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‘Jeopardy!,’ ‘Wheel’ Get HD Makeover

Aug 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Syndication stalwarts “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” will be distributed in high definition starting Sept. 11.

King World Productions and Sony Pictures Television are spending more than $4 million to upgrade the shows, which have been shooting in HD for weeks in preparation for their new seasons. Standard-definition broadcasts will continue to air in a full-screen format.

“We thought it would be a way to demonstrate in a meaningful way the company’s commitment to keeping the shows of the highest production quality and in a leadership position,” said “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel” executive producer Harry Friedman. “Wheel” is the top-rated show in syndication and “Jeopardy!” is No. 2.

The Culver City, Calif., sets of the two shows have been completely redesigned to accommodate the change. The sets are now wider, with more detailed backgrounds and a more HD-vibrant color palette. The familiar “Jeopardy!” board of square monitors has been replaced by a seamless projection video wall. The control room and post-production facility were also upgraded.

About 49 of the 210 stations carrying the programs have made the upgrade to HD, Mr. Friedman said. But that figure is growing rapidly, partly in preparation for the switch. As recently as couple of months ago only 20 markets had made the leap.

Sports, movies, dramas, news programs and documentaries constitute the bulk of HD content. “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” will be the first U.S. syndicated series-and the first game shows-to take the leap into HD.

Though the audience for the game shows skews older than audiences for most HD content, Mr. Friedman said the upgrade makes sense for any series.

“I don’t think making the show a more entertaining viewing experience knows any demographic,” he said.