Champs-vs.-machine stunt helps gameshow to six-year high

A three-day exhibition match pitting man vs. machine has boosted syndicated gameshow giant “Jeopardy” to its best ratings in years.

The Monday-Wednesday stunt, in which IBM’s specially designed computer Watson had no problem defeating all-time champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, averaged a hefty 9.1 household rating in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights.

Monday did an 8.8, Tuesday a 9.5 and Wednesday a 9.1, putting it behind only Fox’s “American Idol” (14.5) among all programs for the day.

The three-day average of 9.2 is a huge 31% gain over “Jeopardy’s” average at this time a year ago (7.0) and reps the best run for the long-running quizshow since Jennings and Rutter squared off in a champions’ tournament in May 2005.

During its three days, “Jeopardy” achieved double-digit ratings in 24 of Nielsen’s 56 metered-markets, including top 10 cities New York (11.9), Philadelphia (12.8) and San Francisco (11.3). The gameshow also topped “Idol” to stand as the Wednesday program watched in the most homes in Orlando, Fla. (13.6 rating), Pittsburgh (14.7), Richmond, Va. (12.9) and Fort Myers, Fla. (13.7).

Sony Pictures TV’s “Jeopardy” is consistently the second most-popular syndicated series on television, behind only “Wheel of Fortune.” In its most recent week for which full ratings info was available (Jan. 31-Feb. 4), it averaged 11 million viewers and a 1.8 rating in adults 18-49.

For the season, it is averaging nearly 10 million viewers.

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