KTVG Programming Research
… TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY …
… a GAME …
… in Syndication …
KTVG Programming Research
The profile below is the second in a series of studies presenting an in-depth and objective look
at issues concerning current programming trends. (5/02)
To play or not to play … a GAME … in Syndication
A GAME: 1) a physical or mental competition conducted according to rules with the participants in direct
opposition with each other, 2) a situation that involves a contest, rivalry or struggle.
BROADCAST: 1) made public by television, 2) a single television program.
BROADCAST GAME: a physical or mental competition conducted according to rules with the
participants in direct opposition with each other made public by television.
HISTORY OF THE GAME…
Games in any form encompass an array of choices. Just as many of our culture’s popular games (i.e.
Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Billiards, Dominoes, Croquet, Tennis, Bowling and a zillion board games)
were derived from ancient Egypt and the middle ages in Europe, many of the games we see on broadcast
television are re-makes of games from television’s past spanning the last 50 years. The majority of which
have a history, a track record from which to gain a certain comfort level with their performance. Some
game shows did well in their early incarnations dating back to the 50’s and 60’s, but in today’s
environment of multi-channel choices there are few standouts.
ROLL THE DICE FOR SUCCESS…
What are the keys to a “big” game show success? There may not be a definitive or conclusive answer to
that question, but if you want the odds in your station’s favor, there are a few tried and true criteria with
which to measure the potential. Some may say that for the viewer, the lure of the game show is the
pure competitiveness and chance to see people like them win lots and lots of money and prizes. So, first
and foremost there needs to be a like-able host, someone that attracts loyalty from the viewer combined
with a slick look; a simple and fun, yet challenging game that the viewer can participate in from home;
BIG MONEY cash or prizes; and a proven network track record is always a plus though recently not a
guarantee. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Success in syndication is a relative term and is partially due to other attributes which include the show’s
placement in the market such as the station it airs on, the time period it airs in and whether it plays on a
traditional or non-traditional affiliate. Though this is true for all genres and is not just indicative of game
shows. While game shows are fairly cost-effective to produce, the show must be able to stay afloat and
turn a profit for both the syndicator and the station.
PICK THE RIGHT PRICE … The origins of the game -- Network Daytime or Prime?
The networks have all but given up on the daytime game and the lack of syndicated game product over
the years may be attributed to its demise. This is the case whether they are “original” or picked from the
vast library of old proven standards. CBS’ PRICE IS RIGHT is the only series that has successfully
survived through present day. Though, once its perennial host Bob Barker leaves his post, who knows
what its fate will be? However, over the last few years, the network game came back into fashion with
primetime as its breeding ground and so goes the many more choices in syndication. While there were
quite a few network failures with GREED (FOX), TWENTY-ONE (NBC) and WINNING LINES (CBS), to
name a few, there were some that had the mettle to survive the primetime shuffle and cross over into
the land of syndication -- WEAKEST LINK (already on the air) and MILLIONAIRE (Fall 2002). Primetime
has also been filled to the gills with a reality/game hybrid of late, where contestants compete on a far
different level to win the “big” prize. The more successful of these less-than traditional games include
the SURVIVOR and AMAZING RACE series. Here too is where the “originals” of the genre come out
ahead of the pack.
THE PRESENT & FUTURE GAME OFFERINGS …
There are currently six games on the air whose futures are secure at least for next season -- WHEEL OF
FORTUNE, JEOPARDY, HOLLYWOOD SQUARES (with a yet to be announced new center square), FAMILY
FEUD (with new host Richard Karn), STREET SMARTS and THE WEAKEST LINK. All but one can boast
network track records and all but two have had previous runs in syndication.
This coming fall we can expect two new additions, both question oriented, but one in which you compete
against yourself and one in which there are other contestants. All set to debut in the fall of 2002 is the
long awaited WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE with its newly named host Meredith Vierra and
PYRAMID hosted by Donny Osmond. So far on the early development slate for 2003 the possibilities
include: THE GONG SHOW (Columbia), FRIENDS OR FOE/RUSSIAN ROULETTE (Columbia), MATCH GAME
(Tribune) and TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES (Tribune). Also on the list from NBC are LET’S MAKE A DEAL
and TRUTH OR DARE, both of which will most likely get a trial run on NBC in primetime.
With that said, we wanted to present an updated in-depth and hopefully as objective as possible look at
the performance of the game show genre.
NSS (NATIONAL) PERFORMANCE REVIEW (based on NSS Rankings, P-T-D, wk ending 4/14/02)
WHEEL and JEOPARDY are still the champs after almost 20 years; continually earning the gold in HH’s in
both the game arena and among all syndicated fare. Versus other game shows, WHEEL and JEOPARDY
are the #1 and #2 performers, respectively, across all key adult shares. Though this is not the case
when compared to all syndicated shows, the pair still place in the top 10 behind such shows as FRIENDS,
SEINFELD, E.T. and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND across key adults, adding JUDGE JUDY and OPRAH to
the mix among key women. Overall, WHEEL is the stronger of the two games with key women while
they are in a dead heat among key men. In W18-49, WHEEL currently delivers a 2.9 rating (#6) to
JEOPARDY’S 2.5 (#8) and in W25-54, WHEEL posts a 3.8 (#6) to its companion’s 3.3 (#7). With the
male faction, their M25-54 delivery is slightly higher than M18-49, tying for 5th place overall.
Playing the game in a clean advertiser friendly format, the success of WHEEL and JEOPARDY was almost
instantaneous from its premiere in syndication. Over the past 5 seasons, WHEEL has dropped an
average 24%-33% across all key demos. The same is true of JEOPARDY’s 15%-41% drop, but with a
wider margin of disparity between the demos. Though the declines have been steady over the years, the
two remain the top game performers, just about doubling what their closest competitor HOLLYWOOD
SQAURES delivers in key adult shares.
HOLLYWOOD SQUARES falls to the next tier among the game options. Currently delivering under a 2
rating across the board, SQUARES ties for 16th in HH’s (2.8), #28T in W18-49 (1.2), #20T in W25-54
(1.6), #30T in M18-49 (0.8), #23T in M25-54 (1.0) among all syndicated product. Currently in its 4th
season, SQUARES also experiences season-to-season declines. Aside from A55+ and HH’s, SQUARES’
highest delivery is in the W25-54 demo. Next in line is FAMILY FEUD, which ranks #25T in HH’s (2.3),
and between 36th and 43rd in key women, tying newcomer THE WEAKEST LINK in W18-49 (0.9, #43T)
and W25-54 (1.0, #37T). Among key men, FEUD posts a 0.7 and ties for the 35 th spot in M18-49 and
the 37th in M25-54 with RICKI, POWER OF ATTORNEY, CHANGE OF HEART and JAMIE FOXX in both
demos. FEUD did achieve a marginal up-tick across the key demos from its first to second season.
However, except for A55+, FEUD’s third season performance is flat or below its first season. Hopefully,
Richard Karn will have the tools to deliver more power in the ratings to this average performer.
We have included STREET SMARTS in this profile because it falls into the more traditional game category
over relationship. There are questions asked and answered and money rewarded. As the only game that
does not have a network track record (though the concept was no stranger to network television
somewhat similar to Jay Leno’s “jay-walking” bit on the TONIGHT SHOW), its ratings delivery registers as
a 1.0 and below in all key adult demos except W18-34 (1.2, #32T) and HH’s (1.4, #43T). STREET
SMARTS is the 3rd ranked of the game show offerings in W18-34 and M18-49.
Nationally, the newest game alternative, THE WEAKEST LINK has its strongest links in HH’s (1.8, #32T),
W25-54 (1.0, #37T) and W55+ (1.9), with weakest demos posting below a 1 rating in other key women
and key men. At this point in time WEAKEST LINK is only at 78% coverage, the lowest of all the game
shows. TO TELL THE TRUTH and CARD SHARKS were not dealt winning hands -- both folding not far
into their new incarnations.
NSI (LOCAL) PERFORMANCE REVIEW
WHEEL, JEOPARDY and HOLLYWOOD SQUARES are primarily the traditional affiliate vehicles with newest
player THE WEAKEST LINK also in this category. Though FAMILY FEUD has slightly more airings on the
traditional affiliates, the “family-played” game exhibits the most mixed ratio of traditional and non-
traditional clearances. STREET SMARTS bread and butter is spread around on mostly FOX, UPN, WB and
Independent stations. WHEEL is the only game that spins pretty much in one daypart -- access. What is
JEOPARDY? It is the game that airs predominantly in access with a healthy amount of airings in early
fringe. X gets the square in both early fringe and access and O moves to block in a fair amount of
HOLLYWOOD SQUARES' daytime slots. Daytime is the primary home to FEUD, followed by early fringe.
STREET SMARTS is poised to be the clear winner in late fringe bookings.
In keeping with their national performance, on the local front WHEEL and JEOPARDY are the 1-2 punch
in access and the two most successful games in their genre and in syndication. As of yet, no other game
show has been able to compete on their level, performance or clearance wise. Though the charts in
this profile only go back five years, WHEEL and JEOPARDY placed at the top of the HH and near the top
in key adult demos their first five years in syndication. While currently holding steady, WHEEL &
JEOPARDY had their most significant drop-offs in key access adult shares in the ‘94-‘95-‘96 seasons and
more recently between Nov ‘99 and Nov ‘00. None of the other games have had the longevity of these
two and at one point in time (1996) they were the only two games left airing in syndication. That was
the beginning of game shows finding a life or “after-life” on cable, geared to their respective network’s
HOLLYWOOD SQUARES is making quite less of an impression than its sister games. While SQUARES did
deliver double-digit shares among key women in its first season, it experienced declines in season two to
single digit shares and even lower numbers in seasons three and four where it currently remains flat. Of
course, in W55+, its 12 share delivery has remained fairly status quo over the years. We’ll have to wait
and see what happens next season without Whoopi and with two new executive producers coming on
board -- Henry Winkler (aaaa!!) and Michael Levitt. FAMILY FEUD, mostly double run in its daytime and
early fringe clearances, has shown no real ratings growth during its three year run, dropping an average
share point across key female demos year to year. Even markets where the show has aired in the same
time period since Nov ’99 has posted slight declines. STREET SMARTS has seen significant declines in its
performance from Nov ’00 to Nov ‘01, down 50%-67% (-2 to -4 shares) in key women and down 60% (-
3 shares) in key men. THE WEAKEST LINK time periods have exhibited more than significant 50%
declines across all key demos over the past 5 years and have dropped 17%-37% from Feb ’01 to Feb ’02.
Posting a 5 share in HH’s, key women and M25-54 and a 6 share in W50+, THE WEAKEST LINK, on
average, delivers the lowest shares to the time period over the last 5 years. In general, from a time
period perspective, all of the game shows have posted the lowest shares to the time period over the last
Giving the game genre the benefit of the doubt, we’d be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of
syndicated shows (like REGIS & KELLY) that have posted increases in the last few years.
Since we don’t really have any current growth stories to speak of, we’ll look at how when broken out by
daypart, the games shows perform versus each other and versus the daypart share averages. Stating
the obvious once again, WHEEL and JEOPARDY are the highest scoring players in each daypart they air in
with the highest over averaging the daypart in W25-54 and A50+. In early fringe, JEOPARDY
overachieves the average daypart share across HH’s and key demos while in access, the game only under
performs in W18-34 in the Nov ’00 sweep. WHEEL spins its shares higher than the average in access with
its lowest scoring shares in W18-34 as well. The only other game to currently achieve higher shares than
the average daypart in a limited demo sample is HOLLYWOOD SQUARES in early fringe in HH’s and
A50+. If we wanted to see where SQUARES performed better than the average in HH’s and across all
key adult demo shares we’d have to look back to Nov ’98.
The true game show junkies are the 50-plusers, with most of the core audience belonging to the female
gender. Overall, game shows do skew as heavily female and on the older side as one might expect.
Nationally, the games comprise an average 48-60% W18+, 13-35% W18-49, 17-29% W25-54, 10-40%
W55+, 28-36% M18+, 9-27% M18-49, 10-24% M25-54 and 6-24% M55+. However, when you take the
youngest skewing STREET SMARTS out of the mix, the composition highs and lows are considerably
different. Excluding STREET SMARTS the ranges go from 54-60% W18+, 13-27% W18-49, 17-27%
W25-54, 27-40% W55+, 9-17% M18-49, 10-17% M25-54 and 10-24% M55+. The M18+ comp remains
Breaking the audience composition down by show, WHEEL and JEOPARDY have the lowest comps among
M & W 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 and the highest percentage of the P2+ audience among M18+ and M &
W 55+ with the highest concentration in the W55+ category. STREET SMARTS delivers the exact
opposite, but does tie the two perennials in the M18+ category (36%). Nixing STREET SMARTS, THE
WEAKEST LINK is next in line among the current list of games with the second highest composition in M
& W18-54 and second lowest in M & W55+. When compared to other genres, relationship and talk score
the highest comps in W18-54 while games top out in W55+ followed by court.
The audience composition stats remain pretty much the same when broken out by daypart, but with a
higher concentration of women in daytime and early fringe. In comparison to the overall daypart
audience comps, most of the game shows under perform in the key women and men 18-54 demos, but
garner higher than average percentages in W18+ and W55+ (with the exception, of course, of STREET
SMARTS). Though not comparing apples to apples, THE WEAKEST LINK (Feb ’02 vs. Nov ’01 overall
averages) skews higher than the average in W18-49 and W25-54 in key early fringe and access time
Ethnically, the game shows put in a decent performance in black homes (Nov ’01), generally over
indexing the total NSS ratings across key demos (but not by nearly as much as the court shows do).
WHEEL and JEOPARDY pull in the strongest black ratings of the bunch across all key adults, but it is
STREET SMARTS that delivers the highest overall indexes. Though pulling in the 3 rd highest black
ratings, HOLLYWOOD SQUARES garners the lowest indexes across the board, under performing the total
in HH’s and key women. THE WEAKEST LINK (Feb ’02) over indexes in HH’s, key men and W55+, under
performs the total in W18-34 and W18-49 and performs on par in W25-54.
Territorially (based on Nov ’01), WHEEL’s highest overall indexes occur in the East Central and Southwest
with the West Central scoring high in W & M 55+. WHEEL spins its lowest indexes across key adults in
the Pacific region. The questions for the JEOPARDY answers are most widely viewed in the East Central
and Southeast territories with under performing indexes for women in the Pacific and for men in the West
Central region. HOLLYWOOD SQUARES' indexes are over and under indexing all across the board with
no one territory cornered. FAMILY FEUD seems to have more of a following in the East Central region,
also over indexing in the West Central among key men. STREET SMARTS generally does its best polling
on the West and East Central streets. THE WEAKEST LINK’s (Feb ’02) strongest link is the Southeast and
West Central regions while its weakest under indexing performances can be found in the Pacific and
Demographically, the game shows generally over indexed the total U.S. rating where the Head Of
Household (HOH) Income was in the $30-$39,000 range (Nov ’01). Both WHEEL and WEAKEST LINK
achieved higher indexes among key women 18-54 in the $40-$59,000 range. WHEEL, JEOPARDY and
SQUARES tended to out perform in M18-49 and M2-54 in that second category as well. On average the
lowest indexes for the majority of the games were among the $75,000+ crowd. THE WEAKEST LINK’s
lowest indexes in W18-49 and W25-54 were in the $60-$74,999 category. As a whole, the game shows
also over indexed where the HOH Education was no college. JEOPARDY was the only game to over index
in W18-34 in the 4+ years of college category and to deliver ratings on par with the total U.S. in W18-49,
M18-49 and M25-54 in the same area.
GAME/NEWS BLOCKS IN EARLY FRINGE
JEOPARDY and, to a lesser extent, HOLLYWOOD SQUARES boast the most instances being used as a
news lead-in on traditional affiliated stations. FEUD and LINK each have a few examples as well. With
stations considering whether to use certain game shows and especially the upcoming MILLIONAIRE in a
news block, the games’ potential compatibility with the news comes into question. In order to help out in
the decision making process, we wanted to give you a picture of how the games’ overall performance
measures up in that capacity. Of course, keep in mind the other factors that exist such as the strength of
the station, the news itself and the competitive environment.
On average, all of the news programs posted some type of increase over their game lead-ins. With most
of the game lead-ins, the shares were so low, how could they not? Traditionally the top performer in a
genre delivers the highest key adult shares into the news. OPRAH is the example for the talk shows and
JUDGE JUDY for court. JEOPARDY is the representative in the game category most often in the central
time zone. It looks as if JEOPARDY’s influence on the news is slightly above average, especially when
compared to other programs in the game genre and in other categories. On the traditional affiliated
stations (currently up to 54 markets), where JEOPARDY “opens” for the news, the news shares are up
30%-36% (+3 to +4 shares) in W18-49 and W25-54 and up 60%-63% (+5 to +6 shares) in the same
male demos over JEOPARDY. Of the above-mentioned demos, with the exception of M18-49,
JEOPARDY’s share deliveries were in the double-digit category. When averaging the 13 markets that
carry HOLLYWOOD SQUARES as a news lead-in, the news shares do increase over the game across the
board. Though delivering only single digit key adult shares and double digits in A50+, the news time
period manages to post double-digit deliveries along the same lines as JEOPARDY’s news lead-outs. So
far, THE WEAKEST LINK only has 4 instances as a news lead-in and though the news posts comparable
shares to its lead-in, they are only in the single digit range except in A50+. There are no examples over
the minimum 3 occurrences on the independent and non-traditional affiliates of any game show into
On a bi-annual basis, we review a very limited sample of client stations that commission Audience Flow
Reports. A key component in flow analysis is retention into local news. Looking at JEOPARDY’s 4-
market sample (based on Nov ’01), the question would be: which game retains 58% HH retention?
Comparatively, over the last five Novembers’ limited reports, JEOPARDY has been consistently in the mid
50% HH range with OPRAH’s low 50% HH retention as a benchmark. HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, when it
does register in the sample, has given inconsistent results. Though not an overriding factor, retention
can also be considered as a factor when deciding what program to use as a news lead-in.
As mentioned earlier, the top news lead-ins seem to be the stronger share performers. As common
sense tells us, if you have a strong performing show as a lead-in to the news, the news shares will be
higher. Ultimately, the lead-in may help bring viewers to the news, especially if the lead-in carries the
same audience make-up (often A25-54), but the news itself has to be able to stand on its own legs as a
solid performer. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive answer to this question.
NETWORK PRIMETIME GAME SHOW PERFORMANCE
MILLIONAIRE & THE WEAKEST LINK
Primetime WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE possessed all the “right” criteria to make it a “big game
show success” -- in year one. MILLIONAIRE was a great franchise that achieved more than a stellar
performance, boasting key adult shares in the low to high 20’s and breaking the 30 share mark in A50+ -
- in season one. The sleek, but simple to understand and play game even topped the rankings in
primetime HH’s. In season two, the network overexposed the brand by running it five nights a week and
anywhere there was a hole in the schedule. Though it performed competitively, delivering low to mid
teen adult shares, its downward trek had begun. By its third and final season in primetime,
MILLIONAIRE was only delivering single digit key adult shares. Even WEAKEST LINK was posting higher
shares on Monday nights at 8PM in W & M18-49 and 25-54, though it too had experienced dwindling
shares from year one to year two. With a future in syndication, both MILLIONAIRE and WEAKEST LINK
will not be returning to their network berths next season, though MILLIONAIRE may be used as event
programming just as it started in the summer of 1999. With the show off the schedule for the summer,
hopefully there will be a renewed interest in the five-day-a-week syndicated version, which has most, if
not all of the elements for it to be a potential winner. MILLIONAIRE’s audience comp on the network
falls into the syndicated game show range with its W & M 18-54 audience in-between WHEEL and
JEOPARDY’s comp and SQUARES and FEUD’s comp. The same holds true in A55+. As for WEAKEST
LINK, its network comp was younger than MILLIONAIRE’s and not as old as its syndication version. Their
demographic audience base is also in keeping with what game shows in syndication possess. In general,
game shows seem to average lower income and less educated viewers where the highest HOH Income
indexes are in the $30,000 to $59,000 range and in the no college category for HOH. The last few pages
of charts show MILLIONAIRE and WEAKEST LINK’s season-to-season trends as well as their network
audience compositions versus syndicated game audience comps and their network news magazine lead-
Aside from providing an in-depth look at the game genre as a whole, we had also hoped to provide some
insight as to what might happen with the new games entering syndication. However, the search for an
easy indicator for success proves still inconclusive. Keep in mind that this is an overall analysis of the
game shows’ performance. As always, in order to meet individual needs, consult with your programmer
for a more detailed local market analysis.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
On the following pages you will find charts outlining, in greater detail, the performance of all the game shows.
Game Show Syndication Stats
Clearances by Affiliation
Clearances by Daypart
NSS National Trend Performance Review
NSS Syndicated Program Rankings
NSI Performance Review
NSI Time Period Review
NSI Daypart Performance Review
Audience Composition vs. Other First-Run Genres
Audience Composition vs. Off-Network
Audience Composition by Daypart
Black NSS Ratings Indexed to the Total
Income of Head of Household (HOH) Syndicated Game Show Index
Education of Head of Household (HOH) Syndicated Game Show Index
Game / News Blocks in Early Fringe
NTI Network Review – Primetime / Millionaire & The Weakest Link
Syndicated Game Audience Comp vs Network Games
Income of Head of Household (HOH) Network Game Show Index
Education of Head of Household (HOH) Network Game Show Index