San Diego Comic-Con is underway

sdccMovie studios skip the gathering, leaving TV wide open

The world’s largest pop culture convention is back for another go-around.

San Diego Comic-Con (or Hollywood South as many dub it) launched Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center. The gathering is expected to attract close to a million people over the next few days as geeks and fans from around the world attend panels, buy merchandise – and of course, look and browse through at the latest comics. At times, the convention center can be just as crowded as Michigan Ave. is during rush hour.

For San Diego, this is the second biggest event the 28th-largest market hosted this month: two weeks ago, the city hosted the MLB All-Star Game from Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

As been the case over the last twenty years or so, movie and TV studios have been coming down to San Diego to show previews of their product. But many movie studios have shifted away from Comic-Con over the years due to increasing expenses – a reason used in the past by studios who abandoned big booths on the floor at NATPE in the early 2000s.

In fact, only two studios are presenting at Comic-Con this year: Marvel and Warner Bros., who is bringing new movie Suicide Squad. Paramount held a huge screening for new release Star Trek: Beyond, but it was Wednesday night and not officially part of the Comic-Con festivities.

The movie studios’ absence is a huge opportunity for TV and they have filled the void fast. Over 80 shows plan to have a presence at this year’s con, perhaps as a result of the “Peak TV” phenomenon, or “Too Much TV” as industry wags has called it.

Many new shows are presenting here, including Fox’s Lethal Weapon. And there are scores of existing shows, from newbies like Con Man to veteran shows like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Walking Dead.

All current adult animation shows are being represented at the Con, from South Park to Bob’s Burgers to the venerable Simpsons.

Not all panels are about TV shows. Others are about art, breaking into the business, and of course, there are many panels regarding artists, writers, and storyboard people behind your favorite graphic novel or comic book. In fact, there are over 200 panels at Comic-Con.

TV and media coverage

It’s been tough to find live coverage of Comic-Con over the last few years, especially after G4 folded. Well, that changes this year: As mentioned here, NBCUniversal-owned SyFy is airing  an hour prime-time coverage from the San Diego floor for three straight nights, hosted by Will Arnett. Thursday night had a feature on Star Trek: Beyond , a new movie being released Friday. And speaking of Friday, Sharknado’s Tara Reid will be on hand to preview the upcoming Sharknado 4 airing on SyFy on July 31 (a listing on SyFy’s website said however, that Reid would be appearing on Saturday.)

Shifting to streaming coverage, the newly launched Comic-Con HQ plans several hours of live coverage on its website, primarily during daytime hours. If you missed it, don’t worry: all of HQ’s coverage is archived and available on-demand. Some of the panels from this year’s Con will be available on the channel soon.

Syndicated magazines also have a presence at Comic-Con. Longtime stalwart Entertainment Tonight is bringing its entourage to the Con this year with a booth, while rivals Extra and Access Hollywood are sending correspondents.

In addition to numerous blogs, Hollywood trades also having a presence with The Hollywood Reporter and Variety covering the fest. The Los Angeles Times also is covering the event though its Hero Complex website. And if you’re wondering, San Diego’s six TV stations are covering it from a news perspective.

As for T Dog Media, yours truly won’t be in San Diego for the festivities (sadly), but keep an eye out for my commentary on Twitter and I’ll post links on social media all weekend. If possible, one or two Comic-Con posts may show up here on T Dog Media itself, so stay tuned.

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Cheryl Scottt movin’ on up to 10 p.m.

1435247_630x354Cheryl Scott promoted to 10 p.m.

Jerry Taft reduces schedule, to do weather at 6 and 7 p.m.

ABC-owned WLS-TV announced Wednesday it has promoted meteorologist Cheryl Scott to the 10 p.m. newscast, effective August 1.

She replaces longtime veteran Jerry Taft, who in turn takes over for Scott on the 7 p.m. newscast (over WCIU) and retains his position at 6 p.m. Scott already does the weather for ABC 7’s early fringe newscasts, at 4 and 5 p.m.

The move of Scott to 10 p.m. was expected for some time. Scott arrived at ABC 7 in 2014, after a stint as a weekend meteorologist at rival WMAQ-TV (NBC 5). Beforehand, she was a meteorologist at Gannett (now TEGNA)-owned WBIR-TV in Knoxville, an NBC affiliate.

The 73 year-old Taft recently signed an one-year extension to stay with ABC 7, but no doubt the retirement plans are in place. Despite reports to the contrary, Taft said he’s happy with the move, meaning no more late-nights for him and he can get home earlier.

Despite objections by a few haters, reaction to Scott’s promotion were generally positive, with many giving congratulations and appreciation. Among them was fellow ABC 7 meteorologist Tracy Butler, who handled the early-morning and midday newscasts.

Currently, ABC 7 is leading the 10 p.m. newscasts in households, but behind NBC 5 in the all-important 25-54 demo. Whether Scott would help close the gap in the demo remains to be seen – the upcoming Rio Summer Olympics is expected to give NBC and its affiliates a boost. WGN has also added a 10 p.m news show recently, with Tom Skilling’s weather forecast appearing in the first ten minutes.

As for the haters, given what’s going on in our world these days – particularly as murders and shootings pile up in Chicago and continued political buffoonery downstate, the point is to be outraged at what’s going on in the news, not at the person giving the weather report. Talk about misplaced priorities.

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WCIU to air special edition of “26 N. Halsted”

imagesStarting this week, WCIU’s 26 N. Halsted public-affairs program is going to tackle one of the hottest issues facing the nation right now: gun violence and police brutality against minorities.

This Sunday at 7 p.m., George Blaise is hosting a special edition of the public-affairs program with the title 26 N. Halsted – A Special Community Conversation, featuring guests who’ll discuss recent events including the recent police shootings of unarmed African-American men, the five police officers who were gunned down in Dallas a week ago, and the impact it has on the Chicago area.

26 N. Halsted is one of many efforts local stations and national networks around the country are launching in light of these recent events. On Thursday, ABC and its related properties (ESPN and Freeform) held a town hall meeting with President Obama discussing the police shootings in Baton Rouge, La. and Falcon Heights, Minn. and rising racial tension. On the same day, ABC affiliate WCVB in Boston followed up the ABC special with its own town hall meeting on the issue of race, a longtime thorn in the city’s side.

“’Racial tension’ is not the major problem we are facing in cities across the nation. To be more accurate, the relationship between communities, particularly African American communities, and law enforcement has been severely damaged”, said Blaise, who is producer and host of 26 N. Halsted. “This special series is an effort to focus on that reality to gain deeper understanding of what is really happening out here in hopes of finding a path toward constructive solutions that will truly benefit everyone involved.”

Guests for this edition include retired Chicago Police officer Marco Johnson and Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression’s Frank Champan.

This is the first of many episodes dealing with the issues related to law enforcement, with additional guests to discuss these issues in the weeks to come.

A Special Community Conversation will also air in 26 N. Halsted’s regularly scheduled time slots of Sunday at 10 a.m. on The U Too (WCUU, Ch. 26.2) and Saturday at 6:30 a.m. on WCIU.

Located in the West Loop, 26 N. Halsted is the actual address and headquarters of Weigel Broadcasting, owner of WCIU and related properties.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Paul Rennie to run WGN-TV, CLTV

Paul Rennie.Tribune has found a new vice president and general manager for WGN-TV and his name is Paul Rennie, who comes from sister stations WTTV and WXIN in Indianapolis. Rennie succeeds Greg Easterly, who moved to New York to take the open WPIX GM position.

Rennie also will oversee CLTV, Tribune’s local Chicago news channel.

Rennie will have the task of converting WGN from a CW affiliate to an independent when the transition takes place on September 1, with WGN significantly expanding its news and sports programming. Rennie oversaw the transition of WTTV from a CW affiliate to a CBS one in 2015, creating a news operation from scratch, even though sister station WXIN already had a news operation. The moves paid off with a huge ratings increase.

Before his stint in Indianapolis, Rennie was General sales manager at Tribune’s Seattle duopoly on Fox affiliate KCPQ and independent* KZJO. While there, Rennie helped form a relationship with the Seattle Seahawks, whereas KCPQ carries most of their games.

The-CW-300x258Speaking of The CW, the first promo touting the network’s move to Fox-owned WPWR-TV was released recently, indicating the station will soon be branded “Chicago’s CW 50” and takes place on September 1 – a Thursday. During the Fox channel realignment of the 1990’s, most affiliation switches took place either on Sunday or Monday instead of the middle of the week, thus reducing confusion for viewers.

As for the existing My Network TV programming, a reader left a message for yours truly on T Dog Media’s Facebook page, noting the checkerboard programming block is expected to air weeknights from 10 p.m. to midnight, with the poster receiving a tip from a Fox duopoly engineer (shameless plug: please visit T Dog Media’s Facebook Page sometime – thank you.)

Pathetic loser Joe Walsh.

An update to the Joe Walsh controversy: as reported by Robert Feder on Monday, Walsh has added three new markets to his radio show, taking the number of stations carrying his program to a whopping eight. This comes after Walsh made racially charged Twitter comments against President Obama and activist group Black Lives Matter last week after five Dallas police officers were killed.

To no one’s surprise, Salem and WIND officials declined comment on the matter. In a unusual arrangement, Walsh buys his time on several radio stations, but not on WIND where he is an employee of Salem.

On Friday, yours truly wrote the FCC should revoke WIND’s license if the station didn’t fire Walsh. But for that to happen, a complaint must be filed to do so during license-renewal time for even a shot of having it revoked. Also, Walsh did not make the comments on-air, so any chance of license revocation is indeed, slim to none (and given the current state of affairs at the FCC, they’ll find some way to bungle it up.)

License revocation is rare – the last time the FCC pulled or declined to renew a license of a radio or TV station was in 1990 when WSNS-TV’s license was revoked in a rather complicated and confusing case that wasn’t settled until three years later.

losangelestimesIn an inane Los Angeles Times article Wednesday, a TV critic wrote about how the measure of success in television these days isn’t how many viewers you attract, it’s how many Emmys you win. This comes as some pundits are looking for something other than ratings or even social media to determine buzz.

While there is always an plethora of doubt surrounding TV ratings, they are the only device we have to measure how many viewers are watching a show (social media works too, but a person can easily say he/she isn’t watching so-and-so program tonight or outright hates it.) The system isn’t perfect, but you roll with the punches. And besides, media buyers and advertisers could care less about such awards. Despite controversies, the Oscars still attract far more viewers than the Emmys does – not exactly “belle of the ball” material.

Yes, we all understand there is a glut of scripted programming, or putting it in a more simple context: “there’s too much TV”, as FX executive John Landgraf pointed out last year at the TCA tour, splitting the audience pie thinner and thinner in this age of “Peak TV”, or whatever the hell the media wants to call it. But I don’t think media buyers are convinced an Emmy would enable them to reach the most viewers possible in the right demographic, unless the show has a high concentration of upper-income viewers. What would be a better buy for Buick featuring Tina and her new car? A spot on America’s Got Talent? Or one on Preacher?

And while HBO and Showtime does have a wealth of buzz-worthy programming, keep in mind it is a premium channel with no advertising. Why do you want to impose their system on the rest of the TV industry? It’s like trying to run an Android app on an iPhone.

If Emmys are more important, then why do we have an Upfronts season then? You can’t sell a show based on how many awards it won – the cast and crew aren’t working for free, you know. Plus, if we measured success by Emmys, rest assured 90 percent of the programs on TV or on streaming services wouldn’t be on the air – so long Bachelor, Fuller House, and Jerry Springer.

This is just another example of how some critics fail to understand the TV business – it actually is a business. But it’s easy to understand the piece given the owner of the Los Angeles Times tries to explain how it does business in the most asinine way possible.

* -KZJO is technically a My Network TV affiliate, but doesn’t acknowledge it on-air and the programming block airs from 1 to 3 a.m. – T.H. 

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Think Tank Express: Time to fire radio host Joe Walsh

Pathetic loser Joe Walsh.

Pathetic loser Joe Walsh.

WIND should fire controversial former politician for a tweet featuring racist comments and threatening the President. If not, yank the damn license.

Enough is enough.

Former politician-turned-talk show host Joe Walsh (not to be confused with the Eagles guitarist) should be terminated for his comments he posted on Twitter calling for President Obama and police brutality protesters to be attacked.

As you know by now, five Dallas police officers were shot to death Thursday night by a gunman at a peaceful rally against the shooting deaths this week of two black individuals by police officers – one in Baton Rouge, La., the other in Falcon Heights, Minn. The former Illinois Republican used the opportunity to tweet racist remarks.

Though the tweet was deleted (by Twitter), Walsh stated at 11:56 CT: “3 Dallas Cops killed, 7 wounded. This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

Other tweets Walsh sent throughout the evening slammed African-Americans, liberals, and the LGBT community. His actions drew the ire of many, including musician John Legend and even Walsh’s own (but small) fanbase.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Walsh backpedaled on the comments in his own pathetic way and did “apologize” – but still stood by the tweet, even referring to Facebook and Twitter as “liberal”. He claims Twitter suspended his account because the tweet he sent out might incite violence. He said he would never encourage violence against anyone, which we all know is bullshit.

So the question to WIND and owner Salem Communications is: do you really want a racist nutjob like this representing your station to the public and the ad buying community? The list of advertisers and agencies who have Walsh on a “do not buy” list must stretch from here to Arkansas.

The sad part about this is, despite next-to-nothing ratings and little ad support, Walsh continues to be employed by Salem and WIND. Dating back to 2013 when he was hired, Walsh has made numerous racist slurs on-air, and has not been disciplined. He even called for CNN and MSNBC employees to be “beheaded” last year.

Look, whether Salem likes it or not, Walsh is an employee of the station and he is representative of it 24/7, no matter does he does off the air. It’s the same as an athlete – major sports leagues have a right to discipline players who engage in questionable off-field activities. And it’s the same in broadcasting.

If WIND and Salem doesn’t see a problem here, then perhaps the company should not be in the business of broadcasting as the FCC should revoke the license of WIND and other stations who carry Walsh’s show. There is precedent: the FCC yanked the license of NBC affiliate WLBT in Jackson, Miss. in 1969 after decades of discrimination at the station amid detrimental treatment of the market’s black population. At one time, WLBT’s station manager editorialized against the admission of James Meredith into the University of Mississippi because he was black and censored a Today Show interview with then-lawyer and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

By keeping Walsh, WIND and Salem are not serving the public interest – only their own racist egos, believing this garbage would attract an audience (and it’s not.)

While yours truly believes there should be a place for conservative talk radio, it should be presented without racial slurs, over-the-top antics, and offending people for the sake of offending people.

Radio is already suffering from a bad image among buyers over perception issues and from everyone else due to the financial failure and odious management at chains like iHeart Media and Cumulus. The last thing the industry needs is a retarded moron representing them making headlines for himself and only himself.

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CBS Radio to be spun-off soon

cbs-radioThe spinoff of CBS’ Radio properties from CBS Corporation is coming soon – the end of July to be exact.

CBS Radio is aiming to make the move at the end of the month into its own separate company, through an IPO offering. The move, announced in March,  would mark an end of an era: CBS has been in the radio business since the 1920’s.

Up for sale since March, CBS was unable to find any takers for its 117-station radio group, given its high price tag and some of its competitors (notably iHeart Media and Cumulus) are struggling with debt. The spinoff of the company could help attract a buyer, or several.

It is not known if the new radio entity would keep the CBS name or change it. A possibility would the group would revert to the Infinity name, used when CBS was acquired by Viacom in 1999. Oddly, CBS spun-off Viacom into a separate company in 1971, after the FCC’s then-new fin-syn rules forced the big three television networks to divest themselves of their syndication businesses. Viacom grew not only to become one of TV’s top syndicators, but also owners of radio stations (including WLIT-FM locally), TV stations, CATV systems, and cable networks MTV, Showtime, and Nickeldeon.

Viacom split into two at the end of 2005, separating its cable networks and its broadcast radio and TV businesses, with the latter becoming CBS Corporation.

In Chicago, CBS Radio owns all-news WBBM-AM and WCFS-FM, sports talker WSCR-AM, Top 40 WBBM-FM (B96), Country outlet WUSN-FM (US 99) , Classic Hits WJMK-FM (K-Hits.) and Adult Album Alternative WXRT-FM. In the June PPM report, CBS Radio had a rough go of it, with WBBM-AM falling out of first place, and iHeart’s new country station WEBG-FM eroding the shares of onetime-powerhouse US 99. Meanwhile, Cumulus’ WLS-FM beat K-Hits in the same report, while B96 has fallen a full share point behind rival WKSC-FM (Kiss FM). It wasn’t long ago that B96 dominated its CHR rival.

On the upside, Cubs baseball has been a big boost for WSCR, which took over from WBBM-AM this season. Chicago Bears football returns to WBBM-AM this fall.

Once the spin-off is completed, look for CBS Radio’s properties to separate their digital operations from their TV counterparts, which means WSCR and WBBM-AM would no longer share a website with WBBM-TV under the “CBS Chicago” banner (CBS’ FM stations have their own, individual websites.)

In addition to Chicago, CBS owns radio stations in several top markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston.

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T Dog’s Media Notebook: WGN-AM extends deals for Cochran, Manley

0335-x3-1WFLD finally launches 5 p.m. newscast

ABC’s game show block off to good start

Sorry, Cochran haters: As first reported by Robert Feder Monday, WGN-AM morning personality Steve Cochran has re-upped with the Tribune Media station through 2020. Cochran had been with the station off-and-on since 2000 but was off it in 2010 after being fired by former WGN program director, the late Kevin Metheny. Cochran returned in 2013, years after the Zell/Michaels/Metheny regime were swept out of power.

The move comes after WGN recently renewed program director’s Todd Manley’s contract through 2019. Afternoon personality Roe Conn is likely staying, and evening host Justin Kaufmann recently returned from a self-imposed hiatus.

Despite some vocal haters on social media, Cochran continues to be a hit for WGN Radio, finishing in third place overall. WGN is still a top ten station overall (though out of the top ten in some key demos) despite losing Cubs baseball after the 2014 season. Given all the turmoil WGN has been through the last few years, it is nice to see some stability at the Tribune Media-owned radio station – for a change.

Welcome back, Fox 32.

What the world needs now is news…more news: A start date has finally been announced for Fox-owned WFLD’s long-awaited expansion to the 5 p.m. news period – July 5. As first reported by Robert Feder, WFLD’s anchor team for the new newscast is the same one at 9 p.m. – Jeff Herndon and Dawn Hasbrock. The newscast replaces two syndicated celebrity magazine shows, TMZ and Dish Nation – both now moves an hour earlier, to 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. TMZ had been in the 5 p.m. hour since 2007.

WFLD becomes the last Fox-owned station to launch a 5 p.m. newscast and was one of only two Fox affiliates in a top 20 market (Sinclair’s WPGH in Pittsburgh is the other) who didn’t program news in early fringe. By comparison, WGN-TV launched a half-hour 5:30 p.m. newscast in 2008 and expanded it to two hours from 4 to 6 p.m. over the years.

And WFLD isn’t the only station expanding news in early fringe – recently, Telemundo’s WSNS announced a news expansion to 4 p.m. as is sister NBCUniversal station WMAQ, who is also adding a 4 p.m. newscast soon – likely after the Summer Olympics is over. The Olympics may be the event WMAQ needs to finally knock WLS-TV from the top spot in news – WMAQ already leads WLS in the all-important 25-54 news demo in several time periods. WMAQ has not been Chicago’s news leader since at least the early 1970’s.

maxresdefaultDespite tough competition on cable, ABC’s game show block featuring Celebrity Family Feud, and the revivals of The $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game are each off to a decent start Sunday night. The second season of Celebrity Family Feud earned a 1.6 adults 18-49 rating, with Pyramid notching a 1.7 in the same demo and Match Game drawing a 1.6. To the surprise of many, the block outdrew ABC’s regular-season average on Sunday.

Though the numbers were decent, cable dominated the evening with the season finale of Game of Thrones on HBO (4.4) and the BET Awards simulcast on multiple Viacom networks as a programming roadblock. Both also dominated the evening on social media.

It was a homecoming for Pyramid, which achieved much of its early success on ABC Daytime from 1974-80. Meanwhile, it was Match Game’s first appearance on ABC since 1991, and first overall since the much-criticized 1998-99 syndicated revival. The production values for both were slick and much improved from their previous version (especially Pyramid, whose last version on GSN was a flop.) The shows were a lot of fun and the hosts (Michael Strahan and Alex Baldwin, respectively) were cool.

So…. you think ABC”s “Fun and Games” block can extend to the regular TV season? Keep in mind a lot of folks still remember how Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Deal or No Deal were over-programmed and crashed in the ratings, so it’s safe to say it’s not going to happen. However, a syndicated revival of both Pyramid and Match Game may not be out of the question, given the lack of new first-run product on stations, so stay tuned.

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T Dog’s Media Notebook: HBO cancels “Vinyl”

Vinyl_IntertitleWhat the Good Lord giveth, can also taketh: In a reversal, HBO has canceled freshman drama Vinyl – despite renewing it for a second season four days after it premiered. Despite a stellar cast in front the camera and behind the scenes, the series never gained traction with viewers or critics (though it seemed Vinyl only registered with the elitist of TV viewers.)

There is precedent is reversing second-season renewals: not long ago, CBS Television Distribution renewed Arsenio Hall’s late-night revival for a second season (they even had Jay Leno come out and make the announcement on his show) only to be canceled several weeks later. Other examples include HBO’s Luck and El Rey’s Matador.

Vinyl underwent some creative turmoil after the first season with the dismissal of co-Creator Terence Winter as showrunner and was replaced by Scott Z. Burns. Then HBO President Michael Lombardo left, leaving the show in the lurch. Therefore, it was easier for new HBO head Casey Bloys to drop the show since he wants to put his own stamp on the network.

Premiering on Feb. 14, Vinyl drew an average of around 600,000 viewers in its Sunday time slot, far below what Game of Thrones usually earns in the same time period. Yours truly tuned out after a few episodes when it became clear the writers’ emphasis were more on people snorting coke up their nose and having fits rather than character development.

The CW and Tribune Media announced this week the hiring of television personality Robert Irvine to replace Bill Cunningham as host of the network’s only daytime strip. Levine’s background includes celebrity chef, fitness guru, and advocate. The program plans to have the same conflict talk format CunnIngham had, but Irvine is expected to give guests “tough love’, or whatever that means.

Two weeks ago, Cunningham told Tribune execs he decided to call it a TV talk show career, and remain in radio, where he hosts a popular Cincinnati show over WLW-AM.

Even though Tribune is producing the show and owns WGN-TV here, Irvine is landing on new CW affiliate WPWR in September. As part of Tribune’s new five-year deal with CW, WGN cut ties with the network and is returning to independent station status, which means Irvine will not be carried by good ol’ Channel 9. Irvine is being produced by John Irwin Entertainment and Robert Irvine Productions in association with Tribune Media.

tribune-company-new-logoAs you know by now, Tribune Publishing became tronc last week, a name widely ridiculed by just about everyone. Now we get some “employee video”, explaining now the culture at tronc works.

Yours truly was a business major in college and even I don’t know what the hell are they talking about. In the 2 minute and 30 second video, tronc’s “Chief Technology Officer” and “Chief Digital Officer” (is there any difference between the two?) They talk about… well, “funneling this” and “funneling that” into some funnel so content can spread around the world, or something. Also, there was this big X in the middle connecting photo and video with high engagement.

Clearly, the video sticks viewers in some do-it-yourself college course. See it for yourself if you haven’t already:

But wait: there’s more: the tronc HR people released a video talking about “talent mobility”. Yes, more buzzwords and corporate speak. (Click here to watch – though this may be taken down any second.)

Yes, nothing says “fabulous” and “exciting” than a low wage position with little to no benefits. If tronc owned a restaurant, they would be touting customers’ “high engagement” with their chicken sandwiches and praising their Head Burger Flipper for creating “content” customers can “consume”. Not satisfied with your drink? Take it up with our Chief Beverage Officer.

Now, where do I go to apply for the Head Receiving Paper Sorter position (“mail clerk”)? I can’t apply for the Head Bullshitter one because apparently, that’s been filled already.

For further reading:

Shia Kapos heads to the Chicago Sun-Times

Want to write Star Trek Fan fiction? You have to follow these rules (I know, I know)

Lucas museum plan dead.

Dish sues Tribune as impasse continues

Cute kitten crashes WXYZ live shot in Detroit. Awwww

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Cleveland! Cavs’ title win also one for ESPN, ABC

LeBron James, a champion in his hometown at last

LeBron James, a champion in his hometown at last

Highest-rated NBA contest since 1998

In terms of Cleveland media, the last time the city won a championship, WJW-TV was still a CBS affiliate, and the KYW call letters – now used for CBS’ TV and radio stations in Philadelphia – were owned by Westinghouse and used for its TV and radio properties here.

And so the Cleveland Cavaliers – the youngest of Northeast Ohio’s three sports teams, brought home a championship to the city for the first time since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL championship- in a dramatic concluding NBA Finals contest which has to rank as one of the best Game Sevens ever. Led by Akron-born Lebron James, the Cavs won their first-ever championship, obviously erasing what animosity created by “The Decision” several years ago.

The seventh and deciding game of the series featuring a rematch of the previous year’s NBA Finals between the Cavs and the defending champion Golden State Warriors drew a whopping 30.8 million viewers for ABC on Sunday Night, peaking at 44.5 million viewers from 9:30 p.m.-9:45 p.m. CT – making it the most watched NBA contest since 1998, when Michael Jordan played his final game for the Bulls against the Utah Jazz, culminating in a sixth title. It also marks the highest-rated ABC NBA game in history, beating the record set five years ago by Game seven of the Lakers-Celtics series (28.2 M). ABC (through ESPN) has carried NBA games since 2002 and also from 1965-73.

The 30.8 million viewers also outdrew every NBC Sunday Night Football game this season.

Among local markets, Cleveland’s WEWS led with a 46.5 household rating – the second most-watched NBA telecast of all time in the market. For ABC-owned KGO in San Francisco, Golden State’s home market, Game seven drew a 39.4 rating. Despite a competing Cubs telecast on ABC sister network ESPN, Chicago pulled a 17.5 rating for game seven, peaking at 26.5 at 9:30 p.m. Dallas meanwhile, pulled in nearly a million viewers.

On the downside, Pittsburgh (whose Steelers are rivals with the Browns) pulled the lowest rating among metered markets with a 6.4. The market never had an NBA franchise.

Overall, game seven did a 15.7 rating for game seven and averaged 20 million viewers and averaged an 11.3 rating across the entire series. It just proves if there is something worth watching on television, viewers will come, no matter what time of the year it is.

ABC also ranked in a huge amount of revenue from advertising during the long series. Disney drew $279.3 million in ad revenue according to as major brands such as Samsung, Kia, Verizon, and the upcoming “Ghostbusters” movie received tons of exposure. In addition, many upcoming ABC shows, such as Steve Harvey’s Celebrity Family Feud and Uncle Buck also received tons of promotion.

During the 52-year drought, Cleveland had to endure a lot of heartache: “The Drive”. “The Shot”, “The Fumble”, “The Move” (Browns leaving town in 1996 to Baltimore.)

Now, you can call them “The Champs”. Congrats, Cleveland – The Great Ghoulardi would be proud.

So what has happened in Cleveland media in those 52 years between championships? Well….

– In a case that still causes heads to scratch to this day, the FCC ordered NBC to reverse a swap between itself and Westinghouse involving its Cleveland and Philadelphia TV and radio stations, after NBC was found coercing Westinghouse into the deal. KYW-TV-AM-FM returned to Philadelphia in 1965 after nine years in Cleveland, while NBC created WKYC-TV-AM-FM to fill the void. Necessitated by Westinghouse’s deal with CBS, WCAU-TV was traded to NBC in 1995, allowing them to return to station ownership in Philadelphia.

– In 1979, a local rock station (WGCL-FM, now WNCX) refused to run American Top 40 disco special, so in its place, DJ Townsend Coleman counted down the week’s hits himself.

– In 1994, WJW ended its 40-year relationship with CBS when then-owner New World Communications switched it and eleven other stations to Fox in a groundbreaking affiliation deal. WJW is now owned by Tribune Media.

– Independent stations WUAB, WBNX, WCLQ, and WOIO signed on, the latter picking up the CBS affiliation after WJW dropped it. WOIO was a Fox affiliate.

– WOIO anchor Sharon Reed once posed nude for a story at the station, generating national headlines. Reed now works for Atlanta’s CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (no relation to the former Cleveland rock station mentioned earlier.)

– After Cleveland media was unable to have cameras in the courtroom during the corruption trial of Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, WOIO re-enatced scenes from the trial using puppets – yes, puppets in “The Puppet’s Court”. Some of the masterminds behind the idea would later work for Fox-owned WFLD-TV.

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“Goldbergs “sold to WGN-TV, Tribune for 2017

THE GOLDBERGS - ABC's "The Goldbergs" stars Jeff Garlin as Murray Goldberg, Sean Giambrone as Adam Goldberg, Hayley Orrantia as Erica Goldberg, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Beverly Goldberg, Troy Gentile as Barry Goldberg and George Segal as Pops Solomon. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

(ABC/Bob D’Amico)

Off-network deals include WGN-TV, WQAD

In good news for off-network sitcom-starved stations, Sony Pictures Television announced it has sold ABC Wednesday night sitcom The Goldbergs in syndication starting in the fall of 2017, starting with eighteen Tribune markets.

Cash-plus-barter deals include WGN-TV in Chicago and ABC affiliate WQAD-TV in the Quad Cities area, consisting of Davenport, Ia., Rock Island, and Moline, Ill. Besides WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles, Other notable Trib clearances include KDAF Dallas; KIAH Houston; KTVI/KPLR St. Louis; WXIN, Indianapolis; KFOR/KAUT in Oklahoma City; and CBS affiliate WHNT in Huntsville, Ala.

This story was first mentioned in TV Newscheck last week.

Also notable about this deal is this is the first time in years a sitcom has been sold in broadcast before a cable sale was made. In recent years, sitcoms such as New Girl, Parks And Recreation, and Last Man Standing have skipped a broadcast window altogether for cable, while one show sold in broadcast (Bob’s Burgers) was relegated to weekends, although a weekday strip is now being considered, according to Broadcasting & Cable. No doubt demand for such product has waned in the last decade as stations have opted for first-run strips and local news to fill early fringe (afternoon) and prime access (evening) time slots once occupied by such fare.

So far, Goldbergs is the only off-network series offered for 2017. This fall, only two off-network series being offered – sitcom, drama, or reality: Pawn Stars (as a strip) and weekend runs of The X-Files, which previously had a syndicated run from 1997 to 2005.

The Goldbergs deal comes as WGN is looking for programming to fill with the upcoming departure of CW programming. In September, CW moves its affiliation to Fox-owned WPWR, currently a My Network TV affiliate.

Premiering on September 24, 2013, The Goldbergs is loosely based on creator Adam F. Goldberg’s childhood growing up in the Philadelphia area. The sitcom generally parodies ’80’s culture, as told from the point-of-view by a character named Adam – basically a childhood version of Goldberg, who holds a rather large video camera.

The Goldbergs isn’t set in a particular year in the 1980s, so episodes have covered topics and pop culture events throughout the decade.

Despite a shaky start – both creatively and ratingswise, The Goldbergs have become a solid performer for ABC’s Wednesday night lineup and one of the more enjoyable sitcoms on broadcast television (the second season has an outstanding 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) By comparison, another sitcom set in the decade of Pac-Man (That’s ’80’s Show) from Carsey-Werner Productions came and went quickly in 2002.

The Goldbergs stars Wendy-McLendon Covey and Chicago native Jeff Garlin, who also appears on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose creator Larry David announced last week he was bringing the series back for another season after a five-year absence.

With the Goldbergs already sold, other current sitcoms eligible for broadcast syndication in the future could include Mom, Black-ish, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. As you can see, the board is still bare in it comes to sitcoms as networks have favored drama and reality series over the last few years.

As you probably know by now, The Goldbergs is not related to the earlier television series and radio program of the same name; the radio show ran from 1929 to 1946, and later adapted for television, where it ran from 1949 to 1956. During its TV run, The Goldbergs – this version about a Jewish family living in New York City – aired on CBS, NBC, DuMont, and finally, first-run syndication.

Likewise, another same title/different concept show currently on the air (syndicated talker The Doctors), is not related to the 1963-82 NBC daytime serial. This summer, CBS is airing American Gothic, but it is not related to an earlier 1995 effort of the same name, which also aired on CBS.

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Johnson Publishing sells Ebony, Jet to private equity group

Left: Muhammad Ali (who died on June 3) on the cover of Ebony. Right: The final print issue of JEt from 2014. (Credit: Twitter/GetJETmag and @EBONYMag)

Left: Muhammad Ali (who died on June 3) on the cover of Ebony. Right: The final print issue of JEt from 2014. (Credit: Twitter/GetJETmag and @EBONYMag)

Longtime African-American publications sold to Texas firm

Chicago’s African-American community is mourning yet another loss of an institution.

On Tuesday, Johnson Publishing Co. announced it was selling its Ebony and Jet magazines to an Austin, TX.-based private equity firm Clear View Group. Re-christened Ebony Media Operations, the publication will remain headquartered in Chicago but will now be owned by out-of-town interests.

Johnson has also put its vast photo archive up for sale and is retaining Fashion Fair cosmetics.

The sale has marked an end of an era. Johnson Publishing was founded by John H. Johnson, who based his company in Chicago in the beginning. Ebony – a magazine targeted the underserved African-American audience – was founded in 1945, while Jet started in 1951. Jet gained serious journalistic credibility four years later when it published pictures of the deceased body of Emmitt Till, an African-American teenager killed in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. Jet ceased being a print magazine and became digital-only in 2014.

Johnson publishing diversified into other businesses, including Fashion Fair cosmetics and radio stations, including ownership of WJPC-AM (sold in the 1994; now known as religious WNTD-AM) and WJPC-FM (also sold in 1994; now known as WSRB-FM, Soul 106.3.) Johnson Publishing even got into the syndication business at one point, producing and distributing weekend celebrity magazine show Ebony/Jet Showcase in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Linda Johnson Rice took over operations of Johnson Publishing in 1987 from her parents John and Eunice Johnson. John H. Johnson died in 2005, Eunice W. Johnson died in 2010.

Recent times have been less kind to Johnson Publishing. The advent of digital has sent the circulation of revenues of traditional magazines in decline, hitting Johnson the hardest. In addition, Ebony and Jet had to compete with newer black-oriented websites for content including BlackAmericaWeb, The Root, Black Voices (now HuffPost Black Voices), and Media Takeout.

The longtime building Johnson Publishing had been headquartered in at 820 S. Michigan Avenue was sold to Columbia College in 2011. The company moved to smaller digs up the street at 200 S. Michigan a few years ago.

Ebony is the only Johnson Publishing product left in print.

With the structural changes comes some executive shuffling: Desiree Rogers, who took over as CEO of Johnson in 2010 after a short stint as President Obama’s social secretary, will remain with the company but in a less viable role, overseeing Fashion Fair which Johnson still has total control. Johnson COO Cheryl Mayberry McKissack takes over in her place.

Also, Kyla Kyles becomes the new Editor-In-Chief of Ebony, which is remaining as a printed periodical. She replaces Kierna Ali Mayo, who has left the company. Ms. Rice remains with Johnson as Chairman Emeritus.

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Stanley Cup Final bombs in the ratings

Pittsburgh-Penguins-Stanley-CupPittsburgh-San Jose matchup draws few viewers, fans

It hasn’t been a great overall season for the NHL, as its sporting peers (NFL, MLB,and NBA) are taking advantage of the live viewing phenomenon, as more and more marketers sink money into DVR-proof programming, or as they call it, “live TV”.

For one, the recent Stanley Cup Playoffs were a ratings bust, particularly after the elimination of the Chicago Blackhawks – leaving mainly no-name teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in seven years, defeating the Sharks in game 6 Sunday night.

And none of the playoff teams came from Canada, which saw none of its NHL franchise qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1970.

It all added up to the least-watched Stanley Cup Final in years. The Pittsburgh Penguins-San Jose Sharks drew a lackluster 2.3 household rating and only 3.9 million viewers, down 28 percent in ratings from last year when the Blackhawks were in the final. Only the 2006 (Edmonton Oilers-Carolina Hurricanes) and 2007 (Anaheim Ducks-Ottawa Senators) finals ranked lower. Among adults 18-49, the series drew a 1.4 rating, down 22 percent from last year. The number actually outdrew the season average for many broadcast prime-time shows such as Agents of SHIELD – but that’s not really saying anything.

In fact, the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs were down 14 percent from a year ago on NBC’s family of networks. And though numbers were not available at press time, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are likely to suffer ratings decline in Canada since no Canadian team made the postseason. Rogers holds the rights to all playoff games.

The numbers prove hockey still has a long way to go to reach ratings parity with its peers in the U.S. While the Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in five years, Chicago ranked among the lowest NHL markets for the Stanley Cup Final, as viewers clearly moved on to the red-hot Cubs and the tail-spinning White Sox (who have their own problems trying to get humans to watch or attend their games.)

In fact, the Blackhawks ratings this season (excluding playoffs) actually took a hit, despite the Stanley Cup defense. Ratings for the Chicago Bulls also were down this year, given the sub-par season and failure to make the playoffs. But here’s the difference: while the Hawks have all but vanished from the sports radar in Chicago, the Bulls’ off-court dramas (featuring Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, among others) continue to dominate sports talk radio.

So how did the NHL respond to this bad ratings news? By announcing the league is expanding to Las Vegas in 2017. Wonderful move – can’t wait to go see for the Las Vegas Breeding Stallions or whatever the nickname is to see them play in the Stanley Cup Final in June 2028 when the temperature is 115 outside. Maybe by then the NHL come to some common sense. Or not.

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Appeals court upholds net neutrality rules

fcc_logoHuge victory for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler; losers include cable and ISPs.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was handed a major victory by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia over Net Neutrality rules, or Title II. The court in a split decision, upheld the rules 2-1.

The FCC passed the rules 3-2 on February 28, 2015 in one of the most partisan and politically divided votes since the Sirius/XM merger in 2007. The three Democrats on the commission including Wheeler voted for it; the two Republicans dissented.

Net Neutrality prevents companies against discriminating content over another and creating “fast lanes” to deliver content over someone else. To pull this off, the FCC reclassified the Internet as a “Title II” carrier, regulating it the same as a landline telephone line, and becomes a public utility like gas, water, and electricity. In other words, everyone streams Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix at the same streams.

Opponents (including cable companies, ISPs, etc.) quickly appealed to the courts, and lost. In its ruling, the opponents failed to prove the FCC’s regulation of interconnection agreements under Title II, which regulates landline phones. The court also found mobile broadband is also subject to Title II because it is – like wired broadband – a telecommunications service.

Predictably, many Democrats on Capitol Hill praised the ruling, as did consumer advocates, unions, and progressive groups. Cable companies, telecos, and conservatives blasted the ruling, saying the FCC’s actions are unconstitutional.

FCC Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, who voted against the rules, also blasted the decision.

The court decision is just one part in a long road ahead for net neutrality. One telecom (AT&T) has signaled it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as predicted by this blog, with others joining in. If it does, it would be the biggest communications case to land at the High Court since Aereo. Some of the same entities who criticized the Aereo ruling also ripped into the D.C. court decision on net neutrality.

As it stands, eight members currently serve on the High Court with a ninth seat vacant due to the death of Justice Anton Scalia in February. President Obama has nominated law professor Merrick Garland for the ninth seat, but Republicans have vowed to block the nomination until the next President is elected. Given today’s net neutrality decision, Republicans now have even more of a reason to do so, giving more juice to a political dumpster fire that isn’t going out anytime soon.

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Tribune yanks stations off Dish after reaching impasse

unnamedTribuneMedia_CMYK_pri_LrgTypeI guess the way we do things in Illinois is this: get into a disagreement, take your ball and go home and inconvenience everyone.

Chicago-based Tribune Media Sunday night yanked its signals from Echostar-owned Dish Network, based in Englewood, Colo., a suburb of Denver due to an inability to reach a new agreement. The signals were pulled at 7 p.m. ET, as advertised.

All Tribune stations (including WGN-TV in Chicago) and WGN America are off the satellite provider until further notice, with no new talks are scheduled. The blackout impacts Dish customers in nearly 40 percent of the country, affecting viewers from New York (WPIX) to Fort Smith, Ark. (KFSM).

Many Tribune stations are network affiliates, meaning Dish customers are missing some big events on Sunday night. For example, Indianapolis, Memphis, and Huntsville, Ala. viewers missed the Tony Awards. In Oklahoma City and Des Moines, viewers missed Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and the Pittsburgh Penguins clinching the championship. And if no deal is reached by Monday night, viewers in the Quad Cities market (west of Chicago) and New Orleans will not get the NBA Finals.

In Chicago, WGN has the rights to Wednesday’s Cubs-Nationals game.

The rhetoric has become similar – and at times even more nasty than the battle in Springfield pitting Governor Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan, resulting in no state budget for nearly a year. On Thursday, Tribune launched websites alerting Dish customers they could lose access to programming, with each website targeted to a different market using the same kind of template (, ktla, wphl, etc.) and wording (“Dishgusting”). In Chicago, WGN warned Dish customers it could lose Cubs and White Sox games; local newscasts; and CW programming (until September, when the CW affiliation shifts to WPWR-Ch.50).

Some of the tweets complaining about the loss of their Tribune station seem to use a template of sorts:

This comes as more and more cable and satellite operators are balking at paying increased retransmission fees to carry broadcast channels. In a recent meeting with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Dish accused broadcasters of using viewers as “sacrificial pawns” in negotiations. The National Association of Broadcasters responded, saying Dish is the “ultimate regulatory profiteer” – the exact same quote Tribune used on its “Dump Dish” website. Dish and their hardball tactics have resulted in the operator responsible for most of the retrans blackouts.

Tribune has their own history of such tactics; the company had a retrans dispute with DirecTV in 2012. 

Usually in these disputes, the channel being yanked from the system could stay on even after the deadline passes even with no deal as extensions are usually granted. But this time, Tribune stations went dark as advertised at 7 p.m. ET with no extension. While impasses like this are usually solved in a couple of days, given the ugly rhetoric we’ve seen between the two companies, there’s no telling when a deal would be done.


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Dan McNeil out at “The Drive”

DanMcNeil_zps3c4c4fb5McMornings at The Drive are McDone.

Hubbard-owned WDRV-FM – better known as classic rock-oriented The Drive, announced Thursday afternoon the release of Morning Show participant Dan McNeil after sixteen months.

The official press release on McNeil leaving the station can be found here. The announcement was made by Hubbard Radio Chicago VP/Market Manager John Gallagher and WDRV PD Rob Cressman.

The move came as McNeil reportedly got into a heated discussion last month with station management over several issues, including the departure of local Hubbard exec Greg Solk – the person responsible for hiring McNeil and his now-former morning show partner.

Since then, McNeil was suspended for ten days then returned – and was regulated to doing only three-minute sports updates during the morning drive with no interaction with anyone.

For the time being, Pete McMurray is hosting the show solo, though with contributions from producer Scott Miller and newsreader Kathy Voltmer.

Launched in March 2015, The Drive paired up McNeil and McMurray, unofficially known as “McMornings”, given both men last name started with “Mc”. Of course, yours truly connected it to McDonald’s, suppliers of cheap and subpar fast-food to the masses.

But listeners weren’t lovin’ it. According to information provided by Robert Feder, The Drive’s morning show finished a disappointing fifteenth overall and ninth among men 25-54, The Drive’s target audience. A recent report showed the program inching up to twelfth place overall, but it was too little, too late.

In Feder’s article on Thursday, McNeil said the decision to part ways was mutual, with management admitting he wasn’t the right fit for the station. McNeil is hoping for a return to sports talk radio in the future – but could be problematic given his history of bad behavior at WSCR and WMVP, though his recent suspension was at least off-air. It might be a while before we hear McNeil on the Chicago airwaves again, though he could always go the podcasting route, similar to what Garry Meier has done.

As for The Drive, management is signaling it is moving back toward a more music-intensive morning show. It’s what the station’s listeners want and is headed toward the right direction. But  whether it will continue with McMurray at the helm remains to be seen.

And so, the “McMornings” experiment would up line the McD.L.T. And I know you all are grateful yours truly won’t have to make anymore fast-food jokes.

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