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Everything But Trebek

Harry Friedman, executive producer of CBS' Jeopardy!, has created a Web extension of the game designed to give TV stations that air the veteran quiz show a little more interactive content as well as a promotional boost.

“The whole idea behind it is to form a very meaningful bond between the show and our affiliates and their Websites,” says Friedman, who has run both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune since 1999 and was inducted into B&C's Hall of Fame last month. “This is actually in response to what we were hearing from stations about how important their Websites are and how they are always looking for original content.”

The game, called Jeopardy! EXP (for 'extended play'), resides on TV stations' Websites. It's a simple version of the on-air game, with two rounds of six questions each and one final-Jeopardy! question. The categories are derived from that day's broadcast with questions written by the show's staff.

For example, categories such as “Vampires” spawns questions (or answers, semantically speaking) such as “Dracula author Mr. Stoker was born in Dublin with this first name.” (Correct response: Abraham, though he's more commonly known as Bram.) Unlike the on-air game, there are no levels to move through—as in “I'll take 'school subjects' for $200, Alex,” although the game does assign point values to questions.

The basic version of the game is designed to serve a few purposes. First, Friedman expects it to give news-heavy station sites an entertaining, interactive feature that will keep Jeopardy! fans constantly returning to the station's Website.

Driving traffic

Stations also can sell local advertising around the game, with space available for a banner advertisement across the top and a skyscraper ad running vertically along the side.

The game has been in beta testing on a few station sites since September, and will roll out over the course of the season.

“It's great to take a huge show like Jeopardy! with its loyal audience and bring it to the next level,” says Mark Prutisto, director of integrated media at Hearst-Argyle's WPBF, an ABC affiliate in West Palm Beach, Fla. WPBF has yet to sell Web ads to run alongside the Internet game, but expects to offer local advertisers multi-tiered packages that include on-air and online spots. The show also provided the station with 10- and 15-second custom promotional spots, featuring Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, designed to drive viewers to the site.

CBS Distribution is providing stations with the HTML code required to add the game to their Websites, as well as a graphic for their front pages that allows people to click and go immediately to Jeopardy! EXP. Station Web masters can either embed the game into the stations' Web page or run it as a pop-up. Questions are delivered automatically to stations each afternoon via the Internet.

While Jeopardy! EXP is a simple version of the TV game, Friedman has his eye on more complicated applications—specifically, allowing fans to play along with both the games he executive produces—adding Wheel of Fortune to that mix—on their mobile handsets in real time.

“True interactivity” is where the show is headed, he says, while dismissing the idea of allowing viewers to stream or download episodes of the show: “We're so well supported in syndication that at the moment we don't see that as the next logical step.”