Hello, and welcome back to T Dog Media!
Here are some notable news and notes from the last two weeks:
Tom Doerr has resigned as news director of Fox-owned WFLD-TV here in Chicago after just three years and six years overall at the station. Doerr is heading back to Florida to deal with personal family issues.
During his tenure, ratings for WFLD have failed to move upward. Although WFLD did manage to tie WGN-TV at 9 p.m. in the 25-54 demo one month recently, the station still lags behind its competitors in other time periods.
The station recently launched new weekend morning newscasts, but still hasn’t launched a weekday late afternoon newscast – in fact, WFLD is the only Fox station in a top ten market not to have a 5 p.m. newscast.
Problems continued under Doerr as they have under previous news directors – low morale, high turnover of staff, and of course, continued low ratings. WFLD has had four new directors in four years.
WFLD’s 9 p.m. format is a mess. Of note is sports caster Lou Canellis appearing seven minutes into the show giving his take on a particular sports story. The segment has no place in the first fifteen minutes into a newscast -especially at the expense of more important stories. Five years ago, WFLD lead off a newscast with the NFL Lockout before the top story of the day, an huge earthquake in Japan. And that was THREE news directors ago.
And you wonder why the station is still in last place after all these years.
Good news for fans of Garry Meier: the radio legend is scheduled to launch his new podcast venture on March 12. Co-hosting with him is Leslie Keiling, who was also with him on his former WGN-AM radio afternoon show. The podcasts will be available on GarryMeier.com.
No word on if the podcasts’ would be available on major platforms (iTunes, Stitcher, Tune In, Google Play, etc.) or how often the podcasts would be available. Meier promises more details would be coming soon.
It looks like all signs are pointing to a renewal of the X-Files for another season as the six-episode season wrapped up on February 22. Despite a lukewarm reception among critics, X-Files never dropped below a 2 rating (18-49) and won its Monday time slot.
Meanwhile, reruns of the original series have been sold by Twentieth Television to My Network TV for a yet to be determined weeknight slot, airing back to back episodes starting this fall. The original X-Files is also returning to weekend syndication, thanks to a deal made by the Fox-owned stations. Reruns of the sci-fi series last ran in weekend syndication from 1997 to 2005. Reruns have also aired on FX, TNT, and the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy.)
On the other end of the ratings spectrum: not only the Chicago Bulls are struggling on the court – they’re also struggling in the ratings. According to a report in Sports Business Journal, Bulls ratings on Comcast SportsNet are down 29 percent from this time last year, earning only a 3.5 household rating, per Nielsen. The team is tied for the second biggest ratings drop in the NBA – only Atlanta and New Orleans (-33%) and Washington (-34%) had bigger declines.
The Bulls still draw 122,000 households per game on average, ranking fourth in the league. But the figure is also off 29 percent from a year ago.
This debunks a report from a major trade publication recently saying CSN Chicago is benefiting from an increase in viewers from Bulls games, only using contests concurrently running on ESPN (it was so biased you swore the NBA and Comcast wrote the article themselves.)
The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the NBA in ratings while the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors have the most audience growth. Golden State finished third overall, behind the San Antonio Spurs. The Brooklyn Nets (in the New York City market) ranked dead last with an 0.4. (The Toronto Raptors aren’t ranked since the team plays outside the U.S.)
As of this writing, the Bulls dropped four in a row and lost seven out of their last ten games, and is getting roasted daily on Chicago’s sports talk radio shows. The team’s poor play is no doubt sending viewers toward the exits… I guess Chicagoans can put up with the nonsense of one losing team (Chicago Bears) at a time.
The news comes as ratings for linear TV continue to decline – even affecting sporting events. Despite their status as Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks were down 7 percent from last year and finished third among U.S.-based NHL teams, with Buffalo Sabres taking the top spot despite yet another subpar year. This year’s two Stadium series games – particularly the Feb. 21 game between the Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild were hammered in the ratings by competing sporting events. The Blackhawks game only drew a 1.2 household rating, down from a comparable NBC game last year. Not helping was the Blackhawks outdoor contest was over before it began, losing 6-1 to the Wild.
No one’s lovin’ it: during a morning newscast last week, WLS-TV reported on a story on the Laquan McDonald case, the teen who was shot by Chicago Police in 2014. But in the graphic popped up a McDonald’s restaurant sign instead. WLS officials blamed a computer error for the mistake and did apologize in another newscast later that day. The incident marks yet another in a continuing series of graphics slip-ups during newscasts at the ABC-owned station.
But WLS is not alone in on-air graphic slip-ups: last September, WGN-TV aired a Yom Kippur story and a symbol offensive to the Jewish population popped up on screen.
So I’m guessing ABC 7 will use a Wendy’s logo the next time Wendy Williams makes the news…
Is Tribune Media up for sale? Reports surfaced on Monday the company has hired a firm to look at the possibility of a sale of the company. Owners of WGN-TV, CLTV and WGN-AM, Tribune could sell the company as a whole or piecemeal. Tribune posted fourth quarter results and they weren’t good: revenue was down 3.4 percent. Peter Ligouri, who recently reupped as Tribune CEO for two more years, wants to “unlock the value of our stock”. Tribune however, refused to comment on the status regarding its negotiations with The CW or its spectrum plans.
Tribune also revealed it wrote down close to $100 million on deals involving off-network programs Person Of Interest and Elementary, both airing on cable network WGN America – neither has been a ratings success.
The company owns 42 stations, covering nearly 39 percent of the country, putting it at or near the cap, set by the FCC. Competing groups Sinclair and Nexstar (owners of several downstate stations) are also near the 39 percent cap. However, the latter two are concentrated in more mid-sized and smaller markets, enabling them to own a large number of stations. Tribune owns stations in seven of the top ten markets, which cover more geographically.
As they say in TV land…stay tuned…
As expected, Raleigh-Durham’s WRAL-TV made the switch from CBS to NBC on Monday and the news is good so far for the Peacock network. According to TVNewscheck, NBC programming set a ratings record in the market Monday – especially the Today Show and the NBC Nightly News, each scoring their highest ratings ever – no surprise given NBC’s history of being affiliated with weaker, high-number channel UHF stations in the market, including WNCN, a former NBC O&O who switched to CBS Monday.
WRAL did delay Tuesday’s edition of The Voice to air a previously scheduled Wake Forest-Duke college basketball game Tuesday night (which also aired in the Chicago area on The U Too.) WRAL did not air the network’s Super Tuesday election special.
As for WNCN, the station opted to continue delaying The Young And The Restless until 4 p.m., something WRAL had been doing since 1993 (WRAL launched a new 4 p.m. newscast Monday, going head-to-head with ABC-owned WTVD’s 4 p.m. news show, which launched in May 2011.)
Early results haven’t been encouraging: some of CBS’ non-primetime shows lost half of their audience – a pattern similar to what happened in 1994 when CBS wound up on weaker UHF affiliates in some markets after the affiliate switches spawned by the humongous Fox-New World deal.
There was one noticeable layoff due to the affiliation switch – WNCN’s former mascot, “Feathers” who said goodbye to station staffers on Friday. No word on where Feathers would wind up next, although NBC 5 in Chicago could use a weekend anchor….
On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone for their condolences, support, and well wishes during my time away. As you know, the website was suspended for two weeks due to my mother’s illness and subsequent death. I’m back on the grind as of today, trying to regain some sense of normalcy. My Mom was a major influence – she was quite outspoken, especially about politics. Given the sometimes rambunctious tone I use in this blog, I guess you can say I am my mother’s son.
Rest in peace, Mom.