Chicago shut out of the test pool

page_six_tv_h_2016Syndicated test projects bypass Chicago for New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas instead

One of the hottest new programs in syndication this summer was nowhere to be found on Chicago TV.

But if you live in New York and Los Angeles, chances are you’ve come across it (or more than likely, skipped it channel surfing.)

OK, yours truly may have stretched it a bit saying Page Six was “the hottest new program this summer” (more like “the warmest”). But the series, based on the New York Post gossip column, did well for the stations during the three-week test.

Page Six was one of five new shows Fox and its owned stations ran for a few weeks throughout the summer in various cities. Some of these programs were tested with other station groups: one show was also tested on a few Sinclair outlets. The rest are The Preachers, Top 30, The Jason Show and SoMe.

But none were found on any local TV station in Chicago.


Well for starters, there’s the “Peoria Theory”, where if a product “played in Peoria”, it would do well across the country. Well, in TV it doesn’t work that way. Syndicators prefer to use the nation’s two largest TV markets in New York and Los Angeles, to test programming in addition to a few major markets in “flyover country”. Besides, Peoria-Bloomington isn’t a metered market – meaning you still have to write down what you watch in a diary and send it in to Nielsen – and it ranks 117th in the nation.

Plus, you have to consider the ratings weaknesses of Fox’s WFLD and WPWR – both stations rank way behind both WGN and WCIU in daytime – not to mention the continuing dominance of ABC-owned WLS-TV, which makes testing any program tough. Of the ten largest markets, Chicago and Boston were the only ones not considered as test markets.

Testing shows is nothing new. In fact, Wendy Williams and The Real each were tested on Fox stations a few summers ago and were successfully launched in syndication. Going back to 1991, The Montel Williams Show, Studs, and Jerry Springer were tested on a few stations and each were rolled out nationally into syndication. Cops and America’s Most Wanted were tested as a weekly shows on Fox-owned stations and subsequently joined the network.

On the other hand, some tests such as talk shows Kris Jenner (who is mother to the Kardashian sisters) and Serch (tested on Tribune stations) did not succeed and go forward as neither show aired in Chicago. One that did – a 1990 teen soap opera produced by Fox Television Stations called Tribes – flopped with viewers though it did manage to last four months.

So far, the results of these test shows have not been encouraging for the most part. Many of them hovered in the 0.3-0.7 household rating range, most down from their lead-in and year-ago time period rating and share. The lone exception seems to be Page, which has drawn strong ratings in New York, Detroit, and Atlanta, and could become a viable prime access option for Fox-owned stations.

Chicago viewers and others who can’t watch these programs on linear TV aren’t completely shut out. Full episodes and clips of Page Six  and The Preachers are available on YouTube.

As for the premises? Some of these are quite ludicrous: The Preachers is about religious types gabbing about pop culture; Top 30 runs down the day’s top 30 stories in 30 minutes (if not, everyone gets a free Domino’s Pizza – wow, some prize); The Jason Show is a KMSP/Minneapolis production featuring Minneapolis DJ Jason Matheson.

But the one with the dumbest pitch and concept has to be SoMe, produced in association with Trifecta Entertainment.  The program is about…what people are posting on social media. So. Me. Get it? Part of the pitch consisted of “Our hosts are like your friends on Facebook engaging in a spirited debate…

In other words, it’s like those people who always borrow money, freeload off you, and leave the toilet seat up.

Chicago TV viewers, you really are not missing anything.


1 thought on “Chicago shut out of the test pool

    • While many of the programs tested in syndication this summer sounded like duds, PAGE SIX could be the more interesting show based on its premise and ties to a known commodity. I wonder if going forward, Tribune’s WGN-TV will be more of a partner to similar tests as it will be once again a unique independent station in a large market. With many hours to fill without news and sports, WGN should welcome fresh programming.

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