Think Tank Daily: Oprah closes Harpo Studios in Chicago


Harpo Studios Near West Side studio. (Photo Credit: Alan Brunettin/WTTW)

Editor’s Note: This is an experiment yours truly is trying out for the next few weeks or so… in order to put more material on the website, I plan to write a daily media news analyazation piece between 200 and 400 words – a shorter version of the Think Tanks opinion pieces, which averages between 1000 and 1500 words. Even though it says “Daily”, I hope to write the pieces at least four days a week between Monday and Friday.

This way, I can cover more topics and add more original material to the website. Material could include a TV show review, a thought on a message board topic, or yours truly tackling an industry issue.  

Selected pieces may be posted first on T Dog Media’s social media sites (Google Plus, Facebook, and Instagram) before they go up on the main site. Feedback is welcome and appreciated!  -T.H.

Oprah Winfrey announced Tuesday by announcing she was closing Harpo Studios by the end of the year, eliminating the last tie she has with Chicago, the city that gave her start 31 years ago when she became host of A.M.Chicago.

The former queen of talk had been winding down operations on the studio since she ended her talk show in 2011 to focus on the OWN cable network, which produces its shows in Los Angeles. She sold most of the studio to a real estate company and was leased back by the property. The lease is up in April 2016.

But here’s a thought: As noted in an article written by Lewis Lazare in Chicago Business Journal Tuesday, Ms. Winfrey made the announcement in an interview with the tabloid Hollywood Reporter instead of the one of many local media outlets in town. This reminded me of something I wrote back in 2009, when Oprah announced she was leaving her show. Not only she snubbed the local press (which she increasingly did in the show’s later years), but also Chicago’s African-American community – a point noted several years ago when she did not attend the funeral of Ebony founder John H. Johnson, of Chicago-based Johnson Publishing.

While Winfrey thanked Chicago for all the city has done, it seemed to be in jest.

Since Oprah ended, the studio was only able to produce one show – 2012’s short-lived The Rosie Show.

With the departure of Harpo, Chicago’s film and TV industry is at a crossroads. There are now only a handful of projects shot here: two syndicated shows and three prime-time programs, including Empire, the hottest show on TV. With the state of Illinois in financial crisis and now under leadership of Governor Bruce Rauner, you can forget about tax credits to attract more productions. And while Winfrey is shifting her business to L.A., keep in mind the Atlanta area has surpassed Chicago by a mile in terms of the active number of TV and film production projects.

But give Winfrey credit. At least she decided to move on and create a new business and life for herself instead of hanging around a bunch of aging radio personalities in a market that’s become the world’s largest retirement home for talent.

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Hello, SHE


Hubbard rebrands Adult Contemporary station at 100.3 ; Indy station regins with classic hip-hop; WICS anchors brawl and lose their jobs

- As part of a major rebranding move at 100.3 FM, Hubbard Broadcasting announced it was changing the call letters of WILV-FM to WSHE-FM, with the new slogan “SHE”. The SHE branding, of course is to call to attention the Adult Contemporary station’s focus on the 35-54 female demographic.

While call letters changing are rare these days, this is the third time in a few weeks a local radio station has done exactly that: WGWG became WRME-LP on February 23, after Weigel took over the 87.7 FM frequency to launch Me FM. Earlier, iHeart Media traded WNUA for WBGE calls after launching a new country format, Big 95.5.

While there is no change in format or on-air personnel, there is a tweak in the station’s playlist – more Modern Rock/Hot AC tracks are being played, with less emphasis on 1980’s and 1990’s product. A look at their playlist from 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Monday showed the following artists played: Plain White T’s, OneRepublic, Alanis Morrisette, Avicil, Dishwalla, The Fray, John Legend, Echosmith, Liz Flair, R.E.M., Paramore, and Bruno Mars.

The lone ’80’s artist, Soft Cell with 1982’s “Tainted Love”, was played at 6:29 p.m. (R.E.M. is also an ’80’s artist, but the song played was “Losing My Religion”, from 1991.)

Several mainstream Top 40 acts were also played beforehand, including Pharrell Williams and Taylor Swift.

Hubbard also owns WTMX (The Mix), which is a Hot AC station, and also plays some of the same artists WSHE does. In January, WILV finished tied in nineteenth place overall in PPM ratings measured by Nielsen Audio.

Originally, WILV was launched on November 5, 2004 as “100.3 Love FM” with a Soft AC format (basically love songs), but evolved into a mainstream AC station by 2007, and then into a Adult/Variety Hits hybrid by 2010. The station had been known as Rewind 100.3 for a little over a year until Monday’s changeover.

Previous call letter changes included WFMF (1947-74); WLOO (FM 100, 1974-88); WXEZ (1988-90); WPNT (The Point, 1990-97); WNND (1997-2004); and WILV.

And in case you’re wondering, KSHE-FM calls belong to a station in St. Louis, a heritage Emmis-owned mainstream rock outlet NOT targeted to women.

- Heading down south via I-65… The Indianapolis Business Journal published a story Monday on the surprise success of WRWM-FM (branded as The Beat) and pulled off something that has never happened in Chicago or anywhere else in the last decade – shooting up to first place – thanks to radio’s hottest format, classic hip-hop.

After five low-rated years as a mainstream Top 40 outlet, WRWM flipped to classic hip-hop in December and in the first ratings survey in 2015 (January), the Cumulus-owned station surged from fifteenth to first in Indianapolis. While not as dramatic, stations in other markets have seen their ratings surge after flipping to the retro format. WRWM doesn’t have a traditional marketing campaign (relying on word-of-mouth and “guerrilla”-type marketing instead).

Will it last? The comments section in the article point out the station is already suffering from song repetition and a limited playlist, which may not bode well for WRWM if the station wants to stay on top.

- We now head to downstate Springfield where a newsman with an infamous past was recently arrested for an altercation at an area Hooters restaurant and is now out of a job as a result. Vince DeMentri, an anchor with Sinclair-owned WICS, which serves Springfield and Decatur, reportedly got into a fight with a reporter from the station, Garrett Brgner. According to the Illinois Times, police were called to the establishment at around 12:30 a.m. February 25, but the offending perpetrators had left. However, police did stop a black vehicle and a Jeep which matched the description witnesses gave.

The profiles of both DeMentri and Brgner were recently removed from the ABC affiliate’s website and their employment with the station terminated, according to an article in Tuesday’s Springfield Journal-Review.

DeMentri has had has run-ins before with the law – in 2001, he was arrested and charged with trespassing after posing as a federal agent to gain access into Ground Zero in New York, the rubble area of the former World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2010, he was fired from WPIX-TV after being charged with assaulting someone in a dispute over a parking space.

And you’re probably asking… how do people like this keep getting hired? Just another reminder… news anchoring and alcohol often doesn’t mix.

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Net neutrality sails through the FCC

We Did it

We Did it! FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Chairman Tom Wheeler celebrate their Net Neutrality victory.

In what has to be the most politically divided vote at the Federal Communications Commission since the Sirius/XM merger of nearly seven years ago, the government agency passed new Net Neutrality rules on Thursday, a victory for open-Internet activists and the defeat of ISPs and telecoms, notably Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast.

The three-to-two vote came among party lines: Democrats Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Chairman Tom Wheeler voted for the rules; Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly voted against.

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

Predictably, the Net Neutrality became a political partisan issue (much like abortion, affirmative action, etc.) as the rhetoric hit a fever pitch – especially after President Obama got involved, urging the FCC to reclassify the Internet as Title II. The winners and losers fell into the usual political camps: those praising the decision include unions, tech companies (such as Netflix and Amazon), minorities, and consumer groups, while those lambasting the decision were free-market advocates, the telecom industry, and the National Cable Telecommunications Association, whose Chairman (Michael Powell) is a former FCC Chairman.

As far the media industry goes, most Hollywood studios, broadcast groups, and the National Association of Broadcasters stayed silent on the issue (probably a wise thing.) But the Writers Guild of America praised the ruling, with The Killing showrunner Veena Sud testifying before the FCC on why open Internet should be preserved. 

Meanwhile, Republican congressman vow to fight the ruling, passing legislation (with or without Democrats) to block the new rules. However, President Obama is expected to veto any piece of legislation doing so. Telecom companies are likely to fight the implementation of rules in court, with the battle likely winding up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In other words, the fight over Net Neutrality is far from over.

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Leonard Nimoy dies

Leonard Nimoy at 2011 Phoenix ComicCon (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia)

Leonard Nimoy at 2011 Phoenix ComicCon (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia)

The entertainment world is mourning the loss of Leonard Nimoy, who passed away Friday morning at the age of 83 from complications due from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, attributed to years of smoking, a habit he gave up three decades ago.

Nimoy was best known for playing Lt. Spock on the TV series Star Trek and the numerous movies spun off from the show. Originally airing on NBC from 1966-69 when it often struggled in the ratings, the series became a surprise smash when it went into syndicated reruns in 1969, and became a staple of independent stations throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

As the complete opposite of Lt. James Kirk on the Starship Enterprise, it was Spock cool demeanor in stressful situations which made him a fan favorite. His sign-off phrase was “Live Long And Prosper” and gave the “Vulcan Salute”, inspired by a sacred hand position used by the ancient Jewish priestly class (per Wikipedia.)

Nimoy also voiced the vulcan in the 1973-75 NBC Saturday morning animated series of the same name. He also appeared in the 2009 theatrical reboot and its follow up, Star Trek: Into Darkness. 

Nimoy’s guest appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation in November 1991 (Unification) propelled the series over Wheel of Fortune for the top spot in syndication for a week, becoming the first show in nearly eight years to do so. Nimoy was also the first person from the original series to appear on Next Generation.

In recent years, Nimoy has made guest appearances on numerous shows, including The Simpsons (twice) and The Big Bang Theory. Before appearing on Star Trek, Nimoy had guest roles on Perry Mason, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Rawhide, and Dragnet.

Nimoy also hosted In Search Of…, a syndicated series which was a staple of local stations’ lineups in the 1970’s and 1980’s (sponsored by Bristol-Myers, of course.)

In addition to his acting work, Nimoy was also known as a director, poet, and author. He wrote two books: I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). His poems were published in a book titled A Lifetime Of Love: Poems Of The Passages Of Life (2002).

And yes, he sung too: Nimoy released five albums, including Mr. Spock Music From Outer Space and Two Sides Of Leonard Nimoy. He also wrote and performed in a one-man play, Vince in 1981, based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

Nimoy left a legacy in science-fiction lore – no character has been played brilliantly in the genre as he has. Like another actor who brilliantly played a legendary character (the late Larry Hagman, who passed in November 2012), Nimoy unfortunately, was not rewarded by Hollywood with an absence of Emmy and Oscar wins.

Geek, SciFi, Television

Jonathon Brandmeier heads to WLS-AM


Chicago radio legend lands deal with Cumulus and Westwood One – new show to be syndicated to other stations

After turning down a deal with WJMK-FM, Jonathon Brandmeier signed one with WLS-AM owner Cumulus and Westwood One to air a weekday syndicated strip, airing from 9 to Noon, starting next month. With WLS-AM as its home base, Jonathan Brandmeier’s show is also going to be heard in Los Angeles, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque, with more markets being added later. Due to another program commitment, WLS can only run Brandmeier’s show from 9 to 11 a.m.

WJMK officals met with Brandmeier according to Robert Feder, but the Classic Hits station could not come to terms and decided instead to reup Dave Fogel for another two years.

For Westwood, Brandmeier replaces Dennis Miller, who is retiring from radio and moving on to other projects. His last show (which airs locally on WIND-AM) is March 27. Brandmeier’s show could began as early as March 30.

Brandmeier has been heard (and seen) outside of the Chicago market before: He had a short stint for a Phoenix radio station and had a short-lived syndicated TV show, Johnny B. On The Loose in 1991.

The longtime WLUP host last stint was at Tribune Media’s “The Game”/WGWG-LP as morning host, which was unsuccessful. Prior to that, Brandmeier was morning host at WGN-AM from 2011-13, but was dumped for Steve Cochran and shifted to WGN.FM, the station’s second Internet feed.

Brandmeier spent fourteen years at WLUP (The Loop), first as morning host (where he has his greatest success) and later in afternoons. But his second stint in morning drive at The Loop from 2005-09 was less successful.

To make room for Brandmeier, WLS canceled a 9-11 a.m. weekday morning show hosted by John Kass and Lauren Cohen. Kass of course, will continue in his role as a Chicago Tribune columnist and commentator.

This latest move WLS has made is intended to inject some life at the news/talk outlet, which had been on a ratings and revenue decline for several years. In recent surveys, WLS was putting up its lowest numbers since 1989, when it was on its last legs as a music station. Earlier this year, John Howell replaced the low-rated Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft in morning drive. Last November, a returning Steve Dahl replaced Roe Conn.

While this is good news for Brandmeier’s fans, consider this: according to a recent assessment of the Chicago market by Media Life magazine, radio ad spending is still “sluggish” and described as “soft” as buying remains down from a year ago. While its not clear why the real reason why spending is so slow, hiring has-beens such as Brandmeier, Dahl, and Roe Conn with their low ratings and older-skewing audiences won’t help.

And the has-been carousel continues with the likely hiring of Erich “Mancow” Mueller as new morning personality at WLUP, which he tried out for this past week (don’t believe the dumb fuck who runs that “other” blue site – you know, the plagiarist who doesn’t like media bloggers – who said the “contest” would be extended another month.) Only Chicago – the home of corruption – can pull off such a scam. Makes similar lackluster media markets Sacramento, Cleveland, and Memphis look good by comparison.

It’s apparent that Chicago radio has become nothing but a retirement home for broken-down radio personalities who refuse to leave the spotlight.


Tough season for Chicago sports fans get tougher

Patrick Kane goes down. (AP)

Patrick Kane goes down. (AP)









Rose, Kane injuries could have local and national ratings impact

Like in golf, Chicago sports fans would like a mulligan and start 2015 all over again.

After a fall season of horrendous Bears football, Chicagoans spent the early part of 2015 turning their focus toward the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, who were each making a title push.

Instead, 2015 has turned into a nightmare: in addition to the Jackie Robinson West Little League team being stripped of its title due to a residency scandal, it turned out both the Bulls and Blackhawks were playing below championship-caliber levels, and now Derrick Rose and Patrick Kane are out with major injuries, turning their titles runs into likely first-round playoff exits.

Can we have a do over please?

This is a scene Bulls fans didn't want to see again. (CBS

This is a scene Bulls fans didn’t want to see again. (CBS

As you know by now, the Bulls Derrick Rose is out for the third time in his career with another knee injury, and is likely out for the season. The Blackhawks’ Kane was pushed into the boards by a Florida Panthers player during a game Tuesday night, and is now out for three months. Kane could return to the team in May during the playoffs – that is, if the Blackhawks make it that far.

The local ratings impact without both superstars won’t be known for sometime, but history indicated at least for the Bulls, a mixed bag. Ratings for Bulls games were actually stable when Rose was out the first time around (2012-13), but dropped considerably last winter as an absent Rose started taking a toll on the ratings (not to mention competition from the Winter Olympics.) As for the Blackhawks, missing Kane may not impact their ratings as much, but then again, the team wasn’t playing all that well to begin with.

But the biggest losers could be the NBA and NHL, two leagues struggling to remain viable in an era of NFL dominance. While ratings are still strong locally, they have slipped for some of the NBA’s broadcast partners. While ABC’s ratings are more or less flat from a year ago, ratings are down for ESPN games this year. (Turner Sports’ NBA numbers were not available.) Losing Rose is the latest blow for a league who saw star attractions Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant go down with injuries, while teams in big urban markets such as New York, Los Angeles (Lakers), and Philadelphia have tanked.

Not sure if America is ready for a Golden State Warriors-Atlanta Hawks NBA Finals series, which would feature two of the league’s best teams. With that said, the league better hope LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers go far in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks accounted for three of the most-watched NHL games on NBC so far this season according to Sports Media Watch, including the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals, which was a ratings disappointment. A first-round exit by the Blackhawks could hurt NBC’s ratings, and would not be good for the NHL.

As for Chicago fans, much has been made about already looking forward to baseball season as both the Cubs and White Sox have significantly upgraded their rosters for 2015. But if both turn out to be busts by Memorial Day (and yours truly whips out the picture of Lucy in the pool again), guess what? Yep, we’re right back clamoring for Bears football – and Jay Cutler’s head.

It’s a vicious cycle that never ends.



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Oscar telecast shows some rust


The 2015 Oscars telecast declines from last season

Mirroring the film industry, The 87th Academy Awards saw some major ratings declines from a year ago.

According to Nielsen, the Neil Patrick Harris-hosted extravaganza drew 36.6 million viewers and a 10.8 rating among adults 18-49. While any network or TV station would kill for those numbers, the Oscars were down considerably from the 43.7 million viewers and 13.1 adults 18-49 rating from last year when Ellen DeGeneres was host. This year’s Oscar telecast lost 16 percent of its total viewership and was down 18 percent in the 18-49 demo.

Chicago’s WLS finished second behind Los Angeles’ KABC (33.5) and barely ahead of New York’s WABC (32.4) with a 32.5 household rating, but was down nearly 10 percent from last year. Milwaukee’s WISN clocked in with a 25.2, while San Antonio’s KSAT earned a 23.8 – which was actually up from last year’s 22.5 (up 5.78 percent.)

As for the show itself, many thought Harris wasn’t able to top DeGeneres last year, who made the show quite interesting with a world-record breaking selfie Twitter stunt and ordering pizza for those in attendance. Harris’ stunt was lame by comparison, with his “predictions” locked in a suitcase. Would’ve been more fun if it contained the million dollars NBC forgot to give away on Deal or No Deal.

The pictures nominated weren’t exactly box-office blockbusters, aside from American Sniper, and may have contributed to the lower numbers. An original Walking Dead and the WWE’s pay-per-view aired opposite the Oscars, with the latter draining loyal male viewers away from the telecast. African-American viewers may have also been kept away due to the lack of diversity among the nominees – in fact, hot new drama Empire drew two-and-a-half times more black viewers last week (8.8 million) than the Oscars did (3.3 million.)

Given this, you wonder if these are the numbers The Academy deserve. Two years ago, right here in this space after Seth MacFarlane’s disastrous stint as host, yours truly said The Academy was to blame for putting out such a crappy product with no apologizes amid numerous issues affecting the entertainment industry, such as media consolidation and rocketing cable and satellite bills. Two years later, it seems Academy members have dug in their heels even more, basically telling the public to screw off if they don’t like it.

Well, box office receipts are down from last year and so are the Oscar ratings.

Your move, Academy. Too bad the solution to the industry’s problem wasn’t found in that stupid suitcase.

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White Sox, Cubs nail down 2015 broadcast schedules

white-baseball-on-grassAs expected, WGN-TV announced it was moving 20 or so Chicago White Sox games from Weigel’s WCIU to Fox-owned WPWR-TV. The move to the My Network TV affiliate, means WPWR gets to air baseball for the first time.

WPWR is also picking up five Chicago Cubs games WGN-TV is producing.

Earlier this season, WGN moved six Chicago Bulls games from WCIU to WPWR.

These little nuggets were revealed as both the Cubs and White Sox released their 2015 broadcast schedules this week.

WCIU had a deal with WGN Sports to become the second over-the-air outlet for Cubs, White Sox, and Bulls games since 1999, as WGN devoted more and more time to network programming from The WB and later, The CW. But WCIU bowed out before signing a deal with WLS-TV to air a 7:00 p.m. weeknight newscast, which began January 12.

The Bulls and White Sox move to WPWR is somewhat of a homecoming – back in 1989, Fox – the current owner of WPWR – sued to get out of its White Sox contract because the team wasn’t good enough, earning poor ratings for WFLD-TV. Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of both teams, settled with Fox and moved them to WGN.

For the first time in known memory, WGN is producing more White Sox games than Cub games with 55 as opposed to 45. 25 other Cubs games went to WLS-TV, and their first telecast will be April 8, a Wednesday afternoon home game against the St. Louis Cardinals (which means…yes, General Hospital will be delayed into the wee hours of Thursday morning…) The first primetime game on ABC 7 takes place June 26, a road game against St. Louis.

With five Cubs games relocating to WPWR, it brings the total of non-network outlets the Cubs are scheduled to be on this season to five, with Comcast Sportsnet Chicago and its overflow plus channel maintaining cable rights.

The move comes as WPWR recently lost rights to carry Chicago Fire games, whose non-network games are now exclusive to Comcast SportsNet Chicago and sister My Network TV station in New York (WWOR) lost the rights to the Yankees, returning to WPIX.

The first televised White Sox game on WPWR comes April 14 against the Cleveland Indians.

As for WCIU, they’re not out of the sports business entirely: its secondary channel (Ch 26.2, also known as The U Too), continues to carry Chicago Wolves hockey, a few high school football and basketball games (including the Chicago Public League Basketball Championship) and a syndicated ACC college basketball package.

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Chicago is “Empire’s” kind of town


Chicago-produced hip-hop drama is city’s top-rated show

Despite its New York setting, Chicago is becoming Empire’s kind of town.

While the locally-shot Fox drama is showing unprecedented ratings growth (at least in this day and age), more and more Chicago viewers can’t get enough of the Lyons.

In a ratings report as part of an overall look at the Chicago market by Media Life, Empire is the top-rated program in primetime by a wide margin. For the week ending January 25, Empire finished on top with 522,000 viewers, nearly two hundred thousand viewers ahead of second-place 60 Minutes and fourth-place Chicago P.D., which is also locally shot.

Set in the world of hip-hop, Empire is about a record exec and his boisterous family – and things take a turn for the worse when the exec’s ex-wife (played brilliantly by Taraji P. Henson) is released from prison and battles him for control for the label. She also must deal with her three estranged grown children (two who are musicians) and the her ex-husband’s new beau. The clashes have made for great television.

Empire’s ratings are through the roof, with the Wednesday night drama showing surprising week-to-week growth – the series premiered on January 7 with a 3.8 adults 18-49 rating and earned a 4.7 rating in its most recent outing on February 11 – a 24 percent increase. Already, Empire is television’s third ranked scripted show, only behind The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory.

And among African-Americans, Empire reigns supreme with 7.6 million viewers for the week ending Feb. 8, nearly double of its nearest competitor, The Grammy Awards. African-Americans make up 67 percent of Empire’s audience.

Empire’s success is due to numerous factors – one, its a drama featuring a mostly African-American cast with an urban backdrop. Historically, programs with black casting have been comedies, and have been the most successful. But dramas with mostly black casting have not fared nearly as well – on broadcast or cable (besides Soul Food.) Having Empire set in the exciting urban/hip-hop backdrop helps tremendously.

This isn’t the first time a drama featured a family running a hip-hop record label – Platinum, a series with a somewhat similar theme, ran for six weeks on UPN in 2003. Unlike Empire, the characters were not as outlandish and the writing was dreadful.

Here’s some other notable observations from the list:

- Despite its local station continuing to be a non-factor in local news races, CBS placed ten primetime shows in the top 25, led by 60 Minutes.

- Apparently, Chicago still loves reality TV: three shows were in the top ten and six were of a non-scripted nature overall.

- And we love sports, of course: A Bulls game on TNT placed tenth.

- Though American Idol has historically underperformed in Chicago, ratings have actually held up here for its latest edition. The two weekly editions placed eighth and seventeenth, respectively.

– While ABC only had two shows  in the top 25 (Bachelor and Shark Tank), keep in mind this report was out a week before the return of the network’s popular Thursday night lineup of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder.

The article also talked about how local stations are reaping from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election bid and local radio stations still struggling to attract advertising after an unimpressive year revenue-wise.

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Here we go again: “Family Guy”, PTC trade punches

Hmmm.... not so fast.

Why is a Red X covering Brian? Read on.

While the FCC has moved on to Net Neutrality and the upcoming spectrum auction and Fox is busy celebrating the success of new hit drama Empire, the Parents Television Council wants to remind you there is some unfinished business that needs to be attended to – old rival Family Guy.

As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the conservative group is urging members to file indecency complaints against a Feb. 8 episode of the animated series, which featured a joke about statutory rape in a scene where Quagmire is tried in court for the crime.

In a statement, PTC president Tim Winter said the following: “We urge our members, as well as other Americans who agree that the broadcast was legally indecent, to file formal indecency complaints with the FCC.”

The PTC has filed six complaints with the FCC against Family Guy dating back to 2006, but none have been acted on. During this time however, the FCC has taken action against Liberman Broadcasting, fining the broadcaster $110,000 in 2013 for airing the now-defunct Jose Luis Sin Censura, a Jerry Springer-like Spanish-language talk show which featured fights; bleeped and unbleeped profanity; guests shouting racial and homophobic slurs; and pixilated nudity. Complaints were brought against the show by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and GLAAD.

The Parents Television Council – perhaps because of the groups’ liberal stances on issues such as immigration and gay rights – declined to take part.

Don’t you love hypocrisy?

It’s been a tough season for Family Guy as well as Fox’s entire Sunday comedy block, which only seem to do well when football is its lead-in. The episode in question Sunday drew a series-low 1.4 rating among adults 18-49. To be fair, the show did go up against The Grammys but is now whooped by AMC’s The Walking Dead every week.

Family Guy’s erratic scheduling of new episodes has also hurt ratings. As media expert Anthony Crupi noted, only ten episodes of Family Guy has aired so far this season.

Creatively, the series has been running on fumes – especially after the show “killed” Brian – and then brought him back, with creator Seth McFarlane spouting some bullshit about “never take your love ones for granted” when its all about ratings, publicity, and ad dollars. Only now the series is paying for the “jump the shark” stunt, showing no respect for the fanbase and playing Family Guy viewers for fools. All the idiotic Meg-bashing jokes the writers can come up with won’t make up for it.

So let Family Guy and the PTC battle it out to the death. No one gives a shit anymore about both. The FCC has more important telecommunications issues to deal with instead of the raunchiness of some past-its-prime cartoon.

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It’s McMornings at The Drive

The Drive is ready for your order

The Drive is ready for your order

McNeil, McMurray to provide WDRV listeners with a morning Happy Meal

Rise and shine, everyone! The McMorning Show is on its way, providing you with Drive-Thru fun, hoping You’re Lovin’ It.

According to, former sports talk show host Dan McNeil and WGN radio host Pete McMurray are close to singing a deal to co-host morning drive at Hubbard’s WDRV-FM, a Album Adult Alternative station. Hubbard officials declined comment.

Think of it as a Big Mac (McNeil) and McFlurry (McMurray) Value Meal.

The duo would replace Steve Downes, who announced his retirement Friday after fourteen years at The Drive. He has been the station’s only morning drive host since its inception in 2001.

McNeil, a fixture at CBS-owned WSCR-AM (and for a brief period at rival WMVP) turned down a deal to return to the station last week. McNeil apparently also passed on the “open auditions” WLUP-FM was holding for its morning show slot. McNeil had been considered a strong contender for the spot given his knowledge of classic rock music.

McMurray meanwhile, had been evening host on WGN-AM for the last few months, and has been at the station for the last seventeen.

Its not known if the new morning show would actually be titled McMornings, given the title could run afoul of the McDonald’s Corp. But for The Drive’s sake, they better hope the pairing of McNeil and McMurray doesn’t turn out to be like the food at McDonald’s.

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Jon Stewart exits “The Daily Show”

Jon Stewart, addressing the audience at a Daily Show taping

Jon Stewart, addressing the audience at a Daily Show taping

In news considered a shocker, Daily Show host Jon Stewart announced Tuesday evening he was exiting Comedy Central’s late-night satire news program after sixteen seasons.

Five years after his syndicated talk show tanked (a last-minute replacement for the original Arsenio Hall Show), Stewart took over after the departure of Craig Kilbourn in 1999 and turned the program into a destination for young viewers looking for an alternative take on current events. Ratings surged after Stewart took over and many studies noted young audiences were getting their news from The Daily Show than from other news sources.

The Daily Show also received its share of controversy, becoming a lightning rod for conservatives, who Stewart regularly skewed on his show.

But political figures weren’t the only ones targeted by Stewart – he target food, too. Yes, food. In November 2013, Stewart ripped into Chicago deep-dish pizza and the city in general after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was unhappy about the Willis Tower losing the World’s Most Tallest Building designation to the Freedom Center in New York. Stewart called the pizza “an above ground marinara swimming pool for rats.” The comments angered many Chicagoans – given Stewart was from New York.

As I noted in a Think Tank over “Deep Dish Gate”, yours truly never got into The Daily Show, preferring Simpsons reruns (and regrettably, the awful Arsenio revival) instead. While Stewart cranky persona came off as funny to a lot of people, to yours truly, it fell flat (admittingly, yours truly doesn’t understand political humor.) On the other hand, I give Stewart props for his great contributions to pop culture and the guts to call out politicians and cable TV news blowhards. His appearance on CNN’s Crossfire in 2005 was perhaps the best television segment ever.

During his time at Comedy Central, Stewart created The Colbert Report, and the series that replaced it, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Stewart’s influence can be seen in another news satire show, HBO’s Last Week Tonight, with former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver.

There is no exact timetable on when Stewart would depart, which is likely after Letterman leaves CBS. Stewart contract expires in mid-2015, according to one source. It is also not known if The Daily Show would continue under another host.

In the last two years, the late-night landscape has changed considerably with the departures of Jay Leno, The Colbert Report, the soon-to-retire David Letterman (to be replaced by Stephen Colbert), Craig Ferguson, and now Jon Stewart. Late night certainly won’t be the same.

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Introducing MeTV: The Radio Station

5170358Weigel Broadcasting enters the radio business with an Oldies format

Get ready for MeTV – the radio station.

Weigel Broadcasting unveiled plans on what they have in store for the 87.7 frequency it is leasing from Venture Technologies.

Launching as 87.7 Me Tv FM and branded as Me Music – the station plans to offer an Oldies format with music targeted to Baby Boomers (adults 35-64) featuring tunes from the 1960’s and 1970’s, including music from the era not heard on local stations in many years.

MeTV of course, is the retro television network featuring classic TV programming from the 1950’s through the 1980’s which started locally on WWME-CA in 2005 and went national as a digital subchannel in 2008.

In introducing the project, Weigel Broadcasting Vice Chairman Neal Sabin said in a statement straight from the press release: “87.7 MeTV FM will differ from the current ‘classic hits’ format by playing a much broader range of music skewing on the pop/softer side including singer/songwriters, album tracks and hits deemed ‘oldies’ by some programmers but considered gold by our target audience. This is ‘Me Music’… memorable, easy music for everyone.”

Core artists include The Carpenters, Carly Simon, Neil Diamond, America, Motown Superstars, and more. Its soon to be competition (Classic Hits outlets WLS-FM and WJMK-FM) have long stopped playing hits from most of these acts.

Listeners can e-mail their song suggestions at

The exact date and time for the launch has not been determined, and no word on any on-air hires. On February 23, the station’s calls change to WRME-LP. A website is already up (MeTV.FM), but no word yet on streaming plans.

Currently, 87.7 FM is simulcasting WGN-AM, which took over from failed sports radio station The Game, which lasted only nine months. The 87.7 FM signal (also broadcast on analog Channel 6, and carried on Comcast cable at channel 877) previously hosted alternative, smooth jazz, and country formats.

Here’s a teaser on the MeTV FM:

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Bulls score in ratings despite slump


Also: Rentrak signs Tribune stations; Grudge Match eyes return; Shout! launches online TV channel

- Despite a lackluster January where the Chicago Bulls went 8-9, the team scored a winning ratings record on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The RSN scored a 4.8 Nielsen household rating in January – up a whopping 65 percent from last year, when the team was without Derrick Rose. In addition, the Bulls were up in key demos – up 113 percent in the adults 18-49 demo and up 116 percent in the 25-54 demo. A game against the houston Rockets on January 5 scored the second-highest regular season rating in history of CSN Chicago, earning a 7.6 rating.

This is stark contrast to what yours truly said about the Bulls’ ratings on January 27th (oops.)

The strong viewership come despite a slumping Bulls team as of late, with a three-game losing streak and plenty of drama (in fact, the drama may be fueling the ratings.) ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy recently ripped into Bulls management for trying to throw coach Tom Thibodeau under the bus, and rumors of discord- much like another Chicago sports team we know. Let’s hope the Bulls don’t ask Jay Cutler for advice.

Meanwhile, the hot-as-heck Atlanta Hawks also burned up the ratings charts, with household ratings up 73 percent from last year on SportsSouth, one of Fox’s two sports channels serving the Atlanta area. Monday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans – which saw the Hawks’ 19-game winning streak came to an end, set a regular-season record for SportsSouth, earning a 4.7 household rating.

- Shout! Factory, which is best known for distributing classic TV series on DVD is getting into the streaming business. On Thursday, Shout! launched Shout Factory TV, which is streaming more than 1,000 hours of programming it has home video rights to, including the original Twilight Zone, Hill Street Blues, The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, former UPN animated series Home Movies, and movie-mocking series Mystery Science Theater 3000, in addition to numerous B-movies.

The service is free – but also ad-supported, and is available only through a web browser. But Shout! is working on dedicated iOs (Apple) and Android apps for tablets and smartphones. An app is already available for Roku users.


A 1991 trade ad for “The Grudge Match”.

- Remember The Grudge Match, the weekly syndicated game show from the 1991-92 season? The series is looking to make a comeback, via a number of platforms. According to TV Media Insights, plans are underway to relaunch the TV show, as well as create a mobile game and an online streaming platform. Richmel Media & Productions, which produced the original TV series for Genesis Entertainment, is heading the effort along with tech enterupeur Dave Young. Bob Dunphy, a boxing and MMA TV director who worked on the show, is also returning.

Launching at the height of American Gladiators’ popularity, Grudge Match featured two combatants who have a gripe with one another (a la The People’s Court) and settle it in the ring. Combatants used oversized boxing gloves in the first round, then battled each other using weapons such as prop food, water, shaving cream pies, etc.

Grudge Match featured some well-known names: Steve Albert and Jesse “The Body” Ventura on play-by-play commentary, with the late Paula McClure (an Entertainment Tonight vet) as field reporter, Michael Buffer as the ring announcer and the late John Pinette as the referee (Pinette appeared in the Seinfeld finale.)

Genesis scored major O&O deals for Grudge Match, including WMAQ Chicago, WNBC New York, KABC Los Angeles (switching to KCAL-TV in January 1992), and KGO in San Francisco. A bid for a second season fell short when the show could not meet the 70 percent U.S. clearance threshold needed to keep the show on the air.

– Upstart ratings service Rentrak announced Wednesday it has signed a deal with the 42-station Tribune Media group (including WGN-TV locally), to provide local market ratings services. Tribune’s Cleveland (WJW) and Des Moines (WHO) stations have been Rentrak since 2012, and the deal also renews their existing pacts.

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Super Bowl XLIX: One for the record books


The last-minute nail biter between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots becomes the most-watched program of all time and the tenth-highest rated

Chicago pulls in higher number for Super Bowl XLIX than the Bears’ Super Bowl XLII appearance

Super Bowl XLIX between Seattle and New England set several ratings records as Americans plopped down in front of their couches and watched what turned out to be a good football game.

First of all, NBC’s telecast of the game set an overnight ratings record: 49.7 rating and 72 share, the highest-rated metered market rating of any Super Bowl all time, and was up 4 percent from last year’s Super Bowl on Fox. Super Bowl XLIX also tied the 1994 Winter Olympics face-off between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.

In Boston (Pats territory), NBC affiliate WHDH scored a 61.0 household rating/85 share, while Seattle NBC affiliate KING earned a 52.1 rating/89 share.

Among total viewers, Super Bowl XLIX came in as the most-watched television show of all time, clocking in a 114.4 million viewers, peaking at 120.3 viewers in the final half-hour. The game is now ranked the tenth-highest rated program of all time, earning a final rating of 47.5/71. To put this in perspective, the final episode of M*A*S*H from February 28, 1983 still holds the all-time record for the highest rated program of all-time, earning a 60.2/77.

Among adults 18-49, NBC pulled in a 30.9 rating in prime-time (6 to 10 p.m CT).

Locally, NBC-owned WMAQ pulled in a 54.9/72, which put it sixth among all metered markets, beating Seattle and even doing better than the 50.2/77 WBBM-TV earned for Super Bowl XLII, when the Chicago Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts. A blizzard hit the Chicago area and much of the Midwest Sunday, keeping viewers away from Super Bowl parties. Many stayed at home, which may attribute for the higher rating.

Regardless, the number still falls short of what WMAQ earned when the Bears beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1986 (still holds the record for the highest-rated TV event in Chicago history with over a 63.1/87) and a few Bulls NBA-title clinching games when NBC had NBA rights.

As for post-Super Bowl lead-out program The Blacklist, the James Spader drama drew 26.5 million viewers and a 8.7 rating in the adult 18-49 demo and was the highest entertainment program since last year’s Oscars telecast. While this marked a series-high for the show, it still fell short of recent post-Super Bowl lead-out programming, such as The Voice, which was used three years ago. Blacklist relocates to Thursday night this week opposite Scandal on ABC.

Also, a special Super bowl edition of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon scored 9.83 million viewers from 11:13 p.m.-12:13 a.m. (CT).





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