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

LeBron James, a champion in his hometown at last

LeBron James, a champion in his hometown at last

Highest-rated NBA contest since 1998

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ABC/Bob D’Amico)

Off-network deals include WGN-TV, WQAD

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

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

This story was first mentioned in TV Newscheck last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Johnson Publishing sells Ebony, Jet to private equity group

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

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

Longtime African-American publications sold to Texas firm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebony is the only Johnson Publishing product left in print.

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

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

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Stanley Cup Final bombs in the ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Appeals court upholds net neutrality rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tribune yanks stations off Dish after reaching impasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Dan McNeil out at “The Drive”

DanMcNeil_zps3c4c4fb5McMornings at The Drive are McDone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: ABC 7 shifts “Windy City Live” to 1 p.m.

downloadLocal news returns to ABC 7 at 11 a.m.; Dr. Oz returns for three more years; WGN-TV needs a new GM; and more.

In a victory for local programming (and yet another defeat for syndicators), ABC-owned WLS-TV (ABC 7) announced Tuesday it was bringing back its 11 a.m. newscast after three years and moving current time slot occupant Windy City Live to 1 p.m. The move is effective June 27. No doubt the program is getting a vote of confidence despite a mixed ratings performance.

Windy City Live replaces the now-defunct FABLife, which temporarily displaces a Windy rebroadcast at midnight until September 9. In the interim, ABC 7 is adding same-day repeats of Windy on its 7.2 digital subchannel. This is the third time slot change for Windy in its five years in the air; the local talker moved from its original 9 a.m. time slot in 2013 to make room for Live With Kelly And Michael (now Live With Kelly.)

The announcement continues a trend of local stations across the country adding news whenever possible. In Los Angeles, ABC-owned KABC-TV recently added a 3 p.m. newscast, in the longtime slot of The Oprah Winfrey Show. NBC and Fox owned stations are also adding newscasts with WMAQ launching a 4 p.m. show this fall and WFLD launching a 5 p.m. news show next month. WGN-TV is also expanding its weekend morning newscasts this fall.


CG94134Tribune Media – you know the one who decided not to tent and to a stupid name…yet – has promoted WGN-TV general manager Greg Easterly as its new senior vice president of group operations, based in New York. He’ll also assume the duties of WPIX’s general manager on an interim basis, replacing Rich Granzino, who is leaving the company. Easterly came to WGN in 2013 from Tribune Fox affiliate WJW in Cleveland. During his tenure, he struck a New deal with the Chicago Cubs and added a 10 p.m. newscast.

Tribune’s president of broadcasting media Larry West is taking over Easterly’s position at WGN on an interim basis until a replacement an be found. Wert ran WMAQ for several years in the same capacity. Two weeks ago, WGN announced it was dropping its CW affiliation after a decade in order to go it alone as an independent station.


downloadWhile the situation regarding when (or where) My Network TV programming would air in Chicago since WPWR is airing CW shows in primetime this fall, the programming service announced its 2016-17 season lineup, and it steers away from procedural shows toward younger-skewing off-network fare (bye Mentalist.)

The lineup featuring double-runs is as follows: Mondays features Law & Order: SVU from NBC Universal Television Distribution; Tuesdays features Bones from Twentieth Television; Wednesdays has the syndicated debut of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield from Disney-ABC Domestic Television; Thursdays has The X-Files from Twentieth Television, in a deal announced in February; and Fridays has American Ninja Warrior from NBCU. Warrior is clearly a departure from the procedurals MNT had been running. The schedule changes take place the week of Sept. 26.


last-week-tonight-with-john-oliver

Sorry, John Oliver: Sony Pictures TV has renewed Dr. Oz for three more years through 2019 on the Fox-owned stations currently carrying the show, including Chicago’s. Despite being grilled in a Senate hearing – and by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver over weight-loss claims, viewers haven’t abandoned the TV doctor, with ratings for his show actually growing from last year (up 8 percent) and is up by even bigger percentages in New York. Fox’s renewal clears Dr. Oz in 32 percent of the country, including eight of the ten largest markets. So as a reminder:


comcast-settopIn a recent op-ed for USA Today, the Rev. Jesse Jackson is taking on the set-top controversy – in the asinine way he only knows how. In the piece, the Rainbow/PUSH founder compared unlocking the box for third-party access to civil rights protesters being attacked by police dogs and fire hoses and the FCC to a 1960’s-era Southern Governor.

Championed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, his proposal would unlock set-top boxes and make them available to third-party vendors such as Google, who could share consumers’ private information without consent and decrease the value of content. The plan has some diversity advocates and the Congressional Black Caucus concerned, fearing the plan could drive programming targeted to minorities off the air.

Yours truly wrote a recent piece stating opposition to the set-top box plan, saying it is unneeded as consumers are moving on from them and promotes piracy  Diversity issues have been front and center in the entertainment industry the last few years, particularly with the Oscars and television in general.

Oddly, Rev. Jackson’s objections to the plan puts him on the opposite side of President Obama, who endorsed the plan. Well known in these circles for his boycott of CBS-owned WBBM-TV 30 years ago, isn’t Rev. Jackson laying it on a little too thick? Yours truly agrees with Jackson (for once), but comparing it to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960’s – Alabama Gov. George Wallace blocking the school doors and such – is a bit much. C’mon man!

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Think Tank Express: “The Drive’s” listeners aren’t lovin’ it

wdrv_facebook_default_newBattle between McNeil, Hubbard management latest sign of Chicago radio’s dysfunction 

You’re probably asking, how’s the new McMornings show on The Drive working out?

As you probably guessed, it’s about as flat as a Diet Coke.

According to an article by Robert Feder Monday, the gamble made by Hubbard-owned WDRV-FM pairing up former sports talker Dan McNeil and former WGN-AM host Pete McMurray for “The Morning Drive” isn’t paying off. And McNeil is likely on the chopping block.

Last month, McNeil reportedly got into an off-air argument with management over the recent departure of Chicago radio veteran Greg Solk from the company, who initially launched The Drive in 2001 and hired McNeil and McMurray. The heated argument was witnessed by several staffers; as a result, McNeil was suspended for ten days. Since his return, McNeil has been demoted to only reading sports updates every hour and having no interaction with the cast – including McMurray and producer Scott Miller, who received an increased amount of airtime.

At least McNeil was spared from attending WDRV’s lame fifteenth anniversary celebration, a concert featuring past-their-prime bands Jefferson Starship and Boston.

Launched in March 2015, the new “McMornings” show on the drive has stalled at the starting gate. According to Feder’s article, the new “Morning Drive” finished ninth in a recent ratings report among men 25-54 and fifteenth overall – a disappointment given the hype.

This comes as ratings for The Drive overall are declining faster than sales of a value menu. Revenue is down, too as the Chicago market continues to lose population. Judging by some of the comments on Feder’s website, listeners aren’t happy with the musical direction of the station as The Drive’s playlist has become as stale as the food at Arby’s  – nor having the McBrothers morning show at all since they replaced a music-intensive show with a talk-intensive one.

You can blame the declines on the changes made by station execs (including the now-departed Solk) – messing with a tried-and-true formula and changing for the sake of “innovation” and “evolvement”, or whatever buzzwords corporate execs love to use to make themselves feel important.

Last fall, WDRV added a post-game Bears show last fall hosted by The Hamburgular himself, Mike North. For a station who touts itself as “the soundtrack of your life” or something, WDRV stopped the hits for an hour every week to talk about football. Gee, I didn’t know the soundtrack of my life featured a has-been loser talking about Jay Cutler.

As expected, the inane move was a bigger flop than the Arch Deluxe. Employing the has-been North was bad enough, who given all the failures he’s been associated with, should’ve stayed in his hot dog stand and sell Vienna Beef products.

It’s tough to feel sorry for McNeil – he has a history of rude behavior, which resulted in losing numerous gigs at both The Score and ESPN 1000. With this recent demotion, it likely means he is out when his contract is up. But hiring McNeil was puzzling to begin with, as bringing in the Ronald McDonald Clown Car with him and North was unnecessary. But this is what happens when you live in a radio market where these types refuse to get off the stage. Rest assured, McNeil’s next gig won’t be managing a Hardee’s, though execs who make these types of decisions ought to be working at one.

Listeners of The Drive – and Chicago radio in particular – deserve a break today.

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Welcome to The Tronc

tribune-company-new-logo

Michael Ferro rebrands Tribune Company into something we don’t even know

As Hank Hill would say, “What in the Hell”?

In probably the most inane decision I have ever seen from a media executive, Tribune Publishing Chairman Michael W. Ferro announced Thursday he was changing the name of the company who publishes the Chicago Tribune from Tribune Publishing to “tronc”.

That’s right, “tronc”. With a lower case “t”.

I guess they figured “Hydra” (the name of Marvel’s criminal organization) was taken.

This moves comes as Ferro is trying to fend off a bid from rival Gannett to take over the company. In a shareholders’ meeting Thursday (closed to the press, because remember… The Chicago Way), Ferro installed his own board and rejecting Gannett’s latest offer for the company. This may force Gannett to end their bid for Tribune.

Ferro stacked his board with a bunch of flunkies – humans who do what he says when he says it. The moves of course will piss off shareholders, with one already suing Ferro for not looking out for the best interests of them.

As for the name change, the word “tronc” comes from “Tribune Online Content” according to Ferro, who is clearly shifting away from newspapers to digital content. Tribune Publishing, who separated from Tribune Media last year, owns the Chicago Tribune; Los Angeles Times; Baltimore Sun; Orlando Sentinel; the recently acquired San Diego Union-Tribune; and several other newspapers.

Tribune is also ending trading on the New York Stock Exchange and instead trade on the tech-heavy NASDAQ under the ticker TRNC on June 20, the day the name change becomes official.

Straight from the press release, here’s Chairman Ferro on the name change: “Our industry requires an innovative approach and a fundamentally different way of operating. Our transformation strategy – which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital – is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders. Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.”

Wow, what great corporate speak.

Within minutes of the announcement, the name “tronc” was universally panned and widely ridiculed on social media. Yours truly summed it up accurately:

Oh, and the logo was panned, too. But it’s fine – if it were still 1978.

And being the genius he is, Ferro failed to secure the social media rights to the name, allowing squatters to take over. And why not? The squatters are far smarter than he is.

So what does “tronc” means? According to the PR, it means “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

Judging by the stuff I’m seeing in the Tribune lately, sitting around waiting for a shooting to happen in Englewood isn’t exactly what I call “creating content”. Reporting on a murder, a game, or the state budget impasse isn’t the same as being an artist, writing a book or a script, or creating a video game. By Ferro’s definition, criminals, idiot politicians, and Donald Trump running his mouth are the ones who are “creating content” for “tronc”. Ferro has no fucking idea what “creating content” means.

But he sure knows how to “monetize” – or make money – off it.

All of this comes as Hurricane Ferro wrecks another Chicago media entity. Ferro took over the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011 – and quickly made a name for himself. Through his Merrick Ventures, Ferro became the largest shareholder in Tribune Publishing, pushing out CEO Jack Griffin and bringing on Justin Dearborn to take his place.

Michael Ferro, the man who wants to "save journalism. "

Michael Ferro, the man who wants to “save journalism. “

When Ferro was chairman of the Sun-Times, he made several questionable decisions – such as the hiring the dim-witted Jenny McCarthy as editor of Sunday insert Splash – which is now in the Tribune. One year, the Sun-Times featured Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on its front cover – a move which sparked criticism from readers (and yours truly.) Ferro also tried to create a network of websites with the “Sun-Times” name targeted to other cities (Atlanta, Boston, etc.), which fell right on its face and made the local Sun-Times website a nightmare to navigate. Moreover, he outscored national and international news to USA Today – whose owner wants to take over the Tribune.

Then there was the time Ferro fired the entire photography staff – including veteran John H. White, who was one of the first African-Americans to be employed at the Sun-Times. And quite often, the Sun-Times often linked stories to the rival Tribune – something practically unheard of.

In the second (yes, second) “The Sun-Times is a Disgrace to Chicago” article I wrote back in 2012, this is what I said about Ferro:

“The mission is simple: Ferro acts like an evil scientist and in his bid for world domination (or at least become the region’s biggest media baron), he is experimenting to see how much celebrity fluff and irrelevant news items he can stuff into the newspaper, so he can turn readers into mindless zombies. His plan is to dumb down Chicagoans (which is incredibly easy to do), so they can only care about who Jennifer Lopez is seeing this week and which cast member of Gossip Girl they would like to sleep with while corrupt politicians continue to fleece our pockets and the quality of life in Chicago continues to decline. Ferro is kind of like Dr. Clayton Forrester from Mystery Science Theater 3000 – but with even less brains. It seems Sun-Times readers are trapped on the Satellite of Love and forced to watch bad B-movies every day- something the paper is rivaling in the quality department. This Ferro idiot needs to board the Enterprise and go back to his home planet.”

It’s 2016 and sadly, Dr. Forrester Ferro has nearly accomplished his mission, and taking over the Chicago Tribune – whose reputation was already damaged from the previous regime of Randy Michaels and Sam Zell – was the last piece of the puzzle. Idiots like him in charge has killed journalism in our city, at a time when Chicago’s image is still taking a beating from other press. If the Trib or Sun-Times were more influential – you know, reporters who ask questions instead of settling for sound bites – and not punchlines to a joke, would Illinois have a budget impasse right now? Politicians no longer fear the papers – they can do what they want, when they want.

Instead of concentrating on journalism, companies are emphasizing flashier names like “tronc” over the content they “create”, even though the “content” they’ve been creating lately is nothing but bullshit.

Chicago was once a great newspaper town. It isn’t any longer. Hell, even the name “newspaper” isn’t cool enough for “tronc” anymore.

“Hail tronc”.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Ron Magers exits in style

Ron Magers signs off. (ABC 7)

Ron Magers signs off. (ABC 7)

WLS-TV (ABC 7) sent Ron Magers off in style Wednesday night as viewers tuned in en masse to see him anchor his final newscast, earning a time-period winning 10.0 rating in live-plus-same day households according to Robert Feder. ABC 7 Also won the May sweeps at 10 p.m., but finished behind NBC-owned WMAQ (NBC 5) at 10 in the 25-54 demo. Another local media website reported WMAQ beat ABC 7 in the 25-54 demo in several local news time periods, with CBS’ WBBM-TV won at 11 a.m. and saw ratings increases in several news time periods. Of concern for WLS is their 23 percent drop in the key 25-54 demo at 10 p.m.

At 9 p.m., WGN lead as usual, but ratings for WFLD were better than expected with a 2 household rating. Despite the steady drumbeat of negative headlines coming from the city, local news viewership seemed stable, unlike the disastrous May 2014 sweep which saw Chicago stations lose tons of audience from the year before. Also keep in mind Jon Stewart is no longer a factor since he exited the Daily Show last year and neither were the Blackhawks, who were eliminated from the playoffs before the sweeps began.

As for Magers, he anchored solo for the last few minutes of the newscast as he thanked viewers for letting him come in to their homes every night for 35 years. Viewers on social media showed their appreciation with the hashtag #ThanksRon

As of Thursday, Magers’ slots were taken over by ABC 7 veteran Alan Kreshesky, who received an endorsement in a taped promo from Magers.


Mike Parker_zpspjfyqng8While everyone was busy paying accolades to Ron Magers, another longtime Chicago news figure is calling it a career: WBBM-TV veteran Mike Parker announced his retirement a few days ago with his last day on May 31. The 72-year old Parker is one of the last links to the station’s dominant heyday of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Parker had been with CBS 2 since 1980 (excluding a brief WABC-TV stint in 1985-86) and worked for sister station KNXT Los Angeles (now known as KCBS-TV) and before that, was a reporter for KFI-AM. Parker was inducted into Chicago/Midwest NATAS’ Silver Circle in 2013.


SOb0AD4MYou’ve got the job: WVAZ (V103) radio personality Joe Soto has been promoted to afternoons at the urban AC station, effective immediately. Soto replaced the late Doug Banks, who died in April. Soto was filling in for the syndicated talk show host on an interim basis, after Banks died in March. Rather than continue with American Urban Radio Networks’ choice of a replacement,  V103 opted to return the daypart to local programming.

Soto returns to afternoons after he and former co-host Ramonski Luv were bumped to evenings in January 2008 to make room for Banks’ new syndicated show, where V103 was the first station in the country to clear it.

V103 has generally ranked at or near the top in afternoons for years. In March, Banks syndicated show tied for first.


1242-Doing the split again: WWE announced it was once again splitting the Raw and Smackdown brand and moving the latter show to Tuesday nights and converting to a live format beginning on July 19. With a few exceptions, Smackdown had been a taped show, produced two or three days (usually Tuesdays) before airdate. Both Raw and Smackdown air on USA Network.

According to Awful Announcing, WWE plans to hold a draft with some wrestlers going to Raw; others going to Smackdown. Other logistics of the split are still being worked out.

WWE split up Raw and Smackdown in 2002 before reuniting both brands in 2011. Since Raw has been on USA during this duration, Smackdown was on UPN, CW, My Network TV, and SyFy before shifting to USA on Thursday nights this year. Smackdown has been cable exclusive since 2010. 

Hopefully, we’ll see less of the McMahons and more wrestling, but don’t count on it – no matter what side you choose.


The last holdout series from the 2015-16 season whose fate wasn’t terminated by the upfronts was decided – and it came upon the other side of the coin for Limitless, which received its walking papers last week. CBS was reportedly shopping the series around, but found no takers. The series ran on CBS’ Tuesday lineup, but couldn’t hold on to its NCIS: New Orleans lead-in.


Bill giving YOU the fingerBreak out the Dr. Peppers: Cincinnati radio talk show host Bill Cunningham announced Friday he was discontinuing his talk show after five seasons this season. The news comes as Tribune offered Cunningham a three-year contract renewal but turned it down, citing the travel and his desire to see his family more. Cunningham taped his TV show in New York, while doing his radio program for WLW-AM in Cincinnati and a weekly syndicated radio show. Cunningham also sometimes did his radio show from a makeshift radio studio in New York.

As you recall (and I know you do), Cunningham’s TV show came about from his connections with then-Tribune CEO Randy Michaels, who hired Cunningham for his WLW gig some time ago. In July 2010, Michaels and then-Tribune Broadcasting president Sean Compton gave Cunningham a TV talk show. Tribune tested four episodes in a few markets under the name Big Willie produced at WGN-TV- all were critically planned and ratings results were mixed. Nevertheless, Tribune gave the green light and shifted production to New York, partnering with ITV Studios. The program – which featured the type of fare you’d find in a conflict talk show (Springer, Maury, et. al.) – moved to The CW in 2012.

Surprisingly, ratings for Cunningham’s show were good – in Chicago and several other markets, the program finished first in its time period in the adult 18-49 demo. In Cincinnati however, Cunningham was a surprise ratings flop, averaging a 0.4/1 household rating/share, with the CW being regulated to a digital subchannel of a CBS affiliate. The series previously aired on Fox affiliate WXIX, where the ratings weren’t any better.

There is no word if Tribune has plans to replace Cunningham or if the CW would give up the hour back to affiliates. It would’ve been a moot point for Chicago CW affiliate WGN anyway as the CW affiliation is moving from WGN to WPWR on September 1.

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The future for WGN-TV, The CW, and My Network TV

Screenshot of WGN-TV's logo and slogan from the 1980's. (YouTube)

Screenshot of WGN-TV’s logo and slogan from the 1980’s. (YouTube)

After Monday’s announcement of The CW shifting to WPWR, where does these channels stand?

Back in 2008, WGN-TV aired a retrospective of its 60th year in broadcasting. Hosted by Jim Belushi, the special looked back on the station’s local programming such as Garfield Goose, Ray Rayner, and Bozo. Airing on a Sunday night, the special did better in the ratings than The CW fare it pre-empted and pulled in far more revenue.

Hint, hint.

Eight years later, Tribune’s WGN and The CW are ending their association with each other after a decade. Surprised? Maybe. But the relationship was like pairing up Karen Carpenter with Alice Cooper, an uneven match from the start. CW and WGN never were really compatible to begin with, more people associating long-gone shows like those mentioned above with the station, than with any CW program WGN has aired. In fact, the same can be said when WGN was affiliated with predecessor TheWB, though a few WB shows (notably 7th Heaven and Buffy) drew great numbers for them.

So WGN is returning to its roots as a true independent, which it was known for 39 years. The station already has a strong news presence, making up nearly half of its daily schedule (with a weekend expansion in the works) and has rights to the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks – in an era where most non-NFL sporting events are on cable. WGN will be fine without the CW, thank you very much (and sorry Baby Boomers, Bozo is NOT coming back, nor it should.)

Boston is also getting an independent in 2017, as WHDH loses its NBC affiliation to WNEU, a station NBC owns and is currently a Telemundo outlet.

The CW now heads to WPWR, marking the first time a Fox-owned station had an affiliation of the network, part-owned by CBS and Time Warner. CW’s ratings are expected to take a hit, but not without precedence: when CBS lost key affiliates to Fox in the epic New World deal in 1994, ratings for the network declined due to the move to several UHF stations (not to mention the loss of NFL football.) It would take years for CBS to bounce back, though some CBS stations involved in the switch (Detroit, Atlanta, etc.) are still struggling.

While the affiliation immediately raises the profile of WPWR, there are challenges: according to the Los Angeles Times, WPWR is only averaging a scant 0.3 rating and 1 share in total-day household ratings – a far cry from May 1994 when as an independent, WPWR was pulling an 8 share – its highest number ever, thanks to Roseanne reruns and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which aired its series finale that month. Its alliance with the Chris-Craft/United station group (owners of WWOR in New York and KCOP in Los Angeles)  led to major program purchases such as Baywatch and Warner Bros’ Primetime Entertainment Network, home of Babylon 5 and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Along with Chris-Craft, WPWR joined the newly-launched UPN network in 1995.

WPWR was a success story under program director Neal Sabin, who turned the station from a little-watched outlet to a major moneymaker and continued to be successful even after he left to run WCIU when it became a general-market independent station. When the FCC loosened the ownership rules, Chris-Craft was swallowed by Fox and so was WPWR, sold for $425 million – the highest amount ever paid for a UHF station. WPWR now was a sister station to WFLD – an outlet it used to often beat in the ratings. Fox cut costs at WPWR, canceling public-affairs shows and a local children’s program. Fox began using WPWR to dump programming it didn’t want anymore, such as Jerry Springer and reruns of King Of The Hill and The Office.

The MNT era of WPWR-TV.

The MNT era of WPWR-TV.

When UPN merged with The WB in 2006, it left WPWR and many former UPN affiliates with My Network TV – created by Fox as a replacement. The first programming attempt – English-language telenovelas such as Desire and Fashion House, were both critical and ratings disasters. Nearly a year later came low-budget, second-rate programming. In 2009, MNT threw in the towel and became a programming service, airing off-network drama repeats. With little original programming, WPWR’s profile cratered further.

Despite Fox failing to invest in “My50” after all these years, give them credit – they did convince Mancow Mueller to put his radio morning show on its air for two years although the program was a critical and ratings failure.

As of May 2016, the only “A-product” first-run program on WPWR is Family Feud. Yes indeed, the station has a lot of work to do. Fox acquiring better product for WPWR – and not just second and third runs of programming already on WFLD would be a nice start. Having Feud in prime access (6 p.m.) is a plus.

So, where does this leave fans of Mentalist and Walking Dead reruns? It is unlikely Fox would move My Network TV programming to another station, so those reruns will likely wind up in late-night – which is already the case at KCOP, where they shifted MNT programming out of primetime since last September and is airing from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Other markets where MNT programming is being delayed to late-night include Seattle (KZJO, from 1-3 a.m.); Cleveland (WUAB, 11 p.m- 1 a.m.); Portland,Ore. (KPDX, 10 a.m.-midnight); Sacramento (KQCA, midnight-2 a.m.); Evansville, Ind. (WEVV/DT-2 from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.); Alexandria, La. ; Springfield, Mass.; and Lima, Oh.

Is this is indeed a blow to My Network TV? Perhaps. If it does fold, we could see the rise of the independent station once more – after all, finding programming (albeit non-sports) for primetime isn’t as hard as it looks. Moreover, it could give producers a chance to develop programming for primetime again, like it did in the ’80’s and ’90’s. It’s a long shot, but it’s a thought.

The Independents Club: Here is a selected list of true independent stations and the programs they are currently airing in prime-time. Weekend programming (Saturday and Sunday) is not included.

WCIU, Chicago.  Airs a local newscast from WLS-TV at 7 p.m.; sitcom reruns of Rules of Engagement, Family Guy, and 2 Broke Girls

WCUU. Chicago. A sister station to WCIU (known as The U Too, available on Channel 26.2), this station airs Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Hot in Cleveland. Has rights to Chicago Wolves hockey and the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, plus a few high-school football/basketball games and ACC contests.

KCAL, Los Angeles. In March 1990, the station became the first in the country to airs an all-news block in primetime; still does today.

KDOC, Los Angeles/Anaheim. Has Law & Order: Criminal Intent, double runs of Everybody Loves Raymond, and Family Guy.

KTXA, Dallas. Owned by CBS, the station double runs Rules, 2 Broke Girls, and Mike and Molly. Former UPN affiliate. Airs Mavericks games on occasion.

KOFY, San Francisco. Airs The Office and Cougar Town, an hour-long newscast produced by KGO-TV, and Corrupt Crimes and Just For Laughs. A former WB affiliate.

KICU, San Francisco. Now re-branded as “KTVU Plus” (Fox owns both KTVU and KICU), they double run three shows: Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, and Seinfeld.

WPCH, Atlanta. Branded as “Peachtree TV”, the former WTBS Superstation now airs movies followed by Seinfeld

KTVK, Phoenix. An hour of Hot In Cleveland; 90 minutes of local news, followed by Entertainment Tonight. Former ABC affiliate.

WADL, Detroit. A local newscast sandwiched between Law & Order: Criminal Intent

WMOR, Tampa. Reruns of Anger Management, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and The Office. Was a WB affiliate until 1999 when Sinclair’s WTTA acquired the affiliation.

KUSI, San Diego. TMZ, Extra, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and a newscast.

KJZZ, Salt Lake City. Airs Jeopardy!, Millionaire, Steve Harvey, and a double-run of Friends. Formerly aired Utah Jazz games (hence the call letters.) Currently owned by Larry H. Miller Communications (who also owns the Jazz), a sale is pending to Sinclair, owner of CBS affiliate KUTV. Former UPN and My Network TV affiliate.

Joining this list soon: WGN, Chicago, WHDH, Boston.

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The Upfronts Post-Game Show

james-corden-hamilton-2

Give me your Hamiltons: James Corden with the cast of “Hamiltons”

What we learned from television’s most rockin’ week

Now that the parties have been held, the red carpet has been rolled up, and the song and dance routines have been performed, it’s time to get to serious business: sell suckers… er… I mean advertisers on the 42 new television shows scheduled to debut in the 2016-17 season. Yours truly’s thoughts on the overall health of network prime-time TV:

– More laughs this year than last. While NBC and Fox are downplaying yuks this year (and CW continues to ignore it altogether,) CBS and ABC have invested more in the genre, with the Tiffany network restoring a comedy block on Monday nights and ABC doing likewise on Tuesdays. However, the style of sitcom among each network is different: CBS is adding more multi-cams, while ABC is investing in single-camera comedies.

ABC will have ten comedies on its fall schedule- the most in several years. Despite what you’ve read elsewhere, the move to have ten comedies on ABC’s fall schedule is NOT unprecedented. In 1989, ABC had a whopping sixteen sitcoms on its fall schedule. By January 1990, the number dropped to twelve – notably the cancellation of Sunday night sitcoms Free Spirit and Homeroom, replaced by short-lived drama Elvis and – America’s Funniest Home Videos.

– Dramas still dominate. Despite comedy’s inroads, dramas still dominate network schedules: the genre takes up over half of the shows in primetime with eleven of them debuting this fall.

– Reboots, remakes still in demand. Love ’em or hate them, reboots and remakes are still around and three are on the schedule this season. Last season saw the successful revival of The X-Files on Fox and Full House on Netflix, and the forgettable reboot of Heroes, which was an already forgettable show to begin with.

– Unusual concepts we haven’t seen in a long time are being tried out. Give the networks credit for trying something different concepts this year – ABC with Downward Dog (with the story told from the dog’s point-of-view – in color, I hope)  and Fox with Son of Zorn. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this on television – in 1991, ABC had Baby Talk with events narrated from the baby’s POV – just like in the film Look Who’s Talking. The series was critically derided and lasted one season and a half. In 1968, NBC had a Sunday evening series titled The New Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, blending live-action with animation (from Hanna-Barbera), although it was the three kids who were the humans against an animated backdrop and avoiding an animated character named “Injun Joe” every week (I’m not making this up.) The series was later rerun as part of the Banana Splits syndication package.

– Upfront presentations were nasty this year. And boy, were they ever. Fox taking potshots at CBS (with a bald Les Moonves), CBS firing back, and Jimmy Kimmel targeting almost everybody at ABC’s upfronts. Were these shows produced by Randy Michaels? Many online commenters were unhappy with the tone of some of the upfront presentations, which were more concerned about making viral-video and Instagram moments than pitching the crowd on why they should buy their networks. Yours truly doesn’t mind the rivalries – after all, its what makes the business great. But leave the Morning Zoo antics in radio.

Advertising, Television

The CW exchanges WGN-TV for WPWR

cwWGN-TV to drop CW affiliation in September; moves to Fox-owned WPWR

Tribune Broadcasting renews agreement to carry CW programming in twelve markets

Tribune Broadcasting finally renewed its CW affiliations this weekend. But in a surprise move, it didn’t renew its affiliation with WGN-TV in Chicago.

Where The CW affiliation wound up is a even bigger surprise.

As first reported by Robert Feder, WGN-TV declined to renew its affiliation with The CW – in a surprise move, the network is moving to Fox-owned WPWR-TV, currently a My Network TV affiliate and a former UPN affiliate.

The move comes as Tribune Media has finally renewed its affiliation agreements after months of haggling – but only with twelve of its thirteen stations. The long-term renewals include Tribune stations WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and KDAF in Dallas.

Terms were not disclosed. The switch is expected to take place sometime around Sept. 1.

CW was formed in 2006 from a merger between Time Warner’s The WB and CBS-owned UPN, giving Time Warner and CBS Corp. each a 50 percent stake.

The CW deal with WPWR marks the first time Fox has a relationship with the network. The development of My Network TV actually came about when Fox’s UPN affiliates were snubbed by CW to make deals with competing stations. After three unsuccessful years, My Network TV became a programming service airing mostly off-network drama repeats.

The announcement comes as CW unveiled its 2016-17 slate at its upfront presentation last week in New York, with fifteen original programs.

With CW programming airing in primetime, there is no word on if My Network TV’s drama repeats would continue to air on WPWR in another daypart, or another station. WPWR’s current syndicated lineup currently consts of Family Feud, The Simpsons, and The Big Bang Theory.

WPWR also gets CW’s five hour One Magnificent Morning E/I block for Saturday mornings, produced by Litton Entertainment. WPWR would also get Bill Cunningham’s daytime talk show if it returns this fall.

Say so long to "C More 50", or what ever the hell this was.

Say so long to “C More 50”, or what ever the hell this was.

Affiliation switches are rare in Chicago. A network swap between Spanish-networks took place here in January 1989 after then-Univision affiliate WSNS snatched Telemundo away from WCIU. With no other options, Univision signed an affiliation deal with WCIU which at the time, only broadcast Spanish programming on a part-time basis. This would become an issue when Univision bought then-English-language independent WGBO-TV in 1994, pulling its affiliation from WCIU. The Univision swap took place the same year Rupert Murdoch and Fox pulled off the biggest affiliation coup in history, nabbing twelve New World-owned Big three stations, many of them CBS affiliates (22 years ago to this very day.)

Recently, Raleigh-Durham’s WRAL and WNCN swapped affiliations, from CBS to NBC and vice versa.

Meanwhile, WGN is returning to its independent station status for the first time in 21 years. It was one for 39 years before joining The WB network; prior, WGN was affiliated with the now long-defunct Dumont network, and a part-time affiliation with CBS before the latter bought WBKB-TV in 1953 and immediately changed the call letters to WBBM-TV.

WGN plans to air sports, syndicated programming and local news to fill the vacant CW hours. It was frequent sports premptions as one of the reasons CW and WGN broke up, often delaying weeknight CW programming into the weekend or late-night hours.

WGN carries Chicago Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks games. Excluding the latter, WGN had farmed out games to WCIU and later WPWR in order to avoid conflicts with CW programming. WGN can also now bid for Bears games when they appear on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Granted, the move in a win-win for Chicago television viewers. For WPWR, first-run, younger-skewing programming such as Arrow, Supergirl,  Flash, and Jane the Virgin is a huge upgrade from the older-skewing airing now in prime-time – and now run in pattern. Meanwhile, Chicago viewers will be treated to more sports over WGN in prime-time, which generally draw more ratings and revenue than the programming it is replacing.

 

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Fox announces 2016-17 lineup (Updated)

Fox-Network-logo-008Four new series in fall; the rest in midseason.

Editor’s Note: Fox made an important schedule change after the Upfronts took place, involving Pitch, Bones, and Prison Break. This article is being rewritten to reflect the changes. I also have some thoughts about Pitch. -T.H.

Fox released its 2016-17 programming schedule Monday morning in advance of its upfront presentation the following afternoon. Following a similar path NBC is taking, Fox is only premiering four series in fall and the rest in midseason.

Adaption is the key word for many of Fox’s new dramas: 24: Legacy, a Prison Break revival, Lethal Weapon and The Exorcist, the latter two debuting this fall and Legacy debuting right after the Super Bowl – the first time a new show is launching after the big game in several years.

Also debuting this fall is Pitch, about the first woman pitcher in the Major Leagues. This move was made on Friday after the upfront presentations took place, pushing Bones until midseason.

New midseason shows include Mick, APB, Kicking and Screaming, Prison Break, Shots Fired, and Star, a new drama from Empire creator Lee Daniels.

The Prison Break revival debuts on Tuesday nights next spring.

Last week, Fox canceled all of its freshman comedies, and at the last minute also canceled Houdini & Doyle. This is also the first season Fox is without American Idol.

Fall schedule: Tuesday night’s comedy block is being cut back to one hour with Brooklyn Nine-Nine leading off the evening, followed by long-in-the-tooth New Girl and the second season of Scream Queens. Wednesdays has the new Lethal Weapon leading into Empire, while Thursdays has Rosewood on a new day leading into new drama Pitch at a new time. Friday has the pairing of Hell’s Kitchen and the new Exorcist, based on the 1973 box-office smash of the same name. Sundays has a new animated/live-action series sandwiched between The Simpsons and Family Guy called Son of Zorn, as an animated character heads to suburbia.

Mondays and Saturdays (college football and MLB) remain unchanged.

The planned midseason schedule is too complex to explain; it contains many shows coming and going and others switching time slots. To see the midseason (and fall) schedules, click here. (Editor’s Note: will replace with another updated link when able.)

Fox officially announced its schedule at its upfront presentation, which was a show in itself. Fox took no prisoners, taking shots at CBS with Homer Simpson  joining in on the fun. There was even a photo of CBS head Les Moonves altered to make him look like Lex Luthor (or more appropriately, former CBS President Larry Tisch.)

The crowd of ad buyers (mostly in their 20s and 30s) cheered when 24: Legacy was announced, and the trailers for Son of Zorn and Pitch also had a positive reaction from the crowd. The cast of midseason entry Star performed, as did a few cast members of Empire.

The 2016-17 lineup is somewhat of a disappointment, though moving Pitch in for Bones at the last minute is a good move. Despite their much ballyhooed upfront presentation, Fox really doesn’t have much to brag about.

For one, those waiting for another season of The X-Files will have to wait until the 2017-18 season, as the principals behind the show are too busy with other projects, according to officials. This past season, X-Files was ranked second behind Empire in adults 18-49.

Keeping Empire in its Wednesday time slot is fine by yours truly, as moving it an hour earlier would cause concern given its content (in other words, it keeps the Parents Television Council quiet.) Star fills in during Empire’s hiatus – similar to what Agent Carter did when Agents Of Shield went on winter hiatus. How did that work out?

Pitch’s quick move to Thursday is positive – but keep in mind Baseball-themed series have struck out in the past – notably sitcoms Ball Four (1976) and Hardball (1994). Fox is counting on promotion during the MLB postseason (and a Cubs appearance) to boost Pitch – a move that makes sense.

Fridays have similar title premises – Hell’s Kitchen and The Exorcist, though you wouldn’t blame anyone if they were mistaken for show in the same genre.

Perhaps the most interesting show (the only one, actually) is midseason entry Shots Fired, whose premise – a racially motivated police shooting – is quite controversial. But tough topics are seldom ratings winners.

To see all of Fox’s new series trailers, click here.

This post originally appeared on May 17, 2016 before Fox made schedule adjustments on May 20.

 

 

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