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Newton game show makes it easy to win

Posted November 20, 2008 01:41 PM

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Newton resident Eric Friedberg is hoping that his latest creation — a
live Internet game show — does better than some of his other endeavors.

He would rather not have a repeat of the $180,000 dollars he lost with
his 1992-prototype of fantasy football or the $35,000 that vanished
seven years later in the making of the world's thinnest and most
indestructible wallet.

"I have so many ideas I can't remember half of them," Friedberg said. To
prove his point he shouted up the stairs to his wife, who is the Vanna
White of his game show: "Hey Veronica, complete this sentence I say all
the time, 'Honey, I have an…'"

"Idea," she called back.

With these various entrepreneurial attempts under his belt, Friedberg, 40, has learned from his mistakes and has moved on to a new venture.

Now a successful businessman as a partner in the marketing firm
Cohen-Friedberg Associates, Friedberg spends a portion of his 14-hour
workdays in the basement of a Newton company that restores furniture after
floods and fires. He uses a rented room in the basement to stage his game
show that runs three evenings a week on ItsEasytoWin.com.

The web site offers a variety of on-line games but the game show is the
most innovative. The game is open to the first 5,000 people to log into a chat room at least 20 minutes before the start. Contestants are randomly selected by computer from the people logged on. There is no studio audience.

The game show always involves picking among 40 metal briefcases from
shelves in the basement room. In a game called "State Your Case'' a
contestant must properly guess which license plate is in a case in order to
win a prize between $50 to $1,000. Occasionally a contestant can
win even if he doesn't guess the license plate but picks a case with a
prize in it.

Friedberg says that since he launched the site on October 11 he
has spent $150,000 to make this game show happen. He figures his audience
is at least 8,000 and says he has given away about $5,000 in
prizes.

Standing in front of the 40 cases, Friedberg really seems like your
typical game show host. His face is creased by 22 years of smiling during
sales pitches, and he speaks like he's trying to sell you something. A
self-described fitness nut, who even invented a specially designed leg
workout platform he called "Diamond Cut Calves", Friedberg maintains a
strong slender build at 5'7'. His curly hair is slicked up.

"Everything I do to keep the show interesting and looking good is off the
cuff," he said. "This is a learning experience for me too. The other day a
lady told me that my suit looked too big, and she was right. So I brought
it to the tailor and thanked her the next day. The show, like me, is
constant work in progress."

What sets Friedberg apart from other game show hosts is his impossibly
difficult task of interacting with his guests who are not present in the
room. Friedberg spends a good portion of the 20-minute program rocking back and forth on his heels and waiting for his viewers to type their responses to him. Then Veronica opens the case to see if they have a winner.

There are some awkward silences and some glitches, like when Friedberg had
to answer a wrong number in to the middle of the show, and when he forgot
to put a license plate into briefcase 24 and had to give away $250 for his
mistake. But Friedberg says he manages to get 200 new users a day, a fact
that his advertisers Jolly Time Popcorn and Modell's Sporting Goods have taken note of. He attributes this initial success to the devotion he has to his clientele.

"I had a show on Sunday at 11 o'clock," he said. "Well, I got a message
from a lady in the heartland who said to me, 'I notice that your name is
Friedberg and maybe are not going to that holy place every Sunday, but some
of us are.' Well, she was totally right. So I went to the studio after
football, gave her and five friends their own game.

"I run this business by treating every customer like they are the only
customers,'' said Friedberg. " It is new technology, but it's old-school
values."

-- Ben Terris

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