T Dog’s Media Notepad: “Agents of Shield” to end run

Plus other items from San Diego Comic-Con. Also: CBS pulls its signals off DirecTV.

The 50th annual Comic-Con gathering took place in San Diego over the weekend (four days in total) and as usual, dropped a ton of big TV news:

– At a Hall H Panel Thursday, ABC Studios announced news we already knew for months: the upcoming seventh season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD would be its last. While the series was never the breakout ratings hit Marvel had hoped, the series grew a core and dedicated fan base, helping keep it on the air (not to mention the benefits of vertical integration) when other series would have been canceled by now.

At a time when diversity is being debated, SHIELD star Clark Gregg noted how having a diverse cast of people from different backgrounds is a plus (below Arrow tweet):

-Marvel also revealed the start dates of a few of its new streaming series launching on Disney Plus: The highly anticipated The Falcon And Winter Soldier, being delivered in the fall of 2020, and Wandavision coming a few months earlier in the same year.

Another highly anticipated Disney Plus series Loki makes its debut on May 7, 2021 and an animated series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe titled What If debuts in the summer of 2021.

– Believe it or not, all the news from Comic-Con didn’t evolve around Disney or Marvel: CBS brought Star Trek to the festivities with several new shows for CBS All Access announced at their Comic-Con panel, including a new Picard series featuring Patrick Stewart, who played the role on Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation for seven seasons.

It was also announced a few of Stewart’s former Next Generation co-stars are also making some appearances in the new show including Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan.

In addition to Picard, CBS All Access has two more Star Trek series on tap: animated series Lower Decks and the next season of Star Trek: Discovery.

You can watch the entire Picard Comic-Con panel here.

-After two seasons on Fox, sci-fi series The Orville is blasting off into a new dimension: Hulu. Series creator and star Seth MacFarlane tweeted the news on Saturday:

Obviously, a shortage of space on Fox’s shelf and MacFarlane other projects led to the decision for the move and delay until the fall of 2020. The Orville was originally slated for midseason.

“We know our viewers are huge fans of “The Orville”, along with many of Seth MacFarlane’s groundbreaking hit shows, and we can’t wait to bring Season 3 to them exclusively on the platform,” said Hulu SVP of Content Development Craig Erwich. “Hulu is a home for the world’s most sought-after creative talent, and we’re incredibly excited to welcome Seth and the entire cast and creative team of The Orville to our Hulu Originals slate.”

Debuting with a lot of fanfare two seasons ago, The Orville hasn’t been a solid ratings performer, but has become a cult favorite among its fanbase, pushing back against negative reviewers (such as this one.)  Hulu is now wholly owned by Disney, who bought the remaining stakes of NBC Universal and Warner Media earlier this year.


You know the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” That exactly describes the absence of outrage (outside of a few on Twitter) – or notice locally when CBS pulled its signals from AT&T’s DirecTV, DirecTV Now, and U-Verse systems early Saturday morning over a retransmission consent dispute, leaving viewers with a notice card on the channel where CBS used to be.

The blackout includes WBBM-TV in Chicago and several CBS-owned stations in numerous large markets and the CBS Sports Network and the Smithsonian Channel nationwide. Certainly, if this were WLS-TV or WGN-TV, there would be more outrage given they have far more viewers than WBBM outside of prime-time; the station ranks fifth locally overall.

Over the weekend, local print media for the most part ignored the shutdown: The dispute was mentioned in a Chicago Tribune sports media article amid the Cubs’ plans to launch a new regional sports network while the Sun-Times didn’t mention it at all.

Already AT&T is in dispute with Nexstar, with their signals off DirecTV in nearly 100 markets, and rival Dish lost Meredith-owned stations in a similar dispute, affecting CBS affiliates WGCL Atlanta, KMOV St. Louis, and KCTV Kansas city, among others.

In one market, three local channels are off DirecTV: Nexstar independent KRON and CBS-owned KPIX and CW affiliate KBCW, all in the San Francisco area.

And if that weren’t enough, Disney’s FX, FXX, and National Geographic Channels, and Fox Sports’ regional sports networks are also being targeted by removal on Dish due to the same issues.

DirecTV and AT&T claim they are “fighting for you” in this BS website they put up, but either way, you the consumer will pay more before once football and the new fall TV season starts in September, they would have no choice to come to a deal as they would risk losing customers to rival services.

Either way, the consumer loses as the cost of cable and satellite continues to rise in a broken system Big Media and their paid-off politicians refuses to fix.

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CBS, AT&T involved in negotiations; blackout looms

A message from DirecTV stating if CBS doesn’t come to an agreement with AT&T by Friday, they could pull their signal from DirecTV and U-Verse.

July 19 is deadline

In what could be the biggest retrans showdown yet, CBS on Tuesday afternoon warned of a looming blackout for AT&T customers for this coming Friday, including those who subscribe to DirecTV, U-Verse, and the DirecTV Now streaming service.

This is big because CBS is one of the nation’s largest broadcasters, and own stations in almost all of the ten largest markets, including CBS-owned WBBM-TV here in Chicago. CBS-owned stations facing blackout in addition to Chicago include those in New York City; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Dallas-Ft. Worth; the Bay Area consisting of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose; Boston, Detroit; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Miami; Denver; Sacramento; Pittsburgh; and Baltimore. In some of these markets, the affected includes CBS and CW affiliates the network owns (ironically, CBS is part-owner of The CW, with AT&T’s WarnerMedia owning the other half.)

CBS also owns stand-alone CW affiliates in Atlanta, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Seattle, but not the CBS stations in those markets. Other CBS-owned channels involved are CBS Sports Network, Pop, and Smithsonian Channel.

As far as Chicago is concerned, a blackout could be tough for WBBM; some viewers already have trouble receiving the station’s over-the-air signal via antenna. The impact on WBBM’s ratings could be substantial: CBS 2 is the least-watched network-owned station in the market. Meanwhile, CBS could lose substantial viewership nationally.

AT&T is already fighting with Nexstar over retransmission consent money; the company’s 100-plus television stations have been blacked out on DirecTV and U-Verse since July 3 as Nexstar is in the process of acquiring Tribune Media, owner of WGN-TV. In fact, the last major retransmission tussle in the Chicago area was in 2012, with Tribune and DirecTV (before they were acquired by AT&T) going it at, knocking WGN off the air and returning three days later.

The last major dustup between the networks and distributors in large markets was in 2013, when CBS pulled their channels off of TimeWarner Cable systems.

While these deadlines aren’t really etched in stone – given in the past we’ve seen extensions, there is a different feeling about the latest impasse as AT&T argues broadcasters are being too greedy. “Broadcast stations are the incumbents to our industry, and many feel they deserve certain entitlements. They continue to give their signals away for free but also demand unsustainably growing fees for allowing customers the convenience of receiving their channels in a usual program guide or without switching an input,” the company said in a statement.

But retransmission consent – what cable and satellite companies pay local stations to carry their signals is something the latter have increasingly become dependent on as ratings drop and advertising revenue continues to decrease. And this comes as cable and satellite continue to lose subscribers as prices continue to rise.

With AT&T telling CBS viewers to use a free preview of CBS’ All Access streaming service among other alternatives listed in the photo above, it looks like fans of CBS programming won’t have their shows available on AT&T services – that is, until the NFL season begins.

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Weigel Broadcasting snares IHSA tournament rights

Brings local high school sports back to over-the-air broadcast television

At a time when WGN-TV is losing rights to major-league teams to cable, one organization has decided to bring back games to local TV.

As first reported Monday by the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois High School Association – or IHSA for short – has struck a deal with Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting to air state title games in football in November and title games in boys and girls basketball in February and March.

The games are slated to air on what is known now as “The U Too”, on WCIU Channel 26.2 and WMEU Channel 48.1 and various channel numbers on cable and satellite systems (with the exception of DirecTV who as of this writing, does not carry The U Too at all.

Beginning September 1, The U Too is being re-branded as “The U” – the same brand currently on the main WCIU channel (26.1) but beginning on this date, becomes a CW affiliate branded as “CW 26”.

CW programming currently airs on Fox-owned WPWR, who also doubles as a My Network TV affiliate. Even though the affiliation change has been known for months, WPWR is still being branded as “CW 50” as there is no word on what WPWR would be known as come September 1.

The U Too has aired high school sports for years, and will continue to do so under “The U”. The station also plans to air Tamron Hall’s new talk show in primetime starting September 9, and beginning September 3, air WLS-TV’s 7 p.m. newscast while CW programming takes over WCIU’s primetime on September 2 (the prior day is a Saturday, a night CW does not program.)

The move by the IHSA to once again establish an ad-hoc network of stations comes as the organization opted not to renew its deal with NBC Sports Chicago, who’ll take exclusive control of Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox games next year while the Chicago Cubs launch a new regional sports network called Marquee. In the past, IHSA games have aired on WGN, WPWR, and WMAQ’s former Non-Stop Chicago digital subchannel (now known as Cozi TV) not to mention Comcast SportsNet, the forerunner to NBC Sports Chicago. This also comes as the IHSA has revamped its basketball tournament system starting in the 2021-22 season, but paired down to only four days.

The new TV deal run though the 2021-22 season, the first year of the new playoff system.

Among the other broadcast groups to air IHSA tournament games include Quincy Media and Nexstar, whose company is in the process of acquiring WGN owner Tribune Media.

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The Media Notepad: 101.9 The Mix, The Drive dominate Chicago radio ratings

Also: Decades finds new station group; FCC votes to modify kidvid rules and strike down San Francisco apartment broadband law

Hubbard Broadcasting continued its dominance of local Chicago radio in the recently released May PPM Nielsen rankings. As reported by Robert Feder, WTMX finished first again, with sister station The Drive (WDRV-FM) finishing a strong second.  The Minnepaolis-based company also swept all key dayparts finishing first in mornings (WTMX’s Eric In The Morning), middays (The Drive’s Bob Stroud and WTMX’s Lisa Allen), and afternoons (The Drive’s Steve Seaver and Janda Lane.) Only Entercom’s WSCR-AM broke the streak, winning in the evening with Cubs baseball on most nights.

The survey was a weak one for WVAZ-FM (V103) who saw nearly a full point drop as the urban AC station tumbled to fifth. Meanwhile Entercom’s Classic Hip-Hop WBMX-FM is closing in at eighth place, gaining two-tenths. There is no doubt WBMX is taking audience away from V103.

Outside of the Chicago area, the biggest surprise in the PPMs was the success of Christian AC WFSH-FM (104.7 The Fish) in Atlanta, finishing a dominant first with a 2.5 share lead over news/talk WSB-AM/FM and easily beating newcomer K-Love 106.7 (WAKL), who finished near the bottom of the ratings.  The station was among six acquired by the Educational Media Foundation from Cumulus, who previously hosted a conservative talk format.


New FCC names…same dysfunction: In a pair of bitterly partisan 3-2 votes, the FCC voted to modify the children’s television rules and for good measure, threw out part of a San Francisco law intended to foster broadband competition inside apartment buildings.

As expected, the FCC passed new modifications to the children’s television E/I requirements, giving broadcasters more flexibility in scheduling the programs as stations complained they weren’t able to air breaking news or other programming because of the rules.

For example in July 2018, only WLS-TV and WGN-TV were fully able to cover a Saturday morning march down the Dan Ryan Expressway as protesters were calling attention to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic as other stations couldn’t due to educational programming commitments.

But that wasn’t enough for Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and new appointee Gefforey Starks, who said even anything flexible would be detrimental to children – especially in low-income neighborhoods (such as those paralleling the Dan Ryan where the march took place.)

Stations can now begin airing such fare at 6 a.m. and can shift some of their E/I programming to their digital subchannels. But they still have to air three hours of programming a week. The move also ensures stations can continue to air local specials such as The Bud Billiken Parade, without having to re-schedule the pre-empted kids programming.

Liberal groups and other Democrat politicians also joined in to criticize the FCC’s decision (including the conservative Parents Television Council), accusing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of putting the priorities of big media companies ahead of children (although these groups were absent when former Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 Chicago public Schools in mostly low-income neighborhoods. Where were they then?)

In another partisan vote, the FCC voted 3-2 to strike down part of a San Francisco law that allowed competition among broadband providers in apartment buildings. San Francisco officials fired back at the agency, saying the Republican commissioners “misrepresented what the law does”, which allowed another ISP to use existing wiring from another company to provide service.  Rosenworcel slammed the Republican majority here as well, claiming the FCC gave up its Title II authority over broadband when the FCC’s Republican majority repealed the net neutrality rules, but now decided to stop local broadband regulation, as Ars Technica reports. 

San Francisco can ask the Republican-led Senate and President Trump to block the FCC from striking down the law, but this is unlikely given Trump has sour relations with the city.

While this seems to involve a San Francisco law, this does has ramifications across the country as multi-unit apartment buildings – which there are plenty of in Chicago – can continue to strike exclusive deals with broadband carriers such as AT&T and Comcast, not allowing any kind of competition. In other words, it’s another victory for already politically-connected apartment building owners and real estate magnates. And the politicians connected to these people already receive tons of campaign cash from AT&T and Comcast, the largest ISPs in Chicago and San Francisco. So much for reform, huh?


Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting has found a new partner for its Decades digital subchannel: Fox Television Stations, who has agreed to carry the channel in twelve of its markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Austin, Tex. among others.

The deal begins in “Q3 2019” – meaning the third quarter of this year, launching no later than October 1st.

“Frank Cicha and the Fox Television Stations have been terrific partners in the Movies! TV Network, and their enthusiasm for joining the Decades affiliate family has been significant,” said Neal Sabin, Vice Chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Co. “We look forward to working with the station group on this beloved network.”

While Fox owns WFLD and My Network TV affiliate WPWR in Chicago, the stations are not part of the deal given Weigel has Decades on its WCIU and WMEU digital subchannels. However, Decades is on the move again in Los Angeles, moving from Weigel’s KAZA-TV.

The deal brings Decades back to TV in a few markets where it was dropped by former partner CBS Television Stations, who replaced it with female-targeted Start TV – also in partnership with Weigel. Decades was on the digital subchannels of WCBS New York and KCBS in Los Angeles until last September when they were replaced by Start, leaving them homeless. Decades moved from WBBM to WCIU/WMEU last September.

Despite the deal, Decades is still looking for homes in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, where CBS dropped the channel and Fox doesn’t own stations.

Meanwhile, CBS announced last month it will launch a new digital subchannel on its O&Os called Dabl beginning on September 9, featuring programming from the libraries of Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. The channel is being run by CBS Television Distribution; it is expected to launch on WBBM’s digital subchannel 2.3.

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It’s HBO…to the Max

Warner Media unveils new streaming service name, but little else

As anticipated for months, Warner Media (the former TimeWarner) unveiled the new name for its new streaming service: HBO Max.

The new streaming service not only features HBO content past and present, but also most content Warner Media has to offer from its numerous brands such as DC, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TBS, TNT, Warner Bros. Pictures, and more. In addition, Warner Bros. produced fare on The CW (which is half owns with CBS) will also be shown on the streaming service.

HBO Max plans an original program slate, including a new Gremlins series and numerous dramas, including four films produced by Greg Beranti and two by Resse Witherspoon.

But the biggest attraction to the service (and the only program anyone really cares about here) is Friends, an off-network sitcom currently streaming on Netflix which will now become exclusive to HBO Max come the spring of 2020 when the streaming service launches. HBO Max reportedly paid $425 million to Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for streaming rights, who like HBO, share a corporate parent in AT&T.

Last year, Netflix paid $100 million to keep the popular series for at least one more year. Its departure certainly did not go unnoticed by the streaming giant:

 

There were many Netflix subscribers who were upset by the news, even though you can find Friends on cable TV channels TBS and Nick And Nite and via local syndication (WGN-TV, who airs it weeknights at 12:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.) – not to mention the entire series is on DVD and on iTunes.

Warner Bros. didn’t exactly detail what other off-network or library programming would be on the service other than Pretty Little Liars and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who successor-in-interest TimeWarner acquired the rights to the NBC-produced series in 1993 since NBC itself could not distribute the show at the time due to the then-fin-syn rules. Notably absent from the announcement were Chuck Lorre’s Warner Bros. shows, such as The Big Bang Theory, Mom, and Two And A Half Men.

Also not discussed was pricing points for the service, but it is expected to be significantly higher than the $7.99 a month Disney’s service is offering, expected to launch November 12. And no hometown discount if you are an HBO subscriber – HBO Max is going to be a standalone product and does not affect HBO Go or HBO Now, as both will continue. In other words, everyone pays for HBO Max.

Warner is one of several studios trying to combat the growing power of Netflix by launching competing streaming services and stripping the rights from them. Recently, NBC Universal announced it bought the rights to The Office from its own NBC Universal Television Distribution for its planned streaming service, also expected to launch next year. It’s all about scale, as the studios try to cash in on the streaming bonanza. The downside however, is for consumers who now are likely to pay for multiple services to get all the best content – which could easily top $100 or so a month, in addition to cable TV subscriptions a lot of households are still paying for (and the taxes that go along with it.)

So why the name HBO Max? The branding is a bit ridiculous, given most of the programming planned for the service has no connection to the premium channel – after all, the network doesn’t come across the minds of many when you think about Friends or  Fresh Prince. But this has a lot to do with brand name recognition, and (sadly) for Warner Media, HBO is a name the most known to viewers – though “Warner Plus” or “WB Shield” (in reference to Warner Bros.’ logo) would have been much better than HBO Max. It’s clear the AT&T overlords value the HBO name than the Warner Bros. one, never mind it’s a brand that’s been around for over 90 years.

Or branding it HBO Max just gives them an excuse to jack up the price.

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Chicago Defender ends print edition; shifts to digital only

Second publication this week to call to quits on print

In a timed day-after-a-holiday Friday news dump, the owners of the Chicago Defender announced the publication is ending its print edition on July 11 and shifting entirely to digital.

The move is not unexpected; numerous smaller newspapers are doing likewise amid a tremendous slump in print as digital has siphoned away advertising dollars.

”Under the print version, we could not reach people where they live and work,” said Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Detroit-based Real Times Media in a statement. “Being a digital -only outlet will help us reach people who live on the West Side or South Side or south suburbs, giving people what they need when they want it. It makes us more nimble.

”We’re really excited to pave the way to the future in really making sure there is a spot in the future for the black press. We have more newspapers than any other black media company in the country. I see this as our responsibility to show what the future looks like.”

Founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott in 1905, the legendary paper gave a voice to the city’s African-American Community, covering issues often neglected by Chicago’s other newspapers. It was also instrumental in encouraging African-Americans to migrate into Chicago from the Deep South as the Windy City had more opportunities. The paper also created The Bud Billiken Parade, a longtime South Side summertime staple that continues strong to this day.

But recent years have not been kind to the Defender and newspapers in general. Sold to out-of-town interests in 2003 amid plunging circulation, the Defender reverted back to a weekly in 2008 after 52 years as a daily publication. Since then, both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune has since increased coverage of issues involving the African-American community.

Also playing a role is a now “reverse migration” of African-Americans from the Chicago area as the market’s black population has been on a steady decline.

This is the second time this week a major name has called it quits when it came to print. Rumors surfaced Thursday night that satirical publication MAD Magazine was pulling the plug on print, but unlike the Defender isn’t planning to maintain a digital presence (MAD Magazine also spawned sketch TV show MAD TV, airing on Fox between 1995 and 2009 and had a short-lived revival on The CW in 2016.)

Earlier, Chicago-based Johnson Publishing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and beforehand sold Ebony and Jet magazines to a Texas-based private equity group. Both titles made the move to digital-only publishing with the former making the move last year as the print issue disappeared from stores and newsstands.

Plans for the Defender’s digital ambitions are yet to be detailed, but their website is expected to be revamped, with a paywall added. As noted here over a decade ago, the Defender’s website was plagued with problems and they would need to stay on their toes if they want to keep the namesake newspaper’s legacy alive.

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“Man” overboard: WGN-TV sinks “Man Of The People”

Elements of series may continue on “non-linear platforms”

Back in January 2018, I wrote a review of Man Of The People urging Chicagoans to “tune in and enjoy the show while they can before Captain Chesapeake fires the man, in reference to the former Baltimore kids’ TV host, who appeared on a Sinclair station whom at the time was in the process of acquiring WGN owner Tribune Media at the time.

Well, the ol’ Captain never got to terminate Pat Tomasulo, but his show drowned anyway as WGN announced Tuesday it was cancelling Man Of The People after eighteen months on the air.

In a message sent out via Twitter, Tomasulo said putting together a show like Man was tough and said some elements may be retained on digital platforms (such as its YouTube page) and thanked viewers for their support.

The series aired Saturday nights at 10 p.m. with a repeat Sundays at 11 p.m. The final first-run broadcast is scheduled for July 20. Tomasulo remains with WGN’s very popular morning news show, which is the most-watched in Chicago from 4 to 10 a.m.

Several issues may have played a role in the show’s linear TV demise: the pending sale of WGN parent Tribune Media to Irving, Tex.-based Nexstar, who isn’t exactly a fan of this type of fare due to its expense; the tough marketplace for weekend television programming outside of sports and Saturday Night Live as viewers typically head for Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming options; and the most obvious – ratings as Man Of The People’s numbers have been cut in half since its premiere.

Another problem is the series seemed to be in repeats every other week, which didn’t help the already low numbers.

Despite these challenges, the series was picked up for a second season – but it wasn’t sustainable. And the cancellation comes at a time when WGN is losing rights to all four Chicago sports teams it had contracts with, including the Cubs and failed to regain The CW affiliation, who skipped out on WPWR to join WCIU.

While the review of Man Of The People here was a positive one (which is actually rare for this site), others gave it mixed reviews. While many seemed to enjoy Tomasulo’s humor, others found him grating and the skits unfunny – even I have to admit some of Man Of The People’s skits didn’t work. Remember Tomasulo’s phony WWE-like feud with Chicago Tonight host Phil Ponce? (of course you do.)

Despite Man Of The People’s struggles, Tomasulo has been drawing crowds with his stand-up act with his next show July 6 in Arlington Heights and recently had a “Man Of The People” night at a minor-league baseball game in Rosemont.

So while Captain Chesapeake and the boys at Sinclair didn’t sink Man Of The People, television’s changing economics did the job instead.

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Tom Joyner announces his successor

Rickey Smiley is announced as the heir to his throne

In a move that will ramifications for local stations Power 92 and Clubsteppin’ 95.1, Tom Joyner announced on his show Friday morning he will hand the reigns over to Rickey Smiley beginning on January 2, 2020. Joyner announced his retirement in 2017.

Currently, Smiley has his own syndicated program The Rickey Smiley Show airing locally on urban WPWX-FM (Power 92), owned by Crawford Broadcasting. Tom Joyner’s syndicated program airs on Clubsteppin’ 95.1, a rimshot station owned by local entrepreneur Lamont Watts. Both Smiley and Joyner are syndicated by Reach Media, owned by Radio One. The move is a bit unorthodox as Smiley is shifting from an younger, urban audience to an older, Urban AC one.

“I’m happy to see the landscape of Urban AC morning radio continue to expand with Rickey, and I’m proud of the doors the Tom Joyner Morning Show opened”, said Joyner in a statement.  “Twenty-five years ago, there was no template for a syndicated Urban radio show and we worked hard to prove that we could successfully produce and market a national platform that would entertain, inform and empower African-American listeners. We broke some ground, raised the bar for what audiences expected from Black radio all while partying with a purpose. Yeah, we’ve done a lot but there’s still a lot left to be done. I’m confident that Rickey’s activism along with his love for radio, the community, and HBCUs, will pick up where we left off.” 

Smiley said: It’s an honor to continue the legacy of my boss and frat brother Tom Joyner. Not only has he been a friend to my family and me over the years, but we consider him family. Tom’s mentorship has instilled in me valuable wisdom that I will carry with me through this new morning show.” 

Also coming aboard are Smiley’s sidekicks, Gary Wit Da Tea and actress Eva Marcille. Joyner Co-host Sybil Wilkes is also exiting along with Joyner at the end of December.

A new morning show is expected to be offered to Smiley’s current affiliates, with current Smiley co-host Headkrack. With the move, Smiley is shifting his home base of his show from Atlanta to Dallas, where Joyner’s show is currently based.  It is not yet known how his move will impact his duties on Fox’s syndicated Dish Nation, where he and his staff appears. Dish was recently renewed for an eighth season and airs weekdays on Fox 32.

With Smiley shifting to an Urban AC format, it remains to be seen if Power 92 would take the new show or go with another option, i.e. another syndicated show (such as the New York-based The Breakfast Club) or fill morning drive with a local host. Ironically, when Crawford had the rights to Tom Joyner’s morning show, it was heard on both Power 92 and Soul 106.3, until the former replaced him with Smiley in order to attract an younger audience (Soul would eventually drop Joyner for a local morning show with former WGCI personality Mike Love.) After Doug Banks’ death a few years ago, V103 (WVAZ-FM) opted to return to a local host (Joe Soto) in afternoons instead of the offered syndicated replacement, a short-lived show featuring Rudy Rush.

Like Joyner, Smiley is a native Alabamian (born in Birmingham) and began his radio career in Dallas in 2004, with Radio One syndicating his show starting in 2008. During this time, Smiley headlined own sitcom also titled The Ricky Smiley Show on TV One from 2012 to 2014 and filmed in Atlanta. Only 37 episodes were produced.

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WXRT’s Terri Hammert to cut back on schedule; leaves midday shift

After 46 years of the job, WXRT-FM (93.1) host Terri Hammert is cutting back on her workload.

As first reported by Robert Feder, the 71 year-old Hall Of Fame radio personality is stepping down from her midday shift in the next few weeks but remain with the station in another capacity, as she continues to host Breakfast With The Beatles on Sunday mornings and to do fill-in work. She explained her future plans with the station in a memo she emailed to her colleagues Monday.

Hammert joined the Adult Album Alternative station in 1973, when the station was still on Belmont Avenue. She became the first woman to host morning drive in Chicago when she was promoted to the position in 1981, and has held the midday shift since 1992. She was inducted into the Radio Hall Of Fame in 2010.

Hammert is also known as a fixture at the Chicago Pride Parade, which she will be at this Sunday on ABC 7 sitting alongside Janet Davies, as she has done for years. The parade is airing from 1 to 3 p.m, and is also being streamed live and archived on-demand at ABC 7’s website.

She still has a following: in May, WXRT tied for fifth among all Chicago radio stations with Hammert’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift making up a good portion of the daypart.

As for her replacement, WXRT program director and operations manger Greg Solk said finding a replacement for Hammert would be a “challenge”.

No date has been set for Hammert’s departure.

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“Press Your Luck” , “Card Sharks” make grand return to TV

ABC expands summer game show slate as game shows regain traction in popular culture

Over the last few weeks, Jeopardy was dominating the headlines with James Holzhauer’s amazing winning streak earning over $2 million over his run, helping earn the show’s highest ratings in years. And though Jeopardy never really went away, the game show genre has had its ups (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) and downs (a game show named after Donald Trump, leading a parade of 1990 failures) in the last three decades.

Consider the time we’re in now a huge upswing.

June 12 saw the return of two classic game shows in prime-time: Press Your Luck, being revived for the third time; and Card Sharks, being revived for the fourth time (this excludes CBS’ Game Show Marathon in 2006, where both were one-time revivals.) These two Fremantle game shows already join several rebooted game shows on ABC’s summer slate, including Celebrity Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid, To Tell The Truth, and Match Game.

This comes as the major broadcast networks are looking for more and more cost-efficient options in the summer months in order to keep viewers from tuning to cable and streaming options. Recently, a rerun of Celebrity Family Feud drew more viewers than many first-run comedies and dramas on ABC such as Whiskey Cavalier.

Of course, all of this started with the success of Millionaire in the summer of 1999 and Survivor in 2000. Since, the networks have chucked the traditional reruns and busted pilots of summer season and filled slots with non-scripted and (some scripted) programming, spawning hits such as Big Brother, America’s Got Talent, and of course, American Idol.

In addition to ABC’s game show kick, CBS is airing new dating show Love Island, based on a foreign concept; and NBC is returning Hollywood Game Night and The Wall.

Both Luck and Sharks have gotten off to decent starts. Wednesday’s episodes drew a 0.9 and 0.8 in the adult 18-49 demo, about the same ratings from a week ago despite being delayed in Chicago over WLS-TV until 1:05 a.m. and 2:05 a.m., respectively due to a White Sox-Cubs game airing in prime-time (this won’t be an issue after this year, as all non-nationally broadcast Cubs games are moving to their new Marquee Sports Network.)

Both new games shows have stayed true to their original versions in a fantastic way, even with Press Your Luck introducing a way too-long bonus round with some unusual prizes (a lifetime supply of SpaghettiOs!) Card Sharks is absolutely nuts, with a raucous studio audience and over-the-top contestants – something not present in previous versions of the show – but it’s quite entertaining. New hosts Elizabeth Banks (Luck) and Joel McHale (Sharks) each have done a wonderful job as emcees.

Ironically, both Luck and Sharks were inexplicably linked to one another. In late 1985, CBS canceled the game show Body Language and decided to replace it with a revival of Card Sharks. But with the network planning to give back the 4 p.m. ET time slot back to affiliates effective September 29, 1986, the network placed Sharks in Luck’s morning slot and shifted the whammies to 4 p.m. Ratings dropped and the show was canceled shortly thereafter (in Chicago, Press Your Luck moved to 11 a.m. before being replaced by the syndicated Superior Court.)

For more on the history of Press Your Luck and Card Sharks, click here and scroll down to the third item.

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NBA Finals see decline in the U.S., but sets records in Canada

Toronto Raptors clinch title, but ratings down as expected south of the 49th parallel

T Dog Media nearly hits viewership projection on target

The Toronto Raptors clinched their first NBA title last week, but for ABC and ESPN, they weren’t exactly celebrating.

But in Canada, Bell and Rogers were popping champagne corks and partying with the Raptors.

Nielsen ratings show this year’s 2019 NBA Finals matchup between the Raptors and defending champion Golden State Warriors were the least-watched in ten years. The six-game series drew 15.14 million viewers, down 19 percent from last year’s 17.6 million for a four-game sweep with the Warriors beating the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James (LeBron is now in the Warriors’ division, playing for the arch-rival Lakers.)

In fact, T Dog Media predicted 15.5 million for the entire series and missed the viewership target by 400,000 viewers (Wow!)

One highlight was the strong showing both Game 5 and Game 6 earned for ABC. Game 5 – the one where Warriors star Kevin Durant returned from injury only to get injured again, drew nearly eighteen million viewers while the Raptors’ clincher drew 18.34 million viewers. But both were down from the last time the game went six

North of the border, it was a entirely different ratings story.

Game six of the series drew a total of 7.7 million viewers combined over Bell Media’s TSN, CTV, CTV2, and RDS; and Rogers’ SportsNet and CityTV, setting records for the most-watched basketball telecasts in Canadian history. As documented here earlier, the Raptors’ television rights were split between the two Canadian conglomerates as both have an ownership stake in the team. This, the rights are split between TSN and SportsNet; each aired three games of the NBA Finals. To reach more viewers, both Bell and Rogers’ decided to simulcast the games on their over_the-air counterparts, CityTV and CTV/CTV 2 respectively (CityTV is the original CITY-TV, Channel 57 in Toronto.)

Viewership grew a remarkable 133 percent throughout the series for Bell and Rogers, averaging 5.13 million viewers for the entire series.

Even though a lot was made about having a Canadian team in the Finals (Nielsen does not measure TV ratings in Canada), the end result wasn’t as bad as many were predicting. Chalk up the numbers due to the loyal viewership the NBA has generated as fans tuned in, no matter who is playing. This certainly wasn’t the case when the Toronto Blue Jays were in the World Series in 1992 and 1993, hurting CBS’ ability to draw decent ratings for the matchups against the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively.

But keep in mind both series drew numbers north of 25 million, outdrawing most World Series of the last fifteen years (with the notable exceptions of 2004 and 2016, of course) including the White Sox’s sweep over the Houston Astros in 2005, which was even more derided by ratings analysts than the Blue Jays’ championships.

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Patti Vasquez out at WGN-AM; expected to run for state senate

Former comedian dropped from station due to misconduct; now she’s running for office

Over the years, we’ve seen former politicians segue into radio talk-show hosts, notably Clifford Kelley, Jim Laski, Joe Walsh, and Ed Vrdolyak, among others.

But now we are actually seeing a radio talk-host running for office.

After she was canned Monday as late-night host at WGN-AM, former stand-up comedian and now former radio host Patti Vasquez announced she was running in the Democratic primary for the 10th District state senate seat, as reported by Politico. She confirmed this Monday on her Facebook page.

The office is currently held by outgoing incumbent John Mulroe and the district covers the far Northwest Side Chicago neighborhoods of Edison Park, Norwood Park, Jefferson Park, and part of Dunning, and the near northwestern suburbs including Norridge, Harwood Heights (both are actually surrounded by Chicago), Schiller Park, and Rosemont.

But while she is an already well-known name (at least in Chicago radio circles), there is one major problem with her candidacy – her tumultuous past at WGN Radio.

On the day she announced she was running for Illinois state senate, Vasquez was fired from the station apparently for misconduct, as reported by Robert Feder. WGN boss Todd Manley gave a terse statement on Vasquez’s status at the station: “Patti Vasquez is no longer working with WGN Radio. Her departure is a private matter and will remain that way. We are grateful to her for her service to WGN Radio, and wish her the best.”

On Tuesday however, Feder reported the reason for her termination was a failure to report an incident where profane language was used at someone when a live mic was accidentally switched on while anchor Roger Badesch was doing a live news report on her show. It was not known if Vasquez was the one using profanity (due to “safe harbor”, the FCC won’t take action since the incident occurred between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.)

Since being hired by WGN in 2013, Vasquez has been suspended twice for numerous incidents, including calling then-mayor Rahm Emanuel in the middle of night and put him on the air without his consent (against FCC rules) and last year when she sent threatening messages to a producer via social media. You have to wonder if any competing candidate – Democrat or Republican – can use these incidents against her as she could be portrayed as one who can’t handle pressure in stressful situations. And her failure to report an incident to her bosses may not build trust with potential constituents, even in a state known for rampant corruption – which voters have made clear they are tired of.

Even though she portrays herself as an “advocate of children and families”, maybe she can also use her platform to address numerous issues in the business including media consolidation, consumer issues, Big Tech (Google Facebook, etc.) abusing their power, and the addressing the problems in the medium she used to work for, including radio conglomerates who are in debt with a few selling out to non-profit bible thumpers while continuing to lay off hundreds of workers each year in order to cut their way to profitability.

But I seriously doubt it.

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No Blues for NHL as Game 7 sets Stanley Cup ratings benchmark

St. Louis boring? Not when their team just won the Stanley Cup. 

Who needs the Chicago Blackhawks?

That’s the sentiment NBC Sports and the NHL are having Thursday in the light of record-setting ratings between teams in the 10th and 21st-largest television markets.

The St. Louis Blues clinched its first-ever Stanley Cup championship (much to the chagrin of some Blackhawks fans) defeating the Boston Bruins 4-1 at TD Garden, avenging a 1970 series loss to the same team (swept 4-0.) The Blues entered the league in 1967 in the first NHL expansion effort.

Game seven of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues scored the highest rating for a non-Olympic hockey game in the United States in the last 25 years, earning a 4.9 household rating and 8.94 million viewers, up 2 percent in rating from the last Game 7 (Bruins-Canucks) in 2011.

You would have to go back to the 1960s and 1970s to find higher-rated Stanley Cup Final games, including a Blackhawks-Montreal Canadiens Game 7 on CBS in 1971 (12.41 million) and Game 6 between the same two teams on NBC in 1973 (9.41 million), both prime-time games. Those numbers are even more remarkable given both games were blacked out locally in the Chicago market (the Canadiens clinched on Chicago’s home ice both times.)

In St. Louis, the Blues’ victory earned a 41.8 household overnight rating and 60 share for Tegna’s KSDK, the highest-rated Blues games in the history of the market with records dating back to 1989 when the market was first metered. In Boston, the game drew a 30.2 for NBC-owned WBTS, down 20 percent from Game 6 of the 2013 Blackhawks-Bruins matchup. It should be noted in 2013, NBC was on a different station in Boston (now independent WHDH.) In a complicated move, NBC shifted its affiliation to an existing Telemundo station on January 1, 2017. NBC and Telemundo share Comcast as a corporate parent.

The Boston rating also fell far short of WBTS’ record, a 55.9 for the New England Patriots’ appearance in Super Bowl LII.

In Chicago, the game earned a strong 6.2 household rating for NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV), the highest non-Blackhawks contest in the market in eight years. Game 7 had no other local sports competition as the Cubs played earlier in the day and the White Sox were off.

Among adults 18-49, Game 7 earned a 2.7 rating, easily clearing the rest of the broadcast network competition, including ABC’s much-hyped premieres of game shows Press Your Luck and Card Sharks (both with an 0.9). But ratings for the duo did give ABC its most watched summer Wednesday (excluding sports) in five years. 

Since 2010, any record-breaking news involving ratings have mainly dealt with the Blackhawks, as the team’s resurgence has helped the league. But since the team’s fortunes have ebbed since 2016 (including being swept in 2016 and 2017 in the first round and being completely absent from the playoffs the last two years), the league has held up fine, as NBC notes this is the most watched Stanley Cup Playoffs in nearly two decades and the most watched Stanley Cup Final since 2015 when the Blackhawks won their last Cup to date against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The entire Boston-St. Louis series averaged a 3.0 household rating, up 11 percent from last year’s final between Washington and Las Vegas.

Ratings from Canada were not available, but it is understood the Raptors’ appearance in the NBA Finals has led to record-breaking viewership numbers for basketball north of the border – making it likely the Stanley Cup Final could be outdrawn by the NBA Finals for the first time ever. Since this post regarding the Raptors’ broadcast rights, both Rogers and Bell Media have made NBA Finals games available on their respective over-the-air networks CityTV and CTV 2, with Thursday night’s Game 6 airing nationwide on CTV.

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Chicago radio ratings: 101.9 The Mix dominates

Hubbard Hot AC station puts on a clinic

The May Chicago radio book showed perhaps for the first time since WGN’s glory days as a local radio station totally dominated, completely bulldozing the competition.

As reported by Robert Feeder Tuesday morning, Hubbard’s WTMX-FM (101.9 The Mix) put on a clinic during the just-completed May PPM survey – not only finishing first overall, but also sweeping the morning, midday, and afternoon drive dayparts by finishing first in total numbers.

Even in the evenings where WSCR-AM led with Cubs games, WTMX was still in the top ten, finishing in a tie for eighth place. In addition, WTMX swept the ratings in the key demos finishing first in adults 18-34, adults 18-49, and of course its target audience of adults 25-54, according to analysis done by Research Director and published by radio trade All Access.

WTMX is a Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC, or Adult Top 40)  station, meaning they play mostly pop hits, but without hip-hop, R&B, and the “bubblegum” pop songs and is targeted mainly to women 25-54. Historically, contemporary music stations in Chicago haven’t topped the ratings charts (with the exception of WGCI and WVAZ) due to WGN-AM’s dominance.

But in recent years, WTMX has surged thanks in part to it’s wildly popular morning show, Eric In The Morning and it’s previous incarnation, The Eric And Kathy Show – and maintained its dominance even with Kathy Hart’s departure.

WTMX is even adding programming for late-nighters: on Monday, the station launched The Mix New Music Club, showcasing new pop music Monday-Thursday from midnight until 1 a.m.

The other big takeaway was in the Top 40/CHR race, leading into the most important time of year for these stations with younger audiences out of school for the summer. After being neck-and-neck, iHeartMedia’s WKSC-FM (Kiss 103.5) expanded its lead over rival WBBM-FM (B96) by a wide margin. Fueling the increase was the surge in popularity of The Fred And Angi show (Christopher Frederick and Angi Taylor) while the new B96 morning show with Gabe Ramirez and Nina Hajian remains stalled at the starting gate.

Outside of the Chicago area, the biggest story was in New York, where the outgoing WPLJ scored a 24 percent share increase from April, finishing in 13th place – their best performance in nearly two-and-a-half years. WPLJ closed its doors at approximately 7 p.m. ET on May 31 handing off the reins to the Educational Media Foundation, who promptly flipped the station to K-Love as WPLJ’s final week (May 27-31, which was not included in this month’s PPM ratings) featured a ton of on-air reunions, including the return of former personality Scott Shannon. The festivities reminded many of the former WLUP’s send-off in March 2018 when they were met with a similar fate. 


For more, follow T Dog Media on Twitter (@tdogmedia) and Facebook. 

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Media Notepad: WTTW exec exits after long run

And… James Holzhauer’s final Jeopardy scores in ratings; Gov. Pritzker honors Rockford local show; Viewers skip Red Line.

The man who helmed the Window To The World has called it a career.

As first reported by Robert Feder, Dan Soles is stepping down from powerhouse public television station WTTW after 24 years on the job. His most recent position was senior vice president and chief television content officer of the position.

The move comes as the station is looking to revamp the station’s focus, including a new strategic three-year plan for both WTTW and classical music station WFMT (98.7 FM.) Exactly what is in that plan has yet to be revealed.

During his tenure, Soles oversaw programs such as Chicago Tonight; Check, Please; and other projects. Soles final day is June 28; a replacement has yet to be named.


Despite an internet leak which saw James Holzhauer lose Monday, Jeopardy scored huge in the overnight ratings, scoring a season high.

As tweeted by a Fox Sports executive, Jeopardy earned a 10.1 Nielsen household rating (no share was posted) coming within striking distance of the game two overnight household rating of the NBA Finals. This came despite Monday’s episode being leaked online Sunday night, which helped fuel rumors of Holzhauer’s defeat. The story was on the front page of several TV trade websites, including TVNewsCheck.

Ratings for Monday’s episode in Chicago, where it airs weekdays at 3:30 p.m. on WLS-TV were not available.

In addition, Jeopardy easily beat game four of the Stanley Cup Final, and a Holzhauer episode Thursday outdrew game one of the NBA Finals in Philadelphia.

Jeopardy executive producer Harry Friedman was not happy about the leak, and said someone performed the action in-house. He said whomever leaked the video would be dealt with.

As you recall, Holzhauer was defeated Monday by Chicagoan Emma Boettcher (you can read the details here on how she did it.) The University of Chicago librarian retained her Jeopardy championship Tuesday, playing almost the same way Holzhauer did.


Can’t wait for Man Of The People’s Pat Tomasulo’s on-air rant on why Illinois isn’t honoring him for his show: a Rockford TV game show has caught the eye of Governor J.B. Pritzker as last week, the state’s highest official praised high school quiz show The Bergstrom Stateline Quiz Bowl, which airs on Nexstar-owned WTVO (ABC) and WQRF (Fox) in the nation’s 135th-largest market.

Also praising the show were Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger and congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

In addition, the show received a proclamation from the State of Illinois, presented by state senator Steve Stadelman on May 17.

Airing for the past five seasons, Stateline Quiz Bowl has had more than 1500 students from fifty high schools across Illinois participate. In addition to Rockford-area schools, educational institutions from other areas who have participated include Peoria, Champaign, Quad Cities, and Chicago (the Chicago DMA borders Rockford to the west.)

“Aside from local news, you don’t see a lot of TV stations producing 40 straight weeks of a locally originated show like this,” WTVO-WQRF general manager Kelly Lattimer told TVNewscheck, who reported this story.

Similar high school quiz programs have aired around the country – most notably It’s Academic from NBC-owned WRC-TV in Washington D.C., who holds the Guinness Book Of World Records for the longest-running game show, dating back to 1961 (a local version appeared on WMAQ-TV aired during the 1960s and 1970s.) Another high school quiz show – this time focusing on African-American culture called Know Your Heritage – has aired on numerous Chicago TV stations sporadically from the 1970s through the 2000s.

This comes as Nexstar is set to close on a deal to buy Tribune Media, who owns WGN-TV in Chicago, where Man Of The People airs. The deal would give Nexstar a presence in almost every DMA in Illinois, though it is not known if there’s any plans to expand Stateline Bowl Quiz to other Nexstar markets once the deal closes.

So is Pat Tomasulo next in line to get a proclamation from the state for Man Of The People? We shall see (not likely.)


Everybody off: The Red Line has reached the end of its line. The eight-hour miniseries set in and filmed in Chicago finished its run May 19 on a quiet note, with a 0.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, far below what regularly-scheduled CBS programming earned in the time period. During its four-week run, Red Line averaged a lowly o.35 rating in the demo, ranking it as one of the lowest-rated series on television. In the demo, Red Line drew fewer viewers than recent shot-in-Chicago flops Chicago Code and APB.

However, the series did fare a bit better among total viewers, averaging 3.88 million viewers throughout it run. But viewership declined week-to-week from 4.8 million in its first week to 3.38 million in its final week.

Red Line had numerous strikes from the start. For one, the scheduling – two hours a week for four weeks at the end of the season screamed burnoff as it really had no chance. Second, the series was on opposite American Idol on ABC, where even a weakened edition of the show destroyed it in the ratings. Moreover, HBO’s final season of Game Of Thrones and Fox’s Sunday night animation lineup also beat Red Line decisively.

Red Line dealt with the aftermath of a police shooting of an African-American doctor by a white cop as its major plot, and it may have hit too close to home as Chicago viewers who simply stayed away from the show, given recent real-life events such as the LaQuan McDonald case and the Jussie Smollett saga dominated the headlines. Despite decent reviews and strong talent behind the scenes (Greg Berlanti, Ava DuVernay), Red Line was quite mediocre, with over-the-top acting and predictable, if not gripping storylines.

Though it was a “limited series” making any renewal prospects slim-to-none, it is off to the train yard for The Red Line, where it would be remembered for very little if anything at all.

(Editor’s Note: CBS officially canceled “The Red Line” on Friday.)

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