"JEOPARDY!" STREAK OVER
Ken Jennings Loses in 75th Game, Takes Home a Record-Setting $2,520,700
Culver City, CA, November 30, 2004 - Television's longest winning streak in game show history came to an end today when Ken Jennings lost on Jeopardy! After appearing on 75 shows, and winning over $2.5 million, Jennings finally met his match in Nancy Zerg, a realtor from Ventura, California.
Since his first Jeopardy! appearance on June 2, Jennings, a software engineer from Salt Lake City, Utah, has become the buzz of water coolers across the nation. With 74 consecutive wins and $2,520,700 in total cash winnings, Jennings, 30, now holds the records for most money ever won on a television game show, as well as the most victories.
Zerg, a former actress who bypassed college for a life of theatre, music and travel, did what 150 people could not...defeat master player Jennings. And she did it the old-fashioned way: she earned it. Going into the Final Jeopardy! round of the show, Zerg trailed Jennings $14,400 to $10,000, and it all came down to this question:
Final Jeopardy! Category: Business and Industry
Clue: Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year
Zerg's response of "What is H & R Block?" was correct, and brought her total to $14,401. Jennings, who incorrectly responded, "What is Fed Ex?", dropped to second place with $8799.
"Nancy was great...her timing was just right on," said Jennings. "It was not a fluke. She knew things I didn't know," he continued. "I thought, Nancy, good for you, you totally deserve this."
"It hasn't sunk in. Ken is just so good!" said new champion Zerg. "I think we both played well, but I got lucky with categories that I knew and he just happened to hit a couple of Daily Double clues that he didn't know." Zerg, a wife and mother, continued, "It took a good 15 minutes before I even realized that those points on the board were actually money!".
In his string of Jeopardy! appearances, Jennings gave over 2700 correct responses on subjects from Shakespeare to Hip-Hop. He became an audience and media favorite. He has been featured on the front page of USA Today, presented the "Top Ten List" on the Late Show with David Letterman, shared the couch with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, and was named Person of the Week by ABC World News Tonight.
This week, the media continues to line up to acknowledge Jennings' accomplishments. The Tuesday, Nov. 30 episode of Nightline is devoted to Jennings and Jeopardy! Wednesday, Dec. 1, A&E's Biography spotlights Jennings and other Jeopardy! champions. Jennings appears on the Late Show with David Letterman (Tues.), Good Morning America (Wed.) and Live with Regis and Kelly (Wed.). Jennings has also been selected by Barbara Walters for inclusion in her yearly special as one of the Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004 (air date Dec. 8).
Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek shared a few comments about the show's most famous winning streak, "Ken is an amazing player and his record speaks for itself," said Trebek. "I very much doubt that we will ever see an accomplishment like this again. Ken's one of a kind."
What is the best thing Jennings will take away from this whole experience? "During my life, I think I made a lot of safe and practical choices," Jennings states. "I never took a chance or did something that for me would be a dream. And being on Jeopardy! has been that dream," continued Jennings. "You are much happier, I think, when you go for the long shot and play to your strengths instead of always doing the safe easy thing. I'm very grateful to this experience, if nothing else, for having taught me that."
A look back at the highlights and the milestones Ken Jennings has achieved:
JUNE 2: Makes his first appearance on Jeopardy!, winning $37,201
JULY 13: Breaks the $1,000,000 mark in cash winnings
SEPTEMBER 15: Breaks record for the longest winning streak on any game show in television history (43 shows)
NOVEMBER 3: Makes history as the All-Time Top Game Show Cash Winner, amassing winnings of $2,197,000
NOVEMBER 30: Jennings is defeated by California Realtor Nancy Zerg. His final grand total is $2,520,700.
During the period Jennings appeared on Jeopardy!, ratings for the quiz show were up 22% over the same period the preceding year, and for several weeks of the winnings streak, Jeopardy! was ranked as TV's highest-rated syndicated program. (Source: Nielsen TV National People Meter)
A Jeopardy! rule change introduced in 2003 allows contestants to continue playing as long as they keep winning. Previously, champions had been limited to five wins. Jeopardy!, a winner of 24 Emmy awards since its debut in 1984, is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company, and is distributed domestically by King World Productions, Inc. The series is distributed internationally by CBS Paramount International Television.