Cable at a crossroads

As viewers are cutting the cords, air comes out of cable’s bloated balloon in the form of increasing defunct channels.

A long-awaited change may be coming to the pay-TV atmosphere.

Stories this week in Variety, Wall Street Journal, and Awful Announcing suggest the cable ecosystem is expected to shift soon due to low viewership, low reach, and high cost. Many of these channels are having their marketing budgets cut while others would be slashed altogether.

The graveyard is filled with defunct cable networks, from G4 to Nick GAS and from SoapNet to Court TV (and if you go far back, you have the Satellite News Channel and The Box. Remember them?) And more are coming – as reported here recently, Chiller is being dropped by Dish Network next month, Cloo already ceased operations, and the Esquire Network is shifting from a cable channel to digital.

In the 1980’s, the average household had around 35 channels (including over-the-air stations.) In the early years, you had BET, CNN, ESPN, CBN (now Freeform), MTV, Nickelodeon, USA, WGN, WTBS and premium channels HBO, Disney, and Showtime. By the end of the decade, TNT, VH1, and CNBC joined in.

But in the 1990’s, the number of cable channels exploded thanks to the 1992 Cable Act, which compensated broadcasters for cable and satellite systems carrying channels. But many companies opted instead to create new cable channels for carriage – this is how FX (under News Corp.) and ESPN 2 (Disney) were born. More than fifty new cable channels were created, including SciFi (now SyFy), AMC, Bravo, Food Network, Animal Planet, and Cartoon Network.

In the previous decade, the number of channels grew by leaps and bounds as existing cable channels started spinning off – MTV spun off MTV 2, Lifetime birthed Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime Real Women, and BET added Centric, BET Jams and BET Gospel. More channels followed, while others like the current Spike and Freeform had their name changed – multiple times.

In this current decade, some channels were born due to deals made by minority groups with Comcast as a result of their merger with NBC – hello, Aspire (with Magic Johnson as partner), Revolt (with Sean Combs as a partner) and El Rey were created.

With cable bills rising and the advent of streaming services offering high-quality programming, you knew the bubble was going to burst at some point. Many consumers – especially millennials – are getting rid of cable, either by slimming down packages, switching to a cheaper provider (like yours truly’s household recently did) or eliminating them all together. Even worse, many cable channels – especially those owned by Viacom and NBCUniversal – are notorious for long commercial breaks, lasting as long as eight minutes, drawing complaints from viewers AND advertisers (type “BET Too many commercials” into Twitter Search and you’ll see what I mean.)

As a result, several smaller channels are losing subscribers fast, many of them with low subscriber-per-fee rates.

Averaging 35,000 viewers per night and earning just $0.09 a subscriber in affiliate fees, MTV Classic is rumored to be cut.

And with over-the-air television offering more choice via digital subchannels (such as MeTV, Decades, Movies!, and Buzzr), viewers can combine these and a few streaming subscriptions via Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV – with the savings in the hundreds per year. The launch of Playstation Vue and DirecTV NOW – streaming cable channels exclusively through the Internet – gives consumers another alternative to pricey cable subscriptions.

Today, cable channels have to deliver an audience with original programming (scripted or otherwise.) Channels with limited reach airing reruns all day are no longer cutting it. Recently, Viacom – with 25 channels in their arsenal –  announced they were going to shift their investments and marketing power only toward six of these channels. NBCUniversal has moved to cut underperforming channels with Cloo gone and Chiller on the chopping block. Others, such as Al Jazzera America and Esquire, never could find an audience.

Here’s T Dog Media’s top twelve cable channels in trouble – yes, I know there are more, but can’t list them all due to space limitations. These networks are not necessarily in danger of going dark – but these channels are struggling with low ratings, low subscriber rates, terrible reach, and a few have high commercial loads. Rankings are in no particular order.

Logo. Owned by Viacom, this channel once targeted to LGBT viewers, has become TV Land 2: reruns of 1980s and 1990s sitcoms (including the classic popular in the era of leg warmers… Green Acres.) Most, if not all original programming on this channel has evaporated.

TV Land. Also owned by Viacom, this classic TV channel has pushed into original programming with some success (Hot In Cleveland) and some not so much (Younger.) But competition from free over-the-air diginets MeTV, Antenna TV, Cozi, and Retro TV – not to mention long commercial beds and squeezing credits – has eroded audience. The Wall Street Journal notes the channel is still profitable, but the extra ad time may be a factor.

MTV Classic. Once known as VH1 Classic, this classic channel featuring once-popular MTV programming is struggling and may not last longer, given the channel only averages 35,000 viewers in primetime – roughly the size of Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood.

All BET channel spinoffs. Gospel, Jams, etc…. see MTV Classic.

Viceland. The former H2 (History Channel 2) is now a news network targeted to millennials, based on the website And how did this exactly work out for the now-defunct Current?

Chiller. As noted before, NBCUniversal’s classic horror/sci-fi channel is on the ropes, thanks to Dish’s announcement it was dropping this channel.

Oxygen. Originally founded by former Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey, and Carsey-Werner to compete with Lifetime, this female-targeted channel (which segued into stuff like Bad Girls Club after its sale to NBCUniversal in 2007) is being rebarnded to a real-life crime channel.

INSP (Inspiration Network.) Formerly known as PTL Television Network, it’s now just Another classic TV channel with little or no original programming. It’s a nice family-friendly alternative, but see TV Land to see what it’s facing.

ESPN Classic. Since ESPN bought the wonderful Classic Sports Network and became ESPN Classic, this has been the home for classic ESPN material and classic games they produced. Unfortunately, the non-ESPN content (and some original programming) which made the channel great vanished. ESPN Classic is on a pay tier on many systems.

ESPN News. Since SportsCenter airs much of the time on the mothership when ESPN isn’t airing sports, this isn’t really much use for this channel.

FS2 (Fox Sports 2.) Originally Fuel, this channel’s was re-launched the same time FS 1 was – but isn’t carried by most cable systems.

Fuse. Once known as a American version of Canada’s MuchMusic (which itself has undergone a change – dropping the “Music” name from its title), this MTV-like channel segued from playing music videos to music programming to lifestyle, scripted, and reality programming – just like MTV. Since 2014, Fuse has been owned by SiTV Media, a company specializing in programming to Latino audiences.


Victory is ours: “Big Bang Theory” secures two-year renewal deal

Deal with CBS takes sitcom to 2019; becomes longest-running sitcom in network’s history…and two cast members get a significant raise

More Bazinga ahead: CBS has renewed The Big Bang Theory for two more seasons at 24 episodes each, through the end of the 2018-19 season. This brings the episode count to 279 over twelve seasons.

Big Bang now joins an exclusive club: the sitcom ties My Three Sons and Two And A Half Men as the second longest-running live-action sitcom in television history at twelve seasons, only behind the fourteen Ozzie And Harriet produced. In fact, Big Bang now ties Men as the long-running sitcom in CBS history, surpassing both M*A*S*H and The Jeffersons (tied at eleven each) in 2014. Though Sons ran twelve seasons, the sitcom’s first five aired on ABC.

Of course, Fox’s animated The Simpsons remains the all-time champ at 27 and counting. The show has also been renewed through 2019. 

Big Bang cast members include Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

According to Variety, both Bialik and Rauch were seeking salary parity with their fellow co-stars, but in negotiations, the five original cast members of the show agreed to shed their salaries at $100,000 each to give Bialik and Rauch raises. However, their salaries still won’t match those of the original cast.

Both women joined the show later in the show’s run: Bialik is a veteran of Blossom and appeared in the movie Beaches; Rauch is also a screenwriter, penning the movie The Bronze with her husband Winston.

With the renewal comes an extension in the series’ first-cycle syndication contract, extending it through at least 2021. Warner Bros. sold Big Bang into syndication in 2009 to Chicago’s Fox duopoly and TBS for a huge amount of money. Since debuting in syndication six years ago, Big Bang has ranked as the top off-network sitcom.

Currently, Big Bang is the top-rated sitcom on television, averaging 19 million viewers a week and a 5 rating in the adult 18-49 demo. The series has led off CBS’ Thursday night lineup since 2010 (for the last two years, Big Bang has led off CBS’ Monday lineup for the first few weeks of the season due to Thursday nights occupied by football.)

Recently, CBS and Warner Bros. green-lighted a new series as a prequel to Big Bang called Young Sheldon, which explores the backstory of young Sheldon Cooper growing up in Galveston, Texas (Jim Parsons, who plays Cooper on the show and is an executive producer on the project, is from nearby Houston.) The series is expected to land the coveted Big Bang time slot on Thursdays this fall.

As for Big Bang’s plot lines, there has been major changes: Howard and Bernadette had their baby (we have yet to see) while Stuart (Kevin Sussman) moves back in to their house while Raj moves in with Leonard and Penny as he is cut-off from his father (I didn’t know a man in his position earned close to minimum wage – really?). And of course, they are across the hall from Sheldon and Amy.

With these changes amid an ensemble cast, The Big Bang Theory is starting to look more similar to Full House (or Fuller House) than Cheers and M*A*S*H. And no, that’s not a compliment. But at least we can grateful Wil Wheaton won’t be joining the cast full-time.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Bulls dragging down NBA ratings

Also: ABC 7 and WGN-TV are February sweeps winners; Tribune Broadcasting update; T.D. Jakes show is canceled; Legion, Good Wife renewed; Iron Fist debuts 

With the 33-37 Bulls once again struggling in the ratings locally, it comes as no surprise Chicago’s NBA team is dragging down the league’s ratings nationally. According to Nielsen via Sports Media Watch, March 12’s game on ABC between the Bulls and Boston Celtics drew just a 1.1 live-plus-same day rating and 1.7 million viewers – down 39 percent in rating from a comparable game two years ago. Not surprisingly, the game was up college basketball tournament games on CBS and on ESPN.

The number would have been worse if Northwestern had advanced to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the school’s long history.

The poor national numbers reminds some of the days the NBA struggled for relevancy in the late 1970s as NBA games on CBS were regularly trounced by college basketball on NBC. At one point during this period, the NBA Finals were shown on tape delay late-nights on CBS.

As for the Bulls, the team help set ratings records only a small-market franchise would: according to Sports Media Watch, the team has played in a third of the nine lowest games ever broadcast on national television. A recent Clippers-Bulls primetime game on ABC scored the lowest rating ever for a primetime NBA game – a far cry from the 1990s when Michael Jordan and the Bulls led the NBA to record ratings. With Dwayne Wade now out for the season with an injury (face it, they’re not making the playoffs), the team’s already bad fortunes look weaker.

The NBA is not the only league to over-rely on a Chicago team whose best days were in the rear-view mirror – the woeful Bears had four full nationally televised games last fall, with one against rival Green Bay getting beaten locally by a Cubs playoff game. 

In the off-season, the NBA has to address the issue of flexibility in scheduling games in primetime and Sunday afternoons. The days of getting a ratings solely from a market size (with the Bulls and the similarly woeful New York Knicks) are clearly over.

The end of Tribune as a media powerhouse is inching closer to reality. The latest story came in a report in Bloomberg Friday as an activist investor with Tribune is asking Fox to thwart any potential Tribune-Sinclair union. This comes on a report in Tuesday’s New York Post noting Sinclair CEO David Smith met with President Trump to discuss several issues, including raising the ownership cap now at 39 percent.

If the deal went through as is, Sinclair would own 28 percent of Fox affiliates – making it the second-largest owner group in the country and would yield significant clout in how the network is run. The Fox intervention wouldn’t necessarily mean Fox is interested in Tribune, but could enter into a consortium in buying the broadcaster.

Either way, Chicago’s very own WGN-TV and WGN Radio – may not be Chicago-owned for long, ending an era started all the way back in 1924.

February numbers for Chicago’s local news stations are in and ABC 7 (WLS-TV) won most local news time periods, but lost to NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV) at 10 p.m. in the 25-54 demo – WMAQ earned a 2.5 rating compared to WLS-TV’s 2.3, thanks to strong NBC lead-ins from prime-time programming (especially the trio of Dick Wolf Chicago shows.) In third was CBS 2 (WBBM-TV, 2.9 household, /1.0 in A25-54) and in fourth was WGN-TV (2.6/1.1). ABC 7’s 10 p.m. newscast dominated in households 6.3 to NBC 5’s 5.4. ABC 7 also dominated early fringe and access (4-7 p.m) and was the city’s most-watched TV station overall by a wide margin, despite ABC languishing in the ratings nationally (as are all of the networks.)

WGN also had good news, winning morning news in households and adults 25-54 from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and beating rival WFLD at 9 p.m. (4.0 to 2.0 in households and 1.7 to 1.1 in 25-54s), who is handicapped by poor Fox prime-time lead-ins. WGN also scored ratings increases in prime-time in February replacing CW programming (since casted off to WPWR), jumping from a 1.6 to 1.9 with Bulls and Blackhawks games and reruns of Two And A Half Men and Last Man Standing. Ratings only figure to go up with the return of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs next month.

One troubling trend for local stations is ratings declines from the previous year, especially at 10 p.m. Though not as bad as May 2014’s ratings report, it is cause for concern as more viewers are steering away from linear (live TV) viewing and those who still watch linearly are opting instead for cable news programs covering the ongoing drama at the White House (not to mention Chicago viewers may be getting fed up with the constant non-stop crime/murder/shootings coverage.) This was the case in Charlotte as ratings for the three cable news networks skyrocketed. 

For those interested, here are the local news sweeps results for Dallas, DetroitDenver, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and New Orleans.

Another syndicated show has bitten the dust: this time it’s T.D. Jakes’ daily talk show strip, as first exclusively reported by Broadcasting & Cable last week. Tegna, a station group who syndicated the series, said it was the “economics of daytime television” that led to the decision to halt production on the show.

The series aired weekdays at 9 p.m. on Weigel-owned WCIU-TV and at 9 p.m. on The U Too. Chicago was the largest market to air T.D. Jakes; the show did not air in New York or Los Angeles.

Tegna owns more than 30 stations nationwide and is producing fare in-house fare in order to rely less on nationally syndicated programming. After failing to find a syndicator, Tegna decided to sell the series itself – which is as they obviously found out, easier said than done. Tegna owns stations in Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston, Washington D.C., and other markets. The station group was formerly known as Gannett until the  company’s radio and TV properties split.

Tegna is now focusing its energies on new half-hour magazine strip BOLD (as tentatively titled) as a replacement this fall. Tegna is teaming with MGM to sell the show into syndication; so far, no clearances have been announced outside of the Tegna group.

In much better news, I have some renewals to announce – in fact several: FX has picked up Marvel’s new drama Legion for a second season; CBS All Access’ The Good Fight also for a second season, and HBO renewed comedy Crashing (produced by Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow) for… you guessed it, a second season.

According to Nielsen, Legion has averaged a 0.5 rating in the adults 18-49 demo (roughly the same number as Riverdale, which was renewed two weeks ago.) Meanwhile, Good Fight was strongly sampled thanks to airing its premiere episode on CBS.

All three series received solid scores on Metacritic.

On the other hand, this has not been the case of Netflix’s latest Marvel series, Iron Fist. As of this writing, the series scored a 37 on Metacritic, but a user score of 6.2. Iron Fist is basically set in the same universe as Marvel’s other Netflix shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage.) This is becoming too much like Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchises of shows – coming up next, we are going to see The Netflix Marvel Crossover Event, otherwise known as The Defenders.

And much as yours truly loves Rosario Dawson, does she need to be in every show (except Jessica Jones) playing Claire?



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T Dog’s Think Tank: Bigger is not better – maybe

A rebuttal to Harry Jessell’s piece: Media consolidation has resulted in bad managerial decisions and lots of layoffs. But bad decision making knows no size.

For the last eleven years, yours truly has been writing about media consolidation and how bad it is.

On Friday, TVNewscheck’s Harry Jessell wrote a piece saying “bigger is better”, regarding the growing profiles of Sinclair Broadcasting and Nexstar, two of the largest station groups and own the majority of stations in Illinois outside of the Chicago area. He points out the bigger station groups become, the better they can serve the public in news and entertainment – something I have yet to see in Chicago (and no, expanding newscasts and letting the Mayor do a radio “town hall” thanks to his connections to broadcast association cronies doesn’t count.)

But the question is… does anyone care anymore?

When radio went through this in the late 1990’s, listeners were livid, seeing Clear Channel (now iHeart Media) and Infinity Broadcasting (now CBS Radio) buying up stations as the industry deregulated, thanks to the 1996 Communications Act. Listeners complained of tightened playlists, increased commercial loads, voice-tracking, and more reliance of syndicated programming. But as time wore on, the complaints regarding radio have subsided – meaning listeners have now gotten used to radio’s new world of less.

In the last few years, we’ve seen Comcast merge with NBC, Media General bought out by Nexstar and now, AT&T looking to buy Time Warner and CBS Radio being purchased by Entercom.

Certainly, media consolidation as an issue has taken a back seat to “more sexier ones” such as abortion, gun control, education, and healthcare. And like those issues, media consolidation has become partisan with Republicans and conservatives opposing regulations (given their support for free markets) while liberals and Democrats supporting them. And the public doesn’t seem to care as much as they did ten years ago – remember when the FCC came to Chicago to hold a hearing on media consolidation? Yours truly live-blogged it (when live-blogging was a thing.) Now, many are taking the side of right-wing politicians, who did a good job of telling us how “bad” big government is.

Of course, people like Jessell have politicized the issue, talking the same kind of crap he did at Broadcasting & Cable for years. He must’ve forgotten the incompetent imbeciles who benefited from this: Kevin Metheny, Jan Jeffries, Jimmy DeCastro, Dawn Ostroff, Jeff Zucker, Sam Zell, Randy Michaels, Michael Ferro, etc. – you get the point. It’s one Big Media created to screw over talent in this business. Ask Howard Stern. Or Jonathan Brandmeier. Or “Crazy” Howard McGee, who lost his WGCI morning slot to Steve Harvey, despite strong ratings.

Then again, poor managerial decisions knows no station group size. Recently, WCIU (whose owner Weigel Broadcasting operates a handful of other stations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana) fired hosts Melissa Forman and Jeanne Sparrow of You and Me and canceled the show – replacing them in the interim with correspondent Jon Hansen until a new show is developed to take its place. I was surprised from the negative reaction this news received, especially in the comments section of Robert Feder’s blog, on message boards, and social media, given the ratings.

Both Forman and Sparrow were well-known with viewers, though the ratings didn’t show it. I could go on and on about how the general public doesn’t understand the TV business, but that’s not the point. Dumping the hosts and keeping the show in lame-duck status until a replacement show is almost unheard of. With Forman and Sparrow gone, there is absolutely no reason to tune in. WCIU should’ve gotten a return-on-investment for all the marketing they did for the show. What kind of message this is sending to advertisers?

Then, there’s WGN-AM, the lone radio station owned by Tribune Media. Their history of bad managerial moves in the last decade alone is enough to fill a novel.

These are the reasons why people are giving up on broadcast television and terrestrial radio and opting for streaming services, podcasts and satellite radio instead – viewers and listeners are clearly frustrated and frankly, who could blame them? The personalities they connect with are being constantly ripped away from them with no explanation. But this doesn’t matter to people like Jessell, where to him viewers and listeners can either take it or leave it. What’s he’s forgetting is, without personalities or the audience – there would be no TV or radio at all – period. Jessell is letting the imbeciles who ran media properties into the ground off the hook and absurdly blames the left for the industry’s problems.

This merger was proposed, but was scrapped.

And don’t make me laugh when we’re talking about a station group “innovating”, another useless buzzword (do give credit for Sinclair taking the lead on developing the next generation of TV broadcasting, ATSC 3.0.)

So why isn’t the public concerned? The people in charge of getting the message out did a lousy job doing so. These liberal “activists” sat on their butts for eight years under the Obama Administration thinking media consolidation wouldn’t continue. The “activists” didn’t exactly pay attention to what was going on at WGN-AM or at Tribune when Zell and Michaels ran the place, or when Zucker was running NBC into the ground, or Larry Tisch was destroying CBS. In fact, they said nothing.

So now what? With President Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress and the FCC, it’s full speed ahead. Maybe if these “activists” paid more attention to what was going on and did a better selling job to the public, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Some fresh thinking is needed to tackle this issue instead of returning to the same tired liberal tropes used during the George W. Bush administration.

To put it in comic book terms, Sinclair and Nexstar are bidding for world domination of the TV business while iHeartMedia and Cumulus are doing the same for radio, despite being broke and having a lack of funds. When you’re evil, you can always find a way to pay the freight.

Hail Hydra.

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Boomerang to launch OTT service

The latest service to be featured “over the top” is one featuring several beloved classic cartoon characters.

Time Warner announced this week a new Internet-only version of its classic animated channel Boomerang. The service plans to exclusively offer 5,000 hours of classic library material from the Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera catalog, featuring characters such as Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo, and Fred Flintstone.

In addition, the new Boomerang service plans to offer “original” material such as a revival of the 1968 CBS Saturday Morning cartoon Wacky Races (which spun off Dastardly & Muttley and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop) and “new episodes” of Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and Scooby-Doo, though information on these shows are quite vague. According to Boomerang’s website, “new” episodes of Scooby-Doo are basically leftover episodes of the latest entry in the Scooby-Doo series, Be Cool.

A new animated series based on the classic Wizard of Oz movie is also in the works.

Boomerang OTT now the exclusive home to this guy.

From the press release: “Boomerang is a beloved brand that has always had multi-generational appeal and some of the greatest animated shows ever created,” said Christina Miller, president of Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Adult Swim, in a statement. “Our on-going partnership with Warner Bros. around this new premium service continues our strategy of making sure our fans are engaged with fresh and fun content whenever and wherever they want it.”

Originally, the Hanna-Barbera library was the cornerstone of Cartoon Network, which was launched in 1992 a year after Turner Entertainment purchased the library from Great American Broadcasting, owners of Worldvision Enterprises (since absorbed into CBS Television Distribution.) Turner merged with Time Warner in 1995, adding classic Warner Bros. cartoons to the library. After adding original series to Cartoon Network, the classic material was spun off to a linear channel, Boomerang in 2000.

Boomerang has had reach issues since its inception. The linear channel still isn’t carried by several cable distributors, including Xfinity (Comcast) and Wide Open West in the Chicago area. In more recent years, it has become an overflow channel for fare Cartoon Network doesn’t have time to air. Boomerang has expanded worldwide, including distinct versions in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Thailand, United Kingdom, and of course, the United States, where it’ll continue as an linear channel.

Available only to U.S. viewers this spring, the new Boomerang channel is $4.99/a month (with a 7-day free trial) or $39.99/a year (with a 30-day free trial) and is available to web, iOS, and Android users with rollout coming soon to Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire.

Currently, Time Warner is awaiting approval from federal regulators to merge with AT&T in a deal expected to go through by the end of the year.

This is the latest OTT service launched in the last few years, bypassing cable for streaming instead. Recent entries include CBS All-Access, Comic-Con HQ, and WWE Network.

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Writer’s Strike, redux?

Here we go again?

The story in Tuesday’s New York Post suggests another Writer’s Strike may be on tap, ten years after the last one crippled Hollywood for one hundred days.

The Writer’s Guild of America is slated to start negotiations on March 13. The current three-year contract ends on May 1 – timed to coincide with the Upfront presentations to advertisers in New York. A work stoppage could affect the event.

Reports have surfaced the two sides are far apart, and a new deal might not be quick as coming.

Though there has been labor peace in the last few years, things have changed considerably since the last strike: more scripted TV shows (in fact a glut of them, known as “Peak TV”); less dependence on syndication money; shorter TV seasons; the decline of the DVD market; and the growing clout of streaming powers Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

Also, there is a new administration in Washington, which may make it tough on unions.

The last Writer’s Strike took place in the middle of the 2007-08 season, cutting seasons short and hurt ratings for the major broadcast networks. The lack of new programming also hurt local stations’ news ratings for the February sweeps in 2008. The strike hurt scripted shows such as Heroes and forced the cancellation of several sitcoms, notably Girlfriends. The walkout forced the TCA to pull the plug on its Winter Tour and canceled The Golden Globe Awards. 

TV Week (the former Electronic Media) dubbed 2007-08 the “TV season from hell”.

If a Writer’s Strike were to take place, a prolonged lockout could have a financial impact on the television business, potentially delaying the new season. Two similar walkouts did exactly that, with Writer’s Strikes delaying the 1981-82 and 1988-89 seasons. There was also a short Writer’s Strike in 1985.

A Screen Actors Guild strike forced the delay of the 1980-81 season, making viewers wait eight months to find out “Who Shot J.R.” on Dallas, revealed on November 21, 1980.

For more on how on the Writer’s Guild is preparing for the upcoming negotiations, listen to podcast episode number 289 of Scriptnotes featuring screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. You can listen or download the podcast here.

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Think Tank Express: Elimination of FCC Lifeline programs hurt violent-torn Chicago neighborhoods the most

Everyone knows by now how much President Trump goes on and on about Chicago violence, tweeting about it every chance he gets.

Well, one of the tools that could be used to help residents of poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Chicago and elsewhere is about to get “weed-whacked” by the FCC.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced he was putting the brakes on the Lifeline program, which provides a low-cost subsidy for Internet access to residents who fall 135 percent below the poverty line, according to ReCode. The program relied on net neutrality rules, which Pai is seriously considering rolling back or eliminating altogether.

Recently, Pai halted nine internet providers from participating in the program, as Pai is reviewing these programs in order to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse at the federal agency.

Two years ago, the FCC passed net neutrality rules in a party-line vote, prohibiting internet providers from favoring one service over another. If the rules are overturned, Netflix, for example would have to raise prices if they have to pay more to reach users at top speeds as Recode points out. Republicans are against the rules, saying government has no right meddling in private business affairs, even if it means keeping prices low for consumers.

The elimination of the Lifeline program could have ramifications for poor communities hit hardest by gang violence and other problems. Some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods are also some of the most poorest, including Garfield Park, Austin, and North Lawndale neighborhoods on the West Side and the Englewood, Roseland, Brighton Park, and Back Of The Yards (New City) neighborhoods on the South Side. Much of the city’s homicides come from these areas alone.

Other communities in the Chicago area where there is a large percentage of residents in poverty include Waukegan, North Chicago, Maywood, Robbins, Harvey, Ford Heights, and Gary, Ind.

If President Trump is serious about ending violence in Chicago – it’s going to take more than “sending in the feds” to cure this crisis. And the one tool meant to help poor residents make connections to job training, networking, mentoring, and other services – now risks getting cut in the name of “eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse”.

But we all know the President is all talk and no action – except when it comes to only benefiting himself and his cronies, not the real people who need it. And of course, the next time Chicago has ten murders in a day, Trump will go back on Twitter, telling us “what a disaster Chicago is”.

Not as much as the Trump Presidency has been so far.

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Sinclair, Tribune merger afoot?

Potential mega mergers could be on the horizon – and Sinclair-Tribune may be first

The worst-case scenario many in the TV industry fearing could come true.

Several reports surfaced this week if the FCC relaxes – or eliminates the TV ownership rules, Hunt Valley Md.-based Sinclair Broadcasting could merge with Chicago-based Tribune Media.

Talks are preliminary, according to sources. Neither company had comment.

If it happens – and it’s a big if – Sinclair would finally get to crack the five largest markets where Tribune owns stations, including WGN-TV, CLTV, and WGN-AM in Chicago. It would also end local ownership of the trio, which dates back to 1924 for WGN Radio and 1948 for WGN-TV.

If WGN Radio is acquired by Sinclair, it could be shopped to potential buyers. However, Sinclair does own a few radio stations, notably in Seattle where it acquired KOMO-AM with ABC affiliate KOMO-TV from former owner Fisher Communications.

Since Republican Donald Trump was elected into the White House, there has been speculation the FCC – now chaired by Ajit Pai, would deregulate media ownership rules even further than they are now. So far, Pai has received positive reviews from television industry insiders as opposed to his predecessor, former chairman Tom Wheeler.

Sinclair owns several downstate TV stations, including ABC affiliates WICS in Springfield, WICD in Champaign, and WHOI in Peoria, a former ABC affiliate now running programming from digital subchannel Comet, which Sinclair owns. Tribune’s largest station is WPIX in New York City while ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington D.C. is Sinclair’s largest. Tribune meanwhile, owns one other station in Illinois, ABC affiliate WQAD-TV in Moline.

Among larger markets in the Midwest, Sinclair owns a station in Minneapolis (WUCW), Tribune has a Indianapolis duopoly (WTTV/WXIN), and both companies owns stations in St. Louis and Milwaukee.

The deal could also have ramifications for the syndication business. Both companies are frequent buyers of such fare.

Currently, Tribune has stations covering 44 percent of the country, while Sinclair stands at 39 percent. The cap is currently at 39 percent, set by the FCC and Congress. Tribune’s figure comes as its cap is grandfathered in due to the elimination of the UHF discount, which covers for half the coverage (in the analog days.) With Republican control back at the White House and FCC, media companies figure now is the time to make some moves.

This comes as station groups are trying to increase their economies of scale as they are finding it tougher to compete with Silicon Valley’s big five: Facebook, Google (with YouTube), Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, drawing younger and more affluent viewers away from linear television. In addition to the older-skew the medium is facing, advertising money is slowing with an increasing dependency on political dollars.

Also not helping is the merger of several blue-chip advertisers, notably Kraft and Heinz – reducing the pool of potential clients.

This past week, Tribune announced revenue in the 4th Quarter (October to December 2016) for its TV division grew 13 percent from 2015. Tribune CEO Peter Ligouri announced recently he was retiring; still no word yet on who his replacement might be. Tribune recently sold its real estate holdings, and non-core assets (digital properties such as gracenote and the Tribune Tower.)

Sinclair has been known in circles for a conservative lean in newscasts and most stations air one-minute commentaries from conservative commentator Mark Hyman. If this merger comes to pass, it would be interesting how this would play out in a deep-blue TV market like Chicago, where WGN-TV’s newscasts are immensely popular.

WGN announced another news expansion this week by adding a 6 p.m. newscast, bringing its news output to 70.5 hours per week – the most of any station in Chicago.

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Oscar ratings hit record low despite epic Best Picture mix-up

The “biggest Oscar flub in history” made history of another kind – one on the wrong side of the ratings ledger 

Cubs’ World Series victory drew more viewers locally and nationally 

The 89th Academy Awards wouldn’t be best known for boffo ratings – but for an epic screw up at the end.

Many expected La La Land – a musical receiving a record fourteen nominations – would sweep its way into the record books. But at the end for Best Picture, it was Moonlight taking home the biggest prize – in the most unusual way possible.

When it came time to announce Best Picture, presenter Warren Beatty was given the wrong envelope. Watch how it all unfolded here:

He was given the envelope for the one just read –  Best Actress, which went to Emma Stone in La La Land. Puzzled, Beatty stood for a moment and Faye Dunaway announced the winner for Best Picture was La La Land.

While the La La Land cast was on stage, producers were scrambling everywhere and came the announcement from someone that Moonlight won – not La La Land. A stunned audience at the Dolby Theater – and at home – were confused.

Mistakes where the wrong winners were announced are actually not new – it happened recently at the 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, where Aisha Tyler realized she was given the wrong envelope. But on the biggest stage in Hollywood – in front of millions of viewers – this was an epic flub.

As for the show itself, this was a much better presentation than recent Academy Awards hosted by Anne Hathaway/James Franco (2011) and Seth MacFarlane (2013). Late-night talker (and radio veteran) Jimmy Kimmel did a very solid job of hosting, telling funny jokes and poking fun at President Donald Trump:

“Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him.” 

Kimmel even tweeted to Trump, saying #Merylsayshi. A running gag during the telecast was the “overratedness” of Meryl Streep, whom the President called out in a tweet a day after Streep criticized Trump.

In a tradition started by Ellen DeGeneres, the audience needed to be fed during the show – but this time instead of pizza, the crowd had candy parachuted from the rafters of the Dolby Theater.

In the night’s biggest moment (outside of the epic Best Picture mixup) were a group of people from a tour bus came in to the Dolby Theater to meet and greet those in attendance and take selfies with celebrities in the crowd. The one would stood out was “Gary” from Chicago, who he and his fiancee got “married” by Denzel Washington (unfortunately for Gary, the fame stops here as a background check found he was a convicted felon and eliminated him from being a guest on Kimmel’s late night show.)

Also cool: Kimmel’s shout-out to David Letterman who hosted the Academy Awards in 1995.

Jimmy Kimmel did an awesome job as host.

As for the awards, it was a welcome change to see more winners from diverse backgrounds than in years past. Among them were Viola Davis, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Fences and Mahershala Ali, who won Best Supporting Actor in Moonlight.

Overall, a terrific Oscar presentation. As for the the ratings…well, that’s another matter.

According to Nielsen, the Oscars drew 32.9 million viewers with a 9.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo – both historic lows. Those figures were down from last year (34.3 million viewers and 10.5 in adults 18-49) when Chris Rock hosted (yours truly was not able to watch 2016’s telecast nor write a review for reasons explained here.) The 2015 Oscars with Neil Patrick Harris as host drew 36.6 million viewers and a 10.8 rating in adults 18-49 – down from 2014’s Ellen-hosted show.

Once again, the crop of lesser-known pictures nominated were to blame for the depressed ratings. But also a factor is the obvious the tune-out from Trump voters, given the “values” Hollywood has isn’t theirs – it’s no surprise not a single market from a red state ranked in the top five in terms of ratings. Even Atlanta’s dominant WSB-TV – one of the highest-rated ABC affiliates in the country – didn’t crack the top five as they were from politically blue states and or/metropolitan areas.

In Chicago, the Academy Awards drew a 30.5 rating for WLS-TV – tying for third with Los Angeles’ KABC (New York’s WABC took top honors with a 31.1.) The local number however, is far short of the Cubs’ historic World Series win last November, which remains the most-watched event in Chicago so far this season (and this decade.) In fact, the Cubs’ Game 7 mega matchup also drew more viewers nationally (40 million) than this year’s or last year’s Oscars.

The Academy Awards will take place on March 4 next year due to the Winter Olympics taking place in February.

Last but not least, I was going to talk about Matt Damon – how he was received as a presenter and how he reacted to rival Jimmy Kimmel’s barbs.

But we’re out of time.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: No “Doubt” – CBS cancels drama after two episodes

In what technically is the first prime-time cancellation of the season (in February no less), CBS has pulled the plug on Doubt after just two episodes. The court drama starred Katherine Heigl and Laverne Cox, who became the first transgender individual to star in a prime-time show. But the audience didn’t respond: the series’ premiere drew 5.3 million in its Wednesday night time slot, only to drop to 4 million the second episode, with the adult 18-49 rating hovering around a 0.6 rating. The series dropped tremendously from its Criminal Minds lead-in and finished a distant third behind Chicago P.D. and Match Game.

This coming Wednesday (March 1), Doubt is being replaced by a rerun of Bull, a freshman hit for CBS this season. On March 8, the second season of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders takes its place.

Networks have been shy about announcing cancellation of shows – especially the last two seasons as viewers complained about quick hooks in the past (think Lonestar and The Playboy Club.) Earlier this season, ABC announced it wouldn’t renew Conviction, but kept it on the schedule despite poor ratings.

Reviews have been mixed: Metacritic scored Doubt at 58 (with a user score at a low 3.8): Rotten Tomatoes had it at 53 percent.

Thirteen episodes of Doubt have been completed – it is not known if the eleven remaining episodes would be burned off on CBS in the summer, or air on streamed exclusively on CBS All Access.

As first reported by Broadcasting & Cable, CBS Television Distribution’s long-running Inside Edition received some good news: the first-run syndicated newsmagazine show was upgraded to prime access (7 to 8 p.m.) in three of the nation’s largest markets – CBS-owned stations in New York (WCBS), Los Angeles (KCBS), and Philadelphia (KYW). In each case, Edition replaces The Insider, which was canceled after thirteen seasons. The change is effective in September.

In Chicago, Edition is carried by ABC-owned WLS-TV at 3 p.m., where it has aired since December 1990 (excluding the two seasons when the time slot was occupied by Katie.) WLS-TV’s carriage of the show is not affected by the CBS deal.

So far this season, Inside Edition has averaged a 2.9 household rating and 4.3 million viewers a day – even besting genre leader Entertainment Tonight during some weeks.

Originally syndicated by King World (bought by CBS in 1999), Inside Edition premiered on January 9, 1989 with David Frost as host, who was quickly replaced by Bill O’Reilly (who, of course went on to greater fame at Fox News.) Former WMAQ-TV and Today Show anchor Deborah Norville has anchored the show since 1995.

In New York, Inside Edition has aired on every commercial TV station in the market except for WABC; Currently, the series runs at noon on WNYW-TV. In Los Angeles, Inside Edition returns to the access slot it occupied on KCBS for the first time since its premiere, to be replaced only nine months later by Wheel of Fortune (Wheel – and Jeopardy shifted to KABC in 1992.) Inside Edition is currently airing on KCAL-TV at 4:30 p.m. KCBS, KCAL, and CBS Television Distribution are all owned by CBS Corporation.

The last ties to Turner Broadcasting have been cut with the announced sale Thursday of the former WTBS – now WPCH-TV in Atlanta – to Meredith Corp. to form a duopoly with CBS affiliate WGCL-TV, which it already owns. Since 2011, the station had been run by WGCL through a joint sales agreement – meaning WGCL sells much of the ad time for WPCH, branded as Peachtree TV. The deal comes as TimeWarner was looking to unload the station as the company is merging with AT&T – with a sale, TimeWarner could avoid FCC scrutiny of the deal on public interest grounds.

Originally launched as WJRJ-TV in 1967 on Channel 17, Ted Turner bought the station and changed the call letters to WTCG in 1970. In 1976, he uplinked the station to satellite, making WTCG available to cable viewers for the first time, becoming WTBS in 1979. TimeWarner merged with Turner Broadcasting in 1995, and split and national and local feeds for TBS, the latter becoming Peachtree TV in October 2007. Once the top-rated independent in Atlanta, WTBS/WPCH has fallen on hard times in recent years as fragmentation of the TV audience and the loss of the Atlanta Braves, a baseball team Ted Turner once owned to provide programming for WTBS, took their toll. Since WPCH now ranks below the top four rated stations in Atlanta (currently, duopolies aren’t allowed among them), Meredith is making the case for one.

Meanwhile, TBS is one of the top-rated cable networks thanks to reruns of The Big Bang Theory and originals Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Conan, and People Of Earth (from Conan O’Brien.) TBS also carries Major League Baseball regular season and playoff games.

One of television’s first judges has died: Judge Joseph Wapner died Sunday at the age of 97 in hospice care in his home in Los Angeles. A retired Superior Court judge in California, Wapner presided over the original version of The People’s Court from 1981-93. Even though there were courtroom shows before People’s Court (notably the original Divorce Court, using actors as litigants) The People’s Court was the first show to use binding arbitration – featuring real cases and real people. In its early years, the series constantly ranked as one of the top shows in syndication.

The series success helped spawn the court genre in syndication, including shows such as The Judge, Superior Court, and two Divorce Court revivals – not to mention current entries Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, and others. Many stations found The People’s Court as a valuable news lead-in: during the height of its popularity in 1987, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV declined to renew the show after four years and saw the series jump to CBS-owned WBBM-TV to use in its then-languishing early fringe lineup. The result: WMAQ fell from second to third in early news (4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.), a position it would not recover from until at least 1992.

Currently, The People’s Court – now in its 20th year in its current incarnation – is presided over by Marilyn Milan and airs weekdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on WCIU. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, who took over original syndicator Lorimar-Telepictures in 1989, also produces the current version.

Good news for fans waiting for the “eleventh” season of Mystery Science Theater 3000: the revival now has a drop date. Netflix announced on social media the new version of the cult classic will be released on April 14. Netflix tweeted out the news and a photo of the new cast behind the show, including new movie victim Jonah Ray.

Originally on KTMA (now WUCW) in Minneapolis and Comedy Central, MST3K’s last airing was on Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) in August 1999.

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WLS-TV suspends Mark Giangreco for anti-Trump tweet

Second incident in a week where as someone in the media is disciplined for tweeting

As first reported by Robert Feder Thursday evening, WLS-TV sports anchor and director Mark Giangreco has been suspended for “multiple weeks” after sending a tweet critical of President Donald Trump.

On Sunday, the 35-year veteran of Chicago television responded to a tweet sent by a Toronto Star sports columnist Bruce Arthur:







Giangreco deleted the tweet, but was screen captured by a local conservative news website, with ties to WIND-AM morning host Dan Proft. The website predictably slammed Giangreco’s comments and the news made its way to other websites such as TV Spy.

After an investigation, the ABC-owned station decided to suspend Giangreco for violating station’ policy. WLS-TV released a statement Thursday on the matter: “Sports anchor Mark Giangreco’s Twitter comments are not in line with ABC 7 Chicago’s non-partisan editorial standards. We’ve reviewed the matter and are taking the appropriate action”.

Since Thursday, the story has been picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune, Daily Herald, Variety, and the Washington Post.

This comes after several news organizations have been targets of Trump in recent weeks, as the President slammed the media last week calling them “fake news” and “failing”. A news producer was fired by Sinclair Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate WWMT in Kalamazoo, Mich. (serving the Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek market)  for tweets critical of Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Sinclair (owners and/or operators of several downstate stations including ABC affiliates WICS in Springfield and WICD in Champaign) has been known in some circles to lean conservative in their news reporting, but station officials denied this was behind the firing. Sinclair News VP Scott Livingston sent a memo to Sinclair employees a few weeks ago noting he’s concerned about “liberal bias” in his stations’ newscasts.

In an e-mail interview with Broadcasting & Cable, Livingston pointed out the same editorial policy ABC 7 has: “Our policy regarding political neutrality in station newsrooms is very clear, and our news staff are routinely reminded of it. While we don’t discuss the details of any employee matter publicly, suffice it to say that in this case the employee [at WWMT] violated this policy numerous times, and there came a point when we had to let her go.”

As the FCC is likely to deregulate television station ownership fueling more consolidation among station groups, expect more of these actions to happen. Sinclair, Nexstar, Tribune, and the four broadcast networks alone own the majority of the nation’s TV stations. And Giangreco’s comments are going to give more fuel to conservatives, who currently see Chicago and its media as nothing more than fostering and supporting liberal propaganda. President Trump has slammed Chicago repeatedly during his campaign and in his first few weeks in office – and did so again Thursday after the city recorded seven homicides in one day.

Giangreco has been WLS since 1994, jumping to the station in a well-publicized move after 12 years at NBC-owned WMAQ-TV.

As yours truly has stated in this space before, the lesson here is watch what you tweet – that is, if you want to continue to be employed in media. You represent your employer on the clock and off – and that includes what you say on social media.

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“The Good Fight” off to a good start

First test for new show heading to CBS’ premium service

When CBS’ new All-Access service was wheeled out in 2014, many thought the first original series to be rolled out and marketed as a flagship brand for the service would be the new Star Trek series – a well-known brand name to draw in viewers.

Unfortunately, the new Star Trek series (officially titled Star Trek: Discovery), has been plagued by production delays and the series, once scheduled to premiere last month is now scheduled to premiere in May.

Hence, comes The Good Fight.

The CBS spin-off of The Good Wife stepped up to the plate take Star Trek’s place as the first original series on CBS All-Access service.

Created by Robert and Michelle King, Good Fight centers around Christine Baranski’s character on Good Wife who is forced out of the law firm after a financial scam drains her savings and destroys the reputation of her goddaughter (Rose Lesile.) Baranski winds up joining a rival Chicago law firm as a result.

Debuting last night on the CBS mothership, Good Fight drew was amply sampled: according to preliminary numbers, Fight debuted with a 0.7 rating in adults 18-49 and drew a bit over seven million viewers.

Keep in mind this was a holiday weekend as many people had President’s Day off. Competition Sunday night included a NBC 90th Anniversary special, the NBA All-Star Game on TNT, and a new episode of The Walking Dead on AMC, which seems to be running out of gas creatively.

Good Fight also appears to be a hit with critics: On Metacritic, the series ranked with a 79 score while on Rotten Tomatoes, Good Fight earned a “Certified Fresh” honor with a perfect 100 percent score.

The real question now is…can CBS convert these numbers to All Access subscribers? Almost all of the programming CBS offers on its All Access service is programming from the CBS library, from NCIS to the original version of The Twilight Zone, from I Love Lucy to The Good Wife. Viewers can also stream their local affiliate and CBS News’ 24 hour OTT service, and the last five episodes of current fare on the network such as The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls.

The only original prior to Good Fight’s premiere is Big Brother: Over The Top.

This episode of Good Fight is the only one scheduled to air on CBS. Beginning next Sunday, Good Fight is airing exclusively on CBS All Access, dropping one episode per week. CBS plans a similar strategy with Star Trek: Discovery.

So you’re short on funds and can’t afford All Access. My suggestion? Wait until all of the episodes debut (two months from now) then subscribe (the first week is free through a seven-day trial), binge, and then cancel before the trial is up.

The bad news? Unless you’re willing to pay for it, you have to pick either The Good Fight or Star Trek: Discovery, which in this case would be a very tough choice.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: “All In” special on Chicago violence draws decent numbers

Discussion on Chicago violence draws over a million viewers; also, news on CBS, The Bulls, and Big Bang

As gun violence continues to plague Chicago, the national spotlight on the city isn’t dimming anytime soon with MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes the latest television program to come here to discuss the issue. Despite a last-minute scheduling change (originally scheduled for last Thursday at 8 p.m. local time but switched to 7 p.m. last Friday), All In still drew 1.359 million viewers with 275,000 of them in the covered 25-54 adult demo (MacGyver topped the ratings overall and in the 18-49 demo, while A Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day special on ABC finished second, despite a three-year low.) Notably, All In outdrew the soon-to-be departing Vampire Diaries on The CW.

Last year, ESPN held a similar “town hall” meeting for two days on Chicago violence. The MSNBC special took place less than a mile (at the South Shore Cultural Center) from where the ESPN town hall was held (The Stony Island YMCA.)

As for All In, the one-hour discussion didn’t break any new ground and provided nothing new in the way Chicago violence was addressed – and neither did the two ESPN shows last August (a Thursday night special and the next day’s episode of First Take, which yours truly finally got around to watching after viewing All In Friday) – all three featured a lot of talking heads and a lot of finger-pointing and blame. As dead bodies continue to pile up, solutions need to be found – activists and politicians feigning outrage for the TV cameras aren’t going to help. With the problem happening in inner cities around the country, yours truly is sick and tired of our city being singled out by Big Media and President Trump.

And quite frankly, me – and a lot of Chicagoans – could care less what Stephen A. Smith thinks about our situation.

Even though the struggling Bulls continue to sellout the United Center, their local ratings continue to decline. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the Bulls are averaging a 2.1 household live-plus-same day rating on CSN Chicago this season, down 28 percent from last year. This comes despite the addition of NBA All-Star (and Chicago native) Dwyane Wade to the team. As of this writing, the Bulls are 27-29, two games under .500. You can blame a combination of factors: tough competition (The Cubs’ World Series run early in the season, Monday Night Football, etc.); the team’s off-court drama (Wade and Jimmy Butler not getting along with other players), the team’s low expectations; and the overall crapiness of the NBA product – an issue back in the late 1970’s when ratings for NBA on CBS stunk and playoff games were routinely on tape-delay in late-night (and the Chicago Stadium was a ghost town for Bulls games.)

Also, Chicago fans just dealt with a bad 3-13 Bears season, and decided putting up with one crappy losing team was enough.

More notably, Bulls’ ratings have slipped behind those of its co-tenants at the UC, the Blackhawks. Despite being on top of the NHL’s Western Conference, local ratings for the team have also slipped. The decreases come at a time as more and more viewers are turning away from watching linear (or live TV) broadcasts.

Despite low local ratings and a bad record, the league’s national TV partners continue to feature the team in prime slots – TNT featured the Bulls Thursday against the Boston Celtics and ABC has two prime-time Saturday games in the next few weeks against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bulls have 33 national TV appearances this season – thanks in part to the acquisition of Wade (and the fact the word “Chicago” sells these days – positively or negatively.)

After finally unloading their radio division to Entercom, WBBM-TV owner CBS Corporation has its eye back on TV – in acquiring more TV stations. After the release of fourth-quarter results, CBS CEO Les Moonves said he hopes new FCC Commissioner Ajti Pai raises the ownership cap because CBS would “strategically want to buy some more stations”. And due to strong political advertising climate and retransmission consent revenue, Moonves points out the local TV business is “extremely good for us.”

Currently, the ownership cap is at 39 percent – CBS’ stations cover 37.7 percent of the country. Some companies (such as Tribune) are over the cap, but is grandfathered in.

Moonves pointed out he would buy stations in markets with an NFL team – in CBS’ case, it would be AFC markets. One potential target would be Ohio – notably WOIO-TV Cleveland and WKRC-TV in Cincinnati – both home to the Browns and Bengals, respectively – and is also a political swing state, which would mean a revenue windfall to The Church Of Tisch. However, both stations are owned by powerhouse station owners Raycom and Sinclair respectively, and have duopolies in each market.

Plus, Cincinnati is out of the top 25 – the market is ranked (DMA 36). But having an NFL team and in a political swing state makes it an exception to the rule.

In other words, this is going to easier said than done, regardless of what percentage the cap is. AFC markets where CBS currently owns a station (or stations) are New York City (WCBS/WLNY), Los Angeles (KCBS/KCAL…thanks to the recent arrival of the Chargers from San Diego), Oakland (KPIX/KBCW…assuming the Raiders stay there), Boston (WBZ/WSBK), Miami (WFOR/WBFS), Pittsburgh (KDKA/WPCW), Denver (KCNC), and Baltimore (WJZ). By comparison, Fox has O&O in fourteen NFC markets, including WFLD-TV in Chicago.

Despite an uneven season creatively, it looks like Sheldon & Co. are going to be around for a while – a really loooong while: various media outlets reported Thursday CBS is close to a two-year renewal for The Big Bang Theory, which would bring the series back for its eleventh and twelfth season. If a deal is struck, Big Bang – now in its tenth season, would tie fellow Chuck Lorre sitcom Two And A Half Men as the long-running sitcom in CBS history and be put in a tie for second for the longest live-action sitcom in TV history with Men and My Three Sons and, only behind The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet which lasted fourteen seasons (The Simpsons remains the all-time champ at 28 and counting.)

Despite tougher competition from Superstore and the even-longer running Grey’s Anatomy (both were recently renewed for next season), Big Bang is still TV’s top-rated show in adults 18-49 and in off-network syndication. And CBS needs the show to continue to launch sitcoms – and so far, none of them launched by the Church Of Tisch have been as popular as Big Bang.

But the mess this sitcom has become can’t compare to the real-life sitcom going on in The White House, with President Trump being just as much as a dick as the characters on Big Bang are.

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Think Tank Express: “Idol” moving to NBC?

The rich could get richer

Well, that didn’t take long – NBC and Fremantle Media are in talks about bringing back American Idol sometime next season.

American Idol, of course, ended its run ten months ago on Fox after a fourteen-season run. During its peak, Idol drew more thirty million viewers a week and attracted nearly half of all 18-49 viewers watching TV. It really put Fox on the map, propelling it from “the coat-hanger network” to a major player (although, acquiring the NFL in 1994 actually did so.) Idol also was a cultural game-changer, changing the face of the music industry and made stars of Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood and Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson.

The series’ decline has been documented on this blog and elsewhere.

Now, NBC is looking to revive the series perhaps as the network is looking to cut back on The Voice, the rival show that put Idol out of business.

Wait a minute… The Voice and American Idol on NBC? That’s like the Cubs and White Sox sharing the same home ballpark.

But the idea of bringing it back doesn’t seem as far fetched as you think. In its final season, Idol actually performed well, scoring ratings increases from the previous season. In fact, Idol outdrew many programs in the coveted 18-49 demo, the one advertisers pay the most for. Call it curiosity and hype for the final season, but the numbers still resonate.

Now, as ratings for linear (live watching) television continues to decline, reality-competition shows seems to be the best bet as evidenced by the continued success of The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, The Bachelor, and Survivor.

The announcement of a possible revival so soon caught everyone off-guard – even long-time media watchers.

Fox officials said last week it was too soon to bring back the series, after leaving the airwaves after only ten months. But with NBC now in the hunt, it leaves them in an interesting situation. Much like the White Sox and the Bears, Fox is in rebuilding mode this season – and the next few seasons as the schedule now is dominated by weak and buzzless shows. Fremantle is basic forcing Fox’s hand – can they afford to wait? It’s like Kobe Bryant retiring from the Lakers only for the Golden State Warriors trying to lure him back in the game (it won’t happen.)

And now NBC – who regularly finished fourth during Idol’s heyday and was made the butt of jokes with fare such as The Jay Leno Show and Animal Practice, is now back on top thanks to critically-acclaimed freshman series This Is Us and the popular Chicago dramas – even without Sunday Night Football in the mix. And now they could get even more dominant.

I guess those laughs last – get the last laugh.

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