Million dollar winners are usually people who have won a game show or other contest with a large cash prize. The winnings from these shows are generally paid out in a lump sum, though some can be stretched out over time to avoid expensive taxes. While these wins are life-changing, it is important to plan for them carefully and speak with a financial advisor before spending any money.
In the United States, there have been at least three different shows that have awarded million-dollar prizes. One was the original primetime version of Millionaire, which aired from 2000 to 2002. The other two were the syndicated versions of Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune, both of which have awarded one-million-dollar prizes. A few years later, a game show called Powerball began awarding multi-million-dollar jackpots to its winners.
When Millionaire was first put into syndication, it was sold to WCBS-TV in New York City. The station was hoping to boost its ratings in the prestigious 4:00 p.m. weekday timeslot that had previously housed the network primetime quiz show Weakest Link, and also the nationally syndicated talk show Judge Judy. Unfortunately, the program struggled to cut into the audience for either of these competitors, and was dropped from WCBS’s schedule just a few months after it debuted in syndication.
The next year, the series was picked up by another large market television station, WSBC-TV in Baltimore. The station hoped to improve its ratings in the similarly competitive timeslot that was hosting the daytime talk show Oprah Winfrey and the nationally syndicated game show Jeopardy! Despite the addition of Millionaire, however, the show still struggled to break into the market. It was eventually moved to a less-competitive timeslot of 10:00 p.m. in 2004.
For the first four rounds of the game, a contestant’s initial winnings depended on whether or not they answered the question correctly. The first question was worth a guaranteed $1,000, while questions five through ten were each worth a set amount of money. The only exception was the bonus round, which always had a guarantee of $10,000. In some weeks, one of the first-round questions would be designated as being worth double its usual value, thus increasing the maximum potential bank to $100,000.
The runner-ups in each game were given the option to take half of their total earnings or walk away with all of them. However, they were not allowed to keep any winnings that they hadn’t already earned through the normal rules of the game. The winner received the remaining half in a lump sum, while the runners-up received their prizes in equal annual payments over a period of 20 years.
The first person to win a million dollars on Wheel of Fortune was a North Texas woman named Brittany Juarez. The lucky winner won the coveted case that had been shown on television to viewers, which contained a $1,000,000 check and a variety of other items. The episode was filmed in December of that year, and the winner was announced at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant on January 2.