Ryan Seacrest, a well-known Hollywood host, was announced as the new host of “Wheel of Fortune” on Tuesday, taking over from the long-time host Pat Sajak in 2024. Sony Pictures Television, the studio that produces the show, has made a significant investment in choosing a popular figure like Mr. Seacrest. This decision highlights the enduring success of “Wheel of Fortune,” which has continued to thrive despite the decline of traditional television due to the rise of streaming entertainment.
Sony executives made a quick decision, only two weeks after Mr. Sajak’s announcement to step down, indicating their desire to prevent a repeat of the chaotic transition that occurred with “Jeopardy!” Additionally, negotiations are underway to keep Vanna White, Mr. Sajak’s co-host on “Wheel of Fortune,” on the show for another year.
“I am honored to follow in the footsteps of the iconic Pat Sajak,” Mr. Seacrest expressed in a statement. “I am eagerly looking forward to upholding the tradition of spinning the wheel and collaborating with the esteemed Vanna White.”Taking over for Mr. Sajak, Mr. Seacrest will encounter a challenge: he will be stepping into the shoes of a host who is closely associated with the show, much like Bob Barker was with “The Price Is Right” or Alex Trebek with “Jeopardy!”.
Mr. Sajak, a former Los Angeles weatherman, as well as Ms. White, came to “Wheel of Fortune” in the early 1980s and turned the show into a major hit. Within a few years, “Wheel of Fortune” spawned board games, video games, casino slot machines and, eventually, a prime-time spinoff, “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.”
“Despite not holding the same position it once did in American society, “Wheel of Fortune” continues to be a highly popular TV show, even though its peak in the 1980s saw over 40 million viewers tuning in every night.”
According to Nielsen, “Wheel of Fortune” had an average nightly viewership of 8.6 million in the most recent television season, which is slightly lower than the 9.1 million viewers of “Jeopardy!”. These audience numbers are comparable to those of prime-time TV shows, except for football games.
Being the host of a popular game show is considered one of the most desirable positions in the entertainment industry. This role requires minimal time commitment, usually only a few days each month. Securing this job enhances Mr. Seacrest’s impressive resume, which already includes various roles such as daytime talk show host, host of competition series, red carpet interviewer, radio host, and master of ceremonies for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
This year, Mr. Seacrest departed from “Live,” the long-running morning show that he co-hosted with Kelly Ripa, after a successful six-year period. He still remains as the host of ABC’s “American Idol,” which drew in over six million viewers in the recent television season, as reported by Nielsen.
After Mr. Sajak’s announcement on June 12 about his departure from the show, there was a belief among people in the entertainment industry that finding a replacement could be a lengthy process. However, speculation about his successor started right away, and numerous fans of “Wheel of Fortune” on social media expressed their desire for Ms. White to assume the hosting role. Last week, Puck magazine reported that she was in talks for a new contract with the show.
Emphasizing the high level of desire among celebrity entertainers for the role, Joy Behar recently mentioned on “The View” that her co-host Whoopi Goldberg expressed interest in hosting “Wheel of Fortune.” Ms. Goldberg enthusiastically declared, “I want that job” to the enthusiastic applause of the live audience, stating that she believed it would be a lot of fun.Following the passing of Mr. Trebek in 2020, Sony introduced a series of potential successors for “Jeopardy!” as guest hosts, with each individual serving for a week or two. In 2021, Sony announced that Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer, would assume the role of host for “Jeopardy!”.
However, in just a few days, news emerged that Mr. Richards had previously made a number of sexist and offensive comments, and as a result of public outrage, he was forced to resign from his position as host and executive producer of the show. It wasn’t until almost a year later that Sony finally revealed Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik as the permanent hosts of “Jeopardy!”.
In the past year, the controversies surrounding “Jeopardy!” have subsided, and the show has maintained its high ratings. During an appearance on “The View” two weeks ago, Mr. Jennings was questioned about who should succeed Mr. Sajak. Mr. Jennings responded with intrigue, suggesting that perhaps “Wheel” has a plan in place for when Pat decides to retire.