'Wheel,' 'Jeopardy!' to Start New Season in HD

The two highest-rated syndicated American game shows, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" are currently shooting in HD at their Sony-equipped studios in Culver City, Calif., for their new season launch next month. It's believed to be the first time that any U.S. syndicated programming will jump to HD on a regular basis, according to published reports.

Syndicator King World and Sony Pictures Television spent about $4 million to upgrade both longtime shows, including HD equipment and design, as well as construction of two new sets. Both programs typically shoot a few weeks in advance of their airdates, with the first HD programs scheduled to run Monday, Sept. 11.

Although SD broadcasts will continue to air in 4:3 aspect ratio, the emergence of such high-profile syndicated fare in HD could encourage some of the programs' 200-plus stations to upgrade their respective HD capabilities faster beyond simple network pass-through, which is all that's needed to rely network primetime directly from the source to local air. "Wheel" and "Jeopardy!" typically run back-to-back in the hour block prior to primetime in each of America's six time zones, stripped across the week.

At least a quarter of the shows' local affiliates reportedly will be able to air the programs on their HD channels starting in September, with more stations ready to add local origination in the months ahead.

Another difference "Jeopardy!" viewers will notice next month is a wider video wall that has replaced the traditional board of 4:3-shaped TV "answer monitors."