The show has had three separate runs; the original run from 1976 to 1985 aired on ABC during the daytime, and had a separate nighttime edition that ran in syndication and was also hosted by Richard Dawson. In 1988, the series was revived and aired on CBS and also had a nighttime syndication edition. This version was hosted by Ray Combs until 1994, and brought back Richard Dawson for the 1994–1995 season. A third run began in 1999 in syndication only, and continues to run to this day, being hosted by a series of different hosts, including Louie Anderson (1999–2002), Richard Karn (2002–2006), John O'Hurley (2006–2010), and Steve Harvey (2010–present). Aside from the hosts, there have been several studio announcers who would introduce the contestants and read credits. These have included Gene Wood (1976–1985, 1988–1995), Burton Richardson (1999–2010), Joey Fatone (2010–2015), and Rubin Ervin (2015–present). Within a year of its debut, the original version became the number one game show in daytime television; however, as viewing habits changed, the ratings declined. Harvey's takeover in 2010 increased Nielsen ratings significantly and eventually placed the program among the top three most popular syndicated television shows in the country. Harvey has also surpassed every previous host to date in length of single consecutive tenures, although Dawson hosted more episodes of the show. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Family Feud third in its list of the 60 greatest game shows of all time.
The program has spawned multiple regional adaptations in over 50 international markets outside the United States. Reruns of Steve Harvey-hosted episodes air on Game Show Network, while reruns of earlier versions air on Buzzr. Aside from television shows, there have been also many home editions produced in board game, interactive film, and video game formats.
Two family teams of five contestants (reduced to four contestants for the 1994–95 season) each compete to win cash and prizes. The original version of the show began with the families being introduced, seated opposite each other as if posing for family portraits, after which the host interviewed them.
The minimum age to participate in Family Feud is 15, although every family must have at least one person who is 18 years or older. Each round begins with a "face-off" question that serves as a toss-up between two opposing contestants. The host asks a survey question that was previously posed to a group of 100 people, e.g. 100 single women or men, etc. (e.g., "This was asked to 100 single men. Name the hour that you get up on Sunday mornings."). A certain number of answers are concealed on the board, ranked by popularity of the survey's responses. Only answers said by at least two people can appear on the board. The first contestant to buzz-in gives an answer; if it is the most popular, his/her family immediately wins the face-off. Otherwise, the opponent responds and the family member providing the higher-ranked answer wins. Ties are broken in favor of the contestant who buzzes in first. If neither contestant's answer is on the board, the other eight contestants have a chance to respond, one at a time from alternating sides, until an answer is revealed. The family that wins the face-off may choose to play the question or pass control to their opponents (except on the 1988–95 versions, when the family who won the face-off automatically gained control of the question).
The family with control of the question then tries to win the round by guessing all of the remaining concealed answers, with each member giving one answer in sequence. Giving an answer not on the board, or failing to respond within the allotted time, earns one strike. If the family earns three strikes, their opponents are given one chance to "steal" the points for the round by guessing any remaining concealed answer; failing to do so awards the points back to the family that originally had control. From 1992 to 2003, the value of the "stealing" answer would be credited to the "stealing" family. If the opponents are given the opportunity to "steal" the points, then only their team's captain is required to answer the question. For most of the series, this is done after the family confers with each other; the only exception was on the 1988 series where each family member was polled for an answer with the team captain having the option to either select one of the family's answers or give a different answer. Any remaining concealed answers on the board that were not guessed are then revealed.
Answers are worth one point for every person in the 100-member survey who gave them. The winning family in each round scores the total points for all revealed answers to that question, including those given during the face-off but excluding the one used to steal (if applicable). The number of answers on the board decreases from round to round, and as the game progresses, certain rounds are played for double or triple point value.
For most of the show's existence, the first team to reach or surpass a certain point total won the game. The most common goal has been 300 points but there have been exceptions. When the original series first premiered, the goal was 200 points and for its final year, it was increased to 400 points. The only time a goal was not used was for the first four years of the 1999 syndicated series, where the highest scoring family after four rounds, the last of which was played for triple points and used only one strike, was declared the winner. From the debut of the original series until 1992, families were awarded $1 per point scored.
On the first two series a match continued until a family reached the goal. The current series continues to be played in four rounds, but if neither family reaches 300 by the end of the fourth round a sudden death question is played. The question consists of only the #1 answer in a survey and is played for triple point value.
In the original periodic Primetime Specials, three games were played, with the first two using the original scoring system. For Game 3, just one question round was done, with the winning two celebrity teams from the previous rounds playing.
Two members of the winning family play Fast Money for a chance to win a cash bonus. One contestant is onstage with the host, while the other is sequestered backstage with headphones so that they cannot see or hear the first portion of the round. The first contestant is asked five rapid-fire survey questions and has a set time limit in which to answer them (originally 15 seconds, extended to 20 in 1994). The clock begins to run only after the first question is asked, and the first contestant may pass on a question and return to it after all five have been asked, if time remains.
After the first contestant has either answered all five questions or run out of time, the board is cleared except for the total score, and the second contestant is then brought out to answer the same five questions. The same rules are followed, but the time limit is extended by five seconds (originally 20, then extended to 25); in addition, if the second contestant duplicates an answer given by the first, a buzzer sounds and they must give another answer. If the two contestants reach a combined total of 200 points or more, the family wins the bonus. If not, they are given $5 per point scored as a consolation prize.
The grand prize for winning Fast Money has varied. When the program aired in daytime, families played for $5,000. The grand prize for syndicated episodes was $10,000 for much of its existence. In 2001, at the request of then-host Louie Anderson, the prize was doubled to $20,000, where it has remained since.
In the original periodic Primetime Specials, each game was followed by a Fast Money round. The first two were each worth $5,000 with the final one being worth $10,000.
When Family Feud premiered on ABC, network rules dictated how much a family could win. Once any family reached $25,000, they were retired as champions. The accompanying syndicated series that premiered in 1977 featured two new families each episode because of tape bicycling (a practice then common in syndicated television in which individual stations would send an episode of a series they had already aired to another station, reducing the number of tapes a syndicator had to send out but also ensuring that stations would not air the same episode of a show the same day, nor would they be assured of airing in a proper sequence).
The CBS daytime and syndicated versions which began airing in 1988 also featured returning champions, who could appear for a maximum of five days. For a brief period in the 1994–95 season which aired in syndication, there were no returning champions. For these episodes, two new families competed in this first half of each episode. The second half featured former champion families who appeared on Family Feud between 1977 and 1985, with the winner of the first half of the show playing one of these families in the second half.
From 1999 to 2002, two new families appeared on each episode. The returning champions rule was reinstated with the same five-day limit starting with the 2002–03 season. Starting with the 2009–10 season, a family that wins five matches also wins a new car (currently a Ford Ranger).
In June 1992, the CBS daytime edition of Feud expanded from 30 to 60 minutes and became known as the Family Feud Challenge. As part of the change, a new round was added at the start of each game called "Bullseye". This round determined the potential Fast Money stake for each team. Each team was given a starting value for their bank and attempted to come up with the top answer to a survey question to add to it. The Bullseye round was added to the syndicated edition in September 1992, which remained 30 minutes and was retitled as the New Family Feud.
The first two members of each family appeared at the face-off podium and were asked a question to which only the number-one answer was available. Giving the top answer added the value for that question to the family's bank. The process then repeated with the four remaining members from each family. On the first half of the daytime version, families were staked with $2,500. The first question was worth $500, with each succeeding question worth $500 more than the previous, with the final question worth $2,500. This allowed for a potential maximum bank of $10,000. For the second half of the daytime version, and also on the syndicated version, all values were doubled, making the maximum potential bank $20,000. The team that eventually won the game played for their bank in Fast Money.
When Richard Dawson returned as host of the program in 1994, the round's name was changed to the "Bankroll" round. Although the goal remained of giving only the number-one answer, the format was modified to three questions from five, with only one member of each family participating for all three questions. The initial stake for each family remained the same ($2,500 in the first half of the hour and $5,000 in the second). However, the value for each question was $500, $1,500 and $2,500 in the first half, with values doubling for the second half. This meant a potential maximum bank of $7,000 in the first half and $14,000 in the second.
The Bullseye round temporarily returned during the 2009–10 season. It was played similarly to the format used from 1992 to 1994 on the syndicated version, with five questions worth from $1,000 to $5,000. However, each family was given a $15,000 starting stake, which meant a potential maximum of a $30,000 bank.
Hosts and announcers
When Family Feud was conceived in 1976, Richard Dawson (then a panelist regular on the Goodson–Todman game show Match Game) had a standing agreement with Mark Goodson that when the next Goodson–Todman game show was produced, Dawson would be given an audition to host it. Dawson had read in trade publications that a pilot for a new show named Family Feud was in the works, and it was originally to be hosted by Star Trek actor William Shatner (although since they were involved in the run-throughs, Geoff Edwards, and Jack Narz, who reputedly was Goodson's initial choice to host, were under consideration). Incensed, Dawson sent his agent to Goodson to threaten an un-funny, silent, and bland Dawson on future Match Game episodes if Dawson was not given an audition for Feud. Luckily, Goodson gave in, and Dawson ultimately won the hosting job. Thus, the original ABC and first syndicated versions of Family Feud were hosted by Dawson. As writer David Marc put it, Dawson's on-air personality "fell somewhere between the brainless sincerity of Wink Martindale and the raunchy cynicism of Chuck Barris". Dawson showed himself to have insistent affections for all of the female members of each family that competed on the show, regardless of age. Writers Tim Brooks, Jon Ellowitz, and Earle F. Marsh attributed Family Feud's popularity to Dawson's "glib familiarity" (he had previously played Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes) and "ready wit" (from his tenure as a panelist on Match Game). The show's original announcer was Gene Wood, with Johnny Gilbert and Rod Roddy serving as occasional substitutes.
In 1988, Ray Combs took over Dawson's role as host on CBS and in syndication with Wood returning as announcer and Roddy and Art James serving in that role when Wood was not available. Combs hosted the program until the daytime version's cancellation in 1993 and the syndicated version until the end of the 1993–94 season. Dawson returned to the show at the request of Mark Goodson Productions for the 1994–95 season.
When Feud returned to syndication in 1999, it was initially hosted by Louie Anderson, with Burton Richardson as the new announcer. Richard Karn was selected to take over for Anderson when season four premiered in 2002, and when season eight premiered in 2006, Karn was replaced by John O'Hurley. In 2010, both O'Hurley and Richardson departed from the show; O'Hurley later stated that he left because he was resistant toward the show's decision to emphasize ribald humor and wanted to keep the show family-friendly. Steve Harvey was named the new host for season twelve, and announcements were made using a pre-recorded track of Joey Fatone's voice until 2015, when Rubin Ervin, who has been a member of the production staff as the warmup man for the audience since Harvey took over, became the announcer (Richardson still announces for Celebrity Family Feud).
The first four versions of the show were directed by Paul Alter and produced by Howard Felsher and Cathy Dawson. For the 1988 versions, Gary Dawson worked with the show as a third producer, and Alter was joined by two other directors, Marc Breslow and Andy Felsher. The 1999 version's main staff include executive producer Gabrielle Johnston, co-executive producers Kristin Bjorklund, Brian Hawley and Sara Dansby, and director Ken Fuchs; Johnston and Bjorklund previously worked as associate producers of the 1980s version. The show's classic theme tune was written by an uncredited Walt Levinsky for Score Productions. The theme and cues for the 1994-1995 version was written by Edd Kalehoff and are based the Walt Levinsky composition. The themes used from 1999 to 2008 were written by John Lewis Parker. The production rights to the show were originally owned by the production company Goodson shared with his partner Bill Todman, but were sold to their current holder, Fremantle, when it acquired all of Goodson and Todman's works in 2002.
Mark Goodson created Family Feud during the increasing popularity of his earlier game show, Match Game, which set daytime ratings records in 1976, and on which Dawson was appearing as one of its most popular panelists. Match Game aired on CBS, and by 1976, CBS vice president Fred Silverman, who had originally commissioned Match Game, had moved to a new position as president of ABC. The show, along with a revised Daytime schedule for the summer, was first announced by ABC at an annual meeting in May. The show premiered on ABC's daytime lineup at 1:30 PM (ET)/12:30 PM (CT/MT/PT) on July 12, 1976, and although it was not an immediate hit, before long it became a ratings winner and eventually surpassed Match Game to become the highest-rated game show on daytime TV.
Due to the expansion of All My Children to one hour in April 1977, the show was moved to 11:30/10:30 AM, as the second part of an hour that had daytime reruns of Happy Days (later Laverne & Shirley) as its lead-in. When $20,000 Pyramid was cancelled in June 1980, it moved a half-hour back to 12 noon/11:00 AM. It remained the most popular daytime game show until Merv Griffin's game show Wheel of Fortune surpassed it in 1984. From May 8, 1978 until May 25, 1984, ABC periodically broadcast hour-long primetime "All-Star Specials", in which celebrity casts from various primetime lineup TV series competed instead of ordinary families. The popularity of the program inspired Goodson to consider producing a nighttime edition, which launched in syndication on September 19, 1977 with Viacom Enterprises as distributor. Like many other game shows at the time, the nighttime Feud aired once a week; it expanded to twice a week in January 1979, and finally to five nights a week (Monday through Friday) in the fall of 1980. However, the viewing habits of both daytime and syndicated audiences were changing. When Griffin launched Wheel's syndicated version, starring Pat Sajak and Vanna White, in 1983, that show climbed the ratings to the point where it unseated Feud as the highest-rated syndicated show; the syndicated premiere of Wheel's sister show Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek as host also siphoned ratings from Feud with its early success. With declining ratings, and as part of a scheduling reshuffle with two of ABC's half-hour soaps, the show moved back to the 11:30/10:30 timeslot in October 1984, as the second part of a one-hour game show block with Trivia Trap (later All-Star Blitz) as its lead in, hoping to make a dent in the ratings of The Price Is Right.
Despite the ratings decline, there was some interest in keeping the show in production. In a 2010 interview, Dawson recalled a meeting with executives from Viacom about renewing the show for one more season. Dawson was growing tired of the grueling taping schedule and initially wanted to stop altogether. After discussing the situation with ABC and Viacom, Dawson said that he would return for a final syndicated season of thirty-nine weeks of episodes but would not continue doing the daytime series. After this, Dawson did not hear from Viacom for approximately a week and once they contacted him again, Dawson was told that Viacom was no longer interested in continuing the syndicated Feud beyond the 1984–85 season. Viacom made this official in January 1985 ahead of that year's NATPE convention, and within a few weeks, ABC decided that it too would not renew Feud for the 1985–86 season. The daytime version came to an end on June 14, 1985. The final week was taped a month prior on May 16. Newspapers via Associated Press reported that this version was slated to end on June 28. However, for reasons unclear, it ended two weeks prior to that instead. The syndicated version aired its last new episode on May 17, 1985, with reruns continuing to air until September of that year.
Family Feud moved to CBS with Ray Combs hosting the show on July 4, 1988 at 10:00 AM (ET)/9:00 AM (CT/MT/PT), replacing The $25,000 Pyramid (which had aired continuously in that time slot since September 1982, except between January and April 1988, when Blackout took its place; CBS began development on Family Feud shortly after Blackout was canceled). Like its predecessor, this version also had an accompanying syndicated edition which launched in September of that year. It moved to 10:30/9:30 in January 1991 to make room for a short-lived talk show starring Barbara De Angelis. At that time frame, it replaced the daytime Wheel of Fortune, which moved back to NBC. In June 1992, the network version expanded from its original half-hour format to a full hour, and was retitled The Family Feud Challenge; this new format featured three families per episode, which included two new families competing in the first half-hour for the right to play the returning champions in the second half. The Family Feud Challenge aired its final new episode on March 26, 1993, with reruns airing until September 10. The syndicated Feud, meanwhile, remained in production and entered its sixth season in the fall of 1993.
At this point in its run, the syndicated Feud had been dealing with a consistent ratings downturn for several years. Although the series was initially able to secure time frames in desirable hours such as the Prime Time Access hour, stations quickly found that other programming, such as tabloid news magazine programs such as A Current Affair, Inside Edition and Hard Copy were drawing higher ratings and thus sought those shows to replace Feud. Some stations dropped the syndicated Feud outright, while others relocated it to lower-rated time frames such as overnights. The decline eventually resulted in the ratings bottoming out in 1992–93.
Distributor All American Television informed Mark Goodson Productions that, unless there was an uptick in the ratings or changes made to the program, they would cease distributing Family Feud at the end of the 1993–94 season. The responsibility for this was all in the hands of Jonathan Goodson, who had taken over his father's company when Mark Goodson died in 1992. One of the options considered were a host change, which reached a consensus that Combs would be voted out of the show to make way for his predecessor, Richard Dawson.
This ran counter to his father's original decision, as Mark Goodson was loyal to Combs from the moment that he hired him and had refused to even consider Dawson due to the trouble he caused for the production staff of the original series. Many members of the original production staff were also working on the revival series and held lingering negative feelings toward Dawson. However, Jonathan Goodson did not have the ties to Combs that his father did, and felt that the change had to at least be necessary in order to keep the production intact.
After a rigorous staff meeting, Goodson offered Dawson a contract to return as host of the syndicated Feud, and the semi-retired Dawson agreed to return. Combs was able to finish out the remainder of the season, and, after his final episode that was filmed in early 1994, he signed off and left the studio without even saying goodbye to anybody.
A revamped Family Feud returned for a seventh season in September 1994, with Dawson returning as the host. The show expanded from thirty to sixty minutes, reinstated the Family Feud Challenge format, and did various other things to try to improve the ratings of the show such as modernizing the set, feature families that had previously been champions on the original Feud, and have more themed weeks. Although Dawson did bring a brief ratings surge when he came back, the show could not sustain it long term, and Feud came to a conclusion at the end of the season. Its final new episode aired on May 26, 1995, with reruns airing until September 8. The show ceased production for nearly four years after failing to come to an agreement with various companies. Outside of the show, former Family Feud host Ray Combs, whose life was falling apart due to financial ruin, died on June 2, 1996 by hanging himself in a Glendale psychiatric ward.
Family Feud returned in syndication on September 20, 1999, with comedian Louie Anderson as the next host. Anderson hosted the show for nearly three years until his release in 2002. After Anderson's release, Richard Karn took over the show. The format was changed to reintroduce returning champions, allowing them to appear for up to five days. However, even after Karn's takeover, Anderson-hosted episodes continued in reruns that aired on PAX TV/Ion Television. Karn hosted the show for four years, and then, it was John O'Hurley at the helm. The show's Nielsen ratings were at 1.5, putting it in danger of cancellation once again (as countless affiliates that carried the show from 1999 to 2010 aired in daytime, graveyard or low-rated time slots). O'Hurley would host the show for four years, and was succeeded by Steve Harvey. Harvey's first show was broadcast on July 10, 2010 and featured Daku and Douglas families, with the latter one winning the game and achieving 214 points in Fast Money, thus winning $20,000. With Harvey at the helm, ratings increased by as much as 40%, and within two short years, the show was rated at 4.0, and had become the fifth most popular syndicated program. Fox News' Paulette Cohn argued that Harvey's "relatability," or "understanding of what the people at home want to know," is what saved the show from cancellation; Harvey himself debated, "If someone said an answer that was so ridiculous, I knew that the people at home behind the camera had to be going, 'What did they just say?' … They gave this answer that doesn't have a shot in hell of being up there. The fact that I recognize that, that's comedic genius to me. I think that's [what made] the difference."
Since Harvey became host, Family Feud has regularly ranked among the top 10 highest-rated programs in all of daytime television programming and third among game shows (behind Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!); in February 2014, the show achieved a 6.0 share in the Nielsen ratings, with approximately 8.8 million viewers. In June 2015, Family Feud eclipsed Wheel of Fortune as the most-watched syndicated game show on television, and consistently began ranking among the top three shows in all of syndication. Under Harvey, the show has had better syndication clearances and better timeslots. It has been airing in early fringe and prime access slots nationwide.
Reruns of the Dawson, Combs, Anderson and Karn hosted episodes have been included among Buzzr's acquisitions since its launch on June 1, 2015. In 2019, reruns of the Karn hosted episodes started airing on Up TV during the morning hours. On June 13, 2016, American episodes hosted by Harvey began airing on the UK digital terrestrial and satellite channel Challenge. Current episodes of the show with Steve Harvey also air in Canada on City TV.
Production of Family Feud was shifted from Universal Orlando to Harvey's hometown of Atlanta in 2011, first at the Atlanta Civic Center and later at the Georgia World Congress Center. Harvey was also originating a syndicated radio show from Atlanta, and the state of Georgia provided tax credits for the production. In 2017, production moved to Los Angeles Center Studios (later moved again to Universal Studios Hollywood and later to CBS Studio Center) in Los Angeles to accommodate Harvey's new syndicated talk show Steve, returning production of the regular series back to Los Angeles for the first time since 2010.
In November 2019, the show started production in South Africa for that country's version. It started airing for the first time on Sunday, April 5, 2020, hosted by Harvey. In conjunction, a website was launched, dedicated to the region to catch up on previous episodes, submit entries and engage from a local perspective.
In March 2020, after initially announcing that production would continue with no studio audience, Fremantle suspended production of all of its programs (including Family Feud) due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August 2020, Family Feud returned to production, returning to Atlanta and with health and safety protocols (including social distancing and no studio audience ) being enforced..
Family Feud won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show in 1977 and 2019, Outstanding Directing for a Game Show and the show has three times won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host, once with Dawson in 1978 and twice with Harvey in 2014 and 2017. Feud ranked number 3 on Game Show Network (GSN)'s 2006 list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time, and also on TV Guide's 2013 list of the 60 greatest game shows ever.
Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting, founders of the website Television Without Pity, wrote that they hated the 1999 syndicated version, saying "Give us classic Feud every time", citing both Dawson and Combs as hosts. Additionally, they called Anderson an "alleged sexual harasser and full-time sphere".
In the Steve Harvey era, the show has become notorious for questions and responses that are sexual in nature, with content frequently referring to certain anatomy or acts of intercourse. This type of material has drawn criticism from viewers, including former NCIS actress Pauley Perrette, who in 2018 sent a series of tweets to Family Feud producers questioning why the show had to be "so filthy." Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center, a politically conservative content analysis organization, suggested that the responses are in line with sexual content becoming more commonplace on television.
The popularity of Family Feud in the United States has led it to become a worldwide franchise, with over 50 adaptations outside the United States. Countries that have aired their own versions of the show include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Vietnam, among others.
Since the show's premiere in 1976, many home versions of Family Feud have been released in various formats. Milton Bradley, Pressman Games, and Endless Games have all released traditional board games based on the show, while Imagination Entertainment released the program in a DVD game format.
The game has been released in other formats by multiple companies; Coleco Adam released the first computer version of the show in 1983, and Sharedata followed in 1987 with versions for MS-DOS, Commodore 64, and Apple II computers. GameTek released versions for Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Genesis, 3DO, and PC (on CD-ROM) between 1990 and 1995. Hasbro Interactive released a version in 2000 for the PC and PlayStation. In 2006, versions were released for PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, and PC. Seattle-based Mobliss Inc. also released a mobile version of Family Feud that was available on Sprint, Verizon, and Cingular. Glu Mobile later released a newer mobile version of Family Feud for other carriers.
Most recently, in conjunction with Ludia, Ubisoft has video games for multiple platforms. The first of these was entitled Family Feud: 2010 Edition and was released for the Wii, Nintendo DS, and PC in September 2009. Ubisoft then released Family Feud Decades the next year, which featured sets and survey questions from television versions of all four decades the show has been on air. A third game, entitled Family Feud: 2012 Edition was released for the Wii and Xbox 360 in 2011.
In addition to the home games, a DVD set titled All-Star Family Feud starring Richard Dawson was released on January 8, 2008 by BCI Eclipse LLC Home Entertainment (under license from Fremantle USA) and featured a total of 43 segments taken from 21 special celebrity episodes from the original ABC/syndicated versions on its four discs, uncut and remastered from original 2” videotapes for optimal video presentation and sound quality. It was re-issued as The Best of All-Star Family Feud on February 2, 2010.