After more than 40 years, “Wheel of Fortune” will have a new host greeting its millions of viewers night after night.
Ryan Seacrest is the new host of ‘Wheel of Fortune’
Two weeks after longtime host Pat Sajak announced he would be stepping down from the show, “Wheel of Fortune” has named a permanent replacement: Ryan Seacrest, the entertainment personality who hosted “Live with Kelly and Ryan” for six seasons and has been the host of “American Idol” since 2002, The New York Times reported Tuesday morning.
Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” co-host Vanna White, meanwhile, is on contract for another year and is in negotiations to continue with the show.
“I’m truly humbled to be stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Pat Sajak,” Seacrest said in statement on Twitter. “I can say, along with the rest of America, that it’s been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them.
“Pat, I love the way you’ve always celebrated the contestants and made viewers at home feel at ease,” Seacrest continued. “I look forward to learning everything I can from you during this transition.”
Seacrest also noted that this is somewhat of a “full circle moment” for him, as one of his first jobs was hosting the short-lived Merv Griffin game show “Click” 25 years ago.
“I can’t wait to continue the tradition of spinning the wheel and working alongside the great Vanna White,” he said.
When will Ryan Seacrest begin hosting ‘Wheel of Fortune’?
“Wheel of Fortune” viewers have a little more time with Sajak, who announced earlier this month that he will be hosting the show’s upcoming 41st season that begins in September, NPR reported.
That means Seacrest will take over in 2024.
Sajak, 76, has been with “Wheel” since 1981 — White joined a year later — taking over for original host Chuck Woolery (fun fact: In 1980, a few years before he would host “Jeopardy!” for 36 seasons, the late Alex Trebek hosted “Wheel of Fortune” at the last minute, filling in for Woolery, who was sick).
During his time as host, Sajak won the Daytime Emmy for outstanding game show host three times out of a total 19 nominations, per Variety.
Sony Pictures Television’s decision to name Seacrest as host came quickly — in the days following Sajak’s announcement, reports were already surfacing that Seacrest was a likely candidate, Variety reported. “The View” host Whoopi Goldberg also expressed interest in the gig, while many fans turned to White, who filled in as host when Sajak underwent emergency surgery in 2019.
In its most recent season, “Wheel of Fortune” averaged 8.6 million viewers a night, while “Jeopardy!” brought in an average 9.1 million, per The New York Times.
“The swift decision by executives at Sony Pictures Television ... also suggests that they are hoping to avoid the succession fiasco that nearly overwhelmed their other hit game show, ‘Jeopardy!’” The New York Times reported.
The ‘Jeopardy!’ ‘succession fiasco’
The format of “Jeopardy!” hasn’t changed much over the years, but following Trebek’s death in 2020, the show entered a period of instability.
More than a dozen notable figures — ranging from Aaron Rodgers to Katie Couric to Dr. Oz to LeVar Burton — took a turn behind the hosting lectern before “Jeopardy!” opted to go with its executive producer at the time, Mike Richards.
But that decision proved to be short-lived.
Just nine days after the announcement, Richards resigned as the host when past controversies — including his “offensive language” and disparaging remarks about women’s bodies on a podcast — resurfaced in a report from The Ringer, the Deseret News reported. Several days later, Sony announced it had completely parted ways with Richards, who the company had planned to keep on in an executive producer role.
Richards filmed one week of episodes before his resignation. Jennings and Bialik took turns hosting for the rest of the show’s 38th season. And then in July 2022 — 18 months after Trebek’s death — the show declared Jennings and Bialik the official co-hosts ahead of the Season 39 premiere.
Much of the drama surrounding “Jeopardy!” has since settled, and the show has sustained strong ratings, according to The New York Times.
Jennings told The Washington Post last year he was disappointed in how the “backstage drama” played out in the public eye.
“There was something that aesthetically didn’t feel very ‘Jeopardy!’ about people caring about the backstage drama. It just distracts from the beauty of the show,” he said. “And the drama kind of went against that, just the reliability that I think ‘Jeopardy!’ should symbolize. And I’m relieved to have that back.”