Ken Jennings’ ‘Jeopardy!’ Streak Ends

Nov 30, 2004  •  Post A Comment

King World announced in a press release Tuesday that “Jeopardy!” contestant Ken Jennings’ 74-episode winning streak, the longest in TV history, has finally ended. The longest winning streak in game show history finally wrapped up when Mr. Jennings lost on Tuesday night’s show. After winning more than $2.5 million, Mr. Jennings finally met his match in Nancy Zerg, a Realtor from Ventura, Calif.

With total cash winnings of $2,520,700, Mr. Jennings, 30, holds the record for most money won on a television game show as well as most victories.

Ms. Zerg, a former actress, was one of 150 contestants who faced Mr. Jennings. Going into the Final Jeopardy! round of the show, Ms. Zerg trailed Mr. Jennings $14,400 to $10,000. But when she got the correct answer and Mr. Jennings stumbled, Ms. Zerg became the new champion.

In the category “Business and Industry,” the contestants were asked to come up with a question that matched the answer, “Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.”

Ms. Zerg’s response of “What is H&R Block?” was correct, and brought her total to $14,401. Mr. Jennings incorrectly responded with “What is Fed Ex?” which dropped him to second place with $8,799.

In his string of “Jeopardy!” appearances, which began June 2, Mr. Jennings gave more than 2,700 correct responses. On July 13 he broke the $1 million mark in cash winnings, and on Sept. 15 he broke the record for the longest winning streak on any game show in TV history, with a 43-show run. On Nov. 3 Mr. Jennings made history as the all-time top game show cash winner, amassing $2,197,000.

Mr. Jennings became something of a media sensation over the course of several months, with appearances on late-night talk shows and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles profiling the software engineer from Utah. The exposure helped drive “Jeopardy!’s” ratings: During the period Mr. Jennings appeared on “Jeopardy!,” ratings for the quiz show were up 22 percent over the same period the preceding year in the metered market overnight ratings. And for several weeks during the winning streak, “Jeopardy!” ranked as TV’s highest-rated syndicated program, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The media are still showing interest in Mr. Jennings. The Nov. 30 episode of “Nightline” is devoted to Mr. Jennings and “Jeopardy!” and on Wednesday, Dec. 1, A&E’s “Biography” spotlights Mr. Jennings and other “Jeopardy!” champions. Mr. Jennings appears on “Late Show with David Letterman” on Tuesday as well. He is also scheduled for interviews on “Good Morning America” and “Live With Regis and Kelly” on Dec. 1. Mr. Jennings has also been selected by Barbara Walters for inclusion in her yearly ABC special as one of the “Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004.”

Mr. Jennings is the first marathon “Jeopardy!” champion because of the show’s 2003 rule change that allows contestants to continue playing as long as they keep winning. Previously, champions were limited to five wins.

“Jeopardy!” is produced by Sony Pictures Television and distributed domestically by King World Productions.