Bulls fans get their own TV show on NBC Sports Chicago

From left: Bulls Outsiders hosts Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine.

New interactive show compliments expanded post-game Bulls coverage

We’re about to test the theory that just about anybody can get themselves a TV show.

NBC Sports Chicago Thursday debuts Bulls Outsiders, a new program featuring Bulls analysis from a fans’ point of view. It features die-harders (and unknowns) Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Waston. The show debuts after the Bulls post-game show as the team tips-off its first game of the 2018-19 NBA season against the Philadelphia 76ers.

NBC Sports Chicago Vice-president of content Kevin Cross said: “Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue.”

Outsiders is airing after all Bulls post-game coverage this season, whether NBC Sports Chicago is carrying the game or not. This Thursday’s game is a national telecast on TNT, as NBC Sports Chicago’s first game is the home opener against the Detroit Pistons Saturday.

The news comes as the Bulls announced Monday ESPN college football announcer Adam Amin is the first name to fill-in for regular play-by-play voice Neil Funk for the October 22 game at the Dallas Mavericks, also on NBC Sports Chicago. Funk is scaling back his workload this season, so the Bulls are using a rotating circle of fill-in for the 20 or so games he’ll skip.

An Addison native, Amin also did play-by-play for three pre-season Chicago Bears games in August to rave reviews. Amin ha been with ESPN since 2011 and in addition to college football, Amin has called numerous NBA, MLB, and NFL games for ESPN radio. He’s also done work for IHSA.

Bulls Outsiders is the latest programming initiative from NBC Sports Chicago after the regional sports network announced it was expanding post-game coverage for Bulls and Blackhawks contests while cancelling In The Loop and Fast Break. In addition to airing Outsiders on their linear channel, NBC Sports Chicago is also streaming the show over the NBC Sports Chicago app (for authenticated users) and Facebook Live, with interaction on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the first game of the Bulls’ season was against the Detroit Pistons. T Dog Media regrets the error.)

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Media Notepad: Jennifer Lyons returns to WGN-TV

As seen on TV: WGN morning newscast honors Jennifer Lyons, named 2017 News Director Of The Year by Broadcasting & Cable.

Also… Iron Fist canceled; Sun-Times outsources its website; an old post about Ramonski Luv receiving a lot of traffic

It’s kind of like WFAN host Mike Francesca’s sudden return, only more warmly received: after only a few weeks away, WGN-TV news director Jennifer Lyons has returned to the Tribune Media station as reported by Robert Feder. She originally left WGN on September 14 to accept a position at Catholic Extension, where she was vice president of communications and external relations. But after careful consideration, she decided to return to the place where she felt more comfortable.

WGN GM Paul Rennie said her position was never filled, though the station did interview candidates. Lyons told Feder her heart was in journalism and wanted to return. She still has ties to Catholic Extension, where she joined the organization’s board of directions.

Lyons has been news director since 2014 and help expand the station’s news into key early fringe (afternoon) and prime access (early evening) time slots. Under her watch, WGN has challenged longtime leader WLS-TV for Chicago’s news market crown, with the station’s morning newscast usually winning in the key 25-54 news demo. On October 5 when the Jason Van Dyke trial verdict was announced, WGN topped the market in the demo and tied WLS among viewers at 2 p.m.

Lyons also runs cable news channel CLTV, who also carried the entire Van Dyke trial and was streamed live on WGN-TV’s website for those who don’t receive CLTV (such as DirecTV and Dish subscribers) or were away from their TV sets.

In 2017, Lyons was named Broadcasting & Cable’s News Director Of The Year.

Signaling the first show from the Marvel Netflix Universe family to fold, the streaming service canceled Iron Fist on Friday after two seasons. Released in March 2017, Fist starred Finn Jones as a martial arts expert presumed dead in a plane crash and surprises everyone when he suddenly shows up to reclaim his family’s company in New York. He has an ability to call upon “the iron fist”, which makes his “fist” all glowing and powerful.

Despite crossover attempts from guest stars from other MNU shows (Rosario Dawson, Simone Messick, etc.), Fist never found its footing creatively and the even though Netflix does not release viewing statistics, the show was the weakest of the four main shows in the Universe – Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. The first season’s Metacritic score was a low 37 and the second was 39 – despite claims from a few fans the second season was better (they actually stuck around for season one?)

Iron Fist was indeed slow in pacing and the acting wasn’t the best. Plus, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) was basically the “butt-monkey” on the equally disappointing Defenders series, suffering from “danger-prone Daphne” syndrome. There were signs the Marvel Netflix Universe has been suffering from fatigue, with several viewers complaining the second seasons of Luke and Jessica not living up to their first. Personally, Jessica’s second season was also a creative disappointment, introducing characters who were so one-dimensional, a box of Cap’n Crunch had more personality (and it’s a good bet Jessica will not be T Dog Media top show of the year, like it was in 2016.)

Meanwhile, Daredevil’s third season – already receiving some positive vibes – drops this Friday. As for Fist, there is a possibility Marvel may revive the series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service, set to launch in 2019 as they are sister companies.

It’s been known the Chicago Sun-times has a history of operating crappy websites, plagued with pop-ups and slow loading times due to so much banner advertising. Now, the paper has contacted an outside vendor in hopes to rectify the problem. Beginning early next year, Vox Media will assume responsibilities for their multimedia properties, with a brand new “improved” website in hopes to make readers’ browsing experience a better one.

The Sun-Times is using Vox’s Chorus publishing platform to redesign the site. “It’s going to be cleaner, it’s going to be less clutter, it’s going to be less pop-ups. It’s going to be easier to get to the stories that people care about”, said Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath.

In addition, the Sun-times is joining Vox’s advertising platform, a sticking point in the deal as noted by Nieman Journalism Lab. The financial terms of the deal with Vox were not disclosed.

Eisendrath purchased the Sun-Times last year after nearly being brought by Tronc (which has since reverted back to the Tribune Publishing name). The paper made headlines of its own back in April by publishing a blank canvas on the front page to call attention to the plight of the newspaper industry in a public TV station-pledge like effort. The paper also returned to a paywall it abandoned several years ago. Even though the Sun-Times current website is a bit cleaner and more organized, it is still plagued with pop-ups and other issues.

I’ve noticed a surge of traffic on this site for one post I wrote in 2014 regarding the departure of Ramonski Luv (a.k.a. Ramon Wade) from iHeartMEdia’s WVAZ-FM (V103) as numerous people were still making comments (48 and counting.). Well, there’s a reason for that: Wade was released again from V103 several weeks ago – likely a victim of cuts at iHeartMedia, still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. For years, Wade was teamed up with Joe Soto in afternoons and later evenings. But V103 management dropped Wade in 2014, leaving Soto to go solo.

Wade later moved to Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM), but left the station soon thereafter. He returned to V103 in a fill-in and part-time role, taking over for the late Herb Kent on Sunday afternoons. If you read the comments from the 2014 post, listeners are certainly upset. But in this era of corporate radio, it is a sad reminder that anyone can be expandable, no matter how popular they are. If anyone mistook the 2014 post I wrote for one dated this year, you can’t certainly blame them because whether if its 2014 or 2018, the same old radio game continues- and it’s going to get worse as iHeart Media and Cumulus emerge from bankruptcy and buy stations again in order to build up scale against Big Tech – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Sirius/XM, and Spotify – using basically the same excuse broadcast TV groups use.

Further reading:

Former WMAQ-TV anchor Warner Saunders passes at 83

Powell Broadcasting closes Panama City, Fla. radio stations due to damage done by Hurricane Michael

ABC’s Great American Baking Show returns, but without Ayesha Curry or Inside The Bears‘ Anthony “Spice” Adams

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DMA Report: Chicago continues to lose ground, but less so

Most top markets lose TV homes as streaming, other alternatives take hold

New York, Miami, Orlando only markets in top twenty to post gains while last year’s big winners slipped

As a nation, it looks like were are ditching the traditional boob tube when it comes to TV.

With streaming on devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets are becoming more common, more and more people are ditching their TV sets. This is reflected in Nielsen’s new 2018-19 designated market area (DMA) rankings, as the number of TV homes have declined significantly from last year.

According to Nielsen, there are now estimated 119 million TV homes across 210 DMAs in the United States – down 1.9 million from the 2017-18 season. So in essence, the drops we are seeing isn’t necessarily due to people moving from market-to-market or state-to-state. There are other ways to view content other than the traditional way, which is TV. This explains why markets such and Phoenix and Houston still lost homes despite population gains.

But the loss of DMA homes is a problem as it reduces the reach for advertisers. And local TV is still the bread and butter in this business – especially for political candidates and auto companies, who use the medium heavily. And it is a even worse look for markets who not only lost TV homes but also lost population.

Which brings us to Chicago. While our hometown still ranks third overall among DMAs behind New York and Los Angeles, the city still lost 48,350 TV homes for a total of 3,251,370, down 1.5 percent from the 2017-18 season. But the good news is, the losses are slowing as the market was down 4.7 percent from the 2016-17 season.

While viewers are indeed ditching their sets in Chicago as they are everywhere else, it masks the ongoing problems the city is having retaining residents and you’ve heard them here before – rampant gun violence, high taxes, racial segregation, and dysfunctional government leadership. Chicago now accounts for just 2.9 percent of the country as opposed to 3.4 percent as recently as a decade ago.

Atlanta lost more homes than any DMA among top thirty markets. (Getty Images)

Of the top thirty markets T Dog Media reported on last October, just three markets gained homes in the DMA rankings compared to eleven last season. One of last year’s biggest winners – Portland, Ore., was actually one of the biggest losers this time around, down 3.3 percent from 2017 but retained its 22nd rank. The biggest loser in the top 30 believe it or not was Atlanta, who not only dropped from 9th to 10th, but had the biggest loss of any market in the top 30 – losing a mind-boggling 108,070 homes, down 4.4 percent. The drop is a surprise, given the Atlanta area seems to be financially better off than Chicago, Detroit, and other metro areas.

Despite some losses, several markets climbed in the rankings. Despite losing 4,340 homes, Tampa-St. Petersburg jumped from 13th to 11th place. Boston also moved up a notch (10th to 9th), but still lost 60,570 homes, down 2.5 percent from last year.

Notable drops outside the top 30 came in Austin (40th, -5.3%); Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo (49th, -7.33% with a whopping 50,540 loss), Memphis (51st, -4%), and Providence (53rd, -3%).

The three markets showing gains were Orlando (18th, +2.3%), followed by Miami (16th, +1.2%) and New York City (1st, +0.36%). Further down the list, other home gainers include West Palm Beach (37th, +0.09%), Kansas City (32nd, +0.93%), and Las Vegas (39th, 1.2%).

Despite what you’ve been hearing about the loss of population in Illinois, two DMAs in the state actually gained homes. A big surprise here is Peoria-Bloomington – who lost population in a recent Census report, moved up from 122nd to 113th with a 5.3 percent gain. And there was an ever-so-slight gain in Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, who remained 82nd with a gain of a mere 520 homes. To be sure, other Illinois markets lost ground, including Rockford (139th, -5.4%) and 88th-ranked Paducah, Ky., who has several Illinois counties in its DMA, lost a whopping 30,770 homes down 8.7 percent from last season.

Nielsen’s DMA market ranking among African-American and Hispanic homes for the 2018-19 season have yet to be released. T Dog Media will dissect those when they become available (or accessible.) One likely outcome: Atlanta, who ranked second last season in African-American homes is likely to lose ground and possibly drop a spot.

To read the entire DMA list from Nielsen, click here. And if you want to see data on how many homes were gained or lost in each market, click here.

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Friday ratings roundup: “TGIF” smushed by Fox

Meanwhile, Chicago stations pre-empt regular programming for Jason Van Dyke verdict

Note: All numbers are preliminary adult 18-49 demos, unless otherwise noted.

Friday night saw the return (again) of “TGIF” brand to ABC, the beloved staple from the 1990s with family-friendly comedies and a game show. But the third time apparently isn’t the charm.

Using TGIF for the first time since 2005, ABC scheduled the season premieres of comedies Fresh Off The Boat, Speechless, and game show Child Support as part of the new block and as you can imagine, it did not get off to a good start. Boat and Speechless got off to weak starts, with a 0.6/3 and 0.5/3, respectively, followed by Support’s 0.4, who somehow performed worse than last year’s disastrous Inhumans.

As a reminder, Child Support is a game show, not a daytime court show. Moreover, Support is a variation of  Child’s Play, a daytime game show hosted by Bill Cullen airing on CBS during the 1982-83 season.

Once again, Fox stomped the competition with Last Man Standing, who had the highest-rated show of the night (1.3/7), and The Cool Kids (1.1/5).

For the rest of Friday night’s ratings from the broadcast networks, click here. The CW debuts the bulk of their new series and season premieres next week.

Turning to sports, the ALDS opener between hated rivals New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox scored a 4.4 household overnight rating, up 69 percent from the comparable TBS game last year, an NLDS matchup between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. Yankees-Red Sox also drew 5.6 million viewers, the highest for any opening game in a Division Series in eight years. The game is expected to take the night in the adults 18-49 demo among all networks once finals are released.

One of the protests in downtown Chicago Friday after the Van Dyke verdict was announced. (Herald-Review)

Locally, the Jason Van Dyke trial ended unexpectedly early, with a verdict announced Friday afternoon. Around 1 p.m., WBBM-AM and WGN-AM, Chicago’s local TV stations, and CLTV broke into regular programming to cover the conclusion of the one of the city’s biggest trials in decades. A jury found Van Dyke guilty of sixteen counts of murder against LaQuan McDonald, whose videotaped shooting in 2014 – released a year later – turned Chicago upside down.

Several Chicago stations covered the aftermath of the verdict, including several marches downtown. Loop office workers were dismissed early and high school sporting events were either canceled or postponed as a precaution. Protests were peaceful, and there were no reports of any incidents around the city.

Though the city’s five big TV stations pre-empted network and syndicated fare, none of the coverage affected regular network prime-time programming. WTTW’s Chicago Tonight scrapped its usual Week In Review Friday night show for an hour-long live edition, featuring numerous guests discussing the verdict and its aftermath. WFLD also scrapped Flannery Fired up and expanded its Friday night newscast to a full hour, pushing Bears Unleashed into Flannery’s regular 10 p.m. time slot.

In all, Chicago’s news media did a fantastic job covering the Van Dyke/McDonald saga, from the moment the tape was released to Friday’s verdict. This proves how valuable journalism and a free press is to our society.

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Goodbye (and good riddance) tronc

From the L.A. Times newsroom party – bye, bye “tronc”. (Twitter/Jen Yamato/LA Times)

Company reverts back to Tribune Publishing

One of the most stupidest names ever to grace a media company is finally gone.

As speculated back in June, “tronc” is reverting back to the Tribune Publishing name after two years of criticism and ridicule. The change officially takes place October 9 at 3:15 p.m. local time in a decision announced Thursday.

We announced today our decision to return the parent company name to one that’s which is rich in history, prestige and a recognition of our journalistic foundation – The Tribune Publishing Company. said CEO Justin Dearborn in an memo to employees. We know that strong audience engagement starts with great journalism. We are fortunate that hundreds of journalists across our newsrooms are focused on producing the best work to meet our readers in a variety of formats.

The original Tribune Co. was split into two separate entities in 2013: Tribune Media, who owned television and radio properties, and Tribune Publishing, who print such as the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. When Michael Ferro bought shares in Tribune Publishing in 2016 and effectively took over the company, he changed the name to “tronc”, standing for “Tribune Online Content”, and with the first letter in lower-case. Tronc was defined as “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

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


Tronc later explained (or try to explain) how their concept worked in a widely-mocked video:

Since the name change, the company’s resources were cut as numerous employees were laid off, including the Chicago Tribune. The paper also eliminated Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago White Sox beat writing positions in a cost-cutting move.

Ferro stepped down as tronc chairman earlier this year after sexual harassment allegations were levied against him, swept out in the “MeToo” movement. The company later sold the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to former tronc board member Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 million. When the sale was finally completed, Los Angeles Times employees celebrated with a huge party, bidding adieu to the awful name and awful ownership.

Despite the upcoming name change, the future of the company is still uncertain as potential buyers are circling the company, such as McClatchy Newspapers. Last year, Gannett made an serious offer to buy tronc, but was rebuffed.

The decision to bring back the Tribune Publishing name tells you using “corporate speak” and all different kinds of buzzwords even people in the industry don’t understand isn’t an effective way of marketing. There has to be more to a media company than using cutting edge names and quotes like “that’s where the future of media is headed” as if you say anything like this, your company has no future. And for the owners of the Chicago Tribune, they felt it was better for the “tronc” name not to have one.

From pixels to Pulitzers to puttered out. And good riddance.

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Monday ratings roundup: Viewers flood “Neighborhood”

ESPN scores with MNF, tiebreaker baseball

Note: All numbers are adult 18-49, unless noted

CBS premiered two new multi-cam sitcoms Monday night with the heavily promoted The Neighborhood and Happy Together as part of their effort to retool their Monday night lineup.

The results were positive for Neighborhood with the Cedric The Entertainer vehicle earning a 1.3 rating/6 share, while Together earned a 1.0/5, a significant 23 percent drop from Neighborhood. As this blog stated before, both sitcoms are basically the worst shows of the season and as about as funny as a dead rat.

CBS’ new Magnum P. I. reboot lost 25 percent from its premiere last week to land at a 0.9/4, while Bull finished with a 0.8/4.

NBC’s The Voice led its time period and was the highest-rated and most viewed show of the night among broadcast networks with a 2.1/8 and 10 million viewers with Manifest at a 1.8/8. The numbers led to another Monday night victory for NBC among the broadcast networks.

At Fox, The Resident started off slow with a 1.0/5 but 9-1-1 built 50 percent from the lead-in to notch a 1.5/6.

Meanwhile, ABC has sprung a leak with Dancing With The Stars with a fourth-place 0.8/4. The network scheduled another two-hour edition for Tuesday night because its regular Tuesday night lineup won’t be ready for another two weeks as once again, poor planning dooms ABC. The only good news? The Good Doctor built 38 percent from Dancing to land at a 1.1, but is down significantly from the ratings it earned last year.

Turning to cable, ESPN’s Monday Night Football between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos scored its highest ratings of the season with a 4.6 rating and 13.2 million viewers in the highest “non-Cowboys” matchup in three years. The game overall earned a 7.9 household rating and may have put a dent in WWE Raw, who drew a series low Monday night. Given who was in the main event, these wrestlers were active when I bailed in 2002.

Earlier in the day, the tiebreaker game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs from Wrigley drew 2.5 million viewers on ESPN Monday afternoon, while the Colorado Rockies-Los Angeles Dodgers tiebreaker drew 2.8 million eyeballs (18-49 numbers were not available at press time.)

In Chicago, the game drew an 8.3 household overnight rating, nearly matching the 8.4 from the previous day’s game on NBC Sports Chicago as Milwaukee drew a 13.5 household rating. In both cities, the game easily won their time periods. The Brewers won the game and advanced to the NLDS where they will play the Rockies, who beat the Cubs in 12 innings Tuesday sending the North Siders to an early playoff exit much to the chagrin of local media outlets everywhere, which means no extra ad revenue this October.

If the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees meet in the ALDS this year as a lot of people are expecting, then MLB won’t be missing the Cubs too much.

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Sunday ratings roundup: Viewers friend “God Friended Me”

Cubs, Bears score strong in Chicago

Note: All numbers are 18-49 unless otherwise noted. These are finals.

In a very contentious time in America, viewers needed a friend. And they found one Sunday night.

CBS received strong sampling with new drama God Friended Me Sunday night, with a 1.3 rating/5 share and 10.2 million viewers. The series is about an atheist who receives a friend request from God on Facebook. I guess you can say this is the first television show based on a Facebook action.

Viewers generally “liked” the show, receiving positive reviews if not from critics – following in tradition of similar shows such as Highway To Heaven and Touched By An Angel. Get used to it America – God Friended Me is going to stick around for awhile, even if it sounds dopey.

CBS followed Friend with the season premiere of NCIS: Los Angeles with a 1.1/4 and 8.8 million viewers. Closing out the night was the repeat of the Magnum reboot with a 0.7/3 and nearly five million viewers. The night began for CBS with a 2.2/9 and 13. 5 million viewers for 60 Minutes, starting at 6:43 p.m. Central Time benefiting from an NFL overrun (4.0/17, 15 million viewers.)

Over to Fox, where some parts of the country where in an NFL overrun in a first hour of primetime (6-7 p.m. CT), the 30th season (!) of The Simpsons earned a 1.4/5, but only 3.2 million viewers. For a show that endured quite a bit of controversy this year (Apu), consider the numbers a bit of a victory.

Bob’s Burgers‘ ninth season premiered with a decent 1.1/4, followed by Family Guy (1.2/5) and the time period premiere of Rel (0.8/4.)

At NBC, Sunday Night Football was the highest-rated and most-watched show of the night (6.1/24, 16.5 million viewers) with a game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, with ratings up from last week. The numbers here only go up to 10 p.m. CT, so more adjustments are expected when the final final numbers come out Tuesday.

Moving to ABC, America’s Funniest home Videos started the evening with a 0.8/4, followed by the broadcast television premiere of Frozen with a 0.6/3 in a movie everyone has seen by now either on cable TV, streaming, or DVD/Blu-Ray. A repeat of Shark Tank closed out the night (0.5). Of note is TLC (90 Days Fiance; 0.8), AMC (Fear The Walking Dead; 0.7) and the Food Network (Halloween Wars; 0.7) all out-rated ABC in the demo.

Local favorite Shameless drew a 0.4 demo rating Sunday night for Showtime and drew nearly 1.1 million viewers.

Turning to local ratings, the Chicago Bears dominated the competition – on-field and off with a 24.6 household rating as they thrashed the Tampa Bay Buccanners Sunday at Soldier Field, and scoring a 4 percent ratings increase from last week when they played a late game against the Arizona Cardinals. But also drawing a sizable audience was the Cubs’ regular season finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, drawing an 8.4 household rating for NBC Sports Chicago. Given this was opposite NFL competition on other channels and overlapping the Bears game, this number was very impressive. The win against St. Louis led to a tiebreaker contest Monday afternoon at Wrigley against the Milwaukee Brewers (more in the next ratings report.)

The number was the highest for NBC Sports Chicago for a Cubs game in two years.

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HBO to end boxing telecasts after 45 years

Move marks latest shift for premium service

After a few years on the ropes, HBO’s boxing franchise is down for the count.

HBO announced Thursday it was ending boxing telecasts on the network after 45 years, with the cancellations of World Championship Boxing, Boxing After Dark, and The Fight Game.  The move isn’t surprising the franchise has been on a ratings decline for the last few years. The last HBO boxing card is scheduled for October 27.

Ringside announcer and Fight Game host Jim Lampley  is expected to stay with HBO Sports in another role. But other personalities associated with HBO Boxing are exiting, including commentators Max Kellerman and Harold Lederman.

In a carefully worded press release to avoid directly saying they were dropping the sport, HBO said “Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO.  As always, we will remain open to looking at events that fit our programming mix.  This could include boxing, just not for the foreseeable future.”

The decision to cancel boxing programming is the latest shift by HBO as new owner AT&T wants to see more returns on their investment. A story in the New York Times on July 8 noted HBO chief Richard Pleper and AT&T boss John Stankey wanted to get “bigger and broader” in order to compete with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon as the well-funded Silicon Valley giants are dwarfing HBO in subscriber counts and awards. And naturally, boxing doesn’t fit into the criteria as HBO Sports President Peter Nelson said it no longer was a subscription driver since its critically-acclaimed and Emmy-winning scripted programming (such as Game of Thrones) is doing a far better job.

Boxing has been a part of HBO since its early years, with its first televised match in January 1973 when George Foreman defeated Joe Frazier in Jamaica. HBO also showed The Thrilla In Manilla between Muhammad Ali and Frazier; and the Rumble In The Jungle featuring Ali and Forman. These matches helped regain boxing’s popularity after a sharp downturn in the 1960s.

HBO (through pay-per-view) featured the rise of Mike Tyson – and the fall – with Buster Douglas knocking him out in a memorable 1990 contest.

But HBO’s boxing brand has seen erosion in recent years. After a falling out with HBO, promoter Al Haymon formed rival Premier Boxing Champions and struck deals with NBC, Showtime, CBS, and Fox, among others (PBC recently signed Fox to a four-year exclusive broadcast network deal to air boxing in prime-time.) The biggest blow came last year with Bob Arum’s Top Rank boxing defected from HBO to sign a lucrative deal with ESPN, which had a streaming component HBO didn’t have. It left HBO with only Golden Boy Promotions, who programmed a number of matches on the channel last fall to lackluster ratings and on-site attendance. HBO cut back on boxing this year as general entertainment programming in those Saturday slots drew more viewers and revenue.

Despite the departure of boxing, HBO is maintaining a sports presence – newsmagazine Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel is continuing and so is its 24/7 franchise, which will now cover other sports. Hard Knocks and other sports documentaries are continuing, with a new LeBron James series in the works. But it’s an end of an era for boxing as it’s clear HBO failed to keep up with the changing dynamics of the sport.


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Thursday ratings roundup: NFL wins, but cable news is the real winner

Kavanaugh-Ford hearings draw 20 million viewers in daytime; cable news networks benefit

The big ratings story yesterday didn’t take place in primetime.

Live coverage of The Kavanaugh hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee drew an average of 20.4 million viewers across six networks Thursday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. according to Nielsen. The cable news networks drew the biggest ratings with Fox News averagin 5.7 million viewers for the entire day, beating rivals MSNBC (2.9 million – its best daytime showing ever) and CNN (2.5 million) combined. ABC led the broadcast nets with 3.6 million.

Numerous syndicated programs were pre-empted Thursday (and some were also pre-empted the day before because of President Trump’s news conference) and will likely be impacted once final numbers come out in two weeks. Of note is two new syndicated programs (Face The Truth and Caught In Providence) were not pre-empted in the Chicago market since they air on WCIU and WPWR respectively, with neither programming any news shows in daytime. Yesterday’s testimony from Dr. Christine Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh featured more drama than any court or talk show, even more so than Dr. Phil and Judge Judy and was bordering on Jerry Springer-like antics at times.

The spillover from the testimony benefited the cable news networks Thursday night, even topping its broadcast network television competitors at times among total viewers. Fox News’ nightly lineup had a 0.7 rating among adults 18-49, with the block averaging near six million viewers – outdrawing NBC’s and ABC’s entire prime-time lineup in total viewers, making a tough week for the broadcast networks even together. Fox News’ coverage of the Kavanaugh hearings in late afternoon drew an 0.9 rating and averaging around 7.5 million viewers. Yes, you can’t sell total viewers but the numbers are still concerning if you’re a competitor.

“Murphy Brown” debuted with a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demo Thursday. Photo: David Giesbrecht/Warner Bros. ©2018 Warner Bros.Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Moreover, the three cable news networks grew their primetime programming 77 percent from their regular averages.

Turning to the other big ratings story, the debut of Thursday Night Football on Fox was a ratings winner for them and NFL Network. The game drew a 4.8 rating and 22 share between 7:23 p.m. and 10 p.m. Central and 14.45 million viewers. The numbers are flat from last year’s TNF matchup on CBS, which drew a similar 4.8 rating and 14.6 million viewers. Last night’s game was between the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams, with the Rams prevailing 38-31.

The NFL Network continued a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demo and 3.17 million viewers.

As for the rest of the night:

– CBS’ The Big Bang Theory drew a 2.2 rating and 12 million viewers – down considerably from last year with Young Sheldon following with a 1.6 and Mom with a 1.3. This lead-into the 11th season premiere (yes, 11th) of Murphy Brown with a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demo. With no youth appeal (the premiere earned only a 0.4 rating in the 18-34 demo) and no “red-state” appeal, the program’s forecast for success is very limited. Reviews were mixed (even though I’ve watched fewer than ten episodes of the original, I liked the season premiere and has a nice cameo by “you-know-who”.)

SWAT finished the evening with a 0.7.

– NBC’s critically-acclaimed Good Place drew a 1.0 rating, but only 3.4 million viewers behind Fox News and MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow. This lead into the twentieth season premiere of Law and Order: SVU with a 1.1 rating, up 10 percent from the lead-in.

– ABC’s season premiere of the long-running Grey’s Anatomy drew a 1.9 and came within striking distance of Big Bang in the demo, despite drawing 6.9 million viewers. But the season premiere of How To Get Away With Murder dropped a whopping 58 percent from Grey’s lead-in, with a paltry 0.8 rating and tied MTV’s Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.

-The CW was not competitive as they continue to sit out until October with weak-kneed repeats of Supernatural (0.2) and The Originals (0.1).


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Tamron Hall’s new show gains ABC O&O clearences

ABC 7 to carry local show in unspecified time period

In an expected move, Disney/ABC’s new Tamron Hall daytime talk show strip has found a home on the eight ABC-owned-and-operated stations, covering 23 percent of the country.

In addition to ABC 7 here (WLS-TV), other clearances include WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, WPVI in Philadelphia, and KTRK in Houston.

Both Disney/ABC Domestic Television and the ABC-owned stations group are owned by The Walt Disney Company.

The former WFLD-TV reporter/anchor and Today show host made it official via Twitter Monday (click to play video):

With ABC7 acquiring the show in the deal, it is not clear where the show would end up on the schedule as Hall’s show did not announce any time periods. When Disney-ABC announced Katie Couric’s talk show several years ago, it mandated ABC-owned stations to air the show at 3 p.m. as a news lead-in, forcing Inside Edition and Jeopardy! to shift an hour earlier for two years in a move unpopular with viewers.

One possible target for the show is the 1 p.m. time slot now occupied by local talk show Windy City Live, but the show is a hit and a major part of ABC 7’s identity, so it won’t be a given. Windy has had three time slots since its 2011 debut, originally debuting at 9 a.m. before getting bumped to 11 a.m. in 2013 after WLS acquired Live With Kelly and Michael (now Ryan as in Ryan Seacrest), cancelling a midday newscast. The newscast returned to 11 a.m. in June 2016 after Windy City Live was moved to 1 p.m. to replace the canceled FAB Life, also from Disney-ABC. If anything, Hall could wind up in a post-midnight time slot.

Recently, ABC introduced a new third hour of Good Morning America titled GMA Day, airing at noon local time, forcing the cancellation of The Chew after seven seasons. If you’ve seen the show, it’s basically a Live clone.

The announcement is the second one in several days regarding future fall 2019 talk show projects, with Kelly Clarkson’s new daytime gabfest getting the green light after being pre-sold to the NBC-owned stations, including NBC 5 (WMAQ) here. Reports were widely circulated Clarkson’s talk show would get the 2 p.m. lead-in slot to Ellen replacing Steve, but no official decision has been made.

Despite the frequent schedule changes since 2011 when longtime stalwarts All My Children and One Life To Live were canceled and Oprah Winfrey retired from her talk show, ABC 7 has remained the top-rated station in daytime.

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Wednesday night ratings roundup: Cubs outdraw NBC’s “Chicago” shows in Chicago

The Cubs and “Empire” cam “Fly The W”.

Broadcast networks continue to struggle; Empire top-rated 18-49 show of night nationally

Wednesday night, NBC’s Chicago shows returned with their season premieres.

But it was the Chicago Cubs who beat the Chicago-based dramas on their own home turf.

Fueled by their chase for the NL Central championship, the Cubs game from Wrigley Field topped all prime-time programs in viewership in the Chicago market Wednesday evening with a 7.3 household rating on NBC Sports Chicago – outdrawing NBC’s trio of shows set in the Windy City: Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D., who went into syndication this week as an off-network strip.

Playing the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs were ahead 6-0 until the eighth inning when they allowed several runs. With the Pirates tying the game in the ninth, the Cubs won it in the tenth to keep their razor-thin lead in the division against the Milwaukee Brewers. The game was also notable for a play in the eighth where a fan interfered with Anthony Rizzo trying to catch a pop-up fly in foul grounds (sounds familiar?)

The ratings victory is just another example of how tough the major broadcast networks have it these days regarding competition, whether if its from cable or streaming as numbers for the new season are already down from last year. Even worse for NBC’s Chicago shows, getting beaten on your own home turf by the Cubs is flat out embarrassing.

Switching over to the adult 18-49 national ratings, the Chicago shows didn’t fare any better: all three lagged in the ratings with Med earning a 1.2/6; Fire with a 1.3/5; and P.D. with a 1.2/5. NBC might want to rethink having all of its Chicago shows on one night as the network couldn’t extend its total-night primetime ratings winning streak to a third consecutive night, as they fell to fourth place (CBS finished first.)

Switching to ABC, the network season premiered its two-hour block of The Goldbergs (1.4/7); American Housewife (1.2/6); Modern Family (1.6/7); and Single Parents (1.3/6). Regarding the latter show, can we please stop casting Brad Garrett in these “sadsack” roles? Better yet, stop casting Garrett all together – his “sadsack” shtick has long since wore thin.

Closing out prime-time was the premiere of A Million Little Things, with a 1.1/5. The promos showed a very powerful drama dealing with the suicide of a close friend, but I’m not sure if a depressing plotline like this could be sustained every week.

CBS premiered its latest edition of Survivor with a 1.7/7, followed by the season finale of Big Brother with a similar 1.7/7, hosted by former The Talk host Julie Chen Moonves, whose sudden use of her last name a few weeks ago made the show about herself instead of the contestants.

Fox had the highest-rated show of the night nationally with the season premiere of Empire (1.9/8) followed by Star (1.4), who dropped from the lead-in by 26 percent.

The CW did have an original; leftover summer series Burden Of Truth, limped with a 0.1/1.

Of note on cable – aside from the Cubs game, the 21st season premiere of South Park earned a 0.7 rating, down 30 percent from last year’s season premiere. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t watched, but last night’s episode had the mother of Downer Endings outside of Avengers: Infinity War.

FX’s American Horror Story was the top scripted show on cable Wednesday night with a 0.9.

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Tuesday night ratings roundup: NBC dominates with “This Is Us”, “New Amsterdam”

“This Is Us” Key Art — (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

Note: These are final numbers in the adult 18-49 demo, unless noted otherwise.

The second night of the new television season featured a big win for NBC, stability for CBS and another amply sampled drama with New Amsterdam.

NBC swept the night again with The Voice (2.2/10) with the season premiere of This Is Us jumping ___ percent from its lead-in to notch a 3/12. The strong performance benefited new medical drama New Amsterdam with a 1.8/9, up 12 percent from last year’s lousy Law & Order: Melendez Brothers mess. Among total viewers, This Is Us was the standout, with 10.9 million as New Amsterdam finished with 8.3 million. Critics decidedly gave a cold shoulder to Amsterdam,

CBS’ season premieres started with the long-running NCIS with a 1.4/6, but drew the most viewers of any shows of the night with 12.6 million viewers. NCIS led into the premiere of Dick Wolf’s new FBI with a 1.3/5 and 10.1 million viewers – a respectable start for the New York City-based crime drama. That was followed by the season premiere of NCIS: New Orleans with a 1.0/5 and 9 million viewers. As a reminder, you can catch newly-syndicated repeats of NCIS: New Orleans on CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

At ABC, the network struggled with another two-hour Dancing With The Stars (0.9/4) and 20/20 (0.5/2) as its Tuesday lineup isn’t rolling out until October 16.

Fox meanwhile, had decent performances with The Gifted (0.9/4) and the new-look Lethal Weapon (0.8/3) with Seann William Scott in the title role, replacing the departed Chance Crawford. Unfortunately, the program is still lacking in the quality department. In other words, Lethal Weapon still sucks.

Over to cable, FX’s Mayans MC earned a 0.6 rating, but was bested by USA’s WWE Smackown with a 0.7. As a reminder, Smackdown is moving back to broadcast television and back to Friday nights next September with Fox as its new home. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow came close to outdrawing 20/20 in the demo but outdrawing it, earning 3.4 million viewers. However, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson topped them both in total viewers (3.14 million.)


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Monday night ratings roundup: “Manifest” rocks, “Magnum” tanks

Big Bang, Young Sheldon erode from last year’s premieres

(Note: All numbers are in the adult 18-49 demo, unless noted.)

The 2018-19 television season began in earnest yesterday and for the major broadcast networks, provided a mixed bag of results.

The surprise of the night came from NBC’s new drama Manifest, who premiered with a 2.2 rating/9 share, and drew 10.4 million viewers. and even improved from its Voice lead-in, who had a 2.0/8. Reaction from viewers was mostly positive, but wary of being a Lost retread. The lineup helped NBC dominate the night (2.1/9).

CBS season premiered its Thursday comedies (Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon) on Monday, with Theory earning a 2.5 and Sheldon with a 1.7, down 32 percent from its lead-in, averaging 12.92 and 10.58 viewers, respectively. But both shows were down double-digits in the adult 18-49 demo from last year’s premieres – also on a Monday. CBS next Monday premieres Welcome To The Neighborhood and Happy Together, perhaps two of the worst shows of the new season.

Returning to Sheldon for just a second…if I took apart a refrigerator back when I was his age, my ass would be so sore I wouldn’t be able to sit for a week. Great parenting, Coopers.

The two comedies lead into the revival of Magnum P.I., originally running on CBS from 1980-88. The debut was a disappointing a 1.2 rating and 5 share with 8.1 million viewers. Magnum was cartoonish at times – basically The Fast And The Furious with no plot. If you’re a fan of the original (like I was), you’ll likely skip the reboot and stick with reruns on Cozi TV. Finishing up the evening for CBS was Bull with a 0.9/4.

ESPN lead the night in the adult 18-49 demo with “Monday Night Football”. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Over at ABC, The Good Doctor finished with a 1.3/6, down considerably from last year’s premiere, but was up from its Dancing With The Stars lead-in (1.0/5). Can anyone name the celebrities on Dancing this year? I didn’t think so.

Fox received some terrific mileage with 9-1-1 with a 1.6/6, up 45 percent from its Resident lead-in (1.1/5). The previous night, 9-1-1 premiered out of NFL coverage with a 2.3 rating, airing simultaneously in all time zones.

The CW aired repeats; its new programming rolls out in two weeks.

Heading over to cable, ESPN’s Monday Night Football featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drew a 4.4 rating and 12 million viewers – with the 18-49 number topping all broadcast shows. Of note is SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt in late night drew a better demo rating than Magnum, Resident, Good Doctor, and Bull. Maybe CBS should have casted Stanford Steve in the Magnum role instead of Jay Hernandez.

WWE Raw on USA earned a 0.8 rating for its three-hour show, tied with VH-1’s Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood as the Atlanta edition clearly pulled in stronger numbers.

Outside of primetime, Debmar-Mercury’s new syndicated courtroom strip Caught In Providence debuted Monday and earned a 0.3 household rating and 1 share across the metered markets, down 40 percent from year-ago time periods. In Chicago, Providence airs weekdays at 2 and 2:30 p.m. on WPWR-TV.



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Hawk Harrelson’s final broadcast draws low viewership

But broadcast television is the winner, thanks to baseball, Bears, Tiger

Despite a sunny Sunday afternoon, television turned out to be the biggest winner as viewers headed through the entrances to watch football, baseball, and Tiger Woods as homes using television (HUT) levels went through the roof.

Big events certainly helped goose the numbers: in the Chicago area, you had the Crosstown Classic between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox; NFL action with the Bears taking on the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.; and Tiger Woods playing in the Tour Championship, himself a huge television draw.

The Bears game airing on Fox-owned WFLD proved to be a huge winner locally, averaging a 23.7 Nielsen household rating according to the Chicago Tribune. The game went out to only 14 percent of the country, with everyone else getting Cowboys-Seahawks as the Bears eked out a 16-14 victory, though a lot of pundits assumed the Bears would make mincemeat out of the hapless Cardinals. With the win, the Bears are now in first place for the first time since 2014.

The Bears easily outdrew the Cubs-White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field, despite airing on two channels with a 6.3 combined household rating. Chicago viewers clearly preferred the Cubs telecast on ABC 7 (WLS-TV) with a 4.7 rating, compared with the 1.6 rating on NBC Sports Chicago, which also featured the final broadcast of Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, ending his 33-year stint in the White Sox broadcast booth.

The number for Hawk’s departure is disappointing – but not surprising on a number of fronts for the White Sox – especially after a poor season and the low ratings the team has averaged over the last decade. Harrelson’s reputation for making controversial comments – especially three weeks ago after the team honored him on “Hawk Day” – has a penchant for tuning off viewers. During the telecast, Harrelson waded into politics and said he doesn’t watch LeBron James play anymore because of his anti-Trump comments and said athletes should stay out of politics (note the irony.) It’s simply another reason why viewers didn’t bother to tune in.

Tiger Woods’ 1st win in 5 years drew blockbuster ratings for NBC.

Still, Harrelson gave a touching, tearful goodbye on-air yesterday as both White Sox and Cubs players honored him after the game ended. The keys to the broadcast booth now belong to Jason Benetti, who assumes those duties full-time as of Monday.

But if there’s anyone who should be celebrated – as far as media people is concerned – is Tiger Woods. His comeback – where he won his first PGA Tour victory in five years – earned a 5.2 household national rating for NBC, peaking at a 7.2 in the 4:30-5 p.m. window. That’s up a whopping 206 percent from last year’s Tour Championship and despite tough competition from NFL games on CBS and Fox.

Local ratings for the Tour Championship were not available (the Tribune didn’t bother to report them), but rest assured it did better than the White Sox’s NBC Sports Chicago telecast.

National ratings released so far indicated the NFL saw metered-market increases Sunday compared to week three of the NFL season last year (though early games were down), proving once again sports is the major driver of the television business. If you put on the right type of programming people care about, viewership and homes-using-television (HUT) will increase as the biggest winner yesterday overall was over-the-air broadcast television in Chicago.

And you can put that on the board.

(Updated at 9:50 a.m. – updated Tiger Woods’ overnight Nielsen number.)

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