WBEZ CEO steps down; takes position at New York City Public Media

Goli Sheikholeslami at the City Club of Chicago on October 25, 2017. (City Club of Chicago)

Move stuns WBEZ staffers and listeners

In news that shocked everyone who follows Chicago media, Chicago Public Media CEO Goli Sheikholeslami announced Wednesday she is stepping down from the role and taking a similar position at New York City Public Radio.

As the new head of New York City Public Radio, Sheikholeslami will oversee properties including news/talk WNYC-AM and FM; classical station WQXR-FM; New Jersey Public Radio; Gothamist, and WNYC’s podcast network. She is expected to take over in October.

The move leaves a void at WBEZ-FM, one of the nation’s leading public radio stations. New York City Public Radio’s CEO position has been vacant, since Laura Walker left in March.

How impactful was Sheikholeslami? Robert Feder last spring named her “the most powerful woman in Chicago journalism.”

Sheikholeslami arrived at WBEZ from the Washington Post’s digital operation in 2014, and helped turn the public radio station into a powerhouse as ratings grew under her watch – in February, the station cracked the top ten for the first time. Revenues also grew (in the form of donations as WBEZ is non-commercial) – up more than 42 percent in the 2018 fiscal year.  She also expanded WBEZ’s staff from around 45 people when she arrived to 82 people and nearly doubled the operating budget, according to Crain’s.

Moreover, Sheikholeslami rose the station’s podcasting profile, producing several critically-acclaimed shows including 16 Shots (about the LaQuan McDonald case) and This American Life.

In an interview earlier this week on WBEZ’s website, Sheikholeslami reflected on her time in Chicago, shaping WBEZ at a time when  journalism was under siege elsewhere. “For someone in the media business for 25 years, the past five have been the most fulfilling of my career. We’ve been building this vibrant, healthy, local newsroom at a time when all across the country newsrooms are shrinking and disappearing, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Chicago Public Media chairman of the board member Bryan Traubert said in a statement,“While we hate to see Goli leave, we are pleased that her talent and skills will remain in the public radio system.”

Indeed, Sheikholeslami turned around what had been a moribund and languishing station – something we don’t usually see in radio these days, let alone public radio. It just proves if you pour in enough resources and find the right talent, journalism can thrive – and that’s what Sheikholeslami did. Hopefully, the success WBEZ has achieved during her tenure continues after she departs.

Various , , ,

Reunification: CBS and Viacom get back together

Split in 2005, both companies re-merge in order to compete with other entertainment giants

In news that was expected for several months, it is now official: CBS Corporation and Viacom, Inc. are re-merging after nearly fifteen years apart.

The company will be known as ViacomCBS.

The reunification returns several well-known properties to one roof: CBS, with its top-rated broadcast network, Showtime, CBS All-Access, CBSN, and CBS Sports Network and Viacom with cable networks MTV, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, and the Paramount Network (formerly Spike, TNN, and the Nashville Network.)

Unlike the last merger between the two, there are some differences: there is no longer a radio division, as CBS sold it off to Entercom in 2017; and UPN is defunct as it was closed months after the split and merged with The WB to form The CW, who Viacom will now gain part-ownership with AT&T’s Warner Media. The outdoor business CBS received in the split was spun-off and renamed Outfront in 2014.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish takes the same role in the new company; CBS acting CEO Joesph Ianniello serves as CEO of CBS. Shari Redstone, whose father Sumner oversaw both separate CBS and Viacom companies becomes chairwoman of the board of the combined company. Under the new structure, CBS shareholders would own 61 percent with Viacom shareholders owning the other 39 percent.

Pushed by Ms. Redstone, there were rumblings of a possible reunification in 2016 and again last year, but was foiled by CBS Chairman Les Moonves. But Moonves was forced out from his position due to sexual harassment allegations, removing an obstacle in reuniting the two companies.

Viacom’s roots date back to 1971, when CBS was forced to spin-off syndication company CBS Enterprises to shareholders after the financial interest and syndication rules were put in place, barring the Big 3 networks from the syndication business. Viacom grew from a syndicator of off-network and first-run shows in the 1970s (with its trademark “V of Doom” logo) to a powerhouse conglomerate by the mid-1980s, acquiring MTV, Nickelodeon, and several TV and radio stations (including WLAK/WLIT-FM in Chicago.) Its syndication unit shattered records with the off-network sale of The Cosby Show, netting a then-record $4 million per episode. Mr. Redstone’s National Amusements bought a controlling share of Viacom in 1986.

In 1994, Viacom merged with Paramount Communications in a hard-fought $9.7 billion deal as it was battling Barry Diller’s QVC for rights to the film studio. In order to keep Diller at bay, Viacom acquired Blockbuster Entertainment for $8.4 billion the same year. With the fin-syn rules expiring in 1995, it set the stage for Viacom to acquire the media company it spun off from – CBS, in a $36 billion deal announced on September 6, 1999.

Deva Vu: CBS and Viacom merged as this USA Today headline from September 8, 1999 attests.

In 2005, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone wanted to get more value from his properties and at the time, cable TV was still growing while broadcast lagged. So he split the conglomerate into two separate, publicity traded companies: CBS Corporation, who owned the broadcast network, TV and radio stations and the outdoor business; and the new Viacom, focused on its cable properties. But since, cable has been hampered by cord-cutting amid declining revenues while CBS retained its top-ranked position among broadcast networks and receives tons of retransmission revenue from cable and satellite providers.

As part of the agreement, CBS took control of the entire television library, leaving Viacom with very little product aside from the existing shows they produced for their cable networks.

In recent years, streaming has grown into a massive beast as young viewers are watching less “linear” TV and finding more programming on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others. This led Viacom to reunify with CBS as other companies – notably Disney after its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox excluding its TV stations, broadcast, cable news and sports networks. Even with the reunification of CBS and Viacom, the combined company still lags behind the size of Disney, Comcast, Apple, and AT&T in the terms of scale.

Other aspects of the re-merger remains to be seen. ViacomCBS could go after one or two of the several independent media companies left, such as Discovery, Lionsgate, or Starz. It is too early to tell if programming from Viacom’s cable networks would make their way onto CBS All-Access.

Also remaining to be seen is how this impacts the local television business. CBS owns 28 stations in 17 markets with six duopolies in the top ten. During Les Moonves’ reign, the O&Os weren’t exactly a priority for CBS Corporation as ratings for some of their stations suffered. In Chicago, CBS-owned WBBM-TV often places fifth in total-day ratings with weak newscast ratings, while the CBS duopoly in Detroit still lacks a news operation. CBS did announce last week it would expand its successful CBSN local concept to more markets, including Chicago.

ViacomCBS also inherits a large syndication unit, with numerous shows ranked among Nielsen’s top ten of most-watched syndicated shows: Entertainment Tonight, Jeopardy!, Wheel Of Fortune, Judge Judy, and Dr. Phil, all under the CBS Television Distribution name. After CBS merged with Viacom in 1999, the outfit had two syndication companies: Paramount Domestic Television and King World, whom CBS acquired the same year. A year after CBS and Viacom split, the King World unit folded into CBS Paramount Television, which became CBS Television Distribution.

Even though CBS has a large off-network library, it lacks a recent off-net sitcom hit along the lines of Friends and Seinfeld. But their strong first-run syndication presence makes up for it to some degree.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CBSN to expand to other markets, including Chicago

Local news streaming service to be based out of CBS 2

Chicago is about to get its first local news streaming service.

As announced on Thursday, CBS Television Stations and CBS Interactive announced an expansion of their local news streaming service to Chicago and twelve other cities, with content provided by CBS owned-and-operated stations in those markets. Modeled after CBS’ successful CBSN New York and CBSN Los Angeles local news streaming services in those cities, the network plans to rollout a similar enterprise sometime in early 2020.

In Chicago, CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) plans to provide content to the new CBSN Chicago, which would air news content 24/7. Like their New York and Los Angeles counterparts, powered by WCBS and KCBS/KCAL respectively, the new Chicago news channel plans breaking live news coverage and on-demand library of extensive news content, in addition to live streaming of newscasts from those stations.

“The early success of CBSN New York and CBSN Los Angeles has exceeded our expectations,” said CBS Television Stations President Peter Dunn. “It is clear there is significant demand for high-quality local news coverage on streaming services, and we are moving forward with excitement as we prepare to launch CBSN Local services in all 13 of our local news markets. Our accelerated rollout schedule ensures launches in all of these markets ahead of the 2020 political primaries and elections.”

The streaming channel is welcome for cord-cutters and for those who do not get CLTV, Tribune Media’s longtime 24-hour local news cable channel who does not stream.

The announcement comes as CBS is expanding its live streaming options. In 2014, CBS launched a national CBSN news channel followed by CBS Sports HQ Channel last year, an instant hit with viewers. This was followed by the launch of ET Live, CBSN New York in December 2018 and CBSN Los Angeles in June.

Other markets where a local version of CBSN is scheduled to launch in early 2020 is Philadelphia, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

Boston’s WBZ-TV and San Francisco’s KPIX plans to launch a local version of CBSN sometime this fall. There are no plans to launch a local CBSN for Detroit, as CBS-owned WWJ-TV does not have a news operation.

The CBS streaming channels are available on CBS All Access and online at CBSNews.com and the CBS News App, with the New York and Los Angeles’ news channels available to stream on the local stations’ respective websites, in addition to Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, XBox, and PS3/PS4 devices.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Media Notepad: “The Drive” cruises to the top

Also: No Blackhawks games on free TV next season; WCIU launches new “CW 26” website and fall schedule; CBS 2 returns to DirecTV.

For the first time in its history, The Drive sits on top of the Chicago radio world.

The Hubbard-owned station also known as WDRV-FM finished first in the latest Chicago radio PPM rankings spanning from mid-June to mid-July. Already a success story in the key 25-54 and 35-64 radio demo, now you can add an overall win to its sparkling resume.

Not bad for a station who only launched in 2001, replacing the a longtime classical music  WNIB-FM.

As reported by Robert Feder, WDRV finished in the top ten in every daypart, with Sherman and Tingle finishing third in morning drive; Bob Stroud finishing first in middays; Steve Seaver and Janda Lane finishing first in afternoon drive, and Phil Manicki finishing sixth in evenings.

The Drive continues to benefit from the demise of WLUP-FM, who closed up shop in March 2018. Also helping were two separate television advertising campaigns – one for the station and general and another for Sherman and Tingle, airing in March during the NCAA Tournament.

Speaking of the old WLUP-FM, its successor K-Love (WCKL-FM) hasn’t been as successful, finishing in a tie for 25th place. In New York City where it replaced the longtime WPLJ-FM earlier this summer, it fared even worse – finishing in a tie for 31st place with iHeartMedia’s WKTU-FM and Entercom’s WNEW-FM posting significant gains. But keep in mind K-Love mainly relies on donation drives and not advertising revenue given the stations are non-commercial.

In bad news for cord-cutters – and for the first time since those dreaded home TV blackouts were lifted, the Chicago Blackhawks will not have a single game on over-the-air broadcast television next season.

The NHL released their national television schedule this week and while the Blackhawks will have fourteen games on cable network NBCSN, there are no games scheduled on the NBC broadcast network for the first time since the 2007-08 season, which is heavy with East-coast teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Flyers with the latter two teams not even make the playoffs last year (guessing viewers want to see the Flyers’ new mascot Gritty.)

In a strange twist of irony, the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues also have no games on NBC this year, but plenty on NBCSN. Instead of the Blues, the league scheduled the Nashville Predators to play in the 2020 Winter Classic against the Dallas Stars in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day.

NBC is seen as a bigger stage than NBCSN, as they are a major broadcast network. But the NHL’s regular season games on NBC are not exactly a priority, sticking games early in the day on Sundays when HUTs levels are lower, save a prime-time game here and there.

Next season, NBC Sports Chicago will televise 70 Blackhawks games – the most ever for the regional sports network as the team – along with the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox decided to take all non-national network games to the channel, moving games off WGN-TV.

Unless the NBA schedules a contest on ABC this season (which isn’t likely), the Bulls would also have almost every game scheduled next season on NBC Sports Chicago with no over-the-air coverage.

Weigel’s WCIU has launched a new website for the new “CW 26”, who takes over the affiliation from Fox-owned WPWR-TV on September 1. WCIU also has launched a Twitter handle for the station @cw26chicago (of note, “CW 50” has never had any kind of social media presence, not even a Twitter handle or a Facebook page.)

Right now, the site is kind of bare bones, but come the time of the affiliation switch, should have much of the information the current “U” has now.

CW 26’s new fall schedule is also available on the site via PDF download and features two new shows both debuting September 9, and I’m sure you’ve heard about them: NBCUniversal’s Judge Jerry, featuring the former trash talk-show host in an earlier-than-expected 9 a.m. time slot; and Disney/ABC’s Tamron Hall, airing in early fringe at 4 p.m. in addition to an 8 p.m. prime-time clearance on “The U”, soon to relocate to WMEU 48.1/WCIU 26.2., the channel where “The U Too” currently resides. The long-running People’s Court got the shaft, with the Warner Bros. court strip shifting to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Another major addition is off-network repeats of Bob’s Burgers. After eight years as a weekend offering, the Belchers expand to a strip five nights a week – but airing at 12:30 a.m. The second daily run is being stacked on Saturdays, airing seven times during the day including the existing weekend run returning to its 10 p.m.-11 p.m. time slot.

Other than the above, much of the schedule remains the same with The Jam, Judge Mathis, The King of Queens, Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls, and Seinfeld all retaining their current time slots.

Off the schedule (and not moving to The U’s new home) is Face The Truth, American Dad, King Of The Hill, The Cleveland Show, and Rules Of Engagement. All of these shows are leaving syndication due to expiring contracts with the exception of Truth, who got canceled after one season.

In other scheduling news, times have been set for the two other new talk shows debuting this fall: Sony Pictures Television’s Mel Robbins landed in the post-WGN News time slot at 1 p.m. beginning September 16; and NBCU’s Kelly Clarkson as expected, landed the 2 p.m. slot on WMAQ replacing Steve starting September 9.

And last but not least, WPWR is returning to its “My 50” branding it abandoned three years ago when it became a CW affiliate, as a promo for Chicago P.D. airing on WPWR and sister station WFLD-TV aired last weekend featuring the previously used “My 50” logo. This is a surprise given most My Network TV affiliates owned by Fox outside of New York and Los Angeles have abandoned the “My” branding.

In good news for DirecTV subscribers who love CBS programming, the network and AT&T-owned service announced Thursday they have come to an new multi-year agreement, ending a blackout nearly lasting three weeks.

On July 20, CBS pulled their signals of their owned CBS and CW affiliates in a dispute over retransmission fees affecting DirecTV, DirecTV Now, and AT&T U-Verse. The blackout affected WBBM-TV (CBS 2) here in Chicago, who suffered a 28 percent ratings drop in total-day ratings as a result.

CBS-owned WCBS in New York and KCBS in Los Angeles were affected along with several CW affiliates owned by the network, including those in Atlanta, Seattle, and Tampa (the CBS affiliates in those markets were not affected on DirecTV and U-Verse as they are not owned by the network.)

In a joint statement, CBS and AT&T “regret any inconvenience to their customers and viewers and thank them for their patience.”

The new pact comes as NFL preseason football began Thursday, with a few CBS-owned stations owning rights to pre-season games. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a game on KDKA-TV Friday night.

However, DirecTV and Dish are still embroiled in a dispute with other broadcast groups, including Nexstar’s 120 stations with the former; and Meredith Broadcasting with the latter. But with the CBS/AT&T deal today – and pressure ratcheting up with football season upon us, look for a resolution to occur sooner than later.

For those who missed shows such as Love Island and Big Brother, you can catch up at CBS.com. or CBS All-Access.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ABC 7, WCIU part ways on prime-time newscast

In news first reported by Robert Feder a week ago (and mentioned here in passing), WCIU (The U) and ABC-owned WLS-TV (ABC 7) announced they were ending the 7 p.m. weeknight newscast produced for the Weigel-owned station August 30th.

Launched in 2015, the newscast was meant to attract viewers who were just arriving home from work and want an update of the news of the day. But ratings have been mediocre at best; it is easily ABC 7’s lowest-rated newscast on the air.

Anchored by Cheryl Burton and Hosea Sanders, the ABC 7 newscast was supposed to move to what is currently known as “The U Too” (WMEU-Ch.48/WCIU Ch. 26.2) because WCIU is becoming a CW affiliate airing programming in-pattern from 7 to 9 p.m. beginning September 1 and re-branding as “CW 26” with The U Too renaming as The U, WCIU’s current brand.

But a promo for the switchover posted on WCIU’s website two weeks ago did not include video from the ABC 7 news team, leading to speculation the 7 p.m. newscast would not appear on the digital subchannel.

Believe it or not, another possible reason why ABC 7 backed out of the arrangement may be because of the absence of a competing station from a satellite TV service. For the last two weeks, CBS-owned WBBM-TV (CBS 2) been absent from DirecTV due to a retransmission fee dispute between its parent company and DirecTV owner AT&T.

DirecTV is the only cable/satellite provider in the Chicago area not carrying “The U Too” and no deal has been struck to carry the channel. In addition to AT&T’s dispute with CBS, they also have a dispute with Nexstar, the future owners of WGN-Ch.9 as they are buying parent company Tribune. As a result of DirecTV’s blackout of CBS, the ratings for WBBM-TV plummeted 28 percent in total-day ratings and cost its 10 p.m. newscast a third of its audience from their already low levels.

With no resolution in sight to these disputes – and DirecTV refusing to carry “The U” in its new location, ABC 7 figured it wasn’t worth the expense to continue producing a newscast that wouldn’t be available to the thousands of DirecTV households in the Chicago area (including mine) after seeing CBS 2’s ratings.

While viewers can watch CBS 2 and The U Too on the Locast app embedded in DirecTV’s apps, the picture quality isn’t as good and is often choppy and you have to log in to activate each time you use it. On Thursday, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox sued Locast for unauthorized transmission of their signals over the internet in Chicago and twelve other markets, saying the operation is nothing but a front for Dish and DirecTV and noted AT&T’s $500,000 donation to the supposedly non-profit organization.

Despite the demise of the newscast, both ABC 7 and Weigel hope to work together on future projects.

Various , , , , , , , , , , ,

FCC slashes franchise fees for cable companies, leaving community channels in limbo

Could have an impact nationwide, including CAN TV Chicago

In a move that could have devastating consequences for community-based cable TV channels, the dysfunctional and useless FCC voted among party lines Thursday (like they do for everything else) 3-2 to let cable networks and data assign a value to their networks and can reduce fees owed to localities by that amount. Local cable authorities can no longer cannot regulate broadband service over cable networks and any equipment cable operators have to provide to municipalities must count toward the FCC’s 5 percent franchise fees cap.

In other words, money from cable communities to fund community-based PEG (public, education and government) channels used to televise city council meetings, press conferences, etc. may no longer be there.

Opponents of today’s action are planning legal challenges.

This is the latest in a string of politically divisive votes at the commission in recent years, including those of net neutrality, the landline phone program, ownership rules, kidvid rules, and cities regulating broadband. The three Republicans on the commission led by Ajit Pai voted for the rule change; the remaining two Democrats dissented.

Cable operators such as Comcast (the dominant cable provider in the Chicago area) and Charter were in support of the measure while numerous municipalities were against it. The money to provide services such as televising city council meetings, local public access programs, and providing emergency information could be cut back or eliminated. And this comes at a time when many households are “cord-cutting” as the cost of cable TV has become prohibitive for a lot of people.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted to oppose the effort from cable companies and lobbying groups such as the Internet and Television Association at a recent conference held in Honolulu earlier this summer. Even though Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot did not attend, other Chicago-area mayors and village presidents who did and voted for the measure included those from Addison, Dolton, Evanston, Hanover Park, Hazel Crest, Hoffman Estates, North Chicago, Romeoville, Waukegan, and Gary, Ind.

The measure could have implications for Chicago’s CAN TV , Homewood Public Access 19 (serving primarily the south suburbs), Evanston’s Channel 16, Lansing (Ill.) Neighborhood Network and other community and non-profit entities. In Philadelphia for example, the new rule could force the city to stop programming public-access channels. In New York City, free services such as providing internet to firehouses could be eliminated. With money from cable companies slashed, Chicago would be hard-pressed to continue funding where as the city is facing huge economic challenges, including funding pensions and dealing with budget shortfalls.

The City of Chicago has their own channel on most cable systems.

Chicago’s CAN TV could be affected by new FCC rules.

Long ago, public-access channels were basically created by the cable industry to give voices to those – especially minorities – the ability to be seen and heard. Local entities such as CAN TV not only give the public a forum but also trains them in numerous aspects of television production, including producing, writing, field production, and digital video editing.

Democratic commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the decision “risks grave harms to communities” while fellow Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenwarcel said the decision “cuts at public, educational, and governmental channels across the country” [because it] “goes beyond placing reasonable limits on contributions subject to the statutory franchise fee and jeopardizes the day-to-day costs, like staff and overhead, required to run such stations.”

But Pai remained steadfast in his theory cities are taking advantage of a loophole filled with “excessive fees and inappropriate regulations imposed by local governments deter broadband deployment and discourage investment in next-generation facilities and services.”

It is not known what impact this ruling would have on Chicago, but it would put the city in a position to make some choices that could have ramifications for community-based TV, though it is hard to pinpoint what this is given CAN TV and the city itself has not addressed the issue.

This is the second time in a month the FCC’s Republican majority has stripped away municipalities’ rights when it comes to technology infrastructure. In a similar partisan vote, the FCC pre-empted a San Francisco ordinance giving apartment residents a right to choose their ISP. Like this, the measure was opposed by the cable and broadband industries.

All of this proves once again Pai and his Republican cohorts are willing to put the cable industry and their lobbyists above those of local communities, like he did with cutting the “lifeline” program a few years back. At a time when minority communities are under attack from the Trump Administration for just about everything, this is another example of bureaucrats and lobbyists making it tougher for those who want to produce their own programming but unable to do so.

In the bible, a proverb is stated as saying “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”

The Republicans on the FCC and the cable industry want the man to fish but also want to take away the fishing pole.


Various , , , , , , , , ,

The Cubs’ new network on Dish? Don’t bet on it

Impasses with Fox, others and costs makes it tough for carriage 

If you are a Cubs fan and you are looking forward to watching Kris Bryant and Co. on their new Marquee Sports Network on Dish, let me give you a heads up: it’s not likely to happen.

With nearly 150 games set to air exclusively on the Cubs’ new channel starting in 2020, Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen told investors in an earnings conference call a few days ago he is unlikely to return Fox’s regional sports networks to the satellite provider and Sling streaming service after an impasse was reached Friday after the channels were removed. Ergen is considering dropping all regional sports networks once their contracts come up, citing the high costs of carrying them.

“It doesn’t look good that the regional sports will ever be on Dish again,” Ergen was quoted as saying in Ad Age.The frustrating thing is, they are not very good economic deals for us.”

The move comes as the 21 regional Fox Sports networks and the Yankees’ YES are being sold by The Walt Disney Co. to Sinclair Broadcast Group (with Amazon taking a stake in YES) as a result of the Justice Department ordering Disney to divest the properties once it bought much of 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion, RSNs included. But the channels were sold at below-market value as most media companies were not interested in acquiring them. The deal has yet to close because the Justice Department has yet to sign off on it.

Sinclair is a partner with the Cubs and the Ricketts family in the Marquee Sports Network.

Now keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean Marquee and Dish won’t come to a carriage deal. In fact, Dish is actually open to making a deal with Sinclair for the Fox RSNs. But Sinclair isn’t negotiating with Dish yet because the deal is still pending – a third party appointed by Disney is doing so instead (and obviously not doing a good job.) But the chances of Marquee landing on Dish are severely diminished. After all, Dish doesn’t carry the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Spectrum SportsNet LA and neither does anyone else, outside of Spectrum.

So far, Marquee has one carriage deal: Charter Communications – the same outfit who owns SportsNetLA. Charter’s presence in the Chicago area is only limited to Kenosha, Wis. (you can debate among yourselves whether the city belongs in the Chicago or Milwaukee market.)

Ergen is gambling that the number of lost customers from dropping the RSNs wouldn’t affect Dish despite more and more people cutting the cord. Ironically, Dish has lost fewer subs than rival DirecTV, who had lost over a million homes in the past year. Dish is known in the industry as a tough negotiator; they are currently in another standoff with HBO and had a nine-month impasse with Univision, who kept their signals off the air.

There are a number of impasses taking place between broadcasters and satellite TV providers; Dish with Meredith and DirecTV with Nexstar and CBS, the latter owner of WBBM-TV whose ratings have dropped 28 percent in total-day ratings since the blackout began.

Whether Marquee gets wide carriage in Chicago and beyond depends on how much they would ask for the channel; negotiations will step up once the baseball season concludes. But if operators balk at paying high prices in this environment, getting wide clearance for the Cubs’ new network is going to be even more challenging than first anticipated. If Marquee and the Ricketts Family thought they were going to get carriage deals done because of the power of Cub Nation, they might want to think again.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Media Notepad: US 99 unveils new morning show

Also: No relief in sight for those missing CBS on DirecTV; Dish drops Fox RSNs; WCIU drops new CW 26 trailer; This TV future?

Entercom country-music outlet uS 99 WUSN-FM finally announced their new morning show last week, featuring Jason Pullman and Chicago-area native Katie Bright as they replace Stylz & Roman, who were dismissed in May after three years.

Bright returns home after a stint working in promotions at Warner Music Nashville, and beforehand worked at US99 in an off-air sales position. Bright’s on-air radio experience was in Nashville and Eau Claire, WI.

Pullman comes to US99 from WUBL-FM in Atlanta. His career consisted of on-air gigs at Los Angeles’ KYSR-FM, served as voiceover talent for CBS, ABC, FX, TBS, and has appeared on several TV shows including TLC’s Faking It and ABC Family’s (now Freeform) Perfect Match.

Also joining the team is Erin Creedon, known on-air as “Erin” and previously was as the station’s The Bachelor expert (yes, really.)

US 99 hopes the moves can boost ratings in morning drive as they contend with even lower-rated rival Bobby Bones on Big 95.5 FM (WEBG), who received a bit of publicity two months ago when a columnist from a local newspaper ripped into his out-of-town, syndicated show.

Click for larger image.

Missing CBS 2, DirecTV viewers? As of this writing, we are now into week two of the standoff between the AT&T-owned satellite TV service and the network WBBM-TV is owned by as no deal is in sight and no talks between the two parties are scheduled. The same can be said for Nexstar’s dispute with the same satellite company and Dish’s dispute with Meredith-owned stations.

The chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters believes a piece of expiring legislation is behind the blackout. In a speech last week, Gordon Smith said the soon-to-expire STELA – known as the Satellite Television Extension Localism Act – is harmful to the broadcasting industry, as it allows small markets without an NBC, CBS, Fox, or ABC station to import an out-of-town signal of a fellow affiliate – is one of the reasons behind all of these impasses.

”Is their goal to manufacture the appearance of a ‘broken system’ to encourage Congress to intervene just as it deliberates the upcoming STELAR expiration? NAB’s Gordon Smith said. “If so, that is a dangerous game and one that hurts viewers — their customers — the most.”

That’s right. Because some town in Podenik, Idaho receives their ABC affiliate imported from Seattle because their DirecTV decided not to deliver a local signal while viewers here, New York, and Los Angeles can’t get their local CBS affiliate on DirecTV because they want to “manufacture a crisis”, according to him. DirecTV owner AT&T and Dish want to see the act renewed; broadcast stations want it to go away.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports’ Regional Sports Networks pulled their signals off of Dish Friday as an temporary extension expired. Disney currently owns the channels but are in the process of being sold to Sinclair Broadcast Group as the Justice Department ordered Disney to divest them.

So far, ratings for CBS programming on a national basis have not been affected by the DirecTV impasse, so it appears there is no rush to get a deal done. But with the football season approaching, the urgency to do one could grow. But these impasses just fuels the notion satellite TV is a scam, no matter what Dish and DirecTV says to customers.

A trailer on WCIU’s website last week gave viewers more information on the station’s new affiliation with The CW, set to move from current affiliate WPWR-TV on September 1. The trailer for the new “CW 26” features shows Supergirl, Arrow, Riverdale, and new shows such as Batwoman.

Most of the programming currently airing on WCIU is staying on the soon-to-be rebranded “CW 26” with the new Tamron Hall talk show airing in early fringe, court shows such as Judge Mathis, The People’s Court, and the new Judge Jerry in daytime, and off-network sitcoms Seinfeld, 2 Broke Girls, and Mike & Molly in prime access and late fringe time periods.

Also featured is the current monkier “The U” moving to where “The U Too” currently is (WMEU/WCIU-DT 26.2) with true-crime programming, sitcoms, and just announced two weeks ago, the addition of IHSA high school football and basketball tournament games.

Notably absent was WLS-TV’s Eyewitness News at 7 p.m., supposed to move to 26.2 on September 9. But on Monday, Robert Feder reported WCIU and WLS decided to end production of the prime-time newscast with the last show airing August 30.

So far, no deal has been struck with DirecTV to carry “The U” on their service (and isn’t likely given the circumstances – see the previous item above), but viewers can still watch WMEU on the Locast App available in the apps menu on-screen (and also watch the blacked-out CBS 2.) Locast is a non-profit organization and carries local TV signals over the Internet – one AT&T’s recently gave a $500,000 donation to.

Is This TV going away? TVNewscheck reported in its multicasting report last week the Tribune Media station group – including WGN-TV in Chicago is dropping movie-oriented digital subchannel on or before November 1 to make room for the new version of Court TV, which launched May 8.

The move comes as Tribune is in the process of being sold to Nexstar Broadcast Group for $4.1 billion. The deal is expected to be approved by year’s end.

This TV launched on November 1, 2008 by MGM and original station partner Weigel Broadcasting, owner of WCIU and launched on the digital subchannel of the station. Tribune assumed the partner duties on November 1, 2013 after Weigel dropped out and moved to WGN-TV’s digital subchannel space, now at 9.3. Prior, Tribune already had the rights to This at WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles, and WPHL in Philadelphia. Tribune owns 50 percent of This with MGM owning the other half, with Nexstar expected to assume Tribune’s share once the deal goes through unless Tribune sells it before then.

The subchannel network’s contract with Tribune expires on November 1, 2019. MGM has not commented on the future of This. One likely scenario is MGM acquiring Tribune’s stake in the channel, as they already wholly own fellow digital subchannel Light TV.

If you can’t wait to watch the new Court TV, you can view a live stream now available on their website.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The tough landscape of weekend programming

Man of the People latest to strike out as viewers head to streaming services on weekends

Funny thing as this person was watching the final Man Of The People Monday night via DVR as in the next-to-last segment, Bill Kurtis said “Tonight we look back at the greatest weekly late-night television show in American history.”

I thought he was going to interview Byron Allen.

You’re probably chuckling right now (hopefully), but the state of weekend non-sports programming whose name isn’t SNL is not a laughing matter. WGN-TV’s decision to pull the plug on Man Of The People follows a trend in recent years as syndicators and local stations are completely abandoning the daypart, choosing to air fourth-rate fare such as old movies, paid programming, and Camp Meeting religion infomercials (I’m not kidding.)

Ironically, Allen – now head of his own Entertainment Studios conglomerate, was one of those who had a weekend late-night talk show airing from 1989 to 1992 before converting into a weeknight strip (where it lasted only four months.) Allen’s talk show was part of a weekend landscape arguably more exciting than it is now, featuring fare such as American Gladiators, On Scene: Emergency Response, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Search, and more.

But the weekend programming marketplace has got tougher over the last fifteen years and made it difficult for many programs to succeed. Among the reasons:

– The major networks abandoning animated programming on Saturday mornings over the years, instead adding newscasts and FCC-mandated E/I fare as kids migrated to cable.

– The market for scripted programming dried up as action hours became a tougher sell internationally, counting as a significant part of a program’s budget. The last original syndicated action hour to air was Legend Of The Seeker, canceled in 2010 after two years. The action hour followed the same path as the first-run syndicated sitcom (Ozzie’s Girls, Mama’s Family, Out Of This World, etc.). A staple of weekend programming in the 1970s and 1980s, the genre died out by 1998.

– The major networks abandoning original programming on Saturday night, where Man Of The People was. Outside of Lifetime and Hallmark, no network airs original fare on the night, with the exception of sports and CBS’ 48 Hours Mystery. Saturday is the lowest HUT (homes using television) night of the week.

– The rise of off-network hours airing on the weekend, starting in the mid-1990s when X-Files and ER went into syndication. Today, mostly procedurals dramas air in the daypart, such as Castle and Major Crimes.

– An increase in paid programming and infomercials on local stations, even in prime access (6-7 p.m. in Chicago.) How much? Evangelist Joel Osteen’s show airs on two different local stations on Sunday.

– Increase in sporting events on the four major broadcast networks. The stuff you saw in the early days of ESPN are now common on weekend afternoons. Freestyle bike riding, anyone?

– And perhaps the biggest reason: viewers flocking to streaming services to catch up on shows, or to watch something new. Before the rise of Netflix, Amazon, etc. viewers were “binging” on their DVD collections.

Local stations have turned to Joel Osteen to fill time slots that would otherwise be occupied by better programming.

Some of these factors contributed to Man Of The People’s linear TV demise. But this has been common for years as many first-run programs targeted for late night on weekends crashed and burned. For example, music series Live From Darryl’s House (2011-12) and Tegna’s Sing Like A Star (2016-17) each lasted only one season. Even Fox had trouble, canceling the long-running Mad TV in 2009 and bringing in talkers featuring Wanda Sykes and Spike Feresten. When that didn’t work, Fox tried a rotating wheel of awful animated programs with the gimmicky name Animation Domination Hi-Def, which proved to be an even bigger flop with viewers. The network now airs reruns of reality shows in the time slot.

In addition, inane efforts such as Upscale Chicago, Mancow Mashup, and a local version of LX: TV never resonated with viewers.

But a few have been successful – and all coming from smaller syndicators. Allen’s company for one, has benefited from major studios abandoning weekend time periods over the years, inserting his own fare including Entertainers, American Athlete, and others (though his bid to resurrect the first-run sitcom thru Mr. Box Office and The First Family failed a few years back.) Hearst’s Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien has been successful, clearing over 100 markets. And there’s Raw Travel, the only travel show in syndication. And niche shows work well too, such as LatiNation and American Latino targeting Hispanic audiences.

Locally, WGN had success with Chicago’s Best despite numerous host changes and other shows (such as SEE Chicago and Weekend Workbench.) And NBC fills its late night time slots on weekends with LXTV and a luxury home show called Open House, though these efforts leave very little to be desired (watching a cow graze grass on a farm is more exciting than these two shows.)

Regarding Man Of The People, obviously the show became a victim of a tough weekend landscape where it is very hard to successfully launch a new show. The show was deemed too ambitious and too expensive – especially at a time when WGN owner Tribune is selling its stations to Nexstar Broadcasting, a company known to operate on the cheap. Sadly, stations would rather fill the slots with infomercials, paid religion crap, and past-their-prime crime drama reruns, and that’s a shame. Even longtime stalwarts Soul Train and It’s Showtime At The Apollo – shows targeted to African-American audiences fell victim to the changing weekend TV landscape, both ending in 2008 (production on Soul Train ended in 2006, but remained in reruns for two more years.)

Regardless of what you think of the show (and many of you didn’t think much of it), at least give WGN credit for coming up with a weekend late-night program – and made in Chicago to boot. Even more so, give Pat Tomasulo props for one more thing:

He never invited Mancow on his show.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier draft of this article stated George To The Rescue airs on weekends with LXTV and Open House, but is no longer on the air.  Also, there was a misspelling of Spike Feresten’s name. T Dog Media regrets the errors.) 

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T Dog’s Media Notepad: “Agents of Shield” to end run

Plus other items from San Diego Comic-Con. Also: CBS pulls its signals off DirecTV.

The 50th annual Comic-Con gathering took place in San Diego over the weekend (four days in total) and as usual, dropped a ton of big TV news:

– At a Hall H Panel Thursday, ABC Studios announced news we already knew for months: the upcoming seventh season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD would be its last. While the series was never the breakout ratings hit Marvel had hoped, the series grew a core and dedicated fan base, helping keep it on the air (not to mention the benefits of vertical integration) when other series would have been canceled by now.

At a time when diversity is being debated, SHIELD star Clark Gregg noted how having a diverse cast of people from different backgrounds is a plus (below Arrow tweet):

-Marvel also revealed the start dates of a few of its new streaming series launching on Disney Plus: The highly anticipated The Falcon And Winter Soldier, being delivered in the fall of 2020, and Wandavision coming a few months earlier in the same year.

Another highly anticipated Disney Plus series Loki makes its debut on May 7, 2021 and an animated series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe titled What If debuts in the summer of 2021.

– Believe it or not, all the news from Comic-Con didn’t evolve around Disney or Marvel: CBS brought Star Trek to the festivities with several new shows for CBS All Access announced at their Comic-Con panel, including a new Picard series featuring Patrick Stewart, who played the role on Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation for seven seasons.

It was also announced a few of Stewart’s former Next Generation co-stars are also making some appearances in the new show including Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan.

In addition to Picard, CBS All Access has two more Star Trek series on tap: animated series Lower Decks and the next season of Star Trek: Discovery.

You can watch the entire Picard Comic-Con panel here.

-After two seasons on Fox, sci-fi series The Orville is blasting off into a new dimension: Hulu. Series creator and star Seth MacFarlane tweeted the news on Saturday:

Obviously, a shortage of space on Fox’s shelf and MacFarlane other projects led to the decision for the move and delay until the fall of 2020. The Orville was originally slated for midseason.

“We know our viewers are huge fans of “The Orville”, along with many of Seth MacFarlane’s groundbreaking hit shows, and we can’t wait to bring Season 3 to them exclusively on the platform,” said Hulu SVP of Content Development Craig Erwich. “Hulu is a home for the world’s most sought-after creative talent, and we’re incredibly excited to welcome Seth and the entire cast and creative team of The Orville to our Hulu Originals slate.”

Debuting with a lot of fanfare two seasons ago, The Orville hasn’t been a solid ratings performer, but has become a cult favorite among its fanbase, pushing back against negative reviewers (such as this one.)  Hulu is now wholly owned by Disney, who bought the remaining stakes of NBC Universal and Warner Media earlier this year.

You know the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” That exactly describes the absence of outrage (outside of a few on Twitter) – or notice locally when CBS pulled its signals from AT&T’s DirecTV, DirecTV Now, and U-Verse systems early Saturday morning over a retransmission consent dispute, leaving viewers with a notice card on the channel where CBS used to be.

The blackout includes WBBM-TV in Chicago and several CBS-owned stations in numerous large markets and the CBS Sports Network and the Smithsonian Channel nationwide. Certainly, if this were WLS-TV or WGN-TV, there would be more outrage given they have far more viewers than WBBM outside of prime-time; the station ranks fifth locally overall.

Over the weekend, local print media for the most part ignored the shutdown: The dispute was mentioned in a Chicago Tribune sports media article amid the Cubs’ plans to launch a new regional sports network while the Sun-Times didn’t mention it at all.

Already AT&T is in dispute with Nexstar, with their signals off DirecTV in nearly 100 markets, and rival Dish lost Meredith-owned stations in a similar dispute, affecting CBS affiliates WGCL Atlanta, KMOV St. Louis, and KCTV Kansas city, among others.

In one market, three local channels are off DirecTV: Nexstar independent KRON and CBS-owned KPIX and CW affiliate KBCW, all in the San Francisco area.

And if that weren’t enough, Disney’s FX, FXX, and National Geographic Channels, and Fox Sports’ regional sports networks are also being targeted by removal on Dish due to the same issues.

DirecTV and AT&T claim they are “fighting for you” in this BS website they put up, but either way, you the consumer will pay more before once football and the new fall TV season starts in September, they would have no choice to come to a deal as they would risk losing customers to rival services.

Either way, the consumer loses as the cost of cable and satellite continues to rise in a broken system Big Media and their paid-off politicians refuses to fix.


CBS, AT&T involved in negotiations; blackout looms

A message from DirecTV stating if CBS doesn’t come to an agreement with AT&T by Friday, they could pull their signal from DirecTV and U-Verse.

July 19 is deadline

In what could be the biggest retrans showdown yet, CBS on Tuesday afternoon warned of a looming blackout for AT&T customers for this coming Friday, including those who subscribe to DirecTV, U-Verse, and the DirecTV Now streaming service.

This is big because CBS is one of the nation’s largest broadcasters, and own stations in almost all of the ten largest markets, including CBS-owned WBBM-TV here in Chicago. CBS-owned stations facing blackout in addition to Chicago include those in New York City; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Dallas-Ft. Worth; the Bay Area consisting of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose; Boston, Detroit; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Miami; Denver; Sacramento; Pittsburgh; and Baltimore. In some of these markets, the affected includes CBS and CW affiliates the network owns (ironically, CBS is part-owner of The CW, with AT&T’s WarnerMedia owning the other half.)

CBS also owns stand-alone CW affiliates in Atlanta, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Seattle, but not the CBS stations in those markets. Other CBS-owned channels involved are CBS Sports Network, Pop, and Smithsonian Channel.

As far as Chicago is concerned, a blackout could be tough for WBBM; some viewers already have trouble receiving the station’s over-the-air signal via antenna. The impact on WBBM’s ratings could be substantial: CBS 2 is the least-watched network-owned station in the market. Meanwhile, CBS could lose substantial viewership nationally.

AT&T is already fighting with Nexstar over retransmission consent money; the company’s 100-plus television stations have been blacked out on DirecTV and U-Verse since July 3 as Nexstar is in the process of acquiring Tribune Media, owner of WGN-TV. In fact, the last major retransmission tussle in the Chicago area was in 2012, with Tribune and DirecTV (before they were acquired by AT&T) going it at, knocking WGN off the air and returning three days later.

The last major dustup between the networks and distributors in large markets was in 2013, when CBS pulled their channels off of TimeWarner Cable systems.

While these deadlines aren’t really etched in stone – given in the past we’ve seen extensions, there is a different feeling about the latest impasse as AT&T argues broadcasters are being too greedy. “Broadcast stations are the incumbents to our industry, and many feel they deserve certain entitlements. They continue to give their signals away for free but also demand unsustainably growing fees for allowing customers the convenience of receiving their channels in a usual program guide or without switching an input,” the company said in a statement.

But retransmission consent – what cable and satellite companies pay local stations to carry their signals is something the latter have increasingly become dependent on as ratings drop and advertising revenue continues to decrease. And this comes as cable and satellite continue to lose subscribers as prices continue to rise.

With AT&T telling CBS viewers to use a free preview of CBS’ All Access streaming service among other alternatives listed in the photo above, it looks like fans of CBS programming won’t have their shows available on AT&T services – that is, until the NFL season begins.


Weigel Broadcasting snares IHSA tournament rights

Brings local high school sports back to over-the-air broadcast television

At a time when WGN-TV is losing rights to major-league teams to cable, one organization has decided to bring back games to local TV.

As first reported Monday by the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois High School Association – or IHSA for short – has struck a deal with Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting to air state title games in football in November and title games in boys and girls basketball in February and March.

The games are slated to air on what is known now as “The U Too”, on WCIU Channel 26.2 and WMEU Channel 48.1 and various channel numbers on cable and satellite systems (with the exception of DirecTV who as of this writing, does not carry The U Too at all.

Beginning September 1, The U Too is being re-branded as “The U” – the same brand currently on the main WCIU channel (26.1) but beginning on this date, becomes a CW affiliate branded as “CW 26”.

CW programming currently airs on Fox-owned WPWR, who also doubles as a My Network TV affiliate. Even though the affiliation change has been known for months, WPWR is still being branded as “CW 50” as there is no word on what WPWR would be known as come September 1.

The U Too has aired high school sports for years, and will continue to do so under “The U”.

The move by the IHSA to once again establish an ad-hoc network of stations comes as the organization opted not to renew its deal with NBC Sports Chicago, who’ll take exclusive control of Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox games next year while the Chicago Cubs launch a new regional sports network called Marquee. In the past, IHSA games have aired on WGN, WPWR, and WMAQ’s former Non-Stop Chicago digital subchannel (now known as Cozi TV) not to mention Comcast SportsNet, the forerunner to NBC Sports Chicago. This also comes as the IHSA has revamped its basketball tournament system starting in the 2021-22 season, but paired down to only four days.

The new TV deal run though the 2021-22 season, the first year of the new playoff system.

Among the other broadcast groups to air IHSA tournament games include Quincy Media and Nexstar, whose company is in the process of acquiring WGN owner Tribune Media.

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated on 2019-07-30 to remove now-irrelevant information from the article. Also, the day September 1 lands on was incorrect – it’s Sunday, not Saturday. T Dog Media apologizes for the errors.)

Various , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Media Notepad: 101.9 The Mix, The Drive dominate Chicago radio ratings

Also: Decades finds new station group; FCC votes to modify kidvid rules and strike down San Francisco apartment broadband law

Hubbard Broadcasting continued its dominance of local Chicago radio in the recently released May PPM Nielsen rankings. As reported by Robert Feder, WTMX finished first again, with sister station The Drive (WDRV-FM) finishing a strong second.  The Minnepaolis-based company also swept all key dayparts finishing first in mornings (WTMX’s Eric In The Morning), middays (The Drive’s Bob Stroud and WTMX’s Lisa Allen), and afternoons (The Drive’s Steve Seaver and Janda Lane.) Only Entercom’s WSCR-AM broke the streak, winning in the evening with Cubs baseball on most nights.

The survey was a weak one for WVAZ-FM (V103) who saw nearly a full point drop as the urban AC station tumbled to fifth. Meanwhile Entercom’s Classic Hip-Hop WBMX-FM is closing in at eighth place, gaining two-tenths. There is no doubt WBMX is taking audience away from V103.

Outside of the Chicago area, the biggest surprise in the PPMs was the success of Christian AC WFSH-FM (104.7 The Fish) in Atlanta, finishing a dominant first with a 2.5 share lead over news/talk WSB-AM/FM and easily beating newcomer K-Love 106.7 (WAKL), who finished near the bottom of the ratings.  The station was among six acquired by the Educational Media Foundation from Cumulus, who previously hosted a conservative talk format.

New FCC names…same dysfunction: In a pair of bitterly partisan 3-2 votes, the FCC voted to modify the children’s television rules and for good measure, threw out part of a San Francisco law intended to foster broadband competition inside apartment buildings.

As expected, the FCC passed new modifications to the children’s television E/I requirements, giving broadcasters more flexibility in scheduling the programs as stations complained they weren’t able to air breaking news or other programming because of the rules.

For example in July 2018, only WLS-TV and WGN-TV were fully able to cover a Saturday morning march down the Dan Ryan Expressway as protesters were calling attention to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic as other stations couldn’t due to educational programming commitments.

But that wasn’t enough for Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and new appointee Gefforey Starks, who said even anything flexible would be detrimental to children – especially in low-income neighborhoods (such as those paralleling the Dan Ryan where the march took place.)

Stations can now begin airing such fare at 6 a.m. and can shift some of their E/I programming to their digital subchannels. But they still have to air three hours of programming a week. The move also ensures stations can continue to air local specials such as The Bud Billiken Parade, without having to re-schedule the pre-empted kids programming.

Liberal groups and other Democrat politicians also joined in to criticize the FCC’s decision (including the conservative Parents Television Council), accusing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of putting the priorities of big media companies ahead of children (although these groups were absent when former Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 Chicago public Schools in mostly low-income neighborhoods. Where were they then?)

In another partisan vote, the FCC voted 3-2 to strike down part of a San Francisco law that allowed competition among broadband providers in apartment buildings. San Francisco officials fired back at the agency, saying the Republican commissioners “misrepresented what the law does”, which allowed another ISP to use existing wiring from another company to provide service.  Rosenworcel slammed the Republican majority here as well, claiming the FCC gave up its Title II authority over broadband when the FCC’s Republican majority repealed the net neutrality rules, but now decided to stop local broadband regulation, as Ars Technica reports. 

San Francisco can ask the Republican-led Senate and President Trump to block the FCC from striking down the law, but this is unlikely given Trump has sour relations with the city.

While this seems to involve a San Francisco law, this does has ramifications across the country as multi-unit apartment buildings – which there are plenty of in Chicago – can continue to strike exclusive deals with broadband carriers such as AT&T and Comcast, not allowing any kind of competition. In other words, it’s another victory for already politically-connected apartment building owners and real estate magnates. And the politicians connected to these people already receive tons of campaign cash from AT&T and Comcast, the largest ISPs in Chicago and San Francisco. So much for reform, huh?

Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting has found a new partner for its Decades digital subchannel: Fox Television Stations, who has agreed to carry the channel in twelve of its markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Austin, Tex. among others.

The deal begins in “Q3 2019” – meaning the third quarter of this year, launching no later than October 1st.

“Frank Cicha and the Fox Television Stations have been terrific partners in the Movies! TV Network, and their enthusiasm for joining the Decades affiliate family has been significant,” said Neal Sabin, Vice Chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Co. “We look forward to working with the station group on this beloved network.”

While Fox owns WFLD and My Network TV affiliate WPWR in Chicago, the stations are not part of the deal given Weigel has Decades on its WCIU and WMEU digital subchannels. However, Decades is on the move again in Los Angeles, moving from Weigel’s KAZA-TV.

The deal brings Decades back to TV in a few markets where it was dropped by former partner CBS Television Stations, who replaced it with female-targeted Start TV – also in partnership with Weigel. Decades was on the digital subchannels of WCBS New York and KCBS in Los Angeles until last September when they were replaced by Start, leaving them homeless. Decades moved from WBBM to WCIU/WMEU last September.

Despite the deal, Decades is still looking for homes in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, where CBS dropped the channel and Fox doesn’t own stations.

Meanwhile, CBS announced last month it will launch a new digital subchannel on its O&Os called Dabl beginning on September 9, featuring programming from the libraries of Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. The channel is being run by CBS Television Distribution; it is expected to launch on WBBM’s digital subchannel 2.3.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s HBO…to the Max

Warner Media unveils new streaming service name, but little else

As anticipated for months, Warner Media (the former TimeWarner) unveiled the new name for its new streaming service: HBO Max.

The new streaming service not only features HBO content past and present, but also most content Warner Media has to offer from its numerous brands such as DC, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TBS, TNT, Warner Bros. Pictures, and more. In addition, Warner Bros. produced fare on The CW (which is half owns with CBS) will also be shown on the streaming service.

HBO Max plans an original program slate, including a new Gremlins series and numerous dramas, including four films produced by Greg Beranti and two by Resse Witherspoon.

But the biggest attraction to the service (and the only program anyone really cares about here) is Friends, an off-network sitcom currently streaming on Netflix which will now become exclusive to HBO Max come the spring of 2020 when the streaming service launches. HBO Max reportedly paid $425 million to Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for streaming rights, who like HBO, share a corporate parent in AT&T.

Last year, Netflix paid $100 million to keep the popular series for at least one more year. Its departure certainly did not go unnoticed by the streaming giant:


There were many Netflix subscribers who were upset by the news, even though you can find Friends on cable TV channels TBS and Nick And Nite and via local syndication (WGN-TV, who airs it weeknights at 12:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.) – not to mention the entire series is on DVD and on iTunes.

Warner Bros. didn’t exactly detail what other off-network or library programming would be on the service other than Pretty Little Liars and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who successor-in-interest TimeWarner acquired the rights to the NBC-produced series in 1993 since NBC itself could not distribute the show at the time due to the then-fin-syn rules. Notably absent from the announcement were Chuck Lorre’s Warner Bros. shows, such as The Big Bang Theory, Mom, and Two And A Half Men.

Also not discussed was pricing points for the service, but it is expected to be significantly higher than the $7.99 a month Disney’s service is offering, expected to launch November 12. And no hometown discount if you are an HBO subscriber – HBO Max is going to be a standalone product and does not affect HBO Go or HBO Now, as both will continue. In other words, everyone pays for HBO Max.

Warner is one of several studios trying to combat the growing power of Netflix by launching competing streaming services and stripping the rights from them. Recently, NBC Universal announced it bought the rights to The Office from its own NBC Universal Television Distribution for its planned streaming service, also expected to launch next year. It’s all about scale, as the studios try to cash in on the streaming bonanza. The downside however, is for consumers who now are likely to pay for multiple services to get all the best content – which could easily top $100 or so a month, in addition to cable TV subscriptions a lot of households are still paying for (and the taxes that go along with it.)

So why the name HBO Max? The branding is a bit ridiculous, given most of the programming planned for the service has no connection to the premium channel – after all, the network doesn’t come across the minds of many when you think about Friends or  Fresh Prince. But this has a lot to do with brand name recognition, and (sadly) for Warner Media, HBO is a name the most known to viewers – though “Warner Plus” or “WB Shield” (in reference to Warner Bros.’ logo) would have been much better than HBO Max. It’s clear the AT&T overlords value the HBO name than the Warner Bros. one, never mind it’s a brand that’s been around for over 90 years.

Or branding it HBO Max just gives them an excuse to jack up the price.

Various , , , , , , , , , ,

Chicago Defender ends print edition; shifts to digital only

Second publication this week to call to quits on print

In a timed day-after-a-holiday Friday news dump, the owners of the Chicago Defender announced the publication is ending its print edition on July 11 and shifting entirely to digital.

The move is not unexpected; numerous smaller newspapers are doing likewise amid a tremendous slump in print as digital has siphoned away advertising dollars.

”Under the print version, we could not reach people where they live and work,” said Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Detroit-based Real Times Media in a statement. “Being a digital -only outlet will help us reach people who live on the West Side or South Side or south suburbs, giving people what they need when they want it. It makes us more nimble.

”We’re really excited to pave the way to the future in really making sure there is a spot in the future for the black press. We have more newspapers than any other black media company in the country. I see this as our responsibility to show what the future looks like.”

Founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott in 1905, the legendary paper gave a voice to the city’s African-American Community, covering issues often neglected by Chicago’s other newspapers. It was also instrumental in encouraging African-Americans to migrate into Chicago from the Deep South as the Windy City had more opportunities. The paper also created The Bud Billiken Parade, a longtime South Side summertime staple that continues strong to this day.

But recent years have not been kind to the Defender and newspapers in general. Sold to out-of-town interests in 2003 amid plunging circulation, the Defender reverted back to a weekly in 2008 after 52 years as a daily publication. Since then, both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune has since increased coverage of issues involving the African-American community.

Also playing a role is a now “reverse migration” of African-Americans from the Chicago area as the market’s black population has been on a steady decline.

This is the second time this week a major name has called it quits when it came to print. Rumors surfaced Thursday night that satirical publication MAD Magazine was pulling the plug on print, but unlike the Defender isn’t planning to maintain a digital presence (MAD Magazine also spawned sketch TV show MAD TV, airing on Fox between 1995 and 2009 and had a short-lived revival on The CW in 2016.)

Earlier, Chicago-based Johnson Publishing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and beforehand sold Ebony and Jet magazines to a Texas-based private equity group. Both titles made the move to digital-only publishing with the former making the move last year as the print issue disappeared from stores and newsstands.

Plans for the Defender’s digital ambitions are yet to be detailed, but their website is expected to be revamped, with a paywall added. As noted here over a decade ago, the Defender’s website was plagued with problems and they would need to stay on their toes if they want to keep the namesake newspaper’s legacy alive.

Various , , , ,