Ask someone what television's most watched comedy and drama are, and there's a good chance that person will correctly guess The Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones, respectively. Now ask that person if either of those shows is watched by less people than Jeopardy!, and you might get a laugh. But guess what? The game show is technically drawing more linear TV viewers than either of those monster hits, thanks to James Holzhauer's legend-making run.
For the week of April 29, Jeopardy! hit a ratings high that it hadn't seen since 2005 (more on that below) and averaged around 13.28 million viewers per episode that week, which is downright jaw-dropping. Not only for the intimidating size of the number itself, but because it legitimately topped every single Nielsen-rated show's same-day audience for that week, as far as linear TV viewing goes. As such, Jeopardy! beat out Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory.
To break that down a bit further, The Big Bang Theory episode that week, titled "The Plagiarism Schism," was watched by 12.48 million people, around 800,000 fewer people than the average Jeopardy! episode in the same week. The Big Bang Theory cast gets paid more than just about everyone else on TV, so it's perhaps fitting that the show is briefly losing out to a game show contestant whose claim to fame is earning a ton of money.
This is also semi-fitting in another way, since Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki was recently featured as a Jeopardy! clue and answer. In hindsight, it's kind of a shame that Alex Trebek never entered the pantheon of Big Bang Theory guest stars. He was on How I Met Your Mother in 2010, but that was the last CBS sitcom.
The Game of Thrones side of things gets slightly more complicated with the ratings comparison, in the sense that this comparison doesn't account for streaming numbers, according to THR. The Live + Same Day audience for Game of Thrones' episode that week, titled "The Last of the Starks," was around 11.8 million, which is clearly lower than Jeopardy!'s 13.28-million average.
Granted, Game of Thrones racks up a ton of viewers through the HBO Go app and the HBO Now streaming service, so that 11.8 million total is on the lower side. For instance, last week's "The Bells" netted 12.5 million viewers during the TV airtime, and that number topped out at 18.4 million after the totals were added in from streaming platforms. So one can imagine that Episode 4 of the final season reached another 4-5 million people via streaming.
Still, it's not like any other TV shows out there beyond The Big Bang Theory are stepping up and drawing bigger TV crowds than Game of Thrones. As such, Jeopardy! is pretty lonesome up there in its throne.
James Holzhauer's streak has been noticeably boosting Jeopardy!'s numbers for weeks now, as the professional gambler's high-stakes betting has made the game show a hot topic of conversation again. Jeopardy! was hitting an already impressive average of 10.09 million viewers in the first full week of Holzhauer's streak, from April 8-12. In the next three weeks, that average daily viewership grew to 10.67 million, and then to 11.97 million, and finally to 13.28 million. That's a 32% increase in four weeks' time.
As well, Jeopardy! is celebrating its highest household ratings in 14 years, nearly going back to the record-breaking run of current streak holder Ken Jennings. Its 8.3 household rating basically says that for all of the TVs that were on at the time when Jeopardy! was airing, 8.3% of them were watching James Holzhauer blow other contestants out of the water. Not counting the week of Holzhauer's first two victories, these ratings are up 20% over last year at the same time.
In comparison, Ken Jennings' mindblowing run in 2004 had marked a 22% boost over the prior year's ratings. So if James Holzhauer can keep the streak alive for a couple more weeks, he could very well set another unexpected Jeopardy! record.
Jeopardy! fanatics are well aware that James Holzhauer hasn't been around recently, since recent weeks have been devoted to the game show's annual Teachers Tournament. He will return to the competition on Monday, May 20. Because the show airs in syndication, check your local listings to see when it's playing in your area.