Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a television quiz show which offers very large cash prizes for correctly answering 12 or 15 consecutive multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The format is owned and licensed by the Japanese production company Sony Pictures Television International. The maximum cash prize (in the original British version) is one million pounds. Most international versions offer a top prize of one million units of the local currency, though the actual value of the prize varies widely, depending on the currency's exchange rate. In the United States the top cash prizes have been changed to annuities.
The programme originated in the United Kingdom, where it is hosted by Chris Tarrant. It is based on a format devised by David Briggs, who, along with Steve Knight and Mike Whitehill, devised a number of the promotional games for Chris Tarrant's breakfast show on Capital FM radio. The original working title for the show was Cash Mountain. When it first aired in the UK on 4 September 1998, it was a surprising twist on the game show genre. Only one contestant plays at a time (similar to some radio quizzes) and the emphasis is on suspense rather than speed. In most versions there are no time limits to answer the questions and contestants are given the question before they must decide whether to attempt an answer.
In 2000, a board game based on the hit television series of the same name was released by Pressman Toy Corp. In March 2006, Celador announced that it was seeking to sell the worldwide rights to the show, together with the UK programme library, as the first phase of a sell-off of the company's format and production divisions. Dutch company 2waytraffic acquired Millionaire and the rest of Celador's programme library. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic for £137.5m. The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire franchise is the most internationally popular television franchise of all time, having aired in more than 100 countries worldwide.  As of now no other franchise has ever reached this milestone.