“Family Feud” soars to No. 1

Steve Harvey is all smiles. And why not? Family Feud is the #1 game show for the first time in over three decades

Steve Harvey is all smiles. And why not? Family Feud is the #1 game show for the first time in over three decades (Fremantle Media)

-Becomes the top-rated syndicated game show for the first time since November 1983

– Also: Inside Edition beats ET for first place in magazine genre

Well, look who’s back at No.1…

Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, the venerable game show which survived numerous host changes since its return in 1999, has finished as the top-rated syndicated game show and top-rated strip for the first time in 32 years.

For the week ending June 20, the Steve Harvey-hosted game show topped all daily first-run strips with a 6.1 household rating, pulling ahead of Wheel of Fortune (6.0) and Jeopardy (5.9), marking the first time since November 1983 that Feud – when it was hosted by Richard Dawson, beat archrival Wheel – which was cleared in only 40 percent of the country and didn’t air in New York or Chicago yet. ABC-owned WLS began airing Wheel at 6:30 p.m. since January 9, 1984.

It also marks the first time Debmar-Mercury finished in the top spot with any show.

And Feud is coming off a spectacular premiere of its Celebrity edition on ABC Sunday night, scoring a 2.4 adults 18-49 – the highest rated non-sports program of the week.

Keep in mind however, Wheel and Jeopardy were preempted or delayed in many markets – especially in Mountain and Pacific time zones due to NBA Finals and Stanley Cup games.

Wheel has dominated syndication throughout most of its existence, but has been dethroned in recent years by other shows – notably Judge Judy. Wheel’s had a streak at the top in its early years, snapped by Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1991.

"Family Feud" original host Richard Dawson in this 1981 photo. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

“Family Feud” original host Richard Dawson in this 1981 photo.  (ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

This is a measure of revenge of some sorts for Feud, which was knocked off by Wheel in the Nielsen ratings in early 1984, despite not being fully cleared in the rest of the country. When Jeopardy premiered later in the year, Feud wound up finishing third behind both King World game shows and despite ranking in the top ten, then-Feud syndicator Viacom (which is now CBS Television Distribution – the current distributor of Wheel and Jeopardy) pulled the plug after the NBC-Owned stations declined to renew the show, while ABC canceled the daytime version.

After getting decimated by Wheel on WLS-TV, WMAQ, Chicago’s NBC O&O, moved Feud from its longtime 6:30 p.m. prime access slot to 1:30 a.m. in September 1984 to make room for that hot new programming concept, Name That Tune. WMAQ and other NBC-owned stations returned Feud to access in 1988 to similarly disastrous results, though this version with Ray Combs would last six seasons.

Feud returned to access last September over Fox-owned WPWR, which aired the last three seasons of Combs’ era, the unsuccessful return of Dawson in 1994, and the first season when it returned to syndication five years later.

Meanwhile, another surprise emerged in the weekly syndication ratings. Entertainment Tonight – which had a long streak as the top-rated magazine show, was toppled by Inside Edition by a score of 2.9 to 2.8. This has to be a historic low for the 34-year old show, which lost ground over the years to newer, competing programs in the genre – especially TMZ, Dish Nation, Extra, and Access Hollywood, which attract younger audiences than ET.

This past week, Inside Edition and its host, former WMAQ anchor Deborah Norville were in Chicago and Wrigley Field to shoot some segments. Edition airs locally at 3 p.m. on WLS.

Both ET and Inside Edition are syndicated by CBS Television Distribution. Like Wheel and Jeopardy, Edition is a former King World show.

Overall, Litton’s weekly E/I block Weekend Adventure, which targets kids and adults, topped all comers in syndication with an eye-popping 6.7 rating.

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Report: Chicago White Sox heads to WLS-AM

White SoxCould set up scenario for the Cubs to shift to the White Sox’s old home.

As first reported by Robert Feder Tuesday, the Chicago White Sox is expected to land at Cumulus-owned WLS-AM beginning in 2016, moving from its current home from CBS-owned WSCR-AM, The Score (670).

A move to another station was expected, after the rival Chicago Cubs landed a deal with CBS to broadcast their games on WBBM-AM. A clause in the CBS contract can allow the team to shift to WSCR if they lost White Sox rights, as their contract expires in October. However, WSCR was in the running to retain those rights.

Crain’s Chicago is reporting the deal has yet to be finalized; Cumulus CEO Lewis Dickey said his company has yet to sign any contract.

If the deal is struck, this would be the first pro team WLS has landed from the four major sports in a long time. Already, WLS carries popular Notre Dame Football and would give the station programming to air on weekends, which are mainly populated with little-listened to time-broked and syndicated programming.

5366WLS is currently trying to make-over its image as a conservative talk station into more of a personality-driven mainstream outlet by adding Steve Dahl and Jonathon Brandmeier in the past year. So far, WLS remains at the bottom of the ratings pack.

You can expect WLS to pay less for the White Sox than CBS paid for the Cubs. Since winning the World Series in 2005, the White Sox has made the playoffs only once as the team reverted back to also-ran status in Chicago sports. The last few seasons has seen dwindling attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and declining television ratings, with the White Sox finishing dead last among 27 Major League Baseball teams last season.

No word on if radio play-by-play man Ed Farmer and commentator Darrin Jackson would move to WLS with the White Sox; to no one’s surprise, the duo is ranked as one of the worst announcing teams in baseball.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: “Crazy Talk” heads to Ch. 50

pencil-and-paper-animation-PPP_CGENE_LT3_Notepad_w_Pencil(Editor’s Note: As of today, the short cavalcade of items known as T Dog’s Grab Bag – which was once known as T Dog’s Groovy Grab Bag – is being renamed T Dog’s Media Notepad as yours truly is gradually doing away with the cutesy names and striving for a more professional appearance. – T. H.)

– NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution announced Monday a firm go for new half-hour clip show Crazy Talk, which has been picked up by WPWR-TV for a Sept. 14 debut. Hosted by former Bad Girls Club and Girlfriend Intervention star Tanisha Thomas and Ben Aaron and shot in front of a studio audience, Crazy Talk explores the nutty side of conflict talk  and reality TV shows, of which I assure you, clips will not be in short supply.

The format is similar to E!’s Talk Soup.

The series is being taped in Stamford, Conn. home to guess what – three conflict talk shows. The producer for one of those shows (Maury’s Paul Faulhaber) is the executive producer of Crazy Talk.

In addition to WPWR, Crazy Talk has cleared Fox, Sinclair, Sunbeam, Tribune, Cox, and Raycom stations, among others clearing 99 percent of the country. Most stations plan to air two episodes a day, back-to-back.

– How does Chicago’s TV and radio stations stack up on social media? NetNewsCheck and Shareblee did a story on usage here in the nation’s third-largest market for the last six months, and just as it is in the TV ratings department, ABC-owned WLS-TV dominates with 26.7 million social impressions, 209 percent ahead of second-place K-Love, a Christian radio network airing locally over WJKL-FM (94.3), which has a huge Instagram presence. Despite toiling in the ratings basement, WFLD’s MyFoxChicago.com ranked third with 8.03 million impressions.

Other TV stations on the chart include WGNTV.com finishing fourth, with 4.31 million impressions and NBC-owned WMAQ ranking sixth with 3.82 million.

The Chicago Tribune has a sizable lead over rival Sun-Times, with 2.0 million impressions to 1.53 million.

Three other Chicago radio stations filled out the top ten – all of them (WOJO, WPPN, and WLEY-FM) Spanish-language stations. Despite finishing first in Nielsen’s PPM ratings, WVAZ-FM did not make the cut – in fact, not a single iHeart Media, CBS, Hubbard, or Cumulus station did so – and neither did the much talked-about (too much in yours truly’s opinion) WGN-AM.

– Remember Elizabeth Dozier, the principal of Fenger High School featured in last year’s docuflop Chicagoland? Dozier announced this week she was stepping down from her position, effective as of Friday. Dozier was prominently shown in the 2014 CNN miniseries, trying to hold her school together in a neighborhood full of social ills. During her tenure, the school’s graduation rate more than doubled and the dropout rate shrunk.

Dozier declined to disclose why she was leaving; Chicago Public Schools refused comment.

Of course, this isn’t a new problem for Fenger. The Chicago Tribune did a story about the school in 1981 and interviewed then-principal Leo Dillon, who like Dozier, tried to run the school under the toughest of circumstances, notably dealing with three murders from its student body and increasing gang and gun violence. Sadly, things haven’t changed much in Roseland since then; but at least credit Dozier for making things a little better for her students.

– Trifecta Entertainment’s celebrity-driven magazine show OK TV! has been renewed for a third season, despite rock-bottom ratings. The renewal comes after WABC-TV in New York picked up the show for its late-night schedule, and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles also agreed to renew the show. Season-to-date, OK TV is averaging a 0.2 Nielsen live-plus- same day rating, according to TVNewsCheck, placing it last among all syndicated magazine shows. The program is based on the entertainment tabloid magazine of the same name and also airs on the Reelz Channel.

In Chicago, OK TV! airs on The U Too at 11:30 a.m. each weekday.

Suffice to say, outside of Byron Allen’s programming, this has to be the lowest-rated program to ever get renewed.


Think Tank Express: Rauner’s Super PAC-MEN chomps up spots

Uncle Bruce will “fix everything” with campaign ads. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Illinois broadcasters take the quick cash. But are they driving viewers away from live TV?

If you thought 2015 would be free of political advertising – think again.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner – you know, the one who headed GTCR – the investment firm who funded Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media, and Sam Zell – the one who destroyed the Chicago Tribune – and helped Randy Michaels to do so (notice a common theme here?) launched a Super PAC called Turnaround Illinois to buy ad time to attack Illinois House Speaker Michael madigan and House Speaker John Cullerton, who like Zell and Michaels did with the Tribune, screwed up the state finances.

As you know (or more than likely not), the state is embroiled in one of the biggest budget gridlocks in its history. I won’t explain further, since this is a media blog and not a political one. But buying TV time to explain your side in a political standoff where the public doesn’t have a vote – is bizarre.

The ad (which you can view here), began Tuesday. According to the Champaign News-Gazette, Turnaround Illinois bought local avails on CNN and Fox News in the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market (DMA 85) and 62 spots on CBS affiliate WCIA – mostly in news shows, but also entertainment programming, such as The Price Is Right and NCIS.

Another downstate CBS affiliate (Peoria’s WMBD) received money for 72 spots, mostly in news shows and CBS’ procedural shows. In the same market, 13 spots were bought on Fox affiliate WYZZ, including its 9 p.m. newscast, The Big Bang Theory, and sports.

In Chicago, two spots ran on WLS-TV Tuesday night – once after the NBA Finals and another during the station’s late newscast.

Rauner’s strategy seems to be targeting news programs, CBS prime-time fare, and older-skewing syndicated programming such as Wheel of Fortune, Dr. Phil, and Jeopardy! where potential voters are watching. It appears Rauner is avoiding younger-skewing fare, such as TMZ, Dish Nation, The Real, and practically anything on The CW, and heavily DVR-ed shows.

But will it work? The ad buy seems like a waste of money, since elections aren’t for over a year and voters are powerless to do anything. And this stunt could backfire on Rauner and local stations, given viewers hate political ads and just drive more viewers to their DVRs and to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon- something the TV industry should be concerned about.

But the state’s broadcasters are more than happy to take Turnaround Illinois’ money – despite the long-term consequences.

And here’s the rub: if Rauner’s PAC had those commercials ready a day earlier, he could have scored a huge coup by buying a spot or two during the highly-rated Game six of the Stanley Cup Final, or WMAQ’s newscast afterwards.


It’s kind of scary two men like Rauner and Zell are being counted on to fix state government when one funded the fiasco that was FM News 101 and the other sending the Tribune into bankruptcy. Then again, we had a forty-year head start on the state’s financial problems thanks to Madigan and Cullerton, so why not add two more morons into the mix?

These four actually makes Randy Michaels look like a rocket scientist.




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Third time’s the charm for the Chicago Blackhawks

Credit: Bleacher Report

Credit: Bleacher Report

Third Cup this decade; sixth Cup overall

Blackhawks dominate on the ice and in the ratings

How sweet it is!

The Chicago Blackhawks on Monday clinched another Stanley Cup championship as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in front of more than 22,000 happy humans at the United Center – the first time the Cup was won on home ice since 1938, making it a hat, T-Shirt and commemorative DVD night for everyone.

And after breaking a 49-year Cup drought in 2010, the Blackhawks won their third Cup in six years – in which you can call a dynasty.

As you can imagine, Monday night’s game drew a boatload of viewers and then some. Game six of the Stanley Cup Final drew a 5.6 overnight live-plus-same day Nielsen rating – tied for the fourth-highest for an NHL game since the league returned to broadcast TV in 1993.

In Chicago, viewership was off the charts – drawing a record 41.0 household rating and 57 share for WMAQ-TVpeaking at 52.5 when the Hawks clinched the Cup. That’s up from the 30.2 rating game six of the Blackhawks-Bruins game did two years ago, when the Hawks also clinched the Cup.

Blackhawks captain Johnathan Toews hoists the Cup.

Blackhawks captain Johnathan Toews hoists the Cup.

In TampaBay, the game earned a 15.2 household rating for WFLA-TV, the Lightning’s second highest rating ever in Tampa-St.Pete. Finally in Buffalo, where Patrick Kane is from, the game earned a strong 10.5 for WGRZ – and this despite a strong CBC presence in the market. The Canadian public broadcaster carried the entire Stanley Cup Final, though it was produced by Rogers SportsNet, under a twelve-year deal started this season.

In nearby Milwaukee, WTMJ earned a 7.9 rating, believed to be the highest rating for a non-Olympic hockey game in the market.

Among adults 18-49 nationally, the game earned a 2.8/10 and a 3.2/9 among adults 25-54, according to TV Media Insights.

And WMAQ, which benefited from the Blackhawks playoff run this season, scored a whopping 24.5 household rating for its late newscast after the game, according to Robert Feder.

The recent NHL playoff season has been declared a success, with five of the Stanley Cup Final games decided by at least one goal. Ratings for NBC and NBC SN were up from last year, with games three and four of the SCF beating head-to-head programming ESPN and Fox Sports 1 handily.

The Cup clincher is especially good news for Comcast SportsNet, which will continue to reap fortunes for what is now one of the most successful franchises in sports – a far cry from just ten years ago.

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on their sixth Stanley Cup Championship!


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T Dog’s Think Tank: Chiraqing away

The term Chiraq is here to stay. Thank the media.

For those who don’t like the word “Chiraq”, let me lay it on thick for you…. it’s here to stay.

The term, used to describe the number of shootings and murder in the Chicago area, continues to be a hot topic of debate in the media as Spike Lee films the movie about the city’s gang and gun violence, which hasn’t been officially given a title as of yet, though “Chiraq” is under strong consideration.

Just about everyone has weighed in on the topic, including Chicago Tribune art critic Chris Jones, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, and even this blog. The term has outraged a lot of Chicagoans, particularly those who live in Chicago’s minority communities; Mayor Rahm Emanuel and many aldermen have also voiced their objections.

For Lee, the publicity surrounding “Chiraq” was a gift from God: Chicago media went into overdrive with the controversy with a story on the subject and the Rev. Michael Pflager appearing on TV more these days than David Letterman. How absurd has media coverage of Lee’s film been? An idiot alderman who initially blocked plans for St. Sabina Church to throw a wrap party on the street where the church is located because its pastor (Pflager, who was involved in the project) relented and signed a permit on a local newscast.

Yours truly was surprised former WGN-TV anchor Allison Payne, who infamously wrote a check on the air during a Chicago Tonight interview a few years ago, didn’t hand him the pen.

The media coverage of gun violence and the South Side in general drew the attention of First Lady (and Chicago native) Michelle Obama, criticized it in a speech to King High School graduating students last week. To many of us down here, it’s nothing that we have said ourselves; yours truly said so in 2008. Both the Tribune and Sun-Times regularly dominate the front page of their art school student-designed websites with crime headlines – not so much for public service but to generate web hits. Yours truly recently went on a Twitter rant against the Tribune for their carelessness of their crime reporting.

Meanwhile, local stations have done little to address the crisis outside of local newscasts. Since 2006, only WBBM-TV had a special on gun violence – quite a while ago. And all of this while their corporate overlords are cutting back on public affairs – recently, WBEZ canceled its local Afternoon Shift program and fired its host while the Sun-Times fired the person who ran its Homicide Watch blog. Unlike the flash-and-dash stories you see on local news or in the Tribune, Homicide Watch told the story behind each murder.

Sure, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) jumps on Twitter to praise local broadcasters when a storm hits but says nothing when they fumble the ball on covering urban issues. As yours truly said last August when the events of Ferguson were unfolding, local broadcasters need to start earning their licences. Its tough to feel sorry for people like Harry Jessell of TVNewscheck, who thinks broadcasters should do nothing to prove their service to their communities other than being a local Weather Channel to make more money for their out-of-town owners.

You question whether or not the Chicago media is doing more harm than good with their “it leads, it bleeds” crime coverage. There’s no doubt the communities affected by gun violence detest the media, given the constant drumbeat of negative headlines. Maybe that’s the problem instead of some stupid “Chiraq” name. Of course, the power structure – politicians and local media here – are too stupid to realize it.

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ABC, NBC make fall changes


Wicked in, Prophets out

The first changes to the 2015 fall schedule were announced recently, and it is already bad news for one ABC drama.

ABC has decided to replace Sunday night fall drama Of Prophets And Kings with Quantico, which moves over from Tuesday. Replacing Quantico is Wicked City, a drama originally slated for midseason. While Wicked won’t premiere until Oct. 27, Shark Tank spinoff Beyond The Tank fills the slot in the interim.

Prophets, which is a drama set in Biblical times, is expected to be retooled, but the episode order has been reportedly been cut from thirteen to ten – if it makes it on the air at all.

Meanwhile, NBC recently announced it is adding another Chicago-based drama from Dick Wolf onto the schedule, called Chicago Med. The schedule already features two Chicago shows from Wolf: Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.

This is the third Chicago-based medical drama to hit the airwaves; beforehand we’ve had Chicago Hope and the phenomenally popular ER, both debuting in 1994 – on the same night and timeslot, no less.

The callup for Chicago Med is due to another medical drama (Heartbreaker) being sidelined to midseason because of star Melissa George’s pregnancy.

Look for more possible schedule changes as the summer progresses.


Think Tank Express: Rocky Mountain Low

The Colorado State capitol dome in real Colorado gold gilding stands on the left in this skyline shot of downtown with the distant Pike's Peak mountain looming in the background in Denver on April 30, 2011.

The City of Denver gets an “all-pot” station in KBUD-FM. (credit: UPI/Gary C. Caskey, 2011)

All-pot radio sends a bad message

Remember a few months ago when yours truly said Chicago radio was the worst in the country?

We have a new market already contending for the title.

In perhaps one of the all-time worst ideas ever in radio, a local Denver rimshot signal station dropped sports talk last week and adopted a format centered around “the pot lifestyle”, with the slogan “Smokin’ 94.1″.

Targeting a demo full of stoners, slackers, and unemployed dufuses. Great idea. What’s next? “The All-New Ass 98.5″? How about “Fart 103.1″?

Can’t wait for the next new format out of Denver, “Bang My Wang 101.5 FM!”

Recently, the state of Colorado legalized marijuana, making it one of the first stares in the Union to do so.

But the lifestyle as a radio format? The number of songs are limited at best: there’s Afroman’s Because I Got High or Brownsville Station’s (or Motley Crue’s) Smokin’ In The Boys Room, and of course, anything by Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg, since he’s a user. But the station is going with a classic rock format, since playing Journey and Def Leppard ten times a day actually appeals to people who are high.

Does this sends the wrong message to youth? A format like this would never work here, given pot is not a legal product in Illinois, and the influence of community leaders like the Rev. Michael Pflager and others – many of them already have a beef with Power 92 (WPWX) and WGCI over the type of songs played on those stations – is a huge factor (interestingly enough, WGCI refused to play Because I Got High when it was released in 2001.)

And keep in mind drug dealing – especially marijuana – still drives gun violence and homicides, especially in Chicago and in Denver, who has a large contingent of Crips, Bloods, and Latin Kings gang members.

For once, this idea didn’t come from the infertile mind of Randy Michaels, who came up with the inane and short-lived “Hell 94.7 FM” slogan for WYTZ (now WLS-FM) in early 1991. Credit – or blame – station owner Marc Paskin for coming up with this. “I have created a unique radio format, there is no radio station anywhere in the country like Smokin 94.1,” said the Chicago-raised Paskin, who must have been high doing so.

It proves Big Media does not have a monopoly on stupidity, which describes much of the radio business these days as the medium seems to be very desperate to keep young listeners, who continue to migrate to satellite and Internet radio, iPods/MP3 players, and other alternative audio forms.

Not sure what the first song was on “Smokin’ 94.1″, but I assume it was Rocky Mountain High by John Denver.

There I go with the bad jokes…


Viewers come out for first Blackhawks-Lightning Stanley Cup Game


After a lackluster start, the Chicago Blackhawks found a way to win the first game of the Stanley Cup Final and viewers were along for the ride.

According to final numbers from Nielsen, game one of the series between the Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning scored the highest rating of any non-overtime matchup in eighteen years – drawing 5.5 million viewers, up 16 percent from last year’s game one (L.A. Kings vs. N.Y. Rangers) and was the most watched non-OT game one Stanley Cup Final ever for NBC.

Thanks to third-period goals by Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette, The Blackhawks beat the Lightning 2-1 to take an 1-0 lead in the series.

Though NBC finished second to CBS in total viewers, it beat the network in all key adult demos – including a 1.8 adult 18-49 rating.

In Chicago, NBC-owned WMAQ scored big time – averaging a 28.0 live-plus-same day rating for the entire evening, easily surpassing game one ratings in 2010 and 2013 when the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Final. Viewership peaked around 9:30 p.m. when the two Blackhawks goals were scored.

In fact, the Blackhawks even beat out several Chicago Bears regular-season games for 2014. Wednesday night’s 28 rating outdrew Bears games against Miami (26.9), New England (26.6), and two prime-time contests against Green Bay (26.3) and Dallas (26.2). Mind you, the Bears were blown out in each of these games.

Meanwhile, Tampa-St. Petersburg weighed in with a 17.9 rating for Media General-owned WFLA-TV. It was the highest rating for a Lightning game this season.

Other markets where the Stanley Cup final performed well were Buffalo (WGRZ, 7.2); Milwaukee (WTMJ, 4.7); and St. Louis (KSDK, 4.5)

Game two of the Stanley Cup Final is Saturday Night at 6:15 p.m. Central Time, right after the Belmont Stakes, where American Pharoah – winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, is trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

NBC Sports PR


Broadcast Networks, Sports

The Grab Bag: Tony Sculfeld heads to WSRB-FM

downloadNews and notes from around the industry

WSRB, a Crawford-owned urban adult contemporary station previously known as Soul 106.3, is trying its luck with an other former WGCI alum – Tony Sculfield, who’ll soon take over the evening slot vacated by Ramonski Luv, who was out after less than six months on the air.

Recently, Sculfield was part of former WGCI morning show The Morning Riot. Beforehand, he was also part of Howard McGee’s morning show, joining it in 2006. Known as a stand-up comic, Sculfield also has made appearances of WLS-TV’s Windy City Live.

Recently, WSRB re-branded itself as “Chicago’s R&B 106.3” to compete more effectively with market leader WVAZ-FM “V 103″.

More layoffs: Tribune Publishing announced Wednesday it has eliminated 24 positions at the Chicago Tribune – ten of them in the newsroom – in order to cover a projected $3 million decline for next year. In order to offset the loss, the Tribune needed to reduce $65 to $70 million in expenses.

Recently, Tribune Publishing purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune for $85 million, but laid off a third of its staff. In addition, Tribune purchased 38 suburban newspapers – including the Daily Southtown – from the Sun-Times last fall.

Since Tribune Publishing split from Tribune Media last year, the company doesn’t have to worry about running afoul of the cross-ownership rules, which prohibits an entity newspaper and a TV station, unless they apply for a waiver or was previously grandfathered. Tribune Media owns Fox affiliate KSWB-TV in San Diego.

So how are news stations in Baltimore faring after the riots that rocked the city last month? Quite well – according to Media Life, all four network affiliates were up in various dayparts – especially from 4 to 6 p.m. and at 11. Even moribund ABC affiliate WMAR – which often finishes behind Sinclair’s Fox affiliate WBFF in news ratings, scored increases.

Riots swept though Baltimore from April 25 to 27 after Freddie Gray died in police custody.

Since the riots forced stations to break into programming, they have to provide makegoods to advertisers. Despite the mayhem, the Baltimore market is expected to remain healthy in terms of ad spending. But issues of crime and poverty must be addressed, as a city’s negative reputation could have an impact on ad revenue – just ask Detroit and St. Louis, who despite their DMA position, rank lower than lesser- populated markets in ad revenue.

Baltimore had 43 homicides in May, the most in a month since August 1972.

Ranked as the nation’s 26th-largest market, Baltimore sits some 45 miles northwest from Washington D.C., and both markets can receive each other’s TV and radio stations. In January, Baltimore marked the twentieth anniversary of the major affiliate switch, which saw three network stations – WMAR, WBAL, and WJZ – swap affiliations with one another.

Is the party over for Dr. Oz? The May book is in, and the results were disastrous for the beleaguered medical talk show host. According to Nielsen, Oz earned only a 1.3 household rating, down 35 percent from last year and worse, a 0.7 rating in the key female 25-54 demo, down 42 percent from a year ago. Oz show the biggest year-to-year drop of any syndicated talk show.

Another television “doctor” (Dr. Phil) finished as the top-rated talk show while Judge Judy nudged out Wheel Of Fortune as top show overall during May. All three are from CBS Television Distribution.

This comes as Dr. Oz’s image has taken a hit in recent years amid huge PR crisises – his disastrous testimony in front of Congress a year ago regarding deceptive advertising over weight-loss products he peddles on his show (not to mention John Oliver’s hilarious takedown of Oz, which you can view here.) Recently, Oz was asked to resign from the faculty of Columbia University from a few physicians, but on a recent episode, turned the tables on them and ripped the physicians who wanted him out, it could be described as laughable television.

Despite Oz’s ties to Oprah Winfrey, his talk show has never achieved the same type of popularity in Chicago her talk show has – by far. Oz airs locally on Fox-owned WFLD at 2 p.m. and rerun at 8 a.m. on sister station WPWR, where ratings in both time slots have been quite banal. In 2011, Fox renewed the show in Chicago as part of a multi-city deal, despite poor ratings.

The declining ratings presents an interesting pickle for Sony Pictures Television as the series enters its seventh season – will stations – especially those owned by Fox – renew the show past 2016? The station group has seen success with Wendy Williams, TMZ Live, and newcomer The Real, and with Fox testing shows this summer in the vein of those three, one of them could become a replacement for Dr. Oz. It is clear his type of show no longer fits Fox-owned schedules.

In other words, Oz better reverse his ratings slide quick, or he’ll be back in Kansas living with his Auntie Em and his dog Toto.

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Blackhawks roll into Stanley Cup Final

Brent Seabrook (left) and Corey Perry. (intimes.com)

Brent Seabrook (left) and Corey Perry. (intimes.com)

Third time the charm; to face Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night

Ratings thru roof

For the third time in six years, the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Final.

This time however, instead of playing teams with established fan bases (the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins), they get to play the Tampa Bay Lightning – a Sunbelt expansion team which began play in 1992 (and stunned the Blackhawks in their first-ever regular season game by the score of 7-3); spent three years (1993-96) playing in a domed baseball stadium, which was nicknamed “The Thunderdome”; nearly became bankrupt after a money-laundering scheme; and at one time, had an owner who was referred to as “Jed Clampett”, from The Beverly Hillbillies.

Yes, try to imagine The Beverly Hillbillies running your hockey team. The laugh track machine alone would break from overuse.

The Lightning in fact, has won a Stanley Cup – they beat the Calgary Flames in 2004 in game seven to win Lord’s Holy Grail – the last NHL game to air on ABC/ESPN.

The Blackhawks playoff train has stopped in Nashville, Minnesota (St. Paul), and Anaheim and generated impressive ratings along the way on both a local and national basis. Saturday night’s Western Conference Final game seven between the Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks (another ’90’s expansion team)  earned a whopping 26.6 live-plus-same day household rating locally for WMAQ-TV which a peak rating of 33.2 – translating to a little over a million homes. In the Los Angeles market, the game earned a 3.9 live-plus household rating for KNBC. In both cases, the game won its time period.

Both KNBC and WMAQ are owned by NBC Universal.

Nationally, the Blackhawks-Ducks matchup drew a 3.2 live-plus same day overnight metered market rating. Final numbers released Tuesday show the game drew a record 4.6 million viewers – the most for any non-Stanley cup Final.

Tampa Bay’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final is certainly good news for Media General, who is based in Tampa and owns the NBC affiliate in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market, the top-rated WFLA. The station is expected to reap a windfall from the series. And of course, WMAQ is expecting higher ratings as the Blackhawks aim to win another Cup.

NBC has the first two games and games five through seven of the Stanley Cup Finals; games three and four from the United Center, will air on NBC SN. The entire series is available to stream via NBCSports.com and NBC Sports’ Live app, though TV Everywhere – which means you need a cable and satellite subscription to stream to your device.

All games start at 7 p.m. Chicago Time, with the exception of game two, which starts an hour earlier.

WGN-AM is carrying the entire series; you can also stream the audio from the games on their website or via Tune In.

And on one related note, the two markets involved in the Stanley Cup Final has something in common: yes, the one and only Court Jester himself, Randy Michaels. Tampa is where he had his greatest success (turning around the fortunes of WFLZ-FM, renaming it “The Power Pig” with a brilliant marketing campaign) – and Chicago, where he had his greatest failures (the disastrous rebranding of WYTZ-FM as “Hell 94.7″ and running the Tribune Co. into the ground.)

I guess there’s no doubt in his mind what team the Court Jester would be rooting for.

Updated at 9:31 a.m. on 2015-06-02.

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Ramonski Luv out at Soul 106.3

Ramonski LuvWBBM news woes continue; CBS criticized for Mentalist reruns to replace Letterman; former Chicago FM call letters find a new home

As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday, Soul 106.3 (WSRB) evening radio personality Ramonski Luv was released by the station after only a few months on the air. Luv, whose real name is Ramon Wade, was paired with Joe Soto on WVAZ for years – first in afternoon drive and then evenings, but management dropped Wade from the show despite ranking at or near the top of the ratings. Soto continues in evenings at WVAZ.

Neither WSRB or Wade have commented on the decision to part ways, and no replacement has been named. This is the latest blow for the Crawford-owned outlet, whose sister station (Urban Contemporary WPWX /Power 92) recently lost two key personalities to rival WGCI. Crawford’s urban duopoly has struggled for years to compete against Clear Channel/iHeart’s duo of WGCI and WVAZ, mainly due to signal deficiencies plaguing both stations. The hiring of Wade was supposed to make Soul 106.3 a bigger player in urban radio, but unfortunately those plans never materialized.

CBS has been taking some criticism regarding the programming it chose to fill the 10:35 p.m. (CT) time slot between David Letterman’s retirement last Wednesday and the premiere of Stephen Colbert’s show on September 8. One of the critics is Doug Paul, a meteorologist for Buffalo CBS affiliate WIVB, who ripped the network on Facebook for the decision to air reruns of The Mentalist and other CBS procedurals in the time slot. While a lot of people agreed (though Buffalo News media critic Alan Pergament wasn’t one of them.) Paul asked why CBS didn’t start Colbert sooner or at least move The Late Late Show with James Corden up to Letterman’s old slot, at least temporarily. Paul believes Colbert’s September start pits him at a disadvantage with the more established Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel.

CBS plans to air current-season repeats of the Mentalist, Hawaii Five-O, Elementary, and other procedural to keep the seat warm until Colbert premieres. Keep in mind CBS does not have the syndication rights to these shows – even to shows it produces –  and at least the procedural repeats draw decent ratings, albeit older-skewing. Plus, it makes no sense to launch a show during a low HUT-level time of the year, unless if its for the summer only. And yes, Colbert would be at a disadvantage at launch, but so was Kimmel when he started – remember, he was delayed until midnight in Chicago for an Oprah repeat and didn’t air in Atlanta or Orlando the first few years.

This isn’t the first time CBS has aired rerun programming in late-night: the network aired off-network drama reruns and movies under the banners The CBS Late Movie/CBS Late Night in the 1970’s and 1980’s. By 1985, CBS added fresh programming, including new episodes of ABC castoff TJ Hooker and Canadian imports Adderly and Night Heat. Nevertheless, the option wasn’t popular with affiliates, with stations such as then-CBS affiliate WITI in Milwaukee refusing to air the block completely.

CBS’ neglect of the daypart – including the failure of The Pat Sajak Show, made it much harder for David Letterman to win over stations who hadn’t aired CBS programming in late night in over 20 years. At least Stephen Colbert won’t have the same problem.

At least they’ll put the call letters to good use: Pittsburgh’s WPMY-TV quietly changed its call letters to WPNT, “22 The Point”. The Sinclair-owned My Network TV affiliate and sister station to Fox affiliate WPGH plans to add more local sports in the future, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Maria Sciullo. But before you salivate at the thought of some Penguins and Pirates games returning to local TV (both teams are seen exclusively on regional sports network Root Sports), let me squash those hopes: a station spokesperson said the new WPNT plans to air Wilkes-Barre Penguins games (the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins) and Friday night high-school football games.

It’s a similar strategy WCIU currently has for The U Too (Ch. 26.2), which airs Wolves AHL hockey games, high-school sports, and an ACC package. According to its Facebook page, WPNT plans to detail more changes to the station by September 1.

If the WPNT calls are familiar to Chicagoans, they were used on 100.3 FM from 1990-97- one of many calls and formats to occupy the station over the years. During the WPNT era, the station had an Hot AC format and was known as “The Point” until 1994. The station is now known as WSHE-FM.

The WPNT calls were also used on  a Pittsburgh FM station in the 1980’s.

Despite moving away from its My Network TV branding, WPNT plans to continue airing the programming service in prime-time, consisting entirely of off-network dramas, such as The Mentalist and The Walking Dead. The station signed on as WPTT in 1978, and during a period when station employee Eddie Edwards owned the station, was involved in a rather confusing time-brokered relationship with WPGH, which bought airtime on the station. By 1997, both consolidated their operations and would enter common ownership by 2000.  In the past, WPNT had been affiliated with HSN, UPN, and The WB.

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WMAQ pulls off 10 p.m. news upset


Beat WLS-TV in key news demo for the first time in nearly 20 years

Dispute in 10 p.m. news race in Milwaukee

The last time WMAQ won the 10 p.m. news race in adults 25-54 demo, Ron Magers and Carol Marin were still anchoring, ER was the hottest show on television, and Jay Leno was hosting the Tonight Show.

Nineteen years later, the NBC-owned station is back on top in local news’ most important – and profitable demographic.

But it wasn’t a blowout by any means – its triumph over perennial leader WLS-TV was only one-tenth of a ratings point, 3.6 to 3.5. in the key 25-54 demo. In order to hold viewers, WMAQ pushed back its ad breaks later into the newscast for an uninterrupted flow. Station officials also cited its investigative stories, which received a major boost a few years ago from corporate parent NBC after it was acquired by Comcast.

WMAQ also benefited from the strong performance of Chicago Blackhawks playoff games, though they aired on weekends.

To be sure, the ABC-owned station did win in households, beating WMAQ by two points. But keep in mind advertisers don’t usually by household numbers (except maybe for sporting events.) According to another media website, WLS did sweep early fringe news time slots, but WGN-TV finished a strong second in the 25-54 demo from 4 to 6 p.m., ahead of WMAQ. WLS continues to be the market’s most-watched station.

Both WMAQ and WLS were up from last year; in May 2014, many Chicago stations lost ground in the 25-54 demo, with the second biggest loss in news audience combined (down 21 percent from May 2013), only behind Boston.

Despite a strong showing from David Letterman’s last shows and popular CBS primetime programming, WBBM was far behind in the 25-54 demo, finishing with a 0.9 rating, perhaps an historic low. The last time WBBM won at 10 p.m. an non-Olympic sweeps period was in November 1984.

On Wednesday, Letterman’s finale earned a 12.2 local rating.

At 9 p.m., WFLD also earned a 0.9 rating in the 25-54 demo for its newscast, putting it behind WGN-TV’s newscast. Without Empire, which wrapped its season in March, there was no powerful vehicle to drive WFLD’s newscast as Fox’s primetime lineup finished fourth nationally.

WMAQ wasn’t the only local NBCUniversal property to celebrate a ratings victory. Telemundo’s WSNS scored a ratings victory over Univision-owned WGBO, beating them in the adults 18-34 and the adults 18-49 demo, up 100 percent and 75 percent, respectively. Both WSNS and WMAQ are owned by NBCUniversal and their news teams have appeared in billboards together.

Telemundo’s local stations also put up strong demo numbers in Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Philadelphia.


While WMAQ barely WLS in Chicago, up north on I-94, there was also a close news race at 10 p.m. ABC affiliate WISN-TV, owned by the Hearst Corp. , virtually tied Tribune-owned Fox affiliate WITI in households, each with a 6.3. But WITI disputed this, saying they won by a few tenths of a ratings point (6.31 to 6.25), with an anchor for the station claiming in a tweet they beat WISN by the slimmest of margins.

Meanwhile, NBC affiliate WTMJ caught a break this month with the retirement of longtime anchor Mike Jacobs. The once-dominant station did manage to finish third at 10 p.m., finishing ahead of Weigel Broadcasting’s CBS affiliate WDJT. Like its affiliated sister station in Chicago, WDJT failed to take advantage of CBS’ strong primetime lineup and Letterman’s retirement.

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Letterman’s send-off packs them in

Late Show

Letterman’s finale episode draws more than 13 million viewers, largest since 1994

(Editor’s Note – all videos associated with this post were removed from YouTube as of June 15. The article has since been re-edited. -T.H.)

The final Late Show With David Letterman on CBS Wednesday night sent tons of viewers through the entrances – and scored its highest ratings in over 20 years.

According to Nielsen, Letterman wrapped up his 33-year career (or 6,028 shows) and drew 13.76 million viewers and a 3.1 rating in adults 18-49 – the largest viewership since February 25, 1994, when it had a huge Olympic-sized lead-in. Letterman outdrew every prime-time program Wednesday night, including the first game of the NBA East Finals between Cleveland and Atlanta (2.8 in adults 18-49.)

In the nation’s overnight markets, the retiring Letterman scored its highest ratings in over a decade, earning a 9.3 household rating and 21 share (live-plus-same day) – the biggest numbers since 2005, with an episode of Late Show featured Oprah Winfrey (making her first appearance on a show hosted by Letterman since 1989.)

Letterman’s sendoff was a huge hit in Chicago – a market he traditionally didn’t do well in. WBBM-TV earned a whopping 12.2 rating and 27 share – perhaps the highest rating Letterman earned in this market since his CBS premiere. New York’s WCBS did a 11.8/29, while KCBS in Los Angeles earned a 6.4/12. Letterman won his time slot in all top three markets.

Letterman also scored well in Milwaukee, drawing a 11.1 rating for CBS affiliate WDJT. In February 2014, Letterman averaged only a 2.0 rating according to Milwaukee media blogger Duane Dudek.

In Denver, Letterman drew over 250,000 viewers for KCNC-TV, according to the Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow.

In Letterman’s hometown of Indianapolis, where WTTV became a CBS affiliate just this year, his goodbye registered a 12.2, the same number in drew in Chicago.

The final episode of Letterman program featured numerous cameo appearances and numerous clips – even a few from his 1980 NBC daytime show, which lasted only a few months.

Letterman’s final Top Ten featured celebrities reading the list, with former Seinfeld co-star Julia-Louis Dreyfus perhaps with the biggest laugh at all when she read number four:“Thank you for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”

Another enjoyable moment from the show was the Taco Bell skit from 1996 where Letterman took orders at a drive-thru.

A behind-the-scenes clip later aired, leading into Letterman thanking his fans, friends, and family, signing off and handing it over to Foo Fighters to close out the show. During this segment, more than 500 clips were put together with the Fighters’ music serving as a backdrop.

On Thursday, workers at the Ed Sullivan Theater started dismantling the set. Beginning in September, Stephen Colbert moves in. In the meantime? CBS is stripping reruns of recently concluded drama The Mentalist in the time slot now vacated by Letterman. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, CBS regularly ran reruns of crime dramas and movies on its late-night schedule, opposite Johnny Carson.

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WGCI raids rival station for talent

WPWXWGCIIn a bold move, a local radio station has raided a rival’s cupboard.

As first reported by Radio Insight, WGCI-FM raided their crosstown rival WPWX (Power 92) and nabbed two of their viable on-air personalities: midday host Frankie Robinson and afternoon host Tone Kapone, who both continue in the same daypart capacity with WGCI. This is the second WGCI stint for Robinson, who co-hosted nights with Leon Rogers from 2007-09.

Power 92, owned by Crawford Broadcasting, and WGCI, owned by iHeartMedia, are both Urban Contemporary/Hip-Hop stations, each targeting the adult 18-34 demo.

Out at WGCI are midday host Lori Swain and afternoon host UB Rodriguez. Swain recently landed a show on Tribune’s local news channel, CLTV.

No replacements have been named for the existing Power 92 personalities, and no date has been set for Robinson’s and Kocene’s debuts on WGCI. Until then, interim jocks fill those slots.

This is the second time this year an iHeart urban station has raided a competing outlet for talent: in February, iHeart’s stole away popular Los Angeles morning radio personality Big Boy from Emmis’ Rhythmic CHR outlet KPWR-FM to help launch Real 92.3/KRRL-FM, the first true Urban Contemporary full-power station in L.A. since the demise of KKBT-FM “The Beat” in 2004. Emmis sued Big Boy for breach of contract, but he and iHeart prevailed.

Since then, ratings for KRRL improved over the former KHHT, while numbers slid for KPWR.

According to Nielsen Audio, WGCI finished ahead of Power 92, tied in eleventh place overall while WPWX tied for 23rd in the latest PPM survey. But the numbers in the key 18-34 demo are closer in ranking, according to Robert Feder.

This is the latest move iHeart has made locally to shore up its dayparts on its stations. A week ago, WLIT-FM hired Kristina Zsenyuk to host a live and local morning show on “My 93.9 FM”, replacing Paul “Cubby” Bryant on June 1. The move comes despite decent ratings for the New York-based Bryant.

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