Think Tank Express: “Wrestlemania” highlights on ESPN? Oh, the horror


Yes, this actually was on SportsCenter Sunday night. (Credit:


SportsCenter’s package on Wrestlemania XXXI shows us even the WWE is now gaining legitimate sports’ respect

SportsCenter, the news of record when it comes to sports highlights, showed some of WrestleMania XXXI, the biggest WWE event of the year.

The move took a lot of people by surprise – even die-hard wrestling fans who later praised ESPN for showing highlights of UFC Women’s Champion Rhonda Rousey trashing Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley and even showed some Seth Rollins winning the WWE title. ESPN’s twitter feed was also reporting results, such as Daniel Bryan’s Intercontinental Title win.

WWE on a sports newscast? OMG, what would Johnny Morris think? What would Chet ChitChat think?

Everyone knows WWE is…um, more entertainment than sports. And it has made more of its share of headlines…often of the wrong kind. And some of the headlines were quite interesting to say the least (the Montreal Screwjob.)

But WWE has been on a roll lately, thanks to its ability to attract celebrities to its programs and its loyal audience, which stuck with the product though good times and bad. An episode of Raw on USA Network often averages more viewers than current Fox animated comedies The Simpsons and Family Guy.

As for the WWE highlights on SportsCenter? Meh. Complaining about Wrestlemania highlights is just as ridiculous as Chicago viewers complaining about Cheryl Scott’s or Aiyana Crystal’s wardrobe – and no doubt local viewers would go into a rage if a clip of Roman Reigns slamming John Cena through a table would show up before Cubs highlights.

And if your sport or team isn’t on SportsCenter…well, isn’t that what the web is for? Oh, I forgot – this is a country whose populace never learned how to program their VCRs.

Recently, the WWE has had more of a presence on ESPN programming and vice versa, according to Awful Announcing. Bill Simmons was a guest commentator on Raw recently, and E:60 went behind the scenes of a WWE production, and ESPN scooped everybody when Brock Lesnar announced in an interview with Michelle Beadle he was leaving UFC and rejoining the WWE.

So what does this mean for sports journalism? Nothing, really. Remember when network owned-and-operated stations regularly aired pieces on prime-time dramas like ER and Alias? It’s not a big deal.

While there are some who criticize the WWE for their lame storylines, pushing the wrong people toward success, and featuring those who refuse to leave the ring when their time is up (The Undertaker vs. Big Show again?) at least they have a strong bench of youngsters – unlike a certain communications medium in this town. If Chicago radio execs ran Wrestlemania, your main event would be Steve Dahl vs. Mancow vs. Jonathon Brandmeier in a Triple Threat match every year.

Cable, Journalism, Sports, Television , , , , , ,

T Dog’s Grab Bag: “Monopoly Millionaires'” heads to WGN

Billy Gardell to host "Monopoly Millionaires' Club". (

Billy Gardell and”Monopoly Millionaires’ Club” heads to Tribune stations, including WGN. (

Sinclair realigns newscasts downstate; talent shows to hit syndication; No one is “asking America”

- Remember back in  October when yours truly asked if new weekly hour-long game show Monopoly Millionaires’ Club would air in Chicago because Illinois was not participating in the related lottery game? Well, here’s your answer: WGN-TV picked up the new Monopoly game  hosted by Mike & Molly’s Billy Gardell and premiered Saturday at 11 p.m. WPIX/New York and KTLA/Los Angeles have also picked up the show, for airing in prime-time,  in addition to a Tuesday night airing on GSN.

Scientific Games has cleared the series in 96 percent of the country, mostly in prime access and primetime on weekends. Midwest clearances include WXIN/Indianapolis, WUCW/Minneapolis, WXMI/Grand Rapids, WKBD/Detroit, WICD-WICS/Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, and WITI/Milwaukee. Stations mentioned are owned either by CBS, Sinclair, and Tribune, which owns WGN.

Locally, WGN plans to run the series Sunday nights at 6, beginning April 5 (the series was bumped due to a Blackhawks game, hence the early Saturday night premiere.)

Based on the board game, viewers get a chance to get on the show from playing a lottery game, which was recently revamped (but still not available in Illinois, though neighboring Indiana is participating.)

This is not the first attempt at a TV version of a Monopoly game – ABC aired a short-lived version in the summer of 1990. It grew out of a failed syndicated pilot from King World,  who had Peter Tomarken as host.

- Meanwhile, say so long to Let’s Ask America – Scripps and MGM pulled the plug on the low-rated game show recently after one season in full syndication and three years overall. Scripps developed this inane program as a replacement for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in 2012 on its stations, which Scripps deemed too expensive. Originally hosted by Kevin Pereira, comedian Bill Bellamy took over in the third season when it went into national syndication, but low ratings and rotten time slots (2 a.m. on WCIU Ch. 26.2) did it in.

- He may not be the next Oprah, but he’ll give it a shot: local comic Steve Gadlin has had his StarMakers talent show airing at 3 a.m. Saturdays on WCIU Ch. 26.2, and is now going national. Beginning next month, StarMakers will begin airing in select markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Pago Pago in American Samoa, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Don’t expect mega-production values: StarMakers has a decidedly public-access TV feel to it, with a black curtain as a backdrop and anyone who’s anyone can get on the show and perform. Let’s hope Steve Gadlin’s has a better shot in syndication than Let’s Ask America did.

- Speaking of talent competition, a series with a bigger budget (by syndication standards) is coming to syndication this fall. WCIU has picked up American Television’s The Big Big Show to air beginning in September, which 75 percent of the country currently cleared including WLNY/New York, KDOC/Los Angeles, KDAF/Dallas (where it will film), and KIAH/Houston, the latter two owned by Tribune.

The judges are Andrew Dice Clay, Tara Reid, and Tom Green (no I’m not making this up.) Details were sketchy, but don’t expect a American Idol/America’s Got Talent type of format or someone walking away with a million dollars or a talent deal. The plan is for the judges “raining piles of cash on the best variety acts around the globe.” To get them off the stage quicker, perhaps?

- Downstate: Sinclair Broadcasting has pulled the plug on newscasts produced by ABC affiliate WICD in Champaign and is having sister station WICS in Springfield – located more than 80 miles away – produce them. According to B & C, WICD’s elimination of news will result in layoffs.

While WICD’s news ending production, the Springfield station is producing a new 9 p.m. newscast for Champaign viewers over Fox affiliate WCCU beginning April 7. WCCU is basically a simulcast of Fox affiliate WRSP-TV in Springfield.

An hour south of Chicago, the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market (ranked 85th) is unusual given how geographically wide it its. Springfield, the state’s capital, is 90 miles west of Champaign. Home to the University of Illinois, the Champaign campus is filled with many Chicagoans. The Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market is also home to the largest Chicago Bears fanbase outside of the Windy City.

Champaign-based CBS affiliate WCIA dominates the ratings, as it has for decades.

- Reminder: Beginning today, CBS Television Distribution’s Hot Bench shifts to WBBM-TV at 2 p.m., replacing the now-canceled Queen Latifah Show, which is disappearing from the station. Hot Bench is syndication’s top-rated freshman show this season, with the series recently earning a 1.6 live-plus-same day rating.

Hot Bench had been airing on WCIU.

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Think Tank Express: A long way to go on diversity

CBB4XlEXIAAu1zjCBEBrXbUwAA2wgoDeadline article, Bernstein’s comments prove women and minorities still face a hostile environment in the media business 

It’s interesting we have a “communications” as a college major, and yet have a lot of people who don’t know how to communicate – especially when it comes to gender and race issues. And this week, the point was proven more than once.

On Tuesday night, Nellie Andreeva of Deadline penned an article about diversity casting in Hollywood, noting the increase in minority casting “has the pendulum [swinging] too far in the other direction”, suggesting there is TOO MUCH diversity in TV casting.

The article was blasted by almost everyone in Hollywood, from actors, casting agents, writers, and producers – especially Shonda Rhimes. Reaction to the article was even reported in rival publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Wrap. Several minority groups also criticized the Andreeva article.

This season saw the success of many shows with diverse casts – notably Empire, Fresh Off The Boat, and How To Get Away With Murder – all well-written and acted shows. Andreeva’s article pointed out some in Hollywood were not happy with the increased emphasis on diversity.

Then maybe I suggest these people get a job in Chicago radio.

Just a little over 24 hours after the Deadline article was posted, there was WSCR-AM’s Dan Bernstein making some cruel remarks about an African-American CSN Chicago anchorwoman Aiyanna Crystal in a Twitter exchange with fellow WSCR personality Matt Speigel, talking about of all things, her breasts or, her “boobs” (to see the exchange, click here)

Similar to the Andreeva article, there was considerable backlash – female sports personalities Michelle Beadle and Katie Nolan also ripped into Bernstein. Both Speigel and Bernstein apologized, but Berstein’s apology seemed more of “I’m sorry I got caught” variety.

CBS Chicago Radio exec Rod Zimmerman said no suspension is imminent. Of course. As I said earlier this week, Chicago radio is the worst in the country and Bernstein’s antics- which include a past history of such behavior toward women and the fact he’s still employed – only proves my point.

The link here between these two stories is – yes you heard me before as I told you in this very space - the need for more diversity in front of and behind the scenes. While there is some movement in television, you don’t see it in Chicago radio or in media in particular, in an industry still dominated by white males. For one, there are no female hosts or news readers at WSCR, and Chicago has few minorities in key executive positions at any media outlet.

But the attitudes toward change is telling. Hollywood agents are privately complaining about diversity being “forced” on them, while Chicago viewers and listeners seemed to be more concerned about a female’s looks, wardrobe, and delivery (remember, Chicago isn’t the “progressive” and “open-minded” place others in the national media make it out to be – take it from this lifelong resident.)

A comment board section in a Chicago Tribune story about Bernstein (which are full of racists and backward thinking idiots) suggested Crystal only got the job through “affirmative action” or looking like an America’s Next Top Model reject – the very same kind of attitude Hollywood execs displayed in Andreeva’s article. In this business, minorities have to work much harder to prove their hire wasn’t made to meet a “quota”.

Both Hollywood and Chicago media have a huge problem addressing the issues of race and gender within their respective industries. While change is coming slowly, this past week indicate change may not be coming fast enough.

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Think Tank Express: WDBJ learns the hard way on indecency

site-header-logo-pngOn Monday, the FCC fined CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. a record $325,000 for an indecency violation – airing a clip showing an image of an adult web site in relation to a 2012 story about a former porn star looking to join the volunteer EMT rescue squad, which aired during a 6 p.m. newscast.

Generally, the FCC fines local stations for public file and children’s ad violations, but this is rare indeed. Roanoke lies within the Roanoke-Lynchburg DMA, which ranks as the 67th-largest in the country.

According to the Roanoke Times, several Roanoke County officials said it was inappropriate for a former female porn star to train with the Cave Spring Rescue Squad. A WDBJ reporter urged viewers to “google her name” and see all the pornographic images of her pop up.

WDBJ blamed an editing error for the mishap – turned out someone was using a 4:3 (in length and width) standard definition monitor in an editing bay instead of a 16:9 one. When the material featuring the adult website hit the air – in 16:9 high definition,  the edge of the screen showed the image of an banner ad featuring someone doing um… “the stroke”.

First of all, were these guys high? While there were good intentions, airing a clip of a porn site – at 6 p.m. – was of poor judgement…it wasn’t really necessary, and adds nothing to the srory. Second, you’d think the owner – South Bend, Ind.-based Schurz Communications (who also owns CBS South Bend affiliate WSBT and the South Bend Tribune) would spring for better equipment in the editing bays. Anyone in video editing knows you can’t see all of a 16:9 picture on a 4:3 monitor.

WDBJ’s news director during this period left two years ago and escaped any kind of punishment.

When the fine was announced, out came the lobbyists looking to score political points (the Parents Television Council praised the FCC decision; the National Association of Broadcasters condemned it.) Granted, this is only the second indecency decision handed down in the Tom Wheeler era at the FCC – in 2013, Liberman Broadcasting agreed to pay $110,000 in fines to settle complaints regarding Spanish-language trash talker Jose Luis Sin Censura on its Estrella network, after protests from liberal groups The National Hispanic Media Collation and GLAAD (but not from the conservative PTC.)

Schurz will appeal the fine; it’ll likely be commuted down to a few tens of thousands of dollars. But an incompetent mistake by a WDBJ editor may lead to a chilling effect on local news content, and that’s frightening. More so than ever, it pays to have common sense in the radio and TV business; not doing so would be costly. Literally.

FCC/Politics/Government, Local TV (Outside Chicago), Television, Various , , , , , , , ,

The truth is still out there: “X-Files” mounts comeback

X Files


Get your conspiracy on folks, because Mulder and Scully are about to make another run to find “the truth”.

Looking to strike gold again, Fox announced Tuesday it has ordered six episodes of The X-Files, with production set to begin this summer. With an airdate yet to be set, the X-Files revival is expected to air sometime next season as an “event”.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are reprising their roles as FBI agents Mulder and Scully, respectively. Also on board is creator and executive producer Chris Carter, who was quoted as saying “I think of it as a thirteen-year commercial break.” All three appeared at Comic-Con San Diego panel two years ago, celebrating the show’s twentieth anniversary (which you can watch here.) Anderson noted her character inspired many young women to enter the field of physics.

Premiering on September 10, 1993, The X-Files was one of the most successful science fiction series in television history, airing on Fox for nine years. After three seasons on Fridays, the series moved to Sundays in 1996 and became a huge ratings hit, peaking in audience during the 1997-98 season.

The X-Files also spawned two feature files and a 2001 spinoff, the short-lived Lone Gunmen. Repeats of The X-Files‘ went into weekend broadcast syndication in 1997 and had a successful eight-year run.

Just last year, Fox successfully revived hit drama 24 with 24: Live Another Day, bringing back Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer as an “event” mini-series. Going back into TV history, NBC successfully revived 1950’s crime drama Dragnet in 1967, with Jack Webb reprising his role as Joe Friday. Airing until 1970, he and Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) dealt with the issues of the time (drug use, stop-and-frisk, hippies, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, etc.)

What will Mulder and Scully deal with in 2016 which wasn’t present in the ’90’s? Spying? Video surveillance? Terrorism? Advanced cybercrime? Fans are eager to find out.


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NFL punts on blackouts for 2015 season

In the pool, everybody: Jacksonville Jaguars fans will get to see their team on home TV this year, even if Everbank Field isn't sold out. (

In the pool, everybody: Jacksonville Jaguars fans will get to see their team on home TV this year, even if Everbank Field isn’t sold out. (

For those hoping Bears fans would stay away from Soldier Field in order to keep Jay Cutler off their TV sets, you’re out of luck.

The NFL decided Monday to suspend their television blackout policy for the upcoming 2015 season only, and it would be reviewed again after the season. This means all games will be available to TV viewers, regardless if the game is sold out or not.

The blackout policy dates back to 1973, when the NFL gave teams 72 hours to sell out their games, or they won’t be shown in the market the team plays in (before 1973, home games were not televised into the home market at all.)

With the NFL growing in popularity, there were no blackouts in 2014, and just two in 2013. Compare this to the mid-1980’s, when 40 percent of games were blacked out on home TV. The shrinkage of blackouts basically had a lot to do with reducing the number of minimum of tickets sold to avoid one.

Very few teams – the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Green Bay Packers have sellout streaks dating back to when the rule was enacted, meaning no home TV blackouts.

The Bears have a sellout streak dating back to September 1984, though in the late 1990’s, they came close to not selling out before the deadline a few times. In the last few years, the only blackouts have occurred in Tampa, Oakland, San Diego, and Jacksonville.

The FCC decided to eliminate its sports blackout rules last year, even though the NFL’s existing policy wouldn’t be affected.  The move was opposed by not only the league, but others including the National Association of Broadcasters, local stations, and leaders in the African-American community (including Illinois’ three black congressmen), featuring a decline in attendance would lead to a loss of jobs.

Meanwhile, the NFL also announced it would exclusively stream a game this fall from London between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars and with the exception of their home markets, would not broadcast the game terrestrially. The game takes place on October 25 at 9:30 a.m., Eastern Time.




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Think Tank Daily: Radio…The Chicago Way

Here's that photo again.

Welcome to “Mancow’s House Of Pain”.

WLUP contest a scam? Nah. That’s the way things are done in the C-H-I. 

Only in Chicago where someone achieves a zero rating on a TV show and gets a radio deal.

Yours truly is talking about human repellent Mancow Mueller, whose recent WPWR show failed to find an audience and somehow managed to snare a deal with Cumulus-run WLUP-FM though a method so phony, the Chicago Democratic Machine would be proud.

(Don’t believe this bullshit Mancow spouts about “quitting”. His no-rated show was canceled when the contract expired last October.)

Remember those stupid “auditions” featuring Mancow and three others? The Loop Morning “Search” was nothing but a scam, with management obviously deciding on the winner before the first vote was even cast. You could vote early and often, but your vote didn’t count, noting on its website later on this wasn’t even “a contest” (to avoid getting in trouble with the FCC, no doubt.)

And worse, Mancow “needed time to think about the offer”, with WLUP pretending he went missing.

In an interview with Robert Feder last week, Ol’ Mancow was back in form, ripping into old adversaries Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier and for good measure, ripped into new WDRV morning co-host Pete McMurray and fellow morning search contestant Liz Wilde.

All of this just shows you how really bad Chicago radio has become the last few years (Want proof? Examples are here, here, and here). Mancow’s “hiring” and this “contest” just proves radio is no different than everything else run in this city, the most corrupt in the country, despite his plans to bring “joyous noise to hardworking men”.

It’s all in a day’s work following local radio: listeners whining about WGN management;  fans thinking Garry Meier is some kind of martyr; management continuing to hire has-beens like Mancow, Dahl, and Brandmeier, making Chicago radio look like a broken down nursing home for past-their-prime talent (Mancow actually got this part right, but he’s also one of them); and the list goes on and on and on…

Sad to say this, but given all the evidence, Chicago is now the worst radio market in the country. Worst than Sacramento. Worst than Memphis. Even worse than Jacksonville,  and this is a market with an Top 40 radio station once branded as APE-FM. (WAPE.) Hiring this idiot again is just icing on the cake. Proof you only need a third-grade education to run a radio station in the third-largest market.

Yes, radio can find space on the dial for Mancow – the one with a zero rating, but not a song from Empire, one of the hottest TV shows in years – the one with a twelve rating. This tells you how completely fucked up the radio business is.

As for this scam of a “contest”, look at it this way, Chicago… The Loop Morning Show Search winner could’ve turned out to be Wil Wheaton.

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Cubs, White Sox invade Indianapolis TV

Cubs v. Sox

Deal with WGN sends selected Cubs and White Sox games to former CBS affiliate; nine other Midwestern markets also cleared 

In order to fill a programming void left by CBS, a local Indianapolis TV station is turning to two Chicago institutions.

Media General-owned WISH-TV announced Friday it was planning to air a package of Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox games produced by WGN Sports, starting next month. Several games are also popping up on its sister station, My Network TV affiliate WNDY.

Traditionally known as a basketball hotbed (and later a football hotbed thanks to the success of the Colts), Central Indiana also have a significant amount of baseball fans, notably of the Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds, who play two hours away right down Interstate 74.

When Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT carried Reds games, then-Indianapolis sister station WLWI (now WTHR), also carried them.

The move to syndicate Chicago baseball games to nearby markets comes as WGN America pulled the plug last year on Cubs and White Sox baseball and Bulls basketball on the former Superstation, meaning the end of nationwide coverage. In addition to Media General’s duopoly in Indianapolis, WGN has cleared the baseball package in Des Moines (Cubs games only); Champaign-Springfield-Decatur; Cedar Rapids-Waterloo; South Bend-Elkhart; Quad Cities; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Peoria-Bloomington, Ill.; Rockford; and Quincy, Ill.

Not all stations are carrying the entire package of games. For more specific information, including what other stations are carrying baseball, click here for the Cubs and here for White Sox.

24 Chicago Cubs games being produced by ABC-owned WLS-TV are not part of this package.

Meanwhile, WISH continues to fill the void left by the departure of CBS for WTTV on January 1. Since then, the station has added CW programming in prime-time, added more syndicated shows, and expanded its news operation to fill more hours.

To see the Indianapolis schedule for Cubs and White Sox games, click here.

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T Dog’s Think Tank: Radio fails to embrace “Empire”

"Empire" stars Bryshere Gray (left) and Jussie Smollett have music from the show hitting the charts. (Chuck Hodes/FOX)

“Empire” stars Bryshere Gray (left) and Jussie Smollett – who play brothers on the show, have music from the show hitting the charts – in real life. (Chuck Hodes/FOX)

Is radio missing the hottest trend right now?

According to Michael Schneider at TV Insider, contemporary-hit and urban stations have all but ignored the music of one of the hottest TV shows in years, Empire.

While the soundtrack from the show has topped Billboard’s album chart – not to mention on-demand songs from the album serving up more than 20 million streams and generating nearly 600,000 paid downloads through iTunes and other services, it has barely made a peep on CHR and urban stations – especially in large influential markets such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta (Chicago? Please. We’re still trying to figure out who’s sexier – Jonathan Brandmeier or Steve Dahl and the music we associate with Empire is still the “588-2300″ jingle.)

A music director from a Los Angeles station is waiting to hear from Columbia Records (Empire’s label) on what song from the show they should push first.

Given this is the hottest TV show on the frickin’ planet right now – why the conservative approach? From reading the article, radio stations are confused on what to do.

Surprised? Yours truly isn’t. Remember – this is an medium that relies heavily on consultants and “focus-testing”, not audience demand when determining what song a station should play. They’ve been using this method for decades and is now finally catching up with them.

And radio programmers claim there hasn’t been demand for Empire music. Well, what do you think? Radio isn’t the place listeners go these days to hear new music first. They’re hearing Empire from the alternative sources I described above, not from the FM.

Music from television shows have been radio-friendly before. In 1985, the soundtrack from the hottest TV show at the time – Miami Vice – spawned several top 40 hits (Glenn Frey notably), and received significant airplay. An extended Miami Vice theme from Ian Hammer topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a week in October 1985.

Over the years however, TV show soundtracks became less and less successful at radio. The last number one hit to come from a TV soundtrack or show (outside of Glee) was The Heights’ How Do You Talk To An Angel, which topped the chart in 1992 from Fox drama The Heights.

The first soundtrack from Beverly Hills, 90210 flopped at radio, only spawning two Top 40 hits: 1993’s “Right Kind of Love” by Hammond native Jeremy Jordan and “Love Is” from Vanessa L. Williams and Bryan McKnight. Unlike “Miami Vice’s” hits, neither song was exclusive to the album.

So what changed? Less emphasis on music on TV shows throughout the 1990s may be a cause, as programs were eliminating theme songs. Media consolidation shifted the power of song selection away from directors and into the hands of consultants as companies became bigger and bigger. The majority of music stations today are owned by iHeart, Cumulus, CBS, Entercom, and Townsquare.

And there hasn’t been a music-intensive drama on TV in quite sometime, as the networks stuck with safe, unrisky procedural dramas over the years.

Will Empire’s music ever get played on terrestrial radio? Hopefully. But the typical red tape bureaucracy of corporate radio is preventing it from getting there.

Broadcast Networks, Radio, T Dog's Think Tank, Television

The Grab Bag: No more outside media appearances for Bears

Jay Cutler fumbles again. (USA Today)

The only way your’ll see Jay on your TV this fall is when he fumbles the ball. (USA Today.)

Wheel, Jeopardy hosts stay another two years; LAFF increases reach with Cox deal

– Don’t look for any members of the Chicago Bears current roster to make any media appearances this upcoming season: according to CSN Chicago’s John Mullin, the new regime at Halas Hall is not allowing any more outside radio and TV gigs for the 2015 season, with the exception of Bears-produced programming. This comes as new head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace do not want any distractions to interfere with the team after last season’s train-wreck debacle, with saw the team become national laughingstocks.

It was no secret Halas Hall was not happy with Brandon Marshall’s (who was traded to the New York Jets) appearances on Showtime’s Inside the NFL. Both he and QB Jay Cutler have been frequent no-shows on their local gigs, angering management of those outlets. When they did find time to show up, their personalities had the feel of a wet cloth.

– In a move signaling the game shows will be around through 2018, the contracts for Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak and Vanna White and Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek have been picked up for two more years, according to the shows’ syndicator, CBS Television Distribution. The hosts’ contracts were set to expire next year.

Wheel drew 11.4 million viewers a day, while Jeopardy has drawn 10.7 million.

During a panel at NATPE two months ago, a Scripps executive noted despite the big ratings, he pointed out the ROI on the shows weren’t very good and due to its older skew, was not that attractive to advertisers. Those issues caused Scripps to drop Wheel and Jeopardy from their stations in 2012.

Still, both programs ranked as television’s most watched syndicated shows and there’s no shortage of stations who are glad to have them on their schedules. Station deals through 2018 have yet to be announced.

– On the other side of the coin, things are not so rosy for Meredith Vieira and her talk show. According to Media Life, the daytime talk show has averaged a 0.6 rating among women 25-54 during the February 2015 sweeps, finishing only ahead of The Doctors and the canceled Queen Latifah Show, and earns the same rating season-to-date, finishing eleventh. Meredith had already been picked up for a second season in 80 percent of the country, but ratings must grow or her show is likely done.

The ratings for Chicago are no different, with Meredith regularly finishing behind Maury, The People’s Court, and Rachael Ray at 1 p.m.

– In a shocker, CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil scored a ratings victory for CBS-owned WBBM-TV Wednesday, thanks to a highly publicized episode featuring Bobbi Kristina Brown’s love interest, Nick Gordon. According to TV Media Insights, Phil earned a 3.9 overnight household rating nationally- the highest this season and the highest overall since November 2013. WBBM scored a victory over regular time periods victors Inside Edition and Jeopardy! (both also syndicated by CBS.) Dr. Phil also won its time periods for CBS-owned stations in New York and Los Angeles, and in 25 of the top 30 markets.

The one-on-one interview was very emotional as Gordon threatened suicide and his girlfriend – the late Whitney Houston’s daughter – was found unconscious in a bathtub at her suburban Atlanta home and has been in a coma ever since.

– Cox has become the latest group to sign up for Katz Broadcasting’s new diginet, LAFF, joining the ABC-owned stations (including WLS-TV) and the Scripps broadcasting groups (excluding the Journal Broadcasting stations, which is still pending.) Cox stations carrying LAFF on their digital tier include WSB/Atlanta, KIRO/Seattle, WPXI/Pittsburgh, and WFXT/Boston, which Cox acquired from Fox last year. LAFF recently struck deals with various syndicators to air off-network episodes of The Drew Carey Show, Grace Under Fire, Empty Nest, Ellen, and Night Court.

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Think Tank Daily: The Sun-Times throws in the towel

Oprah Sun-Times

Yes, it will be. For the Sun-Times.

Might as well write your obituary for the Chicago Sun-Times as the people running the paper have all but given up.

As of Wednesday, the beleaguered newspaper decided to outsource national and international news to USA Today, retaining only its local columnists to do local stories.

This is a huge mistake. Even though yours truly doesn’t think much of the Chicago Tribune, you can always appreciate their reporting on national and international issues and the the effect they have on Chicagoans. The cash-strapped paper should have found some kind of way to keep the link.

The move comes after the Sun-Times offered a buyout to its employees and if not enough people took the option, then layoffs would ensue. Fifteen employees took the buyout (including TV critic Lori Rackl) and said would delay layoffs for six months if workers voted for the paper to convert six full-time positions to part-time, according to Robert Feder. In recent years, the paper closed its video department and laid off most of its photographers. Then there was the debacle involving former political reporter Dave McKinney, who resigned from the paper last year.

On the other hand, “the bright one” hired the not-so-smart Jenny McCarthy to run their Splash magazine, which didn’t make much of one.

Not helping matters were some poor decision-making, hurting the paper’s credibility: in the last few years, gossip stories involving former Chicago Bear Greg Olson and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were splashed right on the front page.

With this latest cutback, there’s no reason to believe the Sun-Times has any long-term prospects, thanks to the slipshod way the owners and management had been running the place. Chicago better get ready to become the largest city in America as a one-paper town because the Sun is setting on the Sun-Times.

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Are you ready for some boxing?


A promo card for PBC’s first NBC bout.

The new Premier Boxing Champions project off to a decent start 

After a nearly 20-year absence from primetime, professional boxing returned to broadcast network prime-time Saturday night, thanks to boxing promoter Al Heymon and his newly created Premier Boxing Champions.

The boxing schedule struck time-buy deals with NBC, CBS, and Spike TV for bouts, and the first of them came March 7 with Adrien Broner facing off against John Molina Jr., and Robert Guerrero fighting Rick Thurman. The event was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the site of the biggest boxing event since Muhammad Ali-Joe Fraizer: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (who is managed by Haymon) and Manny Pacquiao, scheduled to take place on May 2.

The return comes at a time the sport is trying to spark a resurgence after years of decline. Boxing programs were a weekly staple in the early days of television; weekly shows included CBS’ Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts and ABC’s long-running Fight Of The Week. The sport’s popularity on TV took a serious downturn when Benny “The Kid” Parret was defeated for the welterweight championship on FOTW in March 1962 and was carried unconscious from the ring. He died from his injuries a short time later, and after a huge ratings decline, ABC canceled the show in September 1964.

In the twenty years since, televised bouts on broadcast were sporadic, limited to specials and ABC’s Wide World Of Sports, despite the growing popularity of Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard. The sport vanished into the world of pay-per-view and premium cable when promoters such as Don King took over. Since NBC’s last prime-time bout on May 20, 1985 (when Larry Holmes defeated Carl “The Truth” Williams), boxing on broadcast has been limited to two Fox specials (with Mike Tyson in 1995 and Oscar de la Hoya in 1998) and cable showcases such as HBO’s World Championship Boxing and Boxing After Dark and ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights (and of course pay-per-views.)

The PBC event was presented by Corona Beer; future telecasts are expected to have sponsors looking to appeal to the 18-49 and 25-54 male demo (such as energy drinks and financial companies.) With the estimated $20 million time-buy deal, NBC and sister cable net NBC SN plan to present twenty live boxing matches in 2015, while CBS plans to carry several Saturday afternoon bouts. Spike TV also plans to carry a few matches.

Saturday night’s matchup on NBC averaged a 2.5 household overnight rating and a 2.1 final rating, marking the highest rating for a boxing bout on broadcast TV since De La Hoya’s fight in 1998; and drew a 1.1 in the adult 18-49 demographic. The special drew 3.4 million total viewers, peaking at 4.2 million for the Guerrero-Thurman fight.

NBC’s last primetime bout on Monday May 20, 1985 scored a 18.5 household rating/29 share, finishing second in its time period (behind ABC’s successful two-part mini-series Deadly Intentions and ahead of CBS’ two-part mini-series flop Christopher Columbus) and sixth overall for the week.

The matches were a mixed bag – the first one between Broner and Molina featured a lot of clutching and grabbing and not a lot of boxing, which doesn’t really make good TV. Broner (whose brash personality is wearing thin with a few boxing fans – he was booed mercilessly ) beat Molina in a twelve-round unanimous decision. The second bout between Guerrero (who faced Pacquiao in his last fight) and Thurman was more exciting; after twelve rounds, Thurman was declared the winner, also in an unanimous decision.

In all, Haymon’s new project has gotten off to a decent start, with solid production values. NBC’s next primetime boxing special is scheduled for April 11 in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center while CBS’ first PBC telecast takes place Saturday afternoon, April 4.

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Mancow wins WLUP morning gig

Mancow 1

The “contest” saw Mancow beat out three other competitors. Was the fix in? 

Given this is Chicago, you knew the outcome before this was even thought of.

To no one’s surprise, Erich “Mancow” Mueller has won WLUP’s morning personality search (The Chicago Way, of course), beating out three other competitors jockeying for the job: former WKQX jock Abe Kanan; former WLUP personality Liz Wilde; and former American Top 40 host and Hollywood Squares announcer Shadoe Stevens, who agreed to try out after someone else dropped out.

The announcement was made on WLUP’s (The Loop’s) website at 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. Taken straight out of a Chicago politics playbook, WLUP (with an assist from the station’s legal department) cleverly added a disclaimer on the bottom of its Morning Show Search page, stating “The Loop Morning Show is not a contest and is for research purposes only”. It appeared Liz Wilde had the edge, but WLUP clearly preferred Mancow, who received the most votes of all four nominees. But the Morning Search site did not say how many negative votes each person received.

Also not known if any dead people voted.

In an already written-out stunt to air Tuesday, Loop midday personality Lyndsey Marie would offer Mancow the job; he would take “several days” to “think about it” (if he “turns it down”, WLUP plans to “offer” the gig to Hulk Hogan.)

Yes, there’s nothing like “failing up” in this business – especially in Chicago radio.

Mancow has been a lightning rod of controversy since he arrived at the former WRCX (now WKSC 103.5) twenty years ago. He became the morning personality at WXQX-FM from 1998 to 2006, where he got into trouble with the FCC and wound up suing then-owner Emmis after he was fired in 2006 (they would later settle out of court.)

In recent years, an ill-conceived pairing with Pat Cassidy on WLS-AM lasted less than two years, followed by his most recent effort- a local TV simulcast of his syndicated radio show, which was canceled five months ago due to non-existent ratings. Mancow has also mouthed off on issues such as hip-hop music and Chicago’s standard of living – quite unfavorably.

Insiders expect Mancow’s show to be light on politics, but heavy on entertainment fare – similar to the first few years of his WKQX show. During his week of tryouts, he invited many of his old cohorts on the air with him. Mancow’s new show is not likely to be syndicated, at least not at this time. His previous syndicated radio program ended when the TV show did.

While Mancow’s fans (the few of them left) are elated to have him back, there was some considerable backlash on social media when the news broke.

Mancow’s hiring continues a trend among local radio stations of playing it safe and hiring more well-known older personalities, one which is receiving considerable criticism. WLS recently added Steve Dahl and Jonathon Brandmeier to its roster, while WDRV (The Drive) hired former WGN Radio personality Pete McMurray and Score and WMVP castoff Dan McNeil for morning drive. WGN meanwhile, nabbed Roe Conn for afternoon drive.

As yours truly recently noted, Chicago radio has nothing become a retirement home for broken-down radio personalities who refuse to leave the spotlight. With radio revenues down ten percent last year and no up and coming stars to attract young listeners away from satellite and Internet radio and their iPods/MP3 players, Chicago radio will likely continue to struggle to survive.

Chicago radio needs a roster that reflects the 21st Century, not an edition of Dancing With The Stars.

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Think Tank Daily: “CSI: Cyberjunk”



CSI: Cyber proves overextending a franchise isn’t a good idea 

Wednesday night saw the underwhelming premiere of CSI: Cyber, and it goes to show you even in a so-called “Golden Age Of Drama”, how banal some of these programs still are.

The “new” CBS drama featured “Academy Award Winner” Patricia Arquette as a FBI “agent” who heads a task force dealing with cyber crime, including hackers, sex offenders, and cybertheft. In the debut episode, we see the agents take on a baby-napping ring with oddball results. One scene showed a guy breaking in and stealing a kid by hacking into… a family’s baby monitor (made by Microsoft, no less.)

In looking for the perps, the agents act like a bunch of lost tech geeks who are better off working for CNET. The team looked so inept, you’d think they were led by Jay Cutler.

And if you thought the tech talk was nauseating, the transition between scenes were even worse. And what’s with Shad Moss (Bow Wow) rapping diolague?

In the final act, we saw a car chase and a car plowing into a lake. They rescued the stolen baby inside (Patricia performing mouth-to-mouth on an infant!) while the thieves drown. So much for the trial.

The program is your standard procedural… then again, it does come from the CSI family, as the original (which is still on the air…somehow) spawned two other editions, Miami and NY.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about CSI: Cyber: the writing is below average at best, the acting is…well, even more below average, and unlike Fox’s hit Empire, CSI: Cyber has characters who are not memorable or give less than a crap about. By the end of the show, you still don’t know who they’re names are.

And you wonder how many shows you can crank out on the subject of cyber terrorism? Not exactly a subject rich with material.

If you thought the show was scary, consider this: Wednesday night, Cyber drew 10.3 million viewers. Judging by all the hate for the show on social media (Twitter preview searches showed up as “CSI Cyber bad” and “CSI Cyber awful”), it won’t be long before someone deactivates this program.

CSI: Cyber

Metacritic score: 45 (1.6 user score)
Rotten Tomatoes percentile: 38 (18 user percentile)
T Dog Media grade: F
T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame chances: Likely at best

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Report: WLS-AM looking to drop Limbaugh; Cumulus denies it

Is the end of Rush Limbaugh’s show near in Chicago? A report Thursday by Robert Feder stated Cumulus’ WLS-AM was looking to drop the controversial show as the station is looking to revamp its image by adding more mainstream talk.

The report didn’t sit well with Cumulus execs; in fact, John Dickey, EVP of Content and Programming, said his company denied WLS was dropping Limbaugh in a interview with an online radio publication (In a follow up article, Feder noted that Cumulus denied the report.) Limbaugh – which is distributed by iHeartMedia’s Premiere Radio Networks, is contracted to WLS until next year.

But the cat seems to be out of the bag. In a Facebook post, Limbaugh admitted he is out of the 25-54 demo, and doesn’t see the world the same way other people does, referring to younger audiences.

Limbaugh has been in national syndication since 1988 and on WLS since 1989. At his peak, Limbaugh ranked in the top ten middays in the Windy City. But the show continues to skew older and older, with the majority of its audience over the age of 55. In the first Feder article, a Cumulus source stated the show was “impossible to sell”.

In addition, the Chicago area has seen a notable shift in demographics over Limbaugh’s lifespan. For example, much of the Chicago-area have shifted their political solidarity to the blue (liberal) camp. Notable demo shifts over the years (notably on Chicago’s once-conservative Northwest and Southwest sides and south suburbs) have diminished Limbaugh’s audience.

But some of Limbaugh’s problems have been his own doing. The Sandra Fluke controversy and the way he treats women hurt his standing among advertisers. He’s also made occasional racist comments.

And what happens when you put all of this together? A sizable drop in revenue. Feder noted WLS fell in revenue to $9.5 million last year from $13 million. In order to turn things around and to appeal to more mainstream audiences, WLS hired reliable standbys Steve Dahl and Jonathon Brandmeier, the latter launching a syndicated radio show based out of Chicago later this month. On the executive side, Peter Bowen was recently named to replaced Donna Baker as Cumulus’ vice president and market manager of the Chicago cluster.

If Limbaugh does leave WLS (keep in mind all contracts can be modified with a little negotiation), he’ll likely wind up on conservative talker WIND-AM (560), where there is an opening from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. as Dennis Miller is ending his show in three weeks. If WLS can get out of its contract with Limbaugh (despite what Dickey says) to run the full three hours of Brandmeier’s show, then Limbaugh can shift over to WIND, where he would be surrounded by other conservative talkers.

This is not the first time the issue of a syndicated program produced by a distributor airing on a station owned by a competitor has come up: a few years back, The Tom Joyner Morning Show – owned by Reach Media and Radio One – was jettisoned from iHeart (then Clear Channel)-owned WVAZ-FM, where it aired for years and replaced by The Steve Harvey Show, which is syndicated by Premiere – owned by iHeart/Clear Channel. Joyner later relocated to WSRB-FM (Soul 106.3).

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