In good news for the syndication business, two of the platform's highest-rated shows are going to be around for at least a few more years.
CBS Television Distribution's game-show duo of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! has been renewed on the seven ABC-owned and operated stations who carry the programs through 2014. The news broke a week ago on TheWrap.com.
Sony Pictures Television, which produces both shows, has also renewed pacts for the hosts of the shows (Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek and letter-turner Vanna White) for the duration of the show's run as well.
The programs are the number one and number two-rated shows in syndication respectively, and dominated the ratings for over 20 years.
The ABC deal covers WLS-TV in Chicago, as well as WABC-TV in New York, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, and KGO-TV in San Francisco. Other ABC clearances include KFSN-TV in Fresno, CA and WTVD in Raleigh, N.C.
In Chicago, WLS airs Jeopardy! as a news lead-in at 3:30 p.m., where it regularly wins its time period.
CBS also renewed the programs on the Allbritton (WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.), Fisher (KOMO-TV in Seattle and KATU in Portland, Ore.), and Meredith groups, and Fox affiliate WVUE-TV in New Orleans.
Together, the deals account for 35 percent of the country. The renewals will take Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! into their 31st and 30th seasons in syndication, respectively.
While there was some concern about high license fees for existing first-run syndicated fare, CBS was able to hold the line on license fees for Wheel and Jeopardy!, given their continued strong performances and the expected in the television business. In the recent February sweeps, both shows were up from year-ago time period averages - despite the presence of the Olympics.
Another plus is both game shows usually outperform not only the rest of the syndicated competition, but some prime-time shows as well. In some large markets, both game shows drew more viewers than the entire prime-time lineup of The CW and at least one of the major networks.
Fun Facts: Here are some items you may - or may not know about Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!:
- Wheel of Fortune actually began as a daytime NBC show in 1975 hosted by Chuck Woolery, but was replaced by Chicago native (and former Little Village resident) Pat Sajak in 1981. Vanna White replaced original letter-turner Susan Strafford a year later. Sajak left the network version of the show in 1988, which moved to CBS in July 1989 and back to NBC in 1991 to finish out its run. By the time its network run concluded, Bob Goen was your host.
- Wheel of Fortune began in syndication in September 1983, but was cleared in only 42% of the country. Among large-market stations, WPVI in Philadelphia and WDIV in Detroit are currently the longest-tenured stations, airing it since day one (WLS didn't air Wheel until January 1984, displacing a half-hour of local news.)
- What was the #1 game show in syndication before Wheel debuted? It was Family Feud, with original host Richard Dawson. Wheel beat it in the ratings for the first time in February 1984.
- While Wheel has been #1 in the Nielsens for a long time, it was displaced a few times. In 1991, a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featuring a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy topped the game show in the ratings for a week.
- In New York City, WABC-TV pulled off an upset in the May 1989 Nielsen book in the 7:30 p.m. time slot with Entertainment Tonight beating Wheel, which was then on WCBS-TV. In Los Angeles in the July 1989 book, ET on KNBC-TV topped Wheel, then on KCOP-TV, while Current Affair on KTTV topped Jeopardy!, also on KCOP.
In September 1990, WABC acquired Wheel to pair up with Jeopardy! and has dominated the prime access hour ever since. KABC in Los Angeles landed both shows in 1992 after KCBS-TV lost them after acquiring the duo in September 1989.
- Wheel and Jeopardy! was removed from top-rated San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON-TV in early 1992 after the station decided to push the network's prime-time schedule up an hour to 7 p.m. King World moved the shows to KGO, where they've been since. As for KRON? Early prime was a failure, and after the station was sold in 2001, KRON's NBC affiliation was yanked and has since tumbled to the Nielsen basement.
- WLS has aired Jeopardy! at 3:30 p.m. and Wheel at 6:30 p.m. since their debuts on the station (both in 1984), and have been there ever since.
- Jeopardy! was an NBC daytime staple from 1964 to 1975, dominating its time period through most of its run. It was also syndicated as a weekly during the 1974-75 season.
- When Jeopardy! returned to the airwaves in 1984, the first few months were rough: WNBC in New York buried it in a late-night slot, and lasted only a few weeks at KCBS in Los Angeles (Ironically, it would return to KCBS five years later.) WABC picked up Jeopardy! to run in the afternoon and moved it to 7 p.m. in early 1987, where it became a blockbuster hit.
- Ken Jennings won 74 games in a row on Jeopardy! in 2004 and 2005, setting game show records and taking home more than $2 million in cash.
- Jeopardy! has spun off several editions, including Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, Jep! (for kids), and Super Jeopardy!, which ran on ABC during the summer of 1990.
- In 2006, both game shows became the first syndicated game shows to be produced in high definition.
- Since 2008, Wheel and Jeopardy! has been airing from 7-8 p.m. on the CBC in Canada (except Windsor, where both shows air over WDIV in nearby Detroit.)