Tamron Hall, Kelly Clarkson talk shows in development

Development swings into full gear as stations prepare for 2019

With the new fall syndication season beginning in less than a month, distributors are already lining up for fall 2019 – at least in daytime.

Last week, two faces took in the lead in development: NBCUniversal has signed American Idol winner and The Voice judge Kelly Clarkson for a talk show project, while Disney-ABC did the same and signed former WFLD anchor and Today co-host Tamron Hall.

A few weeks ago, Warner Bros. signed VH-1 reality star RuPaul for a similar project.

The development action comes as time slots are becoming available for September 2019, and some shows are preparing to leave the air. For one, two talkers from NBCUniversal – two-season Harry and longtime veteran Jerry Springer were canceled this season, with the latter heading to CW in reruns beginning September 10.

Also, the future of another NBCUniversal talker – Steve Harvey’s revamped Steve – is reportedly in trouble as the series’ move from Chicago to Los Angeles hasn’t paid off in increased ratings and revenue.

Clarkson shot a talk show pilot for NBCU on Friday, and may sell the program for a fall 2019 debut – though the company said the show could air on another platform. If it goes the syndication route, it could easily slip in for Steve on NBC-owned stations if his show does not return. Harvey leads into Ellen in most NBC-owned markets, including Chicago at WMAQ-TV.

NBCU did not provide any further details about the project.

Meanwhile, Disney-ABC signed Hall a development deal for a project previously developed by The Weinstein Co., before sexual harassment allegations against founder Harvey Weinstein sent the company into bankruptcy. Though her agent William Morris, Hall was able to sign a deal with Disney. “I’m so thrilled to partner with Disney/ABC to create a daytime television show that’s unconventional, fun, intimate, and sometimes even raw,” said Hall in a released statement. “My new partners appreciate and respect the relationship I’ve built with my audience and know that if we create television worth watching, they’ll join us for the ride. I’m so grateful and excited for this next chapter. The landing makes the leap of faith so worth it!”

Hall was unceremoniously dumped by NBC’s Today in 2017 after the third hour she co-hosted with Al Roker was given to Megyn Kelly, despite strong ratings. Hall also produced several specials for NBC News, MSNBC, and Investigation Discovery. Beforehand, she was with Fox’s WFLD as morning anchor for a decade.

Disney-ABC has had trouble developing a successful talk show to compliment its morning Live franchise over the years with Katie and The Fab Life recent notable flops. The latter saw host Tyra Banks depart just two months into its run.

Like Clarkson’s deal with NBC, a sale to ABC’s station group isn’t guaranteed. Currently, Disney-ABC has company-syndicated viral clips-show Right This Minute and the aging Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in daytime slots on the O&Os and Hall could easily slip in. But in Chicago, Windy City Live has the 1 p.m. time slot with Minute airing in overnight slots at ABC-owned WLS-TV and Millionaire airing at 2 p.m. on Weigel’s WMEU-CA (The U Too). If Hall’s program clears the ABC O&Os, it’s possible WLS-TV would not be part of the deal, leaving other Chicago stations as possible alternatives. WLS aired Katie at 3 p.m. for two years and not only lost to Ellen in the ratings, but scored historic lows in the time slot – dating back to the early 1980s when the station was still airing chopped-up and badly-edited afternoon movies.

With these three projects – and likely more to be announced between now in January, stations are once again looking to freshen up their daytime skeds in order to keep viewers from heading toward other alternatives. While syndicators have mostly struck out with big-name daytime talkers in recent years, a recognizable name is still more valuable to stations and advertisers than a no-name one.

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Bobby Bones heads to Chicago

Syndicated country morning show joins Big 95.5’s lineup

In a move a lot of insiders saw as inevitable, languishing iHeartMedia-owned country station WEBG-FM (branded as Big 95.5 FM) is bringing in nationally syndicated host Bobby Bones for mornings, beginning Monday.

Based at iHeartMedia’s WSIX-FM in Nashville, the show replaces Amber (Alabama) Cole’s program but is shifting to a late morning slot. The move comes months after the station parted ways with low-rated morning team Mason and Remy, who recently returned to radio in St. Louis.

To introduce himself to Chicago audiences, Bones will throw out the first pitch at Saturday’s Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Bones already airs on numerous iHeartMedia country stations nationwide. Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas in poverty to a single teenaged mother, Bones got his start in radio at seventeen at Henderson State University. Bones became a successful Top 40 radio personality in Austin, Texas and in an unusual move, Clear Channel Communications (iHeartMedia’s previous name) shifted him to Nashville to launch a syndicated country radio show via Premiere Radio Networks in 2013.

Despite lacking the traditional background in country music, Bones’ show has became a phenomenal success, averaging three million listeners nationwide. It’s the reasoning behind then-owner CBS Radio’s decision to shift Stylz and Roman from WBBM-FM to country station WUSN-FM for their morning program, despite a background in contemporary-hit radio. Bones’ program has been a top destination of country music stars, such as Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift (when she was one), and The Voice’s Blake Shelton.

In addition to his daily show, Bones also hosts a weekly country countdown programs syndicated by Premiere on most of the same stations. And Bones became the youngest person ever (at 38) to be inducted into the National Radio Hall Of Fame.

While on the surface this looks like another local morning show falling by the wayside for syndicated content, keep in mind what Big 95.5 has been airing in morning drive hasn’t exactly packed the joint with a tie for 24th place in the most recent Nielsen PPM report. Replacing it with Bones makes sense and is a boost for the already successful show, which now has the third-largest radio market in the country in its arsenal. The biggest surprise here is why this move wasn’t made sooner, given Big 95.5 and Bones’ syndicated show share a corporate parent in iHeartMedia and the previous morning shows’ awful ratings.

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Tribune’s deal with Sinclair dies

And in a surprising twist, Tribune is suing Sinclair for breach of contract

Captain Chesapeake isn’t coming to Chicago after all. Blame overpaying a hand in a regulatory poker game leading to his ship sinking faster than the Exxon Valdez.

Approximately fifteen months after it was announced, Chicago-based Tribune Media announced Thursday morning it was walking away from its merger with Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair Broadcasting. And in a surprise move, the company is now suing them for a breach of contract.

The deal would have created one of the biggest broadcasters in the country, with more than 200 stations covering more than 70 percent of the country including Chicago’s WGN-TV , WGN-AM, 41 other TV stations and WGN America. Sinclair is known for requiring its news stations to run content from conservative commentators Mark Hyman and Boris Epshteyn and segments such as “terrorism news desk”. Sinclair was founded in 1971 as a single Baltimore station (WBFF-TV), home to kids’ host Captain Chesapeake in the 1970s and 1980s, before it joined the Fox network.

The planned merger drew objections from a wide variety of organizations from the liberal Move On and Free Press to the conservative Parents Television Council and even conservative Fox News competitors NewsMax and One News Network. The merger was also opposed by several state attorney generals, including Illinois’ Lisa Madigan. 

A few weeks ago, the FCC referred the Tribune Media-Sinclair merger to an administrative law judge as Chairman Ajit Pai had serious concerns about how a planned divestiture of WGN-TV to a Maryland auto dealer for a mere $60 million – far below what the station was worth – while continuing to control WGN via a shared services agreement, meaning Sinclair would run the station in lieu of owning it. Sinclair also planned to divest Tribune’s Dallas and Houston CW affiliates to Cunningham Broadcasting, another third-party operator under the same terms (an earlier draft of the deal to the FCC – among numerous – had New York’s WPIX divested to Cunningham for $15 million.)

In a statement, Tribune Media CEO Peter Kern noted “Our merger cannot be completed within an acceptable timeframe, if ever,” due to the law judge possibly delaying the deal longer – maybe more than a year. “This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders. Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the Merger Agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable.”

WGN Radio remains in local hands – for now.

In the merger agreement, Tribune or Sinclair could walk away from the deal as soon as August 8, 2018, with Tribune doing exactly that Wednesday evening. But what surprised some was the lawsuit Tribune filed against Sinclair Thursday morning in Delaware Chancery Court, seeking $1 billion in damages for how they handled themselves with regulators.

Tribune claims Sinclair “repeatedly and willfully breached its contractual obligations in spectacular fashion,” according to the suit, and ignored regulators’ “clear path” to a deal. “In an effort to maintain control over stations it was obligated to sell if advisable to obtain regulatory clearance, Sinclair engaged in belligerent and unnecessarily protracted negations with DOJ and the FCC over regulator requirements… all in the service of Sinclair’s self-interest and in derogation of its contractual obligations.”

Since the deal was announced, Sinclair has suffered numerous public relations gaffes – notably for making its news anchors across the country read the exact same script regarding “fake news” word-for-word and line-by-line, documented in a video posted by Deadspin. Sinclair also received unwanted attention when President Trump tweeted support for the Tribune deal – flawed as it was, criticizing the FCC for sending it to the administrative law judge.

What’s next

With the Sinclair-Tribune deal officially dead, so were plans for Sinclair to sell several Tribune stations to Fox, and selling a bunch of others to Standard Media. The real question now is who will pursue Tribune Media? Will the stations be broken up and sold piecemeal? Even though the merger is dead, Tribune is likely to sell as the industry continues to consolidate. Fox could still nab some of the Tribune stations (especially those in NFL markets) and even a few more. The deal’s collapse could pose opportunity for other buyers, including Tegna, Gray, and Scripps.

As for Sinclair, they have nobody to blame but themselves, done in by their own arrogance. When they decided to acquire Tribune, Sinclair figured it would be an easy path given the FCC now had a 3-2 Republican majority and the GOP would be far more receptive to their needs. But when Sinclair decided to circumvent around the 39 percent ownership cap – while divesting WGN-TV for far less for what it’s worth – even Pai though something was wrong. Plus, it turned out Sinclair misrepresented themselves and unnecessarily badgered and bullied the Justice Department in the process. Their actions hurt Sinclair in the FCC’s eyes and had their reputation damaged in the industry – hell, even Clear Channel and Cumulus were never this stupid. In fact, David Smith and the Captain Chesapeake boys made the Dickey brothers look like Lee Iacocca.

We all know how bad Sinclair was when it came to running their stations, inserting right-wing commentary and all. They are total snake oil salesmen, something we knew all along. In the words of the late football coach Dennis Green, we knew who they thought they were. Only difference was the FCC didn’t let them off the hook.

Official press release (under the headline “Sinclair acquisition”) 

Peter Kern’s e-mail to Tribune Media employees (via Robert Feder)

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Nostalgia wave boosts Chicago radio stations

Break out the leg warmers and Rubik’s Cubes : WDRV, WLS-FM score record ratings

There must be gold in retro music – because it is paying dividends for several Chicago radio stations.

And it is for two stations in particular: Hubbard’s Classic Rock WDRV-FM (The Drive) and Cumulus’ Classic Hits WLS-FM both scored their highest rankings ever and their highest numbers in years. Both tied for second behind iHeartMedia’s WVAZ-FM and ahead of Entercom’s WBBM-AM and Hubbard’s Hot AC WTMX-FM (The Mix.)

In fact, WLS-FM scored a ratings victory in a major daypart. As reported by Robert Feder Tuesday, midday jock Greg Brown finished first , inching ahead of WVAZ’s Bionce Foxx overall. Both he and The Drive’s Bob Stroud tied for first in the key 25-54 demo.

The success comes at a time when a nostalgia wave is sweeping through pop culture – particularly when it comes to the 1980s, evidenced by the ongoing reboots of TV shows from the era, including Magnum P.I., DuckTales, Double Dare, Dynasty, Roseanne (until the star of the show blasted Valerie Jarrett on Twitter), and Murphy Brown, while others such as ALF and The Facts Of Life are already in the works.

Both stations play some variation of ’80s music: WDRV playing more rock-based hits from the decade while WLS is focused more on 1980s pop hits, though some 1970s and 1990s hits are mixed in.

WLS-FM’s success is ironic given the station (then known as WZZN) launched an all-80s format known as The Zone in 2001, before evolving into a more gold-based Hot AC station. In September 2001, the station flipped to Alternative while keeping The Zone slogan, and ran for four years. Oddly, the last time the 94.7 frequency saw this much ratings success was in the early days of WYTZ (branded as Z95) with a Top 40/CHR format in the late 1980s.

While you can credit the demand for anything from the Pac-Man era, both The Drive and WLS-FM benefited from the demise of WLUP-FM and WJMK-FM. And their success – and of WBMX-FM (which focuses on 1990s-2000s-era hip-hop/R&B music) stands in contrast to the struggles of their more contemporary peers, including WBBM-FM (B96), WKQX-FM, and WGCI-FM – a signal today’s music isn’t exactly catching on with audiences, especially those in the older demo.

Chicago is not alone in seeing their radio stations ride the nostalgia wave to success. In Philadelphia, Classic Hits outlet WOGL-FM surged to the top, while 95.7 The Spot in Houston finished a strong fourth overall with KLUV-FM in Dallas-Fort Worth doing likewise. In Atlanta, Classic Hits station  (WSRV-FM) tied Urban WVEE-FM (The People’s Station) for second place.

So why the nostalgia kick? Given the depressing times we’re living in, audiences are escaping to a more happier time: our fondness for everything spandex is a refuge from the barrage of negative headlines we’re seeing on a daily basis. Based on this, you certainly can’t blame anyone for wanting to relieve their youth – and it’s a niche The Drive and WLS-FM are filling nicely. After all, the celebration of The Big Hair Decade now has some Big Ratings to go along with it.

Gag Me With Several Spoons, Man:

Here’s a sample of what was played on both The Drive and WLS-FM on August 7. As you can see, both stations are heavy on 1980s hits. The lists are documented from their respective websites.

The Drive between 7 and 9 p.m. (partial; excludes deep cuts)

We’ve Got Tonite – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Victim of Love – Eagles
Hush – Deep Purple
Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen
Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy – Sammy Hagar
Amazing – Aerosmith
Maggie May – Rod Stewart

WLS-FM between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

I Love Rock N’ Roll – Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Life In The Fast Lane – Eagles
I Melt With You – Modern English
Feels Like The First Time – Eagles
Small Town – John Mellencamp
My Sharona – The Knack
Maneater – Daryl Hall & John Oates



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Media Notepad: David Haugh joins Mike Mulligan at The Score

Also: WLUP to return? While Arrested Development might not. Plus, WGN-TV’s newscasts does well in July sweeps

It’s official: Robert Feder is reporting Chicago Tribune sports columnist David Haugh has joined Entercom’s The Score (WSCR) as Mike Mulligan’s new morning drive co-host. As speculated during the last few weeks, Haugh joined Mulligan on Monday morning’s show, replacing longtime Score veteran Brian Hanley, who is now only doing fill-in work for the station after 26 years as a full-timer.

As a result, the morning show on The Score is now Mulley & Haugh.

Haugh joined the Tribune in 2003 and inherited the showcase In The Wake Of The News column after Rick Morrissey left for the Sun-Times. Haugh recently joined David Kaplan as co-host for Kap & Haugh on the now-defunct WGWG-FM (The Game), one of the few strong programs on the station.

As a result of his new morning gig, Haugh’s column in the Tribune is likely to be reduced from five times a week. The Score hopes to continue the momentum laid out by Mulley & Hanley, as the morning drive show ranked in the top five in the male 25-54 demo and in the top ten overall.

The turmoil at Tribune Media’s WGN-TV regarding future ownership doesn’t seem to be affecting its newscasts as viewers continue to pack ’em in during the July sweeps.

According to Chicago Business Journal, WGN’s morning newscasts continues to dominate in the key adult news demos, ahead of ABC 7’s (WLS-TV) combo of Eyewitness News This Morning and Good Morning America. WGN tied ABC 7 during the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. time frame in households. The major highlight taking place on WGN Morning News in July was a successful Block Party event in south suburban Homewood, drawing headlines in TV trade website TVNewscheck.

WGN’s continues ratings success comes as parent Tribune Media’s merger deal with Sinclair Broadcasting is in limbo after the FCC voted to send the matter to an administrative law judge, after finding deceit on Sinclair’s part over the sale of WGN and two other stations. Since the deal was announced nearly fifteen months ago, Tribune Media employees were left in a state of limbo wondering if the chain’s standard newscasts would turn into right-wing propaganda, something Sinclair is known for.

At 9 p.m., WGN had a commanding lead over Fox 32 (Fox-owned WFLD) by 36 percent in the key adult news demo, but Fox 32 did show some growth from last year. Both WGN and WFLD are far ahead of CBS 2’s (WBBM-TV’s) 10 p.m. newscast, whose 0.5 adult news demo rating has to be the lowest in the history of the station. In fact, WGN’s 10 p.m. news rating in the demo was more than double of CBS 2’s. ABC 7 however, remains the top-rated station in households and key adult news demos in most news time periods.

(I’ll try my best to explain this… ) Could we have another heritage station biting the dust in Chicago? Rumor has it WOJO-FM (known currently as La Que Buena 105.1)  and other Univision radio properties could either be sold to or managed by Cumulus, who recently exited Chapter 11. Radio Insight reported last week a domain of 1051theloop.com was registered by Cumulus, who has the old WLUP calls parked somewhere in Minnesota.

The news comes as the Wall Street Journal published an unflattering story last week about executive turmoil at Univision, as its broadcast TV network continues to lose ground to rival competitors, including rival Telemundo and like the rest of the industry, having trouble dealing with viewers cutting the cable cord.

If this comes to fruition, a shift of WOJO’s Spanish-language format (Regional Mexican) could wind up on two other FM stations it owns in Chicagoland: WVIV 93.5 or WPPN 106.7 – however, neither station does not reach the entire market. Univision also owns Spanish-language TV stations WXFT and WGBO.

The article states a deal isn’t imminent and could be used as a “smokescreen” (to throw off competitors.) But if it happens, it could face opposition from Latino community leaders, providing even more bad PR for Univision. While iHeartMedia did dump a similar Spanish-language format from the former WNUA-FM 95.5 FM in 2015, the station never attracted much of an audience and its passing was barely noticeable.

WOJO has long had a various number of Spanish-language formats on 105.1, dating back to the early 1970s. While something like this may seem far-fetched, keep in mind WLUP was around for 41 years – and in March, the station dissolved when it was sold to the Education Media Foundation and flipped to Christian Rock.

Univision is one of the very few companies left in the media business with a sizeable amount of television and radio stations. Last week, Cox announced it was exploring a sale of its TV stations to focus on radio and newspaper properties.

Remember Arrested Development? It looks like it is over and out for the once-critically acclaimed sitcom, who found new life on Netflix after Fox canceled the show in 2006. On a Television Critics Association panel Sunday, Netflix VP of original content head Cindy Holland noted there has not been a discussion on bringing back the show for another season.

“I actually don’t know if [Season 6] is a possibility or not,” Holland told reporters. “We haven’t discussed it at all.”

The fifth season of Arrested Development quietly debuted on May 29, but only a few of the thirteen-episode order were released on Netflix – very unusual for a service who generally releases all of a season’s worth of episodes at once so viewers can binge. The promotional machine for the show was derailed after a controversial interview involving the cast was published in the New York Times. In the piece, Jeffrey Tambor was accused to harassing fellow cast member Jessica Walter while cast members Jason Bateman, David Cross, and Tony Hale defended him during the interview.

Tambor was fired from another streaming series, Amazon’s Transparent after similar allegations of misconduct surfaced.

The New York Times controversy may likely have killed buzz for the show, though reviews have been decent with a 67 Metacritic rating and 65 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Another reason Netflix isn’t likely committing to a sixth season is Arrested Development’s producer (20th Century Fox Television) is being acquired by Disney, who is launching their own streaming service in 2019 and is not likely interested in producing any more episodes. Netflix hasn’t set a date on when the rest of the episodes would be released, signaling there is either low demand for them – or they just don’t care.

Whatever the outcome, it is a sad end to what was once a great TV show.

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Think Tank: The Sinclair blunder: Where do they go from here?

Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of Tribune Media is falling apart.

Sinclair thought a change in administration would enable to get what they wanted. They thought wrong, but botched deal might not stop more consolidation

While Sinclair Broadcasting is in trouble with the FCC with how its misrepresented itself in its proposed merger with Tribune Media, it won’t slow down the merger and acquisition activity expected.

That’s because an appeals court Wednesday dismissed a challenge from two activist groups regarding the UHF discount. The FCC voted earlier this year to bring the discount back after it was eliminated by his predecessor, which many thought he had no legal right to do so. Observers noted the FCC discount – meant to help UHF stations in the analog era halving their coverage area – was an advantage Sinclair wanted to use to get bigger. This blog noted the UHF discount and the way it was used in the digital era was a scam.

The news comes as a victory for broadcasters, who are looking to scale up to better compete with the likes of Big Tech: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix. Already, Atlanta-based Cox Communications – one of the last multi-medium media companies in the business (TV, radio, newspaper, and cable) and home to top-rated dominant ABC affiliate WSB-TV – is putting its TV group up for sale.

And this is just the beginning. In addition to advocating loosening caps, The National Association of Broadcasters also wants looser regulation for radio as two of the largest operators of stations (Cumulus and iHeartMedia) have either exited or looking to exit bankruptcy and may be ready to buy again.

Returning to Sinclair, the FCC’s decision to refer the merger to an administrative law judge was slammed Tuesday night by President Trump – who may – or may not (likely not) understand how television stations are sold:

Pai defended his actions Wednesday, stating Sinclair misrepresented themselves in how Sinclair was acquiring three stations – and their plan to buy them and reselling them below market value. It centered on their decision to sell WGN-TV to a third-party operator named Steve Fader, a Maryland automobile dealer with close ties to Sinclair chairman David Smith for only $60 million to try to circulate around the national ownership cap, now standing at 39 percent. Sinclair would operate the station as if it were its owner in a shared services agreement.

But the transaction seemed to be a sweetheart deal – given News Corp. (now 21st Century Fox) paid Newsweb $425 million to acquire WPWR-TV in 2002 – the most expensive deal for a Chicago station in history at the time. Pai also had problems with Sinclair making the same kind of deal with Tribune’s CW affiliates in Dallas (KDAF) and Houston (KIAH), this time with Cunningham Broadcasting, another group with ties to David Smith – this time, the estate of his mother, Carolyn.

Currently, Tribune and Sinclair are mulling what to do. The hearing could drag on for months and months, delaying the deal further and perhaps nullifying it. Tribune has the right to walk away from the deal after August 8 if it chooses to do so – and likely would. 21st Century Fox – who is unloading its entertainment assets to Disney, may try to revisit the idea of purchasing Tribune. Problem is, they would own three stations each in the top markets including Chicago, and federal regulators do not allow outright ownership of more than two in the same market.

If the Sinclair-Tribune deal falls apart, they could go after Cox’s fourteen stations and enter markets where they don’t have a presence, including Atlanta and Charlotte. But there would be some overlap in a few markets such as Pittsburgh and Dayton, where Sinclair already owns and/or operates two stations.

The end result is, there will be more consolidation in the marketplace. But whether if it would be good for consumers remains to be seen. Given what we’ve seen so far – mindless reboots of TV shows (Roseanne, Magnum, P.I., etc), reboots of executives (Marv Nyren and Jimmy Decastro), less local content, fewer people of color in key positions, more and more job losses, and possible labor turmoil, I wouldn’t count on it.

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Chance The Rapper buys Chicagoist

The South Side native gets into the media business – and takes shots at them

In an unusual manner, Chance The Rapper announced some big news – by letting one of his tracks serve as a press release.

In a stunning announcement, the Chicago native announced he was purchasing the website Chicagoist from public radio station WNYC in New York. In a first, he made the announcement in a track he dropped called I Might Need Security –  one of four he released Thursday morning.

WNYC purchased Chicagoist and the archive rights to DNAInfo after former owner Joe Ricketts – whose family members owns the Chicago Cubs – shuttered it after New York employees decided to form a union.

“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment… said Chance The Rapper in a statement. I look forward to relaunching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content.” Chance recently formed Social Media LLC, a company looking to promote diversity in the media business through investigative journalism and representation.

Chance The Rapper – who real name is Chancellor Bennett – has risen to stardom despite a lack of radio airplay. Unlike many rappers, Chance often raps about social issues in his music and has numerous targets – specifically Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom he both dissed in the track. Rauner and Emanuel are unpopular in Chicago’s black community.

Chance also took aim at the media in his new single, specifically Crain’s and the Chicago Sun-Times, who he had issues with regarding how he supports his children saying in the song “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches outta business.” The rhetoric is not unlike President Donald Trump’s regarding the press, who regularly ridicules them and often refers to reporters as “enemy of the people”.

But the Chicagoist purchase is indeed a plus, given very few minorities are represented in the media business in Chicago – and bucking the trend seems to be picking up stream. In June, alt-weekly Chicago Reader was purchased by an African-American woman (Dorothy Levell) after the Sun-Times’ disastrous run, with Mark Konkol’s ten-day employment as the main highlight in dysfunction.

Chance has been a viable Chicago citizen and philanthropist, donating one million dollars to Chicago Public Schools and raised two million more for their arts and education programs and collaborated with the Special Olympics on its 50th Anniversary. As part of the ceremonies, Chance headlined a show Saturday night at Northerly Island. A product of CPS, Chance grew up in the West Chatham neighborhood, the same area ESPN’s Michael Wilbon is from.

With Chance on board, the Chicagoist is unlikely to run stories where it is completely clueless about the South Side and south suburbs, where the majority of the Chicago area’s African-Americans live. It is proof the Chicago media often neglects the southern portion of the market – a point Chance rightly points out. For example, Chicagoist wrote this about the Chicago Skyway in 2015:

As we South Siders know, the Skyway does not connect directly to downtown Chicago (it feeds into the Dan Ryan Expressway, which runs just west of the Loop) and there is no such thing as the “southeastern suburbs” though the Skyway connects to Indiana directly from Chicago.

This is how I summed up Chicago media coverage anywhere south of Cermak Road – we might as well be in another city.

Chance The Rapper’s decision to buy Chicagoist is certainly welcome news for those of us who feel snubbed by the media too long and only think of gun violence and crime when it comes to covering the African-American community. But there are some questions: how often is Chance going to be involved in the editorial content of the publication? Is he buying it for the sake of buying it? And if he’s involved in a controversy himself, will Chicagoist cover it? These are the inevitable questions someone is bound to ask.

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DC Universe streaming portal unveiled

New streaming portal for DC Comics fans includes original scripted programming

The biggest news coming out of the 48th annual Comic-Con gathering in San Diego Thursday was  a surprise announcement from Warner Bros. The studio announced it was launching a new streaming portal called DC Universe, involving iconic superhero characters such as Batman, Superman, Aquaman, The Green Hornet, Wonder Woman, and many more.

As part of the streaming portal includes original scripted programming. Shows announced include Titans, Stargirl, Doom Patrol, Young Justice: Outsiders, Harley Quinn, (both animated), and a revival of Swamp Thing. A trailer was unveiled Thursday for Titans at Comic-Con:

The news shook up the annual television, comics, and pop culture gathering, where hardly any big news was expected.

DC Universe marks AT&T’s first major investment in content since the purchase of Time Warner became official last month (approved by a judge, the Justice Department recently appealed the decision, putting the merger once again in doubt.) Cost of the service is $7.99 a month or $75 a year.

In addition to original programming, DC Universe plans to feature off-network material, including former Fox Kids series Batman: The Animated Series, the live-action Wonder Woman TV series, and others – although it is unlikely the 1966-68 version of Batman would be part of the streaming package given the rights to the series are controlled by 21st Century Fox.

Theatricals featuring DC Comics characters are also being featured on the service.

Also, fans can purchase episodes (but not stream) current CW superhero series under the DC name such as The Flash, Arrow, and Black Lightning. Fans can also access their favorite comics digitally, buy exclusive merchandise, and exclusive message boards where they can interact with DC Comics’ writers and creators and other fans (and bash Marvel product, obviously.) The DC Universe will be available on all devices, including iOs (Apple), Amazon Fire, Android, Chromecast, Roku, and many more.

The move comes as more and more studios are facing increasing competition from the Netflix behemoth, who is investing $13 billion in original content, not to mention Hulu and Amazon. DC Universe is also competing with a planned streaming service from Disney, who is buying the television production and film operations of 21st Century Fox and has rival Marvel in its arsenal.

Currently, Marvel has a “Marvel Unlimited” portal for $9.99 a month. But the service only provides access to the company’s digitized comics collection while its movies and television series are tied up in Netflix – consider this an advantage as DCUniverse would have all of its product under one roof sooner.

The “trailer” for the new service is below.

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The Media Notepad: Comcast drops bid for Fox assets

Also: Start TV debuts; WGN Block Party in Homewood; and Comic-Con begins today.

Consider it deal done…for Disney: Comcast announced Thursday it was dropping its $65 million bid for 21st Century Fox, essentially giving rival Disney a victory in the battle for the assets.

Disney agreed to buy most of 21st Century Fox in December originally for $52 billion but Comcast decided to bid of the properties after AT&T and TimeWarner received approval from a judge to merge their companies. Disney has since raised its bid to $71 billion, topping Comcast’s $65 billion.

But the Justice Department has appealed the judge’s decision in the AT&T-TimeWarner case, which could undo the merger. Along with the likelihood of the Sinclair-Tribune deal being squashed, Comcast decided to drop its bid for Disney amid regulatory concerns and instead focus on buying UK broadcaster Sky, which is also up for sale by Fox.

“Comcast does not intend to pursue further the acquisition of the Twenty-First Century Fox assets and, instead, will focus on our recommended offer for Sky”, Comcast said in a statement.

The Justice Department has already approved the Disney-Fox transaction, and 21st Century Fox board members can approve the sale in their July 27 meeting. The transaction includes everything in Fox’s portfolio with the exception of Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, Fox Business Channel, the Fox O&Os, FS1, FS2, Fox Sports, Big Ten Network, and My Network TV. Disney has at least ninety days to find a buyer for Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks, though Comcast could be an interested suitor for at least some of the properties.

Yet another new diginet is on the way: this time it’s Start TV, a new digital subchannel from Weigel Broadcastingtargeted to women 25-54 featuring female-skewing hour-long procedural dramas. Shows featured include The Closer, Medium, Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, Profiler, and The Division. Also coming is The Good Wife in January 2019. CBS Television Stations is the launch partner.

““We are excited to launch the Start TV Network with the CBS Television Stations,” said Neal Sabin, Vice Chairman of Weigel.Each of these acclaimed TV series is built around compelling female lead characters and portrayed by amazing award-winning actresses. This is an exciting network concept and great opportunity to present these proven procedural dramas.””

The launch takes place on September 3 (Labor Day) with each show stripped in the same time period every day of the week. Headliner programs are being showcased with multiple episodes airing in multi-hour blocks in a “mini-binge” format.

CBS will add Start TV to its digital subchannels on its owned-and-operated stations including WBBM-TV in Chicago, where it will replace Decades on its 2.2 and 48.4 frequencies. Weigel is adding Start TV to its stations in St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, and South Bend, and is also being added by Bahakel Communications’ station group, giving Start TV 42 percent of the country at launch.

In Los Angeles and Chicago, Decades is expected to relocate to one of Weigel’s frequencies though didn’t specify which (in Chicago, either WCIU or WMEU) as the fate of Decades in other CBS markets has yet to be determined. Weigel said it remains committed to Decades, but the channel has had rough footing on a program format since its launch in 2015. Decades continues to produce some original programming, such as the one-hour strip Through The Decades, hosted by Bill Kurtis. Originally scheduled as a six-hour programming block airing four times every weekday, Decades now consists of off-network sitcoms during the day and documentaries and classic variety and talk shows in the evening hours, and weekend “binges” of classic TV shows.

While WGN employees are sweating it out on who the future owners of their station would be, the morning news crew headed out to south suburban Homewood (a place this person has been many times to shop and dine) for their 3rd annual WGN Block Party featuring a parade, marching bands, and a lot of people having a good time.

This is the first time the Tribune Media station held the block party in the Southland. Previous block parties were held in north suburban Geneva and Park Ridge.

As documented by TVNewsCheck, the festivities took place on Ridge Road between Harwood Avenue and Dixie Highway, just a short distance from Homewood’s Metra/Amtrak station and in front of the La Banque Hotel. Coming in from Bradley Place were WGN morning team personalities Robin Baumgarten, Marcus LeShock, Larry Potash, Dean Richards, Paul Konrad, and Man Of The People host Pat Tomasulo.

It was also a homecoming for several media personalities who made it big from Homewood. Appearing at the block party (and later participating in the parade) included Konrad, WSCR’s Laurence Holmes and White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti.

All in all, a good time and goes to show you how much local TV is important to our communities.

On a side note, a beloved institution this person visited frequently in Homewood was damaged Tuesday when a vehicle crashed into a Dairy Queen on the corner of Ridge and Gladville Road, not far where Friday’s parade took place. Two people in the car were injured and taken to a local hospital. Thankfully, the Dairy Queen was unoccupied at the time the accident happened.

The ice cream stand – a staple of Homewood for over fifty years, plans to rebuild.

In case you haven’t noticed, the 48th annual San Diego Comic-Con began today and lasts until Sunday. Like this year’s NATPE conference, there isn’t much news expected to come out of Comic-Con, given big draws such as Game of Thrones and the the Marvel Cinematic Universe skipped the gathering this year and SyFy discontinued its nightly wrap-up show. There is also a lack of buzz – quite unusual for a pop-culture event of this magnitude.

For example, the cavernous Hall H is playing host to a presentation on some film called Assassination Nation. Assassination Nation? What the hell is that?

But if you’re a fan of numerous niche TV shows (such as The Good Place – who has HUGE presence, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Charmed), or a few favorites (The Big Bang Theory), then Comic-Con is the place for you. But if you’re not a fan of those shows, then you won’t care. There’s really no point in write something up few people will read. In other words, Comic-Con stopped being about science-fiction TV and film long ago and it shows this year (Magnum, P.I….really? Is Murphy Brown holding a panel too?)

Covering this year’s Comic-Con on this blog is getting harder to do with each passing year, and this time around T Dog Media is sitting this one out, at least on this platform. If you’re looking for streaming coverage, there isn’t much to speak of – unless you a Marvel fan and their coverage is limited only to their product. There is some live coverage available on YouTube, from IGN and Entertainment Tonight (yes, really.)

If you follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia, then I’ll retweet or post any breaking news if warranted and I’ll post cool pics on the T Dog Media Instagram account, if any. Covering Comic-Con on social media is easier than doing it here, and besides – this is the way it’s done now.

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Sinclair refiles Tribune merger application again

In order to have government regulators approve the merger with Tribune,  Sinclair agree to withdrew controversial plans to sell stations in three markets including Chicago

FCC votes to send matter to Administrative Law Judge

(Editor’s Note: This story is  frequently changing. Follow @tdogmedia on Twitter for updates.)

Aren’t you sick of this already?

After being smacked down by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai over a scheme to buy a few stations “potentially involving deception”, Sinclair Broadcasting announced it was once again refiling its proposal to purchase Tribune Media.

The latest proposal involves Sinclair purchasing WGN-TV outright instead of buying it and then selling it to a Maryland car dealer for $60 million – far below the station’s value – while continuing to operate it.

Sinclair also withdrew plans for a third-party contractor (Cunningham Broadcasting) with connections to the company to purchase Tribune’s stations in Dallas and Houston, both CW affiliates.

Instead, Houston’s KIAH and Dallas’ KDAF, a former Fox owned-and-operated station, would be put into a trust Sinclair is creating and be sold later.

This marks the sixth time Sinclair has filed a proposal derivative from the original deal, announced on May 8, 2017. Tribune Media owns WGN-TV, WGN-AM, and CLTV in Chicago -all and 39 other stations plus cable network WGN America would be acquired in with several divestitures to Fox and Standard Media in order to get under the 39 percent ownership coverage cap.

In its filing, Sinclair still claimed no wrong doing on its part. In a statement Wednesday, Sinclair said: “There can be no question regarding misrepresentation or character given that Sinclair has fully disclosed all terms of all aspects of the transactions it has proposed. The FCC’s reported concerns with sales to certain parties have been eliminated in light of the withdrawals of the applications relating to Dallas, Houston and Chicago. Accordingly, we call upon the FCC to approve the modified Tribune acquisition in order to bring closure to this extraordinarily drawn-out process and to provide certainty to the thousands of Tribune employees who are looking for closure.”

Sinclair responded on Monday to Pai’s suggestion the deal would be sent to an administrative law judge, indicating it would fight the decision and have the deal approved, no matter how long it took. Many accuse Sinclair of circumventing around the 39 percent ownership coverage cap with its “sidecar” deals.

On Wednesday evening, the FCC unanimously voted to adapt a Hearing Designation Order on the merger. Details on the order is expected to be released on Thursday. Reuters is reporting the deal has indeed been sent to an administrative law judge, despite Sinclair’s actions on Wednesday.

While the threat of sending the proposal to an administrative law judge could have been enough to derail the merger – history showed it has to other deals in the past, Sinclair is hell bent on getting this merger approved – no matter what their analysts or shareholders think. And if the FCC or the law judge still rejects the deal, Sinclair could still pursue legal action, delaying the process even more.

In other words, the Sinclair scam artists are pushing forward and are betting a certain imbecile in the White House – who once praised Sinclair while slamming the big three broadcast network news operations – orders officials to approve the deal.

(Updated at 9:04 p.m.)


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Sinclair-Tribune deal on the ropes

FCC Chairman has concerns about the deal; could be knockout blow – Sinclair and Tribune both pledge to fight on

(Editor’s Note: Updated at 4:10 p.m. on July 17 with new information.)

Even Ajit Pai is seeing through the scam.

On Monday, the FCC Chairman released a statement saying he had “serious concerns” about the $3.9 billion deal between Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media, and recommended it would be sent to an administrative law judge – meaning approval of the deal – announced on May 8, 2017, could take longer – or not take place at all.

In addition, a draft of the order Reuters obtained from the FCC noted the transaction “may involve deception”.

The issue at hand is the plan to sell several stations to third parties in several markets to “sidecar companies” while Sinclair would be the defacto operator of the stations. The plan was restructured several times with plans to sell Tribune’s WGN-TV in Chicago to a Maryland car dealer for $60 million with ties to Sinclair.  Two stations in Texas were also planned to be sold to different third-party operators, also with ties to Sinclair.

By comparison, Chicago’s last commercial TV station deal saw WPWR-TV sold to Fox for $425 million in 2002 – worth more today when adjusted for inflation.

Another problem is the size of the deal. As it stands, Sinclair would be over the 39 percent cap with the Tribune purchase, even with the UHF discount factored in. The FCC brought back the discount last year in a process this blog declared a “scam” to help Sinclair after it was eliminated. Now, Pai is being investigated by the FCC’s inspector general on whether he made the changes to benefit the Maryland-based company.

In separate statements Tuesday morning, both Tribune and Sinclair were vowing to fight on – even if it meant delaying the deal further.

Sinclair noted it complied with  FCC rules in the way it handled their proposals to divest several stations.“[A]t no time have we misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition,”the group said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis. We are prepared to resolve any perceived issues and look forward to finalizing our acquisition of Tribune Media.”

Tribune Media’s statement was less fiery, but also expressed disappointment: “Tribune Media was disappointed to learn that the chairman had circulated an order designating certain issues for consideration by an Administrative Law Judge. It will review the FCC’s hearing designation order when released and expects to work with the FCC to explore ways to address the concerns identified. Until we have reviewed the order it is difficult to explain the potential issues it might create for the transaction.

The deal has run into opposition from the day it was announced. Opponents varied in the political spectrum from liberal groups such as MoveOn and Free Press to the conservative Parents Television Council and cable news channel Newsmax. The deal has also been opposed from several trade groups, such as the American Cable Association, who praised today’s move. Many cable operators fear Sinclair would have too much leverage in retransmission consent negotiations, resulting in price increases for consumers.

Sinclair has been involved in numerous controversies since the deal was announced. In March the company forced its anchors to read a word-for-word script denouncing “fake news”. The broadcaster is known for its conservative viewpoint, airing “must-run” commentaries from Mark Hyman and Boris Epshteyn.

From a sports perspective, the deal’s collapse could also impact Sinclair from obtaining local sports rights in Tribune’s three biggest markets, namely WGN’s with the Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and White Sox as noted by Awful Announcing. Sinclair also has an over-the-top and digital subchannel Stadium, who holds rights to several collegiate conferences.

So what does this mean? A hearing in front of an administrative law judge could drag the approval process along for several more months or even years. Proposed mergers from Dish Network and DirecTV and Comcast-TimeWarner fell through because the FCC suggested they go through the ALJ process.

While Democrat FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel agrees with Pai, two other FCC commissioners are not yet on board: Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly, who criticized the long process and would support the action if the ALJ review was conducted  “include[s] sufficient and defined timelines for the ALJ to conduct and process a hearing.”

This comes as these types of mergers are coming under more scrutiny. The Justice Department last week decided to appeal a judge’s decision on the AT&T-TimeWarner merger, which could be unwound if the government’s action is successful. The ripple effect could also doom Comcast’s chances to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets. Ironically, the Justice Department greenlighted Disney’s attempt to purchase the same assets.

The real question now is how long can Sinclair and Tribune play this out? Shares for both dropped considerably Monday on Wall Street and now, the future of this deal – and Tribune Media specifically – is now in serious doubt.

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The Media notepad: Chicago’s African-American radio stations hold their own despite population drop

As yet another report showing the Chicago area’s African-American population on the decline, the market’s black-targeted radio stations seem to be holding their own.

Even the entrance of classic Hip-Hop/R&B station 104.3 Jams (WBMX) didn’t have much of an impact on the overall share of African-Americans listening to radio in the Chicago market, though WBMX reportedly had taken audience away from Top 40 sister station WBBM-FM (B96).

In numbers reported by Robert Feder Tuesday, IHeartMedia-owned WVAZ-FM remained in first place among all Chicago stations and was also first in middays (with Bionce Foxx) and in afternoons (with Joe Soto). Ratings for sister station WGCI went up from last month and actually closed the gap with WBMX.

Crawford’s urban duo also held their own: Power 92 (WPWX) finished 22nd with a 2.1, while Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM) finished in a time for 30th with a 0.9 rating, which is respectable given its limited signal.

Still, the population decline of the Chicago area’s African-American community should be a concern to all involved, including radio stations and media buyers as residents are leaving the area due to poor employment opportunities, high taxes, and rampant gun violence. Last Saturday, activists led by the Rev. Michael Pflager and the Rev. Jesse Jackson marched down the heavily-traveled Dan Ryan Expressway between 79th and 67th streets, shutting down the inbound lanes of the roadway and generated national media coverage. The march began on the northern border of Chatham at 79th, once a crown-jewel of middle-class black life in Chicago now struggling with high crime rates, similar to other black neighborhoods in the city.

Meanwhile, WGN-AM’s morning show with Steve Cochran surged to sixth place, but WGN lags below 20th place in other dayparts. B96 rebounded from a 37-year low with a jump to a 2.9 rating, but remained in 17th place and is still behind rival Kiss 103.5 (WKSC-FM). And WLS-AM had a book to forget with a 25th-place finish.

Keep in mind these numbers are month-to-month and urban and Top 40 numbers tend to rise when the weather is warm and kids are out of school. We’ll see what the numbers are in September and October.

1994 logo.

The CW announced Wednesday it was terminating its affiliation agreement with WBNX in Cleveland – with only five days notice.

Beginning Monday, The CW is shifting its programming to Raycom-owned WUAB-TV. “The CW has some of the most popular series on television among young adults,” WUAB vice president and general manager Erik Schrader said in a statement. “Now along with our sister CBS affiliate Cleveland 19 [WOIO], we will be able to offer both viewers and advertisers a wide range of entertainment options.”

The move comes as The CW is continuing to upgrade its affiliate roster and is launching a new Sunday night lineup in October. Last year, The CW shifted to a digital subchannel of San Diego’s KFMB-DT (8.2) from Televisa’s XETV, resulting in the station abandoning English-language programming. In 2016, The CW struck a deal with Fox to affiliate with WPWR-TV here in Chicago (CW 50), after leaving WGN-TV as the Tribune-owned station wanted to focus more on sports in prime-time.

Technically, WUAB is a My Network TV affiliate, but doesn’t brand it as such as the programming service’s lineup airs in late-night, which is expected to remain. CW programming on WUAB is airing in-pattern in primetime and also includes a Saturday morning E/I block and a daytime hour, which is being taken over in September by Jerry Springer reruns. My Network TV programming airs from 9-11 p.m. in Chicago over CW 50.

As for WBNX, the station will revert to an independent Monday for the first time since 1997, when it became a WB affiliate. Future programming plans for the WInston Broadcasting-owned station have not been announced, though reports surfaced the station is in deep financial trouble – perhaps a reason for the switch. WBNX parent company is a subsidiary of an Evagencial Christian organization, but had no reported problems with the often-racy fare The WB and The CW airs.

WUAB is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Notably a home of the Indians and Cavailers, WUAB became a UPN affiliate in 1995 and also aired WB programming for its first two years. It chose My Network TV over The CW in 2006 when UPN and The WB merged to become The CW, which WBNX became an affiliate of.

Divorce Court, a show many people forget is still on the air, is moving its production facilities this fall to Atlanta from Los Angeles for its twentieth season. As first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Rodney Ho, the series becomes the third syndicated court show to tape in Atlanta following Couples Court With The Cutlers and Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court. It is not known why Divorce Court is shifting to Atlanta, though generally this type of move could be related to reducing production costs.

Over the last few years, syndicated shows have shifted from Hollywood to Atlanta but have also done this in reverse: now-defunct court show Swift Justice and Family Feud moved their shows from Atlanta to Los Angeles, in the latter case due to host Steve Harvey’s other projects, including Steve and his syndicated radio show.

Divorce Court is presided by former Cleveland municipal judge Lynn Tolver, who replaced Judge Mablean Ephriam beginning with the show’s eighth season. On the air since 1999, Divorce Court is the long running for the four incarnations (1957-69; 1985-91 and 1993.) Unlike the previous versions, the current Divorce Court features real couples and the decisions involve binding arbitration. In the first three versions, the decisions handed down by the judges were not scripted, but improvised.

Divorce Court airs weekdays at 3 and 3:30 on CW 50. The show is distributed by Twentieth Television, but its future after next season is up in the air as both Disney and Comcast are bidding to acquire most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including Twentieth.

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Harlan Ellison dies

Harlan Ellison. (Getty Images)

Acclaimed sci-fi tv and movie writer dies at 84.

Known as one of pop culture’s acclaimed outspoken writers, Harlan Ellison died Thursday at the age of 84. Born in Cleveland, Ellison died in his home in Los Angeles.

Ellison has written more than 1700 pieces of work, spanning novels, science fiction, comic books, short stories, screenplays, and television. His career brought him stops in New York and here in Chicago, where he was editor of Rogue magazine.

In 1962, Ellison headed out to California to launch a screenwriting career. Among the first shows he sold to was The Loretta Young Show and later sold scripts to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Route 66, The Man Of U.N.C.L.E, Circle Of Fear, Babylon 5, and the original versions of Burke’s Law and The Outer Limits. Ellison even penned a script for critically-panned sitcom The Flying Nun under the name “Cordwainer Bird”.

But his biggest breakthrough came in 1967 when he wrote the acclaimed Star Trek episode City On The Edge Of Forever. The script won the Writers Guild Award for best episodic drama in the television category. The shooting script of the same name won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Ellison’s last television credit was in an episode of 2007’s Masters Of Science Fiction.

Ellison’s acclaimed short story and non-fiction work included Reprent Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman; I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream; and A Boy And His Dog, later made into a 1975 film starring future Miami Vice star Don Johnson.

Ellison also was a voice-over artist, lending his voice to animated series such as Mother Goose and Grimm, The Pirates of Dark Water, and two episodes of Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated where he played himself.

Although Ellison won respect for a lot of fans and colleagues for his work, he often clashed with those who didn’t see his vision. For numerous years, Ellison criticized the changes made in the script of Forever made by Star Trek creator and executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Ellison once again used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird, taking his name off the credits of the syndicated 1973 science fiction drama The Starlost after the producers changed his script for the pilot episode so much it wasn’t recognizable as Starlost was one of TV’s biggest bombs of the season. In 1985, CBS scrapped an episode he wrote for The New Twilight Zone after they found his story about a drunk who scared children about a malicious anti-Santa Claus too dark (he did however, go on to write three more episodes for the show.)

Despite his television work, Ellison was critical of the medium in two published essays on the subject. He noted “that to work in television is akin to putting in time in the Egyptian House of the Dead.”

Ellison also was involved in several lawsuits with studios over his work, including suing ABC and paramount in 1977 for plagiarizing he and Ben Bova’s short story Brillo as the basis for the short-lived series Future Cop. He also sued James Cameron for plagiarizing a 1964 Outer Limits episode he wrote as much of the story was used in Cameron’s film The Terminator. In 2006, he sued publisher Fantagraphics Books for defamation.

Ellison has won numerous awards for his writing. In addition to Forever, Ellison won ten more Hugo Awards, including The Deathbird and Dangerous Visions; won six Bram Stroker awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995; eighteen Locus Poll awards; four Writers Guild Awards; and five Nebula Awards, including being the only individual to be a three-time winner of the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

Ellison is survived by his wife Susan, and has an official website but it has not been updated since 2012.

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Justice Department approves Disney, Fox deal

Required sale of RSNs paves way for merger

In a marked turn from its dealings with AT&T and TimeWarner, the Justice Department announced Wednesday it has approved a $71.3 billion deal between The Walt Disney Corporation and 21st Century Fox for most of the latter’s business. The deal was originally announced in December 2017, with Disney offering $52 billion for much of Fox’s assets.

The deal is sealed on one condition – selling off Fox’s 22 regional sports networks. Disney already owns ESPN and its numerous spin-offs.

Disney gets 90 days to sell off the RSNs; it can ask for a 90-day extension. The approval by the government is seen as a huge advantage for Disney over Comcast, who has expressed interest in the Fox properties.

A map of where Fox operates regional sports networks, including  seven in the Midwest.

The move drew praise from several industry organizations, including the American Cable Association. They felt if Disney kept the RSNs, it would lead to higher prices overall and would have tremendous leverage given their ownership of ESPN.

But it’s not over yet.

Comcast is looking to recruit private equity firms to top the $71.3 billion offer from Disney. Fox can still consider other offers, including from Comcast. And a major investor in 21st Century Fox – TCI Investments said Fox should wait to hear a competing bid from Comcast.

As reported here earlier this week, the current bidding war between Disney and Fox over the properties could have an impact on the Cubs’ plans to launch their own regional sports network. With Disney and Fox out of the running, the Cubs do not have a lot of options other than AT&T, who could make a play for the orphan RSNs and add them to their existing properties.

Other suitors could be Charter Communications, Mediacom, and even tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, but the latter is a long shot.

Charter has Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles with separate channels for the Lakers and Dodgers.


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