What is CBS and NBC? These station groups might go after ‘Jeopardy!’ rights

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that CBS and NBC might try to make a bid to carry “Jeopardy!” on the stations they own in major markets — unseating them the schedules on ABC stations.

As a syndicated show, “Jeopardy!” airs on one station per market — though sometimes another airing of that day’s show airs later in the market.

Typically the station willing to pay the most money for the show gets it, although there are other factors that go into syndication agreements. It’s also not uncommon for a station group to bid on a show to air on all or most of its stations, which in theory streamlines things.

In some of the U.S.’s largest TV markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Fransisco, “Jeopardy!” airs on the ABC owned station in the market.

Most of ABC’s stations have aired the show since 1984 and have a longstanding relationship with the show’s production company, Sony Pictures Television, and distributor, CBS Media Ventures (previously known as CBS Television Distribution and King World). “Wheel of Fortune” shares those production company and distributor as well.

These stations can pay upwards of $1 million per week to air the show.

This longtime relationship is also likely why ABC was selected to air “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel” primetime specials over the years.

However, the syndication deal with ABC owned stations is coming up for renewal soon and both NBC and CBS owned stations groups are said to be considering putting in a bid, according to L.A. Times sources.

The move, if it were to happen, could be significant.

On the east and west coast, “Jeopardy!” and its sister show “Wheel of Fortune” often air back to back during “access hour” from 7 to 8 p.m. before primetime starts, which can offer the following shows a strategic lead in.

In the central and mountain time zone, “Jeopardy!” is often used as a lead in to local news, often giving whatever station holds the rights to the shows an advantage in getting viewers to stick around. In many cases a different station carries “Wheel” in these markets.

So, will the move happen?

It this point, it seems unlikely.

ABC is likely keen to keep “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel,” where applicable, in place because of how they affect other parts of the schedule. The network is currently sitting at the top of ratings in the morning and evening news and many of its owned stations do well in the local news ratings, which can be at least partially contributed to its syndicated slate.

Sony and CBS Media Ventures might not be as keen to make any big moves either since it could generate confusion among the show’s old viewership (which is high) and there’s also no guarantee if the ratings would hold up, which could reduce the overall value of the shows.

In addition, there’s two minutes of commercial time during each episode reserved for them to sell — and any shifts in ratings could cause those rates to dip.

Sony also has “naming right” partnerships for tournaments and consolation prizes, currently Consumer Cellular, that are “baked in” to the shows. Lower ratings could mean these are less lucrative.

There’s also the fact that there’s, at least in theory, a limit to how much a station would be willing to pay for a show — not matter how well it does — given that they need to be able to at least make back that money in terms of ad time sold during it or the shows immediately following it.

If CBS and NBC wanted to grab Sony’s attention, they would likely need to come in with a significantly higher offer and that may not work out economically at the end of the day.

As its name implies, CBS Media Ventures is owned by CBS, so the network’s parent company ends up making money off “Jeopardy!” even when it’s not shown on one of its stations — which isn’t a bad deal.

NBC owned stations are, however, facing the loss of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” when it wraps production in 2022, which means an hour will be available after “The Kelly Clarkson Show” moves into that slot.

“Jeopardy!” is also in the middle of a ratings streak thanks to several high profile, long running returning champions as well as, perhaps, interest to see how the show’s interim hosts are doing as the show struggles to clean up after the Mike Richards debacle.

However, there’s no guarantee how long any champ can run or how they will resonate with viewers and once a final host decision is made, that could also have an effect on ratings.