The Media Notepad: Suppelsa, Herndon exit respective 9 p.m. news anchor positions

Also: Rob Stafford returns to WMAQ; Get ready for more PAC ads; CBS Radio gambles and loses on blunder

Mark Suppelsa is calling it a career – the longtime Chicago news anchor and investigative reporter announced Thursday he was retiring after nearly three decades in the news business. Suppelsa is currently anchoring newscasts for WGN-TV at 5, 6, 9, and 10 p.m. with Micah Materre. Suppelsa released a statement thanking Chicagoans for their support and generosity.

Suppelsa has anchored for WGN since 2013, and beforehand, anchored news at WFLD-TV and WMAQ-TV, in addition to Minneapolis’ KSTP, where another now-retired Chicago anchor (Ron Magers) worked. During a time when WMAQ received negative blowback for allowing trash-talk show host Jerry Springer to do commentaries for its 10 p.m. newscast (which resulted in the resignations of Magers and Carol Marin), Suppelsa interviewed Springer in a memorable segment the day he resigned as commentator.

The move is the second 9 p.m. news anchor shakeup in last two weeks; on August 10, WFLD anchor Jeff Herndon announced he was stepping down as co-anchor to return to Wichita, where he previously worked.

No replacement has been named for either vacancy; WGN-TV is undergoing an ownership change as Tribune Media is being sold to Sinclair Broadcasting, known for cost-cutting and a conservative news bent – Suppelsa is the first major name from any Tribune station exiting as the ownership change is taking place. It will be interesting to see who else is leaving Tribune’s news stations as the Chesapeake Boys take over.


As Suppelsa is exiting, another local anchor is returning: Rob Stafford is returning to his main anchor slot at WMAQ after being out for months due to a medical condition. As first reported by Robert Feder, the NBC 5 veteran is returning August 28 at 10 p.m. and is also resuming his 5 and 6 p.m. anchor duties shortly thereafter. Stafford was absent after receiving a bone marrow transplant and needed chemotherapy for anyoidlosis. During his leave, longtime veteran Dick Johnson was filling in for Stafford alongside Allison Rosati.

During his absence, ratings for WMAQ’s late newscasts have declined as ABC-owned WLS-TV solidified its ratings lead at 10 p.m.

On a personal note, both Stafford and Rosati emceed several annual dinners when yours truly worked at the Better Business Bureau. Both couldn’t have been nicer. Looking forward to seeing Stafford back in the helm again and I’m certain NBC 5 viewers will, too.


If you’ve been watching local news or certain syndicated programs lately, you’ve probably noticed a huge uptick in SuperPAC ads despite not being an election year. Over the last week, these “political action committees” have bought TV and radio time to push their campaigns on everything from overhauling the tax code to education issues to of course, the Governor’s race. PACs linked to Governor Rauner and candidate J.B. Pritizker have purchased tons of airtime to get their message across.

Now, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a media campaign to back Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s penny-per-ounce soda tax, which went into effect earlier this month, saturating the market with either more ads from special interest groups. As yours truly pointed out in a post about President Trump earlier in the week, Preckwinkle is among a group of pols (Trump included) who don’t care for people – although she fired back at critics in two ridiculous op-eds this week, claiming she cares about the people of Cook County (while fleecing our pockets.)

The campaign is a reported as $2 million time buy, spanning across television, radio and digital. As far as television is concerned, the first ad from the campaign debuted online Thursday and debuted in the Chicago market Friday. The commercial has run mostly in local news programs and syndicated programming targeted to older viewers, such as Wheel of Fortune and Judge Judy, alongside other PAC ads.

In June 2015, a SuperPAC for Governor Rauner took the then-unusual step and launched a television ad campaign regarding the now-resolved state budget impasse. Yours truly called the move a waste of money.

As trade groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters continue to encourage political advertising – even in non-election years, the increase of these types of commercials are driving away annoyed viewers like myself from broadcast and cable TV – you can easily see why creative talent such as Shonda Rhimes left for Netflix. As for Bloomberg, he would’ve been better off donating the money to anti-hunger organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository. But as long as greedy broadcasters are eager to take any kind of money (just look at the retransmission consent mess) from special interest groups eager to spend on any subject, the oversaturation of this type of advertising will continue, pushing more and more viewers away from live TV.


Let’s just say they gambled and lost by not betting on gold: CBS Radio suffered a embarrassing public relations gaffe in the Las Vegas market this week when a internal memo regarding coverage of the city’s new NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights was released. The memo stated the cluster’s six radio stations were not allowed to cover the team in any way shape or form, even as far not to mention on air. In other words – pretend the team doesn’t exist.

CBS Radio Las Vegas owns six stations in the market, including Top 40 outlet KLUC-FM, Hot AC KMXB-FM, and News/Talk KXNT. CBS does have a sports talker in the market, KXST.

After considerable backlash and even a threatened boycott, CBS wisely backed off as they decided to let the cluster cover the team after all.

CBS was among one of the bidders for the Golden Knights’ broadcast rights, but lost to Lotus Broadcasting, who are broadcasting games on rival sports talker KRLV and owners of three other stations in Las Vegas. Lotus’ KENO-AM plans to carry a Spanish-language broadcasts, given the market’s large Latino population , joining two other NHL teams offering Spanish-language broadcasts (the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers.)

The Golden Knights recently struck a TV deal with AT&T Sports (formerly Root Sports) – beating out Los Angeles’ Spectrum SportsNet and Fox Sports West. Both RSNs  have a significient presence in the market, with the former airing Los Angeles Lakers games, a popular draw in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights begin play this fall at the new T-Mobile Arena, just off the Las Vegas Strip.

There was question whether or not this “ban” was sustainable anyway, given CBS Radio’s pending sale to Entercom. Though CBS owns radio stations in Las Vegas, it does not own the market’s CBS affiliate KLAS-TV.


Further reading:

Kathy Hart to return?

YouTube TV to carry Sinclair stations

AMC  Theaters says no to Moviepass


Follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

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Think Tank Express: President Trump – the ultimate embarrassment

President Trump’s lackluster response to tragic events in Charlottesville proves he and other politicians don’t care about us and we must fend for ourselves 

[Warning: Contains strong language. Reader discretion is advised.]

If you’ve read this blog in the past, you know about the shoddy “leadership” you’ve seen in the media business. The names are familiar: Jeff Zucker, Ben Silverman, Randy Michaels, Sam Zell, Jan Jeffries, and so on.

And now we know what it’s like to see these types of people run the White House for the last eight months. And as expected, it’s been a disaster.

President Donald Trump held a press conference on Tuesday, one yours truly couldn’t bear to watch. And it’s a good thing too, because what he said would have made me thrown a can of RC at the TV. I’ve never seen such a despicable human being in public office ever, and I live in Chicago and suffered through a lot of Grade A assholes in office over the years – particularly during the racially turbulent “Council Wars” era as the “Vrdolyak 29” (named after former 10th Ward alderman Ed Vrdolyak) controlled everything during much of Harold Washington’s tenure as Mayor.

I don’t need to rehash for you what happened the last couple of days – you know the drill: Tuesday’s press conference was a joke, with Trump refusing to condemn Neo-Nazis and white supremacists who clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. Saturday in America’s 183rd-largest TV market and radio’s 207th-largest, resulting in the death of a person who was killed when a car driven by a white supremacist plowed into a crowd.

Trump basically said “both sides were to blame”, which is absolute horsecrap. The “alt-left” charging at the protestors? What do you expect them to do when they are yelling racial slurs at you? Get together and have a fucking hootenanny? And Trump saying “not all of them were white supremacists?” Really? Then what were they, President smart ass?

What bothers yours truly – and a lot of other people is him sympathizing with racists – it was these morons who elected him in the first place. So he talks about Mexicans being rapists, building walls, “fake news”, banning Muslim immigration, cutting funding to education, medicare, taking away health care, and feuding with…almost everybody.

Oh, and of course, bashing Chicago every chance he gets on Twitter or in one of his “rallies” – acting like he’s still running for office.

And the fear is now these white nationalists are so empowered by Trump they can march anywhere, anytime – even in Chicago. Remember when the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups marched in the then-white Marquette Park area in 1986? (and yes, the racial violence in the area was worse in the ’60s and ’70s.)

And it seems Trump’s brand of governing is spreading. Though she’s as far as you can get from Trump on social issues, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is developing the same persona as a ruthless tyrant – she recently instituted a penny-per-ounce soda tax, driving customers to buy their groceries in collar counties or Indiana, and harming businesses. Despite the tax being unpopular, her response was basically “fuck you” if you don’t like it.

Yours truly remembered a time when politicians were actually elected to serve their constituents. Now politicians want you to serve them – instead of acting like public servants, they act like dictators. Here they are, shoving political ads in your face, even with the elections more than a year away.

What we are seeing here is totally disgusting. Trump and his ilk don’t care about us – they care only about themselves. Donald Trump needs to be impeached for the sake of the country and the sooner the better. Unfortunately, politicians put themselves first before any of us. It’s like the Titanic is sinking and they’re hoarding all the life preserves for themselves.

No better time to teach ourselves how to swim – we’ll need to if we want to survive in these choppy waters – because we’re on our own.


Follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia. 

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Shonda Rhimes heads to Netflix

Shonda Rhimes at Scandal’s 100th episode party. (ABC/Todd Warwychuk)

The former south suburban University Park resident scores deal with SVOD service

Talk about extracting quick revenge.

Last week, Disney announced come 2019, it was pulling its movies off of Netflix to start its own streaming service. The news sent both stocks descending on Wall Street.

On Sunday night, Netflix decided to raid the Mouse House and nab Shonda Rhimes and sign her to a rich development deal. The creator of hit ABC series Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, and Scandal will now create new projects for Netflix in a new multi-year pact. The move ends Rhimes’ tenure with ABC Studios/Touchtone Television after fifteen years.

The current series mentioned above remain on Disney-owned ABC. Grey’s Anatomy – Rhimes’ first series, is entering its 14th season this fall and remains a sturdy player for the network, performing well opposite CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Meanwhile, Scandal is wrapping it up after this season, its seventh.

“Shondaland’s [Rhimes’ production company] move to Netflix is the result of a shared plan Ted Sarandos and I built based on my vision for myself as a storyteller and for the evolution of my company,” said Rhimes, as told by Broadcasting & Cable. “Ted provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix. He understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation.”

The move comes as Netflix is upping the ante and the pot – when it comes to landing talent. Last week, Netflix announced it signed David Letterman to do an interview series, set to debut next year and acquired comics book publisher Millarworld so it can develop more television series.

The Rhimes move also raises the question of just how much the streaming services are willing to pay for talent. The scenario could lead to a bidding war for services at a time when many media companies – especially those connected with the broadcast networks – are concerned about the bottom line. This reminds yours truly of radio’s talent wars during the 1990s and early 2000s as talent such as Howard Stern made out like bandits, signing deals with Infinity Broadcasting (now CBS Radio). The bubble burst when radio’s profit margins shrunk. Today, those kind of lucrative deals in radio and television are in the rearview mirror.

But somehow, Netflix and Amazon always have money to print in what seems like a bottomless pit. But winter may be coming soon than expected for the streaming giants. The interesting thing about the Rhimes deal is, the broadcast and cable networks are starting to look like minor-league farm teams compared to their streaming counterparts.

 

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Comic-Con Notepad Vol. 3 – Big day for Marvel and DC

Marvel Mania; Black Lightning the standout during The CW panels; Family Guy news; SyFy succeeds with live Comic-Con show

This final Comic-Con Notepad of 2017 covers the weekend at the San Diego Convention Center, featuring huge panel of hot movies, old TV favorites, and lots more. Included in the festivities were Marvel and presentations from Warner Bros., and TV show panels ranging from old standbys The Simpsons and Family Guy to the new Black Lightning action drama.

BLACK IS IN

As reported by Comic Book Resources, Hall H was packed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe panel, with focused on three upcoming releases: Avengers: Infinity War (discussed earlier at Disney’s D23 expo in Anaheim); Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. Moderating the panel was Chris Hardwick of Nerdist fame and host of NBC’s The Wall, with an sneak peek at Ant-Man and The Wasp. Next up was Ragnarok, due out this fall. Chris Hemsowrth (Thor) pointed out the movie was different for the entire Cinematic Universe – not just for Thor. Director Taika Waititi noted “As long as the actors know their lines and are saying them convincingly, it doesn’t matter what the budget is, and jokingly threw in “and most of these people did not learn their lines.”

Money well spent, I suppose.

New footage was shown at the gathering, followed by the trailer.

The next presentation was for Black Panther, featuring Chadwick Boseman in the title role and also starring Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, and Lupita Nyong’o. The movie follows the events after Captain America: Civil War: “[Black Panther is]  dealing with the death of his father and becoming a ruler (in Wakanda). said Chadwick Boseman, who plays the title character in the film.  He’s still mourning his father’s death. It’s a transition period that gets interrupted, and he’s struggling with the type of king he wants to be.”

Boseman added: “I grew up as young black kid in the Bay Area and grew up with comic books and it didn’t matter what color the [superheroes] were; I read X-Men, I read Spider-Man. One day I walked into the comic-book shop and was looking for comic-book character like me, and the first one I saw was Black Panther.”

The actors in the film described their characters to the excited crowd., who then saw new footage and got even more excited.  The movie, originally scheduled to be released on November 3, is now set for next February 18. To see the trailer (released before Comic-Con), click here.


Meanwhile, there was another “Black” superhero in the halls of the San Diego Convention Center – just call him “Lightning”.

Down the way in Ballroom 20, The CW held panels for its superhero shows – Flash, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – and one for the highly anticipated Black Lightning, an adaptation of DC Comics’ first black superhero, which published its first issue in 1977. The sizzle reel created by DC welcomed Lightning to The CW’s Arrowverse of fun. Moderated by NPR’s Eric Deggans, the panel touched upon details of the series scheduled to debut in midseason.

Executive producer Sam Akli, whom with wife Mara Brock Akli of Girlfriends fame, touched upon Chicago’s gun violence epidemic as a lack of superheroes to those less fortunate. “Why Black Lightning? Because I think it’s time. I think Jefferson Pierce is the [epitome] of what black men are, Mr. Akli said. He loves his wife. He loves his children. He loves his community. This family is like the Obamas of the superhero world… When we look on the news and we see there are 125 shootings in Chicago… there are no superheroes to go save them… that’s why we need Black Lightning.” (Given yours truly lives here, I can easily tell you there has been far more than 125 shootings in Chicago.)

He added: “The biggest challenge was accepting that this black man was running around in a suit. I mean, that’s the easiest way to get shot by the police. For us, we have been so character-based and we will continue to be character-based. I think it’s about balancing out when this man uses his powers, how he used his powers and why… we really want people to get to know this family. Their powers, like their race, are part of who they are… Yes, there is definitely a problem with police brutality, and we will get into that.”

Christine Adams, who is an actress on the show, pointed out: “Our stories and what we’re going to talk about and what we’re going to explore… they’re beyond color… it’s about universal things that we’re all going to relate.”


In other news, longtime primetime staple Family Guy lost two characters this season with the deaths of Adam West (who voiced an animated version of himself as Quahog’s mayor) and Carrie Fisher, who voiced Angela, Peter’s boss. At Family Guy’s Comic-Con panel, the voice cast paid tribute to both, offering up their memories on working with them.

“[Adam West] had boundless energy and instantly put everyone in a good mood… The man gave 150 percent right up to the end, often times more than people half his age.”, said series creator Seth MacFarlane, who returned to Comic-Con for the first time in years (he’s pushing a new show he created and started in (The Orville) which premieres next month.) Alex Borstein praised both, noting Fisher’s Postcards From The Edge changed her life.

West, best known of course for his role in the 1960’s Batman TV series, is in five episodes this season, recorded before his death. There is no official word on how they’ll write Fisher’s character out of the show, but to fill the void, Family Guy has enlisted Bryan Cranston and Niecy Nash.

Also on tap on the guest star front is Sir Ian McKellan with the entire episode featuring Stewie in a therapist’s office, mirroring a similar plot in a 1976 Maude episode.

Still going strong after being canceled twice, Family Guy will air its 300th episode this upcoming season.


Last but not least, cheers to SyFy for producing a special from Comic-Con…that didn’t suck. The network – which brought a whopping fifteen shows to Comic-Con this year, aired a three-night Live From Comic-Con wrap-up program and was greatly improved from last year’s Will Arnett-hosted crapfest filled with endless Sharknado plugs and NBCUniversal product placement and promotion.

Instead, viewers got Zachary Levi, who did a better job interviewing guests, including cast members from Arrow – a CW show, the stars of Fox’s new comedy Ghosted, and a reunion of the most recent Battlestar Galactica series. A roundtable featuring panelists dissecting the events at Comic-Con and pop-culture issues at the start of the show was a nice touch. The three nightly shows also included several fun segments, including one featuring Futurama’s John DiMaggio.

And best of all – no plugs for SyFy’s Sharknado: Global Swarming, the fifth movie in the very tired franchise. The movie aired August 6.

If SyFy decides to do a Live From Comic-Con program next year, they should bring back Levi. He does a better hosting a talk show than Jimmy Fallon does.

Next up: The Inhumans day at Comic-Con and TCA. Guess what gathering where it didn’t go well.

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Fox at TCA: “We won’t miss American Idol.” (Sure.)

Plus: Seth MacFarlane chats up The Orville; Fox execs try to explain their screw-ups; and more

With TCA finally winding down, the last two networks presented this week was Fox and its cable siblings, FX and FXX.

In the Fox executive session, Fox entertainment co-president Dana Walden defended the decision to drop American Idol, only to see it cross the street to go to rival ABC.  According to Fox, ratings declined (though they did go up in the “final” season) and the show no longer made financial sense for the network.

“It was a really tough decision to make,” Walden was quoted as saying, adding that “the economics were terrible for us at that moment.”

Still, Idol is stronger than anything Fox has on in prime-time at the moment. Now Disney stands to benefit from Idol – certainly helping ABC, whose ratings are just as bad as Fox’s.

As a replacement, Fox announced The Four, which generated about as much excitement as a Los Angeles Rams game.

Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane appeared with the cast of The Orville, a new one-hour sci-fi dramedy set in the 25th Century (just like Buck Rogers), but it’s the comparison to Star Trek that’s getting the most notice.  “Star Trek itself sprang from a lot of different sci-fi tropes that came before it. The idea of a ship, in the naval sense, cruising in space did not originate with that show”, MacFarlane said to reporters. 

Some critics were skeptical about the project, with one even compared it to some science-fiction syndicated programs from the 1990s, saying it isn’t “today’s science fiction”. But MacFarlane didn’t seem to mind, saying “he misses the optimism”. Executive producer David A. Goodman also noted there is room for two shows of a similar nature, with Star Trek: Discovery launching next month on CBS All-Access.

The trailer yours truly saw seemed awkward and you have to question MacFarlane’s acting skills. But if anyone can pull off a sci-fi show with a balance of comedy and drama, he can. And its Thursday time slot (effective Sept. 28) is a great alternative for those who don’t want to watch the tired Big Bang Theory or NBC’s comedies. The Orville premieres Sept. 10, after NFL action.


In other Fox/FX news at TCA:

In addition to The Four, Fox announced it was staging a live production of 1983 theatrical classic A Christmas Story with Maya Rudolph in the lead. Meanwhile, FX renewed underachieving drama Snowfall for next season, and Fox renewed Love Connection and Shazam for a second year – both likely to return next summer.


Joining Full House, Roseanne and Will & Grace on the reboot train is…King Of The Hill? Reports surfaced Tuesday the long-running animated series could make a comeback. Walden said she’s had conversations with series creators Greg Daniels and Mike Judge, who have since moved on to other projects – the latter involved in HBO’s Silicon Valley. “We had a very preliminary conversation,” Walden told the crowd at TCA. “Given what’s going on in the country, (Judge and Daniels) had a point of view about how these characters would respond.”

A few principals from Hill such as Loren Bouchard and Jim Dautrieve (who last name is also the same as one of Hill’s characters) now work on Bob’s Burgers.

Hill premiered on January 12, 1997 and ran for thirteen seasons, ending quietly in 2009 with a few leftover episodes airing exclusively in off-net syndication in 2010. Now in its second syndication cycle, Hill continues to be a strong performer. In addition to its adult swim run, many local stations pair it other Twentieth animated comedies, including Weigel’s WCIU and U Too.


John Landegraf. (Ray Mickshaw/Fox)

FX head John Landgraf gave his bi-annual “State of TV” address on Wednesday. Famous for saying there was “too much TV”, the end of 2017, will see more of it. He points out the number of scripted shows now stands at 342 currently on the air, and could go up to 500 by the end of the year.

Landgraf compared the Silicon Valley giants fueling much of the “too much TV” talk to computers – “I want humans to win against the machines”. he was quoted as saying. And Deadline reported Landgraf used the word “tsunami” and showed an image of a cannon shooting a huge stream of water at a person against the wall – comparing this to the amounts of money Netflix and Amazon are spending every day (sign me up to be on the receiving end of that.)

He also pointed about how local entrepreneurship is being crushed by emerging monopolies in the marketplace, though it is not known what monopolies he was referring to. Maybe Sinclair’s pending purchase of Tribune Media?


Empire creator Lee Daniels said the show’s content won’t be affected by the series’ move to the start of primetime, known as “the family hour” ages ago, but there will be less of an emphasis on guest stars. “They’re obsessed with the Lyons,” Daniels said. “So we focus more on our family.” Still, the guest stars who appeared last season will be back, in addition to Forest Whitaker, who plays an executive who gave Lucious his first airplay on a radio station. Also, Empire is crossing over with another one of his series (Star) when they both have their season premiere on Sept. 27.

The producers seemed to be in denial regarding Empire’s declining ratings and the tough competition it’ll face in the fall in its Wednesday night time slot. Maintain the status quo, I guess.

Interesting note on one of those guest stars (Lesile Uggams), who plays Lucious’ nasty mother:  In 1969, a variety show she headlined replaced The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, canceled by CBS after numerous run-ins with network management over content at a time the major networks were finally integrating their prime-time lineups [Smothers was actually canceled in April, replaced in the interim by Hee Haw.]  Uggams took questions on a press junket, a forerunner to today’s TCA tour.


During the panel for Ghosted, executive producer Adam Scott (who also co-stars along with Craig Robinson) compared his new Sunday night sci-fi comedy to ’80s buddy movies, such as Midnight Run. “[The movie]  was a real touchstone for all of us with putting the whole thing together, and that relationship in that movie was hilarious to be sure, but also had its moments where it was really moving and it was important to us to have those moments.” Scott noted. 

Ghosted is about two guys (Scott and Robinson) who team up to fight paranormal forces. Think of it as Ghostbusters, only with a duo instead of a quintuplet. Ghosted premieres October 1.

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Disney splits with Netflix; creates new OTT service

The guy on the left is being removed from the photo in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney to pull films from SVOD service in 2019; launches new service; also new ESPN OTT

In a stunning move, The Walt Disney Company announced Tuesday it was pulling its movies from Netflix and launching its own subscription streaming service instead in 2019.

Starting with the 2019 theatrical slate, Disney and Pixar movies will stream exclusively on the yet-to-be-unnamed service, including Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, and the upcoming live-action version of The Lion King. Disney also plans to contribute fare from the Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD to the new service.

Not part of the service is ABC and Freeform programming, which is found on HUlu, whereas Disney has a stake. Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars) programming are also not part of the deal and plan to stay with Netflix – at least for now. Netflix co-produces Marvel’s shows, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the upcoming Defenders and Punisher.

In the meantime, Disney has no plans on pulling any material from Netflix before the launch of its own service.

In addition, Disney plans to launch an over-the-top (OTT) version of ESPN beginning in 2018, featuring sports from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, various collegiate conferences and Grand Slam events.  The service is being embedded within the ESPN app (yes, hockey fans, hockey has returned to ESPN – somewhat.) Disney is touting at least 10,000 live events for the OTT service a year.

Disney also announced it has increased its stake in BAMtech, originally founded by Major League Baseball and spun-off last year. Disney said it’s using BAMTech to launch the new Disney and ESPN services.

This is indeed a huge game changer in the streaming world. In an interview with CNBC, Disney President Bob Iger said“This represents a big strategic shift for the company. We felt that having control of a platform we’ve been very impressed with after buying 33 percent of it a year ago would give us control of our destiny.” 

Iger noted he was pleased with Netflix as a partner.

The moves come as more and more content providers are looking to control distribution of their product and more and more viewers are ditching pay TV. CBS for example, successfully launched CBS All-Access in 2014 and is now featuring original programming such as The Good Fight and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. A few months ago, Turner’s Boomerang launched an OTT service featuring animated series from its Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Cartoon libraries.  HBO already has its own streaming service and FX and AMC are in the planning stages to do likewise.

Meanwhile Netflix is investing more and more into original programming, notably is acquisition of Millarworld Comics on Monday, hoping to turn some of their titles into television properties.

The Disney announcement came ahead of its second quarter earnings report, where ESPN once again hurt its bottom line. The sports cable network contributed to a 23 percent drop in its operating income. The studio is also hurt by its continuing struggles at ABC, but the future does look bright with American Idol arriving early next year and has reliable performers with The Bachelor/Bachelorette and Dancing With The Stars – not to mention the continuing ratings dominance of WLS-TV (ABC 7) here in Chicago and its other O&Os in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

 

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ABC at TCA: “The Middle” to say goodbye after nine years

‘The Middle” at TCA. Credit: Photo by Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Network targeting families with single-cam comedies

It was ABC day Sunday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour and much like the CBS portion of the tour, there were some confrontational moments, and not just from network management.

The executive portion of the tour provided a lot of chatter on social media as entertainment president Channing Dungey took the stage to answer questions.

Dungey talked about the return of American Idol to the airwaves next year, saying she’s looking forward to putting their unique stamp on the show. She confirmed Ryan Seacrest would be back to host the show, but couldn’t confirm if Seacrest was being cloned given all the jobs he has (and hoping this isn’t the case.)

As for the cancellation of Last Man Standing, Dungey denied politics played a role in the cancellation as a few outlets (falsely) reported, but a desire to scrap the underperforming Friday block. She also pointed out the show is owned by another studio (20th Century Fox) and not ABC Studios, where the bulk of the network’s product comes from – and she isn’t backing away from the practice: “Ownership is a big priority for us,” she said. “I think you’ll continue see more and more close alignment with the studio going forward.”

Dungey also chatted about the Bachelor In Paradise controversy earlier this year, whose hijinxs led to the show temporarily suspending production. The investigation is closed, and Paradise premieres August 14.

Regarding the fourth season of black-ish, Dungey said it’s “going to be off the chain”. I assume reporters at the tour know what that meant (they don’t.)

In other ABC news:

– The network renewed its trio of game shows: Celebrity Family Feud, The $100,000 Pyramid, and Match Game. Alec Baldwin, whose production company co produces the latter show, also scored a first-look development deal with the network. All three are expected to return next summer, as is the yet-to-be renewed The Gong Show. No word however on Battle Of The Network Stars, which worked much better as specials back in the day.


The Inhumans panel was such a disaster on Sunday, critics mistook it for a CBS show (ha ha.) All kidding aside, the presentation went rougher than expected, with reporters questioning why the premiere show hasn’t been finished yet and whether or not the product was worthy to be presented in IMAX.

President of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb snapped at a reporter when asked a question: “I can tell you that it was written on the material that you were given that the show that you have seen is not the finished product. If you’re asking me whether or not it was done, it’s not. So to be perfectly honest, I don’t understand your question.”

The Inhumans panel at Comic-Con was also received poorly, as was the trailer.

Yours truly will have more on this in a future post. And boy, I will have a lot to say.


The Middle recently announced it is closing up shop after nine seasons, and at the TCA panel, the cast and producers promised fans they the wrap-up will be something “they will love.” The show’s creators said it was their decision to end. Co-creator DeAnne Heline pointed out the series’ appeal beyond Middle America, reaching into the urban cores and worldwide.

“What we find is that The Middle is now playing everywhere around the world, and what’s amazing is that whether you’re someone who’s in an urban city or in another country, everyone can identify with it.” Regarding the return of Roseanne – another series that ran for nine seasons on ABC with a similar concept,  Heline noted:” It’s great that “Roseanne” is coming back because it means in another eight years we can all come back!”


At the other end of the culture spectrum, believe it or not, there is a connection between the new show The Mayor and Chicago’s own Chance The Rapper. Creator Jeremy Bronson notes the show was inspired by Chance and Hamilton star Daveed Diggs, who is executive producer and writes music on the show.

“I knew Daveed was part of all sorts of community groups and these small collectives doing music together,” Bronson said at TCA. “And then when I read about Chance also starting out doing his poetry in the multi-purpose room of his high school, I thought it was very, very interesting.”

Chance The Rapper drew a huge crowd at Lollapalooza in Chicago over the weekend as the headlining act – more than 100,000 people were gathered at Grant Park to see him perform.

The premise of the show features a California rapper looking to promote his music decides to run for mayor as a publicity stunt and stuns everyone – even himself – when he winds up winning. And it could wind up as life imitating art: at the Lollapalooza concert, Chance openly dissed current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel on stage.

He’s got my vote.


Jimmy Kimmel is taking his late-night show back on the road to New York, heading once again to Brooklyn as he is taping shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from October 16-20.

 

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“The Cutler Factor” canceled – before it even goes on the air

Soon Jay Cutler will be doing this in a Miami Dolphins uniform. (USA Today)

The former Bears QB signs deal with the Miami Dolphins – ending his broadcast career before it begins.

Keeping in the Fox tradition of shows being canceled before they hit the air – Rewind, Manchester Prep, The Grubbs, Our Little Genius, and Murder Police, now comes word The Cutler Factor has been canceled before airing a single episode.

As you know, former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler “retired” from football in May and signed a deal with Fox Sports to join the #2 broadcast booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis. It lead yours truly to compare the hire to Bill O’Reilly’s now-defunct The O’Reilly Factor, canceled after he was forced out due to sexual harassment obligations.

However, on Thursday Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill injured his knee on a non-contact play, requiring him to miss the bulk of the regular season.

On Sunday, Cutler decided to come out of “retirement” and signed an one-year deal to become the new starting quarterback for the team in a one-year, $10 million deal according to ESPN. The reason he came out of “retirement” because he felt he had a shot of continuing his football career and he gets to work with coach Adam Gase, who was with him in 2015 during his most production season of his career.  Cutler was released from the Bears in March.

So much for the No Fumble Zone.

The news of Cutler skipping out on Fox is the latest embarrassment for the broadcast network and owner 21st Century Fox – yours truly laid out some of those reasons in The Cutler Factor article back in May with the biggest blunder letting American Idol go to ABC after a “final season” in 2016 did better than Fox executives thought. Fox Sports must have known Cutler never signed his retirement papers and kept his options open. Now they are left scrambling with weeks to go before the season starts.

On a more serious note, many people on social media claimed Cutler only got the job over similarly unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick because of his stance (or kneel) during the National Anthem last year, raising cries of Kaepernick being blackballed.

As for Cutler, many questioned whether or not he would be a good analyst given his often poor play on the field and his off-putting persona off the field. Now we’ll never know given it is unlikely Cutler would get hired as analyst at Fox or anywhere else after his career ends since he skipped out on them.

Then again, given the stupidity of management running the major networks these days, Cutler might have a post-career home after all, aspiring to become the next Tim McCarver.

And if his new Dolphins gig doesn’t work out and can’t get an analyst job, he can always get a position as a judge or even a co-host on American Idol. Without Simon Cowell, the show is in need for jerks and lord knows head jerk Ryan Seacrest can’t fill the bill alone.

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NBC at TCA: Will & Grace renewed for a second season already

And other peacock network notes

It was NBC day at the Television Critics Association press tour and the show everyone was talking about of course was the return of Will & Grace after 11 years off the air, while another big draw as This Is Us.

Ahead of the Will & Grace presentation, NBC renewed the series for a second season, even before the revival returns on September 28. The series’ first season episode order has already been extended from ten episodes to sixteen. The sitcom originally ran on NBC from 1998 to 2006 and ran in off-network syndication from 2002 to 2008 (Warner Bros. handled syndication as NBC did not have a syndication company at the time of selling the show.) The sitcom became the first to feature two gay characters.

During the presentation, producers and cast members talked about how great it was to be back. For one, the series will not pick up where it left off – meaning the events of the 2006 finale – is not being considered canon.

“We aren’t going to be writing the show like it’s 1997,” said co-creator David Kohan, who will return along with co-creator Max Mutchnick and director James Burrows. “We will be writing the show as if these four are living in 2017. We have fantastic young talent in that writing room keeping us on our toes and keeping it fresh.”

The program – which released a viral video last November urging people to vote – will tackle political and pop culture issues – and this day and age, there is plenty of material to mine from.

The other big presentation at NBC was for hit drama This Is Us, which had a blockbuster freshman season. At the panel, some plot details were revealed: The Big Three celebrates their 37th birthday (don’t ask); Kevin is working on a film Ron Howard is producing (but not narrating) which Sylvester Stallone (appearing in a guest arc) is appearing in.

In other NBC news at TCA:

NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt touched upon a number of issues during the executive session of the press tour, including a new female directors’ initiative and the scrapped the idea of moving This Is Us to Thursday after reservations from advertisers and viewers – though the interruption from Thursday Night Football in late November and December was the main reason.

As the top-rated network in the key 18-49 demo, Greenblatt felt he didn’t need to make significant changes, other than add back Will & Grace, of course.


In the upcoming Law & Order True Crime: The Melendez Murders, creator Dick Wolf said you’re going to get a version of the show different than any other. ‘This is a show that has an agenda,” Wolf said. “Your mind is going to receive information that I think will change a lot of people’s attitudes.”

Brothers Lyle and Erik Melendez killed their parents in Beverly Hills in August 1989, rkicking off a trend of similar events involving wealthy people, murders, and intrigue. The trial captured the nation’s attention as it became the first of its kind to be televised. New details surfaced about the case recently, and is being presented in this limited-run eight-part series as Edie Falco plays the brothers’ defense attorney.

The adaption is the latest in a number of fare as audiences continue to feast on real-life true crime stories – notably FX’s ratings and critical success with The People vs. O.J. Simpson last year.

Wolf said after doing 27 years of different variations of Law & Order – including several “ripped from the headlines” episodes, he said this new project is on a different level – and it will be different, that’s for sure.

Watch the trailer below:


In Steve Harvey’s presentation for his new revamped daytime talk show titled Steve, Harvey said he wanted the show to be more of a “late-night” version of a talk show during the day.

“I created a concept with (exec producer) Shane (Farley),” said Harvey. “I wanted to bring late night TV to daytime. I think that’s what’s missing. After doing daytime for five years, no one watches daytime for takeaway anymore. They need to just laugh in the middle of the day, I’ve been restricted on that in the past five years. People need to have a place to go to laugh instead of waiting until 11 p.m. at night.”

From what yours truly is able to comprehend from this, Steve is following the format from the early years of Rosie O’Donnell’s daytime show, which had a monologue, human interest stories, and field pieces – segments Harvey plan to have on his show (Martin Short and Caroline Rhea also had a similar format during their short-lived runs.)

As for that infamous “memo”, Harvey said he learned some things: “Number one, I can’t write and I should never write.”

Seeing all the junk in this era of “Peak TV”, the television industry is grateful.

Despite the move from Chicago to Los Angeles and the format and production company change, Steve remains cleared on NBC-owned stations for next season including WMAQ-TV here. Harvey’s other syndicated project (Family Feud) is also moving back to Los Angeles next season after several years in Atlanta.

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CBS at TCA: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Network talks about new shows, but comes up short on diversity. Again.

In what has been the case for the last several years, CBS’ presentation at the summer edition of the Television Critics Association tour has always been the most controversial. And this year’s was no different.

Several reporters grilled The Church Of Tisch Tuesday on diversity, or the lack thereof. CBS made news for failing to renew the contracts of two Asian-American actors on Hawaii Five-O since the network refused to match the pay of their white counterparts. For the second consecutive year, the network has almost all-white male meads in its programming – especially when it comes to freshman shows.

Network president Kelly Kahl (who replaced Glenn Geller, who retired due to health issues) defended his network’s diversity record. “We have two shows with diverse leads this year that we didn’t have on the schedule last year. We have a midseason show with a lead character who’s gay. And over the last few years, if you look at the number of diverse series regulars, that’s up almost 60 percent.”

However, Variety TV Critic Maureen Ryan noted there wasn’t a single person of color in CBS’ casting department.

Race issues are nothing new to CBS – and you can only look to Chicago to see what a problem it is. In 1985, CBS-owned WBBM-TV was boycotted by Operation PUSH after the station demoted longtime anchor Harry Porterfield, resulting in the station dropping into the local news ratings basement just two years alter. In 2011, the station drew ire from black leaders and Rep. Bobby Rush after they maliciously edited a video stating a four-year stating wanted to be a “gangbanger” when he grew up.

The Honolulu market where Five-O is based is more than 60 percent Asian – even the original version with Jack Lord had Asian cast members, while another Hawaii-set crime drama (Magnum P.I.) regularly featured Asian actors. So it’s no surprise the network continues to fumble the ball when it comes to diversity. The network continues to be run like it was when penny-pinching Larry Tisch owned the place – even as The Church Of Tisch claims to be “America’s Most Watched Network.”

Kahl stated “there is change happening on CBS.” Sorry, dude – we’re not seeing it.

In other CBS TCA news:

Keeping in the diversity theme, the reboot of the classic ABC series SWAT does have an African-American lead (Shemar Moore) and at TCA, producers said they plan to show both sides of the Blue Lives Matter/Black Lives Matter debate as police brutality continues to be a hot-button topic.

“It’s not Black Lives Matter. It’s All Lives Matter. … It’s fear, it’s racism, it’s terrorism.”, Moore pointed out to critics at the tour. Rockford native Shawn Ryan, who created cop dramas The Shield and Chicago Code, said “I think you can be pro-police and also pro-truth” when asked how the show would balance between the two viewpoints. The worst thing the show could do however, is offending both sides, and it may be a recipe for a quick cancellation.

The original series  – a spinoff of ABC’s The Rookies, was not a success, lasting just fourteen months between 1975 and 1976 – and an unsuccessful 2003 movie – which questions why CBS would reboot this turd of a series, which already looks like a waste. The only thing notable about this bland show was the instrumental theme song went to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100.


At the panel for Star Trek: Discovery, producers revealed more about the upcoming series on CBS’ All-Access streaming service. For one, the series is set in the universe before the original Star Trek. Another twist is serializing episodes – something Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did in its later seasons. “This is by far the most serialized version of Star Trek that has ever existed”, said executive producer Avika Goldsman. “It’s long-form character storytelling.”

Also noted is the reason why the series premiere was pushed back to September of this year from its original May 2016 and January 2017 dates – so they can deliver the best possible version of the show. Former showrunner Bryan Fuller (of “Pushing Daisies” fame) left his mark on the show by redesigning the show’s sets and its characters – notably the Klingons and using a male name for a woman on the show.

At the tour, CBS announced three new original series for All Access: dramas Strange Angel and $1, and a new comedy from Will Arnett, No Activity.

As for Discovery, the pilot episode premieres Sept. 24 on CBS after 60 Minutes, with the second episode being made available to CBS All-Access subscribers immediately afterward. From that point a new episode of Discovery debuts every Sunday.


Chuck Lorre admitted he is a “nervous wreck” preparing for the launch of Young Sheldon, the Big Bang spinoff set to debut this fall – mainly because if it so different than the other sitcoms he used to work on. “It’s an entirely different animal, Lorre said. It’s a wholly different way to tell a story and the working process is very different. It’s much slower. But the end result is something to be proud of, really. I love the pilot.”, referring to the show’s single-camera format – a first for Lorre.

Young Sheldon of course, is the spin-off prequel to The Big Bang Theory. CBS felt since the series – with nine-year old Iain Armitage in the title role as nine-year old Sheldon Cooper, should be shot in the format. In other words, it’ll be closer to ABC’s single-cam family sitcoms (The Goldbergs, black-ish, etc.) than the traditional CBS sitcom. In fact, Lorre said The Wonder Years – an ABC first single-cam sitcom from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, was the inspiration for Young Sheldon.

Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon on Big Bang, provides the narrative voiceover for Young Sheldon and is the executive producer. The show debuts on Sept. 25.


As expected, The producers of Kevin Can Wait has opted not to recast Erinn Hayes role in the series as they decided to eliminate the character altogether by killing her off and jumping ahead in time. Hayes decided to leave the show after casting Kevin James’ former co-star Leah Remini on a permanent basis.

All they need to do now is bring in Jerry Stiller and rechristen it The King Of Queens 2.0.

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Fox, Ion to hook up?

 

 

 

 

 

The move meant to send a message to Sinclair

According to a report in Bloomberg, 21st Century Fox is reportedly in talks with Ion networks about a partnership which would let them operate a large number of Fox affiliates in several markets.

Moreover, the move could strip Fox affiliates in many Sinclair markets, including those being picked up in a transaction from Tribune Broadcasting, owner of fourteen Fox affiliates.

The move would pair Ion’s 60 stations – including company-owned WCPX-TV here in Chicago, with Fox’s 28 stations – including Fox-owned duopolies WFLD and CW affiliate WPWR. Ion would take over 26 Fox affiliates in markets where Sinclair has a Fox affiliate. If the deal between Sinclair and Tribune holds, Sinclair would own 28 percent of Fox’s affiliates not owned by the network.

The relationship between Fox and Sinclair has soured considerably since the latter outbid them to buy Tribune, owner of WGN-TV here. Fox is concerned Sinclair would have tremendous leverage in terms of negotiations from retransmission consent revenue to pre-emptions over network programming. There were also rumors Sinclair would start a conservative news network to compete with Fox News, with Sinclair has denied.

Sinclair already owns or operates Fox affiliates in Pittsburgh, Baltimore (where there is no Ion affiliate), San Antonio, Buffalo, and Champaign-Springfield, among others. Tribune would contribute Fox affiliates in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, San Diego, Grand Rapids, and Harrisburg,Pa. among others.

It is not clear how the new partnership would work since talks are in particularly in the preliminary stages. If this deal can be pulled off, it would trigger perhaps the biggest affiliation change in history – Fox was behind the last major swap in 1994, when twelve major-market stations owned by New World Communications became Fox affiliates. Two of them – WJW in Cleveland and WITI in Milwaukee – are now owned by Tribune.

A few weeks ago, T Dog Media profiled Ion, a little known network formed out of the ashes of the failed Pax network. In recent years, the network has mainly focused on reruns of procedural shows while airing very little original programming with the lone “original” show on the schedule is Canadian import Saving Hope, which had an earlier run on NBC. Ion praised the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount, allowing Sinclair to buy Tribune.

Many believe the news may be nothing more than a negotiating ploy, something Fox is known for. A few years ago, Fox nearly purchased two low-power stations on the fringes of the Seattle market to replace Tribune’s KCPQ-TV as a Fox affiliate because Tribune would not sell the station to them (an affiliation deal was later struck with KCPQ.) In 2013, Fox threatened to take its programming to cable if Aereo – which took broadcast signals and redistributed them via the internet without consent – was allowed to continue. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Aereo and the company later folded.

 

 

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There’s some (forgotten) gold in those hills: Hulu, Antenna TV acquire “new” sitcom classics

A 1994 photo of the “Full House” cast.

Late ’80’s, ’90s sitcoms making comeback on Hulu, Antenna TV

At a time when multi-cam sitcoms are fading away faster than the pavement on the Dan Ryan Expressway, the genre seems to be making a comeback – on Hulu and Antenna TV, at least.

Last week, Hulu announced it struck a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution to acquire five sitcoms that made up the nucleus of ABC’s popular TGIF block: Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Step By Step, and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. All five multi-cam series launch on the subscription video-on-demand service Sept. 29.

The news was announced during Hulu’s portion of Television Critics Association press tour.

While one would never confuse ABC’s TGIF with NBC’s Must-See TV on Thursdays (just ask any TV critic), the programming block drew in a family-friendly audience during the late 1980’s and 1990s. The block was so popular, CBS tried to duplicate it by stealing Family Matters and Step By Step away from ABC in 1997 in a $40 million deal for their own Friday night programming block, lasting only a few months. Both were canceled in 1998.

Several weeks ago, Tribune Media-owned diginet Antenna TV made a retro sitcom pickup of their own, also snaring a deal with Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Television for sitcoms Benson, Silver SpoonsSoap, Alice, Growing Pains, Murphy Brown, The Hogan Family, Head of The Class.

Antenna TV also acquired Welcome Back Kotter, a sitcom airing from 1975 to 1979.

The retro-movement sitcom comes as more and more platforms become available to air these classic shows – some of these not airing in years. The syndication track record for these of these shows are mixed – while sitcoms such as Full House, Kotter, and Family Matters had successful runs in both broadcast syndication and cable, others such as Perfect Strangers, Murphy Brown, Soap, and Head Of The Class faded away quickly in the off-network afterlife.

As for one of those off-net successes, Matters was sold in syndication on an all-barter basis in 1993 on a two-year contract, becoming only the second sitcom to do so, after Designing Women. Due to its success, the series was sold for a all-cash second syndication cycle in 1995 and a third cycle in 2001. The series’ off-network run also aired on Canada’s CBC.

While local stations and Netflix are cutting more and more off-network programming out of their lineups, Hulu and diginets such as Antenna TV are picking up the slack. Recently, Hulu made numerous acquisitions, including a huge number of catalog series from 20th Century Fox including Mary Tyler Moore, M*A*S*H, and Bob Newhart , and numerous animated series such as Bob’s Burgers and Futurama. Earlier, Hulu struck a deal to stream Golden Girls and Seinfeld reruns.

The one oddity out of this deal is the sequel series to Full HouseFuller House, airs on Netflix.

Antenna TV meanwhile, is also acquiring sitcom product despite Tribune Media’s pending sale to Sinclair Broadcasting. Antenna already airs a bunch of sitcoms from the’ 80s and ’90s, including Doogie Howser M.D., Newhart, My Two Dads, Mr. Belvedere, and the live-action version of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Many of these titles however, did not have success in off-network the first time around and some already air in the graveyard shift on the diginet.

But the good news is, the newer acquisitions are coming so they can also be buried in overnight time slots, because if they didn’t watch them the first time round in reruns…what makes anyone think they would watch them now? While I can see the nostalgia factor for Full House and Family Matters, yours truly doesn’t see it for Murphy Brown or The Hogan Family.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: WCIU finally launches new morning show “The Jam”

Also: Chicago White Sox gets a ratings boost; Discovery merges with Scripps; Chicago R&B star to appear in new daily show.

If you blinked, you might have missed the premiere of The Jam, WCIU’s new morning show premiering Monday with little fanfare. Announced back in June, The Jam unveiled its format and its hosts: Jordan Cornette, Felicia Lawrence, and Danielle Robay. The new effort replaced You & Me, which had its final broadcast Friday. The former interim host of You & Me (Jon Hansen) is now a on-air contributor for the show.

Weigel’s Head of Local Programming and Creative Steve Bailey said: “The Jam” represents the core of what it means to be a Chicagoan. It’s upbeat, it’s witty, it’s fearless, it’s in your face and its community oriented. Our hosts are unapologetic in their delivery and tapped into what’s going on around the city. ‘The Jam’ is here, and we’re ready to wake Chicagoans up and get them pumped for their day.” Bailey also added: “The Jam” dares to be different. It’s how we separate ourselves from our competition. On-air contributor Jon Hansen is out in the streets using everyday Chicagoans to give weather updates throughout the show. It not only looks different than other morning TV shows, but it sounds different too. We have a house DJ in studio providing a morning mix to get the day started.”

Indeed, The Jam does sound different from the other morning shows – it’s not likely you’re going to see a DJ spinning tunes on CBS This Morning – though Good Morning America might since it has a studio audience.

Guests for The Jam’s inaugural week include pop artist Alessia Cara, former Parkers star Monique , and Che “Rhymefest” Smith, who composed music for the show.


Finally, some good ratings news in a lost season for the Chicago White Sox – the debut of prospect Yoan Moncada boosted viewership for the South Side team on July 19 with a strong 2.2 Nielsen household rating for CSN Chicago, up 144 percent from the season average of 0.9, according to Awful Announcing. The game earned the second highest-rating for the White Sox this year, only behind the 2.8 for the Crosstown Cup game last Wednesday night.

As you know by now, the White Sox are embarking on a rebuild process (there’s that word again) in order to become more competitive in the future. The plan has been positively been received by White Sox fans, despite losses piling up.

As of this writing, Moncada was involved in a collision in right field with another player during Monday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Moncada is day-today with a right knee contusion. Monday’s game was also carried in Spanish on CSN Plus, with Ozzie Guillen as a commentator. As for the game? The White Sox beat the Blue Jays in a thrilling, come-from-behind 7-6 victory.


A female R&B star originally from the Chicago area is joining the cast of a new daytime talk show for TV One. Syleena Johnson (who else you thought I was referring to…wink, wink) is one of four women fronting the new Sister Circle, slated to premiere September 11 weekday mornings at 9 a.m. ET, or 8 a.m. in Chicago.

Targeted to black women, the show producers said Sister Circle “will empower and inspire African-American women and include news and insights on relationships, parenting, fitness, personal finances, the latest trends and the joys and frustrations of everyday life, all from the compelling, humorous and sincere perspective of the show’s hosts.”

In addition to Johnson, the program features three other contributors: Quad-Webb Luncefors, of the reality TV series Married to Medicine; radio and TV host Rashan Ali, and stand-up comedienne Kiana Dancie. The show’s DJ is the lone guy on the show, DJ Q.

The program is being produced in Atlanta by Tegna, who also plans to air the program on twelve of its over-the-air TV stations. Tegna did not release a list of markets (other than Atlanta) carrying the show, and declined to say if it would sell the series in syndication. In the meantime, the only way to view Sister Circle outside of those twelve markets (including Chicago) is on TV One, which is available on many cable and satellite providers.

Born and raised in south suburban Harvey, Johnson is the daughter of 1960’s soul singer Syl Johnson, and has released eight studio albums, working with music luminaries such as Buddy Guy and R. Kelly. Johnson has been nominated for four MTV Music Video Awards, in addition to one BET Award and one Grammy nomination. Her music has been played on both WVAZ-FM and WGCI.


The owner of Oprah Winfrey’s cable network is now part of a bigger portfolio: Discovery Communications announced Monday it was acquiring Scripps Networks Interactive for $14.6 billion, or $90 a share in a cash-and-stock transaction. With the merger, both will have approximately 8,000 hours of original programming and 300,000 hours of library content.

In addition to OWN, Discovery owns the Discovery Channel (of course) and its numerous cable network spinoffs; TLC; Animal Planet; and Eurosport. Scripps’ brings HGTV, Food Network (Tribune as a minority interest); Travel Channel, DIY, Cooking Channel, and Great American Country. Scripps Networks Interactive is also a co-producer of Rachael Ray’s syndicated talk show, with Harpo Productions and CBS.

Viacom put in a bid for Scripps Networks last week, but pulled its offer, essentially sealing Discovery’s purchase of the company.

The deal does not involve Scripps’ broadcast television and radio stations, which are a separate company. Scripps Interactive spun off from E.W. Scripps in 2008.

The move comes as cable content providers are seeing their revenues drop as more and more viewers are “cutting the cord”, or dropping their cable or satellite subscriptions – in some cases, switching to streaming services. The acquisition by Discovery is basically on scale to leverage themselves better against pay-TV providers such as Comcast and Charter, the latter recently acquiring Time Warner Cable.

Discovery put together a video touting the acquisition of Scripps (and using none of that “tronc” speak…)

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Chicago Crosstown Cup baseball games draws viewers

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted on Tumblr July 27 due to a site outage and has been updated from the original. Contains strong language – reader discretion is advised. – T.H.) 

You can always count on the Crosstown Cup to draw viewers in Chicago.

No matter what side you’re on (disclosure: yours truly is a fan of the team in black), we can all agree: the real winners are the game of baseball and television in general.

After two daytime games at Wrigley Field, Wednesday night’s contest between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox shifted to primetime at Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side. The series has added juice this year as the Cubs are now defending World Series champions – winning the title for the first time in 108 years. Meanwhile, the White Sox – the 2005 World Series Champions,have embarked on a full-scale rebuild (there’s that word again.)

According to Nielsen via the Chicago Tribune, the nearly four-hour game earned a combined 10.4 rating over three channels, easily beating everything in primetime. Breaking it down, Cubs rightsholder WLS-TV finished with the largest share of viewers with a 6.5 household rating.

The White Sox telecast on CSN Chicago averaged a 2.4 Nielsen rating, their highest of the season. As the rebuild progresses (and the losses pile up), ratings for White Sox baseball has been abysmal so far this season, averaging a 0.8 rating at the All-Star break.

Finally, ESPN broadcast the game nationally with a 1.5 rating locally, and did a respectable 0.6 national rating, on par with recent Wednesday Night Baseball games. White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti (who’ll assume full-time duties after Ken “Hawk” Harrelson retires in 2019,) handled play-by-play with former Cubs stars David Ross and Rick Sutcliffe in a fun and enjoyable telecast.

The Cubs took three out of four in the Crosstown Cup. The victory by the White Sox Monday was their only one in the last thirteen.

Numbers for the first two games, and Thursday night ratings results, were not available at press time. Cubs and White Sox broadcasts alternated between CSN and either WLS (for the Cubs) or WGN (for the White Sox.)

Despite the perceived animosity between the two clubs, the series has managed to avoid  the bad blood experienced during the Los Angeles Dodgers-Anaheim Angels Freeway series last month, which saw both teams in a bench-clearing incident during the series and videos of fans of both teams fighting in Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium – quite notable in laid-back Southern California.

But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been controversy. During Tuesday’s game, Cubs pitcher John Lackey hit four White Sox batters while afterward, one White Sox player hit a Cub player in retaliation, drawing a warning from umpires toward both benches. During the telecast on WGN, Harrelson said: “That’s enough of that B.S. Let’s see which one of your boys is going to get drilled…or maybe you.”.

And speaking to the media Wednesday, Hawk did not back down: “I was hoping that they would drill his ass big time because he’s an idiot. At that point, the game was not the issue. It was Lackey. He’s in the pennant race. This is a big-boy game. There’s no bullshit here. He’s putting [Kris] Bryant and [Anthony] Rizzo in jeopardy.”

Hawk added: “He’s full of shit, and you can print that,” Harrelson said. “He’s full of it. He always has been.”

In an era where even the most minor NBA news is a big deal to the national sports media, It’s stuff like this that makes the Crosstown Cup always entertaining. And you can put THAT on the board.

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Comic-Con Notepad: Vol. 2

A panel for the Fox animated series “Bob’s Burgers”. (Fox.com)

TV shows, trailers dominate for the second day

(Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Tumblr due to a recent site outage. A trailer to “The Defenders” and “The Punisher” – which weren’t linked in the original Tumblr post were added and the original YouTube video for the “Rick And Morty” panel was replaced. – T.H.) 

Friday’s Comic-Con from San Diego featured tons of panels and trailers from movies and TV shows. Presenters this day ran the gamut from The Big Bang Theory to Bob’s Burgers, from Archer to The Walking Dead to Game of Thrones, who season premiere set viewership records for HBO on July 16.


Friday was a big day for Marvel Television as the outfit made announcement and released trailers regarding several television series, including the most buzzed-about show, The Defenders.

The pilot – which brings together the stars of four Marvel Netflix series – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage – was screened in Hall H Friday to a very surprised and raucous crowd. On hand were Charlie Cox (Daredevil) Krysten Ritter (Jones) Mike Colter (Cage) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist) and the President of Marvel Television, Jeph Loeb, who quipped “Let’s face it — we have a guy who was in a bad Ben Affleck movie, a character no one had ever heard of who drinks a lot, the first black superhero and a guy with a glowing [fist].”

On stage, the stars talked a little about the show – including the drinking, fighting, lawyering up, and of course, the physical sex.

Yes, this isn’t the failed CBS legal drama Defenders from 2010, a different series featuring Jim Belushi (more on him below.) And it certainly isn’t the unrelated 1960s court drama of the same name. Defenders debuts August 18.

A second trailer of The Defenders debuted at Comic-Con: you can view it here.

Meanwhile, Loeb announced a second-season renewal for Iron Fist, which wasn’t critically received as well as the other Marvel Netflix series. And a trailer was shown for yet another Marvel/Netflix series The Punisher, a spin-off (of sorts) from Daredevil. You can view the trailer here.

Another Marvel series debuting this fall (The Inhumans) will be covered in the third volume of T Dog Media’s Comic-Con Notepad.


The series’ slow ratings start did little to dampen the enthusiasm for the first-ever Twin Peaks Comic-Con panel held Friday, which featured an unannounced appearance by series creator David Lynch – via video. Moderated by Leftovers producer and creator Damon Lindelof, who said the original Peaks changed his life, and pointed out the Golden Age of Drama wouldn’t exist without its presence. On the video, Lynch was making O.J. Simpson jokes and was constantly interrupted by an intruder in a running gag (the ‘90s never leave some people.)

Afterwards, the rest of the cast came out to talk to Lindelof and answered questions from the crowd. Much of the cast talked about what it felt like working for Lynch. Per Deadline: “When you’re reading a David Lynch script you don’t know where it’s going to go. I got to the scene in Episode 9; it was intimidating, the scariest scariest thing I ever read as an actor. In the middle of it, the character breaks down sobbing,” said Matthew Lillard, who plays William Hastings on the show.

Jim Belushi (yes, he’s in this. Really.) tried to have a little fun by improvising at the panel by going off-script. Kyle MacLachlan, who was in the original ABC series told him impersonating Lynch: “Mr. Belushi, do I have to report you to the principal’s office?”

Belushi starred in the critically panned movie The Principal 30 years ago.

Twin Peaks airs on Showtime on Sunday nights.


In the world of film, comics guru Todd McFarlane and production house Blumhouse are teaming up for a new Spawn movie, due out in theaters next year. In a statement released during Comic-Con, the duo plan to produce the follow-up to the 1997 theatrical release, which grossed $87.8 million worldwide. Published by Image Comics, Spawn has “spawned” (no pun intended) several media-related spinoffs, including an HBO animated series Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and two video and one arcade game. An animated revival was announced in 2009, but no further information on the status of this project was available.

The story of Spawn centers around an Detroit-born ex-Marine named Al Simmons, whose soul is sent to hell after being held responsible for the deaths of several people while he was working in a highly classified unit within the CIA. After making a deal with an evil character named Malebolgia, he gets to see his wife again, but is sent back to Earth as a creature and finds out his ex-wife is remarried to his best friend (now there’s a Jerry Springer episode in the making.)

The comic book is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, first released in 1992.


(Politico)

And here’s someone you wouldn’t expect to see at Comic-Con, but glad you did: On Saturday, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) led a “march” through Comic-Con – as in, presenting his trilogy of his critically-acclaimed graphic novels March. The civil rights icon made the presentation in San Diego along with co-writers Andrew Aylin and Nate Powell and received a standing ovation from the close to 1,000 people in attendance.

The books are based on the real-life experiences Rep. Lewis had during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. The first book is about Lewis’ early life and how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong influence. The second book on the the Freedom Riders campaign and the Birmingham Church bombing, and the third book recounts the obstacles African-Americans had in the South – culminating in 1965’s Bloody Sunday showdown in Selma, Ala.

And after the panel discussion, Lewis led an actual march through the San Diego Convention Center. And to top it off, the book’s third volume received a Will Eisner award for best reality-based material later that evening; the second volume won the Eisner award in 2016. The three volumes won four other awards, including the Coretta Scott KIng (Author) Book Award and the YALSA AWArd for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

I’d say not a bad haul for a great man – and a great collection.


Thought I throw this in: although a little bit away from the main convention center, Turner’s adult swim held their Comic-Con panels at the Indigo Hilton Bayfront. While little in the way of actual news was announced, at least the panels were entertaining, including the one from Rick and Morty. You can view it here.

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