From 1984 until 2016, if two players ended an episode of Jeopardy! with the same score, they were co-champions. After that, however, the seminal trivia show's producers decided it would make for a punchier, more manageable ending if tied players had to answer one last question to determine the winner. The new rule didn't seem to make much of a difference... until this past Friday!
Though this is the first use of a tiebreaker on a televised episode of the show, the rule has been used often during tournaments, where things can keep moving along only when there is a clear winner.
Jeopardy! explained the slight change of format on their website:
The tiebreaker was first introduced in tournaments. The judges felt that a tiebreaker yielding one winner kept the gameplay brisk and competitive. In the years following the lift of the five-game maximum (the rule that contestants could only win up to five regular games), the judges concluded that it was fitting to bring that same level of competition to the regular games.