With Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards reportedly in advanced negotiations to replace the late Alex Trebek as the permanent host of the long-running syndicated game show, LG Ads released an analysis of ratings data, revealing that Richards came closest to matching his predecessor's audience performance among the numerous guest hosts who also tried out for the role.
Richards averaged 2.26 million viewers for the 10 episodes of the Sony Pictures Television syndicated strip he guest hosted between Feb. 22 - March 5, according to data generated by LG Ads' sampling of 20 million smart TVs. That was less than the 2.33 million viewers averaged in 30 appearances by former Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings from Jan. 11 - Feb. 19. However, Richards' performance matched up better when compared to the year-ago performance rendered by Trebek, who hosted the show through 2020 while battling pancreatic cancer.
Richards, who only last year replaced Harry Friedman, the longtime producer of Jeopardy! and the syndie game show it leads into, Wheel of Fortune, is an experienced game show host.
And he has an extensive history with SPT. He hosted game shows Divided and The Pyramid for Sony-owned cable network GSN. Richards also executive produced the celebrity edition of ABC’s Who Wants To Be a Millionaire for Sony.
According to published reports, Sony management were impressed with his Jeopardy!-guest-hosting performance. (Yes, duh.)
That said, examining LG Ads' ratings analysis, the executive producer could not have picked a better time to schedule himself for his guest host trial.
Levels of houses using television were still high in late-February/early March, a still dark and cold period that falls right before the start of daylight savings--a period that drives viewers away from early-evening TV watching.
For his part, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers guest-hosted his two weeks starting just four days after Major League Baseball's Opening Day.
Indeed, as LG's chart below shows, ratings for subsequent guest-host trials continued to drop through the spring, with would-be viewers perhaps also suddenly vaccinated and anxious to leave the living room after more than a year of sequestration.
Also notable: The year-ago comparison with Trebek didn't get any easier through the spring, with viewers largely quarantined throughout the spring of 2020.
The chart below also shows the impact each guest host had on the lead-out performance of Wheel of Fortune.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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