King World has renewed veteran game shows Wheel of Fortune
through 2010. Hearst-Argyle, Belo, Cox Broadcasting, LIN, Viacom Stations Group and Post-Newsweek, as well as the ABC O&Os, have all re-upped. So far, renewals cover nearly 50% of the country.
None of the talent—Alex Trebek, Vanna White or Pat Sajak—has re-signed through 2010, but that doesn't faze stations. "If a change dramatically affected the show's performance, we'd probably have a conversation," says Dennis Williamson, senior corporate vice president and CFO of Belo Corp. "But Wheel of Fortune
has changed hosts in the past, and no one even remembers."
Both shows are ad-friendly and widely distributed and have large audiences, says a King World rep. "They've been consistent, and consistency is the toughest thing to do."
Created by Merv Griffin Productions, Wheel
are more than 20 years old and have been the No. 1- and No. 2-rated programs in syndication for 83 and 76 consecutive sweeps, respectively. Wheel
averages 14 million viewers nightly; Jeopardy!
grabs 11 million. Both are produced by Sony Pictures Television. Wheel
averaged an 8.7 and Jeopardy!
a 7.2 in households last season.
Yet with TV audiences becoming increasingly fragmented over the past five years, household ratings for the shows have dropped. In 1999-2000, Wheel
earned a 10.5 while Jeopardy!
averaged an 8.7. That's a 17% decline for Wheel, a 15% drop for Jeopardy!.
But the falloff doesn't bother Garnett Losak, vice president, director of programming, Petry Media Corp. "The truth is," she says, "there is no alternative."
For the duo, the demos improve with age, especially in women. Among females 18-34, Wheel
scores a 2.2; in 18-49s, a 3.0; in 25-54s, a 3.7; and in women 50+, a 13.0. On Jeopardy!, the story is similar: Among women 18-34, it does a 1.9; among 18-49s, a 2.4; among 25-54s, a 3.0; and among 50+, a 10.4. Wheel's median age is 63.5; Jeopardy!'s is 62.5.
"It's not the skew that's important, it's the number that's important," Losak says. "If you have a show that does a 15 rating in adults 50+ and a 4 rating in women 25-54, you are still doing a 4 rating in women 25-54. You are consistently delivering."