The CW shifts to WPWR from WGN this week

WPWR-TV_CW_50Affiliation move takes low-key approach

Chicago’s first affiliation change in over 20 years takes place this week as CW moves from Tribune-owned WGN-TV to Fox-owned WPWR-TV.

The change marks WGN’s return to independent status for the first time since 1995, when the station joined the then-new WB network (which merged with UPN in 2006 to form The CW.)

Meanwhile, WPWR becomes the first-ever Fox-owned CW affiliate. This is significant given Fox created My Network TV as a response to ten of its stations (including WPWR) losing UPN.

Unlike previous affiliations switches taking place on a weekend day or the start of the week (as was the case during the Fox-New World affiliation swaps in 1994 and 1995), this change takes place on Thursday at 12:01 a.m. (September 1) – the time WGN’s CW contract officially expires.

Back in May, Tribune Broadcasting signed a new five-year deal with CW, renewing the network on all of its stations except in Chicago.

Also unlike switches in the past – when stations were staffing phone lines to take calls from confused viewers, this affiliation change is taking more of a low-key approach: much of CWs programming doesn’t premiere until October. One daytime CW program – The Robert Irvine Show – premieres on Sept. 12., replacing The Bill Cunningham Show.

Just today, CW released key art for three of its new shows: Frequency, No Tomorrow, and the highly anticipated Supergirl, which has moved from CBS.

With two hours freed from CW programming, WGN plans to air various programs in primetime between Thursday and Sept. 19, when off-network sitcom Last Man Standing takes over the 8-to-9 p.m. time slot. Among them include a special celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field (Sept. 2), a WGN Morning News primetime special (Sept. 14) and special versions of SportsFeed, borrowed from sister local cable news station CLTV.

WGN also has six weeknight baseball games in September – three games apiece for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.

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Talk about racking up a lot of frequent flyer miles: when Supergirl arrives on WPWR-Ch. 50 on Oct. 10, it would be the third station she’s been on in the Chicago area in a little over a year.

As for WPWR, the station has already aired promotions for CW’s fall programming, on its station and WFLD. On Friday, Mario Lopez (of Extra) will be handing out school supplies featuring the new WPWR branding, “Chicago’s CW 50” on them (Extra is shifting to WFLD on Sept.5, after 22 years at WMAQ.)

My Network TV programming (featuring off-network shows) will air on WPWR from 10 p.m. to midnight starting Thursday, with Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show bridging the gap between CW and My Network TV programming at 9 p.m. starting Sept. 12 according to the show’s website (Harry is also airing on WFLD at 4 p.m. starting on the same date.)

“CW 50” social media components have yet to be announced. A link on WFLD’s website to “My50 Chicago” – the station’s previous brand, only shows TV listings for WPWR and related subchannels and an ad for My Network TV programming for the week of… December 7, 2015.

The last affiliation change to happen in Chicago took place on Saturday December 31, 1994 when Univision moved its Spanish-language programming to WGBO-TV from WCIU, leaving the latter as a full-time independent station. WGN’s move now gives Chicago two independent stations, a rarity among large markets.

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Think Tank Express: Cumulus needs a lesson in customer relations

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Once again, Cumulus is clueless on customer service

Usually on this blog, yours truly often laments the state of Chicago radio, with some of the stations run by clueless idiots who make managers at your local Arby’s more competent by comparison.

But when it involves Cumulus… no market – large or small – is safe.

Take what happened last week at a active rock station Cumulus owns in Saginaw, Mich. WKQZ-FM (branded as Z93) let twenty-year veteran Joe Volk of The Joe And The Poorboy Morning Show go on Friday without any explanation, according to mlive.com. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the “Poorboy” (Adam Schilling) hosted solo, saying Monday the departure of Volk “were beyond circumstances beyond his control”. Volk declined to comment.

Saginaw is part of the overall Flint-Saginaw-Bay City DMA, with Cumulus tied with Alpha Media for the most radio stations in the market at four each.

Understandably, fans of the show were upset and wanted an explanation on what went down. WKQZ didn’t comment on the matter, but someone from the station did respond to listeners’ questions on Facebook – in the most perhaps asinine way possible. As documented by Radio Insight, this is what transpired:

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As you can see, one of those who asked was reportedly a station advertiser.

Who’s controlling the Facebook account? A 13-year old? While the station does have a right to reserve comment on personnel matters, acting like an ass toward those asking what’s going on isn’t beneficial. If the social media manager of my station pulled such crap, they would be unemployed faster than former Bears coach Marc Trestman (who would actually be an improvement over current Cumulus management.)

But then again, this is Cumulus we’re talking about – a company run into the ground by former CEOs John and Lew Dickey and continues to be by new management. This is the same company who rigged a morning show contest last year so past-his-prime jackass Mancow Mueller can be employed again this time via The Loop (WLUP-FM), a shitty, irrelevant past-its-prime classic rock station. Other past-their-prime acts employed by Cumulus locally include Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier.

Recently, the Cumulus cluster moved into state-of-the-art, renovated studios at NBC Tower in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Interesting how a near-bankrupt company with NO MONEY can pull off such an effort. Are taxpayers footing the bill?

And speaking of efforts, how about Cumulus attempt to consolidate country music stations under NASH-FM? They should really drop the FM part of its name and just add the letters IT.

And let’s not forget their employment of the biggest asshole of them all, former WLS boss Jan Jeffries, a moron who wouldn’t know how to treat people even if his life depended on it.

So no wonder Cumulus employs a jackass to handle customer service in Saginaw. Their executives and much of their on-air personnel are ones. Being “rude and unprofessional” is the Cumulus way.

And you wonder why their stock is worth less than a Mars bar.

 

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White Sox changes stadium name to Guarantee Rate Field

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The new name for the second coming of Comiskey is a guaranteed flop with fans

Nine alternative names for the ballpark

With news like this, you’d wish Jay Leno and David Letterman weren’t retired.

The Chicago White Sox announced Wednesday it has entered into a new naming rights agreement with a mortgage lending company, renaming their Guaranteed Rate Field, replacing teleco U.S. Cellular, which held the rights since 2003.

And so, the White Sox – a team that plays on the South Side of Chicago, hooks up with a mortgage company, whose industry is responsible for the subprime lending crisis, which led to many vacant and abandoned homes across the South Side of Chicago.

Smooth move, White Sox. Did you get your advice to rename the ballpark from Donald Trump’s marketing team?

As you can imagine, the news was greeted with scorn and ridicule on social media as it should be, with #BetterSoxStadiumNames trending nationally much of Wednesday (see some of the best taglines here.) And at a time when Chicago’s image is suffering globally, renaming a ballpark in your town after a direct response advertiser isn’t exactly a great idea. It screams tacky and stupid – you expect Ron Popeil to come and throw out the first pitch on Opening Day next year.

What, the White Sox were rejected by Life Alert? Surprising, given the team has fallen and couldn’t get up this season, or in the last decade. Or maybe Beltone will sign on as a sponsor, given nobody listens to what manager Robin Ventura says on the field.

Not bad for a franchise – only 12 years removed from a World Championship – heading into the same territory the Chicago Blackhawks did in the late 1990’s and early-to-mid 2000’s as the worst run team in professional sports. As yours truly illustrated here and here, this has been a pattern with the White Sox for the last few years – especially the “white flag” trades in 1997 and 2009, the latter getting their “white flag” inspiration from NBC when they signed Leno to do a show in primetime five nights a week.

So as per T Dog Media tradition, it time to make fun of this event, with my own list of Better Sox Stadium Names – some of these I posted on Twitter:

Blockhead Field. Renaming the ball park after Charlie Brown is a good idea – after all, look at the similarities: bad pitching, bad fielding, plus they lose all the time – and like Charlie Brown, manager Robin ventura is a blockhead.

Pink Lady and Jeff Memorial Park. Just like the White Sox this season, Pink Lady and Jeff was a flop for NBC. To get to the ballpark, you can take the Supertrain.

Agents of SHIELD Field. Why not? Agents of SHIELD blows plot opportunities, White Sox pitcher James Shields blows leads – not to mention the ABC drama and the White Sox have exactly the same low television ratings. Plus, “Shield” rhymes with “Field”. Get it?

Rahm Emanuel Field. Yeah, I know Rahm is a Cubs fan. But White Sox management is like his administration: stubborn, aloof, and failing.

CNN Stadium. When you think about it, the White Sox and CNN have the same arrogant people in charge: Kenny Williams for the former and Jeff Zucker for the latter: and you ask why both of these guys still have their respective jobs. Maybe they should swap positions for a week – Williams might know where the Malaysian plane is.

Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific Stadium. Taken from an actual Simpsons episode.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Ballpark. I can’t believe this is an actual MLB team playing in one.

Rep. Joe Walsh Stadium. Might not work because Walsh might wind up deporting half the team.

Cumulus Radio Field. Since Cumulus’ WLS-AM is already the White Sox’s radio partner, why not rename the park after one of radio’s worst companies? Bad radio management and bad baseball management always go together. The White Sox can get Mancow from The Loop to throw out the first pitch. Better yet, give him a job in the starting rotation and watch him give up 16 runs in the first inning.

I see you’re not laughing anymore.

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ESPN to hold town hall meeting on athletes and violence in Chicago (updated)

photoESPN comes to Chicago about the city’s violence epidemic while local stations once again drop the ball

[Editor’s Note: Chance The Rapper stated in a tweet Tuesday he is not appearing on either ESPN specials, though ESPN’s PR release stated he would. Chance noted it was news to him he was in the lineup. This post has been updated to reflect the news. – T.H.]

Once again, Chicago violence is back in the national spotlight – and this time, with a sports angle.

On Thursday and Friday, ESPN is airing a town hall meeting live from the South Side YMCA in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, not far from where President Obama plans to build his Presidential Library, literally right across Stony Island Ave. from Jackson Park.

Thursday’s special titled An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility, and Violence is being taped at the YMCA this Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. for airing later in the day on ESPN at 8:30 p.m.

The Undefeated is a recently-launched website from ESPN targeting African-American sports fans.

Jemele Hill, host of ESPN 2’s His & Hers, is anchor and moderating the show’s forums. Four panels are taking place, but will be hard to fit them into a 90-minute format. The focus is on issues regarding sports and race and how gun violence is impacting the conversation. Other issues being discussed include how athletes deal with racial profiling and activism.

Panelists scheduled to appear include the Bulls’ Ramon Rondo; former NBA player and Chicago native Isiah Thomas; Pardon The Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon (another Chicago native and former Chatham resident); Chicago White Sox executive Kenny Williams; and more.

On Friday, ESPN 2’s First Take will tackle issues regarding Chicago violence live from the South Side YMCA from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with guests Isaiah Thomas, Chance The Rapper, and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, along with other community activists and leaders (and yes, expect Rev. Michael Pflager and Rev. Corey Brooks to appear.) First Take has undergone a recent co-host change, replacing Skip Bayless with Max Kellerman alongside Stephen A. Smith. It will be interesting to see the controversial Smith’s take on Chicago violence, assuming he shows up.

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“The Undefeated”, ESPN’s new site targeting African-Americans.

In a press release, ESPN Senior Vice-President and The Undefeated Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida said “Sports are great builders in our country, bringing together people who think differently and live differently. Athletes, in greater numbers, have been saying they want to use their influence to drive social change. We hope this town hall will help push that conversation forward.”

ESPN’s arrival comes as Chicago is set to record more than 600 murders for the first time in nearly fifteen years and far and away have more homicides than any city in North America. More than 2,000 people have been victims of gun violence of the city this year alone.

This is not the first time a national program or network has featured Chicago violence in the spotlight. In 2007, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 aired a special on youth violence in the city titled 24 Hours In Chicago, weeks after Blair Holt was gunned down on a city bus. Far less productive was 2014’s Chicagoland mini-series on the same network, featuring a lot of Mayor Rahm Emanuel doing nothing.

Chicago violence has also been featured prominently on national news programs, broadcast and cable. And thanks to ESPN, now a sports connection.

ESPN’s recent foray into social issues involving sports has drawn criticism from many viewers, irritating those who are politically conservative and those who say the four-letter network should “stick to sports” (as the pathetic racist comments in this article attests.) Recently, ESPN simulcast a town hall meeting on gun violence with President Obama, and last month’s ESPY awards opened with four NBA superstars pleading for an end gun violence.

The sad part about this town hall meeting from a broadcasters’ perspective is ESPN being ahead of Chicago’s local TV stations when it comes to these vital community issues. Outside of the web and their local newscasts,  Chicago’s five news operations have done very little to address Chicago’s violence epidemic.

ESPN and WLS-TV are corporate cousins through The Walt Disney Company, but the ABC-owned station isn’t expected to participate in the YMCA town hall meeting.

Recently, CBS affiliate WGCL in Atlanta and  WAVY/WVBT  in Norfolk, Va. have addressed gun violence – the former in a two-hour special in prime-time, the other in prime access (early evening). Last month, WCIU aired a special edition of 26 N. Halsted in primetime about the strained relationship between minority communities’ and law enforcement.

The last time any Chicago news station addressed the gun violence or urban issues outside of newscasts was in May 2008, when WLS aired a half-hour special on the subject and CBS-owned WBBM-TV aired a Saturday night town hall meeting. Obviously, stations don’t want to be bothered by whiny social media trolls because the programming may have a liberal slant or upsetting “Bachelor Nation” because they’re favorite shitty TV show is being pre-empted.

As I said two years ago, local stations need to start earning their licenses – devoting mere two-minute sound bites on urban issues isn’t enough anymore. Letting ESPN come in here and examine a vital issue in local media’s own backyard – and doing a better job at it – is completely pathetic on local media’s end.  Keep that in mind the next time the National Association of Broadcasters tells you how “great” broadcasting is and boasts “how well we serve our communities”.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: US 99 rounds out new lineup

– US99 rounds out new lineup

– Another CHR vet gets prime morning gig

– Politically divided FCC keeps cross-ownership rule

– Thomas Gibson out at Criminal Minds

– Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Report canceled

WUSN-newlogo-sliderCBS-owned country radio station WUSN has completed its makeover by hiring another new personality for its vacant nighttime slot – the latest hire is Kimmie Caruba, a Chicago native who comes from CBS’ sister station in Phoenix, according to Robert Feder. Before moving to Phoenix, Caruba had interned at iHeartMedia and for WTTW in Chicago.

The move coincides with a contract extension for midday personality Drew Walker, and the arrival of Stylz & Roman in morning drive from contemporary hit radio sister station B96. The changes come as WUSN is fighting erosion from new competitor WEBG (Big 95.5), owned by iHeartMedia.

WUSN is also dropping all syndicated weekend programming from the station, including American Country Countdown, which was created by American Top 40’s Casey Kasem and Don Bustany. Once hosted by Bob Kingsley, the series is now hosted by Kix Brooks (one half of Brooks and Dunn) and distributed by Westwood One.


ams-logoAnother CHR veteran is jumping to the country format – this time it’s former WKSC-FM afternoon personality Ty Bentali, who is assuming the reigns of Cumulus’ syndicated America’s Morning Show, according to Radio Insight. Bentali replaces Blair Garner, who returns to overnights and replaces Kix Brooks, who as mentioned above, hosts Countdown. A Country Hall Of Famer, Garner spent twenty years hosting After Midnite from 1993-2013.


fcc_logoAs expected, the politically polarized FCC voted 3-2 last week to keep the cross-ownership rules, barring a TV or radio station from buying a newspaper. The decision to keep the 41-year old rule came in a party-line vote with the three Democrats voting to keep it and the two Republican members voting against. This continues a long line of partisan voting at the agency, which has resembled the rancor in Illinois government between Governor Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan at times.

House Republican leaders criticized the vote and the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Newspaper Association both are considering legal action, with a U.S. Supreme Court challenge a possibility. House leaders Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R.-Ore.)  say the rules prevent newspapers from innovating and evolving amid a sea of digital choices not present when they were first adopted.

Indeed, most newspapers have had a rough go of it. But don’t blame regulation for the lack of innovation – the problems they are facing are mostly of their own making, thanks to idiot leadership as John Oliver hilariously points out in this Last Week Tonight segment – especially from Sam Zell, Randy Michaels, and Michael Ferro – each of them reducing Chicago’s newspapers to mere laughingstock status and using language even Stephen Hawking couldn’t understand. Republicans – you know, the party who represents “yacht-owning complainers” and nominated an avowed racist as their Presidential candidate seem to have no problem letting Zell and Ferro off the hook for newspapers’ problems, instead blaming some “rule”.  Upton and Walden hope the courts step in because the way their boy Trump is slip-sliding in the polls, it’ll be four more years of Democratic rule at the FCC.


CBS

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CBS announced last Friday the firing of Criminal Minds cast member Thomas Gibson after an altercation with writer/producer Virgil Williams on the show earlier in the week. A joint press release from ABC Studios and CBS Television Studios stated “Thomas Gibson has been dismissed from “Criminal Minds”. Creative details for how the character’s exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date.”

Typically, writers are not on set on TV shows, but Williams also doubled as a producer, which may have explain his presence.

The situation is not unusual. In 2011, Charlie Sheen’s character was killed off of Two And A Half Men after he got into a feud with executive producer Chuck Lorre and was replaced by Ashton Kutchner. In 1983, Mackenzie Phillips was fired a second time from One Day At A Time due to drug abuse. Her character wasn’t killed off , but moved out-of-state. She was fired from the show initially in 1980 for the same reason.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Gibson traveled from Los Angeles every weekend to San Antonio to work on Minds. Gibson had some volatile relationship with a few cast members, including Shemar Moore, who departed the show last year.

A rare joint production between two networks, CBS Television Distribution holds the rights to Criminal Minds domestically; ABC Studios through Disney-ABC Television International Television holds rights outside the United States.


p11009929_b_v8_abGuessing the low ratings staying-on-the-air shtick only works with Byron Allen: Comedy Central pulled the plug Monday on The Nightly Report with Larry Wilmore after 20 months of subpar ratings. Already saddened with a weakening Daily Show with Treavor Noah lead-in, Nightly Report only managed to score a 0.2 ratings among the core 18-49 demo. The programming Insider’s, Marc Berman noted the lack of social media presence for Nightly, as Wilmore more or less dismissed the idea of promoting segments on those platform as his competitors (Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.) has done.

On the other hand, USA’s weekly series Mr. Robot recently earned a 0.3 rating in the same demo, but was renewed by USA Tuesday due to social media buzz – something Nightly Report lacked, even as a four-night a week strip.

Not helping Nightly’s cause was the series also faced competition from the likes of TMZ and Dish Nation in many markets for those same young demos. In Chicago, Wilmore was on opposite TMZ and off-network reruns of Friends and Seinfeld.

Late-night has not been kind to people of color in recent years, with the cancellation of W. Kamau Bell’s FX show in 2013 and the failure of Arsenio Hall’s revival effort. Wilmore’s departure proves how tough it is to launch a new series – especially a stripped show – in this current TV environment. It’s little wonder why there is only one first-run strip launching this fall: Harry Connick Jr’s daytime talk show.

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Stylz & Roman to US 99 in morning drive

Stylz-Roman-US99_zpsyny9wpf5Two of chicago’s most-listened to afternoon radio personalities are trading in their gold chains for cowboy boots.

B96 afternoon boys Doug “Stylz” Bobrowski and Justin Moran are heading to US99 as the new morning drive team.

That’s right. You heard me.

Beginning on September 6, US99 (WUSN-FM) is installing Stylz & Roman as replacements for Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, who this week jumped to WLS-AM to co-host with former US99 personality Big John Howell. The duo, who began in evenings at B96 (WBBM-FM) in 2004 and moved to afternoons a few years later, ranked fifth in PM drive overall, according to a recent ratings report.

With the move, B96 is installing newly-hired evening hosts Eric Tyler into afternoons, leaving B96’s nighttime position once-again vacant, along with another vacant evening position at US99.

CBS Radio owns both WBBM and WUSN and is overseen by CBS Radio VP of Programming and one-time B96 personality Todd Cavanah.

Ratings for WUSN have declined in recent months in the face of new competition from iHeartMedia’s Big 99.5 (WEBG-FM), who signed on in 2014. With Stevens’ contract up, US99 officials opted to “refresh” the station, firing the entire morning staff (including Lisa Dent) after Stevens’ departure.

But this hire is odd on several fronts: Stylz & Roman come from a hip-hop/contemporary-hit radio background – not a country one. In the past, many message board posters referred them as “Holla & Bling Bling”.

The move is also designed to attract more younger listeners to US99. Generally, Country music is connected to older, white audiences and its listeners are usually politically conservative. B96’s listeners are generally more diverse, with a large Hispanic audience. Any chance of Stylz & Roman grabbing listeners from the old US99 morning show are negligible.

Reaction on social media and a few message boards yours truly viewed hasn’t been kind. Many question the wisdom of moving Stylz & Roman from a CHR station to a country one, and whether or not they know enough about the current country music scene.

“They’re part owners of a Wrigleyville Country bar, so we knew they could authentically speak the language of the Country music fan”, remarked Canavah.

Really? Wow, what qualifications. Then again, you don’t need a Ph.D. to spin a bunch of records.

Here’s a sampling of reaction I found on Twitter: the good, the bad, and the in-between:

This is a huge risk for CBS Radio Chicago, whose entire station group is being spin-off soon from CBS Corp. They’re not only risking the livelihood of one station, but two. If Stylz and Roman can’t cut it in morning drive on a country radio station and wind up falling behind Big 95.5…well, let’s just say Cavanah better have his mortgage paid up.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: US99 becomes “Chicago’s Hottest Country”

WUSN-newlogo-sliderWUSN unveiled its new imaging and branding Monday with the CBS Radio station rechristened itself as “Chicago’s Hottest Country”, and dropping the “.5” after US99. The station also revealed a new logo – a blue “US 99” logo with a red star in the middle, similar to the colors and layout of Chicago’s flag (two bars on a white flag with four stars in the middle.)

The moves come after WUSN lost Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, who signed on with WLS-AM Monday teaming up once again with Big John Howell, another former US99 alum. WUSN plans to announce a new morning show and more changes in the next few weeks.

At one time, US 99 billed itself “America’s Country Station” pointing to the fact WUSN was America’s most-listened to country station, which obviously is no longer the case as iHeartmedia’s new WEBG (Big 95.5) has made inroads.


Welcome back, Fox  32.

Movin’ on up: Kristen Nicole is trading her weekend morning duties for a weekday morning slot – starting Monday, Nicole is co-anchoring WFLD’s morning newscasts from 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. , where she’ll anchor with Natalie Bomke. Nicole replaces George Smith, who is joining the Fox-owned station’s newest member of its sports team, anchoring and reporting. An ESPN alum, Smith joined WFLD last October. Hopefully, there’ll be no segment featuring “George’s Views”.


TCA_Logo_FINALAside from Mariah Carey’s drunken antics at her presentation of E!’s Mariah World, The current TCA press tour has been quite dull. But it may get lively on Wednesday: CBS is taking the stage and executives may be looking at a firing squad for its fall lineup – six new shows, all with white male leads, as detailed Monday by the Los Angeles Times. The acquisitions come at a time when broadcast and cable networks are diversifying their personnel both on-camera and behind. Once again, CBS has the worst new shows in its fall lineup but is expected to be successful with it.


fox_network_logoFox tidbits from TCA: there may be more X-Files coming after all. Fox execs said Monday they were in discussions with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny on more episodes of the series in 2017. X-Files returned earlier this year to a strong audience reception, if not a critical one.

During their executive session, Fox CEO Dana Walden acknowledged they were in “rebuilding” mode and had their work cut out for them.

Fox also announced it is airing a first-ever hourlong episode of The Simpsons in January and is premiering new live-action/animated series Son Of Zorn on September 11, out of football. It is the first hybrid to air in primetime since NBC aired The New Adventures Of Huck Finn in 1968. Already, Zorn is earning strong reviews from critics and may just revive Fox’s complacent Sunday night lineup.

Also, Mariah Carey is making a guest appearance on Empire October 5 – provided she’s sober enough, and Amy Schumer will be the guest voice on all of Fox’s animated comedies when they have their season premieres on September 25.


This is an example of a "performance area" in a radio studio. Pictured: Max performing at CBS-owned WZMP (Amp 96.5) in Philadelphia. (CBS Radio)

This is an example of a “performance area” in a radio studio. Pictured: Max performing at CBS-owned WZMP (AMP 96.5) in Philadelphia. (CBS Radio)

The latest move to keep radio stations relevant in 2016? Adding an on-stage performance areas in their studios. Cumulus’ radio stations is the latest to do just that, adding a performance stage as part of their move to new digs at NBC tower, which became a reality this week. Cumulus who owns WLS-FM and operates WLUP-FM and WKQX-FM, added one that can accommodate a studio audience. Already, CBS’ WBBM-FM (B96) has an in studio performance area where artists can hang out at the station and perform their latest hits live for a streaming audience. On Wednesday around 12:30 p.m, B96 is welcoming Hallie Stanfield to their Prudential Building studios to perform and is streaming on B96’s website.

Last week, Demi Lovato and Mike Posner appeared at B96, before heading to their show at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena, with Posner performing at the station.

It’s a great way for listeners to watch (or view on-demand) their favorite artists. And of course, to squeeze some extra advertising money at the same time – B96’s performance stage is named after a local health care conglomerate. So if the performer gets injured, they’re in good hands.

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Chicago shut out of the test pool

page_six_tv_h_2016Syndicated test projects bypass Chicago for New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas instead

One of the hottest new programs in syndication this summer was nowhere to be found on Chicago TV.

But if you live in New York and Los Angeles, chances are you’ve come across it (or more than likely, skipped it channel surfing.)

OK, yours truly may have stretched it a bit saying Page Six was “the hottest new program this summer” (more like “the warmest”). But the series, based on the New York Post gossip column, did well for the stations during the three-week test.

Page Six was one of five new shows Fox and its owned stations ran for a few weeks throughout the summer in various cities. Some of these programs were tested with other station groups: one show was also tested on a few Sinclair outlets. The rest are The Preachers, Top 30, The Jason Show and SoMe.

But none were found on any local TV station in Chicago.

Why?

Well for starters, there’s the “Peoria Theory”, where if a product “played in Peoria”, it would do well across the country. Well, in TV it doesn’t work that way. Syndicators prefer to use the nation’s two largest TV markets in New York and Los Angeles, to test programming in addition to a few major markets in “flyover country”. Besides, Peoria-Bloomington isn’t a metered market – meaning you still have to write down what you watch in a diary and send it in to Nielsen – and it ranks 117th in the nation.

Plus, you have to consider the ratings weaknesses of Fox’s WFLD and WPWR – both stations rank way behind both WGN and WCIU in daytime – not to mention the continuing dominance of ABC-owned WLS-TV, which makes testing any program tough. Of the ten largest markets, Chicago and Boston were the only ones not considered as test markets.

Testing shows is nothing new. In fact, Wendy Williams and The Real each were tested on Fox stations a few summers ago and were successfully launched in syndication. Going back to 1991, The Montel Williams Show, Studs, and Jerry Springer were tested on a few stations and each were rolled out nationally into syndication. Cops and America’s Most Wanted were tested as a weekly shows on Fox-owned stations and subsequently joined the network.

On the other hand, some tests such as talk shows Kris Jenner (who is mother to the Kardashian sisters) and Serch (tested on Tribune stations) did not succeed and go forward as neither show aired in Chicago. One that did – a 1990 teen soap opera produced by Fox Television Stations called Tribes – flopped with viewers though it did manage to last four months.

So far, the results of these test shows have not been encouraging for the most part. Many of them hovered in the 0.3-0.7 household rating range, most down from their lead-in and year-ago time period rating and share. The lone exception seems to be Page, which has drawn strong ratings in New York, Detroit, and Atlanta, and could become a viable prime access option for Fox-owned stations.

Chicago viewers and others who can’t watch these programs on linear TV aren’t completely shut out. Full episodes and clips of Page Six  and The Preachers are available on YouTube.

As for the premises? Some of these are quite ludicrous: The Preachers is about religious types gabbing about pop culture; Top 30 runs down the day’s top 30 stories in 30 minutes (if not, everyone gets a free Domino’s Pizza – wow, some prize); The Jason Show is a KMSP/Minneapolis production featuring Minneapolis DJ Jason Matheson.

But the one with the dumbest pitch and concept has to be SoMe, produced in association with Trifecta Entertainment.  The program is about…what people are posting on social media. So. Me. Get it? Part of the pitch consisted of “Our hosts are like your friends on Facebook engaging in a spirited debate…

In other words, it’s like those people who always borrow money, freeload off you, and leave the toilet seat up.

Chicago TV viewers, you really are not missing anything.

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Ramblin’ Ray leaves US 99.5, station devoles into chaos

howell-ray-1-768x576Stevens heads to WLS-AM to pair up with ol’ buddy Big John Howell in mornings

WUSN loses its prime attraction; personnel loses their jobs

For CBS-owned WUSN-FM, everything suddenly isn’t so beautiful.

As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday, WUSN morning personality Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, shocked the radio world yesterday by streaking over to WLS-AM to join former co-worker Big John Howell in morning drive starting Monday.

Stevens (who is not related to the novelty song hitmaker) spent 26 years at WUSN, branded locally as US 99.5.

The move set off a chain reaction of events. Shortly after Stevens’ announcement, WUSN let the rest of his morning staff go, including Stevens’ sidekick Lisa Dent. Also out is WUSN evening personality Joel Lisinski, better known as Jax.

Earlier this year, the station’s afternoon personality (Shila Nathan) left to take a radio gig in New York City.

The changes at WUSN come as the once-dominant country radio station is losing ground to new competitor WEBG-FM, branded as Big 95.5 FM. Ratings surged for the frequency after owner iHeartMedia replaced a failing Spanish-language Regional Mexican music format.

Lisa Dent, who was let go yesterday at US99.5.

Lisa Dent, who was let go Wednesday at US99.5.

WUSN has been Chicago’s dominant country station throughout its 34-year existence – mainly due to a lack of competition:  ABC Radio’s failed WKXK (Kicks Country) from 1996-97 was WUSNs only challenge. But Big 95.5’s success caught WUSN off guard, and the station should have taken them much more seriously. For one, WEBG had a bigger marketing budget at launch than “Kicks Country” ever had. And WEBG is skewing younger than WUSN is.

Recent ratings reports show WUSN finishing a still potent 12th overall and WEBG coming in 19th. But WEBG has shown growth in every ratings report for the last four months.

WUSN plan to “refresh” the station with details being released soon. While the station is expected to keep its country music format, changes in branding and execution are likely.

And all of this is happening with CBS Radio’s proposed spin-off or sale as a backdrop.

It’s nice to have friends in high places

Meanwhile, it’s a reunion between Stevens and Howell, who worked beside each other at WUSN between 2002 and 2006. The two men are friends on and off the air – and Stevens’ relationship with Howell may have been a key factor in encouraging him to head to the Cumulus-owned talk station. Like Howell, the transition from a country station to talk radio was an appealing one for Stevens. And so starting August 8th, WLS’s morning program is being renamed The Big John & Ray Show, airing weekday mornings from 5 to 9 a.m.

For WLS, this is another sign the station is moving away from conservative talk to a more mainstream format, similar to WGN-AM. The station this year started airing White Sox telecasts and will begin airing Bulls basketball this fall. Rush Limbaugh’s daily talk show remains on WLS for now as Premiere radio Networks announced this week a new four-year renewal deal.

WLS’ revamp so far has not meet with the ratings success it has hoped. Neither Howell’s or Steve Dahl’s afternoon show rank in the top ten and White Sox baseball hasn’t boosted WLS at all, thanks to yet another subpar season for the South Siders. Bulls basketball (which is not exactly a great fit) isn’t expected to boost ratings, either.

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WGN-TV, Tribune acquire “Mom”

p11858082_b_v8_aaOff-network series premieres in syndication in fall 2017

WGN-TV has bolstered its schedule by adding off-network reruns of CBS’ hit comedy Mom, starting next fall.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has sold the show in syndication on a cash-plus-barter basis to seventeen Tribune markets, including the newly independent WGN-TV. Many Tribune stations plan to pair Mom with Two And A Half Men, another Warner Bros. sitcom. This is the second time in the last few weeks Tribune has struck a multi-station deal to acquire off-network sitcom product: earlier, Tribune (and WGN) acquired ABC’s hit comedy The Goldbergs for fall 2017 from Sony Pictures Television, signaling the off-net sitcom market is becoming hot again, despite a lack of product.

With Tribune on board, Mom has cleared 71 percent of the country with various station groups. Other Tribune stations taking the show include WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles, WPHL Philadelphia, KDAF Dallas, KIAH Houston, WXIN in Indianapolis and WHNT in Huntsville, Ala.

For WGN, the acquisition of Mom continues a strategy of acquiring product to air in primetime and surrounding dayparts as the station prepares to cut its ties to The CW on September 1. Beginning next month, WGN is quadruple-running Men from 6 to 8 p.m., and double-running of Twentieth’s Last Man Standing  from 8 to 9 p.m. Standing is syndication’s only off-network sitcom launching this fall.

Both Mom and Men were created by Chuck Lorre, who has two other off-network sitcoms in off-net via Warner: The Big Bang Theory and the recently-concluded Mike & Molly. Before his deal with Warner Bros., Lorre created Cybill and Grace Under Fire for Carsey-Werner Productions and was a staff writer for Roseanne.

Premiering on September 23, 2013, Mom centers on a dysfunctional mother and daughter duo (played by Allison Janney and Anna Faris, respectively) who both are recovering substance abuse addicts, dealing with issues such as alcoholism, drug use, domestic violence, relapse, and overdose. Unlike Lorre’s other shows, Mom has received critical praise, including an eye-popping 82 Metacritic rating for its third season and a 65 overall. Janney has won two consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and was recently nominated for a third.

Oddly, Mom mirrors one of Lorre’s shows at Carsey-Werner in a way: Grace Under Fire was about a woman (Brett Butler) – a former alcoholic who leaves her abusive husband to start a new life. In real life, Butler had substance abuse issues and behavioral problems during the show’s fourth and fifth season, resulting in ABC’s abrupt cancellation of the sitcom in February 1998 as the program drew tepid ratings results in its last year and throughout its subsequent off-network syndicated run. Butler, who admitted to drug and alcohol abuse in her youth, often clashed with Lorre, who left after the show’s first season.

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Think Tank Express: “Lew’s View” is a snooze

Fox GM’s criticism of mayor does nothing for New York viewers

TV stations need leadership, not preachers 

Perhaps one of the best things about Roger Ailes’ removal from his post as chairman of Fox News (due to sexual harassment allegations) is he is no longer head of the Fox Television Stations group.

If you read this blog – and other media blogs and websites (such as Bay Area blogger Rich Liberman, whose accounts of how Fox turned the once-prestigious KTVU into a joke is a must read), then you know how badly Fox has managed its owned-and-operated stations.

With Ailes out of the picture, hopefully the idiot editorials fostered on the Fox O&Os can go with him.

In a recently-aired editorial on WNYW in New York, general manager Lew Leone blasted New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio for his work ethic, calling him a “slacker” and even gave him advice on how to better manage his schedule (watch the video above.)

This is not the first time a Fox O&O GM has taken on a big-city mayor – last December, WFLD GM Dennis Walsh ripped Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in an editorial. 

Leone -who also runs Seacucus, N.J. sister station WWOR – has been a frequent critic of DiBasio’s administration, who like all politicians these days, aren’t exactly popular. Two years ago, Leone invited the mayor to morning wake-up show Good Day New York, but declined.

As yours truly said in 2013, station managers giving editorials is a dumb idea.  Yes, station editorials were commonplace in the ’70’s and ’80’s in the Fairness Doctrine era, including in Chicago. Those editorials went away thirty years ago, as managers thought they can make better use of the time, like selling more advertising.

The stance Leone is taking is clearly hypocritical. How many WNYW executives come to work at 11 a.m.? Leone can certainly find time to give New York’s mayor advice, but yet, ratings for Fox programming are down with just one hit (Empire) in three years while WWOR often finishes behind Univision in the local ratings.

And speaking of WWOR, remember three years ago when Fox management nuked the station’s news operation to launch an TMZ-like show called Chasing Jersey

One of things yours truly hates about GMs giving station editorials is these guys seem to be more interested in running for public office than running a TV station. The pathetic ratings performances of WNYW and WWOR – and the scam Fox pulled over those in New Jersey leads yours truly to believe Lew Leone isn’t qualified to do neither.

Hey Leone, what I’m interested in is how you are promoting or marketing your station. Or how you plan to get more eyeballs to watch your newscasts and your syndicated programming. Or your thoughts on issues important to the industry such as retransmission consent or why broadcasters continue to lose audiences to cable and streaming services. Yours truly – and a lot of other people could give less than a shit what you think about global warming , education, sex, or who should start as quarterback for the New York Giants.

At a time when the television business is in crisis, the last thing the industry needs is a wanna-be politician who’s running a TV station. We already have one running for President as the GOP nominee.

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T Dog Media’s Comic-Con Notepad, Vol. 2

(Buddy TV)

(Buddy TV)

While July 23’s San Diego Comic-Con featured a rebirth of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it is the end of the line for CW’s The Vampire Diaries, as producers of the show announced at the gathering they are ending the show after eight seasons. Riding on the wave of the “vampire craze” (Twilight, etc.) six years ago, declining ratings and a move to Friday put the nails in the coffin (pun intended.)

Kevin Williamson, who co-created the show with Julie Plec, announced to the crowd he is returning to Vampire to help write the final season.


Brie-Larson-Captain-Marvel-Fan-PosterAnnounced in October 2014, the new Captain Marvel movie finally has a lead – and her name is Brie Lawson. The reveal came during Marvel’s presentation at Comic-Con – one of only two film studios to make the trip. Introduced to comic readers in 1977, Captain Marvel (a.k.a Carol Danvers) gained superpowers from an explosion.

This continues a trend in female-superhero product, with DC Comics debuting a theatrical featuring Wonder Woman next year and currently, Supergirl on the small screen. But if you want to see Captain Marvel, you have to wait – the movie isn’t due for release until November 2018.

Believe it or not, there is a DC Comics version of “Captain Marvel”. But he mostly goes by the name of “Shazam”.


(Fortune)

(Fortune)

For a first time in a few years, there was television coverage of Comic-Con on two fronts: newly launched streaming channel Comic-Con HQ and SyFy’s nightly one-hour recap from just outside the San diego Comic-Con in a traditional talk-show format.

Comic-Con HQ had a large booth outside of the San Diego Convention Center so stars can stop by and chat. Those who did includes Yvette Nicole Brown, Con Man’s Nathan Fillion, and Nichelle Nichols, and the casts of Teen Wolf (whose creator announced the final season at Comic-Con) and Con Man, which is streamed on Comic-Con HQ. The interviews and presentation were relaxed and fun,

On the other hand, the three-night Live From Comic-Con show hosted by Will Arnett with a liquor-upped crowd was a bit of a joke and was completely lame. Aside from a few cast members of AMC’s The Walking Dead and a Star Trek: Beyond feature, the three-night extravaganza was nothing but a never-ending plug for NBC Universal product, including – as noted here – the upcoming Sharknado 4 movie on SyFy July 31 (where a man actually won a car for answering way-too easy questions on the movie.) SyFy’s website even screwed up on what night Tara Reid would be on, saying she would be on Friday (July 22) when she was on Saturday night (July 23). Spoiler Alert – she lives in the movie – but you knew that already…

As for Will Arnett’s hosting and interviewing skills, let’s just say we’re glad CBS went with Stephen Colbert for the Late Show gig. Interesting to note in a game played with fellow Arrested Development cast member Tony Hale (now of Veep) about the former characters they played, Arnett’s Nathan character in The Millers never came up. For that, we should all be thankful.


Cn--QhTUMAAXBRpSpeaking of Con Man, can anyone explain to me how a crowd-funded web series managed to hold its Comic-Con panel in the humongous Hall H  while many other TV shows such as The Vampire Diaries, SupernaturalFamily Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and others (with more viewers) had to settle for the smaller Ballroom 20 venue? Well, the series starring Castle alum Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, happens to run on Comic-Con HQ, the streaming service which Comic-Con International and Lionsgate are partners in. Con Man moved from Vimeo, where the first season premiered last September. The second season premieres this fall on HQ.

Somehow, Con Man drew 7,000 fans to its presentation – not bad for a series no one watches.

So in theory, The Chicago Way can even extend out to San Diego and into Comic-Con. Nice going, boys. And besides the series also has Wil Wheaton in it, so it makes it not worth watching.

Now if they could only book Scott Baio, which would make Con Man even wore unwatchable…

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Affiliation realignments rock Peoria, South Bend

Downtown South Bend.

Downtown South Bend.

Quincy and Sinclair do some wheeling and dealing, moving networks onto digital subchannels

In what may become commonplace in small markets across the country, major broadcast networks are winding up on digital subchannels of other stations.

In a huge television realignment just 80 miles east of Chicago, Sinclair Broadcasting’s WSBT snagged the Fox affiliation from Quincy Media-owned WSJV, which dropped the network after 21 years.

In addition, WSJV is also closing its news department, leaving the station with just two employees – and is now affiliating with Weigel Broadcasting’s Heroes & Icons network, which recently picked up all of the Star Trek series (excluding the animated version from 1973.)

As first reported by the South Bend Tribune, WSBT is installing Fox on its over-the-air 22.2 digital subchannel. While the paper didn’t specify the network would transmit in HD, WSBT is dropping a weather channel of 22.3 to make room. Sinclair has struck deals with Comcast and Dish to carry the new channel, but no other deals were made.

Sinclair is also launching a second news operation for the channel, similar to what Tribune did for its Indianapolis duopoly, launching a separate news operation for WTTV when it became a CBS affiliate on January 1, 2015.

WSBT remains a primary CBS affiliate on channel 22.1. All the changes take place on Monday.

Fox’s move to WSBT carries huge implications as the South Bend/Elkhart market – which includes north central Indiana and southwest Michigan (commonly referred to as “Michiana”), is home to a huge Chicago Bears fan base. It was one of the reasons WSJV ended its 40-year relationship with ABC in 1995 to affiliate with Fox at a time when affiliation switches took place in light of the Fox-New World deal, sending several CBS affiliates to Fox.

WSBT carried NFL games – including those of the Chicago Bears – in 1994 and 1995 as Fox was affiliated with a low-powered station at the time – the current ABC affiliate, WBND.

Quincy, Ill.-based Quincy Media decided to throw in the towel, figuring it no longer could compete with WSBT and Gray-owned NBC affiliate WNDU, a station once owned by South Bend-located Notre Dame University.

This latest change continues the upheaval of media in the nation’s 85th-largest market. Last year, Schurz Communications split up its longtime radio-TV-newspaper combo, selling some of its TV stations to Sinclair and its radio stations to other companies while retaining the South Bend Tribune.

Meanwhile, Quincy and Sinclair were involved in another transaction, this time in the downstate Peoria-Bloomington market. Quincy’s WEEK “purchased” the affiliations of CW and ABC from Sinclair’s WHOI. WEEK was already operating WHOI under a shared services agreement.

Starting Monday, ABC programming will now be on WEEK’s 25.2 subchannel (branded as WHOI), while CW programming lands on 25.3. No word if programming would be transmitted in HD or on the fate of WHOI’s channel 19 signal.

NBC programming remains on WEEK’s 25.1 main channel. Cable and satellite viewers will see no change in channel position.

The decision to abandon WSJV and WHOI comes at a time when station groups are continuing to consolidate. The moves also come as the FCC is auctioning off TV stations’ spectrum to wireless companies, likely leaving behind fewer competitors, especially in smaller markets like South Bend and Peoria. Less competition will likely mean higher prices for advertisers – and also consumers.

For Illinois markets outside of Chicago, the state’s shaky financial picture doesn’t help either.

Chicago TV viewers will have their own realignment coming September 1, when The CW shifts from WGN-TV to WPWR-TV, the first affiliation move in this city in 21 years. With WGN becoming independent again, the station announced it was filling its primetime hours vacated by CW programming with off-network reruns of Two And A Half Men (two hours a night!) and Last Man Standing.

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“MST3K” revival heads to Netflix

mst3k-reboot-poster-steve-vanceRevival of cult ’90’s series arrives in 2017

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot branded about for the last year has now found a home: Netflix.

Beginning in 2017, the streaming service will air new episodes of the former Comedy Central and SciFi (now SyFy) movie-mocking series. The news was announced during a MST3K panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday night.

So far, no details were announced on if all episodes would be released on Netflix at once (like most new Netflix shows), or once or twice at a time. Already, some classic episodes are available on Netflix (where yours truly has watched the show and rented the DVDs…you remember DVDs, right?) in addition to Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.)

The drive to bring back the cult classic began last fall with a Kickstarter campaign – raising $5.7 million, breaking a record set by the Veronica Mars movie funding drive. Social media was involved in the campaign to bring back the show, with an online telethon featuring classic episodes. Original series host Joel Hodgson kicked in $600,000 more, ensuring a fourteen-episode season as Shout! Factory acquired full rights to the show (they already had the rights to distribute the show on home video.)

Speculation on who would be cast in the new show was finally confirmed: Jonah Ray becomes the new B-movie victim trapped in space, following in the footsteps of Hodgson and former head writer Michael Nelson. Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt star as the new tormentors – the descendants of Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank. And the Bots have new voices in Baron Vaughn and Hampton Yount.

Elliott Kalan, former head writer of The Daily Show is serving in the same capacity in the new MST3K. The writing staff also includes former Community showrunner Dan Harmon and former Community star Joel McHale, who’ll headline a new CBS sitcom this fall, The Great Outdoors.) Making cameo appearances are original series cast members Bill Corbett (who is also joining the writing staff), Mary Jo Pehl, and Kevin Murphy.

Hodgson is co-executive producer of the new MST3K.

Coming soon on T Dog Media: a list of movies and/or TV shows yours truly recommends aqs material for new B-movie victim Jonah Ray to suffer through. You will love it! Or else! 

 

 

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