Jennings Jump-Starts Jeopardy!

The return of Ken Jennings to King World Productions’ Jeopardy! in the week ending Oct. 31 drove the show up 26% to a new season high of 8.7. Jennings had taken a brief hiatus during a one-week kids’ tournament.

Jeopardy! had dropped 20% in the prior week without Jennings, continuing the yo-yo pattern of soaring with the star contestant and sinking without him.

Jennings surpassed the $2 million mark in total winnings on Monday, Oct. 25, on his way to victories in his 59th through 63rd straight games. Jennings apparently will appear on seven more shows before a two-week college championship begins Nov. 10 and runs through 23.

Handicappers are betting on Jennings losing in his 75th game, which will fall on the last day of the November sweep.

The strong Jeopardy! ratings also likely helped King World’s Wheel of Fortune, which is paired with Jeopardy! in many large markets. Wheel was up 6% to an 8.9. Compared to last year at this time, Jeopardy! is up 21%. The only strip up more than that is Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 36% ahead of last year. Wheel is down 5% year-to-year, though still with numbers most syndicated shows would love to have.

Elsewhere, some syndicated shows were slightly lower due to competition from the World Series on Oct. 26 and 27, which , for example, averaged a 73 share in Boston. Some markets also preempted regular programming for local coverage of political debates.

In addition, some shows faced much stronger competition from CNN and Fox News Channel during the election run-up with cable news viewing up during the last week before the elections. Between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., for example, CNN viewership jumped 30% from the prior week and FNC was up 14%. Meanwhile, average daytime broadcast viewing between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. was down by 638,000 households from the prior week.

After Jeopardy! and Wheel, number-three game show Buena Vista’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire was unchanged at a 3.3, although that equaled its season high. Tribune’s Family Feud was down 5% to a 2.0, and Warner Bros.’ Street Smarts was down 11% to a new season low 0.8.

Paramount’s The Insider continued to lead all first-run rookies with a 2.4, despite being preempted all week in Boston and other large markets and dipping 8% from the prior week’s series high.

NBC Universal’s The Jane Pauley Show was up 7% to a 1.6, equaling its series high. Buena Vista’s The Tony Danza Show, preempted five times during the week, was down 8% from its series high to a 1.2. Twentieth’s Ambush Makeover was unchanged at a 1.1. Warner Bros.’ The Larry Elder Show slipped 11% from last week’s series high to a 0.8. Sony’s Pat Croce: Moving In gained 17% to a 0.7 and Sony’s Life & Style was unchanged at a 0.5. NBC Universal’s Home Delivery, which was canceled last week, was down 9% to a 1.0.

King World’s Oprah led the talkers with a 7.6, up 1%. Oprah has gotten off to a good November sweep, scoring her second-highest metered market number of the year, a 9.4/22 with a program on incredible body makeovers featuring a woman who had lost more than 300 pounds. Oprah, signed through 2011, is enjoying her best ratings in eight years. 

King World’s number-one sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, was up 5% to a 6.6, a new season high. Raymond has taken over the off-net sitcom top spot from Warner Bros.’ Friends and Sony’s Seinfeld with a run on TBS that started on July 5. Friends and Seinfeld both came in at a 5.5, up 4% and 10%, respectively, marking a season high for Friends.

Among the off-net newcomers, KingWorld’s weekly CSI was down 4% to a 5.1. Twentieth’s Malcolm in the Middle led the rookie off-net strips, up 3% to a new series high 3.1. NBC Universal’s Fear Factor was flat at a 1.9.

Twentieth’s Yes Dear at a 1.6 and Paramount’s Girlfriends at a 1.5 were each down 6%.

Paramount’s Entertainment Tonight continued as the highest-rated magazine with a 4.8, up 2%.

Paramount’s Judge Judy topped the courts, remaining at its season high 4.7 for its second week. Paramount’s Judge Joe Brown was up sharply, gaining 10% in second place to a 3.2 and matching its season high.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.