The CW changes channels again in Chicago – this time to WCIU

Weigel scores major coup

In a stunning move, Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting Co. announced it has picked up The CW affiliation from Fox-owned WPWR, beginning this fall.

The news was first reported by Robert Feder Thursday morning.

No exact date has been set for the change, but it is expected to set off a chain reaction of programming moves within the Chicago market. For one, WCIU-Channel 26.1 is expected to be re-branded as “CW26”, while current prime-time programming – WLS-TV’s 7 p.m. newscast and the upcoming Tamron Hall show is moving to WCIU’s secondary-channel (available over-the-air on channels 26.2 and 48.1) now known as The U Too, becomes “The U”, WCIU’s current branding.

WCIU also inherits a three-hour Saturday E/I block and a daytime hour filled with Jerry Springer reruns, reuniting the now-defunct trash talker with the station after it departed syndication last September. WCIU is also airing Springer’s new court show Judge Jerry this fall.

In a statement, Weigel vice-chairman Neil Sabin said: “About 25 years ago WCIU became The U and changed the television landscape in Chicago. Now we are embarking on an ambitious plan to once again elevate WCIU and The CW Network’s presence here as a lively and local destination for entertaining and engaging television.”

Executive Vice President of Network Distribution Chris Brooks said: “We are thrilled to partner with Weigel Broadcasting and WCIU, The CW’s new home in Chicago, where viewers can continue to enjoy The CW’s popular, critically-acclaimed primetime programming. The CW has continued to grow with popular shows such as Riverdale and The Flash and our relationship with WCIU is a perfect opportunity to add to that momentum in Chicago.”

The CW was formed in 2006 after a merger between UPN and The WB, who both launched in 1995 (WCIU did carry Kids’ WB programming from 1995 to 2004.) Originally a WB affiliate, WGN-TV became a CW affiliate with the network’s launch but dropped the network in September 2016 to focus more on local sporting events, with The CW moving to WPWR – previously branded as My50 as it is a My Network TV affiliate (Ironically, WGN is losing rights to all four pro sports teams this fall, and now doesn’t have the option to return to The CW.) The CW is a joint venture between CBS Corporation and AT&T’s WarnerMedia.

WPWR’s logo since 2016.

Even though WCIU’s main channel is transitioning to CW26, morning show The Jam and much of its syndicated lineup including Judge Mathis, The People’s Court, and off-network sitcoms such as The King Of Queens, Seinfeld, 2 Broke Girls, and Seinfeld are expected to remain intact (with the exception of Face The Truth, as it was canceled last week.) The U at its new home at 26.2/48.1 is also expected to have much of its programming maintain intact, including true crime shows and local high school sports.

One major sticking point for the relocation of The U: The U Too isn’t carried on DirecTV, something Weigel officials need to address before moving forward.

As for WPWR, there is no word on why the station and The CW parted ways after just three seasons as Fox officials declined comment. CW programming ran in-pattern from 7 to 9 p.m., with My Network TV off-net reruns airing at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Ratings have been a problem at WPWR since Fox took over in 2002, and may have played a role in The CW bolting for WCIU as WPWR was also the only station in Fox’s portfolio as a CW affiliate. Fox recently separated from its longtime studio as it was sold to Disney for $71.3 billion nearly eighteen months ago, leaving WPWR and sister station WFLD as part of a new entity known as Fox Corporation.

There is also no word yet on how WPWR would be re-branded, though many Fox-owned My Network TV stations have rechristened themselves as an extension of their sister stations (for example, WDCA in Washington re-branded as “Fox 5 +”, after WTTG’s “Fox 5”, Minneapolis’ WFTC re-branded as “Fox 9 +”, as an extension of KMSP’s “Fox 9”, and so on.) As for prime-time programming, there is no word on what would replace the departed CW fare.

The affiliation shift proves distribution is still important to The CW despite more and more viewers shifting to streaming from linear TV. Last year, The CW moved its programming in Cleveland from Winston Broadcasting’s WBNX to Gray’s WUAB as WUAB is the higher-rated of the two. Like WPWR, WUAB was a dual CW/My Network TV affiliate but moved the programming to sister station WOIO’s MeTV digital subchannel on January 29.

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Chet Coppock dies in car crash

Legendary sports anchor, radio host, and author was 70.

In news shocking everyone in Chicago sports and media circles, legendary sports anchor Chet Coppock died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a car crash near Hilton Head, S.C. on April 11. Coppock was a major influence on numerous media personalities in the business, and was a one-of-a-kind entertainer who made sports broadcasting quite interesting.

The news of Coppock’s death was announced by his daughter Lyndsey on Facebook:

We lost our father, Chet Coppock, on April 17th due to complications from injuries he sustained in a car accident outside Hilton Head, SC. His passing is untimely, unexpected and painfully sad, but all we can do at this time is remember how lucky we were to have such a unique and creative trailblazer help shape into the adults we know he was so incredibly proud of.

Our father’s wishes were to have a memorial service for friends and family to reflect on good times and to laugh, sharing memories of the past. When we have those details we will share them as soon as possible.

Life is too short and you are never promised another day. Tell your friends and family you love them, you never know when your last moments with them will be. We love you, Dad, and we are so proud of you.

A north suburban native, Coppock got his start hosting a sports show at WSNS-TV and became a staff announcer at WFLD-TV. He later moved to Indianapolis where he became sports anchor at then-CBS affiliate WISH-TV in 1974 and was known as a flamboyant sportscaster, for his outlandish personality and injecting opinions into his reports. He seems to relish in playing the “heel” or villain, in professional wrestling circles (and he did in fact, read professional wrestling results on the air.) He once was an announcer for Roller Derby and participated in Wrestlemania II – and even wrestled at bear at Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena in 1976.

Coppock returned to his home market of Chicago in the early 1980s. Even though his stint as a sportscaster at NBC’s WMAQ-TV was short-lived, he made his mark here as a Chicago sports radio talk show host for various stations, notably at the old WMAQ-AM as his style influenced several current sports radio talk show hosts in Chicago. In addition, Coppock was a commercial pitchman in the Chicago area for Chevrolet, McDonalds, and also appeared in ads alongside Michael Jordan and Walter Payton.

In the last twenty years, Coppock transitioned to author, writing five books – two of them memoirs. Recently, Coppock was touring local radio stations promoting his latest book, Your Dime, My Dance Floor published by Eckhartz Press. Other titles include If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Bears Stories from the Chicago Bears Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (co-authored with Otis Wilson) and Fat Guys Shouldn’t Be Dancin’ At Halftime. Coppock often made appearances with Lou Canellis during his Sunday night sports segments on WFLD.

Coppock was inducted to the Chicagoland Sports Hall Of Fame in 2013.

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Unbelievable! “Crazy” Howard McGee returns to Chicago radio

“Crazy” Howard McGee (right) appears on the now-defunct WCIU program “You and Me” in 2016. (WCIU/YouTube)

The “Crazy” is back after more than a decade off the airwaves

It was back in July 2007 when a stunning development took place – in what would be a symbol of what was wrong with the industry at the time, a top-rated local radio personality was fired from his morning gig, replaced by a syndicated show.

Now a dozen years later, the “Crazy” is back in Chicago radio.

As first reported by Robert Feder Friday, “Crazy” Howard McGee has been hired by V103 (WVAZ-FM) for fill-in and weekend work. He begins on April 20, where he’ll work the Saturday afternoon shift. V103 is owned by iHeartMedia, the same entity who owns urban contemporary sister station WGCI-FM, where McGee was the morning personality when he was unceremoniously dropped by the station and replaced by Steve Harvey’s syndicated show.

The move to hire McGee was made by iHeartMedia director of urban programming Derrick Brown, who is also brand coordinator for iHeartMedia’s urban adult contemporary stations.

The decision to drop McGee by Clear Channel (known as iHeartMedia since 2014) angered many listeners across the Chicago area and was documented by numerous media columnists, including this blog as many of us were trying to figure out why McGee was let go given he was the top-rated morning radio host in the adult 18-34 demo. Even more puzzling, McGee was replaced by Harvey, who wasn’t a strong fit for WGCI’s younger-skewing audience. His departure even raised the eyebrows of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and was a subject of a TV commentary by Bob Sirott (who knows a lot about the subject of being let go.)

McGee told Feder he found out he was fired by reading his column in the Sun-Times, and it took two weeks before Clear Channel finally officials confirmed the news to him. McGee continued at WGCI until July 19, 2007.

Clear Channel had a reputation of replacing local, home-grown voices with nationally syndicated programming or voice tracking talent in from other cities, creating quite a bit of backlash from listeners. McGee being replaced by Harvey was a direct example of the former.

After two years, WGCI returned to local morning programming with The Morning Riot, shifting Harvey’s show to more demo-compatible V103, replacing longtime syndicated host Tom Joyner (now at Clubsteppin’ 95.1.) Since 2015, WGCI has aired a local morning show featuring Kyle Santillian and Kendra G.

Since his release from WGCI, McGee has stayed busy, doing some fill-in work in Philadelphia among other things, and owning several restaurants on the South Side.

McGee’s arrival at the station comes as ratings for the adult-contemporary juggernaut has slid, but PPM numbers released Monday showed the station bouncing back to a tie for third place. In recent years, the station lost Herb Kent when he passed in 2016, and released Ramonski Luv for the second time.

For McGee, his return to the local airwaves is certainly a redemption for him, even though it is just part-time and fill in work. And it’s a smart, listener-friendly decision correcting a mistake previous management at WGCI never should have made.

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Introducing Disney +

“The Simpsons” welcome their new corporate overlords. Notice a picture of Uncle Rupert in the trash can.

The Walt Disney Company unveils its weapon to win the streaming wars

At Disney Investor Day at Walt Disney Studios in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank came the new everyone was waiting for.

The long-awaited Disney answer to Netflix was finally unveiled Thursday afternoon: known as Disney Plus (or Disney +), brings together the major brands of The Walt Disney Company: Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic, and of course, the Disney name itself.

But perhaps the biggest news of all regarding Disney Plus is the availability of every Simpsons episode ever made (with the exception of current season and the Michael Jackson episode) on the service.

In order to get all this information about Disney Plus into this article, T Dog Media has devised an easy question-and-answer format for you:

Q: When is Disney Plus going to drop and how much will it cost?

Disney Plus debuts Tuesday November 12 and has a monthly plan for $6.99, or $69.99 yearly.

Q: But I want ESPN Plus and Hulu, too. Since they are also owned by Disney, can I get them in a package deal?

A bundle plan is being discussed, but nothing has been unveiled yet.

Q: What platform would Disney Plus be available on?

According to the press release, Disney plus would be available on connected TVs and mobile devices, but they didn’t exactly expand beyond that. But it should be available on Chromecast, Roku, XBox One, PS4, and other platforms.

Q: Disney’s brands are being split so I can find what I want. Right?

Yes: Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and of course, Disney. All will have their own portals.

Q: How much original content will be on Disney Plus?

Plenty, but too much to cover here. Among the highlights: Marvel plans three live-action series, Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Loki,and Wandavision; a new Star Wars television series The Mandalorian; a new series based on High School Musical; and a Phineas and Ferb movie. Disney plans to have 25 original TV series and ten original films in their first year.

Q: And all the Disney films too? Including those “in the vault”?

Yep. From Bambi to The Little Mermaid, all Disney animated films (and non-animated too) will be on the service – with the exception of Song Of The South. That’s staying in the vault.

Q: Will Disney plan to have ABC shows (such as Grey’s Anatomy, black-ish, etc.) on the service?

No. All ABC shows and television library product from Disney-ABC Domestic Television and 20th Century Fox Television are available on Hulu instead, which Disney owns 60 percent of. But Disney Plus does plan to have several family-friendly series on the service, such as Malcolm In The Middle , Home Improvement, and The Bernie Mac Show.

Q: No American Idol either?

I hope not.

Q: I hear all of The Simpsons back episodes are being made available on the service. Is this true?

Absolutely! In a surprise move, Disney announced all off-network Simpsons episodes (excluding the 1991-92 season premiere) will be available on the service when it launches on November 12 – thirty seasons and over six hundred episodes in an exclusive SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) deal.  As you can see in the photo above, Bob Iger is their new corporate overlord (and not Rupert Murdoch.) Off-net episodes will continue on FXX, whom Disney picked up in the Fox transaction (off-network recent episodes continue to air weeknights at midnight on Fox Corp.-owned WPWR, who split from its namesake film studio in the Disney deal.) New episodes continue to air Sundays on Fox, but won’t be on Disney Plus until the following season.

What Disney Plus’ online portal would look like.

Q: What about Bob’s Burgers, King of The Hill, Family Guy, etc.

Probably not. Those shows and their full libraries remain exclusively on Hulu.

Q: Can I watch Marvel movies on the Marvel portal?

Yes. Captain Marvel will be the first movie to become available on the streaming service and will not be on Netflix. All Marvel movies – Avengers, Guardians Of The Galaxy, etc. are going to be on the service.

Q: And I can watch the newest season of Jessica Jones on Disney Plus, right?

Nope. Jessica is still going to be on Netflix, as is all Marvel Netflix Universe product for the foreseeable future, despite all series in the universe now out of production.

Q: So Disney joins Netflix in the streaming wars. And more are coming?

Yep: Warner Media is expecting to launch a streaming service in 2020, as is NBCUniversal.

Q: That’s a lot of streaming services. How will I pay for them all?

Many consumers have the same question. With everyone and their cousin launching a streaming service, the costs are going to add up quick. Might want to consult your accountant.

Q: Since it’s syndicated by Disney-ABC, will I be able to watch Tamron Hall’s new talk show on Plus?

No first-run syndicated product from Disney-ABC or Twentieth are available on the service. No Live With Kelly and Ryan, either.

Q: Will I be able to watch ABC 7 on Disney Plus? I would love to see Cheryl Scott on there.

For now, Disney has no plans to put ABC-owned stations or affiliates on Plus. But you can subscribe to Hulu Live to do so.

Q: No Cheryl Scott? Come on man. 

But you can watch all the Hannah Montana and That’s So Raven you want.

Q: Wow, what fun.

That’s not a question. But there’s a lot more to discover on Disney Plus. Otherwise, they wouldn’t sink two billion dollars into this venture.

Q: Two billion? Wow! The original programming better be damn good.

For Disney’s sake, it better be.

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Johnson Publishing to end 77-year run

Legendary Chicago publisher files Chapter 7

The end of the line has come for one of Chicago’s most iconic publishers.

Johnson Publishing Co. announced Tuesday it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, equal to the death penalty in the business world. The move comes as the company was unable to restructure its debt.

The company sold its trademark Ebony and Jet magazines to private-equity firm Clearview Group in 2017 but kept its vast photo archive and the Fashion Fair cosmetics line.

In the bankruptcy filing, creditors listed include former CEO Desiree Rogers and retailers such as Macy’s; in fact, Fashion Fair products started vanishing from stores in recent months. The company also failed to receive full payment from Clearview, who had its own problems as several freelance Ebony writers sued the company for non-payment. Even though the magazines aren’t affected by the bankruptcy filing, their future is up in the air.

Being sold in the bankruptcy filing are Fashion Fair and the photo archive.

The bankruptcy closes the book on Johnson Publishing after 77 years, founded by John H. Johnson who died in 2005 (I have more on Johnson Publishing’s history and their most recent woes in an article I wrote two years ago when the company sold the magazines.)  In recent years, Ebony – the only print product left in the company’s portfolio – has become less visible in retail outlets, even in African-American areas.

Until recently, Linda Johnson Rice was chairman emeritus of Johnson Publishing, but stepped down from the role. Rogers was reduced to a less viable role in the company, basically overseeing Fashion Fair as she left shortly thereafter. Johnson Publishing also had trouble overseas, filing for bankruptcy protection in the United Kingdom last year to fend off an angry creditor. In the States, Johnson is facing lawsuits over non-payment with many cases still pending.

Johnson Publishing now joins a list of media companies who have vanished from the Chicago area in last two decades, through relocation or dissolution. Among those include Harpo Productions and Playboy Enterprises (each relocated to Los Angeles); and soon, Tribune Media, whose sale to Irving, Tx.-based Nexstar is pending.

 

 

 

 

 

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Indianapolis TV station sale makes history

DuJuan McCoy.

First African-American owner in Indianapolis media; buys Nexstar stations

A week after Lori Lightfoot made political history as being the first African-American woman and the first openly gay person to be elected mayor, there was history made in Indianapolis – in media.

Nexstar announced Monday it sold CW affiliate WISH and My Network TV affiliate WNDY to Circle City Broadcasting for $42.5 million, led by Indianapolis native DuJuan McCoy. A graduate of Butler University, he becomes the first African-American to own and operate a television station in the Indianapolis market.

According to the Indianapolis Star, McCoy stated “Words cannot express how overjoyed I am to be able to come full circle and own WISH and WNDY in my hometown of Indianapolis! This is a dream come true for me.”

Much has been made about the lack of minority ownership in media – especially in television, where less than one percent of owners are African-American. It’s a problem dating back decades, escalated by the elimination of the minority tax certificate in 1995, giving people of color tax breaks when buying TV stations.

McCoy began his career at then-independent WTTV in 1989 as an account executive. McCoy is also owner of Bayou City Broadcasting, who owns stations in Evansville and Lafayette, La. (hence the “Bayou” name.) Bayou owned a few Texas stations and sold them in 2012 for seven times what they’re worth.

The deal is necessary for Nexstar as the company is buying Tribune Broadcasting for $4.1 billion. Nexstar already owns WISH/WNDY and would purchase CBS affiliate WTTV and Fox affiliate WXIN, both owned by Tribune. Since the FCC won’t allow Nexstar to own all four stations in the market due to anti-trust concerns, they had to sell two stations. But in a wrinkle, Nexstar is hoping the FCC lets them keep WTTV and WXIN, as both are among the top-rated stations in Indianapolis with Dispatch Broadcasting-owned NBC affiliate WTHR as the market leader. The FCC typically bars the two “top four”rated stations in a market in the ratings, but would decide on a “case-by-case” basis.

“The proposed sale of two stations in Indianapolis marks another important step forward towards completing the Tribune Media transaction and the last piece of the divestiture component of Nexstar’s comprehensive regulatory compliance plan.”, said Nexstar CEO Perry Sook in a statement. Nexstar has already announced some divestitures, including selling some stations to Tegna and Scripps – the latter getting New York’s WPIX in a deal.

Their is no mention of Circle City being a “sidecar” company, meaning McCoy will operate the station, not Nexstar in some sort of “joint sales agreement”.

Once the top-rated station in Indianapolis, WISH lost its longtime CBS affiliation to WTTV in 2014, a one-time independent station who had ties to NBC, ABC, UPN, WB, and CW networks at one time or another. WISH did gain the CW affiliation, but its longtime parent company (LIN Broadcasting) was sold to Media General, then was swallowed by Nexstar.

The last minority-owned television station in a major market was held by Roberts Broadcasting, an African-American headed company who owned WRBU-TV in St. Louis and was sold to Ion in 2013.

Hopefully, we’ll see more of these kind of transactions going forward. The industry benefits when there is more racial diversity in the business. And even better, not run by a media conglomerate in some kind of “sidecar” deal.

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Lori Lightfoot becomes Chicago’s next Mayor

Although Chicago TV viewers skipped out on election coverage, history was made Tuesday night

After numerous debates (too many in this person’s opinion), and enough rhetoric to keep Chicagoans engaged (or repelled), history was made Tuesday as Lori Lightfoot was elected Chicago’s first African-American female mayor.

Lightfoot faced current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in a runoff election for The Race To Replace Rahm, as the current mayor announced last September he would not run for re-election. Both women finished as the top two vote-getters in February’s election in a crowded field of fourteen candidates.

The last five weeks featured numerous debates with seven of those moderated by local media outlets. But in the end, it was Lightfoot who completely put on a clinic against Preckwinkle – winning with a whopping 73 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory for a mayoral candidate since 2003 winning all 50 wards.

It was a triumph for Lightfoot, who hails from Massillion, Ohio, which is 20 miles south of Akron and a few miles west of Canton, home to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Lightfoot is not only the first African-American elected mayor of Chicago since Harold Washington in 1983 (and the first overall since 1989) and the first female mayor since Jane Byrne won in 1979, but also the first openly gay mayor in Chicago’s history.

The history-making nature of the event however, didn’t exactly translate to a large number of Chicago-area viewers rushing to their TV sets to watch election results as voter turnout was quite low. In fact, the race was called early (by 7:45 p.m.), removing any suspense. As noted by Robert Feder, Tribune-owned WGN-TV won the evening in prime-time among the key 25-54 news demo, with WGN leading all stations with an above-average 6.7 household rating at 9 p.m. With the exception of airing of Lightfoot’s victory speech just after 9 p.m. on the city’s major news stations, the network O&Os mainly stuck with their regular schedules.

At 10 p.m., the ratings lead shifted to ABC-owned WLS-TV, but most of the local stations opted to terminate coverage by 11 p.m. since Lightfoot had the election in the bag and the other local races weren’t exciting or titillating enough.

With Lightfoot taking over from Emanuel, she has her work cut out for her – dealing with a looming pension crisis, a possible public school teacher work stoppage, a declining populace, and violent crime – not to mention continuing fallout from the Jussie Smollett case which unfortunately, is dividing the Chicago area among racial lines – or as the local media is making you believe.

It’ll be interesting to see how she approaches all of these problems, but her plans already show promise compared to the previous administration, whose main mission was to whore themselves out to CNN and make the city worse in the national spotlight than it was already – not to mention the LaQuan McDonald case. Lightfoot might be the superhero rescuing from the evil clutches of corruption, but it’s the mess left behind by Rahm Emanuel she has to clean up.

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“Page Six TV” to end run

Syndicated gossip show dropped after two seasons

As first reported by Broadcasting & Cable, syndicated gossip Page Six TV was canceled Friday after two seasons.

Based on the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column, featured Post reporter Carlos Greer, comedian Bevvy Smith, and Variety reporter Elizabeth Wagmeister. The show was originally hosted by John Fugelsang, but departed early in its run.

Page Six TV has aired at 2 p.m. over Fox-owned WFLD since expanding nationwide in September 2017, where it remains today. The series was tested by several Fox-owned stations in the summer of 2016, though WFLD was not among them.

A secondary run airs in an overnight time slot on WFLD sister station WPWR.

The New York Post is owned by News Corp., the one-time owner of Page Six TV’s Twentieth Television before the company split into two as News Corp. (owner of the Post and Wall Street Journal) and 21st Century Fox, who owned Twentieth; the Fox-owned stations; and the film studio. In December 2017, the television and film properties of 21st Century Fox were sold to The Walt Disney Company, excluding the owned-stations, Fox, Fox News, FS1, and FS2 who form the nucleus now known as Fox Corporation.

Producer Endemol Shine North America opted not to continue the series as a result of Twentieth’s sale to Disney as its option on the series expires in September. Low ratings also played a role in the show’s demise: Page Six TV ranked seventh among entertainment newsmagazines in a field of eight among households. The show on average drew 900,000 viewers a day.

Page Six TV also was impacted by the Fox-owned stations’ decision to poach Warner Bros.’ Extra from NBC-owned stations in several markets, including New York; Los Angeles; and Dallas (Extra moved to WFLD in 2016 after NBC-owned WMAQ declined to renew.) Extra is expected to fill those slots being vacated by Page Six.

The cancellation comes as plans on what happens with Twentieth under Disney is now taking shape. Earlier this week, Debmar-Mercury made a deal with CBS Television Distribution to sell barter advertising time in their syndicated shows including Family Feud, Wendy Williams, and Caught In Providence, replacing Twentieth in the role.

The cancellation leaves Twentieth with two long-running shows left on the bubble: Dish Nation and Divorce Court, both long shots to return given each series’ contracts are up and new owner Disney isn’t in the syndicated court or newsmagazine business. In January, Twentieth canceled Top 30 after a season-and-a-half due to low ratings and anemic time slots. Like Page Six, Top 30 was tested on several Fox-owned stations in 2016 before rolling out in syndication the following year.

Remaining in production for the rest of this television season and through the summer, Page Six TV’s final airing is scheduled for September 13.

 

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Media Notepad: 103.9 The Fox ends run as bible thumpers take over

Also: Sun-Times sees ownership shift; AAF ends its run quickly; Pickler & Ben to exit

The bible thumpers strike again: Beginning Monday, Fox Valley-based WFXF-FM – better known as The Fox 103.9 – will turn the keys over to the Educational Media Foundation (EMF) as the station flips from Classic Rock to Christian Music. As a result, the station’s on-air personalities including Eddie Volkman, Alex Quigley, and Patrick Capone are out.

Former owner Matrix Broadcasting sold the station to Alpha Media, who in turn sold WFXF to EMF back in February for a mere $900,000, ending the station’s 51-year run as a commercial broadcaster – the last six as Fox 103.9. Among the notable names who worked at the station was Cara Carriveau, when WFXF was known as “The Wabbit”.

With EMF taking over April 8, Fox 103.9 is moving up its “Adult Easter Egg Hunt”. Originally scheduled for April 19, the event has now been moved up to this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

The move continues a trend of non-profit religious organizations – notably EMF, buying up stations across the country. Recently, EMF made a deal with Cumulus to purchase heritage WPLJ-FM in New York and WRQX-FM in Washington, D.C. (both former ABC radio stations, expanding their reach for their “K-Love” Christian Music format. Last year, EMF purchased the former WLUP-FM (The Loop) here in Chicago, ending its run as a rocker after 41 years. The same month, EMF announced the purchase of WSHA-FM, a jazz station run by the historically black Shaw University of in Raleigh, N.C.

Also in March 2018, Bible Broadcasting purchased 99.9 FM in Park Forest, the one-time home of Nine-FM, WBUS-FM, and progressive talk WCPQ-FM.

EMF is expected to rename the station’s call letters as WAWY-FM and flip to EMF’s Air 1 format, a younger-skewing version of K-love.


It appears the labor era at the Chicago Sun-Times is over. Two prominent investors of the paper have taken over financial control: current Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and CGM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks, who is head of the financial services company. A new entity was also formed (Sun-Times Investment holdings) and is being chaired by former Chicago Federation of Labor head Jorge Ramirez, who know works for CGM Grosvenor.

The Chicago Federation of Labor was among a consortium headed by former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath who bought the paper just two years ago after former owner Wrapports put it up for sale, outbidding Tronc (now known as Tribune Publishing). Shortly thereafter, the Sun-Times moved their headquarters to the West Loop. Eisendrath departed the consortium last Halloween after some controversial moves, including  launching a questionable “save-the-paper” campaign featuring a front page with a blank canvas, akin to public television pledge drives.

Of note is Wirtz and Ramimez were investors in Wrapports when the paper was sold in 2017. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.


While the fates of several syndicated shows on the bubble won’t be decided until at least June, two existing shows were shown the door: Scripps’ Pickler & Ben and Twentieth’s Top 30.

In a conference call with investors, Scripps officials said it wouldn’t bring back Pickler & Ben for a third season. After its first season exclusively airing on Scripps-owned stations, the broadcast group hooked up with Disney/ABC to syndicate the show in the rest of the country for its second season. But with Disney/ABC concentrating on launching Tamron Hall’s talk show this fall, the two partners decided to part ways.

Scripps could have found another syndicator, but opted to end the show as key slots were gobbled up by Hall and Kelly Clarkson’s new show. The decision also does not bode well for Steve Harvey as he is losing his cushy NBC-owned slots to Clarkson. In the most recent ratings report, Steve was up in the ratings week-to-week.

In Chicago, The U Too aired Pickler & Ben at 10 a.m. and on the digital subchannels of the ABC O&OS, including WLS-TV whom for the most part, air reruns of former Live Well shows.

As for Top 30, the series quietly ended its run at the end of January. Starting out as a test run on several Fox-owned stations in 2016, Top 30 launched nationally in 2017 but in the last year, aired in less desirable time slots. In Chicago, Top 30 aired in an overnight slot on WPWR-TV.

With Disney taking over Twentieth Television as part of the $71.3 billion deal announced in December 2017, contracts are up this September for Divorce Court and Dish Nation, not to mention Disney’s own Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Right This Minute. A decision on the future of all four are expected either later this spring or this summer.


CBS, TNT, and the NFL Network are scrambling to fill some holes in their schedules after the Alliance of American Football, or AAF, unexpectedly folded on Tuesday. CBS was expected to air a game this Saturday leading into their Final Four coverage, a playoff game on April 21, and the Championship Game on April 27. The closure comes after just eight games, failing to complete their first season.

The league’s collapse came after a major investor pulled his funding. Carolina Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon made the move after he was unable to come to an agreement with the NFL and the NFLPA over using some of their practice squads for the league. Dundon invested in the league only after the first few days when the AAF needed some money to stay afloat.

The AAF debuted on February 9 with a San Diego-San Antonio game, and drew nearly three million viewers for CBS and even beat a competing NBA game on ABC despite the telecast being plagued with technical glitches and numerous sound drop-outs. Subsequent games aired on TNT, NFL Network, and CBS Sports Network, where the first two networks (CBS SN isn’t related) averaged around 500,000 viewers per game, decent by sports cable TV ratings standards. Gameplay was also decent, but scoring was low and attendance at home games were sparse at best. But AAF games did give those cable networks fresh, live programming to air.

CBS nor Turner Broadcasting didn’t have any financial stake in the league, so any losses were minimal.

The AAF did not have a presence in top media markets such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, but had teams in cities such as the aforementioned San Diego and San Antonio, and Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Birmingham, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix. The AAF is the latest football league to fail, following the World Football League, USFL, and the XFL, who plans to make a comeback next year.

 

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Jussie Smollett isn’t in the clear yet – and poses a headache for “Empire”

The fallout from the closure of  the Smollett case is posing a problem for Empire and Fox

If the fallout from the Jussie Smollett case is any indication, he might not want to celebrate just yet. In fact, his case may have far-reaching implications than anyone thinks.

Smollett’s charges stemming from an alleged hoax of his hate crime were dropped Tuesday, surprising and stunning the city and the nation. In this space, I pointed out the problems for Empire and Smollett could be behind them and Empire’s chances of renewal – a bubble show – increased.

Or so we thought. The intense backlash – especially from conservatives –  may have newly Disney-owned 20th Century Fox Television officials rethinking their stance. And Smollett returning to Empire as if nothing ever happened isn’t as simple as you think.

For one – even though the charges were dropped, Smollett still faces charges of mail tampering. And there are numerous calls for a FBI investigation into the case, not only into Smollett, but also the Cook County State Attorney’s office headed by Kim Foxx. And the prosecutor who was forced to drop those charges is now saying he believed Smollett lied to police. “We believe he did what he was charged with doing,” prosecutor Joe Magats  said. “This was not an exoneration. To say he was exonerated by us or anyone else is not true.”

Even though most conservatives don’t watch Empire, there was considerable backlash from the decision. Just last week, Fox separated from the studio producing Empire as it became the property of Disney in a $71.3 billion deal announced in December 2017. The ultra-conservative Fox News Channel is the crown jewel of the new Fox Corporation, and you wonder if Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are watching this reaction very closely.

“Empire” is still on the bubble for fall 2019.

Rupert Murdoch has made calls on shows before: In 1999, he ordered the drama Manchester Prep shut down before it aired a single episode, and reportedly had a hand in canceling syndicated game show Studs in 1993. Of course, he did let The Little Groom and Who Wants To Marry A Multimillionaire go on the air.

Despite ratings declines, Empire is still one of the top-rated series in black households while Fox News Channel is the top-rated cable network with opinion shows from Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity drawing nearly four million viewers a night on average – topping virtually everything on The CW and many shows on the major broadcast networks. If Smollett returns to the show, do you really think Murdoch isn’t going to throw him and Empire under the bus? Do you really think Rupert Murdoch values African-American viewership more than his predominately white, conservative Fox News base? If you answered yes to these two questions, seek medical attention immediately.

Also keep in mind Fox renewed two shows from its former studio on Monday – 9-1-1 and The Resident, bypassing Empire entirely – a show whose ratings in the 18-49 demo continues to decline and the Smollett controversy hasn’t helped. And Fox affiliates would be very concerned as they certainly don’t want the headache.

And the controversy also could impact production not only on Empire, but every show filming in Chicago. On Tuesday, a state representative announced what is called “outrage legislation” – eliminating tax credits from any production Smollett is in here in Illinois, should he return to the show. While you can say this idiot politician, who represents a wide section of Chicago’s Northwest Side – home to scores of police officers and firefighters – his proposal is telling, given many in Hollywood and in the arts and creative communities have been outspoken against police brutality and are involved in other social issues.

Smollett has support from them and if this legislation passes, it could discourage future projects from filming in Chicago. The legislation was introduced on the same day the Writer’s Guild announced their opposition to a new Georgia abortion bill, which could discourage projects from filming in that state. Tax credits are meant to stimulate film and TV production, but have been controversial in nature.

And I won’t talk about Chicago’s image problems resulting from Smollett – been there, done that. I’ll only waste more of your time and mine since I’ve written about them in this space for over ten years. If you’ve read this blog during this span of time, then you know damn well how Chicago (the city’s radio in particular) and the media business is run. They’re inseparable at this point.

Anyone who thinks this Smollett crap is over is only fooling themselves. Oh yes, the real fun is just beginning – for both Chicago and Hollywood, two entities conservatives despise the most.

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Charges dropped against Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett walks out of the Cook County Courthouse after all charges against him were dropped. (Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Prosecutors abandon case, many questions remain

In a strange twist of fate, charges against Empire cast member Jussie Smollett were dropped Tuesday morning in a move stunning everybody.

Smollett claimed he was attacked by two people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats on the morning of January 29, and said the men put a noose around his neck. Many felt there were inconsistencies in his story and Smollett later gave a raucous interview to Good Morning America where he defended himself. A few days later, Smollett was charged with a felony for what officials believing he staged the attack. Speculation centered on two Nigerian brothers who some believe Smollett paid to orchestrate the attack.

But on Tuesday, all of those charges were dropped by Cook County prosecutors in a confusing decision. In a statement inside of the courthouse, Smollett thanked family, friends, and fans for their support, and also thanks the state of Illinois for “doing what’s right”.

It turned out Smollett did some community service with the Rainbow/PUSH coalition for a few days leading to some speculation he might have admitted guilt, but stood by his story.

The decision to drop charges did not sit well with Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and a visibly angry Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying it was a “whitewash of justice”.

A joint statement by Empire producer 20th Century Fox Television and the Fox network stated: “Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed.”

20th Century Fox Television officially separated from its former Fox network sibling last week as The Walt Disney Co.’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox was finalized.

The decision of the Cook County State Attorney’s Office to drop charges is questionable – especially after the person who runs the office (Kim Foxx) decided to recuse herself from the case.

With his legal troubles mainly behind him, Smollett is cleared to return to work on Empire, which wrapped up filming on its fifth season last week. However, ratings for the show lost considerable steam since it returned from its winter hiatus, dropped to another series low in the 18-49 demo last Wednesday (1.1).

On Monday, Fox renewed two dramas: 9-1-1 and The Resident – but not Empire. But with the Smollett case closed, a major hurdle was removed in terms of a sixth-season renewal. Even though ratings are down, the series’ ratings are on par with most prime-time series on broadcast network television. So while Empire is down, it is definitely not out.

(Editor’s note – The time and date of Jussie Smollett’s attack were incorrect in an earlier version. – T. H.)

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T Dog’s Think Tank: Televised mayoral “forums” a disservice to voters

In a joke of an mayoral election, the local stations are treating it like one

I’m wondering where I can go to buy a T-shirt for the Preckwinkle/Lightfoot concert tour.

Because judging by the way the media strategy is for this mayoral race, it sure looks like one. The only difference is you can’t boo the opening act because there isn’t one.

As you know, mayoral hopefuls Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot are competing to become the first African-American woman to occupy the fifth floor of City Hall. But the way to watch the candidates debate the issues has been quite orthodox.

Unlike Presidential campaigns where the major networks simulcast at least three debates, both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot decided to “tour” local TV stations to debate – one by one, making this seem more of a “press junket” more than anything else.

This week, three local stations – Tribune’s WGN-TV, Fox’s WFLD-TV, and CBS-owned WBBM-TV plan to run these “mayoral forums” where a news anchor or political editor moderates a discussion between the two candidates. In the last three weeks, both made stops at NBC-owned WMAQ-TV, ABC-owned WLS-TV, and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

There are many problems with the way this format is set up. For one, promotion for some of these “forums” are nearly non-existent. WMAQ held the first of these forums earlier this month, but wasn’t promoted as heavily (I didn’t know there was one scheduled for the evening of March 8 until after the forum took place.)

Second, the number of “forums” are way too much. While I guess you can welcome as many opportunities as possible for Lightfoot and Preckwinkle to debate the issues, you run a risk of the candidates becoming repetitive.

Third, the scheduling of these forums airing are completely asinine. While I understand we live in an era of “on-demand” streaming and DVR use, scheduling them in the “prime access” hour (6-7 p.m.) is quite inconvenient for many people who are just getting home from work. Older viewers – the ones who most likely to vote – are also less technology-savvy, preferring to watch TV live rather than seek something out online. Moreover, local TV news websites aren’t exactly hot destinations for young voters (and their video players for the most part, don’t work very well.) Of the six stations, only WGN-TV and WTTW scheduled the mayoral forums in prime-time, between 7 and 8 p.m.

But you also have to question the lack of cooperation between the city’s TV stations as the reasons for so many of these forums. They’ve partnered before in carrying mayoral debates, most recently in 1989. So what’s different now? I guess you can chalk it up to the continuing deregulation of the media business, where stations don’t have to meet public interest obligations as much as they did in the past. Plus, given the competitive nature of the television business here, partnering on debates is obviously out of the question.

And you thought the two candidates didn’t like each other.

In addition, suburban and northwest Indiana viewers – who comprise more than 60 percent of the Chicago DMA – aren’t as interested in the Chicago mayoral race, and wouldn’t like their prime-time programming pre-empted – even in an era of streaming and delayed viewing.

The format of these “forums” or “debates” have been lackluster and aren’t giving voters the information they need to educate themselves to make a choice. What we’ve seen so far between the two candidates in these forums – especially the first one – leaves very little to be desired, but understandable in today’s current political climate if the 2016 Presidential race and the 2018 Governor’s race were any indication. And true to Chicago tradition, other politicians and pundits have used the issue of race to divide Chicagoans – even in a contest pitting two black women, coming off as an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta more than anything else (I actually used this trope a few years ago, when I suggested a then-cast member join Rahm Emanuel’s administration.)

Perhaps the best thing is the lack of TV advertising, with Preckwinkle’s decision to scale back. But in one of the most bizarre campaign ads in recent memory, a Lightfoot commercial features her daughter acting up in the background. With poor poll numbers, Preckwinkle might want to consider featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, and Charles Barkley from Capital One in her next political ad.

In a city having trouble dealing with education, financial issues, and crime – not to mention a national reputation shot to hell, these debates fall short in addressing these issues. These televised “forums” do absolutely nothing for the voter and makes one wish Beto O’Roarke, Kamala Harris, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were running for mayor instead instead of these two candidates in a “historic” context that really means nothing.

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Media Notepad: The Score’s Laurence Holmes heads to middays

WSCR-AM’s Laurence Holmes makes an appearance on WCIU’s “The Jam”. (WCIU)

Also: WLS-AM announces new PD; WBBM reigns supreme; New York’s WPIX sold

One of Chicago’s prominent sports radio hosts has a new contract – and a new weekday slot.

Longtime WSCR-AM (The Score) veteran Laurence Holmes is getting his own midday slot weekdays from noon to 2 p.m., beginning March 28 – coinciding with the start of the baseball season. Holmes previously had been nighttime host at the Entercom-owned sports talker.

No one is being replaced in the move, though the midday show with Dan Bernstein and Connor McKnight and the afternoon show featuring Dan McNeil and Danny Parkins each lose an hour. Starting on March 28, Bernstein-McKnight runs from 9 a.m. to noon and McNeil-Parkins runs from 2 to 6 p.m.

Joe Ostrowski, Holmes’ former producer, takes over his old 6-10 p.m. slot, barring pre-emptions from sporting events, of course. Ostrowski is also host of a sports gambling program on Saturday mornings (WMVP-AM also recently added one, with Mike North and Carmen DeFalco every Friday night at 6 p.m.)

The moves are part of a new contract Holmes signed with the station recently. Holes has been with The Score since 1998.

Holmes is also an alum of Homewood-Flossmoor high school, home to another alum in sports broadcasting – ucrrent White Sox play-by-play man Jason Benetti also hails from the south suburban high school.


In other sports media news, Ozzie Guillen is expanding his duties at NBC Sports Chicago for White Sox pregame and postgame shows beginning March 28 – coinciding with the start of baseball season (as noted above.)

“I’m extremely excited to be joining the team at NBC Sports Chicago,” said Guillen, via press release. “Their dedication to providing the best sports coverage to the greatest fans in the world is unmatched. I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to their wonderful team. Chicago will always be my home, there is no better sports town in the world and I can’t wait to get started.”

A former shortstop with the team, Guillen was White Sox manager from 2004 to 2009 and helped guide the team to a World Series title in 2005, the team’s first in 88 years. He was also named American League Manager Of The Year.

After a short stint with the Florida Marlins as manager, Guillen did some pre- and post-game work for Fox Sports’ baseball playoff coverage, and last year joined NBC Sports Chicago as analyst for the RSN’s Baseball Night in Chicago, where he’ll remain this season.

The moves comes as the White Sox (and the Bulls and Blackhawks) are increasing their ownership share in NBC Sports Chicago as the Cubs drop out to form their own network named Marquee. Last year, NBC Sports Chicago expanded post-game programming after live games to provide more analysis.


The latest Nielsen PPM numbers are out and they show WBBM-AM in first place again. But there’s some notable surprises.

For one, News/Talk WGN-AM jumped back into the top ten to claim eighth place with a 13 percent increase from February 2018’s numbers. Also surging into the top ten is Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ-FM finishing in a tie for ninth place – believed to be their highest ranking ever, up 50 percent in ratings from February 2018.

iHeartMedia’s urban AC WVAZ-FM (V103) fell to fifth place, down a stunningly 32 percent from February 2018 when it ranked first. It appears the success of Entercom’s Classic Hip-Hop WBMX-FM (which used to be V103’s call letters until 1988) and the emergence of rimshotter Clubsteppin’ 95.1 had an impact on V103’s ratings – not to mention – if the comments section on this post are any indication – the departure of Ramonski Luv last year (and the death of Herb Kent beforehand, who hosted a very popular Sunday afternoon music show.)

Also unimpressive was WLS-AM’s new lineup, with Mancow Mueller’s new morning show in eighteenth place and the syndicated Ben Shapiro in 25th. In hopes of turning around the conservative talker, WLS hired Stephanie Tichnor away from WGN as program director and also re-hired Lauren Cohn as afternoon news anchor at the Cumulus-owned station, as reported by Robert Feder (Cohn was on a WLS show with John Kass until it was canceled in 2015.)  WLS finished 21st overall in the latest survey.


Soon, Chicago’s WGN-TV will no longer have New York’s WPIX as a sister station. That’s because incoming owner Nexstar announced it was selling nineteen stations in fifteen markets – including Tribune’s East Coast flagship WPIX to Scripps once the Tribune-Nexstar deal closes.

Nexstar is selling eight other stations to Scripps, including KASW (CW) in Phoenix; WSFL (CW) in Miami; and KSTU (Fox) in Salt Lake City, among others. The remaining are being sold to Tegna, including WTIC/WCCT in Hartford; WOI/KCWI in Des Moines; and WQAD in the Quad Cities.

Already owners of NBC affiliate WTMJ in Milwaukee, Scripps would have 59 stations in 42 markets, including a newly-formed duopoly in Phoenix, where Scripps already owned ABC affiliate KNXV. This would be KASW’s second partner; they were once under a duopoly with independent KTVK under Belo.

But Nexstar’s decision to deal WPIX is a shocker, but understood: the station group is trying to get under the 39 percent coverage cap in order for regulators to approve the deal; the enormous reach of the New York City market (at 7 percent of the nation) is obviously the main reason for the sale. Nexstar has an option to re-purchase WPIX between March 2020 and December 2021 should Congress raise the cap to 50 percent or more.

WPIX’s history is intertwined with WGN; the station – founded by the Tribune-owned New York Daily News, signed on in 1948 and was operated by the WGN Continental Broadcasting Company, later renamed Tribune Broadcasting. Tribune purchased Los Angeles’ KTLA in 1985, giving them stations in the top three markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – an important clearance block for any syndicator and competed head-to-head with Metromedia/Fox, who also owned stations in the top three. Tribune was instrumental in the formation of The WB, who became The CW with its merger of UPN in 2006.

It is not immediately known what impact the sale of WPIX would have for the syndication business with the key WPIX-KTLA-WGN sale block broken up.

 

 

 

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20th Century Fox: The End.

End of an era arrives as studio is taken over by Disney.

On Wednesday, a new day is dawning in Hollywood – for better or worse.

Parts of 21st Century Fox – including its film, television studio, thirty percent of Hulu, and other operations are to become the property of The Walt Disney Co. in a $71.3 billion deal first announced in December 2017, which stunned everyone in Hollywood.

After all, it was a deal no one ever thought would be made – after all, Fox and Disney once had a spirited rivalry, coming to a head in the early 1990s when the Fox network and Disney’s Buena Vista Television battled over children’s programming in key afternoon time periods.

But it’s a far different scenario today. All of the major studios are under attack from Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Netflix – especially Netflix. Television ratings continue to drop as more and more viewers are tuning in to alternatives. The film business is losing steam as Netflix has jumped into the motion picture business (as evidenced by Roma’s success at the Academy Awards – even though it didn’t win Best Picture.) It is not the same business at it was thirty years ago – or even five years ago.

As of 11:02 p.m Central Time tonight, Disney officially takes over the studio while Fox forms a brand new company, called Fox Corporation. The entity consists only of Fox News, the Fox entertainment network, Fox News, Fox Business Channel, FS1, FS2, My Network TV, and the Fox-owned and operated stations, including Chicago’s WFLD and CW affiliate WPWR. The new Fox started trading today on NADSAQ (FOXA).

Temporarily, Fox’s regional sports networks now move under Disney’s ownership and the channels must be sold 90 days after the Disney-Fox deal, beginning tomorrow. Very little movement has occurred on this front so far, aside from the New York Yankees coming close to re-purchasing YES with Amazon and Sinclair possibly being partners.

Retro battlelines: Both Disney and Fox were once involved in a fight over kids’ afternoon time slots. This cover is from the February 12, 1990 issue of Electronic Media.

Fox Corporation launched its new website Tuesday, a bares-bones site featuring its portfolio. The new Fox also won’t have a syndication division at start, with Twentieth Television now being absorbed into Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International.

Rupert Murdoch was named co-chairman of the new company while his son Lachlan was named chairman and CEO. Named as board members are Fox veteran Chase Carey and former Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan, a move certain to stir up controversy.

Indeed, the moves mark the end of an era. 20th Century Fox’s roots date back to at least 1915 and the company in its current incarnation was formed in 1935. The studio formed a TV division in 1949 and cranked out hits such as M*A*S*H, Dobie Gillis, Lost In Space, L.A. Law, and The Simpsons. In 1985, Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch bought the studio and a year later, purchased Metromedia’s six TV stations (including WFLD) to form a basis for the new Fox network, set to launch in 1987.

Since then, Murdoch stunned the media world numerous times – acquiring NFL rights, then striking a deal with New World Communications’ twelve Big 3 affiliates to switch to Fox. In 2000, he would do so again, taking advantage of the FCC’s just-loosened duopoly rules by buying Chris-Craft’s eight TV stations, the core of UPN who would later become My Network TV outlets after the network folded in 2006. Murdoch would later acquire the Wall Street Journal.

In 2013, Murdoch’s News Corp. separated from the TV and film studio, the latter becoming 21st Century Fox.

In the last decade, it was clear Fox had an identity crisis as Fox News Channel – known for its conservative lean and support of President Trump, became a beast in cable news – overshadowing everything else the company was known for, including Fox’s own broadcast network and film studio. Several showrunners of Twentieth’s programs spoke out against Fox News’ open support of Trump’s policies, including Family Guy’s Seth MacFrlane and Modern Family’s Steven Levitan.

It also appeared Murdoch was never really a fan of Hollywood, whether if  it was the business side or the perceived left-liberal leanings of Tinseltown. But he didn’t mind letting the different divisions of News Corp. go at it, with The Simpsons and Family Guy regularly criticizing Fox News on their shows.

So while Hollywood mourns the passing of a great studio, it’s just another reminder of how life is in this new media environment were in.  Now nearly forty percent of it controlled by a giant rodent.

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Media Notepad: CBS 2 drops Rob Johnson, Marissa Bailey

Also: ABC revives a pair of game shows; WGN-TV rolls out welcome wagon for Nexstar bosses

In a stunning move, CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) has parted ways with anchor Rob Johnson, who appeared on the station’s 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts with Irika Sargent.

The CBS-owned outlet also parted ways with morning anchor and reporter Marissa Bailey.

As first reported by Robert Feder on Wednesday, the action comes as ratings for the station continues to decline and are reaching historic lows. During the February sweeps, CBS 2 finished fourth at 10 p.m. in households and the key 25-54 news demo, behind market leader ABC 7, NBC 5, and WGN. Ratings for the station’s newscasts at 5 and 6 are also weak.

Hoping to reverse the ratings trend, CBS 2 announced Thursday the promotion of Brad Edwards to the 10 p.m. anchor chair alongside Sargent. Edwards is a member of WBBM-TV’s Investigative Unit.

Johnson joined CBS 2 from rival ABC 7 in 2006, and became the station’s 10 p.m. news anchor in 2007 and later added 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. anchor duties. Bailey joined CBS 2 in 2012 as reporter/anchor and became morning co-anchor two years ago.

Despite one of the strongest prime-time network lineups in the business, CBS 2 has not been able to take advantage, languishing in fourth or even fifth place in most local news time periods. If you’ve read this blog over the years, you know about CBS 2’s chronic ratings problems, marred by numerous mishaps and complete mismanagement by station execs. Taglines such as “CBS 2 blows it again” and “The Viewer Alienation Plan” had been used on this blog quite a bit.

Feder noted there has been thirteen 10 p.m. anchor changes at CBS 2 since 2000, including two solo stints (Johnson and Carol Marin.) Among them included now-forgotten names such as Antonio Mora, Anne State, and Tracy Townsend.

Not helping matters is indifference from CBS officials in New York, as the station division had been neglected under the watches of both Laurence Tisch and the now-departed Les Moonves, who treated the owned-and-operated division as nothing more than an afterthought – evidenced by the continued lack of newscasts at Detroit’s WWJ-TV…as in none. Ratings for newscasts for other CBS-owned stations have also struggled, although numbers for New York’s WCBS have improved in recent years.

In an era where local news ratings are declining, viewers – especially younger audiences abandoning linear TV, CBS 2’s newscasts are going to have an even tougher job of attracting audiences than other stations and they are way behind the eight ball.


You wonder what they’re getting themselves into: Nexstar CEO Perry Sook and President Tim Busch visited Tribune’s WGN-TV Wednesday morning at their Bradley Place headquarters on the North Side and received a warm welcome… in the only way the WGN Morning News team knew how.

The duo were greeted by… well you can see in the video below (it is 40 minutes long, as it was broadcast on Facebook Live)

We have new owners! So we’re going to throw them a welcome party…in the lobby

Posted by WGN Morning News on Wednesday, March 13, 2019

 

As you see, the welcome wagon included a guy dressed as Lincoln, the Blackhawks mascot, and Jaws, I think.

Nexstar bought Tribune Media last year in a $6.4 billion deal, after a previous one with Sinclair Broadcasting fell though. Earlier this week, Tribune shareholders overwhelmingly approved the deal to merge with the Irving, Tex. media giant.

If this were ol’ Boris and the boys…rest assured the welcome wagon wouldn’t have been rolled out, as Captain Chesapeake probably would’ve fired anyone welcoming them. No fun allowed, indeed.


No Whammies!: ABC announced revivals of two game shows in the Fremantle library: Press Your Luck and Card Sharks to prime-time this summer, as first reported Wednesday by Vulture. The addition solidifies ABC summer game show lineup, filled with classic reboots of $100,000 Pyramid, Celebrity Family Feud, Match Game, To Tell The Truth, and The Gong Show.

The revivals of these two shows no doubt spring from their success runs on digital subchannel Buzzr (owned by Fremantle) and GSN. No dates have been set or hosts have been named.

Originally hosted by Jim Perry, Card Sharks premiered on NBC’s daytime lineup in 1978 and ran until 1981 and used the same musical score used by Double Dare (a 1970s CBS game show not related to Nickeldeon’s 1980s kids game show of the same name.) CBS rebooted the show in January 1986 with Bob Eubanks as host and ran until March 1989; a first-run syndicated version hosted by Bill Rafferty and distributed by The Television Program Source (one of Columbia Pictures TV’s numerous syndication company names during this period) aired during the 1986-87 season.

An unsuccessful revival from Fremantle, hosted by Pat Bullard, lasted only a few months during the 2001-02 season.

Debuting on September 19, 1983, Press Your Luck is a fast-paced game show hosted by Peter Tomarken and had players tackle a big board to win cash and prizes if they avoided the “Whammy”: the creature who would take your money and prizes away. During its CBS daytime run, Whammy was etched in pop-culture lore, with Whammies parodying icons such as Michael Jackson, Boy George, and Tina Turner.

In June 1984, contestant Michael Larson set a then-all time record for most money won on a game show winning $110,237 doing so by memorizing the game board. The event spawned a Game Show Network (GSN) documentary in 2003, Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal.

Luck was canceled by CBS on September 26, 1986, months after a disastrous time period change which saw it dumped into a 4 p.m. (ET) time slot, the very last program the network programmed before handing it back to affiliates (in Chicago, Luck aired at 11 a.m. and at noon on New York’s WCBS and KCBS in Los Angeles.) But the series has thrived in off-net, first in a syndicated package by Republic Pictures, then to USA network where it would run for nearly a decade. Rights later transferred to GSN, where it ran off and on until last year. GSN also produced a revival series titled Whammy: The All-New Press Your Luck in 2002.

Both Sharks and Luck aired as one-off specials on CBS’ Game Show Marathon in 2006, hosted by Ricki Lake.

The moves come as the major broadcast networks are looking to retain viewers during the traditionally low HUT level time of year with cost-efficient programming. Traditionally a daytime staple, there are now more game shows outside of the daypart than in. While it would be ideal to bring those Whammies back to daytime and early fringe as a strip, it’s a pipedream as daytime audiences have more or less shifted away from such fare, though 20th TV is launching new game show 25 Words or Less this fall (no pun intended.)

Meanwhile, at Whammy headquarters…

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