'Wheel of Fortune,' 'Jeopardy!' Renewed Through 2014

CBS Television
Distribution has renewed syndication's two highest-rated shows, the
Sony-produced Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in 35% of the country
through the 2013-14 TV season. That number includes ABC's owned-and-operated
stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco,
Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Fresno, Calif. 

"These are two of the biggest shows in the history of syndication. They are station makers," says John Nogawski, CTD's president.

"Viewers and advertisers rely upon [the] ABC-owned TV stations to provide the best syndicated programming available including long-time favorites Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which have done a great job for our stations," said Walter Liss, president of the ABC owned television stations, in a statement.  

Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! have aired on the ABC stations in highly-watched access time slots for more than two decades, contributing to the those stations' consistent performance. The ABC-owned stations -- which also feature CTD's Oprah, Disney-ABC's Live with Regis and Kelly and CTD's Rachael Ray in New York and Philadelphia - are among the most successful TV stations in the country. Much of that has been due to building successful line-ups and sticking with them.

Besides the ABC station group, CTD has renewed Wheel and Jeopardy! on the Allbritton, Fisher and Meredith station groups, as well as on independently-owned Fox affiliate WVUE New Orleans. Nogawski expects to have the shows renewed in rest of the country by early summer.

"I think increasingly people are finding that they have a real hunger for shows that are reliable, entertaining and family-friendly," said Harry Friedman, executive producer of both shows.

CBS managed to keep the shows' license fees steady, according to sources, a testament to the strength of both shows and to the improving TV marketplace.

Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! have been the number-one and number-two ranked shows among households for the nearly 30 years they have been on television. This season, both shows have managed to grow, with Wheel jumping 3% among households to a 7.4 rating, and Jeopardy! growing 9% to a 6.3 rating.

Both shows also have renewed the contracts of their hosts: Wheel's Pat Sajak and Vanna White and Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek, all of whom have been with their respective shows since their September 1983 and 1984 debuts.

"It's so rare to be able to build the kind of equity that we have with hosts that are best at what they do and who are liked by the audience," says Friedman, with regard to his on-air talent.

Friedman keeps both shows on the cutting edge, creating online extensions, on-air advertising sponsorships and innovative programming events.  The two game shows were the first two syndicated first-run shows to be produced in high-definition, starting in 2006, and they will likely be the first two syndicated shows to be produced in 3D. Samples of Wheel of Fortune already has been produced in 3D and are being shown at Sony's 3D demo lab on the Sony lot in Culver City, Calif.

Said Friedman: "I think 3D is an inevitability and we want to do it in a way that makes sense. We don't want it to be a gimmick or a distraction."

News of the ABC renewals was first reported by thewrap.com.

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.