'Jeopardy' winner James Holzhauer is likely shaking up the game show's budget

Key Points
  • 'Jeopardy' contestant James Holzhauer has won nearly $1 million in the past 13 shows.
  • In the past, the average single-show earnings were about $20,000, according to The Atlantic.
This image made from video aired on "Jeopardy!" on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, and provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc. shows James Holzhauer.
Jeopardy Productions, Inc. | AP

"Jeopardy" contestant James Holzhauer may be making the game show's accountants tremble, according to a media report.

Holzhauer, who has been setting records over the past 13 episodes, set a single-show record of $131,127 in winnings, according to The Atlantic. Since Monday's episode aired, he's won around $943,000 and is on track to reach $2.5 million — the record set by Ken Jennings — in half the time. Jennings scored his prize after 74 consecutive wins, and his best one-day tally was $75,000.

Since the average single-show earnings come in around $20,000, the Atlantic looked into how much Holzhauer's earnings would take out of the show's budget.

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"Typically, for a long-running show the prize budget is determined by way of averages of what has been won in the past," Bob Boden, former head of programming at Game Show Network, told The Atlantic. "James' performance, I'm sure, is causing grief for an accountant somewhere."

Oftentimes, shows take out insurance policies. Usually that's reserved for shows with rare but high earnings, such as "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Boden said he doesn't think "Jeopardy" has the same policy because it usually awards more modest winnings.

But even with a successful contestant, game shows' budgets usually allocate more to on-air talent and production crews, said Boden. The Atlantic reported longtime host Alex Trebek's yearly pay is $10 million.

There is a lot of buzz around Holzhauer's performance, which could draw in more viewers. That in turn, could boost advertisement sales.

Read the full report from The Atlantic here.