T Dog’s Media Notepad: Chicago loses population again

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Also…management change at CSN Chicago; another new entry in syndication; MeTV FM going national; new host for Sy-Fy’s Comic-Con show

All together now: The Chicago DMA has lost population again,for a third year in a row, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chicago proper lost nearly 8,700 residents in the past year – and is the only city in the top twenty to lose population (keep in mind the Census Bureau measures people while Nielsen measure the number of homes.)

While the Chicago media made a very big deal of this, what they didn’t tell you was Detroit and Baltimore – two cities (and DMAs) who are also struggling with problems, also lost population – though both cities are not in the top twenty largest.

Still, the numbers are alarming – less residents means less buying power means less revenue for media outlets – and possibly more job losses for cash-strapped companies such as iHeart Media and Cumulus, who already laid off a number of people here – and layoffs are likely when Sinclair takes over WGN-TV later this year. The cancellation of Chicago Justice, APB, and relocation of Steve Harvey’s syndicated show and Johnson Publishing to Los Angeles has also cost hundreds their jobs.

In recent years, the number of people leaving the Chicago area has been led by African-Americans. While Chicago maintained its ranking as the third-largest TV and radio market in the country, the rank among TV homes among African-Americans slipped from second in 2006 to fourth in 2015, with a strong possibility of slipping to fifth next season. Unless the city and state can get a handle on their problems, the population decline is likely to continue.

The soft adult contemporary format WRME-FM has in place is about to go national: Weigel Broadcasting announced this week it was teaming up with Envision Networks to distribute the format to radio stations around the country. Launched in 2015, MeTV FM on 87.7 FM has put up impressive numbers, often landing in the top twenty most-listened to stations in the Chicago market.

This means a local radio station can go to Envision to license the format for their market, similar to what Sparknet Communications does with Jack FM.

“We created MeTV FM as the musical companion to America’s #1 all classic TV network, MeTV”, said Weigel Vice Chairman Neal Sabin. Both our television and radio formats present timeless and memorable entertainment that resonates with hipsters, hippies, baby boomers and beyond, as we like to say.  MeTV FM’s music format has broken many of the radio rules in terms of presentation, depth of playlist and mixing of genres. Using a challenging dial position in one of the most competitive radio markets in the country, we have proven the validity and viability of the format. We look forward to working with Envision to bring MeTV FM to many more places.”

Core artists on the station include Hall and Oates, The Carpenters, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, and Aretha Franklin, among others.

Last fall, MeTV FM launched a separate internet feed of its Chicago music station.

NBCUniversal’s Comcast SportsNet Chicago has made a major managerial change as Phil Bedella is out as vice president and general manager. As first reported by Robert Feder, the move comes as CSN Chicago – like all cable networks, are dealing with subscription losses due to cord cutting. In the last year, CSN Chicago cut back on news shows in favor of In The Loop, a viral video and discussion show. However, the regional sports network has introduced in-game streaming on numerous devices for its sports telecasts.

There is no word on who would replace Bedella, and no reason was given on why the thirteen-year veteran of the network was released.

If you watched NCAA Tournament games on TruTV in recent years, you’ve probably seen (or been bombarded with) promos for Impractical Jokers, a half-hour weekly series which is basically a new take on Candid Camera. Well, repeats of the show are being made available to local stations via syndication this fall with Trifecta Entertainment distributing the show.

The series has been sold to outlets covering 85 percent of the country in double-runs. Terms of the deal were not released, and neither was a station list but did say the show “cleared the CBS and Sinclair station groups in the largest markets.” Other groups buying the show include Tribune, Weigel, Hearst, and Gray.

Now in its sixth season and headed for a seventh, Jokers features four men who play hidden-camera pranks on each other. The series is obviously targeted to male viewers – an underserved group in syndication. The series’ first five seasons are only being made available.

Even though SyFy’s Presents from Comic-Con show last year was less than a thrilling TV experience, the NBCUniversal-owned network is trying again this year with a new host: Zachary Levi is taking over from Will Arnett as host of SyFy Presents From Comic-Con. The hourly three-night takes place from July 20 to July 22 from outside the convention hall in San Diego. Like last year, the show plans to interview celebrities, provide exclusive access to the hottest parties in town and clips from movies and TV shows (which means a lot of Sharknado plugs.)

Yours truly criticized (rather reluctantly, given yours truly is a fan) Arnett’s interviewing skills and the overall pace of Presents during last year’s show.

We are excited to be back in business with Zac as we prepare for this year’s Live From Comic-Con,” said a very enthusiastic Heather Olander, who is senior vice president, of alternative development and production at Syfy. “Not only is he an immensely talented multi-hyphenate, but he’s a true fan himself and a con favorite. With Zac as our host, we are guaranteed to bring a fan first perspective to our coverage, providing an all access inside look at breaking news, celebrity interviews, and the on the ground interactions that make San Diego Comic-Con the premiere genre event!

The former Chuck star had been at Comic-Con for years through Nerd HQ as Comic-Con off-site project, but decided not to hold the event this year. Levi did not state a reason why the plug was pulled.

For more media news, commentary, and fun, follow yours truly on Twitter @tdogmedia.

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“Dirty Dancing” slips and falls

The remake of the 1987 theatrical classic was so poorly received, it likely ends the bid for the Made-For-TV Movie to return to the broadcast networks on a regular basis

It’s time to pour one on the curb for the TV movie.

The form, created by ABC in the 1960’s as “original motion pictures for television”, was killed again – this time by the same network some 50 years later thanks to a remake of the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing in a quest by an industry to reboot anything and everything ever made.

You won’t find Jennifer Grey or Patrick Swayze here (Swayze died in 2009.) In fact, none of the stars of the original movie appeared in the remake – a very wise move on their part.

So what happened to the TV movie? Once a strong way of storytelling, the TV movie has now been regulated to the upper echelons of cable TV. While TV movies in the 1970’s and 1980’s mainly dealt with social and justice issues, today’s made-fors centers around En Vogue saving Christmas, an ill-fated, poorly-written farce about the life of R&B superstar Aaliyah, and behind-the-scenes turmoil on Beverly Hills, 90210 and Saved by the Bell.

And of course, don’t forget the very tired Sharknado franchise, which basically pioneered the concept of “hate-watching” (though fans watching the Chicago Bears play every week can also stake this claim.)

The TV movie has seen better days. In 1971, ABC aired Brian’s Song, featuring a strong teleplay about the relationship of the Bears’ Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo, who was dying of cancer. Made-fors became commonplace at the Big 3 networks in the 1970’s and 1980’s, with all three networks airing Sunday movies at one point. TV movies often took on controversial subjects including 1973’s Sticks And Stones (Vietnam), 1974’s Born Innocent (teenage delinquency) and A Case of Rape and 1984’s The Burning Bed (spousal abuse.) Another (The Day After, dealing with a nuclear holocaust) was the most-watched TV movie of all time.

But by the late 1980’s, the format drifted away from strong storytelling to silly topics, inaccurate depictions, and the damsel-in-distress type. In 1991, New York Times TV Critic John J. O’Connnor lambasted the form, stating in a review for CBS’ Her Wicked Ways: “Few artifacts of popular culture invite more condescension than the made-for-television movie. There are some notable exceptions, usually those more ambitious productions inevitably nominated for Emmy Awards, but most television movies seem perfectly content to be, at best, mediocre.”

The low point came in the mid-1990’s when CBS, NBC, and ABC all adapted movies based on “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fisher. By the turn of the century, the TV movie was all but dead at the broadcast networks, preferring instead to invest in more original dramas, a move that paid off as it led to increased revenue from international sales.

Cable networks such as FX, TNT, USA, and various predecessors of Freeform followed suit a decade ago in dumping the made-for format to invest in original dramas, leading to more than 450 scripted series, in “Peak TV”.

So now, the made-fors are the butt of everyone’s jokes, regulated to Lifetime, SyFy, and The Hallmark Channel, where older stars can still pick up a paycheck or an IMDB credit. And the shoddy writing and production of fare such as Dirty Dancing proves the TV movie has no place in the so-called second “Golden Age of TV”.

Here’s several reactions from Dirty Dancing on Twitter – almost overwhelmingly negative.

Somehow, the Dirty Dancing remake managed to sneak in footage from a San Francisco 49ers game:

If it were 1993 (when the team was bad), even I would have picked the Mets:

And of course, we can’t let this end without a few Mystery Science Theater 3000 references:

The reviews were just as brutal: Dancing scored just a 39 on Metacritic, with a user score of 2.5. Rotten Tomatoes scored it at 22 percent, with a user score of just 9.

According to Nielsen final ratings, Dirty Dancing earned a 1.4 rating in the adults 18-49 demo and drew a total of 6.6 million viewers. Dirty Dancing finished behind CBS’ Survivor season finale and Fox’s Empire, which has quality problems of its own. The ratings performance, like the movie, was truly underwhelming.

As you know, we don’t have a Made-for-TV movie wing at the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame – if we did, the number of inductees would easily top 1,000 with Dirty Dancing probably at the head of the list.

So rest in peace, TV movie. After being relevant for so long, you are now old and obsolete in a world of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and hundreds of scripted shows. Give me a call when Lifetime summons The Rolling Stones to save Thanksgiving.



The Upfronts post-game show

Ratings don’t seem to matter much as ad buyers remained committed to primetime TV

This season, the television business has had its share of negative headlines: notably declining ratings for many shows, especially in the key 18-49 demo.

But this isn’t deterring buyers from investing their advertising in primetime TV. And nowhere more this was evident than last week as they swarmed the upfront presentations in New York for each of the five broadcast networks.

Why? For one, television’s reach – continues to be unparalleled compared to the web, and marketers don’t have to worry about their ads being placed in or near offensive content, as the broadcast nets pointed out repeatedly. Another reason is many primetime shows – including veterans The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, The Simpsons and reality stalwarts Dancing With The StarsThe Bachelor, and Survivor have very loyal audiences (ask Turner, who felt the wrath of viewers whenever Big Bang reruns are pre-empted at the last-minute for sports overruns.) Automotive and telecoms (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) continue to fuel these trends as they pour a lot into primetime and local spot advertising.

Which means yes, more Jan from Toyota and “Paul” from Sprint than we want to.

Plus, other areas of television continue to be strong, including local news as more and more stations are adding hours – including WGN-TV, who recently launched an hour-long 6 p.m. newscast. The recent acquisition of Tribune Media by Sinclair Broadcasting is also another signal to advertisers the commitment being made to over-the-air television – including primetime.

And while viewers are indeed bailing out of primetime for time-shifting, online viewing, streaming services – and even the cable news networks, there is still a significant number of viewers who prefer watching their programs “live” as it’s being transmitted by the networks, though they are older in number. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to have sports in your arsenal, despite declining ratings for some leagues, including the NFL. Those programs serve as a strong promotional platform for what the networks have to offer.

With that said, here’s what yours truly observed during the upfronts:

Wednesday Night Rivalry. We’re not talking about NBCSN airing a Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues game: It’s the first hour of primetime that’s going to feature a heated battle this fall between four popular shows: CBS’ Survivor, NBC’s The Blacklist, Fox’s Empire and CW’s Riverdale. While counter-programming is less strident in the DVR era, networks believe there is room for more than one hit in the same time slot – even four. NBCSN’s tagline for its Wednesday night hockey telecasts is “the night you love to hate”. It’s now because you have to DVR all these shows!

Thursday Night Rivalry. Led by NBC’s hit drama This Is Us being relocated opposite ABC’s Scandal, NBC is reviving its “Must-See TV” brand opposite ABC’s TGIT block. But is there anything “must-see” about this? (other than This Is Us.) If there’s anything “must-see”, is CBS’ Thursday lineup led by The Big Bang Theory (in terms of ratings, at least.)

Cable news becoming more competitive in prime. Yours truly has noticed – cable news ratings have often matched or even surpassed the entertainment fare on the broadcast networks. Given the continuing White House drama is drawing viewers to cable news – particularly in primetime, the broadcast networks have lost ground. As I pointed out before, Lucious Lyon’s antics are no match for Donald Trump’s.

Getting the band back together. The success of The X-Files and Fuller House during the 2015-16 season led to each of the networks trotting out a whole bunch of reboots – some more thought out better than others. The reason? Familiar names are an easier sell to advertisers – especially the biggest one, American Idol. But are audiences – especially millennials – willing to watch?

Multi-cam sitcoms continue to falter. The broadcast networks continue to scale back on shows filmed in front of studio audiences as outside of reboots, there were one, maybe two new sitcom projects picked up as series. Even CBS has scaled back on multi-cams. Yours truly will have more on this in a later post.

Fridays are still relevant. While the days of TGIF are long gone (note no sitcoms are scheduled on this night for the first time in recent memory), not everyone can afford to go out and splurge $50 on drinks at the local bar celebrating the start of the weekend. With that said, it’s nice the broadcast networks continue to invest in the evening, preventing it from becoming the next Saturday. But the term “Friday Night Death Slot” still has some punch: ABC’s Once Upon A Time and and Marvel’s Inhumans are scheduled for Friday, then in late November, gives away to Agents Of Shield, in what is likely its final season – a move that should have been made two years ago. This proves sci-fi and fantasy still have a place on this night.

The takeaway from all this is if you are looking for risk-taking, innovating programming – continue with cable or streaming services. When the most-talked fall show is one that last aired ten years ago, you know there is a problem. Network television lacks creativity, but ad buyers don’t care, as long as they continue to shove Jan, Flo, and Paul in our faces, to sell cars with red bows on top, and telling us how bad the competitor’s cell phone service is. Yours truly understands the times we are in, and people are looking for “comfort food”. But you know what? A steady diet of hamburgers and hot dogs isn’t good for you, and neither are these prime-time lineups.

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“Dynasty” reboot, “Black Lightning” highlights CW’s 2017-18 schedule

Let’s strangle Alexis again, like we did in the good ol’ days.

Four new dramas on tap this fall

The year of the reboot rolls on with another familiar name: Dynasty.

The CW announced its new 2017-18 schedule in front of ad buyers Thursday during its upfront presentation, and the biggest show on the schedule is one from the 1980’s.

Unlike the more recent revival of Dallas, featuring original cast members Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, and Larry Hagman, this Dynasty reboot features an all-new cast in the roles. During its heyday, Dynasty was a pop culture trendsetter, influencing fashion and promoting “greed is good” excess. The series lasted nine seasons on ABC spending five of those in the top ten, but the controversial Moldavian Massacre storyline cost it any momentum going forward.

Also new to CW’s lineup is another addition to DC’s universe: Black Lightning, scheduled for midseason.

Leading off Mondays is Supergirl leading into Valor, a military drama with the Army as a backdrop. Tuesdays remain unchanged (Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow), with Riverdale shifting to Wednesday to lead off the night and leading into the new Dynasty. Replacing Riverdale on Thursdays is Arrow, leading out of Supernatural. And finally, Fridays have Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane The Virgin paired up again.

Other midseason entries include The 100, iZombie and The Originals. The CW also has some non-drama programming on tap as well, including Whose Line Is It Anyway? for filler purposes, but no comedies.

The skinny on this lineup is the comic book shows often beats programming on the other networks in the 18-49 demo. But ratings are still low, and with Sinclair now taking over CW affiliates in the top two markets, ratings need to improve.

The addition of Black Lightning is cool – another diverse program on The CW’s lineup. But when’s enough enough when it comes to superhero shows? Riverdale has solved the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom, but what can they do for an encore? Is shooting Luke Perry the best they can do? Empire may be a fading show, but they’ll have no trouble topping this cliffhanger.

Fridays has female-skewing and critically-acclaimed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane The Virgin. Solution to ultra-low ratings? Clone the people I follow on Twitter, problem solved. A special animated Scooby-Doo episode of Supernatural (a show I’ve never been a fan of) sounds very lame, even as a fan of the Great Dane. If there is one thing in life, Scooby-Doo and The Simpsons will both outlive us all.

Finally, the Dynasty reboot is something yours truly can do without. I was never a fan of this show, though the Linda Evans vs. Joan Collins rivalry (also in real life) was quite fun. But who would fill the shoes of these two? Plus, the locale shifts from Denver to Atlanta for some reason – I thought they were rebooting Dynasty, not Gone With The Wind. Are we going to see Scarlett O’Hara in this too? At least they didn’t take the easy way out by setting it in New York or Beverly Hills.

To sum up, it’s probably a good thing WGN bailed out of The CW when it did. Because outside of their existing shows, the network’s new programming isn’t really impressive. Maybe the new Sinclair network would be better when it debuts in 2021. Or not.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.

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T Dog Media’s Notepad: Tom Joyner out at Soul 106.3

Also: WGN-TV unveils new set and logo; Jon Kelley gets a new gig as host of a syndicated game show; Kathy Hart still MIA; “Wheel” celebrates Chicago

In another huge blow to his nationally syndicated radio show, Crawford Broadcasting-owned Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM) announced Tuesday it was grounding the “flyjock” the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show after eight years due to low ratings. As first reported by Robert Feder, the daily morning radio show is being replaced by a new local effort featuring former WGCI-FM nighttime personality Mike Love, who’ll take over the morning shift on June 5.

Not to be confused with the Beach Boys member of the same name (ha ha), Love co-hosted a successful evening show with Victor Blackful, a.k.a. “The Dizz” from 1997-2007, and often ranked number one in its time slot.

As for Joyner, it is likely his Chicago radio career has come to an end. A veteran of WVON, WJPC, and WGCI-FM, Joyner was nicknamed “the flyjock” because he flew every day between gigs at WGCI and KKDA-FM in Dallas between 1985 and 1993. His nationally syndicated morning show launched a year later over WVAZ-FM (V103). But in 2009, his morning show was canceled by V103 and replaced by Steve Harvey’s syndicated program, moving over from sister station WGCI. Harvey (who’s been in the news lately for writing a rather rude memo to his staff of his TV show) replaced “Crazy” Howard McGee two years earlier at WGCI despite his ranking in the top five.

This site suggested Soul 106.3 pick up Joyner’s show and they actually did. But audiences never followed and the station’s signal-challenged status did not help.

Joyner’s syndicated show had been going through some upheaval in recent years, including J. Anthony Brown jumping to rival Harvey’s show earlier this year after 20 years with Joyner and the exit of Sheryl Underwood, who is now on CBS’ The TalkTJMS also lost clearances in several key African-American markets including Baltimore and his home base of Dallas after the station he was heard on changed formats.

Joyner’s show also has been dogged by rumors of cancellation.

TJMS still can be heard in over 50 cities and is easily available on the web, but losing the nation’s third-largest African-American radio market on terrestrial radio doesn’t bode well for its future. Joyner is under contract until the end of this year.

Where in the world is Kathy Hart? No one seems to know – not even the station she works for. Half of the wildly successful Eric & Kathy show on Hubbard-owned Hot Adult Contemporary station WTMX-FM (The Mix) has been “on leave” for the last two weeks, leaving Eric ferguson with several fill-in hosts. Neither Hart or WTMX officials are commenting and there is no timetable for her return.

Eric & Kathy have been doing WTMX’s morning show for 20 years and dominated the ratings among key female demos and brought in tons of revenue for WTMX. However, there has been reported tension between the two and it is not known if this is the reason Hart took the time off. But you wonder if this relationship is heading down the same path the way Steve Dahl’s and Garry Meier’s did. The popular duo broke up in 1993 after successful stints at WLS-FM, WLS-AM, and WLUP-FM.

Yours truly often refers to Eric & Kathy as the “American Idol of morning radio”: I don’t really understand the show’s popularity and one that doesn’t really appeal to anyone south of Cermak Rd.

You can read into that statement anyway you want.


Former WMAQ-TV and WFLD-TV anchor Jon Kelley has scored a new gig in Hollywood, hosting a new syndicated game show called Funny You Can Ask, featuring comedians riffing on questions asked by contestants (similar to Hollywood Squares.) Produced and distributed by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, the new show is a firm go for fall, with WCIU in Chicago clearing the show in addition to WLNY in New York and in a rare instance, clearing two non-duopoly stations in Los Angeles: KCAL-TV and KDOC-TV, the latter based in nearby Anaheim, Calif. Funny You Should Ask is also airing on Comedy.TV a cable network Entertainment Studios owns. The series was sold to 95 percent of the country in two-year deals.

Celebrities appearing on the show include Anthony Anderson, Louie Anderson, Tom Arnold, Cedric The Entertainer, Dave Coulier, Jackee Harry, Pauly Shore, and Caroline Rhea.

Funny You Should Ask should help fill the void left by the abrupt cancellation of Celebrity Name Game, another celebrity/comedy-based game show which was hosted by Craig Ferguson. The series was canceled last December after three seasons and aired its final first-run episode in February. Though syndicator Debmar-Mercury did not officially reveal why the plug was pulled, high production costs were believed to be the culprit.

Jon Kelley previously was one of the anchors on WFLD-TV’s Good Day Chicago before exiting the show in 2015 to pursue other opportunities. Kelley was the lead sports anchor for WMAQ in the 1990’s where he covered the Chicago Bulls championship run, but wasn’t too-well received by critics. He later anchored the syndicated Extra and hosted former ABC game show The Mole.

On a personal note, when he was at WFLD, I often seen him walking the hallway at 205 North Michigan and outside in the patio area doing live shots – he often posed with fans for selfies. Kelley seems to be a nice guy, compared to some of the “divas” who work on and behind the cameras in the TV business.

Speaking of game shows, it’s Chicago Week on CBS Television Distribution’s Wheel of Fortune as the long-running program celebrates the nation’s third-largest city with local contestants flown to the set in Culver City, Calif. to play.  It’s part of Wheel’s Great American Cities theme, where the show celebrates a city and everything positive about it. Earlier this season, Wheel celebrated San Diego, New York City, and the entire state of Florida.

This is somewhat of a homecoming for host Pat Sajak; he was born and raised in Chicago and lived in the Little Village/South Lawndale neighborhood (another famous person, V103’s Joe Soto, also hails from the area.) Wheel first visited Chicago in 1984 and has made numerous trips to the Windy City. Both Sajak and Vanna White came to town last year to tape insterials in front of the city’s famous landmarks and in some of the city’s famous restaurants (this week, a lucky contestant won a gift certificate to Harry Caray’s.)

Wheel has been good to Chicago and vice versa; since premiering in Chicago over ABC-owned WLS-TV in January 1984, the series has constantly won its 6:30 p.m. time slot and continues to do so to this day, and easily turned back a challenge from a resurgent Family Feud, which briefly ran at 6:30 p.m. on WPWR two years ago (and also did so in 1988 and 1989 when WMAQ ran a Ray Combs-hosted version in the same time slot.) Feud may be in the lead nationally (with its cumed ratings being cumed and all), but Chicago is still a Pat and Vanna town.

In the final break of ties to The CW, WGN-TV unveiled a new logo on Wednesday, replacing the one it had been using since at least 2003. The independent station also unveiled a new news set, an old studio where Phil Donahue’s show was taped from 1974 to 1982. The new set includes a larger news desk, an interview era, and yes… a cooking station – obviously to be used during the station’s morning and midday newscasts.

“WGN News broadcasts 70.5 hours a week of local news, more news than any other Chicago station. We are excited to have a set that fully supports all of our news programs and are thrilled with the ‘state-of-the-art’ result,” said WGN President and General Manger Paul Rennie in a press release. “Our new logo and set reflects our local community and reinforces our identity as Chicago’s Very Own.”

Viewers can get a virtual tour of the set by visiting wgntv.com/newsset and can also win a chance to see it in person by liking WGN’s Facebook page. 

WGN and 41 other Tribune Media stations were recently sold to Sinclair Broadcast Group in a controversial $4 billion dollar deal.

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“Young Sheldon” is CBS’ centerpiece for 2017-18 season

“Young Sheldon”. ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CBS announces new schedule in front of buyers

CBS held its 2017-18 upfront presentation Wednesday and announced its new schedule in front of ad buyers, and made a case for why the network is the “most watched in America”. CBS CEO Les Moonves addressed attendees at an upfronts breakfast Wednesday morning, subbing in for network president Glenn Geller, who is on medical leave. Joining him was Kelly Kahl, senior executive of primetime. We’ll have more on that later.

But first, here’s what CBS has on tap for the 2017-18 season:

– We’ll start with Tuesday first – and the night remains unchanged with NCIS, Bull, and NCIS: New Orleans. Wednesdays has Criminal Minds sliding over an hour later for new drama Seal Team, about….. Survivor stays pat and takes on Empire and The Blacklist. Fridays also remain pat with MacGyver, Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods, with 48 Hours remaining on Saturdays.

– Sundays has new drama Wisdom Of The Crowd leading out of 60 Minutes, followed by NCIS: Los Angeles and a relocated Madam Secretary.

– Now we discuss Mondays and Thursdays, which are difficult to dissect because of Thursday Night Football. The Big Bang Theory once again relocates to Monday nights due to Football on Thursdays. CBS’ new Young Sheldon, a BBT prequel, premieres on Sept. 25 as a special “preview”. The following week, 9JKL premieres. followed by Kevin Can Wait, new comedy Me Myself and I and Scorpion.

After football, Big Bang shifts back to Thursday with Young Sheldon moving into is regular night and time beginning Oct. 30. This is followed by Mom, Life In Pieces, and the new drama SWAT, which is actually not a reboot of the 1970’s ABC series, but of the movie based on the series.

When Big Bang moves back to Thursday, Kevin Can Wait takes over its spot on Mondays, followed by 9JKL, new comedy Me Myself and I, and the return of Superior Donuts. Scorpion remains pat.

Being held for midseason are Man With a Plan, Code Black, and Elementary (among others), with the latter a last-minute pickup. Canceled are Training Day, Hunted, and Ransom.

Moonves addressed the crowd during the executive session, and he acknowledged NBC’s return of “Must-See TV” moniker, stating his network is the real Must-See TV giving the large number of viewers they attract. Moonves also noted ABC’s acquisition of American Idol, saying the logistics for CBS to buy the show didn’t make financial sense. Moonves also noted what he said about Trump (“he may be good for CBS”, etc.) was a joke, but the way things are going, it’s one he may have regretted making.

As for CBS’ schedule, this isn’t too much to criticize here; after all, they are the number one network (in total viewers, at least.) while their shows don’t seem to have the same buzz as other networks, the networks goes by the late Oakland Raiders Al Davis’ slogan… “Just win, baby!”

One noticeable element of CBS’ fall schedule is the departure from multi-cam comedies, which the network has relied on in the past. 9JKL is the only new show which is multi-cam; the others, Young Sheldon included, are single-cam ones. CBS is betting a lot on how Sheldon Cooper became “The Genius. The Wonder. The Legend.” as a weekly series. But this has a Malcolm In The Middle feel to it – genius kid putting up with a dysfunctional family, and so on – not a bad thing, but it feels like it’s been done before.

CBS’ new Seal Team is a standard military drama, so if you’re into this type of stuff, you won’t be disappointed. Some say 9JKL is similar to the network’s long-running hit Everyone Loves Raymond… kind of a similar theme regarding their new shows.

Overall, not a bad schedule for CBS for next season – given ABC and Fox (especially Fox) are still in a rebuilding phase, staying the course seems to be the best bet. For all the ribbing I give “The Church Of Tisch” over a lot of things, they’ve done a good job running primetime.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.

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ABC releases 2017-18 schedule

“Inhumans” debuts first in IMAX theaters before heading to TV.

Fourteen new series on tap; many scheduling moves

ABC announced its 2017-18 schedule in front of ad buyers during its annual upfront presentation on Tuesday – fourteen new series on tap, including many midseason entries.

But the big news (other than the acquisition of American Idol) is the return of Roseanne to the schedule for the first time in nearly 20 years. And I don’t mean in reruns (more on that later.)

ABC made many schedule changes in its fall lineup, which includes abandoning comedy on Fridays (remember, this was the onetime home of the popular TGIF block); and shifting non-scripted shows to Sundays. ABC made a last-minute pickup of Quantico despite low ratings; I suppose they want to stay in business with Priyanka Chopra, who is becoming an “it girl” of sorts.

Mondays has Dancing With The Stars (and The Bachelor in between) and a new drama The Good Doctor, in the ABC medical drama traditions of Ben Casey, Grey’s Anatomy and Marcus Welby, M.D. ABC continues its sitcom block on Tuesdays with black-ish the new middle anchor in the evening. The Middle starts it off, followed by Speechless, and lead out of black-ish is new comedy The Mayor, followed by new drama The Gospel Of Kevin.

Wednesdays is mostly unchanged with the exception of American Housewife replacing black-ish. Thursdays also stays the same with Scandal entering its seventh and final season.

The nights receiving the biggest makeovers are Fridays and Sundays – the first two hours on Fridays feature dramas – Once Upon A Time shifting from Sundays and Marvel’s new Inhumans, whose pilot episode is debuting in IMAX theaters Sept. 1 before it premieres as an eight-week series, then replaced by the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. The last hour of Friday remains unchanged with 20/20.

Sundays features a major change with unscripted series To Tell The Truth and Shark Tank joining America’s Funniest Home Videos and a new drama Ten Days In The Valley. But all of this is a holdover for the arrival of former Fox hit American Idol, who named Katy Perry as their first judge.

Other midseason entries other than Roseanne and Idol are Dancing With The Stars Juniors, and The Bachelor Winter Games.

With ABC in fourth place, it’s no surprise the network is making some major changes – particularly Sundays, where it needs the most help – Shark Tank should be a great alternative for those who do want to want football or a CBS drama. And American Idol will get instant interest, so it’s all good.

As for their new series – and being biased toward sci-fi and fantasy as yours truly is – The Inhumans is the most interesting. But since the series is only an eight-episode run, the series would have to be good out of the gate or it’ll be written off quick – and airing on low-level HUT Friday nights doesn’t help. The Mayor meanwhile, is being promoted as “a Lea Michele comedy series”, when she’s not even the lead (the series does not bare resemblance to an earlier ABC effort, the 1986 sitcom He’s The Mayor with White Shadow alumnus Kevin Hooks.) The Good Doctor is, ahem “good” if you like medical series, and if it’s better than Marcus Welby, a huge plus. Then again, anything is better than Marcus Welby. 

Black-ish is given a huge vote of confidence moving to a Tuesday night tent-pole slot in a smart move. But other than that, not much change in the comedy ranks.

The biggest news (outside of Idol) of course, the return of Roseanne after two decades off the air. While details haven’t been ironed out yet, the entire cast (including Sarah Clarke, one of the two actresses who played Becky) is returning – even Michael Fishman!

When the announcement was made in front of ad buyers at ABC’s upfronts Tuesday, it got a cold reception…as in none.

As far as reboots for successful series goes – and not counting first-run syndicated revivals (Charles in Charge, We Got It Made, etc.), history isn’t on their side: the most absurd case was a reboot of Get Smart on Fox in 1995, 25 years after the series had its last network broadcast featuring the son of Agents 86 and 99, played by Andy Dick, bumbling and stumbling just like dear ol’ dad. Pathetic. The idea of a Roseanne reboot is ridiculous, and perhaps the stupidest idea yours truly has ever heard of (actually I’ve heard of even more lamer ideas.)

So in addition to Full House, X-Files, Will & Grace, we now have Roseanne. I suppose coming up next, we’ll have a reboot of Dharma & Greg. Or According To Jim.

Or Marcus Welby. The possibilities are fucking endless.

So the question you’re asking is will ABC improve in the ratings next season? Yeah, why not.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.


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Sun-Times, Tribune to merge?

Soon a tronc property?

Owners of Chicago Tribune considering bid to buy cash-strapped newspaper.

It looks like the feared notion of Chicago becoming an one-paper town is about to come to fruition.

On Monday, it was revealed Chicago Tribune owner tronc is pursuing a deal to buy Wrapports, the owners of the Chicago Sun-Times for an undisclosed amount. Should no buyers come forward by June 1, the deal will commence, according to tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.

The two rivals have partnered when it came to distribution and printing; the Chicago Tribune has been printing the Sun-Times since 2007 and delivers the newspapers. But talk of a possible merger fueled when Wrapports owner Michael Ferro also become the biggest shareholder in rival Tribune Publishing, now renamed “tronc”, in smaller-case letters.

In Tuesday’s edition of the Sun-Times, the paper posted a notice of “for sale” sheet in its paper, as requested by the Justice Department, which is reviewing the transaction. In filings, tronc and Wrapports said it would keep the two newspapers separate, and the Sun-Times would be operated independently from the Tribune.

But if the merger goes through, expect some changes. One could be the consolidation of both the Tribune and Sun-Times’ websites. This setup is similar in Philadelphia, where the Inquirer and Daily News are independent from one another, but share a website in Philly.com. Another example is  in Detroit, where the Free Press and News also share services (but not a single website.) Both have an 100-year joint agreement, and operate under the Detroit Media Partnership.

If the Justice Department approves the deal, Chicago would be the largest market in the country with two newspapers under the same owner. Also remains to be seen if several features to the Sun-Times’ website would be returned, including a paywall and comment sections.

Newspapers had been losing market share and revenue in the last fifteen years or so due to the shift of advertising money to digital – a situation also affecting other media such as television and radio. Paywalls have had mixed results in stemming the losses, with the Sun-Times discarding them a few years back. Both the Tribune and Sun-Times’ quality has paled in comparison with others newspapers in other cities, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The move is the latest jolt to Chicago’s media landscape. Last week, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its intention to buy Tribune Media, owner of WGN-TV and WGN-AM and 41 other television stations. Earlier this year, Entercom entered into an agreement to buy CBS Radio, owner of WBBM-AM/FM and several other stations.

While the Justice Department is looking over the deal, don’t look for the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission to get involved as neither has jurisdiction over newspapers. But the recent merger and acquisition activity signals a more deregulatory approach under the Trump administration. Another rule affecting newspapers – the cross-ownership rule forbidding television and radio stations from buying newspapers – is also expected to be looked at, and likely get axed.

The deal is also expected to be opposed by many local community groups and unions, but are unlikely to have any influence in any decision the Justice Department makes.

Wrapports also owns the Chicago Reader, whose unionized employees has been embroiled in a dispute with the company over pay.


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Fox announces 2017-18 schedule

Starlost: Seth MacFarlane (l.) created and stars in “The Orville”. (Fox)

Struggling network goes heavy on sci-fi, picks up Seth MacFarlane show

Fox released its 2017-18 schedule this morning in advance of its upfront presentation Monday afternoon and has considerable changes throughout the schedule.

The biggest move, Wednesday night sees the once-hot Empire move an hour earlier to accommodate the return of Star, the show that temporally replaced it last winter. Empire now goes up against The Blacklist and presumably, Survivor should the series stays in its current time slot (CBS unveils its schedule later this week.)

Meanwhile, Fox has picked up a few sci-fi based series for next season, including one from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane called The Orville, which is set on a U.S.S. vessel in space 400 years into the future – sounds an awfully like failed 1970’s syndicated sci-fi series The Starlost to yours truly. Missing are the styrofoam sets and wooden acting.

Fox scores a Marvel show for the first time by acquiring The Gifted, a show about a suburban couple who finds out their children have supernatural powers. Also new is Ghosted, a comedy featuring The Office’s Craig Robinson being paired with Adam Scott to fight aliens (sounds like a comedic version of The X-Files.)

Debuting midseason is new drama 9-1-1 and comedy LA to Vegas, and also returning midseason is New Girl, (which is ending after this season) and X-Files – two years after season eleven concluded. Not making the schedule next season at all is Scream Queens, out after two low-rated seasons.

The fall schedule features Lucifer paired with The Gifted on Mondays – a rare instance a DC and Marvel are airing together; Lethal Weapon moves to Tuesdays from Wednesdays and paired up with The Mick and Brooklyn Nine-Nine; as previously mentioned, Wednesdays has Empire and Star; Gotham moves to Thursdays and is paired with The Orville; Fridays has Hell’s Kitchen and the return of The Exorcist.

Adam Scott (l.) and Craig Robinson star in “Ghosted”. (Fox)

Saturdays is College Football most weeks; Fox gains rights to several Big Ten games this year, in addition to airing Big 12 and Pac 12 games. With the exception of Ghosted replacing Son of Zorn, Sundays remain unchanged.

Fox’s upfront presentation was heavy on sports, including Terry Bradshaw rapping (yes, rapping) and MacFarlane thinking he’s the second coming of Frank Sinatra. As a sci-fi geek, these new shows should make yours truly happy, but The Orville is the only show worth checking out while Gifted is meh at best and forget about Ghosted.

Fox finally pairs Empire with Star on Wednesdays, a move a few industry insiders suggested. But will Empire’s sex, drugs, violence, and rock ‘n roll (or in this case, hip-hop) play in an earlier time slot? Plus, tougher competition won’t help its ratings, which have declined significantly this year. As for Star, this garbage should’ve been canceled months ago.

Lethal Weapon moves to Tuesdays, but now faces The Voice and NCIS – good luck with that. The Mick and Nine-Nine being paired together is like matching Knicks fans with Nets fans (and like those teams, both shows are not really relevant.) And Sundays…let’s not talk about Sundays. At all. (though yours truly is happy Bob’s Burgers is back.)

While it would be nice for Fox to fill its late Saturday night slot with It’s Showtime At The Apollo – where it traditionally aired when it was in syndication (which is now being held for midseason to air in primetime), it remains with reruns for now – yet another missed opportunity.

Give some credit to Dana Walden and Gary Newman for trying to keep Fox relevant, but what do they have other than football? The brand people associate with Fox now is…a controversial news division who is in President Trump’s pocket and a place where sexist behavior and racial discrimination are running rampant. Certainly not the image Rupert Murdoch had in mind when he dreamt of launching a “fourth network” thirty years ago whose brand in its early years was fronted by Bart Simpson, Al Bundy, and the kids from Beverly Hills, 90210.

Fox has an identity crisis. Turning it into the second coming of UPN won’t help.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.

Bonus: Here’s video from someone who was there at the upfronts during Fox Sports’ long presentation. Enjoy. If you can.

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NBC releases 2017-18 schedule

“Will and Grace” returns to NBC with new episodes for the first time since 2006. (NBCUniversal)

Must-See TV is back – and so is Will and Grace

In the “innovative” world of television, there must be something about resurrecting a brand dominant in the 1980’s and 1990s.

Thus, the return of “Must-See TV”.

NBC released its fall schedule Sunday in advance of its upfront presentation, scheduled to take place Monday in New York, and the biggest news: the return of Will and Grace after a eleven-year hiatus. Yes, a eleven-year hiatus. Think about that.

At the time of this writing, the network has not decided on the future of Chicago Justice, the fourth entry in Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise as it is not on the fall schedule.

Mondays has the return of The Voice, with new spinning luxury reclining seat occupant Kelly Clarkson – who was heavily wooed by ABC for its revival of American Idol (she won the first edition in 2002.) It leads into new military drama The Brave.

Tuesdays has The Voice leading into a new sitcom block of relocated sitcoms Superstore and The Good Place, both replacing This Is Us (more on that in a moment.) Chicago Fire remains pat.

Wednesdays is an all-drama night with The Blacklist leading off, followed by veteran Law & Order: SVU and Chicago PD.

Thursday is the night receiving the biggest makeover with the return of Will and Grace with Tina Fey’s Great News – then the relocation of high-rated drama This Is Us in the middle of prime-time followed by Law & Order: True Crime, featuring a story based on the Menendez brothers case.

Both Blindspot and Taken relocate to Friday, with Dateline NBC finishing the night.

When Sunday Night Football finishes in December, NBC is expected to slate Ellen DeGeneres’ new Game of Games, with Little Big Shots and Shades of Blue.

Looking at this lineup, it’s clear NBC wants to be relevant on Thursday nights, wrested away by CBS years ago – that’s why Must-See TV is back, and so is Will and Grace, which played a role in the peacock network’s success on the night in its heyday. Generally, sitcom revivals have a mixed track record (New Monkees, anyone?) But the new Will And Grace has to face TV’s top-rated sitcom The Big Bang Theory starting in November. However, Big Bang is declining creatively (yours truly’s opinion), so Will and Grace is a nice option. But you have to question why this is being rebooted – keep in mind unlike Seinfeld and Friends, Will and Grace was not a big syndication hit.

In a great counter-programming move, NBC gets points for moving This Is Us, which could put the series opposite Scandal on ABC. In the spirit of FX’s critically-acclaimed The People vs. O.J. Simpson, NBC is now trying a limited-series about another high-profile murder trial about the Menendez brothers.

NBC also gets points for moving underrated Superstore and Good Place to Tuesdays after The Voice, so they’ll get amply sampled.

Wednesdays look solid with the Blacklist joining Law & Order: SVU and Chicago PD – this block flows well, but will face tough competition from Survivor and Empire, assuming those shows stay on the night.

Fridays looks iffy however, with Blindspot and Taken, two yawner dramas. Difficult to analyze this night given the low HUT levels.

And of course, NBC will dominate with Sunday Night Football (and thankfully, the lowly Chicago Bears are not scheduled to appear.)

NBC made some good moves here, but will it pay off in increased ratings, especially with a revamped Thursday night? That remains to be seen. But with the Super Bowl (on Feb. 4), NBC would be hard-to-beat in the 18-49 demo.

For more information on NBC’s fall and midseason shows including detailed programming descriptions, click here.

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More renewals/cancellations: “2 Broke Girls” get ax; “Timeless” renewed after all

After initially cancelling it, NBC’s Timeless is coming back for a second season after all. (Warner Bros.)

Believe it or not, many series STILL on the bubble

With the upfronts less than 48 hours away, the networks are finalizing their decisions on “bubble” shows.

In a bit of a surprise, NBC announced Saturday the reversal on a decision they made earlier in the week regarding sci-fi drama Timeless: NBC said it would bring the series back for a second season.

This is not the first time in recent years a network reserved a decision on a show – a few years ago, CBS uncanceled Poppy Montgomery vehicle Unforgettable, renewing it for thirteen more episodes.

Late Friday, NBC gave a last-minute renewal to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – entering its nineteenth season this fall. The mothership (Law & Order) ran for twenty, tying Gunsmoke for the longest-running drama in TV history.

Fox gave last-minute renewals to The Exorcist and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. and Saturday evening, CBS picked up Elementary and Amazing Race for another season.

As for cancellations, the biggest announcement was the end of the line for veteran 2 Broke Girls after six seasons and The Great Outdoors after one. CBS picked up several comedy pilots, but in a reversal from years past, ordered just one multi-cam project (9JKL). A few days ago, ABC canceled its last remaining multi-cam sitcoms, Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken.

NBC pulled the plug on The Blacklist: Redemption after one season.

As of this writing, no word on the fates of a few remaining shows whose fates remain undecided: Quantico, Chicago Justice, Prison Break, 24: Legacy, Trial & Error, New Girl, or Undercover Boss: compared to years past, this is an unusually high number of programs left on the bubble. NBC is likely to release its 2017-18 lineup Sunday afternoon, with its upfront presentation Monday, followed by Fox.

Meanwhile, there is some reported tension between ad buyers and the networks over pricing, according to Variety. With many low-rated network shows returning and ratings for live TV declining, many buyers are scoffing at increased rates for shows. As a result, networks are cutting costs on programming, and slashing licensing fees.

If this is any indication of how negotiations are going to go, the networks and buyers are going to be in for some long nights ahead.

I hope they love pizza, because they are going to be eating a lot of it.

For the latest on renewals and cancellations, follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

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The bubble busts for borderline shows 

Last Man Standing falls after six seasons.









Pickups, renewals take place before upfront week.

As has been the case the last few years, the major networks are clearing the deadwood and making last-minute renewals on many shows the week before upfront presentations take place in New York.

From the looks of things, Fox is likely to overhaul its lineup: five shows so far have gotten the ax: Rosewood, Sleepy Hollow, Making History, and the awful APB and Son Of Zorn, the latter two headed for the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame – if they’re not there already.

Another (Pitch), was canceled last week.

To the surprise of many, ABC canceled Last Man Standing Wednesday after six seasons in the air- this despite decent ratings on Friday night. Also dropped by ABC was The Real O’Neals and Dr. Ken after two seasons.  The cancellation of Ken and Standing may signal ABC is exiting the multi-cam sitcom business for good.

The fourth place network also pulled the plug on American Crime (three seasons), Secrets and Lies (two), The Catch and Imaginary Mary (one season each.) Still no word on the fates of Quantico, Fresh Off the Boat, Match Game, and veterans 20/20 and America’s Funniest Home Videos. 

Earlier in the week, The CW canceled Frequency and No Tomorrow – two shows whom haven’t been on the air since January. NBC also pulled the plug on Emerald City and Timeless and is expected to drop Powerless (also a Hall Of Shame shoo-in.) Also, Grimm was “retired”.

As far as last-minute renewals, there were plenty of those with ABC’s two-year pickup of Modern Family and NBC’s two-year renewal of The Blacklist the biggest.

NBC also picked up Tina Fey’s comedy Great News for a thirteen-episode second season.

Bubble shows also receiving votes of confidence are ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Black-ish, Designated Survivor, NBC’s Blindspot; and The CW’s Riverdale and iZombie.

More renewals and cancellations are to be announced Friday. Stay with T Dog Media for the latest on the renewals and cancellations and follow yours truly on Twitter @tdogmedia for the latest updates.

(Spotted Ratings.com contributed to this report.) 

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Winners and losers in the Sinclair-Tribune deal

Sinclair Broadcasting purchased Tribune Media this week.

With Monday’s acquisition of Tribune Media by Sinclair, it is time to divvy up the winners and losers in this historic deal.

Winner: Sinclair Broadcasting (of course.) No one thought Sinclair would ever crack the top five markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Let’s just say Christmas morning came for the once-obscure broadcaster May 8. And look for Sinclair to reap even more political TV money thanks to heated 2018 congressional and governor’s races – especially here in Illinois where ads are already running.

Loser: Media consolidation foes. Yes, people like yours truly who complained for years about the concentration of media in too few hands, a phenomenon we’ve seen in radio over the last twenty years – you’d think companies would learn from their mistakes. And yet, here we are….

Winner: Over-the-air broadcast television. Prime-time television may be losing viewers, but is fine outside of the daypart as local news continue to be a hot property.

Loser: Cable and satellite providers. With 233 stations covering more than 70 percent of the country, Sinclair has significant leverage with providers who carry the station’s signal. including Comcast, DirecTV, and the like. Sinclair could demand more retrans cash, meaning your cable or satellite bill could go up. Again.

Loser: Fox and the rest of The broadcast networks. And speaking of leverage, Sinclair can negotiate more favorite terms with with the broadcast networks on everything from affiliate pre-emptions to how much retrans money they can take. It’s no wonder Fox tried to stop the deal by trying to acquire Tribune itself – Sinclair would now own 28 percent of all Fox affiliates.

Winner: Republicans. Sinclair’s right-leaning news operations are more friendly to Republicans, and it’s one less outlet Trump and Co. won’t be skewed by. Also helps to “make a deal” with the company for “favorable news coverage” for their “leader”.

Loser: The City of Chicago. With WGN changing hands and the pending closure of Tribune Media, Chicago loses yet another piece of something we’ve called our own. In the last ten years, Chicago has lost Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, several talk shows, and just last week, Johnson Publishing. The Windy City is quickly becoming an afterthought in the media business. At this rate, Chicago would have as many media businesses headquartered here as in Milwaukee or St. Louis. Another black eye for a metro area losing residents and businesses at a rapid pace.

Winner: ATSC 3.0 Technology. The next-gen standard for TV gets a huge boost thanks to Sinclair, who championed the technology for the last two decades. It’ll enable new services to consumers, including Mobile TV.

“Underground” may not have a future as WGN America shifts away from original dramas under new ownership.

Winner: Broadcast companies Nexstar, Tegna, Meredith, Scripps, etc. Since their competitors, you’d think they would be aghast. Well, two – or more can play at that game: and thanks to the FCC loosening the ownership rules, more companies will be able to swap and merge and cash out. Sadly, competition is a thing of the past – ask the oil companies.

Loser: WGN Radio listeners. Sinclair has no plans on selling WGN – but you can bet they will change the format (for the worst) of the station over time, which would no doubt fuel even more non-stop talk about WGN Radio.

Loser: Rahm Emanuel and the area’s Democrats. With right-leaning Sinclair taking over WGN, look for the station to take a harder line on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the Democrats in Cook County. In the last few years, they’ve gotten more or less a pass from the local news media not named the Chicago Tribune.

Loser: Underground and other scripted dramas. With Sinclair moving away from original scripted programming, it’s curtains for slavery-era drama Underground for WGN America, which means the channel would return to a dumping ground for syndicated fare and B-level programming – just like it was before…not exactly a smart business strategy. Here’s hoping the critically-acclaimed drama finds a new home.

Of course, the impact of the Sinclair-Tribune merger is too early to tell in several cases. Here are some things to look for as this progresses:

The future of The CW. Sinclair now takes over two of the network’s largest affiliates: WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles. While Sinclair has been friendlier to The CW than Tribune has, it’s a whole new ballgame: The CW needs to improve their ratings – they may have to lose the teen dramas and superhero shows. In fact, Sinclair can start their own network if they wanted to and use WPIX, KTLA, and WGN as a launching pad as soon as 2021.

Sports on WGN. Despite a report stating sports rights on WPIX and WGN would be valuable to Sinclair, keep in mind contracts with the Blackhawks (2018) and the Cubs (2019) are expiring soon. It may be cheaper for Sinclair to put on syndicated rerun junk than live sports, which is airing mostly on regional sports networks (the Cubs are looking to launch such a channel in 2020.) Unfortunately, the perennial poor performance of Chicago’s two other sports teams (the Bulls and White Sox) may not provide the ROI Sinclair would be looking for and would be easier to drop live sports altogether.

Syndicators. With Sinclair owning so many stations, a pickup – or a cancellation – could determine any show’s future. If you want your show on the air, you now have to go through Sinclair – it remains to be seen how much “clout” they’ll have

Small broadcasters (Weigel, McKinnon, etc.) The sale of WGN leaves Weigel Broadcasting – owner of WCIU and MeTV as Chicago’s last locally-owned media company. But for how long? Other small broadcasters – McKinnon’s KUSI in San Diego, Adell’s WADL in Detroit, and Ed Ansin’s Boston and Miami stations, could feel pressure to sell their stations given the heightened merger-and-acquisition fever gripping the industry.

How to cover big cities. A Sinclair news station covering Cincinnati and Salt Lake City is one thing, but covering the ultra-blue TV markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – the three largest in the country – is another. If they go down this road, it would be a recipe for disaster. Even with Fox News a more dominant brand, the Fox O&Os are a more neutral news source in terms of local broadcasts.

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“American Idol” heads to ABC

American Idol could head to ABC. (Getty Images)

ABC snags hit Fox show for reboot 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared Sunday and has been rewritten with new information.] 

After rumors American Idol would resurface next year on NBC, ABC has acquired the rights to reboot the franchise.

Variety first reported Friday a deal was near with ABC; but Fox, who aired the series for fifteen years, was reportedly still in the running. NBC, who was pitched first about an Idol reboot, has passed.

ABC would premiere the show in March but it is not known if Ryan Seacrest would return as host as Seacrest recently became co-host of Live! with Kelly Ripa. Live is syndicated by Disney-ABC Domestic Television and airs on ABC affiliates in many cities, including nine of the top ten markets.

Seacrest, who hosted the series its entire run, could host Idol again. But for this to happen, Idol would have to shift locales from Los Angeles to New York – unless he wants to fly cross-country (Seacrest said he would be in L.A. on weekends.) Also, Seacrest was present in the auditions held around the country – it is not known how all of this would fit in his busy schedule if he were to host.

ABC is planning to air Idol would air on Sunday nights – something Fox never did in order not to interrupt their longtime successful Animation Domination block, led by longtime stalwarts The Simpsons and Family Guy.

The addition of Idol to ABC’s lineup could be a boon – ratings for the network on Sunday nights this season has been a disaster, with the recent cancellation of Time After Time and the long-running Once Upon A Time flailing. Idol’s season average last year would be good enough to place second among adults 18-49.

The return of Idol would also be a boon for the ailing broadcast network television business as ratings for the Big 4 broadcast networks have slid off the ratings runway. In the last two weeks, several broadcast networks have been beaten in the ratings by the NBA Playoffs on several nights – despite the “cord-cutting” phenomenon the business is going through. Despite ratings a fraction of what they were during their heyday, Idol still performed better than prime-time shows or the air now, including even The Big Bang Theory and Empire.

ABC 7’s popularity could give a boost for “Idol”, which always lacked in ratings and buzz in Chicago.

Locally, Idol could get a huge boost thanks to the strength of ABC’s Chicago station, WLS-TV, known as ABC 7. Idol has lagged here locally in part thanks to the weak ratings Fox-owned WFLD has as an affiliate overall. Meanwhile, ABC 7 has been the market’s top-rated station for more than 30 years and also has Chicago’s top-rated news operation. Can you imagine Janet Davies (and even Cheryl Scott) talking about American Idol? (I know, I know… yours truly dreads the thought of it myself.) Already, the station’s early newscasts devotes time…actually way too much time to ABC reality hits Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor. Idol could make the newscasts even more unbearable to watch.

If you’ve read the blog over the years, you know how much yours truly detests American Idol – the show was nothing but an over glorified karaoke contest led by an annoying host and an even more annoying pack of judges in Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul (especially Paula.) While it made stars of people like Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daugherty, it also gave us William Hung and Sanjaya – not to mention a contrived joke of season 12, shifting the focus of the show to feuding judges rather than the talent. And speaking of the talent, winners have gone from the talented Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood to too many forgettable white guys with guitars in later seasons.

The only difference today is, we have far more choices for entertainment than ever before – part of the reason of Idol’s downfall to begin with. The only reason to bring Idol back now is there’s an audience who “misses” the show who would tune in and watch. Networks need ratings and revenue and advertisers and Idol is the quick fix in order to achieve this goal in an era of increasing fragmentation.

Thank God for streaming services.

Here’s excerpts from the official press release, via The Programming Insider:

Ben Sherwood, Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC:

“‘American Idol’ on ABC…that has a nice ring to it. ‘Idol’ is an entertainment icon, and now it will air where it belongs, in ABC’s lineup of addictive fan favorites alongside ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘The Bachelor.’ America, get ready for the return of a bigger, bolder and better-than-ever ‘Idol’.”

Channing Dungey, President, ABC Entertainment:

“‘American Idol’ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon. ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”

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Sinclair to buy Tribune Media for $4 billion 

Mega deal is the biggest in television history: 42 station-group sold to Maryland-based broadcaster

Ends local ownership of WGN-TV and WGN Radio after more than 60 years

Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media will change the landscape of local television as we know it.

For one, Tribune – with roots in television going back to 1948 as the WGN Continental Broadcasting Company – was one of the few broadcast groups to compete with the major broadcast networks in the top markets. Along with WGN-TV here in Chicago and WPIX in New York, and KWGN in Denver (acquired in 1966), the acquisition of Los Angeles’ KTLA in 1985 solidified it as a top player, with strong independent stations. The group helped form The WB Network with Warner Bros. in 1994 to compete with Fox.

When Sam Zell took over Tribune in 2007, his disastrous tenure (led by Randy Michaels) made many smart television and radio people stampede for the exits. Tribune filed for bankruptcy less than a year later and after coming out decided to go on a buying spree buying out the Local TV station group. Tribune split in 2014, becoming Tribune Publishing (now tronc) and Tribune Media.

Enter Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair, a company with roots going back to 1971 in Baltimore as Chesapeake Television Corporation, owner of then-independent (now Fox affiliate) WBFF-TV. In the 1990’s, the company expanded ferociously buying the Abry Communications, Act III, and River City station groups. During this time, Sinclair used trickery to get around ownership rules – in 1991, a shell company they created purchased WPTT in Pittsburgh while owning Fox affiliate WPGH in the same market – this way they could control more of the market’s ad revenue. In 1998, Sinclair was instrumental in switching five big-market UPN affiliates to the WB, hurting the former network’s distribution (both networks closed in 2006 to form The CW.)

In recent years, Sinclair’s news operations have leaned more conservative, airing documentaries critical of John Kerry and Mark Hyman’s right-leaning commentaries.

Meet your new broadcast overlords, Sinclair Broadcasting.

Thanks to the FCC’s recent decision to reinstate the UHF discount – something yours truly said was as a scam perpetrated by the Trump Administration – who has strong ties to Sinclair, companies can now buy and swap stations more freely than they could in the past. And on Monday, Sinclair made good on a promise to purchase Tribune Media in one of the most expensive deals in television history – paying $43.50 a share or $3.9 billion and assuming $2.7 billion in debt, beating out 21st Century Fox, Nexstar, and other suitors. When all’s said and done, Sinclair will own or operate 233 stations covering 72 percent of the nation, including stations in seven of the top ten markets and 22 of the top 30. The transaction gives Sinclair ownership of WGN-TV, WGN Radio, and diginet Antenna TV; cable network WGN America; plus stakes in the Food Network and Career Builder.

The transaction means Sinclair would own a station in every media market in Illinois (except Rockford), including areas served by the St. Louis market, where they would own three stations alone. Sinclair already owns stations downstate including Champaign, Springfield, and Peoria. Tribune owned another station in Illinois – ABC affiliate WQAD, which serves the Davenport-Rock Island-Moline market.

The transaction gives Sinclair significant leverage – 28 percent of the country’s Fox affiliates, more than the Fox network itself; the most ABC and CW affiliates; and of course, powerful independent WGN. It also gives them leverage over cable and satellite operators when it comes to retransmission consent – meaning, paying for the right to carry the broadcaster’s signals – which could force consumer’s cable bills to go up again.

And there is talk of Sinclair starting a conservative news network to compete with Fox News. It already owns a regional news channel channel in Washington, D.C. and would gain one in Chicago with reach-challenged CLTV.

In a conference call yours truly listened to, Sinclair indicted they would divest stations in order to comply with the ownership regulations. The company said the transaction would let them invest in new technologies (including the new ATSC 3.0 standard.) However, Sinclair said it would not proceed with original programming on WGN America further – meaning the critically-acclaimed Civil War drama Underground is likely done. Earlier, WGN America canceled dramas Salem, Outsiders, and Manhattan – obviously due to the questionable future surrounding the company.

With Sinclair also buying WGN Radio, its future in its current format is questionable.

The Bulls’ lackluster season could have consequences regarding staying on free TV in Chicago in the future.

Also remains to be seen is WGN-TV’s commitment to sports programming – currently the station has broadcast rights to the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks, with deals for all expiring in the next few years – sports rights was one of the reasons WGN ended its affiliation with The CW. Not helping matters are ratings declines this season for the Blackhawks and Bulls, the latter coming off a poor season (both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.)

And speaking of The CW, the ratings-challenged network’s future may also be up in the air again as contracts with stations come up in 2021. Sinclair now has the reach to potentially begin a new broadcast network, if they wanted to. The CW may have to adjust their programming demo in order to keep Sinclair; in other words, superhero shows and teen dramas may no longer cut it as young viewers are tuning out broadcast TV in larger numbers.

Here are a few statements from Tribune and Sinclair CEOs, culled from a press release:

Peter Kern, Tribune’s Chief Executive Officer:

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of an extensive strategic review, which has delivered significant value to our stockholders,” said “Since we announced the strategic review 15 months ago, we have streamlined the business, monetized non-core assets, strengthened our balance sheet and returned more than $800 million to stockholders — all of which has resulted in a 50% increase in stockholder value. We are extremely proud to join Sinclair, and we’re excited that Tribune stockholders and employees will have the opportunity to participate in the long-term growth of the combined company.”

Chris Ripley, Sinclair President and CEO:

“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company. The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets. The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services, scale emerging networks and national sales, and integrate content verticals. The acquisition will also create substantial synergistic value through operating efficiencies, revenue streams, programming strategies and digital platforms.”

David Smith, Executive Chairman of Sinclair:

“This will be the largest acquisition in our company’s history, and I want to thank everyone from the Sinclair team, as well as our advisors and bankers who made this possible,” commented David Smith, Executive Chairman of Sinclair. “Television broadcasting is even more relevant today, especially when it comes to serving our local communities. Tribune’s stations allow Sinclair to strengthen our commitment to serving local communities and to advance the Next Generation Broadcast Platform. This acquisition will be a turning point for Sinclair, allowing us to better serve our viewers and advertisers while creating value for our shareholders.”

Later this week, yours truly will break down more of this historic deal – what it means for WGN-TV, WGN Radio, Fox, and the city of Chicago. For the latest, follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

Sinclair-Tribune press release:

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