Even Ryan Seacrest Can’t Resist the Lasting Pull of Game Shows

As streaming services grow in popularity, more and more of TV’s old standbys are being pushed aside.

The number of soap operas, the cornerstone of daytime television for decades, has dwindled to a handful. Popular daytime talk shows, once hosted by the likes of Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, are becoming rarer each year. The number of late-night programs is decreasing.

But one golden oldie is still going strong. It’s a game show.

ABC’s line-up this fall will feature many of them. On CBS, one of his longest-running shows, “The Price Is Right,” introduces a new studio. and “Jeopardy!” Ratings, “Wheel of Fortune,” which tops the category, is one of the most-watched shows on television, at least outside of sports coverage. Both draw about nine million viewers on a regular night and generate tens of millions of dollars in profits each year.

This week, Sony, the studio that produced both “Jeopardy!” The company has signed one of television’s most celebrated personalities, Ryan Seacrest, to a long-term deal to replace Pat Sajak as the next Wheel of Fortune host.

Audiences for Sony’s two shows are, in the words of rival studio executives, “surprisingly large.” Adam Nedef, a researcher at the National Archives of Game Show History at the Strong National Museum of Play, said “Wheel of Fortune” “survived far beyond any expectations of success.”

“Wheel of Fortune is still this behemoth,” says Nedef, author of The Game Show FAQ, a history of the format. “As the TV business changes and streaming takes the world by storm, ‘Wheels’ is one of those that will survive on the old traditional TV model.”

Game shows have two big advantages for executives. Game shows are one of the cheapest shows to produce, as many episodes can be shot in a short period of time. And he’s also appealing to the largest demographic group that still watches traditional TV: people over the age of 60.

The median audience for “Wheel of Fortune” is the oldest age group tracked by Nielsen: 65+. (The average age of many of the highest-rated prime-time entertainment shows of the recent television season, Survivor (62.1), Abbott Elementary (60.2), and The Voice (64.8), is much lower. not inferior). )

The two game shows garner similar ratings among adults under 50, the demographic most interested in advertisers. The average viewership for this slot is her 1.1 million and “Wheel of Fortune” her 1 million.

Game shows have been around since the dawn of television. From the quiz shows of the 1950s to the romance shows of the He’s 1960s and His 1970s, game shows have been as much a tradition in American television as Sunday afternoon football.

The greatest recent successes are Thoroughbreds that have survived decades. “Family Feud,” which began in 1976 and is now hosted by Steve Harvey, draws nearly 8 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen, the highest total viewership of any syndicated television show. It is one of the number of people CBS has announced that “The Price Is Right,” which has been hosted by Drew Carey since 2007, will move to a “state-of-the-art facility” in Glendale, Calif. for its 52nd season this year.

Starting in September, the ABC line-up will air a one-hour version of Celebrity Jeopardy!. The full Thursday primetime line-up of “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” “Press Your Luck,” and “The $100,000 Pyramid” will air on Tuesday night.

Many of today’s network’s prime-time game shows aren’t necessarily rated blockbusters. But the relatively small budget makes it easier for network executives to accept, especially when compared to the ballooning production costs of scripted television.

Sony’s new deal with Seacrest suggests that the company plans to continue Wheel of Fortune into the future. The deal is expected to last until the early 2030s, according to people familiar with the matter.

But choosing Seacrest is not without risks. When Marv Griffin produced “Wheel of Fortune” as his 1975 TV answer to The Hangman, its early years were spent on lifelong ratings. It wasn’t until Sajak and co-host Vanna White joined in the early 1980s that the show took off. By the mid-1980s, it was attracting more than 40 million viewers each night.

Whether viewers will not watch because Sajak is not on stage is an open question. He and White both have above-average likeability among viewers, according to QScore, a research firm that measures celebrity likeability. But Seacrest is below average according to his Q-score, suggesting he may be polarized among some audiences.

What’s more, Ms. White’s future on the show is uncertain. She has been under contract for a year now and is in negotiations for her new contract. Mr. Puck reported last week that Mr. White earns significantly less than Mr. Sajak and has not received a raise in nearly 20 years. Many “Wheel of Fortune” fans expressed hope on social media that she would replace Sajak — if she stepped down, many viewers would join her. will it go away?

But Seacrest has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to bring a steady hand to longtime franchises. He succeeded in taking over Dick Clark’s long-running New Year’s Eve show. He took over the seat once owned by Regis Philbin and Michael Strahan on the show Live, which he co-hosted with Kelly Ripa for six years. In 2004, he took over a radio show formerly hosted by Casey Kasem.

Seacrest’s rapid appointment — Sajak said just two weeks ago that he would be leaving “Wheel of Fortune” in 2024 — has prompted Sony executives to thwart a succession crisis involving Jeopardy! It’s also a way to avoid it. Two years ago. In 2021, Sony executives quickly ousted Alek Trebek’s successor, Mike Richards, after Richards’ sexist and offensive comments surfaced online. Sony eventually named Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik as Trebek’s permanent successors.

Game show historian Nedef said it should succeed as long as Seacrest recognizes who the true stars are.

“A big driver of the show is the game,” he said. “The game is the star of the show.”

brooks burns and Benjamin Marin Contributed to the report.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button