Those who control the purse strings at the popular game show “Jeopardy” may be quaking in their boots these days.
That’s because a ground-shaking champion named James Holzhauer has been shattering records with the colossal sums of money he’s been winning.
As of last Friday, Holzhauer had collected about $850,000 in just 12 appearances, and has set a single-show record five times, the highest of which being $131,127.
Holzhauer, who is a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas, is on pace to collecting $2.5 million — the record set by the legendary champion Ken Jennings who won 74 games on the show 15 years ago — in half the time.
What’s so different is that the average earnings from a single show have been in the neighborhood of $20,000, compared to Holzhauer’s average of about $71,000 per episode.
“Every game show has a prize budget,” Bob Boden, a former head of programming at Game Show Network told the Atlantic.
“Typically, for a long-running show the prize budget is determined by way of averages of what has been won in the past.”
Any serious anomaly from the average jackpot can put pressure on prize budgets.
“James’ performance, I’m sure, is causing grief for an accountant somewhere,” Boden added.
Some game shows such as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” have insurance policies in case someone hits the jackpot, but Boden told the Atlantic he’d be surprised if “Jeopardy” had such a policy because of its lack of extreme payouts.
More people are reportedly watching the show because of Holzhauer’s historic performances, and that could translate to higher advertising revenue down the road.
Boden says it’s not usually compelling for a contestant to run up the score, “but in a situation like this, where records are being set and broken every night, the excitement, I believe, outweighs the lopsided results.”
— BeauJest 🌊 🇺🇸 (@BeauJest1) April 18, 2019
The program’s budget, according to the Atlantic, goes mostly to production costs and paying on-air talent, with host Alex Trebek earning $10 million a year.
The show is keeping tight-lipped about its financial workings, as representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
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