The Tester: Sony’s secret reality TV hit

Reality TV show The Tester attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers per episode — but if you’re not a gamer, you’ve probably never even heard of it. That’s because The Tester has been running exclusively on Sony’s (s SNE) PlayStation Network, where last season, each episode was viewed 352,000 times on average.
PlayStation Network executive producer of original programming Kevin Furuichi told me during a phone conversation last week that The Tester’s third season, which begins this Tuesday, will for the first time be available for streaming on the web as well, which should result in even bigger viewership numbers. “We are really excited that we are able to deliver an audience,” Furuichi told me.
Check out the trailer below:
The Tester has twelve gamers competing in challenges that look like a mixture of Fear Factor and real-life video games, and the winner will get a job as a Production Associate in Sony’s Santa Monica video game development studio. Furuichi told me that his team initially tried to make The Tester look more like a web series, with shorter, snack-sized episodes. But the audience actually wanted to see more, so now the show is running half an hour per episode, much like a traditional TV show. Furuichi readily admitted that Sony learned some things from traditional TV production for The Tester: “It is not about changing reality TV,” he said.
So why does Sony produce original programming like The Tester for its PlayStation Network audience? It obviously works well as branded entertainment; the contestants regularly get to try out new Sony game titles, and even meet a few game industry legends. But Furuichi also said that it’s about adding value to the PlayStation Network in general. “It brings people into the network,” he told me.