Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Wheel of Fortune: Time to Turn the Page

An era came to an end in Normandy yesterday. And another one—admittedly one of much lesser significance—comes to an end today. After 41 years and 8,000+ episodes (both records), Pat Sajak will end his run as the host of the game show Wheel of Fortune with today's episode.

What does this have to do with politics? Well, we've written a little bit about this before, but Wheel of Fortune draws a fairly large audience—about 8 million people per episode, which would be Nielsen Top 10 territory if it was a primetime network program. It also draws the oldest audience on TV; the average viewer is well north of 65 years of age. And so, the show is very popular with political campaigns. You have a large audience of people who vote and who share many of the same political concerns (Social Security, prescription drug prices, etc.). So, a commercial aired during Wheel of Fortune offers great "bang for the buck"—the best of any show on TV, in fact, according to Republican and Democratic operatives.

More than a decade ago, the most enthusiastic purchaser of ad time on Wheel of Fortune was... Barack Obama, to great effect. Since then, the advertising has skewed much more rightward. The new host will be Ryan Seacrest, who is pleasant and very milquetoast, meaning he's an ideal game show host. However he's different from Sajak in three obvious ways: Seacrest does not have the familiarity that 40 years on TV brings, he's almost 30 years younger than Sajak and he's not an outspoken conservative like Sajak is.

Maybe the show's audience will hold, despite the change (although there was some slippage with The Price Is Right when Bob Barker handed the reins over to Drew Carey, for what it's worth). Anyhow, this is not a story of major importance, but it's still worth noting, because there could be a small but palpable change in the political mediascape. (Z)

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