Improving on the best


King World has kicked off the next two-year renewal cycle for the top two syndicated game shows, Wheel of Fortune
and Jeopardy.
ABC O&Os and Scripps Howard Broadcasting outlets, covering more than 24% of the U.S., have already re-upped for that cycle (2005-06 and 06-07).

ABC stations renewing: WABC-TV New York, KABC-TV Los Angeles, WLS-TV Chicago, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, KGO-TV San Francisco, WTVD(TV) Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and KFSN-TV Fresno, Calif. Scripps Howard stations: WMAR-TV Baltimore, WEWS(TV) Cleveland and WCPO-TV Cincinnati.

According to Joe DiSalvo, president, domestic television sales, King World Productions, the terms remain the same for the next renewal cycle, although he expects increases in the cash license fees. That shouldn't come as a surprise for shows that have been No. 1 and No. 2 in syndication since the 1980s. "They've really become a part of the stations' fabric where they air," said DiSalvo, adding that his sales team will be blanketing the country over the next several months.

Meanwhile, look for more fine-tuning of the Wheel
format in the coming season, its 20th. Harry Friedman, executive producer of both, reports that a new "mystery round" is being added this fall. In it, the wheel will have two mystery wedges. When a contestant lands on one of them, he or she has a decision to make: Take the dollar value on the wedge for each consonant in the puzzle or take what's on the other side of the wedge. One of the mystery wedges has a new car; the other indicates that the player goes "bankrupt," forfeiting winnings in the game up to that point.

starts its 19th season in the fall, the first full season when all the dollar values of the questions have been doubled, a change made in the middle of the current season.

"The thing that we always keep in mind with both shows is that it's okay to change the show but we never change the game," says Friedman, "because that's really the heart and soul of the show."