Jennifer Hudson and Sherri Shepherd also have their shows renewed
While there are those who are eagerly awaiting the presumed death of linear TV, Wednesday was a reminder there’s still a lot of life left in the platform – especially in the world of first-run syndication with the renewals of four shows.
Case in point – CBS Media Ventures and Sony Pictures Television announced the renewals of longtime game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! on ABC’s eight owned-and-operated stations in a blockbuster five-year deal. As first reported by Deadline, ABC is ponying up more money to keep the shows on their early evening schedules as a lead-in to their primetime lineup.
The deal covers top-rated ABC 7 (WLS-TV) in Chicago, whose aired both shows in their respective 6:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. time slots since 1984 and have constantly beaten the competition since. Other big market ABC-owned stations renewing the shows are in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Houston (for Jeopardy! only, since Wheel airs on another station). The other two are in Raleigh-Durham and Fresno-Visalia, Calif.
“We are thrilled to extend our long-running relationship with Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune,” said Disney Networks president Debra O’Connell, whose Walt Disney Company is the parent of ABC. “These beloved shows are national treasures that we are proud to bring into the top local markets in the country along with ABC’s award-winning, market-leading news and entertainment programming.”
The five-year deal – stretching until 2028, is longer than previous renewal pacts which were typically two-to-three year deals. The renewals come despite the Jeopardy! hosting debacle Sony engineered after the death of Alex Trebek in November 2020, as they recently installed rotating hosts Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik, and recent talk of Wheel hosts Pat Sajak (a Chicago native) and Vanna White calling it a career soon. A daytime staple on NBC in the 1970s and 1980s, Wheel entered syndication in September 1983 with Jeopardy! following a year later.
Both game shows remain at or near the top of the ratings since their debuts along with Family Feud, through the latter airs as much as six times a day in certain areas, including Chicago. Wheel and Jeopardy! draw close to nine million viewers a week on average, and outdraw most prime-time network shows in total viewers.
The ABC renewal isn’t a surprise, given Sony and the network have partnered to bring spin-off editions to prime-time. Also on Wednesday, ABC announced new Jeopardy! spin-off Masters, featuring some of the best players in the show’s history (CMV is not involved in the ABC prime-time spinoffs as they are solely produced by Sony.) Last summer, Pluto TV (owned by CMV parent Paramount Global) launched 24/7 Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! channels featuring classic episodes.
The announcement came hours after the renewals of two freshman talk shows by Fox-owned stations as they gave the green light to Jennifer Hudson’s show for a second season and Sherri Shepherd’s for a second and third season. Both Jennifer and Sherri air in a two-hour late morning block on Fox 32 (WFLD).
“Working on this show alongside my incredible team and our amazing partners has been one of the greatest joys of my career. We have been on this journey together from day one and I am so thrilled to take it to the next level. I could not be more grateful to audiences across America for letting me into their homes everyday as we empower and inspire one another. I can’t wait to show you what we have up our sleeves in season two!”, said the Chicago native, who made the announcement herself Wednesday on the show.
The pickup is a bright spot in what is otherwise a dismal time at the newly-merged Warner Bros. Discovery, who syndicates the show as the company is undergoing cost-cutting and layoffs and even going as far as removing titles from its HBO Max streaming service in order to avoid paying residuals as it tries to erase billions in debt. With Hearst also on board, Jennifer is renewed in 60 percent of the country.
Sherri meanwhile, received a two-year commitment from Fox, as it has often tied Jennifer as the the highest-rated new daytime talker this season. From Debmar-Mercury, Sherri replaced Wendy Williams in most areas. Debmar-Mercury Co-Presidents Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus said: “We initially sold Sherri for one year based on our strong belief that this extraordinarily talented host would be successful and her show would become a long-term talk franchise. Our thanks go to our good friends and longtime partners at Fox, who shared in our enthusiasm and have renewed their faith in Sherri with this long-term commitment.”
The news of these four renewals in one day stands in vast contrast to last March, when three syndicated shows were axed within 24 hours. As this current syndication season is looking more stable than in years past, it is welcome news as the rest of the television business is undergoing a lot of upheaval as viewers continue to cord-cut and shift to streaming.