Big-Time Syndication Pioneer Gave Hopes To Little Guy With Big Idea

You think of Merv Griffin in the 1980s and 1990s and you think of all that money in syndication -- a business that made him a billionaire.

The passing of Griffin reminds us that his legacy of shows -- his own long-running syndicated talk show, and the two still-monsters of syndication, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" -- always gave hope to the little producers with the big first-run idea.

While few might want a game show to be the highest artistic highlight of one's career, it's hard to discount Griffin's enthusiasm and the success of his games. "Wheel," of course, came as a version of that childhood game that Griffin loved -- hangman.

Now over three decades old, those two game shows still make hundreds of millions for Sony Pictures Entertainment (the present owners) and CBS Corp (which sells the lucrative station distribution and advertising rights).



It's a cliché -- but how many big-time, prime-time network, or Monday to Friday, TV shows have lasted that long?

The downside is that those shows -- "Wheel" and "Jeopardy"  -- are two of  the oldest-skewing  on TV.  Yet all those big package advertisers keep coming back to get their share of that audience -- even if media buyers continue to call them "bottom feeders."

As the years went on, few could match the success of "Wheel" or "Jeopardy." Other games like Buena Vista Television's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and FremantleMedia/Debmar-Mercury's "Family Feud" have become good earners -- but can't match the rating power of Griffin's original dynamic duo.

Griffin had tried other syndicated games and entertainment shows as well. At the time of his death, he was looking to add to his list of achievements with another game, "Merv Griffin's Crosswords." With the Griffin name now synonymous in the industry with syndicated games shows, the program - slated to debut Sept. 10 - seemingly attached his name in an effort to grab consumers.

No, Griffin didn't invent syndication. But "Crosswords" is his attempt to go back to the syndication basics --  give viewers a game that they all know and they'll watch.

Young producers everywhere who have that one big idea - possibly without  any big-time talent attached - will be watching closely.

Prospective syndication billionaires will be hoping for the best.

Next story loading loading..