- ‘Jeopardy!’ isn’t live, but until Monday night’s episode the show had done a pretty good job of maintaining enough secrecy that the game was, functionally, a must-see live event.
- But on Sunday night, the exciting conclusion of contestant James Holzhauer’s run on the show was revealed by a leak, and confirmed the following morning when the show aired.
- Networks are struggling with plumetting ratings, and many rely on shows like “Jeopardy!” to help bolster viewership.
- That could radically alter the way that people watch ‘Jeopardy!’ and potentially pull viewers away, given that another future run on the show could be spoiled.
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Monday night, America tuned in to watch the conclusion to James Holzhauer’s legendary run on “Jeopardy!”. Thanks to a rare leak – and social media’s willingness to circulate that information ahead of air time – the ending was at minimum telegraphed, and at worst spoiled, for fans attempting to watch the conclusion of Holzhauer’s run.
Lots of people have talked about how the ambitious and risky play style Holzhauer took from proof-of-concept to genuine strategy will fundamentally change the nature of “Jeopardy!”.
But the fact that the ending was leaked ahead of airtime may spell more danger for the show, and remove the incentive to watch. That “Jeopardy!” producers are on the warpath seems to back up the idea that this is a massive deal.
Timing is everything https://t.co/nGihBKLQsq
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 3, 2019
The audience for “Jeopardy!” exploded during Holzhauer’s two month run. In his first week, “Jeopardy!” averaged a typical 10.09 million viewers. The longer the streak ran, the more people tuned in: by the week of April 29, the show hit its best household rating in 14 years, up 30 percent, averaging 13.28 million daily viewers. That beats the same-day tune-in for any prime time television show that aired during that period.
“Jeopardy!” has, until Monday, at least maintained the illusion of a live event. Of course the shows are pre-taped, but the ironclad production process has up until now kept the winners and losers a secret. This is because while the show involves exciting outcomes and compelling gameplay, the lack of continuity among competitors mean that “Jeopardy!” is more low-stakes night-to-night than, say, a baseball game.
That anything-can-happen perception was instrumental for “Jeopardy!” racking up viewers during the Holzhauer run. I’m sure plenty of people watched for the thrill of the game, but I’m also sure a whole lot of people tuned in to see is this the night? Is James going down this time?
Since the video was removed, here is the iconic photo of the scores: pic.twitter.com/sSbCmlPs6t
— Random Intel (@intelRandom) June 3, 2019
In 2018, 48 of the top 50 U.S. television broadcasts were a live event. The other two were the post-Super Bowl episode of “This Is Us” and the premiere of the Stormy Daniels interview on “60 Minutes”. Live viewing of scripted television is in freefall, and as a result, one of the few bright spots (or more accurately, not dark spots) on the television schedule comes down to events that have a live component.
Most often, this is the classic live event of sporting events or award shows. Sometimes it’s live-ish things, like morning television shows that contain pre-recorded segments, the local news, or even news-making shows like “The View,” all of which fare better than their primetime counterparts rating-wise. Indeed, the scripted television that makes news these days – think “Game of Thrones” – are event television, shows with premieres that are so widely-viewed and spoilerific that their very airing is effectively a live event.
“Jeopardy!” worked to maintain the illusion that even if it wasn’t actually live, it was de facto live: you had to tune in live to find the outcome. Compared to other pre-taped shows with a live component, “Jeopardy” was Fort Knox. No one knew when Ken Jennings’ streak would end. “The Bachelor” franchise tapes months in advance, and that show leaks like a sieve.
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) June 3, 2019
Some media markets air the show way ahead of the 7 pm Eastern hour most of America watches. Social media users on the West Coast got a small glimpse of this during the eye-popping Holzhauer run, but few tend to realize the absurd times some media markets air “Jeopardy!”: while the result was indeed leaked early, it was really the fact that WAKA in Alabama airs “Jeopardy!” to 229,330 households at 9:30 a.m. local time that all but guaranteed the show would be spoiled for the overwhelming majority of viewers.
Some 25.4 million households can watch “Jeopardy!” at 7:00 pm ET, some 34.9 million watch it at 7:30 pm ET, but 25.9 million households live in areas that broadcast it before then. Houston catches “Jeopardy!” at 2:00 PM Eastern. Chicago’s seen it by 4:30 PM Eastern.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 3, 2019
As much as Holzhauer’s ambitious play style electrified the game, the way he ended it – by confirming pre-air the nature of his exit – may end up causing problems for it down the line. Millions of new viewers tuned in to see if tonight is going to be the night. Now that the show has made it totally clear they didn’t need to do that, why would the casual viewers – who swelled “Jeopardy’s” vierwship by 30% – bother to tune in again?
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