King World, Sony Getting More Game

Apr 17, 2006  •  Post A Comment

In what could be a move to head off competition from a potential “Deal or No Deal” syndication run, King World and Sony Pictures Television, the companies behind top-rated game shows “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” are creating an additional one-hour game show block that will be available for syndication in fall 2007.

King World and Sony spokespeople declined to reveal specifics of the block’s format, or whether it will incorporate elements of “Wheel” or “Jeopardy!”

The block will be developed and produced by “Wheel” and “Jeopardy!” executive producer Harry Friedman, who has helmed the shows for eight years. King World will handle station sales, while Sony will manage ad sales.

NBC Universal has aired “Deal” in prime time to strong ratings, and there’s precedent at the company for adapting a high-rated prime-time game show for syndication. After “The Weakest Link” debuted on NBC in 2000, the company distributed a syndicated version in January 2002.

NBC had no comment on a syndication run for “Deal,” and King World and Sony spokespeople declined to indicate whether the possibility of a syndicated “Deal” spurred the creation of the block.

Still, an early announcement with no programming details gets the message to stations that they shouldn’t make any early commitments until they see the Sony/King World game show block, said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group. “They are putting a marker out there,” he said.

The release announcing the deal also made no mention of Merv Griffin, who created “Wheel” and “Jeopardy!” but has not been involved in the shows’ production for more than a decade.

Considering the auspices, developing a game block to run outside of prime access-where “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel” primarily run-is a strategic way to expand the companies’ game business without competing with themselves, Mr. Carroll said.

“It would seem they are not going to attempt to go against their own shows,” he said. “They are looking at other dayparts, like early fringe or daytime. There are always needs in those time periods.”