T Dog’s Grab Bag: CBS, AT&T sign retransmission deal

Reach out and touch someone…. No, not there. Or there. The Grab Bag:

– CBS AT&T . CBS Corp. and AT & T have signed a brand new retransmission consent deal, covering all CBS-owned stations (which includes CBS, CW, and independent stations), Showtime, The Smithsonian Channel, and CBS Sports Network. Locally, the deal covers CBS-owned WBBM-TV over all AT&T U-Verse systems. Terms were not disclosed.

– Good news for Chicago Comcast customers clamoring for Bounce TV: the digital subchannel network is now available on Xfinity channel 361. Bounce is on a digital subchannel of Weigel’s WWME-CA, at OTA 23.2, which does not cover the entire market. Meanwhile, Bounce signed another deal with Fox Television Stations to carry the network on the subchannels of MyNetworkTV affiliates in Phoenix (KUTP), Minneapolis (WFTC) and Orlando (WRBW). Earlier, Fox signed subchannel deals with Bounce in New York (WWOR), Los Angeles (KCOP), Dallas (KDFI), and Baltimore (WUTB).

Bounce targets African-American audiences in the 25-54 demographic with general entertainment programming. The network launched on September 26, 2011 with the 1978 theatrical The Wiz.

– As first reported by Chicagoland Radio & Media Friday, Fox’s WPWR is launching a weekly local program on Saturday nights – one that does some good for the community. Titled Crime Stoppers Case Files – Chicago, the half-hour series focuses on two unsloved Chicago-area crimes per week and asks viewers for help to being the fugitives to justice, similar in vein to America’s Most Wanted, which moved from Fox to Lifetime last year. Chicagoan Lisette Guillen is host of Crime Stoppers and also doubles as executive producer.

Produced by Pinpoint Media, Crime Stoppers launches on September 29 at 11:00 p.m. on WPWR. Pinpoint also produces local versions of Crime Stoppers for stations in Los Angeles, Miami, and Cleveland.

– The Chicago White Sox may be having a hard time drawing fans to The Cell during its pennant run, but the team is faring better in the ratings – and outdrawing the rival Cubs in the process. According to the Sun-Times, the White Sox’s season average on Comcast SportsNet is a 2.0 household rating, while the Cubs is a 1.9. On WGN-TV, the gap is even wider – Sox games are averaging a 3.6, while the Cubs – once a huge draw for the Tribune-owned station, win or lose – has a 1.9, identical to CSN’s numbers. While the Sox’s numbers are good, they could be better- casual fans are being siphoned away by more original first-run summer programming on both cable and broadcast, and alternatives such as Netflix and Hulu.

And in order to read the article just to read the ratings, I had to suffer through read Rick Telander’s asinine column. Hey Telander – you’re a sportswriter for a major Chicago newspaper – you don’t work for TMZ or Nikki Finke, so stop writing like you do.

– Yes, even television stations can go out of business – WKDH-TV, an ABC affiliate serving the Columbus-Tupelo, Miss. market (the 133rd largest in the country), closed its doors on Friday after just eleven years. The financially struggling and ratings-challenged station was owned by Southern Broadcasting, but was operated by the owners of NBC affiliate WTVA in an local marketing agreement. After declining to renew the agreement with WKDH, WTVA and ABC opted to move the network to the station’s 9.2 digital subchannel, where programming will be shown in HD. WKDH signed off Friday night at 11:59 p.m.

Station closures are nothing new – a bunch of UHF stations ceased operation in the 1950’s, when tuners to receive UHF channels were sparse. But in recent years, they have been very rare: on August 30, 1983, Philadelphia’s WKBS-TV signed off for good after failing to find a buyer for the station after Field Communications (who also owned WFLD in Chicago) dissolved. On August 31, 2009, CHCA-TV in Red Deer, Alberta went dark after 52 years on the air, due to financial pressures (if there’s a coincidence, its these stations died off in the month of August.)

Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley and is also headquarters of Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association.

– It’s a Birmingham news smackdown! New Vision Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate WIAT in Birmingham aired an investigation into Alabama Retirement Systems – a publicly funded pension program who also happens to own Montgomery, Ala.-based Raycom Media, which owns rival Fox affiliate WBRC-TV. In the investigation, WIAT asks why Alabama’s tourism department spent so much money on Raycom-owned stations (which are more than 40 of) to promote the state after the Gulf Coast Oil Spill in the form of BP television ads (some of those ads even aired here in the Chicago area, where Raycom does not own a station.) This comes as the pension system in Alabama is in danger of collapse, thanks to bad investments and reckless spending.

To see the report, click here.

Raycom CEO Paul McTear dismissed WIAT’s report, telling Broadcasting & Cable’s Michael Malone: “A station, or a general manager, who doesn’t like what happened and is making a legal case out of nothing.”

WIAT officials defend the reports, noting RSA wields a lot of clout in Alabama and in the South through RSA and Raycom, who owns four stations in Alabama alone, and several more in the Gulf Coast region (ironically, Raycom does not own a station in Mobile, Ala.)

The investigative reports have generated positive reviews for WIAT (see comments section in B&C story) – not bad for a station whose news department (as the former WBMG) was once derided for its amateurish presentation and weak ratings performance – at one time, its 10 p.m. local newscasts were beaten by reruns of Sanford & Son. WIAT’s newscasts now rank behind WBRC’s and the station – which once earned a measly one overall share – is now one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the nation.

WIAT is tied for third overall in annual revenue in the Birmingham market, while WBRC – a former ABC affiliate purchased by Fox in 1994 and has been owned by Raycom since 2009, ranks first. Prior to ABC, WBRC also had affiliations with NBC (1949-54) and CBS (1954-61).  WIAT is being sold to LIN Corporation, who also owns soon-to-be sister station WISH in Indianapolis.

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