In the epic battle between man and machine that played out on Jeopardy! over the past three nights, it appears the winner was the show itself.
The three days of episodes that featured exhibition matches between the computer that IBM built, Watson, and Jeopardy!'s two greatest champions -- Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter -- averaged a 9.1 rating/17 share in the overnight metered markets, according to the show's distributor, CBS Television Distribution. That's an increase of 30% over Jeopardy!'s February 2010 7.0 average.
Tuesday was the highest-rated of the three days, with Jeopardy! averaging a 9.5/17, the show's highest rating since May 25, 2005, which happened to also feature Jennings and Rutter facing each other in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions. That time, Rutter emerged the victor. This time around, man lost to computer with Watson winning $1 million for two charities, World Vision and World Community Grid.
On Monday, Watson drove Jeopardy! to an 8.7/16, the show's highest rating in four years, and on Wednesday, Jeopardy! earned a 9.1/17 and was the second-highest rated show on all of television, behind only Fox's American Idol at a 14.5.