Who is … a gameshow guru?
Columbia TriStar Domestic Television plans to leverage Harry Friedman’s vast gameshow experience under a multiyear deal that calls for the exec producer for “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” — syndie’s top-rated skeins — to expand his duties.
Deal calls for Friedman to continue his role with Columbia TriStar’s long-running franchises and to serve as exec consultant on upcoming revival “Pyramid.”
“For a gameshow producer, this is pretty much the brass ring,” Friedman told Daily Variety. He declined to specify the value of his new deal.
“Everybody fights to get to the top, and yet it’s probably harder to stay on top, which is what Harry has managed to do,” CTDT prexy Steve Mosko added. “When you have someone like Harry in your camp, you’d be crazy not to bring him into the process, to complement what’s already going on.”
Meantime, Columbia TriStar and ABC Family have agreed to repurpose “Pyramid” once a week on the cable network this fall, when the Donny Osmond-hosted series premieres in broadcast syndication. Columbia, which produces and distributes “Pyramid,” has cleared the show on stations covering 95% of the U.S.
Stations on board include WNYW New York, KCAL Los Angeles, WCIU Chicago (which will run the show in prime access and in early fringe), as well as KRON San Francisco. In Dallas, WFAA will pair the show with “Jeopardy!,” leading into “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“It’s an invigorating, exciting, refreshing time to be at Columbia TriStar Domestic Television,” Friedman said of the Sony unit created last fall by the combination of the company’s domestic television operations. “While the company for a long time supported ‘Wheel’ and ‘Jeopardy!’ in a meaningful way, there seems to be a new spirit on the lot that makes it a great place to be.”
Friedman will work closely with Stephen Brown on “Pyramid.” Brown, who has been exec producer, producer, writer or creator on more than 22 gameshows, is exec producing the show.
Friedman joined “Wheel of Fortune” in 1995 as producer and, two years later, added the title of producer of “Jeopardy!” Additionally, he helped launch “Rock & Roll Jeopardy!” on VH1 and was its executive producer.
Friedman’s other gameshow credits include a decade as associate producer/writer on the original “Hollywood Squares.” He was a member of the team that produced more than 3,000 episodes of the hit series between 1971 and 1981. For three years, he also was producer/writer for “The New Hollywood Squares,” among other credits ranging from network primetime specials to documentaries and homevideo.
As of February, “Wheel of Fortune” has been No. 1 in household viewership among all U.S. syndicated programming for 72 consecutive ratings sweeps periods, according to Nielsen. “Jeopardy!” has ranked second for 65 consecutive sweeps. In addition, both series are up 10% in adults 18-49 vs. May 2001. CTDT producers the two gamers, which are distributed by King World Prods.