Marvel creator Stan Lee dies

The 95-year old pop culture icon created iconic characters leading to TV and movie success

Stan Lee was responsible for creating a pop-culture franchise with unforgettable iconic characters. On Monday, Lee died at the age of 95 in a Los Angeles hospital. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Born in the New York borough of Manhattan in 1922, Lee got his first job at Timely Comics as an assistant, later becoming editor. After a stint in the military during World War II, Lee returned to what would be renamed Atlas comics (and later Marvel), but the company had to adhere to a strict code enacted by the Comics Code Authority (similar to today’s Parents Television Council) as comic books were the subject of Senate hearings as they were accused of corrupting youth. During this time, Lee wrote numerous comics in a variety of genres , including romance, horror, science fictions, and westerns, among others.

As he was contemplating leaving the comics business,  Lee was asked to develop a new superhero team in response to DC Comics’ success with the Justice League. Lee developed with artist Jack Kirby The Fantastic Four in 1960, giving them numerous flaws as opposed to the “perfect” traits DC characters would have. In other words, Lee’s characters were more “human”. This led Lee and Kirby to develop other Marvel mainstays including The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Iron-Man, and the Incredible Hulk.

While television wouldn’t deal with social issues until the 1970s (thanks to the success of All in the Family), Lee and Kirby did so beforehand in the 1960s, dealing with racism, sthe Vietnam War, student protests, and others. Lee also broke the color barrier by creating Luke Cage and Black Panther, comics’ first African-American characters – the former turning into a Netflix show and the latter becoming a box-office sensation in 2018. Lee also had a monthly “soapbox” section in his comics, with one 1968 piece decrying racism and antisemitism.

When ABC was looking for programming to fill their Saturday morning lineup, they turned to Marvel. The first Marvel series developed for TV debuted in 1967: Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man, albeit produced by different animation companies. Although the crackdown on cartoon violence in 1969 led to both series’ cancellations, new episodes of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man would return to Saturday mornings several years later.

Stan Lee at C2E2 in 2017 in what turned out to be his final appearance.

While Lee stopped writing comic books in 1972 to concentrate on being publisher at Marvel, he continued to develop shows for television. Although Marvel struck out with a live-action Amazing Spider-Man series for CBS in 1978, Lee would have better luck with Universal Television’s The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno (Lee often clashed with producers over the CBS version of Spider-Man, saying it was “too juvenile”.)

In 1981, Lee moved to the West Coast to run Marvel’s animation studio and production company, producing animated series for for NBC, CBS, and syndication based on Marvel and Hasbro characters. New World Entertainment (who would switch their TV stations’ affiliations to Fox in the mid-1990s) bought Marvel five years later. Lee sued the company for $10 million for cheating him out of profits related to his characters.

In a move akin to a Cubs player joining the White Sox (or vice versa), Lee jumped ship to rival DC in 2000, and helped re-develop their classic stable of characters, including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Also during this time Lee created Stan Lee Media, but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after principals behind the company were involved in a check cashing scheme as Lee was never implicated. Lee formed another new company in 2001, called POW! Entertainment which still exists today.

As Marvel was sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2009, Lee returned “home” to help develop the company’s movie and TV slate, receiving an “executive producer” credit. Marvel had a resurgence in the last decade, thanks to successful movie franchises featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers. The imprint expanded to television in 2013 with the debut of ABC’s Agents of Shield as Lee would make cameo appearances in the show and film properties, not to mention The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory.

Lee is also listed in the credits for the Marvel Netflix Universe shows, though he only appeared in the shows through stock photographs. He did however, appear in Hulu’s Runaways and Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger through cameos.

Lee traveled the country in recent years, making appearances at conventions and at San Diego Comic-Con. Lee made numerous visits to the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (known as C2E2) at McCormick Place, with his last Chicago appearance taking place at a panel packed with fans in April 2017. Earlier this year, reports surfaced Lee was the victim of elder abuse from a memorabilia collector, isolating him from his family and friends. A judge issued a restraining order, as Lee regained control of his social media accounts.

Among his accolades include an induction into the Will Eisner Hall Of Fame in 1994 and The Jack Kirby  Hall Of Fame in 1995; A National Medal Of Arts award in 2008; a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2011; and a Vanguard Award in 2012 from the Producers Guild Of America.

Certainly, Stan Lee was one of a kind. Excelsior!

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Media Notepad: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville fired in a “Survivor”-like blindside

Also: Bears scores ratings success; Jeopardy and Wheel renewed for three more years; Alec Baldwin Show pulled

I guess the hockey tribe has spoken.

In a Survivor-style blindslide, the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday voted longtime coach Joel Quenneville off the ice after ten years. The decision to part ways with the three-time Stanley Cup Champion coach seemed to be explicitly timed: on Election Day no less, burying the news on a day much of the news media wasn’t paying attention to anything outside of the election.

Quenneville has been replaced by Jeremy Cotillon, who previously coached the Rockford Ice Hogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate and arch rival to the Chicago Wolves.

The decision to fire Quennville by Blackhawks management was understandably met by scorn, from the media to former players to fans. After all, Quennville helped put the Blackhawks back on the map after years of decline. He was hired to replace Denis Savard in 2008 and built the team into a champion and perennial Stanley Cup contender, winning their first title in 49 years in 2010 and repeating the feat again in 2013 and in 2015.

But in the last two years, the Blackhawks have struggled, swept in a first-round playoff series by the Nashville Predators in 2017 and have yet to beat the upstart Vegas Golden Knights, who went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season in their first year. They missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade and were off to another weak start this season.

Ratings for Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago dropped accordingly, finishing last season with a 2.4 household rating, down 28 percent from the 2016-17 season and down 40 percent from the 2015-16 season. In addition, many local sports fans have simply moved on, with Loyola’s basketball team and Sister Jean taking over top billing in Chicago’s winter sports scene.

The team is signaling they may be on an impending rebuild – meaning more ratings  erosion is on the way, if the Bulls’ and White Sox’s still-declining ratings are any indication. While it’s not known the effects of Tuesday’s firing would have on ticket sales (the Blackhawks rank 1st in the NHL in attendance), at least we had fun while it lasted.

[Madden 17 screenshot.]

With a better team comes better exposure: the Chicago Bears’ home game against the Minnesota Vikings has been “flexed” to NBC’s Sunday Night Football on November 18, the NFL’s biggest stage. The move pushes out a scheduled Pittsburgh Steelers-Jacksonville Jaguars game on the same date as the latter team – who went to the AFC Championship Game last year is stumbling this season.

This comes as local ratings for the Bears have surged thanks to the improved record (5-3) under first-year head coach Matt Nagy – up 34 percent from last year. Sunday’s game at the woeful Buffalo Bills earned a 26.5 rating on Fox-owned WFLD as the Bears crushed them 41-9. Despite the victory, some viewers complained about the telecast – notably commentator Darryl Johnston’s analysis, who many feel wasn’t fair to the Bears. Then again, no analyst has ever been fair to the Bears.

In Buffalo, the telecast on Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WUTV earned a big 28.1 household rating, but was the the lowest-rated Bills game in several years in the nation’s 53rd-largest market. Despite the dubious honor, the game was still ranked as the most-watched program in Buffalo for the week.

Despite rumors long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek might retire, Sony Pictures Television and CBS Television Distribution have said otherwise.

On Monday, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune were renewed for three more seasons through September 2023. Earlier, Sony renewed the talent deals behind both game shows, signing Trebek, Pat Sajak, and Vanna White through 2022. Generally, both are renewed in two-year increments, but this is the first three-year deal in recent memory.

Sony Pictures produces Wheel and Jeopardy and sell a minute-and-a-half of national advertising barter time in the shows; CBS distributes both to over 175 stations across the country and more than 50 countries around the globe. The renewals take Jeopardy to its 39th season and Wheel to its 40th in syndication (the show began as a daytime entry on NBC in 1975.)

The ABC-owned stations – including WLS-TV in Chicago – became the first group to renew the shows through 2023. Jeopardy and Wheel are still solid ratings performers for ABC 7, and still syndication’s top-rated game shows. Other markets where Wheel and Jeopardy were renewed include New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston (for Jeopardy only.)

Meanwhile, Fox’s The Simpsons could be getting its own three-year renewal pact soon, provided things get worked out between “New Fox” and future producer ABC Studios – Sunday night’s episode hit a season high in the adult 18-49 demo (1.9) and ranked as the second most-watched entertainment prime-time show of the week. The Simpsons are in their 30th season, six behind Wheel and five behind Jeopardy. Simpsons parent 21st Century Fox is in the process of being sold to ABC parent Disney, excluding Fox, Fox News, and its O&Os.

With fourteen freshmen series recently receiving full-season pickups, one is not: ABC’s The Alec Baldwin Show is losing its Sunday night time slot immediately, being shifted to low-HUT level Saturday nights beginning Dec. 2, where it air for the reminder of its run. Since it is being “burned-off” here, it does mark the season’s first casualty, even though ABC has not officially canceled the show.

ABC is filling Baldwin’s old time slot with specials in the interim.

Baldwin wasn’t expected to have an impact on ratings given the tough time slot (opposite Sunday Night Football) and the format, which resembles a Sunday-morning interview show  – meaning no studio audience and no band. The program had averaged around a 0.3 rating in the adult 18-49 demo and around 1.5 million viewers – the lowest rating in recent memory for a Big Three network. Baldwin was even getting outdrawn by CW’s Supergirl and Charmed on some weeks.

Baldwin told The Hollywood Reporter: “We’re making a good show here. I mean, who knows if we survive? ABC’s not doing very well. We could get out there, show four or five episodes, and be dead.”

Whoopi Goldberg hosted a similar straight-interview talk show during the 1992-93 season in late-night syndication – with no band and no audience. The program was canceled four months into its run.

Baldwin has made headlines in recent weeks, including assaulting a person over a parking space in New York last week and said “black people love me” in an interview.


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Election 2018: Your viewer and listener guide

Hot-button issues drives viewers to the polls – and election coverage

Election night on Tuesday is going to be like Christmas morning for news organizations as viewers are expected to tune in enmasse for the results.

In the past, viewers barely tuned into election night as races weren’t exciting or the outcome was expected (re: the 1984 and 1996 Presidential elections.) Independent stations and cable networks counter-programmed with movies and other special event programs.

But how things have changed. With interest at an all-time high thanks to the polarized political climate, viewers are thirsty for election results as networks and local stations all across the country are expanding their coverage Tuesday, encompassing all of prime-time and late-night time periods – and of course, ratings and HUT levels are expected to soar with a lot of busy newsrooms well into the night.

In other words, local pizza joints such as Giordano’s, Gino’s East, and Lou Malnati’s are going to have a busy Tuesday.

And you can thank Trump and his controversial presidency as these midterm elections are a referendum on his policies as numerous races across the country determines who gets control of the House and Senate for the next two years. In the last few weeks, viewers nationwide have been punished with non-stop outlandish political advertising – not only across traditional media such as television and radio, but also through Facebook, Hulu, and YouTube. In Illinois alone, the Governor’s race has broken spending records for a political race –  one that is not receiving hardly any national attention given Democratic challenger J. B. Pritzker has a commanding lead in the polls (it helps the incumbent comes off as an senile nincompoop.)

Viewers will be watching CNN Tuesday night, one of the many choices available on Election Night.

Local stations across the country have benefited from increased political advertising, breaking records in its own right. According to Kantar Media, the haul is estimated to bring in $2.65 billion for broadcasters this year, up 26 percent from 2014.

The three major broadcast networks are blowing out their  primetime Tuesday night: both CBS and ABC will have election coverage for the entire evening, while NBC decided to drop Tuesday’s episode of The Voice for expanded political coverage. According to numerous TV listings, CBS and ABC plan to air Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel at 10:35 p.m. local time Tuesday, but it is likely the talk shows will be delayed, if they air at all.

NBC isn’t airing Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, but is scheduled to air Late Night with Seth Myers. Again, times are approximate.

Fox is planning to air new episodes of their regular Tuesday night lineup, while The CW is airing repeats of its scheduled Tuesday shows, Arrow and Black Lightning.

Locally, WGN-TV is starting its election coverage at 4 p.m. in its regular news shows, including two hours in primetime (7-9 p.m.) for expanded coverage and is likely to run past 10:30 p.m. WLS-TV is airing election coverage in its regular hour-long newscast over independent WCIU at 7 p.m., who segues to regular syndicated programming at 8 p.m.

According to listings, Fox-owned WFLD has its regular lineup scheduled, but is likely to have expanded election coverage past 10 p.m. And as of this writing, Chicago’s network-owned stations plan to air their regular syndicated programming at 6:30 p.m., surrounded by election coverage and newscasts. Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo are also doing election coverage.

In radio, the city’s AM stations – WBBM-AM, WLS-AM, and WGN-AM each plan to have election night coverage. Streaming service CBSN from CBS News plans to begin its election coverage at 4 p.m. And last but not least, the cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News – will have election coverage all day. And your Twitter feed – if you have one – will be populated with election news and commentary all night long – I know mine will.

The best part about election night coverage? No more political ads – until the next election. And the ad blitz may start much sooner than you think – or want.

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Media Notepad: New York media “feud” has implications for Entercom Chicago stations

Also: Jerry Springer gets a new show; another new talk show to debut; 11 series get full-season pickups

In yet another chapter of how absurd this business can be, a feud between the owners of Madison Square Garden and Entercom is having implications in Chicago and elsewhere. Madison Square Garden Entertainment has suspended any future relationships with Entercom’s radio stations as a WFAN host blasted MSG Chairman James Dolan on the air last summer. As a result, players from the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers are no longer allowed to appear on WFAN. Both teams and the WNBA’s New York Liberty play at MSG and owned by Dolan.

Maggie Gray slammed Dolan after he released a song (yes, he’s in a band) being sympathetic to the #MeToo movement given his ties to Harvey Weinstein and slammed him for losing a $11.6 million lawsuit against a former New York Knicks executive. Gray also slammed Dolan for re-hiring Isiah Thomas to run the New York Liberty WNBA team after his known sexual harassment allegations during his time as a Knicks executive. Among language Gray used were the words “disgusting”, “troll”, and “a vile piece of trash.”

Entercom owns the all-sports station in New York City in addition to five other stations in the market. Entercom purchased the former CBS Radio stations last year.

Despite a last minute apology from Gray, MSG released a statement: “Entercom aired a hate-filled rant directed towards MSG, its employees and its Executive Chairman in August of this year,” Kim Kerns, an MSG spokesperson, told The Post. “They chose to take no action to remedy this until the start of this season. Only after learning they would not receive special access to players and coaches did they elect to offer an insincere half-hearted apology. We wish them no ill will. However, we decline to carry on a business relationship. We will continue to afford Entercom league-mandated access only.”

But that’s not all: In addition to Dolan banning Knicks and Rangers players from appearing on Entercom stations, his Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan won’t do business with them either – including MSG-owned venues the Chicago Theater and The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. in the Los Angeles market.

Entercom owns Top 40 WBBM-FM (B96), Album Adult Alternative WXRT, Country outlet WUSN-FM (US99), and Classic Hip-Hop WBMX-FM (104.3 Jams) in addition to all-news WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM and sports talker WSCR-AM (The Score).

According to Billboard, US99 is sponsoring the annual Stars and Strings concert at Chicago Theater on November 7. The event is expected to take place as scheduled.

With the ban in place, this is just another example of why running everything from New York isn’t such a good idea (just ask any Chicagoan.) And Chicago’s Entercom stations – already faced with tough competition from stations owned by iHeartMedia and Hubbard among others, may suffer for something they weren’t even connected with. But in the Big Conglomerate era, expect more of these shenanigans as petty arguments between companies can quickly escalate. Sadly, listeners wind up being the losers as always.

In the latest Nielsen PPM report, WFAN tied for 6th place, well ahead of competitor WEPN-AM, who placed 21st.

With his talk show dead and (possibly) buried, Jerry Springer is looking ahead to his next profession: a TV judge. Yes, you heard me. According to last week’s New York Post, the 74-year old former talk show host has shot a pilot for a new courtroom show from NBCUniversal titled Judge Jerry. Robert Feder reported Thursday the show made a sale to Weigel’s WCIU, who aired his talk show from 2010 until last summer.

The program would be shot in Stamford, Conn,, where his former talk show was based for the final nine years of its run. The Post noted the pilot was recently shot there, and incorporates some elements from his old talk show into the courtroom genre, including an audience chanting Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! (this has to seen to believed) and Springer’s final thought.

The courtroom genre is already crowded in daytime with more than ten shows on the air. Led by Judge Judy, the 23-year old show drew 9.6 million viewers on average a day and a 6.8 national household rating in a recent syndication ratings report, topping all first-run and off-network programs.

The failure rate of new courtroom programs is quite low as small production costs makes the format quite profitable. In the last decade, only We The People With Gloria Allred and Family Court With Judge Penny couldn’t make it past their first season. A few weeks ago, Debmar-Mercury debuted Caught In Providence, a new courtroom show helmed by Judge Frank Caprio.

Currently, Jerry Springer reruns from the last six seasons are currently airing in the afternoon on The CW, whose Chicago affiliate (WPWR) airs the show weekdays at 3 and 4 p.m. The CW deal is not affected by the new project.

Get ready for another new talk show: this time it’s Mel Robbins who its out pedaling a gabber, thanks to Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Media. The best-selling author, speaker, and life strategist struck a deal with the two for the new daytime talker, set to debut in September 2019.

“Mel has a message and a methodology that connects with women and she knows her audience,” Sony’s president of first-run television John Weiser said in a statement. “She has a distinctive and fresh approach to navigating the life challenges women face every day and we’re going to utilize Mel’s unique entrepreneurial strength in the digital media space to better connect with our audience. “ Robbins does a podcast and is CEO and co-founder of The Confidence Project, a company who works with Fortune 500 companies to build confidence among employees.

Sony has cleared the series in 30 percent of the country on Tribune Media stations. No list was released, but it is a sure bet Tribune flagship station WGN-TV is on board and does have an open hour to fill, now occupied by a Maury repeat at 2 p.m. On other Tribune stations, it could replace Discovery’s True Crime Files in daytime, which has underperformed. This is also perhaps a signal Tribune is finally stepping away from conflict talk with Springer in reruns and Maury and Steve Wilkos‘ contracts expiring in 2020.

For Tribune, this is the first programming rights dealer they struck since their deal with Sinclair fell apart. It means they are moving forward with programming purchases again, to the delight of syndicators. Robbins is the fourth project to move forward for next fall, with NBCUNiversal’s Kelly Clarkson and Judge Jerry (see above), and Disney-ABC’s Tamron Hall.

The last time Sony and Tribune partnered on a project was the short-lived Greg Behrendt Show, on the air during the 2006-07 television season.

With the new season weeks old, the major broadcast networks are already handing out full-season pickups for the new prime-time series: in fact, eleven of them. Pickups include CBS’ The Neighborhood, Magnum P.I., God Friended Me, and FBI; NBC’s New Amsterdam and Manifest; ABC’s Single Parents and A Million Little Things and sophomore series Station 19; and Fox’s Last Man Standing (not exactly new) and The Cool Kids.

As par for the course the last few years, there have been no “quick-trigger” cancellations as the networks are giving new shows plenty of time to find an audience. This comes as live ratings – even as low as a 0.4 demo rating for some shows – are not really a barometer for success anymore. Plus, the networks don’t want the backlash they received in 2011 when Fox canceled Lonestar after two episodes and NBC dropping The Playboy Club after three – despite so-so critical reviews, fans took to internet and social media to express their displeasure.

Notably left off the list is CBS’ revival of Murphy Brown, which actually holding in the ratings despite the tough competition and NBC’s I Feel Bad, which is – um, doing bad in the ratings (pun intended.)

Several new series – including Neighborhood, Magnum, and Single Parents are indeed awful – but keep in mind quality isn’t exactly the broadcast networks’ strong suit.

Then again, neither are some of Netflix’s Marvel dramas.

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NBC cancels “Megyn Kelly Today”

Comes after controversial comments on Tuesday’s show

As expected, NBC pulled the plug on Megyn Kelly Today after thirteen months – though to NBC, it seemed like thirteen years.

NBC is filling the time by extending the actual Today show with other co-hosts and anchors, with the move in effect as on Monday. According to reports, Kelly is negotiating an exit from her NBC contract as she is unlikely to appear on the network anytime soon, if ever.

The cancellation came after Kelly made controversial comments regarding blackface on October 23rd’s show. In an discussion about Halloween costumes, Kelly – who grew up in the predominately white Albany, N.Y. suburb of Delmar, said blackface was “acceptable” when she was growing up as long as “you were in character”.

NBC had hopes to build a brand around Kelly, who was poached from Fox News for $69 million in a three-year contract. But she wasn’t able to shake off baggage from her past – notably racially insensitive comments she made on her Fox News show

Even though Megyn Kelly Today wasn’t a ratings hit, the program attracted a decent amount of advertising revenue – $180 million over the course of her thirteen-moth run according to agency Kantar Media. Clients included Progressive, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, and Citibank as a thirty-second spot on her show ranged anywhere from $13,500 to $18,000. Still, the program lagged in the ratings – especially in Chicago where it trailed WGN Morning News and Live With Kelly & Ryan on WLS-TV.

The decision to drop Kelly due to her comments was simple – make a move before affiliates and advertisers (including those mentioned above) started voicing concern – similar to ABC pulling the plug on Roseanne after the show’s star sent racially and anti-Semitic tweets.

In 2003, Rush Limbaugh was removed from ESPN Sunday Countdown pre-game show after making similar remarks on-air about African-American quarterbacks – especially the Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb. Like Kelly, Limbaugh also had a history of making racially-tinged comments, mostly on his nationally syndicated radio show.

Given the history of Kelly’s comments – especially regarding the African-American community, you’d think something like this would have an effect of advertising revenue on her show. Instead, there were a lot of blue-chip clients connected to Kelly – despite them. This is really concerning – and very disappointing.





Reports: Megyn Kelly soon to be dropped from “Today” show

Blackface comments cause backlash

(Editor’s Note: Updated at 1:00 p.m. with new information.)

By the time this is published, Megan Kelly Today is likely to be over.

NBC is mulling over several options from the woman they poached from Fox News in January 2017 for $69 million after she made some controversial comments on Tuesday’s show.

During a segment on Halloween costumes, Kelly defended the use of blackface, a racist tradition dating back to the 1800s being used in minstrel shows. In the segment featuring an all-white panel, Kelly questioned whether white people using blackface was racist or insensitive and said blackface was acceptable when she was a kid (I am almost the same age as Kelly, and let me assure you it was not.) Numerous movies and cartoons from the 1930s through the 1950s were often filled with racial stereotypes featuring characters in blackface, notably Tom and Jerry.

After the inevitable social media outrage – and criticism from within the NBC news organization, Kelly sent an internal e-mail to everyone apologizing for her comments, saying she didn’t understand the implications of using blackface. The story was covered by NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and also was mentioned on NBC-owned WMAQ-TV’s local newscasts.

NBC News president Andy Lack – who had a hand in hiring Kelly – condemned her comments at an employee gathering Wednesday. While some reports are saying Kelly’s show is likely to wind down by the end of the current television season (which is a LONG eleven months away), others are saying it could exit the air as soon as next week. People is reporting Megan Kelly Today was canceled, but no official announcement has been made from NBC News itself. An NBC spokeperson said Kelly’s show would be in reruns both Thursday and Friday.

Kelly’s daily program has struggled since its premiere thirteen months ago with the show’s premiere critically panned and thus far, scoring lower ratings in the 9 a.m. hour than the previous Today show team of Al Roker and Tamron Hall.

In Chicago, Megan Kelly Today airs at 9 a.m. and is often outdrawn locally by WGN’s morning newscast and WLS-TV’s Live With Kelly (Ripa) and Ryan. In Milwaukee, NBC affiliate WTMJ delays Kelly Today an hour to accommodate a local morning talk show and faces The View on ABC affiliate WISN, The Price Is Right on CBS affiliate WDJT and Wendy Williams on Fox affiliate WITI.

The move to hire Kelly away from Fox News came with a lot of risk as Kelly wanted to move away from political programming and into more lifestyle issues. While at Fox News, she had her own primetime show and made headlines for calling out former CEO Roger Ailes and former host Bill O’Reilly over sexual harassment. But while she was there, she also made numerous racially controversial comments, including criticizing former First Lady Michelle Obama and calling her a “whiner” after she delivered a commencement address at King High School, speaking against racism and other racial inequalities she faced. Kelly dismissed it as a “culture of victimization.”

As part of the deal, Kelly received a prime-time newsmagazine show. Premiering last year and airing opposite 60 Minutes (great choice for a time slot), it was smashed in the ratings and was canceled in August 2017.

Since her premiere, Kelly has been panned for her awful interviewing skills, including one with Jane Fonda and the entire Will & Grace cast. Since the blackface comments, Kelly has been dropped by her talent agency CAA and the cast of Netflix’s House Of Cards have withdrawn as guests on the show.

Wednesday morning, Kelly apologized again – this time to viewers after being admonished by two black panelists on the show. When the show moved on to the next segment, Gary Busey was on and asked Kelly[Are] you having fun yet?” Kelly replied “Am I having fun? I am now!”

But since no one else is having fun – especially NBC News personnel and hapless home TV viewers, at least her racist ass is being shitcanned soon. Now that’s going to be fun.

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Steve Dahl exits WLS-AM

Longtime Chicago radio host steps down as station changes direction

In a move that comes as no surprise, WLS-AM afternoon host Steve Dahl has decided to leave the Cumulus-owned station after four years amid low ratings.

As first reported by Robert Feder Tuesday, WLS is looking to revamp its talk schedule, targeting sometime in January for the changes. While the station did not say what specific changes would take place, it was a given Dahl’s show would be affected as the station is likely shifting back to a full-time weekday conservative talk show format.

In an e-mail published on Feder’s site today, Dahl told him: “I love radio and will miss being on the air every day. The last four years have flown by, and I think Dag, Brendan and I have been doing good solid work, both on the radio and on our podcast. I would have liked to finish with some better radio ratings, but that didn’t happen.”

Even though Dahl is exiting WLS-AM, his subscription podcast continues and Cumulus remains as a financial partner in his podcast network. His last day at the station is on December 21.

Dahl returned to WLS-AM in 2014, when the station was looking to attract a more mainstream audience to compete with rival talker WGN-AM. But since the 2016 Presidential Election, WLS-AM drifted back to conservative-talk with the hiring of former WIND-AM host Big John Howell in the mornings and adding syndicated conservative talker Chris Plante to late mornings, leading into Rush Limbaugh’s. Not surprisingly, Dahl’s program – which is not a political talk show, floundered in the ratings ranking 25th in afternoon drive (from 2 to 6 p.m.)

In fact, Dahl’s show is the only non-political news/talk weekday show on the station between 5 a.m. and midnight.

The moves are indented as an overall effort to boost sagging ratings as WLS ranked 23rd overall in the last Nielsen report. As part of its evolution back to conservative talk, it pulled the plug on Bob Sirott’s and Marianne Muricano’s general-interest midday show last December and dropped Bulls and White Sox games from the schedule in January due to Cumulus’ bankruptcy. This comes as its FM counterpart  is seeing record-breaking ratings with its Classic Hits format, with the station ranking second overall and even topping several dayparts.

Whehter this is the end for Steve Dahl on terrestrial radio is unknown. But if it is, it caps one hell of a career, starting locally at the old WDAI-FM and winding through WLUP-FM and WLS-AM/FM (with Garry Meier), WCKG-FM, WJMK-FM, and back at WLS-AM.



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Netflix cancels “Luke Cage”

Late Friday news caught some off guard

In a move catching a lot of people by surprise, Netflix canceled Luke Cage after two seasons Friday night.

From a terse joint statement released by the streaming service and Marvel: “Unfortunately, Marvel’s “Luke Cage” will not return for a third season. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is grateful to the dedicated showrunner, writers, cast and crew who brought Harlem’s Hero to life for the past two seasons, and to all the fans who have supported the series.”

The New York-set series was among a number of Marvel shows set on Netflix in the Big Apple. Luke Cage was a spin-off of Jessica Jones, the second Marvel show to appear on the streaming service. Set in Harlem and based on the comic book series of the same name, Luke Cage is a former convict (Mike Coulter) who fights against crime and corruption.

Also appearing in the show are Rosario Dawson and Simone Messick, who each appeared in other Netflix Marvel Universe series including Iron Fist, which was canceled last week.

The reason for the cancellation appears to stem from creative differences between the producers and Netflix on terms for an upcoming third season as there was talk Netflix wanted the episode order trimmed from thirteen shows to ten. The news comes as a surprise given Luke had a sizable fan base.

The decision to cancel Luke leaves Netflix with just three Marvel shows: Jessica Jones, which has been renewed for a third season; Daredevil, the first show to debut from the Marvel Netflix Universe and released its third season on Friday; and The Punisher, a Daredevil spin-off recently renewed for a second season and is expected to debut next year. With another Marvel series (The Defenders) not coming back and Iron Fist’s cancellation, this may be a sign the Marvel Netflix Universe may be running out of steam, given the weak second season of Jessica and the likewise cool reception to Luke’s second season, released on June 22.

The cancellation of Iron Fist and Luke Cage comes as Marvel owner Disney is planning to launch its own streaming service in 2019. While there is speculation on Iron Fist possibly being relaunched on Disney’s streaming service, there has been no such talk about Luke Cage thus far. From this point forward, Marvel is only developing series for its co-owned streaming service, but its existing series will stay on Netflix at least for the time being.

Despite the success of Marvel’s theatrical Black Panther, the black superhero genre is having a difficult time transitioning to television. Another series centering around a black superhero (The CW’s Black Lightning) has stumbled out of the starting gate with a 0.4 rating in the adult 18-49 demo for its second-season premiere on October 9, down 50 percent from its lead-in and also down from its debut earlier this year. The series dropped even further last Tuesday night, falling to a series-low 0.3. Luke’s numbers are not known since Netflix does not release ratings information.

With Luke Cage gone and Black Lightning struggling, the future of this type of programming is in serious question. Amid all this talk of “inclusion”, is Hollywood going to continue developing series around superheroes of color? So far, the results are not encouraging.


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White Sox local ratings collapse into basement

Rebuilding team has trouble drawing viewers; Cubs’ ratings grow; Cardinals top MLB

In a signal the “rebuild” isn’t chugging along as it should, the Chicago White Sox’s season ratings fell into a ravine this season.

According to Nielsen and Forbes, the White Sox fell into last place among Major League Baseball’s 29 teams, averaging a 0.68 household rating on NBC Sports Chicago for the 2018 season – down 23 percent from 2017 and averaging a scant 22,000 homes – down 26 percent from last year. Outside of Chicago Fire games, it is the lowest rating any Chicago sports team has earned since 2007 when the Blackhawks wound up with equally bad ratings before the team’s rebirth.

To be fair, a significant amount of games did air on Tribune Media’s WGN-TV, as ratings were not available. But you can imagine they probably weren’t any better.

The ratings average for White Sox game put them in the same range of second and third-tier syndicated programming in the Chicago market, mostly programming airing over CW affiliate WPWR and WCIU. At least the White Sox can brag about outdrawing WCIU’s The Jam morning show.

This puts the White Sox as one of the least-watched teams in all of major sports (again, excluding MLS.) Other teams with lower ratings include the NHL’s New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers, and Los Angeles Kings and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and the Los Angeles Clippers. In fact, the Islanders and Kings (along with the New Jersey Devils) decided to shift their radio broadcasts online as they didn’t even bother trying to find a terrestrial outlet for their product (the White Sox were able to avoid this fate by signing a last-minute pact with WGN-AM when their WLS-AM deal was terminated due to Cumulus’ bankruptcy.)

The lower numbers were expected as the White Sox lost 100 games for the first time since 1970, also at a time when the team was dealing with a shrinking fan base. The White Sox are currently in a “rebuild” process, with interest among casual fans almost non-existent. Even if the White Sox build back into a contending team, it is going to be tougher to attract viewers – especially younger ones in a sport perceived as older-skewing.

On the other side of town, the Chicago Cubs showed some growth with a average 5.0 household rating on NBC Sports Chicago for the 2018 season, up 12 percent from last year and up slightly from their 2016 World Series Championship year. Once again, over-the-air broadcast numbers were not available as the Cubs are looking to launch their own regional sports network in 2020. The Cubs (along with 23 other teams) ranked first among competing cable networks in prime-time with the Cubs topping the entire Chicago market (broadcast networks and other local stations) in some instances.

Topping all MLB teams once again are the St. Louis Cardinals with an average 8.1 rating, followed by the Boston Red Sox (7.3) and the Cleveland Indians (6.8). Unlike Chicago, all games for these teams air on regional sports networks. The Atlanta Braves had the biggest increase (+79%); the Baltimore Orioles had the biggest drop (-56%) as the team recorded 113 losses in 2018.

According to the data, neither team was able to “generate more viewing” than popular entertainment programming in the third-largest market where as this was the case elsewhere – for example, the Indians and Cardinals generated more viewing the top fifteen network television shows in their markets combined (or so they say.)  But this is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison as prime-time sports are generally 2 1/2 to 3 hours in length as opposed to a entertainment show, generally running from an half-hour to two hours.

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Bulls fans get their own TV show on NBC Sports Chicago

From left: Bulls Outsiders hosts Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine.

New interactive show compliments expanded post-game Bulls coverage

We’re about to test the theory that just about anybody can get themselves a TV show.

NBC Sports Chicago Thursday debuts Bulls Outsiders, a new program featuring Bulls analysis from a fans’ point of view. It features die-harders (and unknowns) Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Waston. The show debuts after the Bulls post-game show as the team tips-off its first game of the 2018-19 NBA season against the Philadelphia 76ers.

NBC Sports Chicago Vice-president of content Kevin Cross said: “Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue.”

Outsiders is airing after all Bulls post-game coverage this season, whether NBC Sports Chicago is carrying the game or not. This Thursday’s game is a national telecast on TNT, as NBC Sports Chicago’s first game is the home opener against the Detroit Pistons Saturday.

The news comes as the Bulls announced Monday ESPN college football announcer Adam Amin is the first name to fill-in for regular play-by-play voice Neil Funk for the October 22 game at the Dallas Mavericks, also on NBC Sports Chicago. Funk is scaling back his workload this season, so the Bulls are using a rotating circle of fill-in for the 20 or so games he’ll skip.

An Addison native, Amin also did play-by-play for three pre-season Chicago Bears games in August to rave reviews. Amin ha been with ESPN since 2011 and in addition to college football, Amin has called numerous NBA, MLB, and NFL games for ESPN radio. He’s also done work for IHSA.

Bulls Outsiders is the latest programming initiative from NBC Sports Chicago after the regional sports network announced it was expanding post-game coverage for Bulls and Blackhawks contests while cancelling In The Loop and Fast Break. In addition to airing Outsiders on their linear channel, NBC Sports Chicago is also streaming the show over the NBC Sports Chicago app (for authenticated users) and Facebook Live, with interaction on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the first game of the Bulls’ season was against the Detroit Pistons. T Dog Media regrets the error.)

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Media Notepad: Jennifer Lyons returns to WGN-TV

As seen on TV: WGN morning newscast honors Jennifer Lyons, named 2017 News Director Of The Year by Broadcasting & Cable.

Also… Iron Fist canceled; Sun-Times outsources its website; an old post about Ramonski Luv receiving a lot of traffic

It’s kind of like WFAN host Mike Francesca’s sudden return, only more warmly received: after only a few weeks away, WGN-TV news director Jennifer Lyons has returned to the Tribune Media station as reported by Robert Feder. She originally left WGN on September 14 to accept a position at Catholic Extension, where she was vice president of communications and external relations. But after careful consideration, she decided to return to the place where she felt more comfortable.

WGN GM Paul Rennie said her position was never filled, though the station did interview candidates. Lyons told Feder her heart was in journalism and wanted to return. She still has ties to Catholic Extension, where she joined the organization’s board of directions.

Lyons has been news director since 2014 and help expand the station’s news into key early fringe (afternoon) and prime access (early evening) time slots. Under her watch, WGN has challenged longtime leader WLS-TV for Chicago’s news market crown, with the station’s morning newscast usually winning in the key 25-54 news demo. On October 5 when the Jason Van Dyke trial verdict was announced, WGN topped the market in the demo and tied WLS among viewers at 2 p.m.

Lyons also runs cable news channel CLTV, who also carried the entire Van Dyke trial and was streamed live on WGN-TV’s website for those who don’t receive CLTV (such as DirecTV and Dish subscribers) or were away from their TV sets.

In 2017, Lyons was named Broadcasting & Cable’s News Director Of The Year.

Signaling the first show from the Marvel Netflix Universe family to fold, the streaming service canceled Iron Fist on Friday after two seasons. Released in March 2017, Fist starred Finn Jones as a martial arts expert presumed dead in a plane crash and surprises everyone when he suddenly shows up to reclaim his family’s company in New York. He has an ability to call upon “the iron fist”, which makes his “fist” all glowing and powerful.

Despite crossover attempts from guest stars from other MNU shows (Rosario Dawson, Simone Messick, etc.), Fist never found its footing creatively and the even though Netflix does not release viewing statistics, the show was the weakest of the four main shows in the Universe – Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. The first season’s Metacritic score was a low 37 and the second was 39 – despite claims from a few fans the second season was better (they actually stuck around for season one?)

Iron Fist was indeed slow in pacing and the acting wasn’t the best. Plus, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) was basically the “butt-monkey” on the equally disappointing Defenders series, suffering from “danger-prone Daphne” syndrome. There were signs the Marvel Netflix Universe has been suffering from fatigue, with several viewers complaining the second seasons of Luke and Jessica not living up to their first. Personally, Jessica’s second season was also a creative disappointment, introducing characters who were so one-dimensional, a box of Cap’n Crunch had more personality (and it’s a good bet Jessica will not be T Dog Media top show of the year, like it was in 2016.)

Meanwhile, Daredevil’s third season – already receiving some positive vibes – drops this Friday. As for Fist, there is a possibility Marvel may revive the series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service, set to launch in 2019 as they are sister companies.

It’s been known the Chicago Sun-times has a history of operating crappy websites, plagued with pop-ups and slow loading times due to so much banner advertising. Now, the paper has contacted an outside vendor in hopes to rectify the problem. Beginning early next year, Vox Media will assume responsibilities for their multimedia properties, with a brand new “improved” website in hopes to make readers’ browsing experience a better one.

The Sun-Times is using Vox’s Chorus publishing platform to redesign the site. “It’s going to be cleaner, it’s going to be less clutter, it’s going to be less pop-ups. It’s going to be easier to get to the stories that people care about”, said Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath.

In addition, the Sun-times is joining Vox’s advertising platform, a sticking point in the deal as noted by Nieman Journalism Lab. The financial terms of the deal with Vox were not disclosed.

Eisendrath purchased the Sun-Times last year after nearly being brought by Tronc (which has since reverted back to the Tribune Publishing name). The paper made headlines of its own back in April by publishing a blank canvas on the front page to call attention to the plight of the newspaper industry in a public TV station-pledge like effort. The paper also returned to a paywall it abandoned several years ago. Even though the Sun-Times current website is a bit cleaner and more organized, it is still plagued with pop-ups and other issues.

I’ve noticed a surge of traffic on this site for one post I wrote in 2014 regarding the departure of Ramonski Luv (a.k.a. Ramon Wade) from iHeartMEdia’s WVAZ-FM (V103) as numerous people were still making comments (48 and counting.). Well, there’s a reason for that: Wade was released again from V103 several weeks ago – likely a victim of cuts at iHeartMedia, still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. For years, Wade was teamed up with Joe Soto in afternoons and later evenings. But V103 management dropped Wade in 2014, leaving Soto to go solo.

Wade later moved to Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM), but left the station soon thereafter. He returned to V103 in a fill-in and part-time role, taking over for the late Herb Kent on Sunday afternoons. If you read the comments from the 2014 post, listeners are certainly upset. But in this era of corporate radio, it is a sad reminder that anyone can be expandable, no matter how popular they are. If anyone mistook the 2014 post I wrote for one dated this year, you can’t certainly blame them because whether if its 2014 or 2018, the same old radio game continues- and it’s going to get worse as iHeart Media and Cumulus emerge from bankruptcy and buy stations again in order to build up scale against Big Tech – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Sirius/XM, and Spotify – using basically the same excuse broadcast TV groups use.

Further reading:

Former WMAQ-TV anchor Warner Saunders passes at 83

Powell Broadcasting closes Panama City, Fla. radio stations due to damage done by Hurricane Michael

ABC’s Great American Baking Show returns, but without Ayesha Curry or Inside The Bears‘ Anthony “Spice” Adams

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DMA Report: Chicago continues to lose ground, but less so

Most top markets lose TV homes as streaming, other alternatives take hold

New York, Miami, Orlando only markets in top twenty to post gains while last year’s big winners slipped

As a nation, it looks like were are ditching the traditional boob tube when it comes to TV.

With streaming on devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets are becoming more common, more and more people are ditching their TV sets. This is reflected in Nielsen’s new 2018-19 designated market area (DMA) rankings, as the number of TV homes have declined significantly from last year.

According to Nielsen, there are now estimated 119 million TV homes across 210 DMAs in the United States – down 1.9 million from the 2017-18 season. So in essence, the drops we are seeing isn’t necessarily due to people moving from market-to-market or state-to-state. There are other ways to view content other than the traditional way, which is TV. This explains why markets such and Phoenix and Houston still lost homes despite population gains.

But the loss of DMA homes is a problem as it reduces the reach for advertisers. And local TV is still the bread and butter in this business – especially for political candidates and auto companies, who use the medium heavily. And it is a even worse look for markets who not only lost TV homes but also lost population.

Which brings us to Chicago. While our hometown still ranks third overall among DMAs behind New York and Los Angeles, the city still lost 48,350 TV homes for a total of 3,251,370, down 1.5 percent from the 2017-18 season. But the good news is, the losses are slowing as the market was down 4.7 percent from the 2016-17 season.

While viewers are indeed ditching their sets in Chicago as they are everywhere else, it masks the ongoing problems the city is having retaining residents and you’ve heard them here before – rampant gun violence, high taxes, racial segregation, and dysfunctional government leadership. Chicago now accounts for just 2.9 percent of the country as opposed to 3.4 percent as recently as a decade ago.

Atlanta lost more homes than any DMA among top thirty markets. (Getty Images)

Of the top thirty markets T Dog Media reported on last October, just three markets gained homes in the DMA rankings compared to eleven last season. One of last year’s biggest winners – Portland, Ore., was actually one of the biggest losers this time around, down 3.3 percent from 2017 but retained its 22nd rank. The biggest loser in the top 30 believe it or not was Atlanta, who not only dropped from 9th to 10th, but had the biggest loss of any market in the top 30 – losing a mind-boggling 108,070 homes, down 4.4 percent. The drop is a surprise, given the Atlanta area seems to be financially better off than Chicago, Detroit, and other metro areas.

Despite some losses, several markets climbed in the rankings. Despite losing 4,340 homes, Tampa-St. Petersburg jumped from 13th to 11th place. Boston also moved up a notch (10th to 9th), but still lost 60,570 homes, down 2.5 percent from last year.

Notable drops outside the top 30 came in Austin (40th, -5.3%); Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo (49th, -7.33% with a whopping 50,540 loss), Memphis (51st, -4%), and Providence (53rd, -3%).

The three markets showing gains were Orlando (18th, +2.3%), followed by Miami (16th, +1.2%) and New York City (1st, +0.36%). Further down the list, other home gainers include West Palm Beach (37th, +0.09%), Kansas City (32nd, +0.93%), and Las Vegas (39th, 1.2%).

Despite what you’ve been hearing about the loss of population in Illinois, two DMAs in the state actually gained homes. A big surprise here is Peoria-Bloomington – who lost population in a recent Census report, moved up from 122nd to 113th with a 5.3 percent gain. And there was an ever-so-slight gain in Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, who remained 82nd with a gain of a mere 520 homes. To be sure, other Illinois markets lost ground, including Rockford (139th, -5.4%) and 88th-ranked Paducah, Ky., who has several Illinois counties in its DMA, lost a whopping 30,770 homes down 8.7 percent from last season.

Nielsen’s DMA market ranking among African-American and Hispanic homes for the 2018-19 season have yet to be released. T Dog Media will dissect those when they become available (or accessible.) One likely outcome: Atlanta, who ranked second last season in African-American homes is likely to lose ground and possibly drop a spot.

To read the entire DMA list from Nielsen, click here. And if you want to see data on how many homes were gained or lost in each market, click here.

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Friday ratings roundup: “TGIF” smushed by Fox

Meanwhile, Chicago stations pre-empt regular programming for Jason Van Dyke verdict

Note: All numbers are preliminary adult 18-49 demos, unless otherwise noted.

Friday night saw the return (again) of “TGIF” brand to ABC, the beloved staple from the 1990s with family-friendly comedies and a game show. But the third time apparently isn’t the charm.

Using TGIF for the first time since 2005, ABC scheduled the season premieres of comedies Fresh Off The Boat, Speechless, and game show Child Support as part of the new block and as you can imagine, it did not get off to a good start. Boat and Speechless got off to weak starts, with a 0.6/3 and 0.5/3, respectively, followed by Support’s 0.4, who somehow performed worse than last year’s disastrous Inhumans.

As a reminder, Child Support is a game show, not a daytime court show. Moreover, Support is a variation of  Child’s Play, a daytime game show hosted by Bill Cullen airing on CBS during the 1982-83 season.

Once again, Fox stomped the competition with Last Man Standing, who had the highest-rated show of the night (1.3/7), and The Cool Kids (1.1/5).

For the rest of Friday night’s ratings from the broadcast networks, click here. The CW debuts the bulk of their new series and season premieres next week.

Turning to sports, the ALDS opener between hated rivals New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox scored a 4.4 household overnight rating, up 69 percent from the comparable TBS game last year, an NLDS matchup between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. Yankees-Red Sox also drew 5.6 million viewers, the highest for any opening game in a Division Series in eight years. The game is expected to take the night in the adults 18-49 demo among all networks once finals are released.

One of the protests in downtown Chicago Friday after the Van Dyke verdict was announced. (Herald-Review)

Locally, the Jason Van Dyke trial ended unexpectedly early, with a verdict announced Friday afternoon. Around 1 p.m., WBBM-AM and WGN-AM, Chicago’s local TV stations, and CLTV broke into regular programming to cover the conclusion of the one of the city’s biggest trials in decades. A jury found Van Dyke guilty of sixteen counts of murder against LaQuan McDonald, whose videotaped shooting in 2014 – released a year later – turned Chicago upside down.

Several Chicago stations covered the aftermath of the verdict, including several marches downtown. Loop office workers were dismissed early and high school sporting events were either canceled or postponed as a precaution. Protests were peaceful, and there were no reports of any incidents around the city.

Though the city’s five big TV stations pre-empted network and syndicated fare, none of the coverage affected regular network prime-time programming. WTTW’s Chicago Tonight scrapped its usual Week In Review Friday night show for an hour-long live edition, featuring numerous guests discussing the verdict and its aftermath. WFLD also scrapped Flannery Fired up and expanded its Friday night newscast to a full hour, pushing Bears Unleashed into Flannery’s regular 10 p.m. time slot.

In all, Chicago’s news media did a fantastic job covering the Van Dyke/McDonald saga, from the moment the tape was released to Friday’s verdict. This proves how valuable journalism and a free press is to our society.

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Goodbye (and good riddance) tronc

From the L.A. Times newsroom party – bye, bye “tronc”. (Twitter/Jen Yamato/LA Times)

Company reverts back to Tribune Publishing

One of the most stupidest names ever to grace a media company is finally gone.

As speculated back in June, “tronc” is reverting back to the Tribune Publishing name after two years of criticism and ridicule. The change officially takes place October 9 at 3:15 p.m. local time in a decision announced Thursday.

We announced today our decision to return the parent company name to one that’s which is rich in history, prestige and a recognition of our journalistic foundation – The Tribune Publishing Company. said CEO Justin Dearborn in an memo to employees. We know that strong audience engagement starts with great journalism. We are fortunate that hundreds of journalists across our newsrooms are focused on producing the best work to meet our readers in a variety of formats.

The original Tribune Co. was split into two separate entities in 2013: Tribune Media, who owned television and radio properties, and Tribune Publishing, who print such as the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. When Michael Ferro bought shares in Tribune Publishing in 2016 and effectively took over the company, he changed the name to “tronc”, standing for “Tribune Online Content”, and with the first letter in lower-case. Tronc was defined as “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

At the time, Ferro said :“Our industry requires an innovative approach and a fundamentally different way of operating. Our transformation strategy – which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital – is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders. Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.”


Tronc later explained (or try to explain) how their concept worked in a widely-mocked video:

Since the name change, the company’s resources were cut as numerous employees were laid off, including the Chicago Tribune. The paper also eliminated Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago White Sox beat writing positions in a cost-cutting move.

Ferro stepped down as tronc chairman earlier this year after sexual harassment allegations were levied against him, swept out in the “MeToo” movement. The company later sold the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to former tronc board member Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 million. When the sale was finally completed, Los Angeles Times employees celebrated with a huge party, bidding adieu to the awful name and awful ownership.

Despite the upcoming name change, the future of the company is still uncertain as potential buyers are circling the company, such as McClatchy Newspapers. Last year, Gannett made an serious offer to buy tronc, but was rebuffed.

The decision to bring back the Tribune Publishing name tells you using “corporate speak” and all different kinds of buzzwords even people in the industry don’t understand isn’t an effective way of marketing. There has to be more to a media company than using cutting edge names and quotes like “that’s where the future of media is headed” as if you say anything like this, your company has no future. And for the owners of the Chicago Tribune, they felt it was better for the “tronc” name not to have one.

From pixels to Pulitzers to puttered out. And good riddance.

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Monday ratings roundup: Viewers flood “Neighborhood”

ESPN scores with MNF, tiebreaker baseball

Note: All numbers are adult 18-49, unless noted

CBS premiered two new multi-cam sitcoms Monday night with the heavily promoted The Neighborhood and Happy Together as part of their effort to retool their Monday night lineup.

The results were positive for Neighborhood with the Cedric The Entertainer vehicle earning a 1.3 rating/6 share, while Together earned a 1.0/5, a significant 23 percent drop from Neighborhood. As this blog stated before, both sitcoms are basically the worst shows of the season and as about as funny as a dead rat.

CBS’ new Magnum P. I. reboot lost 25 percent from its premiere last week to land at a 0.9/4, while Bull finished with a 0.8/4.

NBC’s The Voice led its time period and was the highest-rated and most viewed show of the night among broadcast networks with a 2.1/8 and 10 million viewers with Manifest at a 1.8/8. The numbers led to another Monday night victory for NBC among the broadcast networks.

At Fox, The Resident started off slow with a 1.0/5 but 9-1-1 built 50 percent from the lead-in to notch a 1.5/6.

Meanwhile, ABC has sprung a leak with Dancing With The Stars with a fourth-place 0.8/4. The network scheduled another two-hour edition for Tuesday night because its regular Tuesday night lineup won’t be ready for another two weeks as once again, poor planning dooms ABC. The only good news? The Good Doctor built 38 percent from Dancing to land at a 1.1, but is down significantly from the ratings it earned last year.

Turning to cable, ESPN’s Monday Night Football between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos scored its highest ratings of the season with a 4.6 rating and 13.2 million viewers in the highest “non-Cowboys” matchup in three years. The game overall earned a 7.9 household rating and may have put a dent in WWE Raw, who drew a series low Monday night. Given who was in the main event, these wrestlers were active when I bailed in 2002.

Earlier in the day, the tiebreaker game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs from Wrigley drew 2.5 million viewers on ESPN Monday afternoon, while the Colorado Rockies-Los Angeles Dodgers tiebreaker drew 2.8 million eyeballs (18-49 numbers were not available at press time.)

In Chicago, the game drew an 8.3 household overnight rating, nearly matching the 8.4 from the previous day’s game on NBC Sports Chicago as Milwaukee drew a 13.5 household rating. In both cities, the game easily won their time periods. The Brewers won the game and advanced to the NLDS where they will play the Rockies, who beat the Cubs in 12 innings Tuesday sending the North Siders to an early playoff exit much to the chagrin of local media outlets everywhere, which means no extra ad revenue this October.

If the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees meet in the ALDS this year as a lot of people are expecting, then MLB won’t be missing the Cubs too much.

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