Sony Pictures TV is casting a wide net in its search for a successor to Alex Trebek as host of one of the studio’s top properties, veteran game show Jeopardy!. I have learned that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and NBC Sports personality Dan Patrick are among those approached by the studio, along with embattled Today show co-host Matt Lauer and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. I hear all four have had exploratory conversations with Sony TV, though the studio is not actively pursuing anyone at the moment.
Sony TV’s succession plan for Jeopardy! became a hot topic today after the NY Post reported on Lauer and Cooper being in the mix for the job. With the exception of Patrick, who has presented at the Super Bowl and during the Summer Olympics, Jeopardy! would mark a step up in the ratings department for any of the candidates. Yesterday, Jeopardy! was the No. 1 program on any network among households in the nation’s top market, New York, where Williams, Lauer and Cooper are based. Jeopardy! averaged a 10.0 household rating, edging CBS’ primetime blockbuster The Big Bang Theory (9.1). Lauer’s Today drew less that a third of that, a 2.9 rating. Of course, hosting a syndicated game show, which often films a whole season worth of episodes in a stretch of a couple of months, could be a second job for a top anchor as proven by Meredith Vieira, who juggled hosting Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with her duties on The View and then Today.
Sony TV is not expected to move to serious discussions with potential new Jeopardy! hosts until given an indication by Trebek that he is ready to step down — the studio had made it clear to him that he will be the host for as long as he wants to. But Trebek, who has been emceeing Jeopardy! since its current version launched in 1984, is 72, and last summer suffered a second heart attack. His current contract expires in 2016, and with the show being such a ratings powerhouse, Sony wants to ensure a smooth transition for whenever Trebek asks his final question.