“Grease Live” destroys the competition

imgNHL All-Star Game and Pro Bowl do decently well in Chicago despite competition

Fox’s entry into the musical competition was a smash: Grease: Live, an adaptation of the 1970’s musical and 1978 movie, drew 12.2 million viewers and a 4.3 adult 18-49 rating and 13 share, according to Nielsen numbers. The results far outpass NBC’s recent live musicals The Wiz (11.5 million) and Peter Pan (9.2 million) and also decisively beat both programs in adults 18-49. Grease Live only trailed The Sound Of Music Live in those categories.

In the increasingly important millennial (18-34) demo, Grease Live pulled a 3.7/14.

The ratings for Grease Live drew the highest ratings for Fox since an early-season episode of Empire.

Grease Live was a big hit on social media, receiving kudos from many critics (yours truly didn’t watch – not a big Grease fan.) Of note is Robbins native KeKe Palmer, who drew the most acclaim. Grease Live scored a 74 on Metacritic’s scale (among user, the rating was even higher with an 8.1.) Rotten Tomatoes’ rating was not available.

As far as Chicago is concerned, the presence of Grease Live didn’t dampen the numbers for two marquee sporting events on cable. Despite the broadcast competition, the NHL All-Star Game (which started at 4:30 p.m. local time but did overlap with Grease) drew 118,000 homes (3.3 household rating) while the NFL Pro Bowl drew 105,000 homes (x.x household rating.)

Local numbers for Grease Live were not available at press time. Overnight household meter market ratings pegged the musical at 7.4.

Nationally, the Pro Bowl drew only a 4.5 household rating and attracted 7.99 million viewers, making it the least watched since 2010 when it moved the week before the Super Bowl. The NHL-All Star game meanwhile, drew a 0.9 rating and 1.6 million viewers – the best number it earned since moving to NBCSN in 2006 (then known as OLN.) In Canada, the game drew 1.97 million viewers, making it the most watched program of the day north of the border – even topping Grease Live.

The NHL event in Nashville had an interesting – and satisfying storyline: former Chicago Blackhawks player John Scott – who basically known as an enforcer – was voted in by the fans (as a joke) to the game. But he had the last laugh – Scott scored a goal and was named MVP.

Despite three events airing and/or overlapping at the same time – all three trended on Twitter Sunday night, it goes to show you the power of linear television in an era of vast choices. Put on the right material, viewers will come. With strong HUT levels, television was the real winner Sunday night.

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Media Notepad: Blackhawks renew pact with WGN Radio

Chicago_BlackhawksAlso: WGN Radio renews Chicago Blackhawks pact through 2024; Paternity Court renewed two more years

-WGN Radio has extended its pact with the Chicago Blackhawks through the 2023-24 season, the team announced on Thursday. The deal keeps a sports presence on WGN, after the station lost Cubs telecasts in 2014. The news comes as the Blackhawks scored the highest local RSN rating for any U.S. team (3.9 HH), according to a press release from Comcast SportsNet Thursday. But what the press release didn’t tell you was, the rating was actually down from last season’s 4.4 average – a surprise given how well the team is playing. Still, the local ratings during the Hawks’ recent twelve game winning streak spiked to a 4.7 on CSN.

Nexstar-media-general-hed-2015-Television’s latest big corporate merger was announced Wednesday when Nexstar and Media General agreed to a $4.6 billion marriage, giving the new Nexstar Media Group control of 171 stations in 100 markets, covering 39 percent of the country – about as many as rival Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who also has 171 stations covering 39 percent of the country – hitting the FCC cap.

The announcement came as Meredith dropped out of the bid for Media General, which it proposed last year.

Media General does not own any stations in Illinois, but Nexstar owns several, including powerhouse CBS affiliate WCIA-TV in Champaign.

In fact, almost every commercial TV station in Illinois outside of the Chicago and St. Louis metro areas is either owned/operated by Nexstar or Sinclair. Other owners in the state include Gray (owner of WIFR in Rockford) and Quincy Newspapers.

The move continues a consolidation trend for station groups outside of the ten largest markets for better leverage against Hollywood syndicatiors, cable and satellite operators in retransmission consent negotiations, and attracting more national advertising (including political) in smaller markets.

maxresdefault-After losing the rights to Right This Minute, MGM decided to re-up their remaining first-run strip, Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court for two more seasons, through the 2017-18 season. The series has been renewed locally on WCIU-TV, in addition to stations owned by the CBS, Tribune, and Sinclair station groups.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, MGM decided to stop subscribing to Nielsen for ratings of the show, because Paternity Court has a heavy dependence on direct-response advertising (K-Tel, Ronco, etc… yes, I know – those are dated references.) Plus, direct advertising doesn’t have the negative stigma it once had as more general, blue-chip advertisers are shifting their buys to digital – not to mention the increasing proliferation of digital subchannels, where you see direct ads practically all the time.

photo– Both Al Jazeera America and Touchvision announced recently they were closing their doors, within days of one another – proving it is not easy to produce informational content. Al Jazeera announced its closing on January 12, due to an inability to compete with the three major cable news networks (not to mention the infamous name) while Chicago-based Touchvision announced its demise two days later, laying off of 40 journalists. Touchvision was available on all platforms, from over-the-air TV (48.2 in Chicago) to social media.

Touchvision was created in part by Lee Abrams, best known for his role in masterminding the AOR format for radio stations in the 1970’s and was in creative roles for XM and Tribune.

Heroes-Reborn-NBC-1-550x309– Yeah, you saw this coming: NBC announced recently it was not renewing Heroes: Reborn for a second season, done in by unimpressive ratings (on Thursday nights opposite heavyweights The Big Bang Theory and Grey’s Anatomy) and a go-nowhere storyline. The news came out during NBC’s portion of the TCA Winter Press Tour. According to TV Insider however, NBC is keeping the option to bring the series back – again – despite low ratings as creator Tim Kring is considering opening up a new chapter of the series. NBC President Rob Greenblatt later said the door would remain open for any future installments.

Is NBC really this dim to consider ANOTHER chapter of this show? They did before by announcing this Heroes Reborn project two years ago, didn’t they?

Just keeping losing those viewers, network TV. I’m certain the press and execs will find more excuses for your low ratings. And yes, NBC still stands for Nothing But Crap.

-Rest in peace: Over the past few weeks, we’ve lost a few media people. Among them include WLS-TV website producer Anne Swaney, who was found murdered in Belize; Former WGCI/WVAZ exec Kris Kelley; and Jim Conway, the first person to ever anchor a local newscast in Chicago at WGN-TV.

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“X-Files” return does it for Fox

Reunited: David Ducvony (l.) and Gillian Anderson.

Reunited: David Duchovny (l.) and Gillian Anderson.



Strong football numbers power X-Files return

(Editor’s Note: Contains spoilers.)

The Truth is still out there.

The X-Files‘ return Sunday night was as good as gold as the return of the Emmy-winning 1993-2002 series paid dividends for Fox.

According to Nielsen, the “10th season premiere” of the series starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson scored a 15.1 household overnight rating and 28 share, a 6.1/19 final rating/share in the key 18-49 demo, and 16.1 million viewers. It was the most-watched episode of The X-Files since 2001.

Of course, it helps to have a strong lead-in: the NFC Championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Charlotte-based Carolina Panthers. The contest drew 45.7 million viewers, a 21.4/37 household rating/share and a 15.7/42 in the adult 18-49 demo. Despite those numbers, it was the lowest rated NFC Championship Game since 2009. (The AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos drew 53.3 million viewers for CBS- the most ever for a championship game in the early window.) Charlotte’s WJZY, which was acquired by Fox in 2013, scored a 54.2/73 with the NFC Championship – the highest rating ever for the station. WJZY signed on as an independent in 1987.

Monday’s second episode of X-Files handily won its time period, drawing a 3.2 rating in adults 18-49.

This section contains spoilers.

The first episode of the “six-hour event”- screened first at New York Comic-Con last October – seemed to have some rust as the series hadn’t been on TV in fifteen years. The only changes is Scully is now a surgeon; and yes, they’re carrying smartphones now, so at least Mulder and Scully are up with the times.

Quite interesting: Mulder was led to believe the nine years of the X-Files wasn’t what it was made out to be. Indeed, there were several plot twists and turns, including a woman who claimed her fetuses were stolen by aliens, was killed when an UFO destroys her car.

At the end of the show, we see a rather disturbing  appearance by the Cigarette Smoking Man, saying after fourteen years, the X-Files – have been reopened.

Aside from the laughable “Truth Squad With Tad O’Malley” stuff (which had yours truly in stitches given this is supposed to be a drama…sort of), the return of the X-Files was quite solid. It’s like Mulder and Scully never left – proof series creator Chris Carter still has what it takes to write a good script. Grade: B

As for the layout for the remainder of the series, Monday’s and next week’s installments are standalones (or often referred to as “Monster Of The Week” episodes) and is airing out of order.

(Numbers provided by The Programming Insider.)

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“Right This Minute” returns to local TV


Change in syndicators for long-running clips show; FABLife canceled.

After a year off the local airwaves, video-clip show Right This Minute is back in Chicago thanks to a new syndication deal.

The rights to distribute Right This Minute was picked up by Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution, and cleared on all eight ABC-owned and operated stations. Both have The Walt Disney co. as corporate parents.

The deal returns Right This Minute to local TV here and in New York, via WLS-TV and WABC-TV in New York respectively, both ABC O&Os. The series has been off the air in both large markets since last September, when Fox-owned WPWR-TV and WWOR-TV didn’t renew the show.

New York (DMA rank: 1) and Chicago (DMA rank: 3) account for about 11 percent of the country, and is make or break when clearing syndicated product.

Minute is produced by Magic Dust, in association with the Cox, Raycom, and Scripps station groups. Minute airs on the majority of the stations owned by these groups, including WFXT in Boston, WXYZ in Detroit, and WBRC in Birmingham. Disney takes over syndication from MGM, which took over from Sony a few years ago.

The decision to acquire Minute came minutes before Disney-ABC decided late Tuesday to cancel freshman daytime talk show strip FABLife. The move to drop the critically-panned program came as no surprise as host, creator, and executive producer Tyra Banks departed the show two months into its run. The show averaged a 0.7 household rating and averaged around a 0.3 rating in the women 18-49 and 25-54 demos. The series aired locally over WLS-TV weekdays at 1 p.m.

The younger-skewing FABLife seemed out of place compared to the more traditional daytime fare airing on WLS and other ABC affiliates. Yours truly made fun of the concept when the series was announced in October 2014.

It is not known what time period Right This Minute would occupy on WLS this fall, or what would replace FABLife, although CBS Television Distribution’s Rachael Ray, which occupied the slot during the 2014-15 season and is airing at 1:40 a.m., could return to 1 p.m.

FABLife is slated to conclude Sept. 9.

Syndication, Television

Syndication 2016: Yawn.


Outside of Harry Connick Jr., there’s practically nothing on the market

Looking for something new for the fall of 2016 in syndication? Good luck.

That’s the consensus as the 2016 market has come to a crawl. Outside of NBCUniversal, who is marketing Harry Connick Jr.’s show this fall and Entertainment Studios pushing a new one-hour panel talk show, syndicators are skipping the fall season for the most part, instead reinvesting in the current product they have.

In fact, CBS Television Distribution is out renewing its lineup of first-run shows – even low-rated, past-their-prime entries such as Rachael Ray and The Doctors, as reported by Broadcasting & Cable last week. The former has been downgraded in a few markets, including Chicago, where it airs at 1:40 a.m. and could stay there indefinitely. The move to renew even the lowest-rated of shows is certainly cheaper than launching a new program.

And for the first-time in memory, no major off-network sitcoms are being offered as traditional comedies have mostly vanished from network schedules. Believe it or not, there’s more excitement over Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett reruns returning to television (via Antenna TV and Decades, respectively) than anything being offered in syndication.

And NATPE, a place where syndicators have traditionally sold TV shows to stations, has shifted its focus to digital as the annual convention gets underway this week in Miami.

Thus renewals of existing product are the rule. On Tuesday, Debmar-Mercury has renewed Celebrity Name Game for a third season on Tribune and Sinclair stations, and its Wendy Williams Show has been renewed through 2020 in 50% of the country, including the Fox station group.

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan are seen during the production of "Live! with Kelly and Michael" on October 1, 2013 in New York. Photo: David E. Steele/Disney ABC

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan are seen during the production of “Live! with Kelly and Michael” on October 1, 2013 in New York. “Live” is one of four talk shows re-upped through 2020. Photo: David E. Steele/Disney ABC

Also Tuesday, Disney-ABC Domestic Television renewed Live with Kelly and Michael through 2020 on all the ABC-owned stations. Even Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, whose ratings have declined for years amid time period downgrades and a constant revolving door of hosts, was picked up for another season through 2017.

Meanwhile, 2015-16’s three freshman shows –FABLife, CrimeWatch Daily, and Crazy Talk – are all expected back next season, despite each failing to achieve north of an one rating (Editor’s Note: Disney-ABC canceled “FABLife” Tuesday evening.)

These moves comes as an availability of time slots continue to vanish – not only for renewal of existing product, but also for expansion of news and other local programming. Adding news is actually less expensive than buying a syndicated program, first-run or off-network: the station keeps all ad time and doesn’t have to share it with a syndicator; and a staff is already in place to produce it.

Recently, several NBC-owned stations made a plan to eliminate an hour of entertainment programming and replacing it with local news later this year. And KTVI in St. Louis is adding an 11 p.m. newscast (you read that correctly – 11 p.m., not 11 a.m. – in the Central Time Zone.)

Marketplace changes are also affecting the development of new programming. Viewers have migrated to streaming platforms for entertainment product, decimating the off-network business for broadcasters and cable networks. Netflix reportedly invested over $6 billion in original product, and has about as many original shows as the syndication business itself. And this while several cable networks continue to take expensive write-downs on off-network product.

More time slots are available in the future – but the industry has said this before only to see the same shows renewed over and over again, shutting out any new product forthcoming. Meanwhile, programmers have become lazy – for instance, Fox’s WFLD locally runs TMZ and Dish Nation numerous times a day (as their annoying promos pointed out multiple times during a recent NFC Playoff Game.)

So far, any new programming initiatives have been limited at best. Warner Bros. and TMZ have begun testing South Of Wilshire, a new low-budget game show on several Fox O&Os, including a 5:30 p.m. slot on My50. And Tegna (the former Gannett station group) is taking over sales of T.D. Jakes’ talk show, which was tested in a few markets and is being rolled out for syndication in 2016 – even without the three largest markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, where Tegna doesn’t own stations.

So is the syndication business in daytime ever going to return to its glory days? You have to give viewers a reason to watch. Winning viewers back by renewing The Doctors and The Insider and running TMZ sixteen times a day won’t do the job.

Updated at 11:26 p.m. on 2016-01-19.

Charlie Brown: (C) Peanuts Worldwide, Inc. 

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“One Day At A Time” to return – with a Hispanic cast


One Day A Time original cast. (Getty Images)

Get ready for another reboot…with a big change.

Former CBS sitcom One Day At A Time is being revived for Netflix, but with a major overhaul: the series is being recasted with Hispanic leads.

Here’s the pitch: instead of an divorced mother from Indianapolis raising her two daughters, this would be a Cuban-American female servicewoman raising her two kids – a boy and a girl. Added to the cast is a Cuban-born grandmother, played by Rita Moreno whose credits include The Electric Company and the TV version of 9 to 5. One thing not changing is the role of Schneider, who’ll be the building superintendent/fix-it guy – just like in the original series.

Men of a Certain Age writer Mike Royce is partnering with How I Met Your Mother and iZombie writer/producer Gloria Caulderon Kellett to executive produce the show, along with Norman Lear, who developed the original.

One Day At A Time originally starred Bonnie Franklin (Ann), Valerie Bertnelli (Barbara), MacKenzie Phillips (Julie), and Pat Harrington, Jr. (Schneider.) Harrington passed away recently at 86.

Glenn Scrapelli and former WKRP star Howard Hesseman were added to the cast in later seasons.

This is the latest revival Netflix has ordered as it expands its original programming initiatives. Earlier, Netflix ordered thirteen episodes of Fuller House, a sequel to the original 1987-95 sitcom. House premieres on Feb. 26. Like the original, the new version of One Day is being shot in a multi-camera setup.

Originally created by Whitney Blake (who starred in 1960’s sitcom Hazel) and Allan Mannings, Day ran from December 16, 1975 to May 28, 1984 and finished in the top twenty in eight of its nine years on the air. Reruns of the series also had success in CBS daytime and entered off-network syndication in 1982. Currently, One Day At A Time reruns air on Antenna TV.

During its run, One Day was known for its off-screen problems, notably with MacKenzie Phillips and her substance abuse, which led to her firing in 1980. MacKenzie did return two years later billed as a “special guest star”, but was fired again after collapsing on the set and refusing to take a urine test. She was written out of the show – similar in fashion to what happened with Charlie Sheen and Two And A Half Men in 2011 when he clashed with creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre. Like Phillips, Sheen also has had bouts with substance abuse, but wasn’t the reason for his firing.

Original syndication rights holder Sony Pictures Television is producing the revival effort.

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More affiliation musicial chairs: WNCN snatches CBS affiliation from WRAL in Raleigh-Durham


Another long-term affiliation relationship has bit the dust.

This time, it’s Raleigh-Durham, N.C., known as “The Triangle” as the relationship between WRAL (Channel 5) and CBS is ending after 30 years after the network struck a long-term affiliation deal with crosstown rival WNCN (Channel 17), an NBC affiliate owned by Media General.

WRAL turned around and quickly signed a deal with NBC.

The decision for the WRAL/CBS dissolution doesn’t make sense on the surface – WRAL is the top-rated station in the market and is one of the top-rated CBS affiliates in the country. But these days, financial considerations are a part of any deal and outweigh any ratings success –  and both parties couldn’t come to an agreement on how much “reverse compensation” WRAL should pay to CBS.

The issue is one of the items holding up a renewal deal between The CW and Tribune Broadcasting.

So effective February 29, CBS is taking its programming – including highly popular network programming such as NCIS and The Big Bang Theory and sporting events such as the NFL and NCAA Basketball, to WNCN.

While WNCN ranks third in the market, there is precedent of CBS turning around a station: when Louisville’s WHAS dropped CBS in 1990, former ABC affiliate WLKY picked up the Tiffany network and shot to number one in the market. CBS programming is very popular in southern markets.

“CBS’s business model and our business model are not compatible with one another,” WRAL VP and GM Steve Hammel told TVNewscheck. “We needed to make a decision to go with a long-term partner that saw the value in a community-oriented broadcaster.”

WRAL is owned by Capitol Broadcasting, who at one time owned WJZY in Charlotte and WTTV in Indianapolis who ironically, switched to CBS last year under the same circumstances. Capitol also owns Fox affiliate WRAZ (Channel 50) in a duopoly.

As for programming, it is unclear if The Young and the Restless, airing at 4 p.m. on WRAL since 1993, would run in the same time slot on WNCN. CBS usually schedules Y&R either at noon or 12:30 p.m. (ET). The only other station to delay the soap is KOIN-TV in Portland, Ore. (KMOV in St. Louis recently moved Y&R back to 11 a.m. from 4 p.m.)

This move adds to the dizzying number of affiliation swaps and switches over the years in Raleigh-Durham. The NBC deal for WRAL was one the network pursued for decades – for years, the network was stuck on the higher end of the channel universe – affiliating with perennial low-rated loser WRDU/WPTF/WRDC (Channel 28, now a My Network TV affiliate), before affiliating with and later buying WNCN. In 2006, NBC sold the station to Media General.

WRAL signed on as an NBC affiliate in 1956, but switched to ABC in 1962 -considered a huge win for the network at the time since it did not have the same number of affiliates CBS and NBC had. NBC was forced to share an affiliation with CBS over WTVD until it moved its affiliation to WRDU in 1968 (and even then NBC let WTVD pick the best programs from the network.) WRAL and WTVD traded affiliations on August 4, 1985, months after WTVD owner Capital Cities merged with ABC.

In 1998, WLFL and Fox abruptly ended their relationship, signing with the newly-launched WRAZ. WLFL is now a CW affiliate and was a former WB affiliate.

A historic station in every way, WRAL was the first to receive an experiential high-definition license in the U.S. in 1996 and was the first in the country to air a HD signal. The station also was the first to air a live sporting event and a newscast in HD, and the first to stream a live signal to mobile phones in 2007.

Ranked as the 25th-largest television market, Raleigh-Durham is home to three prominent universities: Duke in Durham; North Carolina State in Raleigh; and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. College basketball is hugely popular in the region – especially with the schools yours truly just mentioned. The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes also play here; the Raleigh-based team won the Stanley Cup in 2006.

The “Triangle” name refers to the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville area, but also the numerous high-tech research and development facilities known as Research Triangle Park.

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Tribune, CW relationship in fragile condition








Network, station group may split; CW considering OTT option

Can this marriage be saved?

In a possible blow to The CW, Tribune Broadcasting has reached an impasse with the network on a renewal deal, which could have ramifications for the TV industry.

According to TV Newscheck, Tribune – owner of thirteen CW affiliates, is balking at an increase of “reverse compensation” fees. The group also wants exclusive digital rights to CW shows in its markets and another long-term deal.

Tribune’s thirteen CW affiliates include stations in the largest markets – including Tribune flagship WGN-TV in Chicago, plus WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles. Tribune also owns CW affiliates in Dallas, Washington D.C., Houston, Miami, St. Louis, Denver, Hartford, Portland [Ore.], New Orleans, and Norfolk (through a shared services agreement.)

The CW was born as a result of a merger between The WB and UPN, announced on January 24, 2006. All the Tribune outlets mentioned (except Norfolk) were former WB affiliates, who pioneered the “reverse compensation” concept; i.e. paying the network to carry programming. Tribune signed ten year deals for those stations, and those deals expire this August.

Things have certainly changed since in the TV industry since 2006, when Tribune signed the deal. In fact, Tribune management has turned over twice – including a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Thus it comes no surprise relations are strained between CBS/Warner Bros., the two principles in the relationship and Tribune, as programming philosophies collide. CW has struggled for years, airing teeny-bopper shows such as Gossip Girl and a 90210 revival, while Tribune has expanded its local news output in major markets, which typically draw older – and more lucrative audiences than the CW was attracting. Locally, WGN is more known for its popular morning newscast, Tom Skilling and the Chicago Cubs than any program on The CW, past or present.

CW has recently seen an increase in ratings and respect with more buzzworthy shows such as Flash, Arrow, and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. But Tribune is still critical, with CEO Peter Liguori blasting the network in 2014 for targeting viewers “who don’t watch television”, namely the 18-34 millennial crowd who abandoned the boob tube to watch programming via their phones or laptops – which Tribune does not get credit for as Nielsen has yet to measure ratings for such products.

CW has tried to attract older audiences in the past, outsourcing its Sunday night programming to Media Rights Capital in 2008. The results were disastrous, and CW wound up bailing out of the night altogether shortly thereafter.

Another sore point with The CW is WGN’s sports schedule, which preempts prime-time programming at least once a week – notably with Cubs telecasts, recently slimmed down to 45 games a year.

To make matters more interesting, Tribune is developing original programming for WGN America such as Salem and Manhattan, attracting much-needed critical acclaim and buzz for the former superstation.

If CW breaks up with Tribune, it does has options – none are guaranteed, as some stations may close due to the upcoming spectrum auction. The CW could land on CBS-owned independent stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, since CBS is a partner in the network. Houston also has an available independent station (KUBE.)

In Chicago however, where the CW ends up is murky since CBS does not own a second station here. Weigel-owned independent WCIU could be a possibility, but the station is already committed to airing WLS-TV’s hour-long newscast at 7 p.m. Another is independent WJYS-TV, but they have a weak signal and virtually no syndicated programming.

Another is putting the CW on a digital subchannel of WBBM-TV, but the station’s digital signal is weaker than its competitors and can’t be picked up in some parts of the Chicago area.

And with the spectrum auction upon us, it would be tougher for The CW to find alternative stations in smaller markets.

If Tribune pulls the plug on CW, it could go the My Network TV route and fill the slots with rerun programming. But this option would not be desirable to advertisers, who favor original shows. On the other hand, original scripted programming would be expensive.

Meanwhile, CW is looking to maximize its profits by launching a premium OTT (over-the-top) streaming service, charging a monthly fee. To do so, it may have to compensate affiliates for the loss of exclusivity. Already, corporate cousin CBS has CBS All Access, but CBS affiliates are participants in the venture.

All of this comes as CW is reevaluating its streaming options as its deals with Hulu and Netflix expire soon, and is facing competition from new cable network Freeform, the former ABC Family channel. Already, the launch of the channel Tuesday generated buzz on social media, trending on Twitter practically all day.

To put it all in perspective, Tribune and The CW are better off with one another than without.

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The “Pyramid of Fun” returns

100kpdavidsonlogoABC’s acquisition of $100,000 Pyramid for primetime  brings game show back to network and New York for the first time in 36 years 

Plus, other TCA news of note

ABC has added another classic game show to its summer lineup.

Ten episodes of The $100,000 Pyramid from Sony Pictures Television has been ordered by the network for a prime-time slot. The announcement was made during ABC’s portion of the TCA Winter Press Tour.

Former New York Giants great Michael Strahan, of Live With Kelly and Michael, has been named host of the show and is co-executive producer. It also marks Pyramid’s return to ABC – and taping in New York City for the first time in 36 years.

Dick Clark has hosted most versions of Pyramid, starting on CBS daytime in 1973 as the $10,000 Pyramid moved to ABC in 1974, becoming the $20,000 Pyramid shortly thereafter. After cancellation in 1980, the program returned to CBS as the $25,000 Pyramid in 1982, taping at Television City in Los Angeles, running until 1988.

In syndication, Bill Cullen hosted a weekly nighttime version (The $25,000 Pyramid) from 1974-79 and Dick Clark hosted a daily version in 1981 ($50,000.) A nightly version with the $100,000 name ran for three seasons (1985-88) also with Clark as host. John Davidson helmed the 1991-92 revival with the same name.

Recent attempts to revive Pyramid by hosts Donny Osmond (2002-04) and Mike Richards for GSN (2012) were not successful.

Meanwhile, ABC announced a second season renewal for Celebrity Family Feud with host Steve Harvey for a second season, also this summer. Both programs could be paired up.

In other ABC news, the network is retooling The Muppets after a disastrous start. ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee said The Muppets “Didn’t have the joy the network anticipated”. Showrunner Bob Kushnell was replaced by Kris Newman late last year. Despite a warm reception by fans at Comic-Con, the show fell flat in the ratings. Yours truly ranked The Muppets as one of the worst shows of 2015.

Lee also said fans of long-running dramas Nashville and Castle have nothing to worry about – their series are sticking around. Lee also addressed Scandal’s controversial abortion storyline, which drew a lot of fans’ ire.

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Boston’s WHDH loses NBC affiliation


(Courtesy: Adweek)

In market’s fourth affiliation change, NBCUniversal to move affiliation to WNEU-TV

WHDH owner Ed Ansin promises fight

Politicians question move

In a bold move, Comcast Corp. announced Thursday it is launching a new NBC-owned and-operated station in Boston, the nation’s eighth-largest market approximately a year from now.

NBC plans to move its affiliation to Telemundo affiliate WNEU-TV (Channel 60), a station based in Merrimack, New Hampshire but serves the Boston market. The station launched in 1987 as WGOT-TV and in the past carried programming from the now-defunct PAX network.

Though NBC declined to mention WNEU in its announcement, it is believed to be the likely destination. Telemundo would slide to a dot two (60.2) channel.

NBC is expected to launch WNEU’s news operation from Comcast-owned New England Cable News (NECN) headquarters, and has already acquired talent from WHDH to launch the station on New Years Day, 2017.

Mike St. Clair already GM of NECN,and Telemundo, is also assuming those same duties for “NBC Boston”, the station’s branding name. NBC, Telemundo, and NECN are corporate siblings of Comcast Corp.

In a memo, NBC Owned Stations president Valeri Staab plans to use NECN’s existing facilities and staff to produce a newscast for NBC Boston. She touted improvements at NECN and WNEU, including new “state of the art facilities”, making it ideal to launch an NBC-owned station in Boston.

On Thursday, NECN announced some new hires, including former Good Day Chicago anchor Melody Mendez.

With this move, NBC would own stations in all top eight markets in the U.S. Boston ranks eighth, below Washington, D.C., where NBC owns WRC-TV. Per Staab’s memo, this would be NBC’s twelfth-owned station.

On the entertainment side, NBC Boston/WNEU has already acquired the rights to Harry Connick Jr.’s new daytime show for early fringe and syndicated shows Access: Hollywood for access and its spinoff, Access Hollywood Live. All three are from NBC Universal Television Distribution.

Ch 7 WHDHWHDH loses second affiliation; Ansin promises fight

With NBC’s decision to launch an O&O, it parts ways with WHDH, who has been the NBC affiliate serving Boston for the last 22 years. WHDH’s contract with NBC expires on December 31.

WHDH is owned Sunbeam Communications, who also owns WLVI in Boston and Fox affiliate WSVN in Miami – a former NBC affiliate whose ties to the network were cut on January 1, 1989 after the network bought former CBS affiliate WTVJ two years earlier. In turn, CBS bought WCIX-Channel 6 in 1988, a station plagued with signal problems (as part of a deal to buy CBS’ WCAU in Philadelphia in 1995, NBC agreed to move WTVJ to Channel 6, relinquishing the comfy Channel 4 position to CBS, now WFOR-TV. The WCIX calls are now used for a Champaign, Ill. TV station.)

Sunbeam president Ed Ansin vows to fight the move, saying the station did not get a fair chance to negotiate. He also said the move to a New Hampshire station in the outer fringes in the market does not serve in the public interest, pointing out the station’s over-the -air signal does not adequately cover the Boston market – a concern also shared by Boston mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts rep. Ed Markey.

However, NBC is counting on cable and satellite coverage to reach viewers. Comcast is the dominant MSO in Boston and expected to get a cushy (2-13) channel position. According to television trade association TVB, over-the-air-only TV homes account for 3.9 percent of the Boston area as of November 2015, the smallest of any top-ten market.

Even though they were more common in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and in the mid-1990’s when a dozen New World-owned stations flipped to Fox, affiliation switches are rare. NBC did strip its longtime San Francisco affiliate KRON in 2001 to affiliate with nearby San Jose ABC affiliate KNTV, which it would eventually own. CBS parted ways with former Jacksonville affiliate WJXT in 2002. Fox switched its San Diego affiliation in 2008 from Tijuana-based XETV to Tribune’s KSWB over foreign ownership concerns (XETV also lost its ABC affiliation in 1972 for this same reason.) In 2013, Fox bought WJZY in Charlotte, ending a long-term relationship with WCCB. And recently, CBS ended a 49-year relationship with WISH-TV to affiliate with Tribune’s WTTV in Indianapolis.

Boston has had a rather complicated history when it came to network affiliation switches. WHDH became the NBC affiliate on Jan. 2, 1995, when the peacock’s longtime affiliation with WBZ-TV ended after 46 years when then-owner Group W signed an affiliation deal with CBS, stripping WHDH of the title after 23 years. CBS moved to WNAC-Channel 7 in 1972 after deciding not to affiliate with the new WCVB-Channel 5 after the FCC stripped the former occupant (the original WHDH) of the channel of its license (WCVB signed with ABC.) Ironically, WNAC also lost its license in 1980 and was taken over by new management in 1982 as WNEV, but retained its CBS affiliation, returning the WHDH calls to Channel 7 in 1990. Boston is the only market in the country where TV licenses were revoked by the FCC twice.

Prior, the original WHDH and WNAC were involved in a straight CBS for ABC swap in 1961.

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2016: A look ahead


2016With 2015 in the rearview mirror, here are the stories to look for in 2016:

1. The spectrum auction. The upcoming – and complicated – spectrum auction the FCC is holding is likely to change the face of television as we know it. Some over-the-air stations could pack it in and call it a career as the FCC plans to buy back spectrum space from TV stations and resell it to telecommunication companies (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) So far no Chicago stations have opted to take the money and run.

2. Chicago on the brink. All eyes will be on Chicago again as the city continues to deal with the fallout of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and the future of mayor Rahm Emanuel – a huge challenge for the city’s media outlets. Meanwhile, gun violence and financial problems are taking its toll on Chicago’s image as national media outlets continue to talk about the city’s woes with tourism numbers beginning to decline and Chicago’s perception to the world as a hapless loser is becoming more and more prominent. Unfortunately, 2016 for the Windy City is shaping up to be a repeat of 2015.

3. The return of Garry Meier. Beloved radio host Garry Meier is planning to make a comeback with sidekick Leslie Keiling in the first test on whether or not a major show can be sustained online.

4. Can Empire keep it going? After a red-hot start in its first season, can Empire keep up the momentum? While still dominant in the ratings, a sign of an audience mutiny is starting to mount, starting with…that kiss.

5. “Peak TV”. Last year, there were more than 400 scripted TV series alone, leading critics to declare this “Golden Age of TV” has “peaked”. Is it all downhill from here? Unfortunately, we’ll hear more of the term “Peak TV” until critics come up with another term to annoy us.

6. The CW and Tribune. While The CW has signed renewal agreements with Nexstar and Sinclair station groups, the network still hasn’t come to terms with Tribune, who is the largest owner of CW affiliates – and owns them in four of the five largest markets – and the pact expires this year.

7. Reboot fever. The first of the reboot bunch is slated to arrive this winter (The X-Files, Fuller House, etc.) It’s a sure bet nostalgic viewers will tune in, but will they stay?

8. Chicago baseball. The Cubs are moving to WSCR-AM (The Score) this year, and everyone’s watching to see if the team can sustain the same momentum it had in 2015. Meanwhile, former Score occupant Chicago White Sox is relocating to WLS-AM (890).

9. More consolidation? It doesn’t matter if Meredith or Nexstar turns out to be the winner in the Media General sweepstakes… we may see more broadcast companies merge as stations feast on political advertising revenue – and the possibility of Donald Trump being in the White House means lots and lots of deregulation could be on the way.

10. Batman vs. Superman. One of the most anticipated movies of the year, pitting two superhero babyfaces against one another. If this doesn’t work, there’s always Lex Luthor vs. The Joker.

Broadcast Networks, Chicago Media, FCC/Politics/Government, Journalism, Radio, Sports, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WFLD embroiled in “Hatgate”


A memo from a Fox 32 news producer about women wearing hats in live shots in winter lands him in hot water 

For once, it wasn’t WGN’s Morning News making headlines…but the other local morning news show – and not in a good way, of course.

As first reported by Robert Feder, an e-mail memo circulated by WFLD-TV news producer Dan Salamone stated the station’s female reporters on Good Day Chicago should not wear hats on-air while reporting on the field during the winter months. Salamone said he would make an exception “if it’s only 20 below”.

What the what?

The e-mail was sent only to the female reporters, but not male ones (although Good Day Chicago only has female reporters on staff.)

The story sparked outrage and even a comment from a reporter at a competing station. And it didn’t take long for the blogosphere to weigh in, as this woman pointed out the absurdity in “Some Dude at Fox 32 Telling Women They Shouldn’t Wear Hats in Freezing Chicago Weather While On Air.”

Feder rightfully declared Salamone “the dumbest TV executive of the year”, although given the absurdity of this business sometimes, it’s a good bet someone else will claim that title in due time (CNN boss Jeff Zucker hasn’t done anything dumb in 2016 yet.)

WFLD GM Dennis Welsh – who made news of his own a few weeks ago by ripping into embattled Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in an editorial, told TVSpy there was no policy regarding hatwear at the station – male or female, saying the e-mail was in “poor judgement”, and no ban would be in place. Welsh said disciplinary action would be taken against Salamone, though declined to specify what would that be.

Chicago viewers have long complained about reporters not bundling up while doing live shots in wintertime, so Salamone’s reasoning is quite bizarre to say the least.

Salamone came to WFLD last August from CBS affiliate WOIO-TV in Cleveland where news director Tom Doerr is also from. While at WOIO, Salamone used puppets – yes puppets – to reenact scenes from the public corruption trial of Cuyahoga county commissioner Jimmy Dimora after cameras were not allowed in the courtroom in segments called “The Puppet’s Court”, which this blog wrote about in 2012. Doerr has been news director of WFLD since February 2013.

The WFLD Fail Whale.

The WFLD Fail Whale.

The controversy is the latest embarrassment for the Fox-owned station, whose morning show is known for a revolving door of talent. Recent departures include Jon Kelley and Melody Mendez while Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper and former WLS-TV castoff Mike Caplan became the latest addition to Good Day, which finishes either in fourth or fifth place, far behind the more established and buzzworthy WGN Morning News. WFLD’s noon and 9 p.m. news shows also trail the competition.

One day in April 2011, Good Day Chicago’s 9-10 a.m. segment earned a 0.0 household rating, even finishing behind religious programming.

If you’ve read this blog for the last few years, yours truly has pointed out many of WFLD’s follies – including leading off a newscast with a Bears story instead of a major earthquake hitting Japan, leading me to declare Twitter’s “fail whale” as WFLD’s official mascot. And this was a few news directors and GMs ago.

This sorry episode just adds to the misfourtunes of what passes for news at WFLD.

And oh, about Hatgate? Maybe Salamone should visit a church in the Chicago area this Sunday. A lot of women who attend The House Of The Lord do indeed wear hats.

Chicago Media, Journalism, Local TV (Chicago), Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TV’s best in 2015

Where does "The Jinx" rank in TV's best for 2015? Did it rank at all? Scroll down to find out!

Where does “The Jinx” rank in TV’s best for 2015? Did it rank at all? Scroll down to find out!

2015 in television was clearly unforgettable: a debut of a new series generating numbers not seen in years; a debate over whether we had “Too Much TV”; we said goodbye to David Letterman and Jon Stewart in late-night; and Donald Trump hijacked the news media (and will continue to do so in 2016.)

As for scripted television, we went into 2015 in “The Golden Age Of TV” and exited in “Peak TV” – all thanks to a FX exec who said “there’s too much television”, referring to the overabundance of quality TV.

So as a result, this year’s top ten list is has nearly turned over from last year’s: only one show (Bob’s Burgers) was on 2014’s list.

Also, yours truly decided to eliminate sporting events from this year’s list as I decided to switch back to “TV” from “content” (sorry Blackhawks, but your Stanley Cup victory would top the list if I hadn’t.)

And while yours truly is a fan of Stephen Colbert, his Late Show just misses the cut. His program needs to improve the second half-hour because it’s becoming a snoozefest.

So let’s countdown the top 10 TV shows of 2015:

10. Marvel’s Agents of Shield (ABC). After a slow start (and a Turkey Award demerit last year), Shield has become must-watch for yours truly, thanks to improved storytelling and deeper character development. Clearly one of the most underrated series on television.

9. Bob’s Burgers (Fox.) Still one of the funniest animated adult series on television.

8. Survivor (CBS). After all this time, still one of the most addicting reality-competition shows on TV.

7. UnReal (Lifetime). A more-than-accurate send-up of what really goes on behind the scenes of reality shows such as The Bachelor.

6. Mad Men (AMC). The final season of this critically-acclaimed, Emmy-winning drama was indeed one of the best – especially the final episode. Instead of stopping at December 31, 1969, the series bolted into the early ’70’s – who knew Don Draper came up with the Coke I Want The World To Song hilltop commercial?

5. Fargo (FX). Topping many critics’ year-end lists, this comedy continued to shine in season two – even with a completely different cast and storyline. This time, the series went way back to 1979 as a husband-and-wife team try to cover up a murder.

4. Daredevil (Netflix) Another underrated series from Marvel, the blind super-hero deals with villains in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. The cinematography is excellent.

3. Empire (Fox). Busting on the scene in January, Empire is a different concept – a serial set in the world of hip-hop with interesting characters and interesting storylines. Ratings in the first season rose every week – unprecedented in this day and age.

2. The Wiz (NBC). The live adaptation of  live-musical exceeded expectations – what an enjoyable performance – especially from rising star Shanice Williams.

1. The Jinx (HBO). This groundbreaking series featuring accused murderer Robert Durst is perhaps the most interesting documentary yours truly has ever seen – with a twist at the very end of the series finale which led to his arrest. Amazing!

The Worst of 2015: Much of TV’s worst was covered in the T Dog Media Turkey Awards, so no worst list (besides, no one does those anymore.) But if they were ranked, Heroes: Reborn would be hands down the winner, followed by another revival, ABC’s The Muppets, perhaps the most unfunniest comedy I’ve ever seen.

Other series making the cut include the now-canceled Wicked City, CSI: Cyber, Life In Pieces, Truth Be Told, Bastard Executioner, Best Time Ever (also since canceled), Be Cool Scooby-Doo (Cartoon Network), and Jenny Loves Donny (A&E). Among veteran shows, The Real Housewives of Atlanta gets votes as usual, along with Love And Hip-Hop and ESPN’s First Take. Also getting votes are all of those insipid weekend late-night “lifestyle” shows on NBC (LX TV, George to the Rescue, 1st Look, etc.) Here’s some advice: don’t ever fall asleep during Sunday Night Football. You’ll pay the price.

Broadcast Networks, Cable, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Ellen” renewed, “Meredith” canceled

0062856_300_192Ellen signs new deal; enables NBC-owned stations to add news at 4 p.m.

‘Meredith’ axed after two seasons

Ellen DeGeneres will be dancing up a storm in daytime for years to come.

That’s because Warner Bros. and NBC announced on Monday a huge mega-renewal deal for her daytime/early fringe talker Ellen through the year 2020, taking the show through her 17th season.

The renewal deal includes all ten of NBC’s owned stations including WMAQ-TV in Chicago, which airs the show at 3 p.m. and is staying put.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

The new pact also moves Ellen and NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey to earlier time periods in some markets to make room for news expansion on NBC-owned stations. Beginning in either late May or early June, NBC stations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Hartford, Conn. will launch newscasts at 4 p.m., pushing Ellen to 3 p.m. in those markets. ABC-owned stations in New York and Los Angeles already program news at 4 p.m.

The deal restores news to the 4 p.m. time period at KNBC in Los Angeles for the first time since October 2006 when a local news show was rushed in to replace the failing Megan Mulually show, which lasted just seven weeks in the early fringe time period. Ellen has occupied the time period since 2007.

NBC’s stations in Philadelphia, Dallas, San Diego, and Washington D.C. already have 4 p.m. newscasts and airing Steve Harvey at 2 p.m. and Ellen at 3 p.m. In Chicago, WMAQ airs a local newscast at 4:30 p.m. and has done so since 1976 (excluding a short period where Extra – now at 4 p.m. – occupied the time period.) It is not known if WMAQ plans to launch a 4 p.m. newscast, which would necessitate the move of Extra.

Hours before the Ellen renewal, NBCUniversal announced the cancellation of The Meredith Vieiera Show, which had been expected.

Premiering in September 2014, Meredith never really gained traction in the ratings. According to Nielsen, Meredith spent the better part of two years in the ratings basement, averaging around a 0.3 rating in the key women 25-54 demo and a 0.9 in households. Speculation had been swirling for months on the future of the show.

Meredith follows a trend of celeb-driven talk shows failing to draw viewers in recent years. Shows hosted by Jeff Probst, Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper – and revival efforts from Queen Latifah and Arsenio Hall (for late-night) have met a similar fate.

Vieira plans to wrap up the series in May. Afterward, she’ll trek out to Rio to report from the 2016 Summer Olympics for NBC.

While news expansion is the de facto replacement for Meredith in a few NBC O&O markets, there is no word on what would replace it in Chicago, where it airs at 1 p.m. weekdays on WMAQ. A strong possibility is the return of Access Hollywood Live, which is still airing on a few NBC-owned stations.

Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Chi-Town Rising” pulls ratings victory upset


Chicago rings in the New Year.

NBC 5’s upstart effort unseats ABC 7’s annual show

In news no one saw coming, NBC-owned WMAQ’s freshman New Year’s Eve show beat ABC-owned WLS-TV’s in live plus-same day ratings, according to Nielsen and first reported by Robert Feder.

In the quarter half-hour before the New Year began, Chi-Town Rising on WMAQ scored a 17. 1/36 household rating/share, beating WLS’ Countdown Chicago 2016, which earned a 14.2/30. In all, Chi-Town did what was it supposed to do and then some: put a dent in ABC7’s rating for Countdown Chicago.

Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve With Ryan Seacrest didn’t score the type of numbers the local shows did, but still put up good numbers. From 10:30 to 12:15 a.m., the countdown drew a 10.0/24 in households, down from 10.7/25 a year ago.

But the big winner was local TV – nearly one million households tuned in at midnight. The huge number illustrates the power local over-the-air broadcast television still has in our society.

Mario and Courtney Lopez hosted for WMAQ; WLS had Mark Giangreco and Janet Davies.

Both specials were also huge hits on social media – but not in the way you’d expect. The Twitterverse was slamming both shows – especially Chi-Town, complaining about the name (no one says “Chi-Town” in Chicago); the poor production quality; the vanillaness of the hosts; and numerous technical glitches. The crowd however, seemed more sedate than the chaotic 1980 gathering at State and Randolph.

Even the countdown clock on the star on the Hyatt Hotel was behind, hitting midnight a few seconds after the fact.

Meanwhile, a few posted a rather interesting screenshot of Giangreco and Davies.

And yes, even Jim Belushi managed to show up…on Countdown Chicago playing a harmonica (revenge on Chi-Town Rising for not getting the hosting gig?)

National New Year Eve shows didn’t go unscathed, either. On CNN, Kathy Griffin was in lingerie (yowza) and Don Lemon appeared to show up drunk. ABC’s annual New Year’s show had Jenny McCarthy acting like an ass, as usual.

Wait a minute… Jim Belushi and Jenny McCarthy on the same channel? On the same night? Ladies and gentlemen, we achieved the most impossible of dreams.

And the less said about Ryan Seacrest,  the better.

The musical acts saved the local shows from being total Titanics. The band Chicago performed on Chi-Town while Chance the Rapper lit it up on Countdown. But the World Premiere of a musical number of Gotta Dance on Countdown seemed out of place. And didn’t a Lockport homeowner getting a “surprise” New Year’s Eve party seem a little staged?

But it’s nice to know there is a place to where the overused terms “The Golden Age of TV” and “Peak TV” do not apply: New Year’s Eve TV.

(Updated at 2016-01-04 at 1:53 p.m.; corrected information in second and fourth paragraphs.)



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