'Jeopardy!' star James Holzhauer's leaker could face legal trouble

America became aware that “Jeopardy!” whiz James Holzhauer’s stunning reign on the game show had come to an end – before the episode had even aired. And now the person or people responsible for leaking that footage could face some serious legal consequences.

“The producers of 'Jeopardy!' (a sophisticated and large TV syndicator) likely have a legal right to address this unauthorized leak of the show,” Seth Berenzweig, a founding and managing partner of Berenzweig Leonard, told FOX Business.

Under licensing agreements, "Jeopardy!" distributes its episodes to local affiliates around the country, which are permitted to air them adherent to strict usage provisions, Berenzweig noted, adding that it appears an affiliate station may have “gone rogue” and put a taped segment on the internet.

America had been tuning to witness Holzhauer’s 32-game winning streak, where his answers were correct an astounding 97 percent of the time. His average per-game winnings were $77,000 per episode.

Even though the clip was eventually disabled online, prominent news outlets had already picked up the story.

“This apparent breach was egregious, given the heightened viewership with the record-setting performance of the contestant, who was on the cusp of breaking the show’s all-time record,” Berenzweig said. “The harm from this is significant, because many viewers may have decided to not watch the show after hearing the spoiler alert, which would decrease ratings for advertisers.”

Despite the spoiler, the "Jeopardy!" episode that aired Monday night was the top-rated installment of the show since May 2005, according to Nielsen. But could viewership have been even higher?

Berenzweig compared the event to someone pirating the final five minutes of HBO’s Game of Thrones finale and releasing it early on social media. He said producers likely have legal claim to pursue whoever leaked the episode.

A producer from the popular game show told The Washington Post on Tuesday that it cannot say who posted the footage just yet, but thinks the show knows “where and who and how.” The producer promised to pursue “very, very, very appropriate” action against the perpetrator(s).

Clips began to leak on Sunday evening, while rumors of Holzhauer’s defeat were widespread by Monday.

Holzhauer fell short of Ken Jenning’s winning record – by slightly more than $58,400. Jennings won more than $2.52 million in regular season play and a total of $3.196 million, including tournaments.


He lost during his 33rd appearance on the game show, winning an additional $2,000 for his second-place finish. His total winnings were $2,464,216.

As previously reported by FOX Business, after the 35-year-old professional sports gambler pays federal taxes, as well as state taxes in California, he will likely take home between 52 percent and 53 percent of his winnings – which would total between $1.2 million and $1.3 million.