize, he said.

"What could be more random than that?" Leshem said.

He's hoping to get a capuchin monkey to do the job. There was some controversy surrounding the idea, Leshem said, refusing to elaborate. There are also those promoting an orangutan as a better, more intelligent choice, he said.

There is a one-in-1,000 chance that the $1-billion will be awarded, according to WB and Pepsi. The winner could choose either a 40-year annuity or a lump-sum payment representing the annuity's present value.

Pepsi has taken out an insurance policy.

WB and Pepsi had previously announced plans for a variety show that would blend advertising into the program in place of commercial breaks. Plans for such a show are now on hold, a Pepsi spokesman said Thursday.

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