‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Jeopardy’ dropped from CBC-TV fall schedule

TORONTO – The CBC is dropping its popular but long-contentious U.S. imports “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

The public broadcaster says the supper-hour game shows will not return as part of the CBC-TV’s fall schedule after four-year-long contracts expire this summer.

CBC’s director of content planning said the series were part of an old strategy to draw attention to homegrown shows and had served their purpose.

“They were a crutch and we don’t need them anymore,” Christine Wilson said Tuesday.

“Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” were brought in as lead-ins to Canadian shows under previous CBC English Services boss Richard Stursberg. At the time, the move was attacked by some critics who feared commercial ambitions would water down the network’s public mandate.

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Last year, Stursberg’s replacement, Kirstine Stewart, said the game shows had successfully brought soaring ratings to the broadcaster and that it was time to weed U.S. imports out of the CBC.

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The chop comes as the network copes with hefty budget cuts that it says has also forced them to shelve “Battle of the Blades,” “Redemption Inc.,” “Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays” and “Being Erica.”

Wilson said the last episodes of “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” will air Sept. 14.

She said the CBC was in a much different position when the game shows were added to the lineup in 2008, noting that its 8 o’clock ratings have since risen 20 per cent.

“The situation at that point was that we didn’t have a base of programs from which we could promote our new crop of Canadian shows,” said Wilson.

“We picked up a couple of imports so that we kind of guarantee ourselves every night we’d have a million people to whom we could promote the 8 o’clock lineup, the 8:30 lineup, the 9 o’clock lineup. And it worked.”

Several CBC-TV series can now boast of million-plus viewers, including “Arctic Air,” “Mr. D,” “Dragons’ Den,” “Republic of Doyle” and “Marketplace.”

A spokesman says CBC will announce replacement series for “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” at the network’s fall launch next week.

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