Ed Sherman’s Skittles “boycott” devalues the word

Credit: @RealBillMills

Credit: @RealBillMills

Sports media “boycott” of Skittles because of press snub actually undermines real causes 

(Editor’s Note: This post has been slightly edited from the original version on T Dog Media’s Google Plus and Facebook pages. – T.H.) 

Aside from a writer at a rival media site, yours truly has shied away from bashing media writers for the last few years (something I admit I hate doing – not really my character), especially after former Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti left town. But what yours truly read Wednesday was so ridiculous, it merits a response.

Well-respected sports media writer Ed Sherman – who has worked for the Chicago Tribune and writes a blog called “The Sherman Report” wrote a column on Indiana University’s Sports Journalism Center Website, calling for a boycott of Skittles – all because Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch’s unorthodox “interview methods” during Super Bowl Media Day, and again this afternoon.

A boycott? Because of that? What the what?

On Tuesday, Lynch – who is no fan of speaking to the media – repeatedly said “I’m here so I won’t get fined”. Earlier in the week, Lynch held a mock “press conference” sponsored by Skittles, a former Mars product now made by Chicago-based Wrigley Co. The stunts angered many in the media, especially Ed Sherman, who called for sports journalists and others to boycott the candy.

While yours truly won’t get into the debate whether Lynch should speak to the media (I could care less if he does or doesn’t), it’s Sherman’s attitude that’s off-putting.

What Sherman’s doing is he’s putting Marshawn Lynch’s media snub on the same level as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. in 1955 and 1956. The boycott began when a seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. After refusing to do so, Parks was arrested, booked, and thrown in jail. Her actions – and Dr. King’s bus boycott in the Jim Crow-era south – led the U.S Supreme Court to declare segregated buses among race unconstitutional. A heroine was born – and her actions eventually led to the downfall of Jim Crow in the South.

Since the 1970’s, the word “boycott” has been used for more trivial reasons rather than social change. The American Family Association urged viewers to boycott sponsors who advertised on “Three’s Company” because of its racy content. The Parents Television Council regularly urges viewers to boycott companies who advertise on shows they don’t like. Even some WGN Radio listeners were boycotting companies who advertised on the station after the firing of Garry Meier and decisions made by Jimmy DeCastro and Todd Manley.

These actions aren’t exactly a sit-in at the local Woolworth’s.

While it’s understandable the press would be upset with Lynch – after all, we do have a freedom of press – Ed Sherman’s suggestion is completely absurd. No “boycott” is going to change Lynch’s or Wrigley’s mind – this isn’t the Montgomery Bus System. And many of these journalists are employed by Big Media corporations – no one is going to have sympathy for someone who is getting well-paid to cover an event in a place a lot of us would love to be in right now. It’s like being in Cancun in February and complaining about the type of sand on the beach.

And Ed Sherman’s “Skittles” boycott comes poorly timed as it was the candy of choice – and a bottle of iced tea – of Trayvon Martin as he was carrying both when he was murdered by George Zimmerman just outside of Orlando Fla. in 2012. A grand jury acquitted Zimmerman, triggering protests across the country with many people buying packs of Skittles and bringing them to protests in honor of the slain African-American teen. Hot on the heels of the Michael Brown and Eric Gardner cases, it’s still a sensitive subject for many African-Americans.

But ol’ Ed thinks a football player evading the media is a more worthwhile story – in a sport meant to serve as a distraction to the everyday ills I just described. Given the city Sherman works in is plagued by gang and gun violence in most minority neighborhoods, Sherman’s stance comes off as insincere.

So go to the store and stack up on Skittles. Seems to me a better idea is to boycott The Sherman Report.

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WGCI launches new morning show

dFyNM1liKyle Santillian arrives from North Carolina

WGCI is hoping someone from Mayberry can turn around its morning luck.

As first reported by RobertFeder.com on Tuesday, iHeartMedia’s urban contemporary station has hired Kyle Santillian to anchor its new morning show, beginning this Thursday. Santillian arrives from Entercom-owned urban contemporary station WJMH-FM (102 Jamz) in Reidsville, N.C., which serves the Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point market, also known as the Piedmont region. Santillian was the morning personality at WJMH for eleven years, until he was released last July. Santillian also hosted a two-hour live community affairs program on Sunday mornings called Straight Talk.

Joining him is Kendra G, whose last local gig was on Power 92’s Trey the Choklit Jock morning show. In 2013, she was an on-air contributor to WVEE-FM’s morning show in Atlanta, which like Chicago’s WVAZ,  is also branded “V-103″, though with an urban contemporary format as opposed to an urban adult one.

A hold over from WGCI’s previous morning show (Leon Rogers) is also joining Santillian’s new program.

There were rumors WGCI would replace the previously canceled Morning Riot with the nationally syndicated Breakfast Club out of WWPR New York, which like WGCI is an urban contemporary outlet owned by iHeart Media and runs on some of the company’s urban outlets. But at the end of the day, WGCI decided to stay live and local.

WGCI’s track record in the morning hasn’t exactly been stellar: this is the station’s fourth program in the daypart in ten years.

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Mike Caplan, Lesile Keiling ousted

Mike Caplan with the Stanley Cup.

Mike Caplan with the Stanley Cup.

- Life’s tough in the business: ABC-owned WLS-TV meteorologist Mike Caplan was let go from the station last week after 21 years on the air. There was speculation WLS was going to release one of their meteorologists after hiring WMAQ exile Cheryl Scott late last year. In fact, WLS announced it was going to feature Scott during the 4 and 5 p.m. newscasts (in addition to the 7 p.m. newscast being produced for WCIU), while Jerry Taft would do weather for the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. The move wasn’t exactly greeted warmly on social media or on message boards (with a few being overly critical with one poster laughably noting WLS could fall out of first place by adding Scott.)

You know, yours truly can’t remember a time in recent memory when any local news personality moved the ratings needle. Maybe the posters should stick to ripping WGN Radio.

– Speaking of WGN Radio, the station announced Sunday it would no longer need the services of Lesile Keiling, the longtime traffic reporter. Keiling had worked with a who’s who of Chicago radio’s best: Steve Dahl, John Landecker, Garry Meier, Johnathan Brandmeier, and more. Keiling was the last holdover from Meier’s show.

On Monday, Keiling was replaced by Esmeralda Leon, who’ll handle the traffic duties on Roe Conn’s new show, which also began Monday.



- Generally, a new show usually loses 10 to 20 percent of their ratings from their premiere within the first few weeks. But hot new drama Empire has surprised the industry, bucking those trends. The shot-in-Chicago but based in New York Fox show premiered with a 3.7 adults 18-49 demo rating, but by week three, it grew to 4.3 live-plus-same day number, a 16 percent increase. The January 7 premiere drew a phenomenal 13.95 million viewers and a 5.6 adult demo rating when live-plus-seven numbers are factored in.

The Hip-Hop drama also did well on alternative platforms – 3.2 million watched Empire on video-on-demand, Hulu, and Fox’s streaming service. Comcast said Empire was the most watched VOD product on its service, with nearly a million views. And Empire dominated in African-American audiences, outpacing its nearest competitor by a three-to-one margin.

Given this early success, there is little wonder why Fox renewed Empire for a second season. And why not? It’s just that good.

- While Empire has been hot, the Bulls have been not, on the court or in the ratings: Sunday’s nationally televised game against a under-500 Miami Heat drew just a 2.3 overnight household rating for ABC Sunday. The Bulls lost 96-84 to the Heat.

Local ratings were not available for Sunday’s game, but it’s just as well: Comcast SportsNet, which carries many Bulls games locally, hasn’t trumpeted a press release in weeks, which could mean the ratings aren’t as great as they would like for you to believe. Desptie a 29-17 record, The team hasn’t generated buzz in quite some time – except the negative kind, which is a trend among Chicago sports teams lately. The team has been described as dysfunctional in recent weeks, with losses piling up.

As far as Chicago viewers are concerned, there’s room for only one “dysfunctional” team in town and has Jay Cutler as their quarterback. The Bulls might not want to test Chicago fans’ tolerance to put with not one but two dysfunctional teams in the same market.

1024px-Chicago_Fire_Soccer_Club.svg- The Chicago Fire (the soccer team, not the TV show) struck a three-year deal with Comcast SportsNet to carry all non-nationally televised games starting this spring. The pact includes a 30 minutes pre-game show and enhanced Fire content on CSNChicago.com and Chicago-Fire.com. Dan Kelly (who did Chicago Blackhawks telecasts from 2006-08) and Kevin Egan will continue in their roles as the team’s announcers.

Any programming conflicts with other Chicago sports teams telecasts means Fire games would be shown on Comcast SportsNet Plus, which means CLTV in most areas.

The move means there will be no English-language over-the-air telecasts of Chicago Fire games this season (two games are scheduled to air on WXFT-Ch. 60, in Spanish.) Previously, Fire games aired on Fox-owned My Network TV affiliate WPWR-TV. Last week, another My Network TV affiliate (New York’s WWOR) lost the rights to air 21 New York Yankees games to WPIX, which carried the Bronx Bombers from 1951 to 1998.

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Jay Leno, Russell Simmons take center stage at NATPE

Russell Simmons at NATPE. (Variety)

Russell Simmons at NATPE. (Variety)

The NATPE gathering continued into Wednesday as buyers came out to see panels featuring former Tonight Show host Jay Leno and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons:

– Leno appeared at a Q&A session Wednesday at NATPE and stated his thoughts on Bill Cosby, who is accused of sexually assaulting several women: “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women”, Leno said to moderator Tom Papa. “You got to Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”

Leno had kinder words toward his replacement, Jimmy Fallon and had no regrets stepping down from the Tonight Show a year ago, and praise for Larry Wilmore, who began his Comedy Central late-night show this week. And Leno never wanted to go along with an idea to move his show to 10 p.m. (ET), which wound up hurting his stature among Hollywood stars.

To see the entire Q & A with Jay Leno at NATPE, watch the video below:

– Leno was one of the recipients of the 12th Annual Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards, presented Wednesday evening with Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell emceeing the event. At the ceremony, Leno talked about the legendary NBC programming chief, who offered him the guest-hosting stint on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which led to him taking over for Carson in 1992, owing his career to Tartikoff.

Another notable recipient was Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, as quoted by Bruce Rosenblum: “single-handily rewriting the rules for TV by putting his shows on at once… and refusing to release ratings information, which may be a good thing.” Sarandos noted his boss (Netflix CEO Reed Hastings) gives him gives him plenty of leeway when it comes to succeeding and failing – just like Grant tinker did, letting Tartikoff take numerous risks with programming.

Other award winners included: ET executive producer Linda Bell Blue; Jonathan Murray, co-creator of The Real World and chairman of Bunim/Murray productions; and Sushowo Cisenros and his daughter Adrinna, who run Spainsh language production house Cisneros Group Of Companies.

To see the entire ceremony, click on the video below:

– Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons took to the stage at NATPE on Wednesday in a Q & A with Variety, and the legendary music mogul didn’t have too many nice things to say about Hollywood – especially in the diversity department. “The reality is the lack of integration is deafening” Simmons said. “The segregation is incredible .” Simmons also blasted Hollywood’s “progressives” for their lack of understanding African-American culture and even black actors themselves for “…not forcing themselves their way into doors.” He also took aim at the lack of diversity at Hollywood’s talent agencies, including the one he’s currently repped with, William Morris.

Simmons also took aim for failing to advance the careers of African-American comedians and the avoidance of race and class issues in television: ” No one has even discussed
race and politics as good as Norman Lear in 30 years”, Simmons said, acknowledging the legendary television producer and creator who just gave the keynote address at NATPE one day earlier.

Indeed, Simmons has found it has been tougher in the television than in the music business (where he signed acts such as The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Run-D.M.C.) and fashion, where his Phat Farm clothing line was a runaway success. Still, Simmons has several TV and movie projects in development, including a JB Smoove vehicle and a project for HBO.

This is not the first time Simmons has dabbled in TV – he produced a weekly late-night syndicated music magazine show under his own name (Russell Simmons’ One World Music Beat) from 1998 to 2000.

In other NATPE News:

– Here comes another diginet – only this one is on the air already. A “new” channel called The Works from MGM and Titan Broadcast Group. It features not only TV shows and movies from the MGM libraries, but also news (from the Huff Post), stand-up comedy and sports. The Works actually launched April 1 – nine months ago.

“We’re in all the major markets”, MGM Domestic Television Distribution President John Byran was quoted as saying, but declined to name any stations or markets. A Wikipedia listing notes The Works is on in the Chicago area on WOCH-Ch. 41.1. To see the official website of The Works (which is quite scant), click here.

– Maybe third’s time the charm: According to TVNewscheck, Warner Bros. Is considering once again reviving 1980’s and 1990’s first-run dating strip Love Connection, with The Real’s Loni Love as host, targeted for a fall 2016 launch.

No other details of the project were released.

The original version of Love Connection was hosted by Chuck Woolery and ran in syndication from 1983 to 1995, with the 1994-95 season airing only in reruns. A short-lived revival aired during the 1998-99 season and hosted by Pat Bullard. Both versions were syndicated by Warner Bros. (Telepictures and Lorimar-Telepictures syndicated Love Connection’s first six seasons, before Warner Communications took over.)

Loni Love would continue to co-host The Real should Love Connection makes it to series and The Real makes it past season two.

And that’s a wrap for NATPE. See you next year!

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NATPE 2015 is off and running

NATPE2015The 53rd annual gathering of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) got underway at the Fontainbleau Resort in Miami on Tuesday as syndicators, producers, and content creators converged for the three day conference, which ends on Thursday.

There were some programming announcements made at or just prior to NATPE’s start:

- Disney-ABC Domestic Television announced updated clearance information for new Tyra Banks’ panel show The F*A*B Life (formerly the FAB). In addition to the ABC-owned station group (which includes WLS-TV in Chicago), FAB is now cleared in 70 percent the country, achieving “firm go” status, with Gannett, Scripps, CBS, and Raycom groups signing on. Stations include WFAA Dallas; WSB-TV Atlanta; WWJ-TV Detroit; KARE Minneapolis-St Paul; and WOIO Cleveland. The hour-long strip premieres in September.

- Bellum Entertainment announced a new half-hour strip titled Corrupt Crimes, which also debuts in September, with the Sinclair Broadcasting becoming the first group to sign on, assuring clearances in Milwaukee, St. Louis, and the downstate markets of Peoria and Champaign-Springfield-Decatur. Crimes investigates stories detailed for the viewer, with expert analysis and dramatic storytelling. If you plan to watch the show, be prepared for a heavy commercial load: Corrupt Crimes is sold on all-barter basis with eight minutes of ads – an even split with the station and syndicator.

This is the second crime-based series to be offered in syndication for next fall; Tribune and Warner Bros. announced a similar project (Crimewatch Daily) a few months ago.

- The biggest announcement at NATPE on Tuesday came from a boxing legend: Oscar De La Hoya, an Olympic Gold medalist, ten-time champion, and head of successful Golden Boy Promotions, is teaming up with Mexican boxing mogul Pepe Lopez to launch De La Hoya TV, a new Spanish-language sports and lifestyle channel targeted to U.S. Hispanics. Focus would be on boxing (of course) but also mixed martial arts, or MMA, which draws a predominately young male audience. In addition, De La Hoya TV plans to develop programming featuring many of the travel and hotspot destinations in Mexico.

DeLoya plans to initially offer the channel as an Over-the-top (OTT) offering at first, and later as a cable VOD product, and eventually, a linear (basic cable) channel.

- The legendary Norman Lear was featured the keynote speaker at NATPE this year, and the 93-year old sat down with Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal for a session about how the business has changed since Lear’s heyday in the 1970’s, and the ageism that plagues the industry.

You can view the entire conversation right here- just click on the YouTube video below.

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Debmar-Mercury, Fremantle to launch “Buzzr TV”

"Family Feud" with original host Richard Dawson.

“Family Feud” with original host Richard Dawson.

Both companies strike deal with Fox Television Stations to carry new classic game show channel

In news that would no doubt please classic game shows fans, a new digital subchannel featuring the genre is launching this summer thanks to Fremantle Media NorthAmerica and Debmar-Mercury.

The two companies are launching Buzzr TV, a new classic game show channel molded in the form of the original Game Show Network (GSN), where only a handful of these programs still run. Mining the 40,000 hours of programming in Fremantle’s library, classic game shows include (and not limited to) Family Feud, The Price Is Right, Beat The Clock, Match Game, Tattletales, Let’s Make A Deal, and Press Your Luck.

Buzzr is launching this summer on all seventeen Fox O&O markets, including the Fox duopoly in Chicago.

Syndicator Debmar-Mercury helped broker the deal with the Fox-owned stations on behalf of Fremantle, and both are at NATPE  (which began today and runs through Thursday.) to pitch the channel to station groups. Debmar-Mercury syndicates Family Feud and Celebrity Name Game, both produced by Fremantle.

Buzzzr TV will air on the digital subchannels of either WFLD or WPWR. In a few Fox markets, Bzzzr replaces Bounce, which is switching over to the subchannels of Univision-owned stations later this year (but not in Chicago, where it remains on WCIU-Ch. 26.5)

Among the classic shows featured when the channel launches is Family Feud, which ran in daytime on ABC and CBS and in syndication through Viacom, LBS, All American, Pearson, Fremantle (which it was a syndicator), Tribune, and Debmar-Mercury. The list of hosts include Richard Dawson, Ray Combs, Louie Anderson, Richard Karn (yes, Richard Karn) and John O’Hurley.

The current version (now airing in first-run syndication and in reruns on GSN) with Steve Harvey, host since 2010, is expected to be added later. Premiering in 1976, Feud has aired continuously since 1999 when Anderson became host.

Originally, the Fremantle library of game shows were featured in the early years of GSN, which made up the bulk of its schedule. But the classic library has been cut back in the last decade or so, to make room for more original programming and reruns of (you guessed it) reruns of the current version of Feud. Classic game show programming is now regulated to weekday mornings.

Buzzr comes amid a flurry of new diginet channel announcements in recent weeks, including LAFF, Heroes & Icons, Decades, and The Justice Network, which launched today.

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ABC, Scripps to launch LAFF

laff-logoABC, Scripps stations clear new diginet; ABC to keep LiveWell after all

ABC and Scripps Broadcasting announced this weekend they are launching a brand new digital subchannel called LAFF, injunction with Katz Communications beginning on April 15, “tax day”.

Details on what the planned comedy network would carry (hint: you can’t go wrong with Mystery Science Theater 3000 reruns) were sketchy, but the fare would include “contemporary” off-network sitcoms and movies, according to a statement released by Katz. LAFF plans to have an accompanying website (Laff.com) and app.

The new diginet is being carried on the eight stations owned by ABC, including WLS-TV in Chicago, being slotted on their D3 (7.3 locally) channels. Other ABC markets carrying LAFF include New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, and Fresno.

Scripps-owned markets carrying the channel include Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa-St, Petersburg, Denver, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City (KSHB), Cincinnati, West Palm Beach, Buffalo, and Tulsa.

The Journal Communications Group, which Scripps acquired last year, is not included in the deal, meaning WTMJ in Milwaukee and WGBA in Green Bay Wis, among other former Journal stations, won’t carry the channel, at least not right away.

Together, the clearances total 35 percent of the country, with a plan to add more station groups.

Katz Communications (not to be confused with rep agency Katz Media Group) has launched three other digital subchannel networks: Grit (targeted to men, available on WGBO-Ch. 66.3); Escape (targeted to women, on WXFT-Ch. 60.3); and Bounce (African-Americans, on WCIU-Ch. 26.5) LAFF would be its fourth, and its first with ABC and Scripps. Katz Communications was founded by Jonathan Katz, a former Turner exec.

Meanwhile, ABC has had a change of heart on the Live Well Network, the six-year old digital subchannel airing in the ABC O&O’s D2 channels. Even though no more new programming is being produced, ABC has decided to keep Live Well for the foreseeable future, at least on its owned stations. ABC-owned stations president Rebecca Campbell noted the group decided to keep Live Well “so that we can continue to provide unique local programming and pursue corporate synergy opportunities.” In addition to Live Well programming, WLS here has been airing same-day repeats of Windy City Live.

Last week, Live Well affiliate WBAY (also a primary ABC affiliate) noted on its website ABC’s decision to keep Live Well running in the interim. It is not known if ABC plans to keep airing Live Well in high-definition. When it was first launched six years ago, it was originally known as Live Well HD.

The arrival of LAFF comes as the diginet world is becoming more crowded and competitive. Last month, Weigel announced it was launching Heroes & Icons (airing locally on WCIU-Ch. 26.4), and already has a few clearances, including KSTP in Minneapolis. Weigel is also launching Decades with the CBS-owned stations. Another diginet in the works is The Justice Network.

But with ABC keeping Live Well on its D2 channels, it shuts out many newcomers looking to land prime real estate in the nation’s largest markets.

This story was first reported on Broadcasting & Cable website Sunday.


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WGN Radio, WLS-AM make huge changes (Updated)

Big John Howell

Big John Howell

Big John Howell heads to WLS; Roe Conn to WGN-AM

(Editor’s Note: This post was updated to add new information from WGN and to replace an incorrect Feder link in the article, as yours truly used the wrong one.  T Dog Media apologizes for the errors. -T.H.)

In order to attract more listeners, Cumulus’ WLS-AM and WGN-AM made moves this week, with WLS getting a new morning show while WGN added a new afternoon show.

“Big” John Howell, a WUSN-FM alum, has jumped ship from WIND-AM to WLS, ending a eight-year stint as morning personality at the Salem-owned talker. Howell will take over WLS in the same daypart on January 19.

Howell replaces Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf’s morning show. While Wolf is expected to remain with WLS in some capacity, the station’s ties to Proft have been cut.

After a stint co-hosting a morning show for the then-classic rock-formatted WCKG from 1988-89, Howell joined WUSN as an afternoon personality later in 1989, and was later promoted to morning personality. After leaving WCKG, he landed at WIND in 2006, where he was first paired with Cisco Cotto and then later with former T.V. news reporter Amy Jacobson.

No word on who’ll take the place of Howell in the morning shift, Jacobson is expected to stay and is likely getting a new co-host.

Roe Conn.

Roe Conn.

Across town meanwhile, WGN Radio had news of its own – it was hiring former WLS afternoon co-host Roe Conn for the same shift. Conn was at WLS for more than a decade, paired with another former WLS personality, Garry Meier.

Conn’s contract expired last month, and he lost his afternoon drive shift to Steve Dahl last November.

The hire was the subject of speculation over the last year or so given Conn’s supposed ties to current WGN-AM general manager Jimmy DeCastro. Snaring him was a move many observers saw coming a mile away.

Conn’s arrival at WGN is likely to make fans of Garry Meier – who lost the afternoon drive shift last spring and was sent to WGN’s Internet feed until last November when he was let go for good – even angrier,  as criticism of the move hasn’t subsided, if you measure response from message boards and comment sections on the matter.

To make room to Conn, WGN is moving Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder’s show to 9 a.m. In turn, they replace John Williams’ 10 a.m.-noon show, as he has been exiled to weekends (Williams still has his WCCO-AM daily show.)

But the real question is, will all these moves make a difference? Ratings for WIND and WLS in morning drive and for WGN and WLS in afternoon drive have not been impressive, ranking below twentieth place in the 25-54 demo. Conn was stalled at the ratings gate over the last few years at WLS, so its puzzling why WGN would want him. So far, the constant recycling of talent on AM radio in Chicago hasn’t given many listeners the will to stick around.

This article was originally posted on January 13, 2015 and updated on January 16, 2015. 

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Bill Kurtis joins Decades

BillKurtis- Emmy and Peabody winner Bill Kurtis has a new gig: he’ll host a show on the new Decades network called Though the Decades, a weekday strip recalling the events of historical significance between the 1950s and 1990s, beginning in May. The series plans to draw from the vast resources of CBS News and Entertainment Tonight libraries for material. A partnership between CBS and Weigel Broadcasting, Decades is scheduled to launch this spring, though in Milwaukee, Decades is getting a soft launch as of today on one of WDJT’s subchannels, airing marathons of programming in the CBS library.

Kurtis is best known of course, for his co-anchoring stint at WBBM-TV with Walter Jacobson, which rode the top of the ratings charts in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Both men reunited to do the station’s 6 p.m. newscast from 2010-13. In addition, Kurtis has done TV commercials, did voiceover for Anchorman, and ran his own production company, which produced programming such as Cold Case Files, which he also narrated.

– In the 30 years yours truly has followed the syndication business, I can’t remember a weak selling season such as this one. So far, only two shows have been pitched to stations for next fall: Crimewatch Daily and The Fab. No clearances have been announced after outside of their launch groups, and no other first-run new strips have been announced.

With that said, Trifecta Entertainment has renewed first-year court show Judge Faith for another season. Seen locally over The U Too at 9 p.m. weeknights, Faith recently posted a series-high 0.8 household rating. Faith’s renewal means five of the seven first-run strips have been renewed with Intelligence For Your Life and Judge Mabelan the only holdouts, but those are also expected to be picked up for next season, so it’s a clean sweep.

A few older series are on the fence such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and possibly Rachael Ray. But with the lack of new first-run programming options for next fall, their chances of coming back are halfway decent.

138- Remember last year when ABC announced it was pulling the plug on digital subchannel Live Well Network in January 2015? Well, it just got a stay of execution – for now. An item posted on Green Bay ABC affiliate WBAY’s website (which is also a Live Well affiliate) noted Disney isn’t closing the channel as planned and is continuing operations for the time being.No new date has been set for dissolution of the network, and no new programming is being produced.

Live Well appears on digital subchannels of eight ABC-owned stations, including WLS-TV in Chicago. Some stations have already dropped Live Well, including KMOV in St. Louis, WHBF in Rock Island, and WTMJ in Milwaukee, which replaced it it with Cozi on Monday.

images- The Winter TCA Press Tour is taking place this week in Pasadena, Ca. and this is what went on thus far: Netflix’s Chief Content Officer said he would never reveal how many viewers are watching the streaming service; CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler echoing was her boss Les Moonves said about the unimportance of overnight ratings; Cosmos host Neil DeGrasse Tyson launching a late-night talk show on Nat Geo; and Showtime CEO David Nevins told the crowd he was preparing for the OTT (over-the-top) era.

Other announcements at TCA made include Dancing With The Stars’ return on March 16, with its 20th edition and Community returns on March 17, the first ever series to premiere on Yahoo.

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CW, Gina Rodriguez nab Golden Globe wins

Chicago's own Gina Rodriguez wins a Golden Globe for "Jane The Virgin".

Chicago’s own Gina Rodriguez wins a Golden Globe for “Jane The Virgin”.

Netflix, Amazon wins also signal shift

After watching your 2014 Chicago Bears becoming the most embarrassing export out of Chicago since Jim Belushi, Jenny McCarthy, and Kanye West (and more local celebs I’m sure), it is refreshing to see someone from the Windy City make our city proud for a change – not to mention giving a struggling network a much-needed cred boost.

St. Ignatius graduate Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress In A Comedy Series for freshman drama Jane The Virgin, which also gave CW its first major award victory in its nine-year history. The critically-acclaimed drama currently has a 80 score on Metacritic and an amazing 100 percent certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Rodriguez’s rise to stardom is similar to another Chicagoan – Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar in 2007 and also has won a Grammy.

The other Chicagoan who struck it big Sunday night was Jill Soloway, who created Amazon Instant Video’s Transparent. The comedy series won the streaming service its first award for Best TV Series, Musical, or Comedy series. Jeffrey Tambor (who plays a transgender person) also won for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.

What’s notable is none of the Big Four networks didn’t win anything at the Golden Globes, leaving CW as broadcast TV’s only winner – a great achievement for the network, but an embarrassment for the rest of the broadcast television industry.

The wins indicate a huge shift away from the Big Four, to the CW and streaming services when it comes to quality. And it appears Netflix and Amazon aren’t slowing down when it comes to new content. On Tuesday, Amazon announced it was launching a TV series in partnership with Woody Allen, best known for films such as Annie Hall. Meanwhile, Netflix is launching a second season of Marco Polo and several Marvel dramas, among other offerings.

As for CW, the Golden Globe win for Rodriguez comes as the network announced it was not only renewing Jane for a second season, but all of its eight scripted dramas currently on the fall schedule for next season. CW president Mark Pedowitz made the announcement Sunday during the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour Sunday morning. According to the Hollywood Reporter, CW’s ratings are up 14 percent in total viewers and up slightly in the 18-49 demo.

In addition, the success of Flash and Arrow – which both had much-talked about crossover last month – has brought more male viewers to the network.

But there are some hiccups. Even though its entire fall lineup is renewed, those shows would still have to compete with pilots for spots on next season’s fall schedule. And then there’s Tribune Media’s CEO Peter Ligouri, who has expressed his displeasure with the network’s ratings as Tribune is moving into original programming for its WGN America cable channel. Tribune is the largest owner of CW affiliates, owning stations in four of the top five markets – including WGN-TV in Chicago.

Still, CW has come along way from the “bumbling, stumbling network” yours truly wrote about in July 2008.

And for those who want to catch our hometown girl Gina Rodguriez in action, all new episodes of Jane The Virgin air every Monday night at 8 p.m. (CT) starting January 19 on WGN-TV.

Broadcast Networks, Television

WNUA hires new PD, morning team

Deliver a Pizza


St. Louis imports take over; WNUA to change calls to WEBG

While WLS-AM and WGN-AM are adjusting to lineup changes, WNUA, or Big 95.5 FM, has also been making news of its own.

After flipping from a Regional Mexican format last week, Big 95.5 FM announced its new morning team on Friday: Mason Schrader and Zach “Remy” Hoesly from St. Louis’ KSD-FM, also a country station known as “The Bull 93.7 FM”. They’ll hold down the morning drive shift from 6 to 10 a.m. beginning January 20, while continuing to do a live afternoon show for KSD.

Also coming from KSD is program director Steve Stewart, who took over in the same capacity last week. Stewart also was PD and morning host for oldies KLOU-FM.

And the WNUA call letters are finally being retired to history books. As first reported by Robert Feder Monday afternoon, WNUA officials have filed a request to the FCC to change their call letters to WEBG. WNUA had been associated with the New Age (and later Smooth Jazz format) since 1987, but also served the two Spanish-language formats it recently hosted.

And if you’re asking why they simply can’t change their calls to WBIG to match their station branding, there’s a good reason – those calls belong to an AM station in west suburban Aurora.

Chicago Media, Radio

“Bob’s Burgers” renewed for sixth season

Bob's Burgers

Mission to one hundred is accomplished; syndication riches to follow. Maybe.

Bob’s Burgers, the underrated show that’s become a utility player for Fox in the last few years, has been renewed for a sixth season, pushing it past the one-hundred episode mark and guarantees itself a syndication afterlife. The show is produced by Twentieth Television.

The Emmy-winning animated series lives in the shadows of fellow programs The Simpsons and Family Guy, but continues to pull in decent numbers. Since airing out of Family Guy and replacing sitcom dud Mulaney, Bob’s has improved the time-slot rating and share in adults 18-49 and other key demos.

Since 2013, Bob’s reruns has aired on Adult Swim and has also pulled in strong numbers, often beating one of the Big 3 networks in the key demo on Sunday nights.

Premiering on January 9, 2011 (four years ago today), Bob’s Burgers was created by Loren Bouchard and is an executive producer along with Jim Dauterive. Both are veterans of long-running animated sitcom King of the Hill.

With the show now crossing the one-hundred episode mark, Bob’s Burgers appears to be ready for a broadcast syndication sale. The field is wide open – no off-network sitcoms have been announced for 2016 as of yet. However, with the availably of time periods scarce and Twentieth Television already having two shows yet to be sold in broadcast syndication (New Girl and Last Man Standing), Bob’s Burgers could be kept on the sidelines for a while.

Just this week, Twentieth renewed Dish Nation through 2017, taking away even more potential time periods.

A glimmer of hope for open time periods came Thursday when Tribune and Debmar-Mercury announced it wasn’t going forward with a proposed prime access talk show starring Craig Ferguson. Already, several stations had removed Ferguson’s Celebrity Name Game from access (6-7 p.m. CT), but Debmar-Mercury still picked up the show for a second season.

But if you want your Bob’s Burgers rerun fix, adult swim would have to do for now.

Broadcast Networks, Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WGN-TV, Cubs finalize deal

It looks like the  Cubs  will stay to good ol' Channel 9.

It looks like the Cubs will stay on good ol’ Channel 9.

It looks like the Cubs are staying on WGN-TV after all.

According to the Chicago Tribune, The Tribune Media-owned station are now in advanced talks to acquire the remaining 45 games now on the market. WGN had been carrying Cubs games since 1948. An official announcement is expected later this week. (UPDATE: The deal is now official.)

Earlier, ABC-owned WLS-TV acquired a package of 25 games, to likely air on weekends.

Both deals last five seasons, and each expire in September 2019.

All 45 games are only on WGN, as opposed to farming out a few games to WCIU, as WGN has done in the past.  As expected, WGN America is not included in the deal, and will not carry any Cubs baseball, ending a 36-year run (out-of-town Cubs fans can still watch their team through MLB’s Extra Innings package or MLB.com.) WGN America recently became available to Chicago-area Comcast subscribers for the first time.

Also, announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies now become employees of the Cubs organization, meaning they would be calling games not only on WGN and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, but WLS as well.

WGN was reportedly losing $200,000 a game – or roughly $14 million last year carrying 70 games. The reduction works in WGN’s favor as the station would not pay as much and it frees up more time for other programming commitments,  including primetime CW programming.

As recently as the 1993 season, WGN carried around 150 games. The number has been vastly reduced due to WGN joining the WB (which merged with UPN to become the CW in 2006) and the Cubs cutting deals with Fox Sports Net and later Comcast SportsNet, who holds cable rights until September 2019.

With the broadcast and cable deals now synced up to end at the same time, the Cubs are now in a better position to launch its own regional sports network in 2020.

Updated on 2015-01-08. 

Chicago Media, Local TV (Chicago), Sports, Television

WNUA says Saynora to Spanish; hello to Country


In a Survivor-type blindside, iHeart Media’s WNUA’s Regional Mexican format was voted off the 95.5 frequency on Monday and replaced by a Country music format branded as Big 95.5, giving heritage country station WUSN its first competition in eighteen years.

As first reported by Radio Insight, the format change took place at noon with Florida-Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll” as the first record played at the new station.

Core artists on Big 95.5 include Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and  Carrie Underwood (notice the press release did not include Taylor Swift.) In addition to current hits, Big 95.5 plans “Throwbacks”, featuring gold and recurrent product. The station plans to announce a talent lineup soon, and is going commercial-free and without jocks in the interim.

iHeart Media/Chicago President Matt Scarano had this to say: “Big 95.5 is going to be a dynamic country music leader and a breath of fresh air for country radio in Chicago. The station will deliver the biggest hits, the biggest stars and the biggest results for our advertising partners too.”

The station is a part of iHeartRadio and you can click here to listen.

iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel) hopes to capitalize on the strong popularity of Country music in the nation’s third-largest radio market, despite being a one station market. During October (the last full month not influenced by Christmas music), WUSN had a 4.4 rating, while WNUA had a 1.5 – a third of the ratings Unvision’s WOJO had with a similar Regional Mexican format (recent December numbers however – influenced by Christmas music – showed WUSN dropping nearly a full point.)

WNUA launched a Spanish CHR format on May 22, 2009, after 22 years as a Smooth Jazz station, known as “Mega 95.5″. In June 2012, the station decided to take on competitors WOJO and WLEY with a Regional Mexican format, but never made any inroads. The lack of reaction to the format’s demise indicates “El Patron 95.5″ won’t be missed.

This is yet another change for the 95.5 frequency. WNUA’s roots date back to 1959 as a station owned by the Moody Bible Institute. By 1970, it became WDHF with a Top 40 format, flipped to rock as WMET-FM in 1977, then WRXR-FM in 1985 (when the AOR/Rock format was dropped), to WNUA-FM with a New Age/Contemporary Jazz format in 1987, which later became known as “Smooth Jazz”, until 2009 when it became “Mega 95.5″.

As for WUSN – which flipped to Country in 1982 and was originally owned by Infinity Broadcasting (before they merged with Viacom/CBS), they get competition for the first time since the demise of “Kicks Country” WKXK (94.7 FM),  a station which lasted just seventeen months from December 1995 to May 1997.

Other stations in recent years that had former Spanish formats and went back to English include WIND-AM (560) and WRZA-FM (99.9 FM), seguing from Spanish music to “Nine FM” in 2004. Since 2008, the station has been known as progressive talker WCPQ.


2015: A look ahead


With 2014 now behind us, here’s what to expect in 2015:

1. The Cubs’ new media homes. This year, the Cubs enter a new era: a new over-the-air TV home (WLS-TV/ABC 7) and WBBM-AM, after 90 years with WGN-AM. What’s left unresolved is a package of 45 games, whose TV home is yet to be determined.

2. As the WGN Radio turns. You think the Bears soap opera is something? Believe it or not, it has nothing on the one taking place at WGN-AM, and expect more of the same in 2015 as there is already speculation centering on Roe Conn replacing Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder in afternoons, due to GM Jimmy DeCastro’s ties with him. Unfortunately, look for WGN Radio talk to dominate the Chicago media scene for another year.

3. Net neutrality. With President Obama stating he wants the Internet classified as a Title II carrier (as a utility – similar to People’s Gas, ComEd, Nicor, etc.), a partisan fight is likely on Capitol Hill and the FCC as Chairman Tom  Wheeler decides what to do. Either way, look for a lengthy legal challenge – one that could wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

4. Mergermania. In addition, the FCC is expected to deal with the pending mergers of Comcast-Time Warner and AT&T-DirecTV. If approved, will it lead to more media marriages? Or perhaps a hostile takeover? (Dish Network, I’m looking at you.)

5. VOD’s continued growth. Video-on-demand grew a lot in 2014 and is poised for more growth in 2015 as cord-cutting (a.k.a dropping cable) increases. Look for an increase in OTT (over-the-top) services as more and more viewers use Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and other streaming services.

6. Empire. The based-in-New York but shot-in-Chicago series about a record company debuts Wednesday night with a strong diverse cast – a rarity outside of a Shonda Rhimes series. Will Empire become a major hit? Or another Platinum, a failed UPN drama from 2003 with a similar premise?

7. The state of the sitcom. The comedy once again is on deathwatch, with only two sitcoms in the top twenty-rated series and five sitcoms axed before the calendar’s year changed. The dearth of sitcoms are having an adverse effect on the syndication business, as station groups led by Fox and Tribune are eschewing such fare for local news expansion and existing first-run programming. Speaking of syndication…

8. Can syndication survive? How lackluster the syndication business has been? So far, only two new first-run series have been announced and only 2 Broke Girls have been sold into off-net for this fall. As studios turn their attention to other platforms, traditional syndication is quickly becoming an afterthought.

9. Can Marvel keep up with DC? With DC already in the lead in the quality and quantity department (Gotham, Flash, Arrow), Marvel has an opportunity to catch up with the launch of Agent Carter on ABC Tuesday night and new drama Daredevil on Netflix later this year – the first of four Marvel series planned for the streaming service. 

10. Will T Dog Media let up on enemies Wil Wheaton, Kenya Moore, and Larz from Chicagoland Radio and Media? Let’s see…. no.

Broadcast Networks, Cable, Chicago Media, FCC/Politics/Government, Geek, Syndication, Tech/New Media , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,