‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Airtimes in Graphs and Maps

Category: ‘Game Shows’

Answer: Between ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’, this program is shown first each day.

Question: What is…well, it depends on where you live.

I grew up in New Jersey, and every weeknight, ‘Jeopardy!’ started at 7:00pm and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ came on directly after at 7:30pm.  One year when I was visiting family in Virginia, and I entered a Bizarro world where ‘Wheel’ was on FIRST, and ‘Jeopardy!’ second.

Many years later, I had a thought.  What do most Americans see first?  ‘Jeopardy!’ or ‘Wheel’?

There are 210 different media markets in the United States.  From the research I’ve gathered from the ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel’ websites, 206 of the 210 media markets have a local TV affiliate which airs the shows.  Now I will admit that the four missing markets may indeed get these shows.  Perhaps the listings on the show websites were not complete, or perhaps they receive these broadcasts from neighboring markets.  I’m not quite sure.

129 of the markets show ‘Jeopardy!’ first, and 77 of the markets show ‘Wheel’ first.  There’s also information available about the approximate number of televisions in a given media market, and to that end 74 million televisions get ‘Jeopardy!’ first, and 40 million get ‘Wheel’ first.


However, just seeing the numbers isn’t the full picture.  What does this information look like on a map?  Well, here you go.


It’s interesting to take a geographic look at markets which show ‘Wheel’ first.  There’s a concentration on the east coast, and pockets across the nation.

For the majority of the nation, when you watch these shows, they come one right after the other.  That’s not the case across the entire nation, as this next set of graphs will show.


‘Jeopardy!’ tends to get a much earlier start time overall.  A number of markets will choose to show ‘Jeopardy!’ early on in the day, especially those markets in the mid-west which tend to show ‘Jeopardy!’ before the local news, and ‘Wheel’ a few hours later right before Prime Time.  If you want to be the first in the nation to see the show, I recommend moving to the Montgomery-Selma, Alabama market.  They show new episodes at 9:30am local time.  The last market in the nation to air new episodes is the Lafayette, Louisiana market, which starts the show at 12:36 AM.  KATC-3 airs ABC Prime Time shows, Local News, Jimmy Kimmel, Nightline, Inside Edition, and then finally good ol’ ‘Jeopardy!’.

Wheel of Fortune is a much different story.  There are four time slots: 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, and 7:30.  That’s it.  No deviation.  No late nights or early mornings.

Here’s a look of the build over time, with respect to local time. You can see ‘Jeopardy!’ gradually building up through the day, and then in the ‘Power Hours’ between 6:00 and 8:00, ‘Wheel’ is shown for everyone.  And finally, our friends in the Lafayette market get to see ‘Jeopardy!’ in the late late evening.


And here’s what this looks like on a map.  The lighter the color, the earlier in the day it’s shown.  For ‘Jeopardy!’, you’ll notice that most of the early showings happen in the Central time zone.  Interestingly, most of the largest markets in the US show ‘Jeopardy!’ closer to prime time.  However, Chicago shows it at 2:30pm local time on the station WLS.


‘Wheel’, as mentioned before, is much more uniform.  Earlier 6pm to 7pm times in the Central and Mountain time zones, with Eastern and Pacific tending to air in the 7pm to 8pm hour.


Now, what happens if we take a look at time as it relates to a single time zone?  A show may air at 7:00pm in the East, but when it’s shown at 7:00pm on the west coast, it’ll be 10:00pm back east.  These graphs show the build over time with time zone shifts applied as they relate to the Eastern time zone.  So, when something is shown at 7:30pm Eastern and 6:30pm Central, they’re actually on at the same time.


Here’s that build over time, with Montgomery kicking things off at 10:30am and Lafayette shutting it down at 1:36am Eastern Tim the following morning.  ‘Wheel’ is more spread out in this case, with the final showing at 11:30pm Eastern Time in the Honolulu market.


Here’s what those time shifts look like on a map, with the gradients scaled to show later times in a darker hue.  First, ‘Jeopardy!’.


Then, ‘Wheel’.


When we look at the difference in times between shows within the same market, the majority of airings have one show directly after the other.  When that is not the case, ‘Jeopardy!’ will often be shown first, then a gap, then ‘Wheel’ later on in the day.  In fact, there is only one market in the US which shows Wheel first and then doesn’t show ‘Jeopardy!’ right after, and that’s our friends in Lafayette who show ‘Wheel’ at 6:30pm and wait until 12:36am to show ‘Jeopardy!’.


Here’s those time differences shown geographically as well.  Blue hues are ‘Jeopardy!’, and Red hues are ‘Wheel’.  Notice there are only two red hues, since ‘Wheel’ is always followed directly by ‘Jeopardy!’ in those markets, save for Lafayette.


Finally, I wondered which networks aired the shows, as in ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, MYTV, or Independents.  The results were actually quite surprising and extremely spread out, but skewed in favor for ABC, CBS, and NBC.  Here’s a look at the number of markets plus the number of televisions within those markets for both shows.



You’ll notice that in terms of number of markets, it’s fairly even between ABC, CBS, and NBC.  However, ABC affiliates have coverage in the top four markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia) and six of the top eight, which skews the number of TVs highly in their favor.

Fun Fact: In 23 of the 206 markets, the two shows are actually shown on DIFFERENT networks.  Most of these cases tend to be in the Central and Mountain time zones.




Overall, I hope you enjoyed.  If you want the tl;dr version:

  • ‘Jeopardy!’ is shown first in more media markets in the US
  • ‘Jeopardy!’ times are more spread throughout the day
  • ‘Wheel of Fortune’ has ‘Power Hours’ from 6pm to 8pm where the entire nation sees the show
  • The number of ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates is fairly even, although ABC has more of the higher-population markets

Update: May 6, 2014

Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten some of the data points wrong. Reddit user RAS310 asked me:
Just the other day I was thinking about which affiliate airs the shows the most. Do you know which market is the sole one that airs Wheel at 6:30 Eastern? I thought none of them aired the show before 7.

This caused me to look back into some of my original data points. Well, it seems that the question has revealed a problem with the Wheel of Fortune website and with the KML files I used to draw the maps.

The airtime at 6:30 Eastern came back as the ROCHESTER, MN-MASON CITY, IA-AUSTIN, MN. This is wrong for two reasons.

Wheel recently changed how you can look up airtimes. Before it was a clickable map of the US, and it showed you the TV Markets and what time they aired Wheel. They went to an newer version based on ZIP code look up. I looked up a sample ZIP code for Austin, MN (55912). When you plug it into the Wheel website, KXAN-TV, a station in Austin, TX showed up. I didn’t realize I was looking at a Texas station, so I picked up the wrong airtime.

That didn’t explain the time zone shift though, as TX and MN are both Central time. It also looks like there’s a mix-up in the KML file of the TV Markets I obtained that switched the labels for Rochester, MN and Rochester, NY. I did time-zone shifts based on the codes for those, so Rochester, MN is EST for the color shifts, and Rochester, NY is CST for their color shifts.

So, a number of errors on my part in gathering the data.

Happy to hear any additional thoughts in the comments.

37 Replies to “‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Airtimes in Graphs and Maps”

  1. I don’t know if you had WRGX in your Jeopardy! research — it’s the NBC affiliate in Dothan, Alabama that came on the air June 1, 2013. Up until that time, Dothan viewers watched the show out of Panama City’s long-time affiliate, WJHG. (WDHN, the Dothan ABC affiliate, had carried the show from January-September 1985, back in its first season). When WRGX came on the air (replacing the NBC coverage from Montgomery & Panama City), it took the same time slot as WJHG had, 4:30. WRGX’s “parent” station, WTVY (CBS), still carries “Wheel” at 6:30 (going back to beginning in 1983).

  2. You mentioned that you mixed up the Rochester MN and Rochester NY markets. I can tell you that here in the Rochester, New York market, it’s Wheel at 7PM and Jeopardy at 7:30PM (Eastern Time), both on the CBS affiliate.

  3. An interesting analysis. What I’d like to know, though, is: which show is a better lead-in, ratings-wise, for the other? Does “Wheel” get a bigger audience when it follows “Jeopardy!” or vice-versa? And why? Of course, that’s a more difficult question to answer, because of the different air times, and the different competition it’s up against in each market. That would take a lot of research.

  4. Very interesting! A little background you might find useful:
    * Almost all of the stations which are directly owned by ABC (as opposed to affiliates) carry the shows, which is why it’s on ABC in the largest markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, etc.) and in the most households. I was actually surprised to see that it’s on more CBS than ABC stations nationwide.
    *King World (now CBS Television Distribution) has marketed the two shows together since 1990, which is why they air on the same stations in almost the entire country and why they’re so frequently seen back to back.
    * Wheel of Fortune’s syndication contract requires the show to air between 6 and 8 local time. Jeopardy! has no such restriction.
    * In the few markets where they air on different stations, the syndication contracts prohibit airing them opposite each other.

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  6. Your information on what time Jeopardy airs in Chicago is wrong. WLS, ABC Chicago, has always shown Jeopardy at 3:30 PM weekdays.

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