T Dog’s Media Notebook: WGN-AM extends deals for Cochran, Manley

0335-x3-1WFLD finally launches 5 p.m. newscast

ABC’s game show block off to good start

Sorry, Cochran haters: As first reported by Robert Feder Monday, WGN-AM morning personality Steve Cochran has re-upped with the Tribune Media station through 2020. Cochran had been with the station off-and-on since 2000 but was off it in 2010 after being fired by former WGN program director, the late Kevin Metheny. Cochran returned in 2013, years after the Zell/Michaels/Metheny regime were swept out of power.

The move comes after WGN recently renewed program director’s Todd Manley’s contract through 2019. Afternoon personality Roe Conn is likely staying, and evening host Justin Kaufmann recently returned from a self-imposed hiatus.

Despite some vocal haters on social media, Cochran continues to be a hit for WGN Radio, finishing in third place overall. WGN is still a top ten station overall (though out of the top ten in some key demos) despite losing Cubs baseball after the 2014 season. Given all the turmoil WGN has been through the last few years, it is nice to see some stability at the Tribune Media-owned radio station – for a change.

Welcome back, Fox 32.

What the world needs now is news…more news: A start date has finally been announced for Fox-owned WFLD’s long-awaited expansion to the 5 p.m. news period – July 5. As first reported by Robert Feder, WFLD’s anchor team for the new newscast is the same one at 9 p.m. – Jeff Herndon and Dawn Hasbrock. The newscast replaces two syndicated celebrity magazine shows, TMZ and Dish Nation – both now moves an hour earlier, to 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. TMZ had been in the 5 p.m. hour since 2007.

WFLD becomes the last Fox-owned station to launch a 5 p.m. newscast and was one of only two Fox affiliates in a top 20 market (Sinclair’s WPGH in Pittsburgh is the other) who didn’t program news in early fringe. By comparison, WGN-TV launched a half-hour 5:30 p.m. newscast in 2008 and expanded it to two hours from 4 to 6 p.m. over the years.

And WFLD isn’t the only station expanding news in early fringe – recently, Telemundo’s WSNS announced a news expansion to 4 p.m. as is sister NBCUniversal station WMAQ, who is also adding a 4 p.m. newscast soon – likely after the Summer Olympics is over. The Olympics may be the event WMAQ needs to finally knock WLS-TV from the top spot in news – WMAQ already leads WLS in the all-important 25-54 news demo in several time periods. WMAQ has not been Chicago’s news leader since at least the early 1970’s.

maxresdefaultDespite tough competition on cable, ABC’s game show block featuring Celebrity Family Feud, and the revivals of The $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game are each off to a decent start Sunday night. The second season of Celebrity Family Feud earned a 1.6 adults 18-49 rating, with Pyramid notching a 1.7 in the same demo and Match Game drawing a 1.6. To the surprise of many, the block outdrew ABC’s regular-season average on Sunday.

Though the numbers were decent, cable dominated the evening with the season finale of Game of Thrones on HBO (4.4) and the BET Awards simulcast on multiple Viacom networks as a programming roadblock. Both also dominated the evening on social media.

It was a homecoming for Pyramid, which achieved much of its early success on ABC Daytime from 1974-80. Meanwhile, it was Match Game’s first appearance on ABC since 1991, and first overall since the much-criticized 1998-99 syndicated revival. The production values for both were slick and much improved from their previous version (especially Pyramid, whose last version on GSN was a flop.) The shows were a lot of fun and the hosts (Michael Strahan and Alex Baldwin, respectively) were cool.

So…. you think ABC”s “Fun and Games” block can extend to the regular TV season? Keep in mind a lot of folks still remember how Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Deal or No Deal were over-programmed and crashed in the ratings, so it’s safe to say it’s not going to happen. However, a syndicated revival of both Pyramid and Match Game may not be out of the question, given the lack of new first-run product on stations, so stay tuned.

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