“Chicago Tonight” in turmoil: Executive Producer out after social media post violations








Now-departed exec producer threatened show’s journalistic legacy 

If the decision to sell the Chicago Tribune – a local institution dating back to 1847 to out-of-town hedge fund interests who are known as newsroom gutters weren’t enough, now another headache as emerged at another of the city’s top news organizations. 

WTTW’s Chicago Tonight – long considered one of the best local news shows, is in turmoil as the station recently fired executive producer Hugo Balta after a year because of posts he made on social media. 

As documented by Robert Feder, Balta posted bizarre videos on Instagram, not to mention showing support for liberal candidates on social media – a no-no according to the station’s ethics and journalism guidelines. The issue came to light after co-hosts Phil Ponce, Brandis Friedman, and Paris Schultz brought the matter to WTTW bosses in a letter. 

After his termination, Balta spoke out in interviews with the Tribune and with public media trade magazine Current, saying he was wrongly fired. 

Balta also failed to disclose to WTTW he was owner and head content writer of the Latino News Network, an online news outfit in New England. He has since emerged at the Chicago Reader, according to the Tribune.

In the past, Chicago Tonight and the WTTW call letters had a representation for what critics stood for as “Wilmette Talking To Winnetka”, and a report was released about the show in the mid-2000s, criticizing the way it covers Chicago (I’ve praised the Chicago Week In Review in the past in this space, although the show hasn’t the same since Joel Weisman retired.) 

But in recent years, the show has done a better job covering the Chicago area – especially in minority neighborhoods with the coronavirus pandemic and focusing more on social justice issues in the wake of the killing of George Floyd as Balta was a key component. He was instrumental in creating two public affairs shows targeting minority audiences: Latino Voices, which he hosted, and Black Voices, hosted by Friedman (who is also taking over as host of Latino Voices on an interim basis.) Both air at 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, respectively.  

However, as this space has said before – if you are in this business,  you represent your employer around-the-clock – and that includes social media posts. Certainly, endorsing any political candidate – no matter what your position is – violates most journalistic standards and he should know better, especially given his experience. The late John Callaway helped build credibility for Chicago Tonight since it launched as a half-hour late night show in 1984, and it’s hard to feel sorry for Balta and even more so now since he was scooped up by a publication whose former editor lasted just ten days

In an interview with Laura Washington of the Sun-Times – a former Chicago Tonight correspondent and often appears on the weekly wrap-up show, Ponce said Balta’s termination had a lot to do with violating WTTW’s ethical standards more than anything else. “It all has to do with objectivity. And objectivity is, you know, it’s at the core of ‘Chicago Tonight’s’ DNA. If we become partisan and political, or people think we are, I mean, at that point, we’ve lost our credibility and relevance” Ponce said, whose been with the show for more than 20 years and recently renewed his contract. 

Chicago Tonight is certainly a treasure, at a time when many for-profit news organizations are cutting back – and especially when the major broadcast news networks have abandoned serving the public interest to chase ratings and revenue (and to appease Republican members of Congress who hold the key to deregulation) if the Sunday morning news shows, the lackluster coverage of the insurrection, and last year’s Presidential debate debacle are any indication. If you’re looking for non-partisan news programming, this is the place to be and it should stay that way. 

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Syndication update: MGM pulls plug on court shows’ original production

“Paternity Court” is out of production, but remains on air through reruns and podcasting. (MGM)

Court genre thins out, but still viable

After being one of the most reliable genres in first-run syndication during the last decade, the courtroom show pack is thinning the herd a little bit. 

According to Broadcasting & Cable, MGM (through production company Orion, the former film studio acquired by MGM) has halted production on three court shows – Couples Court With The Cutlers, Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, and Personal Injury Court, a newer strip on the air only two years. According to Wikipedia, Injury Court was canceled at the end of last season after only 120 episodes, despite a report in TVNewsCheck last year that it and the other two MGM shows were renewed

The pandemic could be partly the blame for the end of these shows, but also blame the unstable financial condition of MGM, as the studio – now run by reality TV producer Mark Burnett is now up for sale. Earlier, MGM sold two of its diginet channels to Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group – Light TV (which recently became TheGrio.TV) and This TV, a former partnership between the studio and Tribune Media and beforehand, Weigel Broadcasting. 

However, it may not be the end. All three shows’ repeats are still available to local stations and will be for the foreseeable future. Recent ratings for all three are unavailable as MGM does not subscribe to Nielsen. And the article also points out MGM plans to develop more court shows, despite the financial uncertainty.

In addition, Lake has launched a podcast series based on her show. 

Other shows have also ended production. Trifecta’s Protection Court shuttered last year but is also in repeats for the foreseeable future while Debmar-Mercury’s Caught In Providence was canceled after last season. The show is no longer airing on linear TV. 

Part of the problem is the vast majority of these shows has a station clientele consisting of lower-rated CW, My Network TV, and independent stations – and in some markets, these shows air in either late-night or early morning time slots. And when they do air in a decent time slot, viewership is often low as viewers generally don’t seek these stations during the day. Adding to this is a lack of widespread clearances, with some shows reaching a little over 70 percent of the U.S., the minimum needed to secure national barter advertising. 

But despite the shortcomings, reruns are likely to remain on stations’ schedules as replacements are far and few between with the pandemic’s after effects lasting well into 2022, putting a damper on pitches for new syndicated product. 

This comes after the biggest name in court – Judge Judy, is shifting her gavel to Amazon’s IMDB beginning this fall, leaving local stations with…you guessed it, reruns. CBS Media Ventures is currently selling those repeats in multi-year deals, though it is not known if the current Judge Judy station lineup would stay intact since CBS has not released any information on sales. 

Still, stations want to be in the court business, despite the glut of shows in recent years as it has been a doable genre since the premiere of the original People’s Court in 1981. As life gets back to normal, TV production should ramp up and so should pitches for new syndication product. In fact, Fox is already pitching an Ice-T court show with stations testing the program starting next month. And of course, there’s Allen’s five shows, all receiving multi-year deals to continue so even though several courtroom programs have called it quits, there won’t be a shortage of product. And that’s the final verdict. 

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Rush Limbaugh dies

Conservative talk show host revitalized AM band

One of radio’s biggest stars has passed on. 

Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday morning at the age of 70 from lung cancer.  While he’ll be known for revitalizing talk radio, he’ll also be known for the divisive rhetoric he pioneered. 

While conservative talkers were nothing new in radio (Howard Miller, Gary Dee, etc.), it was Rush Limbaugh who took the format national beginning in August 1988 via EFM Media and later, Premiere Networks. After basing his show in New York City, he relocated to his Palm Beach, Fla. home in recent years. 

Limbaugh worked as a DJ in Cape Girardeau, Mo. and Kansas City before leaving radio to work for the Kansas City Royals’ sales department. He returned to radio in Kansas City and later at Sacramento’s KFBK. 

During his time on the air, Limbaugh was credited with spearheading the conservative movement as his show reached nearly 600 radio stations across the country. His talk show helped spawned an entire format at a time when AM radio stations were losing listeners to the FM band. He was credited with helping the Republican party take Congress in 1994 and electing Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. 

And of course, there was controversy. Limbaugh’s show was known for ostracizing anyone who wasn’t a conservative white male on his show, as he targeted Blacks, Latinos, gays, women, and others and locally, scrapped with Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell. In one case I documented here in 2012, he ripped into a college student who testified in Congress on difficulty obtaining contraception and felt she needed public assistance with Limbaugh calling her a “slut” and a “whore”.

When women were atacked in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, the mayor told the Detroit News when she saw a link to his comments, “I thought of Rush Limbaugh, because those type of statements, left unchallenged, creates an atmosphere that devalues women.”  As a result, 40 advertisers pulled out of his show. 

And despite being cleared locally on WLS-AM, Limbaugh had a lot of disdain for Chicago, especially after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. He mocked the city after losing a Summer Olympic bid in 2009 and in recent years mocked the city’s homicide rate, like other conservative talk show hosts.  

His television career was less successful by comparison. Limbaugh signed a deal with Multimedia Entertainment (syndicators of Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Jerry Springer) for a late-night talk show which ran from 1992 to 1996. Although the run was respectable, it didn’t attract advertising due to his controversial persona. In Chicago, his show bounced around three stations (WGBO, WFLD, and WBBM-TV) during its run, mostly airing in late-night and early morning time slots. 

In March 1990, Limbaugh filled in for Pat Sajak in the waning days of his struggling CBS late-night talk show in a disastrous stint. Instead of the usual format the genre is known for, he turned it into a discussion on hot-button topics, which generated howls from the studio audience. His stint as a panelist for ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown was short-lived after he made race-based comments about Chicago-area native Donavan McNabb in 2003.

Limbaugh was inducted into the Radio Hall Of Fame and also received the Presidential Medal Of Freedom by President Trump last year.


With the passing of Limbaugh, Premiere Networks made the following announcement on Wednesday:  “Rush’s voice will continue to be heard, providing comfort and continued insight to his legions of loyal fans. All of Rush’s audio has been extensively archived and cataloged by subject, topic and opinion.  His producers will be able to pull segments that are relevant for each day’s news cycle and allow us to feature the best of Rush for the full three hours of the program.

Guest hosts will be used to “guide Rush’s audio from one topic to another, but Rush will be the predominant voice heard for the three-hour Monday-Friday show, the AM Daily Update and The Week in Review three-hour show.” The show will continue “with this transitional programming until his audience is prepared to say good-bye” with additional information posted at RushLimbaugh.com when necessary.”

Earlier, Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! died from pancreatic cancer as no succession plans were made. The show is relying on guest hosts in the interim. 


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Alden Global Capital to acquire the rest of Tribune Publishing

It’s [another] end of an era in Chicago media. But this one particularly stings

In a deal anticipated for months, New York City-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital announced Tuesday it has decided to acquire the 68 percent of Tribune Publishing they already didn’t own in a $630 million deal, giving them full control of the Chicago-based media company. In addition to the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Publishing also owns newspapers in nine other cities, including the New York Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Hartford Courant, among others.

Tribune’s Baltimore Sun is being sold to a non-profit company called Sunlight For All Institute, based in the city.

Alden has been known for bleeding newspapers dry by cost-cutting and reducing the number of journalists at their papers. The group owns more than 100 newspapers nationwide including the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Denver Post, where a newsroom revolt took place shortly after Alden bought the paper with the editorial board calling them “vulture capitalists”.

The news has depressed many in Chicago’s journalism community, fearing local news would suffer even more with the deal. A sampling of some responses, some from the Chicago Tribune journalists themselves.

Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jimenez assured employees in an e-mail this wouldn’t be the case – but he used the same kind of corporate jargon the general public doesn’t understand. “Quality journalism has been Tribune’s driving principal throughout its history and will continue to drive our business well into the future. The actions we have taken to drive digital growth and invest in high-quality content allow our newsrooms, our sales teams and all of our employees across the organization to deliver essential journalism and marketing solutions to the communities we serve.”

Translation: We’ll cut our way to profitability while trying to maintain the same quality journalistic “standards”, even though it is impossible to do without actually investing in it – a problem for years dating back to the day Sam Zell bought the paper in 2007 and took it right to bankruptcy a year later. This blog has documented the Chicago Tribune’s ineptness of covering stories for years, most recently a slip-shod attempt on how Chicago’s Black population has criticized media coverage of their communities – the Chicago Tribune included. And the situation has worsened as those high-quality writers Tribune keep touting have exited the paper in the last decade.

Even though there have been flashes of brilliance in recent years with stories on Crestwood’s water woes and sexual harassment in the Chicago Public School system, you won’t see stories of this caliber anymore, regardless of the babble some CEO says at the paper.

And we could see more of this…

And two journalists went to the New York Times to voice their concerns – though the New York Times is part of the problem to begin with as out-of-towners who tweet this don’t seem to read the Tribune at all.

The deal marks the end of an era in Chicago media, with the Chicago Tribune being the prominent newspaper in the Midwest, founded in 1847. In 1924, the paper invested in an new emerging medium called radio, as they launched WGN-AM with the call letters standing for “World’s Greatest Newspaper”. In 1948, the Tribune did the same with television, launching WGN-TV, carrying home grown programs and sports, such as the Chicago Cubs. By the 2000s, Tribune Co. owned numerous newspapers and became a major television group and a power player in the syndication business, even surviving a 1975 cross-ownership rule the FCC implemented, barring newspaper companies from owning TV and radio stations (Tribune and several others chains received waivers.)

During the Zell era, the company went through layoffs – not to mention questionable ethical practices and an overall dysfunctional atmosphere. In 2014, the company split into two separate companies: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing, with the former keeping the TV stations and WGN-AM (both would later be sold to Irving, Tex.-based Nexstar) and latter the newspapers.

And to make matters worse, Michael Ferro – who had a hand wrecking the Sun-Times, took over in 2016 and later that year, Tribune Publishing would re-name themselves as “tronc” in a widely-mocked move. In 2018, Ferro resigned shortly before allegations of sexual harassment was revealed. Ferro would later sell his 25 percent stake to Alden, later upping their stake to 32 percent.

With the sale, Chicago and Illinois lose another media company to call the state home. Earlier, Quincy, Ill.-based Quincy Media sold its TV and radio stations to Atlanta-based Gray Television and also plans to sell the Quincy Herald-Wiig – and don’t be surprised if it this paper too, winds up in Alden’s hands.

With the Supreme Court set to rule in favor of the FCC’s reworked media rules to end regulation on cross-ownership, it comes too late for Tribune and other former newspaper-TV-radio combos, who broke up years ago. Many of us suspected when Tribune filed for bankruptcy that the company would be broken up and sold to out-of-town interests. Thirteen years later, this has become a reality. But for those hand-wringing about quality journalism at the Chicago Tribune suffering at the hands of Alden, well sadly, that ship sailed a long time ago.

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Super Dud: Bowl numbers fall

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tom Brady’s seventh SB victory doesn’t help ratings

Super Bowl LV wasn’t exactly the ratings bonanza CBS and the NFL hoped it would be. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the big game at their home at Raymond James Stadium, who were awarded the rights years ago. But the team landed a big-name free agent during the offseason to be their quarterback – the one and only Tom Brady, who has six Super Bowl titles to his name during his time with the New England Patriots. 

After three consecutive road playoff wins, the Bucs got to play in the Super Bowl in their own home stadium – an NFL first, although two teams did play in their home metro area (the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford.)  Facing the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs beat them 31-9 and earned their second Super Bowl title in team history and Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl ring, surpassing Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles and perhaps cementing his status as The Greatest Of All Time. 

But it appears viewers didn’t exactly feel the love. Nielsen figures released Tuesday showed viewership falling to lows not seen in years. Among linear viewers, Super Bowl LV drew 91.63 million viewers adding 5.7 million streaming viewers, for a grand total of 96.4 million viewers across all platforms – the lowest tally for the big same since Super Bowl XLII matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts (93.1 million.) In all, viewership  declined from Super Bowl LIV on Fox, which attracted 99.91 million for Chiefs-49ers. 

On the Programming Insider, my Super Bowl predictions fell way short with 99.7 million.

As for actual ratings, the game drew the lowest since Super Bowl III, the Joe Namath-Johnny Unitas matchup from 1969 with a 38.2 household rating, and down from the 41.6 earned last year. 

Among adults 18-49, the game drew a 26.5 rating, down 11 percent from last year and marked the ninth straight year of decline in the demo and the lowest tally since Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. Among adults 25-54, the game drew a 30.7 , down 10 percent from last year and a 20.9 rating in adults 18-34, down 13 percent. 

In Nielsen’s overnight markets, Kansas City was the top market, with KCTV drawing a 59.9 household rating, followed by WBZ/Boston’s 57.6 mark, Tom Brady’s former home market. Tampa-St. Petersburg was third with a 52.3 for WTSP. 

Even though it’s been 35 years since the Bears won a Super Bowl, their local 63.1 rating and 87 share in Super Bowl XX remains a record for any home market whose team was in the big game, with the Bears’ loss in Super Bowl XLII drawing a 50.2/77  local rating and share in 2007 though it did reach more viewers and homes due to Nielsen measurement changes. The Bears victory also remains the highest-rated program in Chicago television history, at least dating back to 1986 (Chicago ratings for this year’s big game were not available.) 

There were several theories on why Super Bowl ratings were down this year, but perhaps the strongest case was the number of people streaming the game – a record 5.7 million. Another likely reason was the game was a blowout, as it was practically over by halftime. And of course, you have the pandemic. 

Other factors in play include many Black viewers sitting out as the NFL continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick, and Tom Brady appearing in (and winning) the Super Bowl too many times. Others believe the NFL’s decision to tackle social issues may have made the game too political for some. 

But the bigger picture is, will these declining numbers affect the NFL when it comes to seeking new television deals? Likely not, given the league’s popularity and despite this year’s “low numbers”, the NFL still outdraws everything on television, hampered by viewers pivoting to streaming. 

Post-game entertainment: The new face of The Equalizer

After the big game, CBS did something no network hasn’t done in years: launch a new show after the Super Bowl though long lasting success isn’t guaranteed (only The A-Team and The Wonder Years, and to a lesser extent, Family Guy and Undercover Boss have achieved hit status.) 

With that said, the premiere 0f The Equalizer with Queen Latifah drew decent sampling with 20.4 million viewers (on the Programming Insider, I predicted 26.5 million.) In the adults 18-49 demo, Equalizer earned a 5.1 rating, and a 6.3 in the 25-54 target demo. 

If this is familiar to you, that’s because CBS aired a similar series with the same name from 1985-89 starring Edward Woodward, who was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Drama series for four consecutive years in the title role. The series’ cancellation in 1989 came after CBS and producer Universal Television got into a dispute over the renewal of Murder, She Wrote. In an odd circumstance, the new Equalizer is being slotted in Wrote’s old post-60 Minutes time slot, a position the Angela Lansbury drama held for eleven of its twelve-season run.  

After its CBS run ended, off-network reruns aired on the USA Network. A film adapted from the TV show was released in 2014 and starred Denzel Washington with a sequel released in 2018.  



2021 Super Bowl Commercial Review: Tracy Morgan’s in my house and in my tub

Tracy Morgan taking advice from the late Larry Lujack: “Take off your clothes and get into the tub!”

Game was a blowout; commercials were about average 

Given the times we’re in with political division, unemployment, and a never-ending  pandemic riddled with deaths, I thought about sitting out this year’s Super Bowl commercial recap.

But pop culture never stops – even during a pandemic. And so here we are – and this year we have a song about oat milk, Bruce Springsteen trying to unite a divided nation, and Tracy Morgan in someone’s house taking a bath. Most of the ads avoided the fact we’re still in a pandemic, masks absent in most spots. Maybe they didn’t want to remind us of the times we’re in, and that’s okay because we’ve have enough of those heart-tugging and emotional ads last spring when the pandemic first arrived.  

So for the fifteenth edition of this Super Bowl Commercial review – where marketers paid $5.5 million per thirty second spot, we have a top ten list for both Best and Worst categories. As a reminder, network promos and movie/streaming trailers do not count. Some of the videos on this page could soon become unavailable, so you may see those annoying gray boxes if you come across this article in the future. In the next post, we’ll talk about the ratings and the game itself. 

The best

We start off with a disclaimer – had Geico run their Scoop There It Is ad with Tag Team during the Super Bowl (it ran before and after the game), it would have won this category hands down. 

1. Rocket Mortgage. Certain Is Better (w/Dave Bautista)

2. Rocket Mortgage, Certain Is Better (w/Joey Bosa)

Both of these were ranked #1 and #2 respectively in USA Today’s Ad Meter thanks to a get-out-the-vote campaign and fortunately for Rocket Mortgage, the ads were funny and very good. I’m pretty sure of it. Oh those poor suckers… er, I mean customers…

3. M&Ms, Come Together. Been a tough year for anyone named Karen or a M&M character (which is basically every year, trying to avoid getting eaten and the like.) Dan Levy is your Special Guest Star.

4. Cheetos, It Wasn’t Me. Real-life couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis appear in a commercial with Shaggy (the singer, not the cartoon character) singing his hit “It Wasn’t Me” to solve the mystery of who ate the Cheetos. And may have been Shaggy. And he would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

5. GM, No Way Norway. Only Will Ferrell could wind up in Sweden thinking it was Norway. You’ve been warned! 

6. Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer, All-Star Cast. The best part of this ad was Don Cheadle trying to evict Don Cheadle from his boat.

7. Tide, The Jason Alexander Hoodie. Well played, using the same song Alexander’s Seinfeld character mocked on a message answering machine (though some on Twitter didn’t get the comparison.) Then again, you wonder why a kid has a Jason Alexander hoodie to begin with. 

8. Scott’s Miracle-Gro, Keep Growing. This ad was terrific and funny with Martha Stewart and John Travolta dancing (and he still has it!)

9. Bud Light, Bud Light Legends. This was like an Bud-Light commercial All-Star game from past commercials including The Cutout Guy and Cedric. 

10. Jimmy John’s, Meet The King. The Champaign, Ill.-based chain has Brad Garrett as a “sandwich king” trying to torch ol’ Jimmy. Does the King usually take the Subway? Ok, I’ll stop now.

The worst 

Note: Click on links to see videos. 

1. Paramount Plus: Sweet Victory; Ice Bridge Crack; Roll Call; Frostbite Hooked It That’s right… a first-ever four-way tie for the worst ad…and it’s for the same inferior product! And the best part about ViacomCBS’ new streaming service ads is they were schooled on their own network by rival Disney, showing how you really market not just one streaming service but three of them. Meanwhile, the look on the CBS stars’ faces showed them wishing their network and Viacom stayed separate companies.

2. Jeep: The Middle. Talk about misreading the mood of the nation, Bruce.

3. Uber Eats, Wayne’s World & Cardi B’s Shameless Manipulation. With the abundance of cord-cutting, who in their right mind is still doing public-access shows in 2020? Plus, Uber Eats is putting small eatery businesses…out of business.

4. Fiverr, Opportunity Knocks.  This commercial fails on all levels with its political bent, given there are those who don’t want to be reminded of anything about the last President. And by the way, Four Seasons is the name of a well-respected heating and A/C company in the Chicago area – I’m certain they can’t be happy with this. 

5. Oatly, Wow Wow No cow. Holy cow, this is one commercial Haray Caray would even throw back. Of note this ranked dead last in USA Today’s Ad Meter Poll.

6. Chitpole, Can A Burrito Change The World? On the surface, this commercial can serve as a pilot for a new TV show with another know-it-all brat, similar in vain to Young Sheldon and The Goldbergs and we don’t need any more of that. And no, it won’t.

7. E*Trade, Workout. See #6.

8. Inspiration4: Join The First All-Civilian Space Mission. Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer went to outer space? Now Elon Musk wants to do this for real, with less amusing results.

9. Robinhood, We Are All Investors. And since we are now all investors, we took GameStop stock and nearly crashed the stock market. Talk about a poorly-timed ad.

10. Vroom, Dealership Pain. Does it seem odd the first 18 seconds of this ad described the last four years of the previous Presidential administration we were under?

Also of note, the NFL’s “Inspire Change” commercials regarding social justice seemed hollow given the league continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Halftime Show 

This year’s presentation featured pop and R&B artist The Weeknd as he performed a medley of his hits, including 2015’s Cant Feel My Face with a variety of weird camera angles and socially distant dancers marching with drolls on their heads. This was boring more than anything else. Too bad Shakira and Jennifer Lopez couldn’t come back for an encore this year. 

The reaction on social media was split, as expected given most people over a certain age hated it or didn’t understand what was going on, while his fans and younger people loved it. Of course, the arrogance of The Weeknd’s fan base showed as one tweeter noted “Slander toward The Weeknd will not be allowed”. Of course, social media is basically 100 percent slander. 

Grade: D- 

Further reading 

NPR’s Eric Deggans has his annual review and you can read it here.

Ad Age also has reviews of the ads, and you can read them here.

The aforementioned Super Bowl Ad Meter from USA Today ranks all 57 commercials here. 

As mentioned before, this is the fifteenth straight year T Dog Media has reviewed Super Bowl Ads. For past reviews dating all the way back to 2007, click here. Keep in mind older videos posted in those reviews may no longer be available. 


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Matt Spiegel returns to the Score and reunites with Danny Parkins

Spiegel can now ruin Pizza Friday every week.

Team reunites after three years apart

After being demoted at The Score three years ago, Matt Speigel is back in the afternoons where he belongs. 

Beginning today, Speigel is reunited with co-host Danny Parkins in afternoons from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Entercom-owned sports talk station after being bounced for a returning Dan McNeil. 

From the press release

“Matt has always been part of the Score team, but the fact that he is now reunited with Danny in Afternoons is great news most for fans,” said Mitch Rosen, Brand Manager, 670 The Score. “Matt’s popularity with our audience throughout all of our platforms is unwavering. The content he delivers on a daily basis is thoughtful, entertaining, opinionated sports talk, and data shows from the previous time together that listeners love this tandem of Danny and Matt.”

“This is where I’m supposed to be: talking sports and more with this audience, creating a daily space for connection and companionship,” said Spiegel. “There’s nothing like it. Danny Parkins is a great host and a good friend. What he and I had found in terms of chemistry was special three years ago and I’m super excited to resume, move forward creatively, and see where we can go.”

Speigel has been with WSCR in some capacity or another since 1994 in numerous roles in a variety of dayparts and recently taken a position with Marquee Sports as a contributor to Chicago Cubs coverage. From 2017 to 2018, he was an afternoon co-host with Parkins until he was replaced by McNeil thanks in part to since-departed Entercom market manager and senior vice-president Jimmy deCastro. Speigel remained with The Score in a fill-in/weekend role. 

Last September, McNeil was fired from The Score after making a sexist statement on social media regarding ESPN’s Maria Taylor on-air wardrobe during a Monday Night Football game. 

This latest change comes a month after WSCR announced the promotion of Leila Rahimi to full-time co-host with Dan Bernstein mornings from 9 am. to noon, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time position at a Chicago radio sports talk station. 

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Gray buys Quincy Media’s TV outlets

Quincy Media’s HQ in downstate Quincy, Ill.

Another television group exits Illinois 

Atlanta-based Gray Television announced Monday the acquisition of Quincy Media’s television and radio properties for $925 million, a move expected as the Quincy, Ill.-based company announced late last year it was putting their media properties up for sale. 

Once the deal is completed, Gray would own stations in 102 markets, mostly mid-sized and small metros. Several Illinois network affiliates in the deal include KWQC (NBC) in Davenport, Ia. (serving Rock Island and Moline); WEEK (NBC) in Peoria; WREX (NBC) in Rockford; WSIL (ABC) in Carbondale/Harrisburg; and WGEM (NBC), the flagship station in Quincy, Ill., where Quincy Media is headquartered. Also included in the deal are News/Talk WGEM-FM and Sports Talk WGEM-AM. It is not known if Gray plans to hold on to those radio stations or deal them to a major radio chain.

Gray is also acquiring Quincy’s WSVJ in South Bend, Ind. The one-time ABC and Fox station – whose affiliation went to a digital subchannel of Sinclair’s WSBT in a complicated deal in 2016, is now affiliated with Weigel Broadcasting’s Heroes & Icons diginet. Gray also plans to divest NBC affiliate WPSD-TV in Paducah Ky. , which serves several counties in Southeast Illinois.

Gray has been growing its portfolio in recent years, including the acquisition of the Raycom Media group in 2018. Quincy Media’s newspapers, including the Quincy Herald-Whig, are expected to be sold to someone else. Late last year, Quincy Media officially put itself on the block.

“Many of our shareholders, board members and employees are descendants of two families who have been in the company for 95 years and in the media business for over 100 years. The focus has always been on serving our communities with the best in news, public service and community involvement. It is a legacy of which we are very proud”, said Quincy Media President and CEO Ralph M. Oakley in a statement. 

“While this is the end of a long and successful chapter, it also represents a wonderful new chapter for the communities we serve and our employees with the acquisition of the stations by Gray. They are great operators and people and our philosophies very much mirror one another.”

The Quincy newspaper-TV-radio combo  is one of the last few remaining in the U.S., even as the FCC is in the process of abolishing the cross-ownership rule, which has been in place since 1975 as the issue is currently in front of the Supreme Court. But those combos – which received waivers when the rule took affect, are being voluntarily broken up as the aura of owning a newspaper, TV, and radio station has fallen out of favor in recent years, even as the FCC deregulates the business as all three platforms are seeing their audience erode due to digital alternatives (streaming, Pandora, satellite radio, etc.)

For example, the former Chicago-based Tribune Co. split into two companies in 2014: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing. The former was sold to Nexstar; the latter is in the process of being taken over by Alden Capital, a hedge fund. For now, Tribune Publishing remains based in Chicago.

With the sale of Quincy Media, Illinois is now left with only one major television group, the aforementioned Weigel, based in Chicago and owns stations here, Milwaukee, Rockford, and South Bend; MeTV and several other diginets; and MeTV FM. In addition to Tribune, other former broadcast groups formerly based here include Barrington Broadcasting and Burnham Broadcasting. 

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NewsNation expands as WGN America sunsets

Nexstar shifts focus from entertainment programming to news 

In a long-awaited move, Nexstar announced on Monday they were expanding NewsNation into other dayparts, including prime access and early fringe.

Beginning March 1, WGN America is adding two more hours of news: a 5 p.m. newshour anchored by Nicole Berlie, who previously anchored weekends, and Joe Donlan gets a solo spot in the 6 p.m. hour, leading in to the two-hour NewsNation prime-time newscasts. All times are Central. 

Titled The Donlan Report, the former WGN-TV news personality anchors a news and interview shows with notable newsmakers. The new hour goes head-to-head with CNBC’s The News With Shepard Smith, who debuted 30 days after NewsNation did and has a similar format. Donlon Report also is going head-to-head with the newly-launched Fox News Primetime which is basically an opinion show; and Joy Reid’s The Reid Out on MSNBC. 

Also on March 1, a previously-announced new interview show with Ashleigh Banfield debuts at 9 p.m.

But that’s not all – in order to show commitment to their pet project, Nexstar is also “rebranding” the channel to NewsNation, dropping the WGN name after 43 years.

“Rebranding WGN America as NewsNation underscores the network’s clearly defined mission of delivering fact-based and unbiased news, while making it easier for viewers to find this new informative source for news,” said Nexstar exec Sean Compton in a news release.

Ratings have been dismal for NewsNation, averaging a little north of 60,000 viewers so far this calendar year. NewsNation was on the air for breaking news events in recent weeks, covering the live Capitol insurrection on January 6 and the inauguration of President Joe Biden last week.  Nexstar has also focused on striking distribution deals in recent weeks with carriers to expand NewsNation’s footprint. 

Indeed, finding an identity for WGN America has been a challenge. Carrying the local signal of WGN-TV nationwide, it was known for Cubs baseball, local Chicago newscasts, syndicated programming, and Bozo. But the FCC’s new syndicated exclusivity rules (or “syndex” for short) in 1990 took out much of its contemporary entertainment programming and then ran into trouble with Major League Baseball and the NBA over carrying Cubs, White Six, and Bulls contests as all local sports vanished in 2014, though for unrelated reasons. The channel was re-branded as WGN America in 2008 and converted into a basic cable network in 2014. Around this time, WGN was investing in more scripted and reality programming, but all vanished from the channel by 2018. 

The rebrand to NewsNation comes as cable networks are facing their futures as a changing cable ecosystem is occurring amid a sea of cord-cutting as consumers pivoting to streamers. On Friday, NBCUniversal announced it was closing sports network NBCSN, migrating the few events it has to sibling USA Network and streaming service Peacock. 

Even though WGN America is becoming NewsNation, the cable network still plans to run entertainment programming in other dayparts for the time being, making the name change illogical. But it’s clear what direction Nexstar is going in with the now-former WGN America, as the off-network programming it airs – especially given the same shows can be found elsewhere, is no longer cutting it. 

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NBCSN to shutter by the end of the year

NBCUniversal to shift events to USA Network and streamer Peacock

In a move some pundits were predicting, it’s the end of the road for NBC Sports Network – or NBCSN, as the cable sports channel announced Friday it was closing its doors by the end of the year. 

NBCSN is currently the home of the NHL, NASCAR, Premier League Soccer, cycling, Atlantic-10 college basketball, and other sports. It’s likely USA Network would be able to absorb some of these events as soon as this year while NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock could absorb others. A few select NHL playoff games already air on USA, a cable channel who held rights to MLB, NBA, NHL, and boxing in the 1980s under the previous joint ownership of MCA (now NBCUniversal) and Paramount (now part of ViacomCBS.) Successor-in-interest Universal bought out the rest of Paramount’s (by this time owned by Viacom) stake in the late 1990s. NBC and Universal merged in 2004, and acquired by Comcast in 2011

Already, Peacock has acquired a few IndyCar races and have been placed on a higher-paid tier. 

NBCSN’s roots lie within the Outdoor Life Network, (later shortened to OLN), launched in 1995 by Comcast. After ESPN passed on renewing the NHL, the league wound up on OLN in 2005, renamed Versus a year later. After Comcast purchased NBCUniversal, the channel was renamed NBC Sports Network, then later NBCSN. 

The decision to shutter NBCSN will have some implications for the NHL. In 2011, Comcast paid a whopping $2 billion for exclusive NHL rights for NBC and NBCSN, an outgrowth of a revenue-sharing deal with NBC dating back to 2004 when the network did not pay a rights fee.  The deal ends after this current season, and it’s unlikely NBCUniversal would retain exclusive rights given the league wants to split the package – raising the possibility of the league returning to ESPN and Fox Sports with Turner and CBS Sports also in the mix. 

NBCUniversal’s Golf and Olympic channels are not affected by Friday’s actions. 

The demise of NBCSN can be blamed on several factors: the abundance of cord-cutting as many households have dropped their cable subscriptions; tough competition from ESPN; and the impact from Covid-19, cancelling sporting events worldwide, resulting in a loss of revenue; and of course, the growing popularity of streaming. 

The attempt to compete with ESPN was often futile, with the since-departed Dan Patrick Show the only program to have a significant run on NBCSN. Indeed, their programming outside of live or taped sporting events consisted of second and third-tier stuff such as auto auctions, infomercials, and reruns of American Ninja Warrior. Other original programming included Costas Tonight and Pro Football Talk Live. Despite the tepidness of the schedule, NBCSN performed decently in the ratings, ahead of ESPN 2, MLB Network, and the CBS Sports Network.  

Back in 2017, I wrote a piece titled “Cable At The Crossroads”, as the growing popularity of streaming and cord-cutting was effecting the cable TV stratosphere. Ironically, eleven of the twelve networks I listed in trouble are still hanging in there as the number of cable closures slowed. But with the economy tanking due to Covid-19, the pace has picked up again with the recent closures of El Rey Network and digital subchannel Light TV, and more are coming in the months and years ahead as the industry is adjusting to the new way of watching television and it’s increasingly less and less through a cable cord or a satellite dish. 

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Syndication news: “You Bet Your Life” a firm go

Pretty much self-explanatory.

And other news of note

Traditionally, there is a crush of syndication news at this time of year, but we’re not in any normal times as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the globe as vaccines rolls out. 

As expected, the yearly NATPE gathering went virtual (as did the annual CES gathering). While NATPE hasn’t exactly been a magnet for syndication for over a decade now, syndicators still use this time of year to announce new programming initiatives, though not as much as in the past.  

On Tuesday, Fox First-Run provided an update on the previously announced You Bet Your Life reboot with Jay Leno and it’s becoming a Tonight Show reunion: former bandleader Kevin Eubanks is co-hosting the show with Leno, and has been sold in 85 percent of the country with the Fox-owned stations as launch partner, including Fox 32 and My50 in Chicago. Other groups signing on are Nexstar, Sinclair, Gray, Meredith, McKinnon (San Diego independent KUSI), and Sun. Fox stations who currently run Family Feud and/or 25 Words Or Less (including Chicago) are expected to pair it You Bet in early fringe (afternoon) and/or access (6-8 p.m.) 

“Combining the expertise of two of Hollywood’s top producers, Tom Werner and David Hurwitz, with the joint hosting experience of the tremendously talented Jay Leno and Kevin Eubanks, “You Bet Your Life” will deliver a fun series filled with the warmth and laughter that America needs now,” said Fox First-Run and Fox TV Stations EVP Stephen Brown in a statement.    

NBCUniversal still owns international rights to the show through NBCUniversal Formats and is being sold globally through Propagate Content. The original You Bet (with host Groucho Marx) aired on NBC in both TV and radio in the 1950s and in first-run syndication during the 1980-81 and 1992-93 seasons, the latter co-produced by Werner with former partner Marcy Carsey. 

In other syndication news, NextTV is reporting the long running Maury show is ending first-run production after the 2021-22 season. Originally  a general-interest talk show when it began in September 1991 under the former Paramount Domestic Television, The Maury Povich Show became Maury in 1998 when he switched to Studios USA (now NBCUniversal Syndication Studios) and devoted a huge lion’s share of topics on paternity tests, known for the phrase “You are the father!” 

NBCUniversal Syndication Studios nor Povich were available for comment. Similar to Jerry Springer (which ended its run in 2018) and Judge Judy (ending production this year as Judy Sheindlin moves to Amazon), repeats are reportedly being licensed under multi-year deals, signaling a trend of off-syndication content moving on to stations’ schedules. Maury has been in reruns this season due to the pandemic curbing production for many shows with the show now airing two hours a day over Chicago’s WGN-TV as the station was unable to fill the vacant hour left by the cancellation of Mel Robbins last September. 

After selling the rerun rights to ViacomCBS’ cable properties, Warner Bros. is finally making off-network episodes of Young Sheldon to broadcast stations beginning this fall with Nexstar as the launch group, also according to NextTV. Although no stations were announced, it’s likely Sheldon will air on Nexstar stations in the top markets including WGN, KTLA Los Angeles, and newly acquired WPIX New York though its shared services agreement with owner Mission Broadcasting. It’ll likely be paired with The Goldbergs on these stations for the hapless home viewer to enjoy in a sitcom block of really annoying people. 

Warner has also set new cycle deals for The Big Bang Theory and Friends, but notably missing was Two And A Half Men, whose contracts with stations are up this fall. Also renewing is Sony’s Seinfeld and King of Queens, who recently swapped time periods with Drew Barrymore’s talk show on CW26, moving back to 5 p.m. from 9 p.m. 

Finally, online reports has surfaced regarding the future of weekly magazine show Central Ave. is going out of production as the producers are reportedly shopping the series around for a new deal. After being tested on a few Fox-owned stations, Central debuted as a weekend series last September in syndication, including the Fox O&Os. Debmar-Mercury was quoted saying the program will continue to air through the rest of the current season. 

Ratings for the show were not available.


Former WMAQ meteorologist Jim Tilmon dies

Also was a licensed pilot; did aviation stories for local television

Jim Tilmon, who was one of the first African-American television personalities on Chicago television, died Saturday at the age of 86 in his Scottsdale, Arizona home.

Tilmon was more than a meteorologist; he was also a licensed pilot, becoming the third African-American to fly for a commercial carrier. He was also a television host and a musician.

Born in Guthrie, Okla. Tilmon gradated from Lincoln University in 1957 and served in the college’s ROTC programs, then served in the U.S. Army Core of Engineers, where he learned to fly.  Tilmon was discharged from the Army in 1965 and became a pilot for American Airlines.

Tilmon’s television career began in 1968 at public broadcaster WTTW hosting Our People, a forum to discuss Black issues. Premiering a week after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, he featured guests such as Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Oscar Brown Jr., and Harold Washington, who would become Chicago’s first Black mayor.

Tilmon moved over to NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in the early 1970s and became the station’s meteorologist, but his experience as a pilot led him to report on stories involving science and aviation, including his analysis on the fatal plane crash just outside of O’Hare in May 1979. In the first few years at WMAQ, he also hosted a public affairs program called Tilmon’s Tempo, similar to Our People. Tilmon’s career at WMAQ lasted over two decades.

In later years, Tilmon appeared at CBS-owned WBBM-TV and Fox-owned WFLD and sister station KSAZ in the Phoenix market, where he would eventually retire.

In addition to being a pilot and meteorologist, Tilmon was also an accomplished musician, often playing clarinet for the Evanston and Lake Forest symphonies (one of his degrees he held at Lincoln was in music.) Tilmon won numerous local Emmy Awards and was inducted in the Chicago Silver Circle in 2000. He was also one of the founding members of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Just last year, Chicago television lost another meteorologist who also served in the armed forces – Jerry Taft, who was Tilmon’s colleague for at a time at WMAQ. Tilmon’s son (named Jim Tilmon, Jr.) followed in his footsteps and also became a pilot. He died last year at 60 due to kidney failure.

Tilmon is survived by his wife Joan, two children, and five grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

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More diginets fall: Scripps pulls plug on Ion Plus, ShopIon, Qubo



Former Katz networks to take their place

Get ready for a major shift in the digital channel world. 

Months after Scripps acquired Ion Networks, the company announced it was eliminating three digital subchannel networks: Ion Plus, ShopIon, and Qubo effective at the end of February. Those channels will be replaced by existing Katz channels, including Bounce, Grit, Laff, and Court TV. Scripps purchased Katz Communications in 2017 and last year purchased Ion for $2.65 billion. 

This only involves the Ion stations owned by Scripps including WCPX here; non-O&O Ion affiliates – including the 23 stations recently spun off to the new INYO broadcast group, who owns stations in Phoenix, Denver, and Kansas City, are not part of the move.

The framework on how these channels would migrate hasn’t been decided as the moves will vary by market. In Chicago, Univision-owned WGBO and WXFT are set to lose Grit, Laff, and Court TV Mysteries (formerly Escape) while WCIU’s 26.5 will lose Bounce. WGN is losing Court TV on 9.3 – and this two years after Katz made a deal with then-owner Tribune to launch the channel.

With existing contracts varying, it is not exactly known when the moves would take place though Scripps said some migrations would start March 1. But other moves won’t take place until 2024 when Univision’s contracts to carry the channels expire. Univision carries the former Katz channels in most large markets, including New York and Los Angeles.

The ABC-owned stations have Laff with the exception of WLS-TV, who dropped the channel after the spectrum auction in order to share channel space with WXFT. Its contract status with Scripps is unknown. 

The distribution expansion of the Scripps multicast networks through Ion’s broadcast spectrum is the first major step in our realizing the tremendous synergies of the Ion transaction,” said Scripps President-CEO Adam Symson. “National Networks President Lisa Knutson and her team are working quickly and effectively to uphold Scripps’ commitment to executing our plan. Once again, Scripps is doing what we said we would do.”

These moves are the latest in a changing atmosphere in the diginet world. On Friday, Allen Media Group’s new TheGrio.TV officially replaced Light TV while CBS Television Stations soft-launched a new diginet channel last month called Fave TV, but very little information has been released about the channel. So far, programming mainly consists of reality TV show reruns from parent Viacom’s cable networks.

In addition, NBC-owned stations launched NBCLX about two years ago, targeted to millennials with original programming and newscasts – an ambitious effort in the space, with the channel also available on numerous other platforms including the web, YouTube, and through co-owned Xfinity (Comcast) among others. Locally, NBCLX can be found on WMAQ-TV 5.3 and Xfinity channel 342 and 1175. 

While Ion Plus was mainly overflow programming of stuff already on Ion and ShopIon was basically an around-the-clock infomercial channel, the loss of Qubo leaves PBS Kids as the only 24-hour kids network left in the diginet space. 

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Bears back into playoffs and back right out as ratings drop

Source: Butch Dill

Game draws fewer viewers than last playoff run two years ago

Nickelodeon simulcast draws praise

If it weren’t for Nickelodeon’s family-oriented simulcast of the Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints game Sunday, this matchup wouldn’t be worth watching. But for once, the “slime” mentioned – and seen – didn’t refer to Mitch Trubisky, Ryan Pace, or Matt Nagy.

The Chicago NFL Lakefront Team bullshitted their way into the playoffs and left exactly the same way in a 21-9 defeat against the Saints Sunday, thanks to an expanded playoffs with fourteen teams in a “Super Wild Card Weekend” thanks to the pandemic. Or more likely, expanding the field so the NFL can put extra money into their coffers.

Once again, the Bears fail in front of a national TV audience, leaving viewers to question why they keep appearing. But what they should be asking is why the NFL decided to adopt a “everyone makes the playoffs” format like every other sports league. It seems the only beneficiary of these expanded playoffs were other Chicago teams, so they too can lose on national television in the first round.

At least the Bulls got left out in the NBA’s expanded playoffs last year, to spare us any more humiliation.

As for the ratings – that’s what you’re here for right? Of course you are. Locally, the Bears game drew a 29.4 household rating for CBS-owned WBBM-TV, who aired their first playoff game since December 29, 1991, a 17-13 Bears loss against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field in a similarly lackluster effort. But the worst played game of the weekend turned out to be the most watched – drawing 30.6 million, proving viewers love watching traffic accidents.

Slime cannons for everyone!

Overall, the game drew a 32.5 local rating, down 25 percent from the Bears’ last playoff game two years ago when they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the infamous double-doink game. Chalk the lower ratings to lower expectations as most people didn’t think the Bears would advance to the next round.

As for Super Wild-Card weekend, the expanded playoff format was perceived to be a ratings bust, with at least one game providing the lowest Wild Card ratings since 1998 and another with the least-watched matchup since 2003 as four games compared to similar matchups in the same time slots from last year declined in the ratings. Serves the NFL right for sticking us with inferior prime-time matchups this season.

This game was easily the worst of the six playoff matchups, with neither team playing championship-caliber football. But if there was a saving grace from this, it was the Nickelodeon broadcast.

The telecast was well-received on social media from viewers as Nate Burleson, Noah Eagle, and Gabrielle Nevaeh Green did an outstanding job on the broadcast. The special effects were fun, too with a special slime effect whenever someone scored a touchdown – not to mention Spongebob and Co. celebrating every time there was a touchdown (we knew all along they were Saints fans.) The game was a strong draw on Nickelodeon with 2.06 million viewers, and a 2.7 household rating locally (demo ratings on how many kids and teens watched were still not available.)

The only minus was when Young Sheldon showed up on-screen to explain the penalties, in synergy run amok as Nickelodeon recently acquired off-network rights to the show as I was half-expecting the geek from The Goldbergs to also show up. But Iain Armitage’s appearance made this tweet I wrote more relevant:

And the of course, the Bears’ play generated perhaps the best tweet of all time:

Despite the loss, Mitch Trubisky did win an award – a Nickelodeon Valuable Player award from the fans in online voting. There’s something he can put on his resume as he’s looking for his next quarterback opportunity – sweeping up feces and kitty litter at Blossom’s Cat Cafe while being Mayim Bialik’s cabana boy. But instead of being banished to waiting tables at Krusty Krab, Pace and Nagy are returning next season and they’ll also bring back Trubisky given Bears management is about as inept as Mayor Lightfoot and her administration – and she’s isn’t going anywhere either.

After all… it’s The Chicago Way.

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CBS Television Distribution rebrands as CBS Media Ventures

New name reflects additional responsibilities in addition to selling to TV stations

After fourteen years as CBS Television Distribution, ViacomCBS’ syndication arm announced Monday it was rebranding as CBS Media Ventures. The decision to rebrand comes as the company feels it’s more than just a syndicator serving traditional TV outlets but also to streamers and creating digital content and running new diginet Dabl. 

“Syndication has traditionally meant distribution, but as the media landscape has evolved so have we,” president Steve LoCascio said in a statement. “In addition to our core business of producing and distributing leading first-run series, we also have a robust ad sales and partnerships business, create digital content for multiple platforms and run the lifestyle network Dabl. This new name better reflects who we are and positions us for limitless opportunities in the future.”

The new CBS Media Ventures distributes eleven first-run syndicated shows, including the top-rated Judge Judy, the Sony-produced Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy!, Inside Edition, The Drew Barrymore Show, and Daily Mail TV, among others. 

CBS Media Ventures also is the national ad rep for other syndicators, including Debmar-Mercury (Family Feud, Wendy Williams, etc.) and Fox First-Run’s Divorce Court and 25 Words Or Less (but not Dish Nation, who is repped by Trifecta Entertainment.)  

CBS also has a large library of off-network programming, sold to various diginets such as MeTV and Antenna TV and to streaming services such as Peacock, its own CBS All Access (soon to rebrand as Paramount Plus) and Netflix. Last year, the company struck a deal with Netflix for the rights to stream several off-network sitcoms targeted to African-Americans, such as Girlfriends and Moesha

This comes as under ViacomCBS, the network and related properties have rebranded and sported updated new looks. In fact, the five-note mnemonic sound you hear on CBS is now also being used for CBS Media Ventures’ closing syndication logo. 

CBS is the latest syndication outfit owned by the major broadcast networks to rebrand their name. Last month, NBCUniversal Television Distribution announced they were rebranding as NBCUniversal Syndication Services while Disney/ABC Domestic Television rebranded as Disney Media Distribution quietly last fall, removing the ABC name from the outfit. 

As of today, all stories tagged to CBS Television Distribution will now re-tagged CBS Media Ventures to reflect the name change.

CBS Television Distribution was formed in January 2007, merging together two separate syndication companies – CBS Paramount Television and King World (acquired by CBS in 1999) under one name, a year after CBS and parent company Viacom split with CBS Corporation taking all of the television properties. In 2019, both companies reunited under the ViacomCBS banner after Les Moonves was forced out of the company. 

CBS had been in the syndication business as CBS Films and CBS Enterprises until 1971, when the network was forced to spin-off to CBS shareholders due to the then-implemented financial interest and syndication rules. The new company was named Viacom and grew to become a global powerhouse – so much so in 1999, Viacom acquired CBS four years after the fin-syn rules expired, reuniting the companies after 27 years apart.  

Five years earlier, Viacom acquired Paramount Pictures, including its powerhouse syndication arm, Paramount Domestic Television. 

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