“Queen Latifah” canceled

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At least Jimmy DeCastro didn’t screw this up.

But it wouldn’t have mattered: Sony Pictures Television has canceled The Queen Latifah Show after two seasons, marking the second time she struck with with a daytime talker (the last time was in 2001, when Warner Bros. dropped her similarly-titled show after two seasons.) The program will continue in production until the end of the calendar year, with originals running until the end of March. Then reruns (and likely time period downgrades) take over until September, when it goes off the air for good.

The series was produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s production company (Overbrook Entertainment) in association with Sony.

Latifah aired locally over CBS-owned WBBM-TV at 2 p.m. weekdays, in addition to other CBS-owned stations. When Latifah premiered in September 2013, it launched on two stations locally: WBBM and independent WCIU-TV, which cleared the talk show in a 7 p.m. primetime slot, unusual for a daytime show.

WCIU dropped Latifah after only one season due to disappointing ratings, leaving WBBM as the exclusive Chicago home for her show this season.

So far this season, Latifah is averaging a 1.0 household rating, down considerably from its freshman season average of 1.7. In the key 25-54 female demo, Latifah earned only a 0.6, down 29 percent from last year.

It is not immediately known what would replace Latifah on the CBS-owned stations. Recently, CBS Television Distribution pulled the plug (for now) on a Jerry O’Connell talk show project, which would have debuted next fall. If no replacement is announced before NATPE, CBS stations would likely replace the show with various shows from other syndicators.

In Chicago, it is a possibility reruns of Judge Judy may resurface at 2 p.m., the slot where it ran before Latifah premiered and drew decent ratings. Judy reruns replaced the ill-fated Jeff Probst Show in December 2012, after just sixteen weeks. Prior to Probst, Judy reruns occupied the 2 p.m. slot for three years.

Queen Latifah is the first syndication casualty of the 2014-15 season.

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Game Over

The GameTribune Media pulls plug on The Game; retains Jonathon Brandmeier and cuts Garry Meier

Robert Feder reported Thursday that Tribune Media has swung the ax of the sports talk format known as The Game (WGWG-LP), the sports station on 87.7 FM after nine months on the air. The move comes as the station was losing busloads of money on the venture.

The station is closing its doors on December 31. It is not immediately known what would replace sports talk on the 87.7 frequency (also a low-powered analog station on Channel 6) as Tribune is leasing it from Venture Technologies until early next year. Recently, the frequency got a stay of execution as the FCC has postponed indefinitely the deadline to switch all low-power analog stations to digital, effectively shutting down the station.

The listener and critically panned station was virtually left at the starting gate, finishing in 34th place in the most recent ratings report. The station never achieved over a one share and never posed a threat to established sports talkers WSCR-AM and WMVP.

Compounding the problems of The Game was no viable morning show, and outside of David Kaplan and David Haugh’s late morning talk show (which is expected to continue on Comcast SportsNet Chicago), had an overall amateurish atmosphere to the station. Even the branding lacked originality as The Game is used as the moniker for other sports stations around the country, giving the station a decidedly generic feel.

The Game is also used in other media, including the stage name of a Compton, Calif.-based hip-hop artist, and the nickname of WWE professional wrestler Triple H, and TWO TV shows (Oddly enough, one of them – a sitcom airing on BET which had its own history of Jimmy DeCastro-like missteps, ends its run in 2016.)

In a interview with the Chicago Tribune, president Jimmy DeCastro had no choice but to pull the plug on the venue, and on Internet radio station WGN.FM, which as of January 2015, becomes WGN Plus.

And with the end of WGN.FM includes the departure of morning personality Jonathan Brandmeier (whose show was also heard on The Game – a rare instance where a terrestrial radio station simulcasts an Internet show.) and Garry Meier. Initially, Jonathan Brandmeier was in morning drive on WGN-AM, but disappointing ratings led him to be banished to WGN.FM and to be replaced by a returning Steve Cochran. Despite strong ratings in afternoon drive, Garry Meier was also banished to WGN.FM. and was replaced by Bill and Wendy. The move was a disastrous one as ratings plunged more than 30 percent.

While Brandmeier is expected to do his show on Friday, Meier – who was basically fired – is out immediately. His last show was Wednesday, and remains under contract until next fall. (UPDATE: Jonathan Brandmeier is sticking around after all – via a new online channel in conjunction with WGN Radio. More details here.)

To show you how much management treated them, The Game staff – including its on-air hosts – found out from on social media and from Feder. Afternoon host Ben Finfer went on an epic rant, pointing out he and the rest of the staff were kept in the dark on the news that The Game was going under.

Also odd is the timing of the announcement – it is rare a station would announce its demise ahead of time. What The Game basically told its audience (or what little it had) they were giving up – giving little incentive for anyone to tune in and making it harder for salespeople to sell advertising. What company would want their products to be associated with this lame duck station now?

With the decision to nuke both Meier and Brandmeier from the air, there is no doubt Chicago-area radio listeners- who were already critical of the moves made by DeCastro and PD Todd Manley on message boards, social media, and blogs, will even be more vocal now.

The irony is if you were one of the few listeners of The Game, you would hear callers rip into Bears management for the inept way the team has handled matters this season.

You could also apply the same scenario to The Game, WGN-AM, and Chicago radio in general.

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CBS cancels “The Millers”

Millers1_434x250 The sophomore season’s surprise cancellation leaves the sitcom genre in a tailspin

In a surprise move, CBS on Friday canceled The Millers just five episodes into its second season. The multi-cam comedy, which had The Big Bang Theory as a lead-in on Thursday night last season, recently made a disastrous move to Monday.

Replacing The Millers in its Monday time slot beginning on Dec. 8 is the return of Mike & Molly, which begins its fifth season.

Set in suburban Washington D.C., the series stars Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale, and Arrested Development’s Will Arnett, and was about a 42-year old news anchor (Arnett) whose mom moves in with him after her 43-year old marriage comes to an end, while his dad moves in with his sister. This season saw former Will & Grace star Sean Hayes being added to the cast.

The Millers aired Monday night with an original, its sixth episode of the season, but it is unknown when the other five episodes would air, though its likely they may be burned off next summer.

While cancelling The Millers nearly midway into its second season is unusual, it is not uncommon for veteran series to abruptly end before the season concludes. ABC canceled 9 to 5 shortly into its third season in October 1983, after two non-productive seasons (based on the 1980 film of the same name, the series would be later revived for first-run syndication in 1986.) Rhoda bit the dust in December 1978, midway during its fifth season after falling into the Nielsen ratings basement. NBC canceled Bonanza during its fourteenth season, in January 1973.

According to Nielsen, The Millers averaged around a 1.5 adult demo (18-49) rating so far this season, down considerably from its 2 Broke Girls lead-in. In its original Thursday slot following Big Bang, Millers earned significantly higher ratings (near a 3.0) but also lost a significant amount of its lead-in.

CBS hoped it would cash in on syndication riches as it was the only sitcom on the schedule owned entirely by the network. The Millers attracted star talent behind the scenes, including Greg Garcia (Yes Dear, My Name Is Earl) and director James Burrows (Cheers).

But at the end of the day, the oft critically-panned show didn’t live up to expectations.

The cancellation of The Millers is bad news for the syndication marketplace, where product is drying up faster than a front lawn in Tinley Park. The number of sitcoms over the last decade have dropped considerably due to the success of reality TV and dramas, which are easier to sell internationally.

And station groups such as Tribune, Fox, and others have opted to fill early fringe and prime access with news and first-run shows – slots that once went to off-net sitcoms. For example, Fox-owned WPWR airs four back-to-back episodes of Family Feud every weeknight from 5 to 7 p.m.

That’s right, Charles is no longer In Charge. Steve Harvey is.

L14A8332.DNGIn a rather odd (and funny) circumstance, when Variety reported on The Millers’ cancellation on Friday, they accidentally inserted a photo (left) for theatrical We’re The Millers instead (besides, who can tell the difference anyway?)

How bad is it for sitcoms these days? Even the man responsible for the sitcom’s rebirth thirty years ago (Bill Cosby) is now under fire for rape allegations. Cosby is currently developing a sitcom with NBC and Sony Pictures Television. But given the media firestorm he’s under, fat chance it’ll even get on the air.

And even worse, the genre is facing competition from unexpected sources, at least around here. With the bumbling Chicago Bears and Derrick Rose’s “excellent public speaking skills” providing us with laughs, who needs sitcoms?

After all, Will Arnett and Beau Bridges have nothing on Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler.

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He’s back: Ramonski Luv returns to Chicago radio

Ramonski LuvAlso: Tom Joyner’s Dallas station changes formats

Per Robert Feder, Ramonski Luv (a.k.a. Ramon Wade) is back with a new radio gig in Chicago – this time at WVAZ’s (V103) main rival.

Wade has signed on with Crawford Broadcasting’s WSRB-FM (Soul 106.3) to be their new evening personality, effective December 3. Wade’s show is scheduled to air every weeknight from 6 to 10 p.m. This means that yes, he’ll be competing against his old partner (Joe Soto) at V103 – the station who fired him last summer. The duo were paired at WVAZ for about a decade, first in afternoon drive and later in the evening, moved to make room for Doug Banks’ syndicated show (Wade was a producer for Banks’ morning show at WGCI.)

Wade thanked his fans Saturday morning:

When Ramonski Luv’s firing was made public, listeners were angry about the decision (with a few coming to T Dog Media to vent.) Since Soto went solo, V103 has fallen out of the number one slot in the evenings, but still remains competitive.

The hiring of Ramonski Luv comes as Denver-based Crawford – primarily known as an owner of religious and conservative talk radio stations – is making a bid to compete with iHeartMedia’s WGCI (Urban/Hip-Hop) and V103 (Urban AC) for the market’s African-American audience. While V103 is Chicago’s top-rated radio station, WSRB has languished at the bottom of the ratings.

However, the race between WPWX (Power 92) and WGCI has been significantly closer- particularly in the 18-34 demos.

Crawford also owns another urban-formatted station, WYRB-FM in Rockford, northwest of Chicago.

In another development in urban radio, Radio One’s KSOC-FM – a Dallas radio station best known for being the flagship for Tom Joyner’s syndicated show, has flipped from Urban AC to Classic Hip-Hop  – as did another station in the Metroplex, Cumulus’ KLIF-FM, which decided to launch a Classic Hip-Hop format for the holiday season. Both KLIF and KSOC did the flip within hours of one another Friday evening.

A few weeks ago, Radio One flipped its Houston all-news FM station (KROI-FM 92) to a Classic Hip-Hop format, and Radio One made a similar move in Philadelphia with its low-rated Urban outlet, WPHI-FM. All three Radio One stations are branded under “Boom”.

Classic Hip-Hop consists of songs from the mid-198o’s to ten years ago, running the gamut from Run D.M.C and Whodini to 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. to Missy Elliott and Nelly. Of course, the artists vary by market.

Despite the format flip, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, which airs locally over WSRB, remains on KSOC.

(UPDATE 2014-11-18: As of Monday, KSOC is no longer carrying Tom Joyner’s syndicated show.)

The duel Dallas format flip was first reported by Radio Insight.

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Playing what Santa doesn’t necessarily want

WILVHubbard’s WILV beats Clear Channel’s WLIT in Christmas music race – of sorts

With the weather getting unseasonably colder across the country, many radio stations are already getting jingle fever and Chicago is no exception.

Thursday morning, Hubbard Broadcasting’s WILV (a.k.a. The Pointergate Company) added several Christmas songs to its usual adult contemporary music format and called it The Christmas Blend, devoting at least 50 percent of its playlist to yuletide tunes and the other 50 percent to its regular rotation.

While this type of format is nothing new in Chicago, some of the music segues could be interesting of the “train wreck” variety, e.g. a Jackson Five Christmas song followed by a raunchy Katy Perry tune.

Meanwhile, WLIT launched its Christmas music format at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning. Unlike WILV, WLIT’s format consists entirely of the holly jolly variety.

Granted, the format isn’t exactly of the best quality, particularly at Clear Channel/iHeart Media stations (oh, what a shock, since you hear the same crappy Mariah Carey Christmas tune every hour.) But despite its shortcomings, the Christmas format sends listeners through the entrances en masse, rending most December and “Holiday” ratings periods useless (which is great for yours truly, who is spared from analyzing any ratings period until January.)

And just as important is Christmas is a family-friendly format which attracts plenty of advertisers – notably retail chains, who feel the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year stations are the best way to reach consumers during the holiday season.

This is the fourteenth year WLIT is playing Christmas music; this is the second year the station branded itself as “Chicago’s Christmas Station”.

If the two Chicago stations Christmas extravaganzas isn’t to your liking, there are plenty of alternatives through Sirius/XM and Internet radio (through Pandora, Stitcher, Tune In, etc.)

Let the Christmas [revenue] rush begin!

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Bears get sacked by Pack and ratings take hit

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Also: Walking Dead, Simpsons, Real Housewives are night’s ratings winners

This is likely the last Bears TV ratings report you will see this season (hold your applause) because reporting on them – and writing about the team itself – is no longer interesting. But given the way the Bears have been playing, the butt-whopping the Green Bay Packers put on The Lakefront’s NFL Team was expected.

At 3-6 and fan disgust at a 16-year high (remember the equally disastrous 1998 season?), the Bears are likely done for the season, thus squandering any future ratings growth.

The Lakefront’s NFL Team performance was the worst programming to air on NBC since Pink Lady and Jeff, Emeril, and Joe Namath’s The Waverly Wonders. Hell, even  Namath’s inept basketball team from this short-lived 1978 embarrassment would’ve beaten the Bears on Sunday night.

Several websites were reporting different numbers on how the Bears did locally – most likely due to various times the game was measured. Some sites had a 25.0 household rating; others (including an NBC press release) had it at a 26.3. Either way, the results fell way short of expectations as viewers fled for the exits as the Packers racked up score after score after score. The game peaked at a 31.5 rating at kickoff, but dropped to a 17.2 at the end of the game.

Still, the Bears-Packers game was the highest-rated program in Chicago for the week – even if just the final half-hour of the game was counted. While one website noted the reason ratings were still high toward the end of the game was due to some Bears fans were “gluttons for punishment”, keep in mind the Chicago area is filled with a lot of Packers fans (particularly in the northern suburbs) as well as other sports teams.

On a national level however, the game wasn’t as dominant. In fact, it was defeated by AMC’s The Walking Dead in the 18-49 demo, which drew a 7 rating in the adult 18-49 demo, compared to a 6.5 rating for Bears-Packers. Also, Fox’s second game in its doubleheader window drew more viewers (22 million) and scored a higher demo rating (7.4) than NBC’s prime-time game.

As for the fallout, Chicago’s sports-talk radio stations are sure to benefit from angry fans calling in and listening. In the manufactured drama department, one newspaper columnist even called for a boycott of the team, which made the front page Tuesday of the paper he works for. Calling for a boycott is silly, given Chicagoans are actually equipped to make decisions on their own, not to mention there are other issues more important to our city than a stupid football team.

This is the Chicago Bears, not Montgomery, Ala. bus service in the 1950’s. Give me a break.

In other ratings news for Sunday night, an umderwhelming Simpsons-Futurama crossover on Fox was the broadcast nets’ most-watched non-sports program among adults 18-49, with a 2.9, while an original Family Guy earned a 1.8, perhaps the lowest non-repeat number for the show in more than a decade.

Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta had its season debut on Sunday, and set a record in total viewers (3.9 million), and scored a 1.8 adult 18-49 rating, tying Family Guy and beating ABC’s Resurrection and Revenge, and CBS’ entire prime-time lineup in the demo. Interesting to note very few industry trades and mainstream entertainment websites didn’t even bother to mention RHOA’s ratings success.

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T Dog’s Think Tank: Idiocracy strikes local news again

Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges participating in "pointergate" (KSTP.com)

Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges participating in “pointergate” (KSTP.com)

Twin Cities’ KSTP makes gaffe, but has nothing on CBS 2’s history of making them

If there’s any doubt local news is sometimes a joke, this item should cement the fact.

Hubbard-owned Minneapolis-St.Paul ABC affiliate KSTP, a once-proud beacon of journalism, is involved in “pointergate”: a photo of Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges was shown in a photo joyfully exchanging pointing fingers with a supposed gang member – and reported it as the two “exchanging gang signs” (which, you can see clearly in the photo, wasn’t.) Turned out the person in the photo was a volunteer in the Neighborhoods Organizing For Change and it was a simple point, regardless of what the police says. (the person in the photo, Navell Gordon, does have a criminal record.)

The story attracted [cliche alert] “national attention” and burned up social media on Friday, with people on Twitter with the tag #pointergate, criticizing the station for jumping to conclusions and using racial overtones. Others posted celebrities using the pointing gesture, sarcastically saying they were gang members.

By the standard KSTP is using, even Garth Brooks is a gang member, rollin’ in the hood with the Country Crips. And look! Minneapolis’ own Prince is rollin’ with the Puffy Shirts:

Not surprisingly, KSTP and the “journalist” who reported the story (Jay Kollis) defended themselves, saying the photo jeopardized public safety and putting their officers at risk. The station also quoted a retired police officer and the head of the Minneapolis police union as saying the gesture was inappropriate.  Kollis unwisely took on some of his critics on Twitter, certainly not helping his station’s already battered image with the public.

Indeed, there has been a surge in gang violence in Minneapolis, though it is nowhere near the crisis stage it has reached in Chicago, where many of the homicides and shootings here are gang-related. But this story seems to be an overreaction, and even worse, KSTP’s defense of its story was totally ridiculous, telling its viewers they were the ones who were wrong, a suicidal stance to take in this business.

This reminds yours truly of the time Fox News described an innocent fist bump gesture President Obama did as a “terrorist fist bump” – a gesture Howie Mandel also does because he’s a germaphobe.

Howie Mandel…a terrorist? Oh, the horror. Since he wasn’t photographed pointing, KSTP doesn’t consider him to be a gang member.

This is kind of a shock given Hubbard is one of the industry’s most respected broadcast companies; their radio division has been praised for its stability and business sense. In Chicago, Hubbard owns Hot AC outlet WTMX-FM; Adult Alternative WDRV-FM; and AC WILV-FM – all three enjoy ratings and revenue success.

KSTP was an NBC affiliate from 1948 to 1979.

KSTP was an NBC affiliate from 1948 to 1979.

But the story is different for its Minneapolis TV station. An one-time NBC affiliate, KSTP was one of the first stations to sign on west of the Mississippi in 1948 and one of NBC’s strongest stations. KSTP dominated local news ratings in the Twin Cities, and was a major blow for NBC when the station jumped ship to ABC in 1979. By 1988 however, KSTP was dethroned by CBS’ WCCO-TV as news leader and by the mid-1990’s fell behind NBC affiliate KARE-TV. In recent years, KSTP has often finished in fourth place behind Fox-owned KMSP-TV in several time periods.

During the week of September 22, KSTP’s 10 p.m. newscast earned a 3.9 household rating and 9 share – far behind WCCO’s 9.4/19 and KARE’s 8.2/16. While KSTP did beat KMSP’s 2.4/5, the latter station’s 9 p.m. newscast (4.4/8) drew better numbers. While its morning and midday news programs draw respectable numbers, KSTP still lags behind WCCO and KARE in most time periods.

The stance KSTP has taken is surprising and quite disturbing as many broadcasters today do not have journalistic ethics or have an obligation or a sense of public service to its audience anymore , in spite of what bullshit the NAB dishes out. The trend has become more evident since local stations have been “making it rain” [urban talk for making more money] thanks to revenue generated political advertising and retransmission fees, which offsets declining general ad revenue. Somehow, they get the mistaken notion ratings don’t account for anything anymore. Nowadays, they hire any idiot off the street – in this case – a race-baiting moron – to foster “conservation” with its viewers.

But given this major misstep by KSTP, nothing compares to the screw ups made by the local CBS O&O here, WBBM-TV, as yours truly on this website has dubbed “CBS 2 blows it again” and what former Chicago Tribune TV critic Steve Johnson dubbed “The Viewer Alienation Plan”. 

In 2011, the station aired a maliciously edited video during its morning newscast featuring a black 4-year old boy who wanted to be a gang, when in reality, he wanted to become a police officer to go after the bad guys. The piece sparked outrage in Chicago’s African-American community, and was criticized by the NAACP and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and ripped by other organizations.

In a way, it was a flashback to 1985, when the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH boycotted WBBM after news anchor Harry Porterfield was demoted as the station basically botched its response. WBBM has never really recovered from this fiasco, even 29 years after the fact. WBBM has historically struggled to attract black viewers, even as CBS is the most-watched network among African-Americans. Much like KSTP, WBBM regularly finishes fourth in local news ratings, even with a stronger syndication lineup than in years past.

Its doubtful a boycott would work today, as stations have more revenue streams at their disposal. Even if one were to take place, there’s just too many alternatives in the marketplace these days for it to make it work.

Shot by Channel 2, it's Amy Jacobson making a cameo apperence at accused murderer Craig Stebic's house

Shot by Channel 2, it’s Amy Jacobson making a cameo appearance at accused murderer Craig Stebic’s house

Other WBBM miscues included the station nearly losing its license for staging a “pot party” at Northwestern University for a report in 1967; erroneous reporting on Fred Hampton’s death in 1969; a tabloid-influenced newscast in the 1990’s; and of course, taping a reporter from a rival TV station (Amy Jacobson) in a bikini at a murder suspect’s house in 2007, which resulted in Jacobson losing her job at WMAQ-TV (Jacobson sued WBBM; litigation is still pending, as far as I know.)

Excluding the Bill Kurtis/Walter Jacobson era, WBBM pioneered the Foul-Ups, Bleeps, and Blunders concept in local news – but topped in absurdity only by WLS-TV pioneering the “happy talk” concept in the 1970’s, which by all accounts and purposes, was just as worse. The sight of weatherman John Coleman bringing a live turkey on the news set one Thanksgiving topped them all.

As yours truly said back in August after the shitful way St. Louis local TV stations covered the disturbances in Ferguson, Mo., stations need to start earning their FCC licenses – they only see them as ATM cards. Local stations usually drop the ball when it comes to covering issues involving race relations, mainly due to the lack of diversity in the newsroom, and in the media business in general. The attitudes KSTP displays are far too common in the local station and network level, and in Hollywood as they continue to churn out racial stereotypes.

You see the person pointing in the photo? He’s not throwing up a gang sign. He’s simplifying pointing to the direction the audience is going if local news stations like KSTP and WBBM don’t get their act together and stop imitating the useless cable news networks.

And that direction is out the door.

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WLS-TV, WGN-TV dominate ratings on election night

Rauner wins. (Charles Rex Abrogast/AP Photo)

Rauner wins. (Charles Rex Abrogast/AP Photo)

Election results means a tougher road ahead for FCC

Just like what the Republicans did to the Democrats Tuesday night, both ABC-owned WLS-TV and Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-TV steamrolled the competition.

The mid-term elections saw Illinois elect a Republican governor for the first time since 1998 – venture capitalist Bruce Rauner (the man whose GTCR investment firm financed Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media) replaced incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn. Meanwhile, the Republicans took control of the Senate with little difficulty.

Indeed, the Democrats were like the Chicago Bears – getting completely whacked by a better-prepared opponent and both certainly need a new game plan. You knew something was wrong with voters started confusing Quinn with Bears QB Jay Cutler.

The ratings Tuesday night did indicate there was some interest in these midterm elections, whether the audience voted or not.

According to Nielsen ratings, WLS-TV won the 10 p.m.-11 p.m. portion of election night coverage in households, with a 7.4 rating, followed by WMAQ’s 6.6 and WGN’s 5.4. But among the key news demo of adults 25-54, it was NBC-owned WMAQ-TV, who came out on top with a 3.4 rating, ahead of WLS’ 3.1.

But the big winner of the night was WGN. The CW affiliate pre-empted its primetime lineup (which was in reruns anyway) and started coverage before anyone else – and it paid off: from 7 to 9 p.m., WGN ranked third in the adult 25-54 demo, only behind programming on NBC and a Chicago Blackhawks game on Comcast Sportsnet. And at 9 p.m., WGN dominated with an 8.8 rating, far ahead of WLS (which carried national ABC News coverage) and Fox-owned WFLD.

Viewers made it loud and clear they wanted live and local election coverage, preferring it over the east coast-biased major broadcast networks and big three cable news channels.

It was clearly a night to forget ratingswise for perennial news also-rans WFLD and CBS-owned WBBM-TV struggled to get a foothold and trailed its three main competitors all night. WFLD could only must up a 1.9 rating at 9 p.m., while WBBM placed fourth in households and among adults 25-54.

With both houses of Congress now in control of the Republicans, it is going to be much tougher for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to push his agendas through, particularly with the spectrum auction coming up and proposed net neutrality rules. Republican House members, such as Greg Walden (R-Ore.) have made no secret over their disdain of how the commission is being run by Democrats and now have more clout to keep the FCC in line.

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New show update: Freshman programs get the ax

Notopia.

Notopia.

After weeks of wavering, the broadcast networks finally canceled some freshman primetime shows.

Last week, NBC canceled Thursday night comedies Bad Judge and A to Z, two shows who never had a chance to succeed, given they were just time-filler material for the network until The Blacklist takes over their slot in February.

On Sunday, Fox finally got rid of the Utopia embarrassment, a reality project which saw a $50 million investment go right down the drain.

Earlier, ABC canceled Manhattan Love Story, becoming the first primetime show on the broadcast nets to be canceled this season.

Both Bad Judge and A to Z  are scheduled to complete their thirteen-episode commitments, so they’ll stay until The Blacklist claims the time slot in February. Recently, both sitcoms finished fourth behind ABC’s Scandal and sports telecasts on CBS and Fox.

As for T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame nominee Utopia, the series returned from hiatus on October 31 and earned only a 0.5 rating in the adults 18-49 demo. Scheduled to run twice a week, the Tuesday edition was already pulled mere weeks after its debut. Viewers were suckered to pay $4.99 a month to access the 24/7 live feed of the show.

Generally, reality series are affordable to produce and become quickly profitable. But Utopia was a big-budget mess with so much invested in the program. Not only their was on-camera turmoil on the show (WWE/Jerry Springer-type conflict was quite evident), there was also turmoil behind-the-scenes as The Wrap documented on Sunday.

The series was panned by critics, with Utopia achieving only a 38 score on Metacritic and a 33 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Given this, Utopia no doubt would rank as one of the worst new shows of the year.

The rush of cancellations come as the good numbers the broadcast networks had earned at the start of the season evaporated by the start of the November sweeps. Already, a third of the new comedies premiered this fall have been canceled, and two more (Mulaney and Selfie) are on the brink. Be prepared for the inevitable question media pundits will be asking once again: “Is the sitcom dying”?

Meanwhile, CBS has renewed all of its freshmen dramas: NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion, Madam Secretary, and Stalker.

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Nik Wallenda draws a crowd – inside and outside

Nik Wallenda waves to crowd in Marina City West stunt (Discovery Channel)

Nik Wallenda waves to crowd in Marina City West stunt (Discovery Channel)

Wallenda’s stunt over Chicago skyline draws viewers

Biggest draw for Discovery since 2010 – or is it?

As far as we know, there was no trickery involved in Nik Wallenda’s wire-walking stunt, which he successfully walked from Marina City to the Leo Burnett Building and between the Marina City towers themselves, high above the air with no net or no safety harness.

But if you believe the Discovery Channel, the special drew the biggest rating for the network since 2010.

Or did it?

In a press release Monday, Discovery Communications, whose Discovery Channel aired the special live from Chicago Sunday from 6 p.m. to approximately 8:22 p.m. Central Time, noted Skyscraper Live! drew 5.82 million viewers for the entire telecast. Breaking it down, the first walk (from Marina to Leo Burnett) drew 5.84 million viewers and the second walk between the towers grew to 6.72 million, with both walks averaging 6.03 million viewers between 7:35 p.m. to 8:03 p.m.

In the third paragraph of the PR, Discovery noted: “SKYSCRAPER LIVE WITH NIK WALLENDA was Discovery Channel’s most watched telecast of 2014.  Excluding last year’s Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda, SKYSCRAPER LIVE WITH NIK WALLENDA was the network’s most watched telecast since 2010.”

Want to know why Discovery excluded the ratings for last year’s skywire event? Because last year’s stunt, which saw Wallenda walk across the Grand Canyon, drew 13 million viewers…

“Zombies” of course, referred to The Walking Dead, with drew 17 million viewers last night, and was easily the most watched show of the evening, broadcast or cable.

Granted, Discovery noted there was tougher competition Sunday night (from the NFL, 60 Minutes, Once Upon A Time, and even Madam Secretary), and the Skywire walk aired during the summer, but Discovery shouldn’t have “excluded” its ratings just so they could say it had the network’s “most watched telecast since 2010″. It’s the worst PR trickery in the book and its completely shameful.

Nik Wallenda with Marina City in the background. (Discovery)

Nik Wallenda with Marina City in the background. (Discovery)

Despite some grumblings from local critics on Twitter about the stunt in general, the production of the special was absolutely fantastic. Discovery showed Chicago at its best – not to mention the city’s beautiful skyline. Wallenda was flawless as thousands of fans cheered below. Even people who live in Marina City were holding parties.

This is the kind of positive publicity Chicago could use more of. Despite the ratings shortcomings, Skyscraper Live! was a success.

Locally, Wallenda’s walk – which drew a lot of media attention – did draw a lot of viewers on a weekend the Bears (thankfully) weren’t playing. Skyscraper Live! drew a 12.7 Nielsen householding rating according to Lewis Lazare at Chicago Business Journal, peaking at a 16.2 when Wallenda did his walks – quite impressive for cable program in Chicago. However, the Wallenda had tough competition from CBS’ primetime lineup and drew lower than the Bears’ average rating so far this year.

I guess to some people, watching Bears QB Jay Cutler just throw a football without getting intercepted is more death defying.

Marinacity466Did You know? Before the Sears/Willis tower opened in 1973, the two Marina City towers (left) were perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Chicago. The building formerly housed WFLD-TV and was used in a lot of advertisements for WBKB/WLS-TV from the mid-1960’s to the early 1970’s to promote the station’s movies. Both WFLD and WLS also had their transmitters on top of one of the buildings. WBKB/WLS also had a “Circle 7″ logo on the transmitter and was lit up at night.

The former WCFL-AM had studios and offices next door in an office building in the Marina City complex. The office building is now a hotel.

The towers were also used in the opening of The Bob Newhart Show and featured in the films Three The Hard Way (1974) and The Hunter (1980, below).

Car falling from the towers in "The Hunter".

Car falling from the towers in “The Hunter”.

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Can Steve Dahl do it again?

Steve DahlWe’ll find out for sure soon enough as one of Chicago’s radio legends returns to the airwaves Monday for the first time in five years.

The last time Steve Dahl was regularly employed at WLS-AM, the artists the station had in rotation were Whitney Houston, Tears For Fears, Mr. Mister, Prince, and Pat Benetar. The Cosby Show was the top-rated TV show, the Kansas City Royals went to the World Series (just like they did recently), the Bears were en route to the Super Bowl (which isn’t happening this year), and Miami Vice was setting our fashion trends.

Now can he make a comeback on The Big 89?

Starting Monday, Dahl begins his second tour of duty at WLS-AM in afternoon drive after a nearly 29-year absence. He’s hoping to recapture the same radio magic he (and former partner Garry Meier) once had. Dahl has not been on terrestrial radio since 2008, when WJMK-FM dropped his morning show.

Dahl had a successful afternoon show at the former WCKG-FM but moved to WJMK after owner CBS decided to flip WCKG’s format in November 2007.

The deal is for three years, and Dahl hopes to improve on the anemic ratings of his predecessors, Roe Conn and Richard Roeper.

Dahl’s return to WLS continues a trend in the media industry of bringing back familiar names for another go (such as NBC recently signing Bill Cosby for a sitcom project), hoping for a ratings boost – though it always doesn’t work (ask Arsenio Hall, whose late-night return in 2013 after 19 years was a disaster, and current WGN.FM/The Game morning guy Jonathan Brandmeier, who was unable to translate his past ratings success to WGN-AM.)

You know the story – after being fired from WDAI in December 1978 after flipping from rock to disco, Steve Dahl jumped to WLUP-FM and was paired with Meier. He waged an anti-disco campaign, cultivating in Disco Demolition Night between games of a Tigers- White Sox doubleheader at Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979 and you know how that turned out.

Dahl and Meier left WLUP in 1981 for an afternoon slot at WLS-FM, where they dominated the ratings, especially in young demos. According to Billboard Magazine, the duo were switched to the AM band in September 1984, and when Larry Lujack exercised an option in his contract to switch from morning to afternoon shift in January 1986, Dahl and Meier were shifted to middays. In their new daypart, Dahl and Meier lasted just two days and exited on January 7, 1986, returning to WLUP shortly thereafter.

A well-publicized blowup between the two in 1993 grinded their show to a halt, and each went their separate ways, holding various solo gigs. The two would not talk to each other again until 2006 during an impromptu reunion where it seemed both had buried the hatchet. But whatever peace between the two evaporated a year ago when both were inducted into the Radio Hall Of Fame, whose ceremonies Dahl skipped and Meier attended, failing to acknowledge him in his acceptance speech.

With Garry Meier now on WGN.FM’s Internet feed , Dahl would now compete head-to-head with his former partner at least until 2015, when Meier’s contract is up (and if any of you thinks of proposing Meier re-unite with Dahl on WLS, I’ll personally come over to your house and knock your computer or laptop over.)

As for Dahl’s podcasts, those will continue, only now as a partnership with Cumulus Media, owner of WLS-AM. The $9.95 a-month-subscription plan is still in place.

Regardless of what a lot of people say about AM radio (it’s dying, it’s skews too old, etc.), it’s still a prominent topic of conversation in Chicago media circles, especially with the troubles surrounding WGN and WLS. And Steve Dahl’s move to WLS still proves the old guard still wields a lot of clout in Chicago media, despite a diminished presence.

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Bears fall again, hit another season ratings low (what else is new?)

Cutler

The Chicago Bears has become a national punchline to a joke.

Let’s get this over with: the Bears hit another season-low on Sunday with yet another blowout loss –  a 22.6 Nielsen household rating according to Chicago Business Journal, down 16 percent from last week’s game against Miami.

The Bears lost to the New England Patriots 51-23, with the team trailing by 38 at halftime.

Ratings have plunged 28 percent since their last win October 12 against the Atlanta Falcons. Judging by this, the Bears are in danger of losing the city very quick.

Believe it or not, the recent numbers are actually higher than they were when the last time the Chicago Bears hit a low point in fan popularity – 1998, when the team was only averaging a 17 rating, during an era where the team was losing fans and when the TV audience wasn’t as fragmented as it is now. Chalk it up to the increased popularity of the NFL – especially among younger viewers – and football in general.

This current bunch of Bears players however… are making those late ’90’s teams likable. If the Bears continue to lose, fan apathy would no doubt grow and the ratings would continue to drop.

– The Bears’ woes are actually benefiting some outlets – notably sports talk radio, where listeners call in to bitch about resident village idiots Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Marc Trestman, etc. In the recently concluded September PPM survey, The Score’s morning show with Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley finished second among men 25-54 and 7th overall, according to RobertFeder.com. The Score’s morning show is the only live, local sports morning talk show in the market. Overall, WSCR finished eighteenth, WMVP (ESPN 1000) tied for 21st, and WGWG-LP (The Game), tied for 34th.

Meanwhile, the other entity Chicagoans love to complain about (WGN Radio – whose own inept management is really no different than the Bears), finished twelfth.

– How about some good news: the Chicago Blackhawks are off to a good start in the standings and in the ratings: Saturday’ game against division rival St. Louis drew a 5.3 household rating, while Sunday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators drew a 4.8 household rating, opposite tougher competition (namely, Sunday Night Football) according to numbers provided by WGN-TV, which carried both games.

In both cases, the hockey games outdrew the World Series on Fox locally, drawing a 4.0 for Game 4 and a 4.7 for Game 5. Nationally, the matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals have seen mixed ratings results, with several games in the series setting close to and/or achieving record-low numbers.

– Too bad the Bears weren’t canceled instead: ABC’s Manhattan Love Story is officially the first broadcast network primetime casualty of the 2014-15 TV season after the network yanked the single-cam comedy after just a few episodes. Manhattan performed poorly on Tuesday nights, averaging below a 1 rating in the adult 18-49 demo, slightly down from its Selfie lead-in, another struggling single-cam sitcom in the same hour. No word on a permanent replacement.

Quick Hits And Bits: 

– Marcia Strassman died on Sunday at the age of 66.

– CBS announced full season pickup for all of its new dramas 

– How to improve Gotham

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CBS (finally) gets into the digital subchannel business

decadesChicago’s last digital subchannel holdout is about to convert.

WBBM-TV owner CBS – who operates Chicago’s only TV station not operating a digital subchannel – is entering a new venture with Weigel Broadcasting in launching Decades, a new digital subchannel network scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2015 (in layman’s terms, next spring.)

The channel has been cleared on the digital subchannels of all 16 primary CBS-owned and operated stations (does not include CBS-owned CW affiliates or independents.) Other clearences are expected to follow, with Weigel planning to sell the concept to CBS affiliates and non-CBS affiliates alike. Weigel has partnered with other companies to launch diginets – namely Fox with Movies! and Tribune Broadcasting with This.

Recently, Weigel launched Heroes & Icons, a new diginet targeting male viewers and to compete with Katz Communication’s Grit, which targets a similar demo. Grit recently got a boost by scoring a huge deal with Sinclair Broadcasting.

Unlike other broadcasters, CBS hasn’t branched out into the digital subchannel atmosphere much – so far, only WCBS-TV in New York (News & Information Wheel) and KTXA in Dallas (MeTV) are the only O&Os with digital subs. Decades would air on the yet-to sign-on channel 2.2., and cable carriage deals would also have to be struck.

In an unusual format, Decades will have no set schedule – programming varies on a day-to-day basis. The centerpiece show is Decades Retrospectical, an one-hour strip produced around the news events and cultural milestones of a specific day, week, timeframe, or theme (or whatever.) The TV series and movies airing on that particular day reflects on that day’s theme or event.

CBS has more than 100 television series, a wide selection of theatrical and made-for-TV movies, and historic news footage and material from CBS News and Entertainment Tonight to draw off of. Television series being featured include I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Happy Days, and Cheers, all from CBS Television Distribution.

The opportunity to launch Decades comes as more and more diginets are launching into the marketplace. In addition to Grit and Heroes & Icons, Sinclair Broadcasting is launching an all-sports channel (the first since Universal Sports moved to satellite several years ago), and Katz recently launched Escape, a channel targeting females.

The diginets are also looking to take advantage of the closing of the ABC-owned stations’ Live Well Network in early 2015. There is still no word on what would replace Live Well on the ABC O&Os’ digital subchannels, though the option of returning to independent station status is a likely possibility.

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Tyra’s back in new daytime show

the_fab_hosts_a_l

New panel talk show called The Fab clears ABC-owned stations, including WLS-TV

Guess who’s back in daytime?

After a five-year hiatus, Tyra Banks is back as host of a new one-hour daytime talk show strip called The Fab from Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution, scheduled to debut next fall.

The program also features four other co-hosts in a panel format. They are: Chrissy Teigen, a former Sports Illustrated model (like Tyra Banks herself); Yahoo fashion editor-and-chief and Entertainment Tonight fashion correspondent Joe Zee; Interior design expert Lauren Makk; and YouTube do-it-yourself star Ashley Greene (is that even a profession?)

The Fab is the latest “panel” program targeted to women with the word “The” in the title (The View, The Talk, The Real, etc.) It’s a trend Maclean’s entertainment reporter Jaime Weinman noticed:

The show’s launch group is the eight ABC-owned stations of course, covering 23 percent of the country, and is likely headed to time periods now occupied by either Rachael Ray or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

"The Fab's" Chrissy Teigen with Cap'n Crunch. No word if he'll become the sixth member of the panel.

“The Fab’s” Chrissy Teigen with Cap’n Crunch. No word if he’ll become the sixth member of the panel.

In Chicago, ABC-owned WLS would likely replace either Rachael or Windy City Live to make room for The Fab. Unlike what Disney-ABC did with Katie Couric’s talk show, the syndicator isn’t requiring the ABC O&Os run the show at 3 p.m., meaning Inside Edition and Jeopardy! – which lost their longtime respective 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  slots to Katie in 2012 and regained them last month after her show was canceled – are likely safe.

One of the show yours truly mentioned (The Real, from Warner Bros.) is having a successful freshman season, drawing more young and diverse female viewers despite lower household ratings than some of its competition. For example, Real is beating Meredith Vieira’s new talk show in women 18-34 and women 18-49, despite a slightly lower household rating (1.o vs. 1.2). Also of note is the median age of Real is 45, the youngest of any of the talk shows.

As for Tyra Banks, this marks a return to daytime after her talk show ended in 2010. Banks’ program did well in key female demos throughout its run, airing in syndication from 2005-09 before relocating to CW for one final season. Like before, her work on America’s Next Top Model won’t be affected.

Though The Fab stands for Fabulous and Beautiful, yours truly couldn’t help but notice the show was inadvertently named after the laundry detergent of the same name. Given these type of panel shows are invading television like a swarm of bees, could “The Cheer” or “The Gain” be far behind? How about a show named “The Snuggle”? That last one could be interesting…

Fab

 

 

 

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Bears bumble, stumble, and fumble in the ratings

Dolphins run ripshod over Bears. (AP)

Dolphins run ripshod over Bears. (AP)

Loss to Miami Dolphins cements team as a punchline; ratings plunge 

If you were to compare sitcoms to NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys would be like The Big Bang Theory (accurate given both are successful and bring out a lot of distractors) and the New England Patriots would resemble Modern Family.

As for the Chicago Bears? The team is looking more like Mulaney. Or more accurately, Me and the Chimp.

The Bears lost Sunday to the Miami Dolphins 27-14 at Soldier Field, dropping them to 0-3 at home for the season. The locker room scene after the game was described as chaotic as Brandon Marshall was doing his best Jeff Garlin imitation, yelling and screaming at anything that moved. Each time Marshall uttered the word “unacceptable” when talking to the press, you can easily slip in a laugh track.

Meanwhile, Marc Trestman looked so lost as a head coach, you wonder if Sheldon Cooper could’ve done a better job.

Tells you how pathetic the Bears have become.

One thing for certain: no one is laughing – especially when it comes to the ratings and attendance.

Sunday’s Dolphins-Bears game hit a season-low 26.9 Nielsen rating according to Lewis Lazare at Chicago Business Journal, and was down 15 percent from last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, which had an advantage of a late afternoon start time, where HUT levels are higher.

With home losses come apathy – despite a sellout, there were many empty seats scattered throughout Soldier Field Sunday and will likely increase throughout the season.

And the ratings are bound to go lower if the Bears continue to lose as attention shifts to the Bulls and Blackhawks, whose respective seasons will be soon in fullswing.

You might not want to think about this, but despite the ratings decline, Bears games are still the most-watched program in the Chicago area, with more viewers than Modern Family, NCIS, The Voice, and The Big Bang Theory, thanks in part to the team’s huge loyal fanbase. A very depressing thought, given the state of the TV industry is no better than the Bears.

If the Bears continue to be this bad, maybe they should replace the team with the cast of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You’ll end up with the same mediocre results, but at least the ratings would plunge. Why not? Agent Coluson can outcoach Marc Trestman and the Raina character in the flower dress would make a better quarterback than Jay Cutler.

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