Playoffs? Playoffs? Mora demoted, Johnson promoted

No, we’re not talking about former NFL coach Jim Mora talking about not going to the playoffs.

But if WBBM’s newscasts were a sports team, it wouldn’t make the playoffs. And as a result, changes must be made.

And so, Antonio Mora is out and Rob Johnson is in after a shakeup at CBS-owned WBBM-TV’s perennially low-rated 10 p.m. newscast.

This comes after WBBM has lost some steam against Fox-owned WFLD-TV’s newly launched news show at 10, with the upstart beating the veteran on some nights in household ratings.

Johnson will take over the anchor chair alongside Diann Burns effective immediately. Mora will only do the station’s 6 p.m. news and the station’s Sunday morning newsmagazine show, Eye On Chicago.

Mora has eighteen months left to go on his contract. Odds are he may be looking for someplace else to work after that.

WBBM’s 10 p.m. newscast has lagged behind its rivals, far from the days when Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson headed the newscast, which was No. 1 in the ratings from the mid-1970’s to the mid-1980’s.

Even CBS’ successful prime-time lineup hasn’t helped the station. In fact, CBS programs have done poorly in Chicago, with over-the-air signal issues and a high channel number (for a broadcast station) on Comcast cable systems (22 on most systems.) Only Ion’s WCPX has a higher channel number. Plus, WLS-TV’s two-decades dominance (with the still very popular Oprah Winfrey show) doesn’t help either.

Even shows like Survivor and CSI haven’t attracted the same buzz in Chicago as Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives has.

And WMAQ-TV’s 10 p.m. newscast hasn’t been hurt much by the network’s weak prime-time lineup (not so much for other NBC stations – although some, like WRC in Washington, D.C. and KUSA in Denver have kept their ratings dominance.)

On the bright side for WBBM, it’s 5 p.m. newscast with Johnson beats WMAQ’s (thanks to the Dr.Phil lead in.)

Still, in a market like Chicago, where a lot is passed down from generation to generation – which now includes WLS’ newscasts – and at a time when other viewers are tuning out local newscasts and primetime altogether, thanks to the continuing fragmentation of the audience and use of DVRs – it’s going to be harder than ever for WBBM-TV to attract viewers to its 10 p.m. newscast.

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