Media Notepad: WLS-AM’s “Big John” shifts to afternoons

Plus… big day for Bears as they beat rival; Channing Dungey heads to Netflix; Extra adds Fox stations in large markets

With Steve Dahl set to depart Cumulus-owned WLS-AM this Friday, the station announced last week it was shifting Big John Howell to afternoons from mornings starting January 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays.

In a statement, the thirty-year veteran of Chicago radio was happy with the news he gets a chance to stick around. “I’m very excited about hosting the new afternoon show at WLS-AM 890. I intend to present Chicago with a quick-paced, informative, honest and intelligent summary of the day’s biggest stories; an afternoon wrap of the day’s biggest events featuring prominent newsmakers, reporters, experts and stars. Of course, our town’s most colorful characters will also be welcome. In addition, I’m looking forward to (finally) golfing when the sun’s in the east.”

A veteran of WCKG-FM and WUSN, Howell joined Salem’s conservative outlet WIND-AM eight years ago and shifted to WLS-AM in 2015, paired with Ramblin’ Ray Stevens in mornings, also a WUSN alumnus.

The moves are part of a bigger shift as WLS is tilting more toward conservative talk. Also beginning in January, WLS is shifting Ben Shapiro from evenings to afternoons and expanding his syndicated show to three hours. The controversial Shapiro is slotted from 2 to 5 p.m.

There is still no word on who would fill morning drive or what would happen to Stevens. There is still talk Mancow Muller could do mornings, but those plans are still in negotiation.


Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Bear down! The Chicago Bears victory over rival Green Bay not only clinched the NFC North title for the Monsters Of The Midway (not to mention validation for that awful opening night loss), but also clinched a ratings victory for Fox-owned WFLD.

According to Nielsen, the Bears game drew a 32.8 household rating – the highest-rated afternoon game so far this season and the third-highest-rated game overall in 2018. The ratings increases comes as the Bears win their first division title since 2010 and improved to a 10-4 record.

The NFL has seen a bit of a ratings resurgence this year after a season marked with controversies on and off the field. CBS and the league received good news Monday as the highly-hyped New England Patriots-Pittsburgh Steelers game drew an overnight 16.5 household metered-market rating. Though it was down 4 percent from last year (featuring the exact same matchup in week fifteen), it is still the highest-rated NFL game this year in the overnights, surpassing Eagles-Cowboys on Fox just last week.

The Bears now go to Santa Clara, Calif.’s Levi’s Stadium to play the San Francisco 49ers next week at 3:05 p.m. Ratings might drop however, because a lot of people will likely be at holiday parties (watching the Bears) and fewer people at home (watching the Bears.)

With the hot Bears now in the playoffs, it could be a boon for the league as the team has always drawn well nationally (when the team is playing good , of course.) With the NFC up for grabs this year, it is entirely possible the Bears could wind up in the Championship Game – or even the Super Bowl.


In a move surprising some in the industry, the Fox-owned stations have purchased the long-running syndicated strip Extra beginning in September 2019, leaving its longtime home at the NBC O&Os.

Warner Bros. struck a deal with Fox to carry the show in the nation’s largest markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Orlando, and Charlotte as the show moves from its 2:30 a.m. slot at CW affiliate WCCB  as Extra currently doesn’t air in Orlando. This gives Extra ten Fox-owned stations in its lineup.

In Chicago, Fox-owned WFLD already airs Extra weekdays at 3 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. WFLD acquired the rights in 2016 after longtime rights holder WMAQ-TV dropped the show from its 4 p.m. time period for local news expansion. Extra also airs on Fox’s Washington D.C. duopoly and WJBK Detroit.

Fox senior vice president of programming Frank Cicha called the Extra deal a “win-win for two companies with a strong history together.  [It] fits right into our day and date strategy and the stations will be ready to ensure its continued success.”

Extra currently airs in the “prime access” time slots at WNBC New York, KNBC Los Angeles, and WCAU Philadelphia at 7 p.m. as a lead-in to NBC’s Access (formerly Access Hollywood). In Dallas, Extra airs at 6:30 p.m. on KXAS. NBC also holds rights to Extra at Miami’s WTVJ and Hartford’s WVIT; it is not known where Extra would end up next fall. However, Extra could stay in those two markets if NBC does not announce replacement programming for the show in its larger markets. NBC officials declined to comment.

The NBC-owned station group was the first group to acquire Extra in 1993. It was pitched as an alternative to Paramount’s Entertainment Tonight and Hard Copy, after KNBC lost both access shows to cross-town L.A. competitor KCBS in 1994, the year Extra debuted. In 1996, NBC launched Access as an companion show, which it owned but didn’t syndicate at first.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Extra is now hosted by Mario Lopez.

Extra’s first anchors in 1994 were Arthel Neville and Dave Nesmeth. Other former anchors included Leeza Gibbons, Mark McGrath (of Sugar Ray fame), and Clarissa Thompson. In the most recent ratings report, Extra had a 1.1 rating.


In another instance of the broadcast and cable industries losing talent to streaming services, Netflix Monday snared former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey as their new vice president of content, reporting directly to programming chief Cindy Holland. Dungey is the latest high-profile exec to jump to the service, following Shonda Rhimes and black-ish creator Kenya Barris, both also ABC alumnus.

“Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry. She’s a risk taker and groundbreaker and talent love working with her. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to Netflix,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos in a statement.

Dungey became the first African-American woman to be named president of an entertainment network in 2016. Dugney departed the position in November after a major shake-up within Disney/ABC’s television ranks, with several Fox execs coming on board thanks to the company’s acquisition of various 21st Century Fox assets. Dungey spent fifteen years at ABC, first at Touchstone Television/ABC Studios, developing shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds (for CBS) among others and then onto the main network.

The move is yet another reminder of how tough it is for the broadcast networks to compete with streaming services, not only for shows, but also talent and management. Other talent who shifted to the tech space include Ryan Murphy (also to Netflix) and several execs including former NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke, now head of Amazon Studios.

And for those wondering…yes, Channing Dungey is related to actress Merrin Dungey (of Alias and Malcolm In The Middle.) They’re sisters.

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“Murphy Brown”, “Happy Together” to end runs (maybe)

But don’t look for an official cancellation right now…try again in six months

(Editor’s Note: Due to a wrong draft of this article being posted on November 30, this piece was re-posted and updated as the original contained numerous grammatical and factual errors. You expect a high-quality product coming from T Dog Media and will work to ensure you this mix-up will not happen again. Thank you. – T.H.)

In an era where fans are now left guessing about the fate of their favorite shows for months on end, CBS two weeks ago announced two sitcoms – the revival of Murphy Brown and newcomer Happy Together are ending their runs after thirteen episodes.

But you might want to refrain from pouring a forty on the street corner eulogizing the two sitcoms as they may not be done – yet.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS announced Murphy and Happy would end their runs after their initial seasons, being replaced in midseason by new comedy Fam on Thursdays beginning on January 10 and by the return of Man With A Plan on Mondays beginning February 4, respectively.

On November 29 however, Murphy creator Diane English said in a tweet the show wasn’t canceled and is still being considered for a second season of thirteen episodes. She also said fans would have to wait until the spring – specifically the May upfronts – if they would make the 2019-20 CBS schedule.

This means if you re a fan of either show, you’ll have to wait six long months to find out if your show will be back for a second season.

There is precedent for this – last season, ABC aired the critically panned and low-rated Inhumans, an eight-episode series who wrapped up its run in late November. But despite the obvious pink-slip, fans had to wait six months for its fate to be determined, with these decisions being made days before the upfronts.

Last spring, this blog railed against the practice of the broadcast networks cancelling so many shows in a three-day period after ABC took so long to officially cancel Inhumans even after it was a foregone conclusion. Nineteen shows were canceled in 24 hours as one headline screamed – showing so little respect for fans of some of these programs. I wrote: “The headlines we see about “20 shows canceled in 24 hours” makes the industry look bad and you wonder why the network television business is no longer respected. Look, network television is losing viewers – especially younger ones year after year and this “collusion”- type stunt a measly three days a year hurts the credibility of the major networks and the TV business in general – especially when cable networks and streaming services and even syndicators make renewal/cancellation decisions year-around.”

“Fans of these shows and the people who work on them – whether behind the camera or in front of – deserve better. Tugging along their heartstrings just to build some phony drama before upfronts is crass and cruel.”

“Happy Together” (CBS)

And it looks like the major broadcast networks are repeating this again come May as they one-up another in a game of chess as thus far, no series has received an official cancellation – not even the very low-rated Alec Baldwin Show, which was moved to Saturday nights on December 8.

Ironically, the only cancellations this fall were from shows from other networks and/or streaming services, with Netflix cancelling Marvel dramas Iron Fist and Luke Cage. The broadcast networks did cancel some shows recently, but basically summer replacement series such as Nine Lives and Salvation and NBC dropping Megyn Kelly from Today after controversial comments about blackface.

The networks were hesitant about announcing cancellations outside of the upfronts for the last few years: in 2013, there was confusion on whether Fox canceled The Cleveland Show. In 2015, I wrote a piece about the major networks stalling over fates of shows due to a fear of backlash, playing games with viewers in the process.

Both Murphy Brown and Happy Together have underperformed in the ratings. Murphy has averaged around a 0.9 rating in the adult 18-49 demo on Thursday nights while Happy Together has also earned a 0.9 rating and lost a significant amount of its lead-in from The Neighborhood on Monday nights.

But much like scripted series’ obsession with cliffhangers, the broadcast networks now want you to wait until May for the fate of your favorite shows as they use a three-day period – and you wonder why viewers are abandoning network prime-time television as overall ratings continue to drop. Sadly, network executives – and Madison Avenue – still don’t get it in a business that continues to die with every passing day.

 

 

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“Peanuts” gang heads to Apple

Longtime Charles Schulz characters head to new streaming service in 2019 as viewers’ preferences shift

Good grief, you’re heading to a streaming service, Chuck.

Apple and DHX Media announced Friday an exclusive deal to bring Charles M. Schulz’s iconic characters to the tech company’s new streaming service, scheduled to launch in 2019 in new series and shorts.

The Halifax, Nova Scotia-based company holds the rights to the Peanuts library through an 80 percent stake, with the Schulz family and Sony Music holding the rest. DHX Media also holds the rights to the DIC library (Inspector Gadget), and Cookie Jar Entertainment, home to Arthur and Johnny Test.

The deal also includes shorts produced in association with NASA and Peanuts Worldwide with Snoopy exploring outer space.

Details on Apple’s streaming service has yet to be unveiled, so it is not known if it would be available to stream on other devices other than Apple TV, or iOS devices. It is also not known if the Peanuts content would be available on Apple’s iTunes store for purchase.

The deal does not include existing library product, including the famous holiday specials A Charlie Brown Christmas; It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; and others. Those are staying at ABC, who outbid longtime home CBS for those properties in 2001. Peanuts specials have aired on all four broadcast networks, the last one airing on Fox in 20110 (Happiness Is A Warm Blanket.)

In the last few years, the Peanuts gang have had a resurgence in pop culture, thanks to those yearly holiday specials and the successful Peanuts Movie, released in 2015. Despite the success as specials, only one TV series based on the comic strip was ever produced – CBS’ Saturday morning cartoon The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show, airing from 1983-86. After a 50-year run, Charles Schulz’s comic strip ended in 2000, the last one published on the morning of his death.

Fore! Snoopy and NASA are teaming up on new shorts featuring the world-famous astronaut in space.

And the arena is about to get even more crowded. In addition to Apple, new streamers from Disney, Warner Media, and others are expected to launch next year, adding to the total of scripted series. Already, Apple has signed talent to develop new series including Steven Speilberg (Amazing Stories), Loren Bouchard (Bob’s Burgers), J.J. Abrams and NBA player Kevin Durant. Already, Facebook (though its Watch service) recently launched a new scripted series featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Whether we like it or not, digital and streaming is the future of scripted programming as ratings for linear television networks continue to decline. This is perhaps why we are seeing more and more unscripted programming on the major broadcast networks – especially in the winter months. For example, CBS recently announced a major investment in unscripted, launching a new America’s Got Talent-like series World’s Best after the Super Bowl and NBC launching a spin-off of its highest-rated summer show titled Champions, while Fox has The Masked Singer on tap. The networks – notably ABC – seem to be throwing in the towel noting they can’t compete with the deep pockets of tech companies when it comes to scripted programming. While the networks are busy pitter-pattering around,  broadcast groups have decided to take the matter in their own hands, by scaling up with each other as the recent $4.1 billion purchase of Tribune Media by Nexstar attests.

If you want the “best” programming now, you have to pay for it (or illegally download it) as the medium is being split up into numerous turfs: a country club atmosphere where Snoopy and Catherine Zeta-Jones are served Beef Wellington, Baked Alaska, and Champagne and one where you have to climb up into a treehouse and dine on Cheez-Its and Crystal Light.

 

 

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The Media Notepad: Bears draw big ratings for SNF

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) runs against Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Plus… HBO Boxing swan song a bust; Judge Joe Brown returns to TV

The Monsters Of The Midway are back!

Sunday Night Football scored a significant ratings victory with the matchup between two first-place teams: the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears. Being played at a frigid Soldier Field in Chicago, the Bears beat the Rams 15-6, thanks to the team’s dominant defense, who sacked Rams QB Jason Goff several times.

The game dominated Sunday night viewing for NBC, with the game drawing 19.4 million viewers and a 5.9 rating in the key adults 18-49 demo, up 9 percent from last year. In households, the game drew a 11.2 rating.

In Chicago, the Bears were a smash hit, continuing a ratings resurgence to go along with their improved record. The game drew a 33.7 household rating and 52 share for NBC’s WMAQ. By comparison, sister NBC O&O KNBC in Los Angeles only drew a 15.3 household rating, but it is above average for a Rams game in the market. The Rams returned to Los Angeles in 2016 after 22 years in St. Louis.

Despite dominating prime-time, the Bears-Rams game wasn’t the highest-rated game of the day – this belonged to the matchup between the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, who drew a whopping 25.1 million viewers and a 14.2 household rating for Fox, making it the highest-rated game of the NFL season. The game drew a 7.0 rating in the 18-49 demo.

This Sunday, the Bears host division rival Green Bay at noon on Fox. If the Bears win, they could clinch their first NFC North division title since 2010.


HBO closed out 45 years of boxing telecasts Saturday night with a card from the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif. in a facility adjacent to the stadium where the Los Angeles Chargers play. Unfortunately for HBO, few viewers tuned in.

According to Nielsen, HBO finished with an average of a 0.10 rating among adults 18-49 and around 300,000 viewers (ratings were broken out by hour), down significantly from the 1.092 million viewers earned by the television  premiere of movie Ready Player One. The finale was stomped by ESPN’s Top Rank card, who drew 1.9 million viewers and a 0.6 rating in the demo, aided by a strong Heisman Trophy lead-in with 2.9 million. Top Rank – who once had a partnership with HBO, finished with the second highest-rated boxing telecast this year.

Ratings for HBO’s final telecast were indeed disappointing, but was expected given their lackluster card of minor-league fighters. Attendance at Stub Hub – home to some of HBO’s most memorable bouts, was also small. Originally, the last boxing telecast was set for October 27th, but in an odd move, added two last-minute cards for November 24 and December 8, respectively.

HBO announced earlier this year it was exiting the boxing business as the sport was no longer a key element in attracting subscribers. HBO parent Time Warner was recently acquired by AT&T, and conceded it can’t compete with ESPN, Showtime, and several streaming options, including new streaming service DAZN, who recently launched an advertising campaign featuring former HBO personalities Michael Buffer and boxer Canelo Alvarez. Given the declining ratings over the years, you can’t blame HBO for cutting the sport loose. Then again, it was their neglect which put them in this situation to begin with.


Fox-owned CW affiliate WPWR has picked up a new show from former television judge Joe Brown – but it’s not in a courtroom. As first reported by Marc Berman, Brown is returning next month in a weekly show titled Hot Topics With Judge Joe, a half-hour program from Pacific Life Entertainment. The program plans to focus on hot-button issues (of course) with a panel of guests.

In addition to WPWR, Hot Topics has also been sold to CBS’ WLNY in New York, where it is airing Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. (WPWR has yet to announce a day or a time period.)  Also aboard is WGN America and Impact Network.

A former Memphis judge, Brown was signed to a new courtroom show from the producers of Judge Judy and debuted in 1998. Judge Joe Brown was one of the last projects created by Worldvision Enterprises (whose roots lie with the original American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., known as ABC Films until 1973) before parent company Spelling Entertainment was bought out by Viacom, who transferred the series to Paramount Domestic Television. In 2006, Paramount TV became CBS Television Distribution after Viacom split into two separate companies. Despite ranking as the second highest-rated courtroom show in syndication, CBS canceled Judge Joe Brown in 2013 over a contract dispute – the syndicator wanted to renew his contract but at a lower salary.

Of note, Judge Joe Brown began its run on WPWR before moving to WFLD after parent company Fox Television Stations purchased WPWR. After WFLD added Wendy Williams and The Real to its schedule, Judge Joe Brown shifted back to WPWR.

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Court TV to return as a digital subchannel

New Katz network signs with Tribune Media’s WGN-TV and 21 others

First, we have TV shows such as Magnum P.I. and Murphy Brown being rebooted. Now, we have whole cable networks getting the treatment.

Scripps-owned Katz Broadcasting announced Monday it has acquired the intellectual rights to the Court TV name from Turner Broadcasting and re-launching it as a digital subchannel network in May 2019, available not only on broadcast TV, but cable and over-the-top as well. The channel plans to run the 100,000 hours of content it has in its library and is bringing  back Vinnie Politan to be the lead anchor. Court TV plans to compete in the “true crime” space with Escape, Oxygen, and Investigation Discovery (Discovery ID), with some content original programming.

Last year, T Dog Media looked at the true-crime genre, ranging from program re-enactments to real-life crime documentaries to docudramas. Before 2000, they basically made up what was known as “reality TV”.

Court TV plans “around-the-clock coverage and analysis of the nation’s top trials.” Joining Politian is John Alleva and Scott Tufts in the role of vice presidents and managing editors. Alleva was a producer at the original Court TV for 15 years and Tufts produced trial coverage for CNN.

During its heyday in the 1990s, Court TV televised live trials involving the Melendez Brothers, Casey Anthony, and of course, O.J. Simpson, whose frenzy practically drove cable subscriptions during the era and siphoned ratings points away from broadcast networks and local stations in daytime and early fringe time periods. Its popularity even spawned a syndicated spinoff series produced by Court TV called Inside America’s Courts, which aired during the 1995-96 season.

Ratings fell during the 2000s, leading Turner to abandon the legal programming and rebranded itself as TruTV in 2008.

Katz Communications’ President and CEO  Johnathan Katz said in a statement: “Court TV was a top-20 cable network and at the height of its popularity when the network was taken off the air in 2008. Today, while consumer interest in the real-life drama of true-crime programming is at an all-time high, there is no dedicated daily court coverage on television. We expect the new Court TV to fill that void on cable, satellite, over-the-air and over-the-top.”

The new Court TV has achieved a 50 percent clearance rate, with Tribune, Univision, Entravision, and Scripps (naturally) on board. In Chicago, WGN-TV plans to slot Court TV on either channel 9.4 (now occupied by Sinclair’s youth-skewing TBD channel) or channel 9.5. Tribune is slotting Court TV in 21 other markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Last week, Tribune agreed to a $4.1 billion merger with Nexstar after a similar deal with Sinclair collapsed earlier this year over regulatory concerns.

Tribune owns Antenna TV on WGN’s 9.2 channel and This on 9.3, with MGM.

Katz currently operates numerous digital subchannel networks, including Laff and Grit. With the exception of Bounce (which is at WCIU’s 26.5), all of Katz’s diginets in Chicago are seen over Univision’s WXFT or WGBO frequencies. Recently, religious WJYS-TV (Channel 62) has picked up some new diginet channels, including Sinclair’s Charge and Stadium channels. WXFT has also picked up Tegna’s new science-based Quest channel.

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Media Notepad: Bulls fire Fred Hoiberg

Also: WKQX hires new morning personality, Carol Fowler out at the Sun-Times; Tamron Hall adds Hearst stations

Can anyone in Chicago management keep a job these days?

Weeks after the Blackhawks fired Joel Quennville, their United Center co-tenants did the same to Fred Hoiberg earlier this week after three and-a-half-seasons. The Bulls did make the playoffs the first two years under Hoiberg, but fallen into a ravine last season and so far this season they are 5-20 – the worst record in the Eastern Conference and second-worst in all of the NBA.

The Bulls replaced Hoiberg with assistant coach Jim Boylen on an interim basis. But as we all know, the show is still run by Gar Forman and Bill Paxson, better known as the Jeff Zucker and Jan Jeffries of the NBA.

Ratings for games on both WGN and NBC Sports Chicago so far this season were not available, but last season ratings reached their lowest point since the 2007-08 season. It’s hard to imagine anyone tuning in for this mess.

Then again, Empire is still on the air and that’s an even bigger mess.


Speaking of management messes, the Chicago Sun-Times also had another management overhaul this week with Carol Fowler ousted from her position as senior vice president of digital products after fourteen months as reported Wednesday by Robert Feder. Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco takes over her duties and her position has been eliminated.

The latest shake-up comes as the Sun-Times continues to battle reader erosion and struggling circulation. In October, former alderman Edwin Eisendrath stepped down from his role as CEO.

If you recall, Fowler had stints as news director for three different Chicago television stations at WGN-TV, WFLD-TV and WBBM-TV – the latter two with little success. Fowler however, runs her own social management firm.


Once again, a familiar name is getting a posh drive-time slot in Chicago morning radio. As first reported by Robert Feder on Tuesday, the Cumulus-owned alternative rocker hired veteran Sludge to helm mornings between 6 and 10 a.m., beginning December 9.

Also known as Brian Haddad, Sludge will lead the “KQX Morning Crew” with Ali Mattacola and exec producer Justin Nettlebeck. The duo officially replaces the former morning team of Brian Phillips and Lou Lombardo. Haddad has worked for the former WRCX and WZZN (when it was Alternative) and the earlier version of WKQX’s Alternative format and previously worked as creative director and evening host for Entercom’s WIP-FM in Philadelphia.

Cumulus previously operated WKQX in a local marketing agreement with Merlin Media, but ended due to Cumulus’ bankruptcy, forcing Merlin to sell sister station WLUP-FM to the Educational Media Foundation in March. Cumulus purchased WKQX after the company re-emerged from bankruptcy.

WKQX hasn’t had a reliable morning program since Sherman and Tingle left, since alternative music returend to reunited at classic rock WDRV-FM (The Drive).


Former Chicago anchor Tamron Hall’s new syndicated new talk show has become the first new fall 2019 entry to score a deal outside of a major O&O group. On Tuesday, Hearst announced it has purchased the show from Disney-ABC in 24 of its markets. Clearances include WISN/Milwaukee, KCRA/Sacramento, KMBC/Kansas City, and WCVB/Boston.

“We are excited to once again be in business with our long-term partners and couldn’t be more pleased that Hearst has placed its confidence in Tamron Hall’s return to daytime television,” said Jed Cohen of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, in a statement. “These Hearst stations are among the finest in broadcast television and their commitment clearly places Tamron in the best environment for success in 2019.”

Hall now has a leg up on other new fall 2019 new talk shows: NBCUniversal’s Kelly Clarkson and Sony/Tribune’s Mel Robbins. So far, Jerry Springer’s new Judge Jerry leads the clearance race with 75 percent of the country.

But with so many veteran shows continuing to do well – notably on-the-bubble Steve (who saw its ratings increase from November 2017), it remains to be seen how many of these new shows would launch as time periods are likely to be tight.

 

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Netflix cancels “Daredevil”

Charlie Cox drama is the latest casualty as the Marvel Netflix Universe goes bust

With Marvel looking to move on from Netflix, the streaming service canceled Daredevil last week, marking the latest development in a relationship that is obviously collapsing.

Starring Charlie Cox and veteran actor Vincent D’Onofrio, the series has received critical acclaim as the blind superhero faces off with kingpin Wilson Fisk – arguably the most realistic portrayal of a villain on television today (sorry, Lucious Lyon.)  The show was the first from Marvel to premiere on Netflix back in 2015 and led to the creation of the Marvel Netflix Universe, with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. The leads on the four shows subsequently teamed up for The Defenders, an eight hour mini-series event.

Daredevil even spawned a spin-off based on the Frank Castle character on the show, The Punisher.

Marvel officials said last week even though Daredevil is exiting, the character could still appear on the remaining two Marvel Netflix shows, Jessica and Punisher. But the status for future seasons of those two appear to be on life support as Marvel and Netflix are looking to part with each other due to Marvel owner Disney looking to launch its own service titled Disney Plus next year. Netflix recently canceled fellow Marvel series Fist and Luke.

Disney Plus plans to have numerous Marvel programs, including a Loki and Scarlet Witch show and a Winter Soldier series, and several animated programs. Two Star Wars shows – the first live-action programs from the franchise – are also in development. Disney plans to pull its movie library from Netflix next year to host on Disney Plus.

The cancellation of Daredevil illustrates the strained relationship between both parties as Netflix is moving into more original programming and relying less on product from outside studios. In the last few months, Netflix has canceled programming from CBS. Lionsgate, and others. Meanwhile, megahit Stranger Things is produced in-house.

While Netflix doesn’t release viewing data for its shows, reports indicated metrics for each show in the Netflix Marvel Universe has slipped with each new season. Social media posts for Jessica and Luke have slipped dramatically in their second seasons, in accordance to both shows’ quality also deteriorating. Many fans of Jessica (including myself) found the second season disappointing.

Also, there seems to be a disconnect between the MNU and the rest of the Marvel properties, including ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, which surprised everyone with a seventh-season renewal for 2020, even though season six isn’t due until next June. But while SHIELD is on Netflix, the series is produced by ABC and Marvel and also appears on Hulu, where Disney is set to gain a significant stake once its deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox is complete.

What Netflix is doing is using a playbook the broadcast networks have done for years – favor their own product over outside productions, a practice put in place since the financial interest and syndication rules limiting how many hours per week the major broadcasters can produce for their own networks expired nearly 25 years ago (in fact, SHIELD wouldn’t been renewed if the rules were still in place.) And now, Netflix is doing the exact same thing – especially when it was revealed Wednesday Daredevil was the fourth ranked streaming series in terms of viewership last week.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nexstar to buy Tribune Media

DFW-area company to buy Chicago-based broadcaster for record price

(Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new information.)

Nexstar Broadcasting is purchasing Chicago-based Tribune Media for $4.1 billion or $46.50 a share, making them the country’s largest broadcaster. The bid is larger than the one Sinclair made for Tribune in May 2017 before the FCC derailed the deal due to deceptive practices. Nexstar apparently outbid a host of suitors, including Entertainment Studios head Byron Allen, Apollo Global Management, Ion Media, and Hicks Equity Partners.

The move comes as broadcasters across the country are merging in the name of scale to compete with the growing likes of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon amid rapidly declining ratings – especially in the key 18-49 and 25-54 demos. Broadcasters are also scaling up in order to gain leverage in negotiations over cable and satellite companies when it comes to carrying their broadcast signals. At least one carrier (Dish) is already pushing back, recently taking issues with Tegna and Univision, the latter remaining off Dish systems in a contract dispute.

Tribune Media owns independent WGN-TV, CLTV, and WGN-AM here in Chicago, and CW affiliates WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles. Nexstar would also own CW affiliate KDAF in Dallas-Fort Worth, where the company is based (in Irving TX, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys.) Nexstar’s largest station is in San Francisco with KRON (an NBC affiliate until 2002) and owns several stations in Illinois, including dominant CBS affiliate WCIA in Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market and Fox affiliate WQRF in Rockford, who operates ABC affiliate WTVO under a shared services agreement with Mission Broadcasting.

Tribune also owns cable network WGN America and a stake in the Food Network.

Nexstar was formed in 1996 and bought its first station, CBS affiliate WYOU in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa. From there, the company grew rapidly, owning more than 150 television stations nationwide, including the $4.6 billion purchase of the Media General group in 2015. With the Tribune purchase, Nexstar would own stations in eight of the top ten markets but would have to divest some stations: Nexstar plans to spin-off thirteen of the fifteen stations where it would overlap with Tribune, including those in Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, and Portland, Ore.

Even though Nexstar has a much lower profile than Sinclair and is less controversial, the deal is expected to be challenged by several parties due to consolidation issues. Dish, cable operators, and advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge who opposed the Sinclair-Tribune deal are also expected to oppose this deal on similar grounds. Unlike Sinclair however, Nexstar is not known to push any agenda onto its local news stations.

Last month, Tribune Media started offering buyouts to employees, including those at WGN-TV and WGN Radio. WGN-TV carries local sports and produces 70.5 hours of news a week. It also has several local shows in production, including Man Of The People with morning sports anchor Pat Tomasulo. What happens to all of this under Nexstar remains to be seen given the broadcaster is known to run a tight financial ship. It remains to seen if Nexstar would sell WGN-AM, though a host of suitors would come if the radio station is put up for sale.

For more, follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

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2019-20 syndication development season gains steam

Jerry Springer in his new courtroom series, “Judge Jerry”.

Five shows now vying for time slots as new game show joins pack

In a marked reversal from the last few selling seasons, syndicators are amping up their pitches to stations as a wealth of new product is about to flood the marketplace two months before NATPE begins.

The latest entry came from Twentieth Television, who announced a deal with sister station group Fox Television Stations for new game show 25 Words Or Less, hosted by Meredith Vieira and comes from a collaboration of six people, including former Friends star Lisa Kudrow. The series was tested in several markets over the summer including New York and Los Angeles.

Fox owns WFLD-TV and CW affiliate WPWR-TV here, the latter where 25 Words would likely be paired up with Family Feud beginning next September. As typical with most syndicated short-term “test” product, Chicago was not included (another show Fox is testing in January for a two-week run also does not include Chicago.)  Two such “test product” shows that did air in Chicago last year (iWitness and Punchline) did not move forward.

Fox’s owned-stations are gearing up for life without a studio as owner 21st Century Fox is selling most of 20th Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company, with the Fox O&Os, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, and Fox Sports remaining with 21st. Twentieth’s syndication arm is assumingly part of the sale, but it is unclear if it would be operated separately from Disney’s syndication division under the Twentieth name or combined under one banner.

For Vieira, it is her first project since the cancellation of her daytime talk show two years ago. Vieira hosted the first eleven seasons of the syndicated version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, now assumed by Chris Harrison and airs weeknights at 1:35 a.m. over ABC-owned WLS-TV (the show was also on WCIU’s schedule until recently.) Currently, there are only five game shows in first-run syndication, with Entertainment Studios’ Funny You Should Ask the last time a game show debuted.

The announcement comes on the same day NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution officially announced it was going forward with Judge Jerry as the series was sold in 75 percent of the country, including many of the stations who carried his former daytime talk show. Springer would be presiding over real-life cases interspersed with his signature “closing thoughts”. The show is being sold as an hour-long weekday strip and is being taped in Stamford, Conn. where his talk show spent its final nine seasons.

“For the first time in my life, I’m going to become honorable” said Springer in a statement, who went to law school at Northwestern. “My career is coming full circle and I finally get to put my law degree to use after all these years.”

News of the new program first broke in the New York Post weeks ago, and Robert Feder reported former Springer affiliate WCIU acquired Judge Jerry for next fall. Michael Schneider of Indiewire tweeted Tribune’s KTLA picked up the show in Los Angeles, which likely means sister station WPIX in New York also picked up the show given Tribune is mentioned as one of the station groups. Both were also former Springer affiliates.

This brings the number of new shows for syndication next fall to five. Previously, new talk shows featuring Kelly Clarkson, Tamron Hall, and Mel Robbins were given green lights for production. It will be interesting to see what “bubble” syndicated shows hang around, including Steve with Steve Harvey. But with the talk show continuing to do well – especially in his former hometown of Chicago where NBC’s WMAQ averaged a  1.4 household rating/5 share in a recent week at 2 p.m. – up 17 percent from a year ago, you wonder if the NBC-owned station group should reconsider their plans to drop the show. After all, does anyone actually watch Access Live?

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The 2018 T Dog Media Turkey Awards

Welcome to the 13th annual T Dog Media Turkey Awards – celebrating the worst in media, sports, and life in general. We have 20 recipients this year just waiting to get their hands on these Golden Gobblers. And the losers are:

President Trump. Well, duh.

Megyn Kelly. NBC signed this former Fox News star for $69 million to get her own weekday 9 a.m. hour only to get canned for saying blackface “was okay when I was a kid”. Even those who went to high school with her in the Albany, N.Y. area in the 1980s begged to differ. ‘Bye girl.

Bill Maher. He should have been on this list last year for him saying the “n” word, so let’s make up for lost time as he criticized fans of Stan Lee after his death. But its par for the course at HBO, who also let Larry Merchant keep his job after making racially insensitive comments.

Mike Francesca and Entercom New York. After retiring, the WFAN sports radio host “changes his mind” and decides “unretire”, replacing his replacements as the ongoing feud between him and the rest of WFAN’s on-air staff speaks to a lack of leadership at Entercom New York. And you can say Francesca has some influence given WGN-TV news director Jennifer Lyons did the exact same thing.

Roseanne Barr. Sending a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett sunk her show (now reincarnated as The Conners without her) and later claimed she didn’t know Jarrett was African-American. What a maroon!

ABC. Though any one of the five broadcast networks deserve this honor, ABC wanted it more given they have been in fourth place for years. As a result, Channing Dungey was shown the door last week.

B96. The once-cutting edge station plunges in the ratings and thought the solution to its woes was hire one-time competitor Drex in morning drive. In the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for ya?”

Les Moonves. One of television’s most successful executives goes down in flames due to…what else? Sexual harassment charges.

Kanye West. The Chicago-born rapper embraces the darkside – Darth Dumbass in the White House and sees his career nosedive. Make Kanye Great Again!

Chicago White Sox. How’s the rebuild going? Don’t ask.

Chicago Bulls. See above.

Chicago Blackhawks. This team hasn’t been on this list in years, but firing a three-time Stanley Cup Champion coach – not to mention a lackluster record will put you here.

Sinclair Broadcasting. The Maryland-based broadcaster forced its anchors to read a form-letter like script decrying “fake news” – interpreted as promoting propaganda. And due to the weight of their sheer arrogance, their $3.9 billion deal with Tribune Media collapsed.

Mark Konkol. The Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist (sorry, I can’t stop laughing at the thought) lasted less than two weeks as publisher of the Chicago Reader after approving a racially-insensitive cartoon showing Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker blowing black smoke on a lawn jockey amid questionable leadership at the paper. Getting canned sooner than a lame network sitcom is quite an accomplishment.

Michael Ferro. He bails out of “tronc” with a $15 million consulting fee – just in time as sexual harassment charges against him were published in Vanity Fair.

Hawk Harrelson. The now-retired White Sox broadcaster had a parting shot at LeBron James on “Hawk Harrelson Day”: “Well, I used to watch LeBron but no more. I wish these guys would keep their nose out of politics and just play because people didn’t come to hear their opinions on politicians.” And you wonder why no one bothered to tune in to see his final broadcast. Bye, bro.

The Alec Baldwin Show. Doomed from the start, watching Alec Baldwin interview celebs in a quiet setting was a total snoozefest. Obviously, network execs failed to learn from the failure of similar efforts hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and Lauren Hutton.

I Feel Bad. The title of this NBC sitcom sums up the series’ quality in a nutshell.

Jessica Jones. Once a great show, the Marvel drama took the term “sophomore slump” to a new level as the second season of this show went completely off the rails with terrible storylines, uninteresting new characters, and completely unrealistic situations (such as Trish quitting her radio show on the air.) “It’s Patsy” all right.

Iron Fist. Not sure why many people thought the “second season” was better than the first. If they criticized the first, then why did they return for the second? Doesn’t matter, the show got shitcanned along with Luke Cage as the Marvel Netflix Universe is finally running out of gas given Disney is taking its Marvel properties to its own streaming service.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Bears romp on field and in the ratings

Sunday Night Flex game gives Bears local and national ratings win

The last time the Chicago Bears played on Sunday Night at Soldier Field, it was a heavily-hyped game against the Houston Texans – needless to say didn’t live up to the hype on the field or in the ratings as the Texans beat the Bears and QB Jay Cutler was knocked out of the game with a concussion after the first half.

Things were much different Sunday night as the Bears hosted their first Sunday Night Football game since the Texans lost. Led by QB Mitch Trubisky, the Bears beat the defending NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings 25-22 in a dominant performance.

With the Bears playing very well (7-3), the game was flexed into NBC’s and the NFL’s prime slot two weeks ago, bumping out the Pittsburgh Steelers-Jacksonville Jaguars contest, which moved to CBS (and despite so, was a thrilling game with the Steelers roaring back from a 16-0 deficit to win the game.)

According to Nielsen, the Bears game drew a whopping 34.4 household rating locally, making it the second-highest rated contest of the year, only behind the Bears-Packers opener (35.3) and the third highest-rated program in the Chicago market in the last two years, behind the season opener and the Cubs’ World Series Game 7 clinching victory in November 2016. In the Twin Cities, the game drew a 40.4 household rating.

Nationally, the game easily won the evening for NBC as the game averaged a 12.3 household overnight rating and a 5.8 final rating in adults 18-49. However, the ratings were down from last week’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and down 17 percent in the demo from last year’s week eleven game. Overall, the game drew 18.8 million viewers, with another 30,000  streaming the game.

Meanwhile, Fox topped NBC in the overnights with a 12.6 for the second-half of its doubleheader between the Eagles and New Orleans Saints (in finals, the game finished behind Sunday Night Football.) The rating would have been higher had the Eagles weren’t blown out badly in this game – the biggest loss ever by a defending champion. Yes, the party is already over in Philadelphia.

The competition was no match for Sunday Night Football as usual – Fox did decently well with its comedy lineup and CBS maintained around a 1.0 demo rating for its regular lineup as ABC showed some growth with Dancing With The Stars Juniors and Shark Tank from last week. Meanwhile, The CW’s new Sunday lineup of Supergirl and Charmed finished with a 0.3 demo rating, flat from last week but was outdrawn by Univision’s Nuestra Belleza Latina (0.5). The latter show is a weekly elimination-style beauty pageant, something tried only once by English broadcasters (Twentieth Television’s syndicated Dream Girl U.S.A., airing in the 1986-87 season.)

The Bears have another flexed matchup for Sunday night on December 9, a home game against the Los Angeles Rams. Monday night, the Rams engaged the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild 54-51 shootout victory, which drew the largest Monday Night Football audience since 2014.

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The Media Notepad: Ben Shapiro joins WLS-AM’s afternoon lineup

Plus: Classic Hip-Hop loses ground as Soft AC makes a comeback; Tribune Media bidding heats up; another cable channel is in the works

In a move widely anticipated, conservative talk show host and podcaster Ben Shapiro is joining WLS-AM’s weekday afternoon lineup. Beginning January 7, Shapiro has been slotted in the 2 to 5 p.m. slot replacing Steve Dahl, who is exiting the station December 21. The plan is to air an hour on Shapiro’s podcast from 2-3 p.m. followed by his two-hour syndicated show.

The 34-year old syndicated host was born in Los Angeles, but his parents are native South Side Chicagoans. Shapiro is also editor-in-chief for the conservative website Daily Wire, and his podcast airs on WLS weeknights from 9-10 p.m.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join the WLS lineup for three hours per day,” said Shapiro in a press release. “My parents grew up in Chicago; I’m personally a diehard White Sox fan (sorry, Cubbies!). The eyes of the nation are constantly on Chicago, and for good reason. I can’t wait to bring conservatism to the Windy City.”

Shapiro’s show is syndicated by Cumulus-owned Westwood One, who also owns WLS-AM.

The move signals changes ahead at The Big 89. Erich “Mancow” Muller is being considered for a morning drive slot, though it is not clear if Muller is still under contract with Cumulus, given he was morning personality at WLUP before Merlin Media sold the station to the Education Media Foundation in March. Cumulus operated Merlin’s stations through a local marketing agreement but was dissolved when Cumulus filed for bankruptcy.

Mancow had a stint at WLS from 2008-10 with Pat Cassidy, who since returned to WBBM-AM. The current morning show with Ramblin’ Ray Stevens and Big John Howell is expected to end.

WLS – who a few years ago modified its lineup to attract non-political listeners to compete with WGN-AM, is shifting back toward conservative talk with WIND-AM now as its main competitor. But whether this will be a success in a deep-blue market like Chicago (even far-flung suburban areas are becoming more so) remains to be seen: WLS is currently tied 23rd overall in the Chicago market.


Is classic hip-hop losing steam? Two stations have given up on the format as a Cumulus station in Minneapolis and iHeartMedia’s WISX-FM in Philadelphia were the latest to dump it last week for Soft AC. Branded as Real 106.1, WISX created a stir in July 2017 as host Chio Acosta took a shot at Taylor Swift and tossed the station’s Hot AC format in the trash as a stunt as the station subsequently launched a classic hip-hop format.

But despite improved ratings (WISX ranekd 13th in the Philly market), the plug was pulled. After stunting with Christmas music, WISX launched “106.1 The Breeze” under the slogan “Philly’s Relaxing favorites”. Core artists include Hall & Oates, Chicago, and Anita Baker.

Of note in the WISX format change is former WUSN-FM personality Shila Nathan is out, in addition to Acosta. The change took place November 9 – a date which resonates with Philly radio fans as several format changes have taken place on that date including 1987, where TWO stations flipped on the same day.

“The Breeze” has also blown into several markets in the last few weeks. In Detroit, The Breeze replaced a Top 40 station last week, and the Soft AC format has also launched in Sacramento and Wilmington, N.C., representing what could be the next big radio trend. The move is reminiscent of the early 1990s when many stations were flipping from contemporary hit radio to adult contemporary when CHR became inundated with hip-hop records. Obviously, The success of MeTV FM here in Chicago (who finished 11th in the last Nielsen report) kicked off the trend.

The move raises questions about WBMX-FM (104.3 Jams), who launched a classic hip-hop format approximately a year ago as the format has already gone bust in a few cities such as Dallas, Houston, and Indianapolis. Despite decent ratings after a hot start (WBMX ranked — in the last ratings report), the speculation on how long the format can survive here continues to grow as it has not been able to put a ratings dent into iHeartMedia’s WVAZ-FM or WGCI. With seven radio stations already targeting a declining African-American audience base (including the newly launched 95.1 Clubsteppin’ from Lamont Watts), the “first one out” could indeed be 104.3 Jams.


With Tribune Media back up for sale after its planned merger with Sinclair Broadcasting collapsed, some interesting names have popped up in the bidding. Among them: former Real People correspondent and comedian Byron Allen, who currently runs Entertainment Studios and stunned the media world by purchasing the Weather Channel last year.

It’s a long shot, but if he can pull it off, it could provide a potential home for some on his TV shows, including Funny You Should Ask and Comics Unleashed.

Another potential suitor is Ion Media, who also stations in the top twenty markets, including WCPX in Chicago. The network – which mainly specializes in marathoning procedural dramas such as Law & Order and Criminal Minds on its daily schedule, could pair Tribune’s stations in duopolies in large markets such as New York and Los Angeles. Here, WGN-TV could become a sister station to WCPX.

Other bidders include Cerebus management, Nexstar, and Tom Hicks, who was part of the original Chancellor Media, Inc., one-time owners of WLUP-FM.


As viewers continue to slim down on cable packages, new cable networks still being created. Consider the latest proposal: a channel run by Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame. According to Broadcasting & Cable, the couple appeared last Friday night on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and announced the new channel out of the blue.

Discovery Communications, who successfully launched OWN with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, would be behind the new effort. HGTV went into Discovery’s portfolio when it acquired Scripps Networks in August 2017.

A lot of details would have to be worked out, but some of the programming would be produced in their hometown of Waco, Tex, the 89th-largest television market. Fixer Upper was also taped in the city.

“Discovery is thrilled to confirm that we are in exclusive talks with Chip and Joanna Gaines,” according to a Discovery PR release. “The Gaineses are exceptional people, true authentic storytellers and creative visionaries who will nourish millions of people with quality, family-friendly programming accessible on a 24/7 network and across all screens,” Discovery said. “Stay tuned…working out the final details…more to come soon!”

It is not yet known if the new Chip and Joanna Gaines channel would be created from scratch, or replace another one. As reported here last year, a few cable channels are closing or are being shut down due to low viewer totals and customers are shredding mega-cable channels for slimmer packages, offered by the likes of stream-based services such as YouTubeTV, Hulu, and PlaystationVue.

While Chip and Joanna Gaines – the latter who bares an uncanny resemblance to Baby Phat creator and former business mogul Kimora Lee Simmons – has a strong following, it is enough to abstain a entire cable channel at a time viewers are getting rid of such packages? The only way this would work is to create this channel as an over-the-top offering (such as the WWE Network, CBSN, and the Urban Movie Channel). Going the cable route is a huge risk. After all, Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’tt Oprah.

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Marvel creator Stan Lee dies

The 95-year old pop culture icon created iconic characters leading to TV and movie success

Stan Lee was responsible for creating a pop-culture franchise with unforgettable iconic characters. On Monday, Lee died at the age of 95 in a Los Angeles hospital. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Born in the New York borough of Manhattan in 1922, Lee got his first job at Timely Comics as an assistant, later becoming editor. After a stint in the military during World War II, Lee returned to what would be renamed Atlas comics (and later Marvel), but the company had to adhere to a strict code enacted by the Comics Code Authority (similar to today’s Parents Television Council) as comic books were the subject of Senate hearings as they were accused of corrupting youth. During this time, Lee wrote numerous comics in a variety of genres , including romance, horror, science fictions, and westerns, among others.

As he was contemplating leaving the comics business,  Lee was asked to develop a new superhero team in response to DC Comics’ success with the Justice League. Lee developed with artist Jack Kirby The Fantastic Four in 1960, giving them numerous flaws as opposed to the “perfect” traits DC characters would have. In other words, Lee’s characters were more “human”. This led Lee and Kirby to develop other Marvel mainstays including The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Iron-Man, and the Incredible Hulk.

While television wouldn’t deal with social issues until the 1970s (thanks to the success of All in the Family), Lee and Kirby did so beforehand in the 1960s, dealing with racism, sthe Vietnam War, student protests, and others. Lee also broke the color barrier by creating Luke Cage and Black Panther, comics’ first African-American characters – the former turning into a Netflix show and the latter becoming a box-office sensation in 2018. Lee also had a monthly “soapbox” section in his comics, with one 1968 piece decrying racism and antisemitism.

When ABC was looking for programming to fill their Saturday morning lineup, they turned to Marvel. The first Marvel series developed for TV debuted in 1967: Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man, albeit produced by different animation companies. Although the crackdown on cartoon violence in 1969 led to both series’ cancellations, new episodes of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man would return to Saturday mornings several years later.

Stan Lee at C2E2 in 2017 in what turned out to be his final appearance.

While Lee stopped writing comic books in 1972 to concentrate on being publisher at Marvel, he continued to develop shows for television. Although Marvel struck out with a live-action Amazing Spider-Man series for CBS in 1978, Lee would have better luck with Universal Television’s The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno (Lee often clashed with producers over the CBS version of Spider-Man, saying it was “too juvenile”.)

In 1981, Lee moved to the West Coast to run Marvel’s animation studio and production company, producing animated series for for NBC, CBS, and syndication based on Marvel and Hasbro characters. New World Entertainment (who would switch their TV stations’ affiliations to Fox in the mid-1990s) bought Marvel five years later. Lee sued the company for $10 million for cheating him out of profits related to his characters.

In a move akin to a Cubs player joining the White Sox (or vice versa), Lee jumped ship to rival DC in 2000, and helped re-develop their classic stable of characters, including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Also during this time Lee created Stan Lee Media, but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after principals behind the company were involved in a check cashing scheme as Lee was never implicated. Lee formed another new company in 2001, called POW! Entertainment which still exists today.

As Marvel was sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2009, Lee returned “home” to help develop the company’s movie and TV slate, receiving an “executive producer” credit. Marvel had a resurgence in the last decade, thanks to successful movie franchises featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers. The imprint expanded to television in 2013 with the debut of ABC’s Agents of Shield as Lee would make cameo appearances in the show and film properties, not to mention The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory.

Lee is also listed in the credits for the Marvel Netflix Universe shows, though he only appeared in the shows through stock photographs. He did however, appear in Hulu’s Runaways and Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger through cameos.

Lee traveled the country in recent years, making appearances at conventions and at San Diego Comic-Con. Lee made numerous visits to the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (known as C2E2) at McCormick Place, with his last Chicago appearance taking place at a panel packed with fans in April 2017. Earlier this year, reports surfaced Lee was the victim of elder abuse from a memorabilia collector, isolating him from his family and friends. A judge issued a restraining order, as Lee regained control of his social media accounts.

Among his accolades include an induction into the Will Eisner Hall Of Fame in 1994 and The Jack Kirby  Hall Of Fame in 1995; A National Medal Of Arts award in 2008; a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2011; and a Vanguard Award in 2012 from the Producers Guild Of America.

Certainly, Stan Lee was one of a kind. Excelsior!

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Media Notepad: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville fired in a “Survivor”-like blindside

Also: Bears scores ratings success; Jeopardy and Wheel renewed for three more years; Alec Baldwin Show pulled

I guess the hockey tribe has spoken.

In a Survivor-style blindslide, the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday voted longtime coach Joel Quenneville off the ice after ten years. The decision to part ways with the three-time Stanley Cup Champion coach seemed to be explicitly timed: on Election Day no less, burying the news on a day much of the news media wasn’t paying attention to anything outside of the election.

Quenneville has been replaced by Jeremy Cotillon, who previously coached the Rockford Ice Hogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate and arch rival to the Chicago Wolves.

The decision to fire Quennville by Blackhawks management was understandably met by scorn, from the media to former players to fans. After all, Quennville helped put the Blackhawks back on the map after years of decline. He was hired to replace Denis Savard in 2008 and built the team into a champion and perennial Stanley Cup contender, winning their first title in 49 years in 2010 and repeating the feat again in 2013 and in 2015.

But in the last two years, the Blackhawks have struggled, swept in a first-round playoff series by the Nashville Predators in 2017 and have yet to beat the upstart Vegas Golden Knights, who went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season in their first year. They missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade and were off to another weak start this season.

Ratings for Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago dropped accordingly, finishing last season with a 2.4 household rating, down 28 percent from the 2016-17 season and down 40 percent from the 2015-16 season. In addition, many local sports fans have simply moved on, with Loyola’s basketball team and Sister Jean taking over top billing in Chicago’s winter sports scene.

The team is signaling they may be on an impending rebuild – meaning more ratings  erosion is on the way, if the Bulls’ and White Sox’s still-declining ratings are any indication. While it’s not known the effects of Tuesday’s firing would have on ticket sales (the Blackhawks rank 1st in the NHL in attendance), at least we had fun while it lasted.


[Madden 17 screenshot.]

With a better team comes better exposure: the Chicago Bears’ home game against the Minnesota Vikings has been “flexed” to NBC’s Sunday Night Football on November 18, the NFL’s biggest stage. The move pushes out a scheduled Pittsburgh Steelers-Jacksonville Jaguars game on the same date as the latter team – who went to the AFC Championship Game last year is stumbling this season.

This comes as local ratings for the Bears have surged thanks to the improved record (5-3) under first-year head coach Matt Nagy – up 34 percent from last year. Sunday’s game at the woeful Buffalo Bills earned a 26.5 rating on Fox-owned WFLD as the Bears crushed them 41-9. Despite the victory, some viewers complained about the telecast – notably commentator Darryl Johnston’s analysis, who many feel wasn’t fair to the Bears. Then again, no analyst has ever been fair to the Bears.

In Buffalo, the telecast on Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WUTV earned a big 28.1 household rating, but was the the lowest-rated Bills game in several years in the nation’s 53rd-largest market. Despite the dubious honor, the game was still ranked as the most-watched program in Buffalo for the week.


Despite rumors long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek might retire, Sony Pictures Television and CBS Television Distribution have said otherwise.

On Monday, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune were renewed for three more seasons through September 2023. Earlier, Sony renewed the talent deals behind both game shows, signing Trebek, Pat Sajak, and Vanna White through 2022. Generally, both are renewed in two-year increments, but this is the first three-year deal in recent memory.

Sony Pictures produces Wheel and Jeopardy and sell a minute-and-a-half of national advertising barter time in the shows; CBS distributes both to over 175 stations across the country and more than 50 countries around the globe. The renewals take Jeopardy to its 39th season and Wheel to its 40th in syndication (the show began as a daytime entry on NBC in 1975.)

The ABC-owned stations – including WLS-TV in Chicago – became the first group to renew the shows through 2023. Jeopardy and Wheel are still solid ratings performers for ABC 7, and still syndication’s top-rated game shows. Other markets where Wheel and Jeopardy were renewed include New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston (for Jeopardy only.)

Meanwhile, Fox’s The Simpsons could be getting its own three-year renewal pact soon, provided things get worked out between “New Fox” and future producer ABC Studios – Sunday night’s episode hit a season high in the adult 18-49 demo (1.9) and ranked as the second most-watched entertainment prime-time show of the week. The Simpsons are in their 30th season, six behind Wheel and five behind Jeopardy. Simpsons parent 21st Century Fox is in the process of being sold to ABC parent Disney, excluding Fox, Fox News, and its O&Os.


With fourteen freshmen series recently receiving full-season pickups, one is not: ABC’s The Alec Baldwin Show is losing its Sunday night time slot immediately, being shifted to low-HUT level Saturday nights beginning Dec. 2, where it air for the reminder of its run. Since it is being “burned-off” here, it does mark the season’s first casualty, even though ABC has not officially canceled the show.

ABC is filling Baldwin’s old time slot with specials in the interim.

Baldwin wasn’t expected to have an impact on ratings given the tough time slot (opposite Sunday Night Football) and the format, which resembles a Sunday-morning interview show  – meaning no studio audience and no band. The program had averaged around a 0.3 rating in the adult 18-49 demo and around 1.5 million viewers – the lowest rating in recent memory for a Big Three network. Baldwin was even getting outdrawn by CW’s Supergirl and Charmed on some weeks.

Baldwin told The Hollywood Reporter: “We’re making a good show here. I mean, who knows if we survive? ABC’s not doing very well. We could get out there, show four or five episodes, and be dead.”

Whoopi Goldberg hosted a similar straight-interview talk show during the 1992-93 season in late-night syndication – with no band and no audience. The program was canceled four months into its run. Three seasons later, Lauren Hutton had a similar, unsuccessful show.

Baldwin has made headlines in recent weeks, including assaulting a person over a parking space in New York last week and said “black people love me” in an interview.

 

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Election 2018: Your viewer and listener guide

Hot-button issues drives viewers to the polls – and election coverage

Election night on Tuesday is going to be like Christmas morning for news organizations as viewers are expected to tune in enmasse for the results.

In the past, viewers barely tuned into election night as races weren’t exciting or the outcome was expected (re: the 1984 and 1996 Presidential elections.) Independent stations and cable networks counter-programmed with movies and other special event programs.

But how things have changed. With interest at an all-time high thanks to the polarized political climate, viewers are thirsty for election results as networks and local stations all across the country are expanding their coverage Tuesday, encompassing all of prime-time and late-night time periods – and of course, ratings and HUT levels are expected to soar with a lot of busy newsrooms well into the night.

In other words, local pizza joints such as Giordano’s, Gino’s East, and Lou Malnati’s are going to have a busy Tuesday.

And you can thank Trump and his controversial presidency as these midterm elections are a referendum on his policies as numerous races across the country determines who gets control of the House and Senate for the next two years. In the last few weeks, viewers nationwide have been punished with non-stop outlandish political advertising – not only across traditional media such as television and radio, but also through Facebook, Hulu, and YouTube. In Illinois alone, the Governor’s race has broken spending records for a political race –  one that is not receiving hardly any national attention given Democratic challenger J. B. Pritzker has a commanding lead in the polls (it helps the incumbent comes off as an senile nincompoop.)

Viewers will be watching CNN Tuesday night, one of the many choices available on Election Night.

Local stations across the country have benefited from increased political advertising, breaking records in its own right. According to Kantar Media, the haul is estimated to bring in $2.65 billion for broadcasters this year, up 26 percent from 2014.

The three major broadcast networks are blowing out their  primetime Tuesday night: both CBS and ABC will have election coverage for the entire evening, while NBC decided to drop Tuesday’s episode of The Voice for expanded political coverage. According to numerous TV listings, CBS and ABC plan to air Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel at 10:35 p.m. local time Tuesday, but it is likely the talk shows will be delayed, if they air at all.

NBC isn’t airing Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, but is scheduled to air Late Night with Seth Myers. Again, times are approximate.

Fox is planning to air new episodes of their regular Tuesday night lineup, while The CW is airing repeats of its scheduled Tuesday shows, Arrow and Black Lightning.

Locally, WGN-TV is starting its election coverage at 4 p.m. in its regular news shows, including two hours in primetime (7-9 p.m.) for expanded coverage and is likely to run past 10:30 p.m. WLS-TV is airing election coverage in its regular hour-long newscast over independent WCIU at 7 p.m., who segues to regular syndicated programming at 8 p.m.

According to listings, Fox-owned WFLD has its regular lineup scheduled, but is likely to have expanded election coverage past 10 p.m. And as of this writing, Chicago’s network-owned stations plan to air their regular syndicated programming at 6:30 p.m., surrounded by election coverage and newscasts. Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo are also doing election coverage.

In radio, the city’s AM stations – WBBM-AM, WLS-AM, and WGN-AM each plan to have election night coverage. Streaming service CBSN from CBS News plans to begin its election coverage at 4 p.m. And last but not least, the cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News – will have election coverage all day. And your Twitter feed – if you have one – will be populated with election news and commentary all night long – I know mine will.

The best part about election night coverage? No more political ads – until the next election. And the ad blitz may start much sooner than you think – or want.

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