Credit Frank Biondi for one of the all-time greatest studio deals. In 1986, when Biondi was running Coca-Cola’s entertainment division, which included Columbia Pictures, he agreed to pay $250 million for Merv Griffin Enterprises, the entertainer’s production company, which included the rights to produce Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, both created by Griffin. When Griffin died in 2007, he was still grousing about how he had undersold the asset.
Merv was right. In 2023 dollars, paying about $700 million for two of the most enduring and profitable television shows in the history of the medium is a steal. Depending on the year, Wheel alone can generate more money for Sony Pictures Television, Columbia’s successor, than any of its other shows. The recently announced renewal of the Wheel slot machine rights with IGT will earn $220 million for SPT through 2034, per multiple sources.
That’s just slot machines. The syndication license fees for Wheel top $70 million annually, per two sources (another source says that is overstated), and that’s after CBS/King World takes a little less than 40 percent as a distribution fee. Plus more for the ABC primetime series, international, streaming rights, and home and mobile games. It’s a cash machine.