Cubs’ new Marquee Network signs with DirecTV

New deal part of overall deal with Sinclair Broadcasting and AT&T.

IF you don’t know what the word “leverage” means if you’re a Cubs fan and a DirecTV subscriber, you know now – and you can thank Sinclair Broadcasting.

As a part of Sinclair’s new carriage agreement with AT&T, the new Marquee Network featuring the Chicago Cubs will be available at launch for DirecTV, U-Verse, and AT&T Now subscribers. From the press release:

Baltimore, MD (October 17, 2019) – Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI), and
AT&T have agreed on a multi-year agreement across DIRECTV, AT&T TV and U-verse for continued carriage of Sinclair’s owned local broadcast stations and Tennis Channel, for future carriage of Marquee Sports Network, a regional sports network featuring games of the Chicago Cubs launching in 2020, as well as for the 21 RSN brands Sinclair recently acquired and the YES Network, in which Sinclair is a joint-venture partner.

The Hunt Valley, Md.-based broadcaster – known for its “must-run” conservative content on its local news stations, is a partner with the Cubs on the new network.

Sinclair’s carriage deal with AT&T covers the 191 television stations it owns nationwide, not to mention Marquee, the former Fox regional sports networks, and the Tennis Channel, which is already on DirecTV. Sinclair owns and/or operates numerous stations downstate including Peoria, Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, and St. Louis (even though downstate fans will get Marquee through AT&T, actual Cubs games on the channel are subject to blackout due to territorial restrictions.)

The news comes as content providers and cable and satellite companies are having carriage disputes nationwide. Dish and Fox had a dispute a few weeks and it has been resolved, but only after Fox pulled their networks from the satellite provider for nearly two weeks.

This brings the number of deals Marquee has made up to two. Earlier, Marquee struck a deal with Charter Communications, who serves viewers in Kenosha, Wis.

All eyes are now on Dish, who recently dropped NBC Sports Chicago, Fox’s RSNs, and Colorado’s Altitude, who are also were dropped by DirecTV and Comcast (Xfinity), leaving nearly the entire state without a way to see the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, who currently has hockey’s best record. Even though their have been complaints from fans, advertisers haven’t been too concerned as no clients have publicly raised any issues. Dish has publicly stated it is considering getting out of the RSN business because it is too expensive, hurting the chances for Marquee’s carriage on the provider from the start.

The pressure is also on Comcast, RCN, and WOW, Chicago’s other cable providers to carry Marquee. The channel has also yet to strike deals with internet streamers such as Fubo, PlaystationVue, and YouTubeTV, where as rivals NBC Sports Chicago already has deals (NBC Sports Chicago currently has a short-term extension with AT&T, while a longer-term deal is being negotiated.)

 

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Be kind….re-scan

If you are an over-the-air viewer, you must do so on October 18

If you are an over-the-air television viewer, you probably know by now you have to re-scan if the numerous amount of PSAs and on-air crawls are any indication.

So in order to continue having pictures beamed onto your 50-inch Samsung Smart TV without a cable or satellite subscription, here comes another Q-and-A session brought to you by T Dog Media on what you need to do:

Q: Why do I have to re-scan on October 18?

The FCC repacked the spectrum after numerous frequencies were auctioned off in 2017 in order to free up space for more internet and wireless services (for more information on how this came to be, click here.) So if you are an over-the-air viewer, you have to rescan.

Q: Is it only Chicago stations affected?

Over-the-air viewers in some markets have to do so on Friday, but some markets already had to go through this. For example, Los Angeles-area stations rescanned on April 12 and New York stations rescanned on August 1.

Other areas who have an October 18 rescan date include Cincinnati, Dayton, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee, among others.

Q: Will I have to buy anything?

Nope. You don’t have to go out and buy nothing.

Q: So how do I re-scan?

Follow these instructions – keep in mind your set’s instructions may vary from others.

– Turn on your TV of course.

– Press Menu and go to Setup.

– Select Antenna and hit re-scan, or auto-tune.

– You’re done!

Q: I’m a cable and satellite subscriber. Will I have to re-scan?

You don’t have to do a thing because they’re making the adjustments on their end.

Q: Is that all?

Yes. If you have any more questions, go to the TVAnswers.org website. And happy TV viewing!

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Report: Drew Barrymore to launch daytime talk show

New show to air locally over CBS 2 – or somewhere else

It’s October and that means it’s already time to start planning for next fall’s syndicated shows. With that said, CBS Television Distribution announced a new talk show featuring Drew Barrymore, scheduled to debut in September 2020.

The program cleared the CBS-owned stations in 38 percent of the country, including WBBM-TV (CBS 2) in Chicago and of course, the flagship CBS stations in New York and Los Angeles. No time periods were announced, but could be headed for afternoons slots here and in Los Angeles and a morning slot in New York.

“We are very excited to be in business with Drew Barrymore and have our stations serve as the launch group for a show that is the brightest prospect I have seen in many years,” said Peter Dunn, CBS TV Stations president. “We look forward to giving Drew and our colleagues at CBS Television Distribution our full support to help this show strike gold with our audience and advertisers.”

Currently, CTD’s Hot Bench occupies the 2 p.m. slot on CBS 2 and at 9 a.m. on WCBS in New York while in L.A,, Entertainment Studios’ Funny You Should Ask has the 2 p.m. slot at KCBS. It is not clear where Bench would wind up in Chicago if the courtroom show is replaced by Barrymore, but it’s also possible CBS 2 could pawn the show off to a another station similar to what ABC 7 (WLS-TV) did with Tamron Hall after Disney/ABC resold the show to WCIU after opting to stay with local chatfest Windy City Live. Bench ran for the first few months of its run at the former U Too, since re-branded The U (WCIU 26.2/48.1) before shifting to CBS 2 to replaced Queen Latifah’s failed talk show.

CTD’s Dr. Phil and Judge Judy are currently in the middle of multi-year deals, so they’re not going anywhere. Both shows air on CBS 2 and on the main CBS O&Os in New York and Los Angeles (a second airing of Phil airs on The U at 7 p.m.)

CBS’ last daytime talk show launch was the disastrous Jeff Probst Show during the 2012-13 season. CBS 2 slotted Probst opposite another freshman talk show Steve Harvey at 2 p.m., getting downgraded to late night four months into its run. Oddly, Probst’s show was cleared on NBC-owned stations excluding WMAQ, who filled its 2 p.m. slot with Harvey.

Barrymore could be on opposite current WMAQ 2 p.m. occupant Kelly Clarkson in Chicago and in Los Angeles, and Live With Kelly and Ryan in New York if scheduling goes to plan.

With a role in E.T. and battling back to Hollywood after years of struggle due to substance abuse issues, Barrymore has battled back and became one of the industry’s respected actresses, appearing in movies should as Never Been Kissed Charlie’s Angels, and 50 First Dates. 

Barrymore was in talks with Warner Bros. for a daytime talk show in 2016, but the project was abandoned.

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Dish, Fox reach long-term agreement, restores signal

Viewers receive Fox 32 and My 50 via Dish again in time for Sunday’s Bears game

After a little over a week of being knocked off the air, Dish and Fox Corporation announced Sunday morning the two companies came to a long-term carriage agreement, restoring Fox, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, and Fox Deportes to the satellite service.

The impasse also took 27 Fox-owned stations off the air, including WFLD (Fox 32) and WPWR (My 50) in the Chicago area, in addition to outlets in New York and Los Angeles, among other big markets.

Fox had been off Dish since September 26, depraving viewers of Thursday Night Football, the season premiere of SmackDown Friday night, and Saturday’s college football games and baseball playoffs, not to mention the Chicago Wolves’ season opener carried on My 50. In an odd twist, the NFL Network declined to carry Thursday’s Rams-Seahawks game simulcast on Fox because of the dispute, even though the Thursday Night Football contract states both Fox and NFL Network carry the game.

The dispute ended just in time for Sunday’s Bears game as they took on the Oakland Raiders from London.

Earlier, Fox and Cox Communications came to a long-term carriage agreement. Cox basically serves areas such as Arizona, where Fox owns affiliate KSAZ and My Network TV affiliate KUTP.

Dish is still embroiled in disputes with several carriers including NBC Sports Chicago, Sinclair’s Fox Sports regional sports networks, and Colorado’s Altitude, who also went dark on DirecTV and Comcast leaving nearly the entire state without the channel. Dish – and other cable and satellite providers also has yet to strike any deal with the Cubs’ new Marquee Network.

Meanwhile, DirecTV is still negotiating with Sinclair Broadcasting over carriage as warnings once again popped up for viewers, indicting those talks may not be going very well.

Until the next blackout…

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The Media Notepad: Dish drops NBC Sports Chicago

They’re home but as far as Dish is concerned, the satellite provider is slamming the door shut in their face.

Also: Fox32/My50 goes up Schitt’s Creek; stunning fall from the top for The Mix; ABC closes Grand Hotel

As expected, Dish has pulled the plug on NBC Sports Chicago October 1 as the satellite carrier continues to make life miserable for content providers – and subscribers.

With the Cubs leaving the partnership effective October 1 for new upstart Marquee, new carriage deals had to be negotiated with cable and satellite carriers to continue carrying the channel, now with all White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks games (except those carried by each league’s respective network TV carriers.) Most carriers re-upped with the exception of Dish, DirecTV, and Mediacom.

In a taunting shot at the RSN, Dish made note NBC Sports Chicago was losing the Cubs, pointing out the team drew more viewers on than the other teams combined. But the message seems misguided, given Dish has yet to strike their own deal for the Cubs and Sinclair and as I pointed out earlier, unlikely to carry the channel given this message they keep repeating: “The regional sports model has been broken for years”… and such.

Meanwhile, DirecTV has reached a short-term extension with NBC Sports Chicago to continue carrying the channel, but when it expires is anyone’s guess. The status of the channel’s negotiations with Mediacom is unknown.

Already, Fox Corp.’s channels – Fox, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network have been off Dish for a week, while the carrier continues to battle with Sinclair over the Fox Sports RSNs and Colorado’s Altitude, who are also involved with carriage disputes with DirecTV and Comcast, leaving practically the entire state without access to Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets games. You can imagine each team’s fans – and Altitude’s advertisers – are extremely pissed.

Moreover, Dish’s statement saying the three Chicago teams’ fan base doesn’t matter because they haven’t had success in recent years is totally repugnant. You have to wonder what kind of business playbook Dish has been using lately – it certainly isn’t a consumer-friendly one despite their odious claim they are “looking out for the consumer”.


The latest PPM numbers were released this week, and it showed quite a shakeup in Chicago’s radio ratings as iHeartMedia’s V103 (WVAZ-FM) returned to the top for the first time in about a year, knocking Hubbard’s The Mix (WTMX) down to sixth place. It is a stunning drop to be sure, with the hot AC station falling 26 percent month-to-month. The Mix’s Eric in The Morning Show also fell out of first place to second, behind WBBM’s Felicia Middlebrooks and Pat Cassidy.

Not all was lost for Hubbard, The Drive (WDRV-FM) still finished second overall with midday radio personality Bob Stroud finishing first.

Finishing third was Cumulus’ WLS-FM; WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM fourth; and Cubs-inflated The Score (WSCR-AM) finishing fifth – and the station everyone loves to talk about (but not listen to) – WGN-AM – finished in a tie for twelfth with Entercom’s WBMX-FM, whose Classic Hip-Hop format is more successful than anyone thought.

And of note, WLS-FM’s Ron Parker finished third in afternoons. So what did WLS do to celebrate? They fired him, of course.


The recently Emmy-nominated Schitt’s Creek has scored its first syndication deal with the Fox-owned television stations’ duopoly markets for a syndication debut starting next fall.

Debmar-Mercury struck the deal to carry the Canadian-based sitcom starring SCTV veterans Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara and features a wealthy video store magnate and his family who relocate to a small town called Schitt’s Creek after being defrauded by their business manger. The town is the family’s only asset – bought by the magnate for his son for his birthday as a joke birthday gift (yep, that’s the plot.)

The series airs on the CBC in Canada and the Pop cable network here in the U.S. The series is currently is in its sixth and final season.

Schitt’s Creek will enter syndication on Fox and other television stations throughout the country next fall with one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases on television,” said Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus, co-presidents of Debmar-Mercury in a joint statement. “It is so rare to have a show like this that appeals equally to viewers, Emmy voters and critics — a testament to its extraordinary gifted cast and writing. We are excited to be working alongside [producer] ITVS GE to bring this outstanding program to the world.”

Fox owns WFLD-TV (Fox 32) and WPWR-TV (My 50) and will air Schitt’s Creek in 2020 and is expected to be paired with off-net sitcoms The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and The Simpsons. The program was also sold to other Fox-owned duopolies in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston on an all-barter basis, meaning stations pay no cash for the show but give up half of their ad inventory to Dembar-Mercury so its national advertising representative (CBS Television Distribution) can sell to national advertisers.

CBC’s programming has aired in U.S. syndication over the years with dramas Davinci’s Inquest, Stone Undercover (a.k.a. Tom Stone), and most recently, Republic Of Doyle. The last CBC sitcom to be sold as an off-network strip in the United States was the very short-lived Hangin’ In from Orbis Communications in 1986.

Schitt’s Creek is produced by Not a Real Company Productions, which by the way, is a real production company.


Checking out: ABC has opted not to renew summer drama Grand Hotel after one low-rated summer season. The series was about a family who ran a upscale hotel in Miami and their staff in an “Upstairs/Downstairs” type of show, similar in vain to OWN’s The Haves And Have Not and the former Lifetime drama Devious Maids.

According to Nielsen, the series drew only a 0.5 rating in the key 18-49 demo and averaged 2.7 million viewers in its lone season.

Original summer scripted series have struggled in recent years, although a few have done decently well, notably Fox’s revival of BH 90210. But others have completely bombed as the broadcast networks are trying to keep up with cable and streaming services, who release original scripted programming year-round. Grand Hotel has been praised for having a mostly Latino cast, a rarity in English-language television.

The series was executive produced by former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, who said the inspiration for the show came from the Spanish drama Gran Hotel, set in 1900s Spain and ran on Spain’s Antena 3 from 2011-13. In the U.S., episodes ran on PBS’ former V-Me digital subchannel after its original run in Spain concluded.

Longoria also directed a few episodes.

Of note is the pilot for the series and the exterior shots were filmed at Miami’s Fountainebleau Hotel, where NATPE is held every year.

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DMA Report: Chicago reverses downward trend, nudges up a bit

First increase in years as coverage grows to 3.0 percent

Even though the local print media continues to sound the drumbeat of Chicago and Illinois losing population (almost every day it seems), there is one category the city has actually gained in – the number of television homes – even though the gain is very little.

Nielsen released its 2019-20 estimates for all 210 U.S. television markets on Monday, and it showed Chicago gaining 5,030 homes – up a scant 0.15 percent from the 2018-19 estimates. Chicago now accounts for 3.043 percent of the nation’s coverage with 3,256,400 television homes, up from 2.9 percent during the 2018-19 season.

This is a bit surprising, given the Chicago area continues to lose population to other states and the abundance of cord-cutting, which is reducing the number of television homes across the country as viewers are watching their shows on other devices such as tablets, laptops, and even smartphones.

Even more interesting, Chicago was the only market to post a gain in the top ten largest markets while New York (-3.89%) and Los Angeles (-2.49%) lost homes.

Still, the news is little consolation to local officials as Chicago and Illinois continues to lose population at an alarming rate, as the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday (and Tuesday, and probably Thursday.) Keep in mind these are estimates and measure TV only; these figures do not reflect on the overall health of a designated market area (DMA) given other measuring sticks (such as radio and print) also exist. But it is good news for the market’s local TV stations.

As for other markets in the top 30, most lost households mainly due to either population loss, cord-cutting, or the combination of the two. The biggest loser this time around is a surprise: Raleigh-Durham with a hard fall – dropping from 25th to 27th with a loss of 83,390 homes or a drop of 7.52 percent. Even worse, the triangle fell behind rival Charlotte, which jumped from 23rd to 21st.

Gainers include San Francisco and the Bay Area (back up to 6th place); Phoenix (up to 11th); Indianapolis (up 3 to 25th); and Salt Lake City (30th.) Of these markets, only San Francisco lost TV homes (49,730 for a 2.06 percent loss.) With the Bay Area moving back up, the major networks (expect ABC) can now claim they own stations in all of the top six markets.

Remember last year when Peoria-Bloomington gained almost 10,000 homes out of nowhere, resulting in a big jump from 122nd to 113th? Well, they must’ve vanished as the market gave back 24,730 homes, resulting in a 10.57 percent loss, dropping to 120th place.

Other Illinois markets were hit just as hard due to not only cord cutting but also population loss: After gaining 520 homes last year, Champaign-Springfield-Decatur plunged six notches to 88th place, losing 28,720 homes for a huge 8.34 percent loss. St. Louis dropped two spots to 23rd place, down 5.57 percent and lost 64,810 homes; and Rockford scooted up one to 138th place, but still lost 400 homes.

The Paducah, Ky. market – who does have some Illinois counties in its DMA surrounding Harrisburg, gained four spots to 84th (guessing those gains did not come in the Illinois part of the market.)

Nationally, Nielsen tabulated 107,007,910 homes for the 2019-20 season, down 2.9 percent form last year.

As for lists regarding the largest African-American, Latino, and Asian DMAs by market size, Nielsen no longer makes the data publicly available.

To see the entire list, click here and here.

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The end of the line for WGN Sports

WGN sports vanishes after a 71 year run

Saturday night marked an end of an era as WGN-TV aired its final sports telecast featuring a game between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox.

Many memorable moments were carried by WGN from Sammy Sosa hitting his 62nd home run to Mark McGuire’s 70th; from Ernie Banks’ 500th home run to Michael Jordan’s game-winning shots; from Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane; the first night game at Wrigley Field; the 23-22 Phillies-Cubs game in 1979 (and even reran on WGN in early 1980); and Cub no-hitters from Ken Holtzman, Milt Pappas, and Carlos Zambrano. They aired on the one of the most-recognized television stations in North America.

WGN continued to broadcast sports long after most local stations were unable to do so, due to the arrival of The WB and UPN and the rise of the regional sports network such as Marquee and NBC Sports Chicago.

WGN Sports began life carrying Cubs and White Sox games in 1948. Several years before CBS and ABC began carrying their entire prime-time schedules in color, WGN Sports did so with in 1962.

In 1961, the Chicago Blackhawks joined WGN’s schedule, followed by the upstart Chicago Bulls in 1966.

In 1978, WGN was beamed onto satellite becoming a “superstation” seen around the country, beaming Cubs games across the country and showcasing Michael Jordan’s greatness. During the 1990s, Bulls games on WGN often beat prime-time network programming in the Chicago market.

But not everybody was happy with WGN Sports’ superstation status. In 1992, Tribune Co. (the then-owner of WGN and the Cubs) contested a plan by Major League Baseball to move the team to the Western Division, which would have resulted in later start times and less revenue due to lower HUT levels. The NBA and the Bulls were embroiled in a long legal dispute over how many superstation games WGN could carry.

But market changes began to shape WGN’s sports focus. In 1995, WGN joined the upstart WB network and three years later, moved numerous Cubs games to Tribune-owned local news cable channel CLTV in an unpopular move. By 2004, the Cubs struck their first RSN deal, with the now-defunct Fox Sports Net Chicago for 100 games a year.

After years away at other local stations, the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox returned to “Good ‘Ol Channel 9” and made WGN a powerhouse station with local sports, even cutting ties with The CW. But by this time, the number of Cub games airing on WGN were reduced to 45 per year as it was revealed in 2014 the station was losing money on the contract. During this time, WGN America (the former WGN Superstation) decided to remove all sports in order to broaden its focus outside of Chicago.

The changing television and sports landscape finally caught up to WGN. After Tribune sold the Cubs to the Ricketts family in 2009, they were looking to monetize the team’s value and were kicking around the idea of their own cable network. Earlier this year, NBC Sports Chicago restructured its network around the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox meaning the end of over-the-air games on WGN. Then, the other shoe dropped when the Cubs officially announced the new Marquee network, effectively ending 72 seasons of Cubs baseball on WGN.

Changes also happened on WGN’s front as the parent company felt it no longer could compete with the emergence of streaming services and cord-cutting amid declining ad revenue. After a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting fell though, Tribune Media made one with Dallas area-based Nexstar Broadcasting, ending local ownership of WGN after 71 years.

It is sad to see WGN Sports end after such a long run, but nothing lasts forever. While WGN did carry the White Sox and the Bulls, most viewers associate them with the Cubs given their long relationship with the station. Haray Caray, Jack Brickhouse, Steve Stone, and others brought the game to life and their fans not only in Chicago and even around the world. It seems fitting the Cubs’ final game on WGN was a victory over the hated Cardinals.

Below is a timeline of the memorable WGN Sports moments:

1948: WGN-TV signs on and carries Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. Cubs games would become exclusive to WGN beginning in 1952. Jack Brickhouse would do play-by-play for both teams until 1967 when he did Cubs game only.

1949: WGN carried professional wrestling from Marigold Gardens in downtown Chicago until 1957. Jack Brickhouse did the play-by-play and Vince Lloyd did commentary.

1951: WGN begins carrying Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals NFL games until 1956.

1960: WGN air Cubs pitcher Don Cardwell throws no-hitter.

1961: Months after they won the Stanley Cup, WGN begins carrying Chicago Black Hawks away games until 1975.

1962: WGN begins carrying Cubs home games in color.

1966: After 18 years, the White Sox exit WGN for a deal with upstart UHF station WFLD-TV starting with the 1967 season; WGN begins carrying Bulls telecasts until 1972, returning in 1976 for another run that would last until 1984.

1969: Cubs pitcher Ken Holtzman throws no-hitter and would throw another in 1971.

1970: Ernie Banks hits his 500th home run on May 12.

1972: Cubs pitchers Milt Pappas and Burt Hooton each throw no-hitters.

1976: In a bizarre incident during a Cubs-Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium, two people try to set fire to an American flag in the outfield until Cubs outfielder Rick Monday comes in and snatches it away from them to the cheers of the crowd.

1978: WGN is uploaded up to a satellite and becomes a “Superstation”.

1979: The Cubs and Phillies combine for 45 runs in a marathon 23-22 game won by the Phillies. The game was re-broadcast by WGN in the winter of 1980.

1981: The White Sox return to WGN for one season only. Jack Brickhouse retires as Cubs broadcaster.

1982: Haray Caray joins Cubs’ broadcast team; would add Steve Stone a year later.

1984: The Cubs clinch the pennant for the first time in 39 years on September 24 in Pittsburgh.

1988: On August 8, WGN carries first Cubs night game, but was rained out after a few innings.

1989: The Bulls rejoin WGN and White Sox would also do so a year later.

1991: Ken Harrelson joins the White Sox broadcast team.

1998: Haray Caray dies; replaced by grandson Chip Caray.

1998: Kerry Wood strikes out 20 in a game against the Houston Astros, tying a Major League Baseball record; Mark McGuire hits record-breaking 62nd home run in St. Louis against the Cubs; Sammy Sosa hits his 62nd home run at Wrigley.

2004: After rejoining Cubs telecasts a year earlier, Steve Stone exits and so does Chip Caray at the end of the season.

2005: Len Kasper hired as new Cubs play-by-play man with Bob Brenly as commentator. Brenly was replaced by Jim DeShies in 2013.

2008: Carlos Zombrano throws no-hitter against Astros at a game played in Milwaukee due to a hurricane hitting the Houston area; Blackhawks games return to WGN-TV after 32-year hiatus.

2014: WGN reduces Cubs schedule to 45 games; WGN America (formerly known as Superstation WGN) decides to drop all Chicago sports programming to expand their appeal.

2018: After splitting schedule for two years, White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson retires effective at end of season.

January 2, 2019: With the Cubs launching Marquee and the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox making their games exclusive to NBC Sports Chicago, WGN Sports loses rights to all teams.

September 19: WGN’s sale to Dallas-based Nexstar Broadcasting closes, ending 71 years of local Chicago ownership.

September 21: WGN-TV airs final game from Wrigley Field.

September 27: WGN airs final overall Cubs game from St. Louis.

September 28: WGN Sports carries final sporting event, a White Sox home game against Detroit, closing out a 71-year run.

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Dish sacks Fox-owned channels

Here comes another retrans dispute as impasse knocks Fox 32, My 50, FS1 off Dish 

In a move that surprised and stunned a lot of observers – not to mention Dish subscribers, Fox Corp. announced Thursday it has pulled their signals off Dish.

This means Fox-owned local channels WFLD-TV and My Network TV affiliate WPWR-TV are off Dish and their streaming service Sling, marking the second time local stations have been knocked off a satellite service this year, with WBBM-Ch.2 being off DirecTV’s service for three weeks last summer, including AT&T U-Verse and AT&T Now’s streaming service. Other Fox-owned stations, including WNYW New York and KTTV Los Angeles and Fox-owned My Network TV stations in nine other markets are also affected.

Moreover, the impasse knocks FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, and Fox Deportes off Dish (both Fox News and Fox Business Network are under separate deals and thus not affected.)

Given these are all-sports networks, viewers will miss live sporting events if a deal between Fox and Dish isn’t reached. Fox has Thursday Night Football with the Green Bay Packers playing the Philadelphia Eagles tonight (also on NFL Network) while Saturday has two college football games and a baseball game scheduled for Saturday night. And of course, you have NFL action this Sunday. And of course, FS1 and Big Ten Network have a ton of college football this weekend.

Also, Fox along with the rest of the broadcast networks (with the exception of The CW) rolled out their new shows and season premieres, with the return of Animation Domination Sunday – including the premiere of Bless The Hearts and Smackdown on October 4.

And in the Chicago area, WPWR has 40 Wolves hockey games this season, with the first game rolling out October 5 against Grand Rapids.

The impasse came as a surprise to a Dish customers, as there were no warnings shown on any Fox channel beforehand. Generally, stations and networks warn customers if their channels are in danger of being dropped.

This comes ahead of yet another dispute – this time involving DirecTV and Sinclair, whose deadline to come to an agreement is at 4 p.m. Central Time Friday. Sinclair owns several stations downstate, including in Springfield-Campaign-Decatur and Peoria-Bloomington. Recently, DirecTV and Disney averted a blackout that could’ve knocked ESPN, Disney Channel, and ABC-owned stations such as WLS-Ch.7 off the service.

Fox said in a statement:  “Dish/Sling is at it again, choosing to drop leading programming as a negotiating tactic regardless of the impact on its own customers.” Dish fired back saying Fox was looking for a rate increase and looking to bundle the local stations with the cable channels.

This latest dispute as viewers are clearly becoming frustrated with both Dish and DirecTV with service cancellations soaring, projected to hit three million this year. But this hasn’t deterred both services from dropping channels. Already, Fox’s RSNs channels (now owned by Sinclair) are still off Dish, while Altitude (home to the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets) has been off Dish, DirecTV, and Comcast systems.

And there’s more to come: on Tuesday, NBC Sports Chicago is likely to be dropped by Dish and DirecTV as it restructures the channel to become the exclusive home of Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox; while the Cubs’ new Marquee network faces an uphill battle to get on both services. Even though Dish stated they are looking out for the customers’ “best interests”, they and DirecTV are not really doing so as both are willing to endure huge subscriber losses – projected to be three million this year alone – than make any deal that doesn’t make financial sense to them. In other words, as they are losing sports fans and viewers of local TV stations, their attitude seems to be “don’t hit your ass out the door.”

Today’s debacle between Dish and Fox is more proof cable and satellite companies have declared war on content providers. And worse, Fox never did warn customers about their channels being pulled. All of this creates an aura of deceit and makes it hard to trust any of these companies, knowing now you can wake up one morning and find your channels gone.

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Chicago Wolves, My50 hook up for games

With the Blackhawks exiting over-the-air television, Wolves step up in a big way

Looking for some local sports on broadcast television this season? Don’t worry, the Chicago Wolves got you covered.

The AHL team announced Monday a partnership with Fox-owned WPWR (My50) to televise 40 regular-season games for the 2019-20 season, the most games ever carried by the station. In the past, games were split between WPWR and Weigel’s former U Too outlet (WCIU/WCUU-Ch. 26.2/48.1.) WPWR has carried Saturday night Wolves games since 2016.

“WPWR-TV “My50” is proud to be the exclusive home for all Chicago Wolves televised games,” said Dennis Welsh, GM of Fox-owned WPWR and sister station WFLD. “By exclusively airing 40 Wolves games on My50, we will bring Chicagoland sports fans more free over-the-air games than any other sports team in town. Coming off last season’s playoff run, we look forward to watching the Wolves drive to win the Calder Cup.”

The Wolves went to the Calder Cup finals in June, but lost to the Charlotte Checkers in five. All games were carried by The U Too, who rebranded to “The U” last September, the former branding of WCIU’s main channel.

“Our march to the Calder Cup Finals last year has the demand for Chicago Wolves hockey soaring,” said Wolves senior vice president Jon Sata. “Our fans want tickets and they want to be able to watch our games at home as well. We’re thrilled to call My50 Chicago the home for Chicago Wolves broadcasts this season!”

The move comes on the heels of numerous changes in the Chicago market. With WPWR freed of commitments from The CW as the network shifted programming to WCIU (now CW 26) on September 1, it leaves WPWR free to carry Wolves games as since 2009, My Network TV is a programming service carrying off-network programming and is not rated by Nielsen (individual shows are ranked in Nielsen’s weekly syndicated reports.) Programming is flexible enough for My Network TV affiliates to program as they see fit.

At the same time The CW moved to WCIU, WPWR reverted back to its My50 branding used from 2006 to 2016, when it became “CW 50”.

Second, Chicago’s non-NFL sports teams  – including the Chicago Blackhawks – have departed WGN-TV for exclusive deals with cable, leaving the field wide open for the Wolves, now with more over-the-air games than any sports team in town.  In 1995, the Wolves put a package of Saturday night games on WCIU at a time the Blackhawks had no over-the-air deal and did not televise almost all home games, a longtime policy ending in 2008 when the team struck an over-the-air deal with WGN.

With all Blackhawks games on either NBC sports Chicago or NBCSN – and with NBC declining to pick up any games to broadcast for its Game Of The Week, there are no over-the-air contests scheduled this season, unless they make the playoffs.

The first game televised on WPWR/My50 comes Saturday Oct. 5 when the Wolves host the Grand Rapids Griffins at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena.

 

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Networks drop E-Cig advertising as anti-vaping fever heats up

Local TV stations already shunning ads; Juul halts all advertising 

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on September 22 and has been updated.)

With complaints from viewers increasing on social media and users being hospitalized (including a few in the Chicago area), three major media companies announced they were no longer accepting advertising for vaping products and e-cigarettes.

WarnerMedia, CBS, and Viacom announced they were no longer taking vaping ads as scrutiny continues to increase after numerous people have gotten sick and even a few have died from the products. WarnerMedia owns TNT, TBS, and CNN; Viacom owns numerous cable networks such as MTV and VH1; and CBS owns Pop and CBS Sports Network; not to mention an entire broadcast network and 28 owned-and-operated stations, including Chicago’s WBBM-Ch.2.

Other media groups (such as Disney or AMC Networks) have not made any announcements on the fate of such advertising, but a spokesperson for NBCUniversal told The Wrap the company has a long standing policy not to accept any advertising for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. In Chicago, NBC owns WMAQ-Ch.5 and Telemundo affiliate WSNS-Ch.44.

According to iSpotTV – a company who tracks ad spending on television, e-cigarette advertising spent $57 million so far this year, with WarnerMedia receiving the bulk of the revenue. Among the most prominent brands advertised are Juul and Blu. On Wednesday, Juul announced they were pulling all national advertising, including television, print, and radio and replaced its CEO.

So far, no local TV stations in Chicago or elsewhere has aired any e-cig or vaping commercials on a spot basis, restricted basically to cable where viewers on Twitter have noticed a huge surge in e-cigarette advertising in recent weeks. However, a few radio stations in the Chicago area have aired some ads as some syndicated radio shows have e-cigarette and vaping ads plus CBS did air some Juul ads during The Big Bang Theory.

By law, television and radio are prohibited from airing tobacco ads with Congress passing the ban in 1970, with other tobacco products being banned from the airwaves decades later. Most other cigarette advertising vanished twenty years ago as part of a settlement with the government as tobacco companies admitted they were targeting children and adolescents. In 2010, cigarette companies were banned from sponsoring sports and other events.

The move comes as the Trump Administration is looking at banning flavored e-cig products as the number of people being hospitalized from vaping increased, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) already demanding a probe. Recently, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced she was looking to further restrict the sale of such products (although an ordinance put together at the last minute to ban e-cigs and vaping products failed at a recent City Council meeting.) New York state and Massachusetts have already banned the products.

Last week, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club announced they would no longer sell such products.

There were some questions on the legality of such advertising on TV and radio, given the existing cigarette ban as the vaping and e-cigarette products contain nicotine, the main ingredient found in cigarettes. Last year, the Broadcast Law Blog advised local stations about the issue, given e-cigarettes and vaping products are legal products. Of note, Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenwarcel has come out against e-cigarette advertising on television, given her concern over targeting minors.

When Congress passed the law banning television and radio cigarette advertising, broadcasters fought the move tooth and nail but wound up losing in the end. But with hardly any local stations advertising e-cigarettes or vaping products due to FCC concerns in the first place, the issue of such advertising on radio and television – not to mention a potential crackdown coming from every corner from the FDA to the Mayor’s Office, is probably moot.

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Bears blow out competition – on the field and off

Courtesy: AP

Bears, Truibsky cream Redskins, Dancing, and that Bob show 

The 2019-20 television season is officially underway, but Chicagoans weren’t ready for the new shows….they were ready for Mitch Trubisky.

The Chicago Bears thrashed the Washington Redskins on Monday night Football 31-15, with the Bears offense – struggling as of late – put up 28 points in the first half and never looked back. Redskins QB Case Keenum on the other hand, committed five turnovers.

Not only the Bears stomped over the Redskins, they also stomped over its prime-time competition on the first night of the new TV season.

According to Nielsen via the Chicago Tribune, the game between drew a 31.2 household rating on ESPN and WGN-TV (some incorrectly thought ABC’s WLS-TV aired the game given the network and ESPN are corporate cousins) with the Nexstar-owned station earning an 18 rating while ESPN contributing a 13.2. The numbers easily made WGN and ESPN the most-watched outlets in prime-time Monday night, far ahead of the highest rated non-sports show, Dancing With The Stars (5.6).

Compared to last year’s Seahawks-Bears game airing on WLS/ESPN last year at this time (Dancing hadn’t begun yet as the game took place on September 17, 2018), Monday’s game was up 5 percent.

In Washington D.C. where the game did air on local ABC affiliate WJLA, the Sinclair-owned station drew a 16.0 rating (Dancing was shifted to 1 a.m. Tuesday morning.)

Nationally, the game drew a 7.3 household overnight metered-market rating, down 13 percent from comparable week three matchup last year.  Final numbers have yet to be released.

As for the rest of the evening in prime-time nationally, the season premieres of NBC’ The Voice and Fox’s 9-1-1 dominated in the adults 18-49 ratings with the former nabbing an 1.7 and the latter 1.6. Both easily cleared Dancing’s 0.8 and CBS’ The Neighbrhood’s  and the series premiere of Bob (whatever) Abishola’s, each with a 0.9.

In the next hour, Fox’s Prodigal Son (1.0) easily beat CBS’ All Rise with former Luke Cage star Simone Missick, with an 0.7. Even worse, it’s down 40 percent from last year’s premiere of Magnum P.I.

The final hour saw ABC’s The Good Doctor (1.0) beat the premiere of NBC’s Bluff City Law (0.8) and CBS’ Bull (0.7).

 

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The 2019 Emmy Awards flops… hard

Awful presentation leads to lowest-rated Emmy show of all time 

When Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane had a disastrous stint hosting the the Academy Awards in 2013, I noted: “There’s nothing like seeing Hollywood in smarmy, self-congratulatory mode while the public is abandoning broadcast prime-time network television and terrestrial radio for alternatives with movie attendance declining thanks to media consolidation, which no one hardly talks about anymore. More and more jobs are lost in the industry while Steven Spielberg does all he can to buy another Oscar. Our cable and satellite bills continue to go through the roof while programming rates skyrocket and these “stars” get richer and richer. There are real problems in Hollywood, but no one wants to address them until its too late.”

This sums the latest awards show fiasco, the 71st Annual Emmy Awards.

As one who has watched his share of Emmy Awards, Sunday night’s show had to rank as the one of the worst in recent memory. The program was completely panned on social media, and then some.

Trying to duplicate what the Oscars did, the Emmy went hostless as the open began with Homer Simpson (animated, of course) who is now to Fox what Bozo is to WGN – a corporate mascot. After a piano fell on him (animated, of course), Anthony Anderson ran up on stage to try to “save the show”… while he and his mom helped themselves a whole boatload of Emmys. Afterward, he grabs someone resembling Bryan Cranston.

Funny, I thought he grabbed Cubs manager Joe Maddon and put him in charge. Because the rest of the show was an outright embarrassment – just as bad as watching Chicago’s Northside Baseball Team’s “attempt” to play baseball in the past week.

This also explains why Thomas Lennon (of the failed Odd Couple revival of a few years back) was put in as a “commentator” and it’s obvious he should’ve been pulled because he was getting roasted on social media just like a Cubs relief pitcher. Jokes about Chernobyl and Deerfield “rioting and turning over cars” (after native Alex Borstein won) were not funny at all, given the city Deerfield is a suburb of came very close to doing exactly that last year had the Jason Van Dyke verdict went the other way.

Billy Porter makes history as the first gay person to win Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.

Speaking of McFarlane, we were reminded Family Guy (which was actually a funny show at one time) was still on the air with jokes about Bill Cosby being in jail and Roseanne Barr being a nazi. They haven’t killed Meg off yet? Missing was Mancow, whom like this show and The Simpsons, we can’t get rid of.

The skits were awful and the musical numbers were dumb, especially the “laser eye surgery” bit Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz foisted on us while trying to read the nominees. And worse, Fox tried to shove The Masked Singer down our throats, as the Emmys became one huge promotional platform for this vastly overrated show.

In terms of awards, the broadcast networks won just two – both for NBC’s Saturday Night Live as streaming services and cable basically swept the Emmys with a sitcom I’ve never heard of winning for Best Comedy (Amazon’s Fleabag) and as expected, the academy basically gifted HBO’s Game of Thrones for Best Drama for its final season, despite how bad it was to many.

There were some terrific moments – such as Billy Porter becoming the first gay person to win an Emmy for FX’s Pose; and Michelle Williams advocating for equal pay in her acceptance speech. But they were too far and too in-between.

If you care, click here to see the list of winners and nominees.

Ratings

Not surprisingly, the 71st Emmy Awards were a ratings disaster with a record-low 6.9 million viewers and a 1.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demo.

Verdict

What I wrote in 2013 after McFarlane’s awful OScar hosting stint still stands today and applies directly to last night’s debacle. And it’s even worse as broadcast companies and cable/satellite providers are increasingly getting into retransmission consent spats with each other, blacking out channels such as CBS and the near-blackout of ABC stations on DirecTV. Unless you’re a fan of Fleabag or Pose or whatever these shows are, there is really nothing for the viewer to celebrate in this show, so why tune in?

There are people asking why the four broadcast network continue to broadcast the Emmys every year. So I’ll let Variety’s Michael Schneider explain it to you:

Also, I’m guessing affiliates wouldn’t be happy with the loss of a major awards show to cable or streaming – not their opinion matters or anything.

Plus, while streaming programs and premium cable fare draw a lot of buzz, very few viewers tune in as I pointed out earlier, I’ve never heard of Fleabag as I rarely watch Amazon shows – not to mention there are more than 1,000 shows in the marketplace and nobody can keep up with them all.

Sunday night’s show was a total garbage fest – odd for a program celebrating the best television of the year. If the Academy wants to produce this kind of dreck like this, then maybe they should move next year’s Emmys to the new Marquee Network where they’ll feel right at home with a fumbling Cubs team owned by Tom Ricketts and run by Sinclair Broadcasting.

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Proud as a Peacock: NBC Universal launches streaming service

NBCUniversal launches new streaming service with reboots and reruns

The bird is the word: joining in the streaming wars, NBCUniversal announced Tuesday the launch of its long-awaited streaming service called Peacock, referring to the bird that represents the iconic NBC logo. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, NBC used Peacock in its slogan Proud As A Peacock, though its programming (Supertrain, Pink Lady And Jeff, etc.) wasn’t anything to be exactly proud of.

The new service launches in April 2020 with over 15,000 hours of content, including off-network dramas, comedies, feature films from the Universal library and new programming.

New programming include dramas Dr. Death (based from a true crime podcast) and Brave New World and One Of Us Is Lying, each adapted from their respective novels; Comedies include new season of AP Bio and newcomers Rutherford Falls and Straight Talk from producers Rashida Jones and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Of note are three reboots of classic TV series: Battlestar Galatica, another edition of the ABC and Sci-Fi Channel science fiction series; Punky Brewster, the 1984-88 NBC/syndicated comedy starring Soleli Moon Frye (which is more of a sequel), and an updated version of Saved By The Bell with original cast members Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkeley. In an interesting side note, both Punky Brewster and Saved By The Bell were sold in off-network syndication by other companies due to the then-fin-syn rules prohibiting NBC from doing so. Columbia Pictures Television (now known as Sony Pictures TV) paid a whopping $40 million for the rights to Punky in 1986 in order to continue the show in first-run syndication after NBC canceled it. Sony still holds rights to the 1980s shows.

In addition, NBC went to outside companies to acquire content: Sony for Married…With Children and King of Queens; CBS Television Distribution for Cheers and Fraiser (both were Paramount Television productions); and HBO for Everybody Loves Raymond as CBS only owns the rights to distribute the program on linear TV as all DVD/streaming/home video rights belong to HBO. The Raymond acquisition is odd given HBO is launching its own streaming service next year, HBO Max.

Notably absent is the entire Law & Order library of 1,500 episodes stretching numerous series and the Chicago trilogy of Fire, Med, and P.D. Creator Dick Wolf is currently shopping around for the best deal for his shows.

In addition, Peacock is providing 3,000 hours from Spanish-language network Telemundo, which NBCUniversal owns.

The real question now is how are consumers can afford to pay for all of these streaming services? In addition to Peacock and HBO Max, new services are coming from Disney, BET, and Apple, you have existing services Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, Amazon, and a ton of other OTT services, including HBO Now, ESPN Plus, and others. I suppose we’ll find out soon.

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NBC Sports Chicago may vanish from Dish, DirecTV

Chicago to become next battleground in retrans battle between RSNs, satellite providers

If you are going to gloat when Marquee launches with a lack of distribution while NBC Sports Chicago is in your Dish and DirecTV channel lineup, you might be in for a rude awaking come October 1.

That’s because with the Cubs dropping out of the NBC Sports Chicago consortium after 15 years, the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Blackhawks are now taking up more of a ownership interest. As a result, new deals had to be negotiated with cable, satellite, and streaming services to carry the channel as  the Chicago Tribune first reported last week.

So far, RCN, Wide Open West, and of course, Comcast’s Xfinity (Comcast and NBC are corporate cousins) have signed carriage deals, and so did streaming carriers Fubo, YouTube TV, Hulu TV, and PlaystationVue. A number of smaller carriers have also signed deals.

But notably missing is Mediacom and the nation’s two biggest satellite providers: Dish and DirecTV, who are often in squabbles with channels. Without a deal come October 1, NBC Sports Chicago could go dark on those systems, including AT&T U-Verse and related streaming services Sling (Dish) and AT&T Now.

On Sunday night, a commercial from NBC Sports Chicago ran during Sunday Night Football featuring Blackhawks commentator Eddie Olczyk, Bulls analyst Stacey King, and White Sox play-by-play voice Jason Benetti urging fans to contact their cable and satellite providers if they have yet to strike a deal. NBC Sports Chicago also launched a website at mysportschicago.com.

Getting a deal with the satellite providers may be easier said than done. Already, Dish pulled the plug on the former Fox Sports regional sports networks, while both Dish and DirecTV (and Comcast) have pulled Colorado’s Altitude off their systems in a carriage dispute. And despite reports ESPN parent Disney and DirecTV are close to an agreement, no official deal has been announced as the sports network and its related channels are still on the service.

In fact, NBC Sports Chicago may face as much as uphill battle to get the satellite carriers to sign on as the Cubs’ new Marquee network does. Both Dish and DirecTV have been steadfast in keeping bills low for consumers, with Dish CEO Charlie Ergen stating they may not renew any upcoming RSN deals, although pundits state this is nothing more than a negotiating tactic.

So far, the only carriage deal Marquee has signed is with Charter Communications, who Spectrum cable service whose service area in the greater Chicagoland area is in Kenosha, Wis.

All this comes as distributors – especially DirecTV as owner AT&T is cutting costs amid mounting debt. And it also comes at a time when sports are completely vanishing from the local broadcast TV landscape as WGN-TV lost the rights to all four pro teams, leaving only the Chicago Bears as the lone team available to over-the-air viewers through network deals with CBS, NBC, and Fox. With Marquee home to 150 Cubs games, NBC Sports Chicago will be home to all non-network Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox contests. In fact, no Bulls and Blackhawks games will be on local broadcast TV next season with neither team making any appearances on NBA’s ABC schedule and the NHL’s NBC schedule, respectively (the Blackhawks do have 12 NBCSN appearances.)

The Chicago Fire soccer team took it a step further and moved all of their games off linear TV last year to streaming network ESPN Plus.

Over the last few years, local MLB, NBA, and NHL games have moved exclusively to cable in order to draw not only ad revenue but also retransmission money. A small number of games are available for over-the-air TV in New York (Mets and Yankees), Los Angeles (Angels and Kings), and San Antonio (Spurs).

If viewers do walk away from Dish and DirecTV as a result of the duo shunning NBC Sports Chicago and Marquee, it may not make much of an impact: AT&T boss Randall Stephenson told investors he is willing to put up with huge subscriber losses rather than pay for deals that don’t make financial sense. Already, DirecTV and Dish have lost more than three million subscribers combined in the past year. Neither he or Ergen are compelled to cater to sports fans who just want to see their games.

And for a great sports town like Chicago, that’s a bigger defeat than anything taking place on the field.

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FCC approves Tribune, Nexstar deal

Move ends 95 years of local control 

I guess this is another way for the Trump administration and Republicans to stick it to Chicago.

In another… all together now – partisan divided vote, the FCC approved the transaction of Nexstar Broadcasting, swallowing up Chicago-based Tribune Media for $6.4 billion. This gives Nexstar over 100 stations in 114 markets with a whopping 42 states represented. Take a look:

The three Republican members voted for the merger while the Democratic members dissented.

“In the transaction before us, Nexstar Broadcasting acquires Tribune Media Company and its 41 full-power television stations. Following a handful of divestitures, the newly combined licensee will hold 144 full-power station licenses in 115 markets nationwide. As a result, this new broadcast company—the largest in our nation’s history—will be able to broadcast to more than three in five of our nation’s television households. This is extraordinary reach. As a result, the FCC should make an effort to understand the consequences for localism, competition, and diversity. But we fail to do so here…” said Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenwarcel.

Meanwhile, Republican commissioner Michael O’Reilly applauded the move: “On the merits of the item, it is clear that this transaction can be expected to be a win for viewers due to certain efficiencies and consumer opportunities to be gained. Nexstar has a history of increasing news content on the stations it acquires, especially by providing stations access to its state and local public affairs resources. I expect it will do the same here, consistent with commitments made in the transfer applications. Further, Nexstar has been a lead proponent of ATSC 3.0 and plans to increase investment to upgrade the purchased properties to ATSC 3.0 capabilities. This should not be overlooked, given the potential consumer benefits.”

But the issue comes at a huge cost to Chicago: with the sale of Tribune Media, it means independent WGN-TV is no longer “Chicago’s Very Own” as the station and WGN Radio are now owned and operated by a company based in suburban Dallas. In recent years, the city lost another major production company, Harpo Productions as Oprah Winfrey shuttered its West Loop location in 2015 and moved her headquarters to Los Angeles. Tribune’s unraveling started in 2007 when Sam Zell bought (and destroyed) the company in a leveraged buyout and went into bankruptcy a year later. Tribune was sold again and was split into two in 2014: Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media.

In 2017, Sinclair attempted to buy Tribune Media but was stopped dead in its tracks by the FCC. But Tribune was persistent on getting the company sold.

The sale comes at a time for transition for WGN-TV: not only the station is being sold, but is also losing rights to longtime asset Chicago Cubs baseball after 71 years as the team is launching its own network with Sinclair broadcasting, Marquee Sports. WGN is also losing rights to Chicago White Sox baseball as NBC Sports Chicago is taking all rights to those games (including the Bulls and the Blackhawks) in-house.

In order to win approval of the Justice Department, Nexstar agreed to sell off 21 stations, including longtime Tribune stalwart WPIX in New York City to Scripps, meaning WPIX and WGN are no longer sister stations for the first time in history. Both signed on in 1948.

But the worst part of all this is the loss of local ownership of both WGN-TV and WGN-AM the former after 71 years and the latter after 95 years – all thanks to a bunch of greedy investors who wanted to cash out and get their “golden payday” under the guise of “declining viewership due to Netflix, Hulu, and outdated rules, etc.” and any other ridiculousness FCC Republicans and these nincompoops lead you to believe instead of the inept and terrible management at these companies – particularity during the Sam Zell and Randy Michaels eras at Tribune.

But for FCC Republicans and the Trump administration, it’s all par for the course given they are specialists in mediocrity and ineptness. Put all of this together and Chicago’s only media conglomerate is over and done with after nearly a century. And that’s a shame.

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