‘Wheel of Fortune’: How Does the Game Show Generate Prize Money?

by Emily Morgan

A former “Wheel of Fortune” contestant is spilling the beans on his experience as a winner. Josh Woo appeared on the popular game show back in 2014 and won big, taking home over $40,000.

Yet, things may not be as they seem. In 2015, Woo revealed what it was like to be a winner and the stipulations that came with his winnings. In addition, “Wheel of Fortune” isn’t the only game show you may have seen him on. According to Woo, he’s won cash and prizes from three different game shows that totaled up to $77,421.

In his article, “Game Show Winner Pulls Back the Curtain on Prizes,” Woo does a deep dive into how the show generates its money and reveals the strings that come attached to the earnings.

In his piece, he refers to Art Alisi, the president of Promotional Considerations, Inc., who gives insight into the topic. “The network may give them, let’s say, $50,000 a week for their prize budget,” Alisi said. “And the show wants to give away $150,000, so they have to use the fee spots, and that brings them the extra revenue that they’re looking for.”

According to Woo, the fee spots are typically shown at the end of the episode. Then, the revenue from these spots is dumped into the weekly prize budget for the game show.

Alisi added, because “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” have been the top two game shows in syndication for roughly forever, they command a high price for these 10-second promotions. The typical going rate for one of those spots is $15,000.” The show will use that money to pay for cash prizes given away. In addition, the game show can also use the funds to buy other material rewards, like cars.

All That Glitters Isn’t Gold on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

“So now we have to buy the cars, unless we do a special promotion with somebody,” Alisi said. “Most of the time we have to buy the cars, we have to figure that as a cost. And we work with the different dealers, so we usually get it at their cost.”

However, the shows may not purchase every prize you see in the episode. Vacations, a standard prize on game shows, are rarely purchased. Instead, the show gets them through contract, former “Wheel of Fortune” prize coordinator Adam Nedeff explained.

“At the time, we would contract them for two trips. The first trip was for the ‘Prize Puzzle,’ a guaranteed win,” he revealed. “The second would go to a viewer who played along from home.” For Woo, he found himself the lucky winner of a vacation. His prize included a five-hour private jet flight, valued at $25,000. However, there were rules.

“The plane would only take me 2½ hours outside of Los Angeles, then 2½ back. I had to spend at least two days in my destination before returning home and any expenses incurred in my destination city were my responsibility.”

Sadly, Woo forfeited the prize and didn’t get anything in return. Moreover, he couldn’t sell the plane ticket even if he accepted the ticket.