The Media Notepad: Chicago TV production on the rise

The Cinespace Film Studios on the West Side, helping fuel Chicago’s film and TV production boom.

Plus: WGN Radio’s Todd Manley promoted; Anthony Adams’ prime-time show get cut; WTTW strikes deal with WYCC; Classic sitcoms shift;

While “President” Trump continues to bash Chicago on a regular basis for (and outright lying) about the city’s homicide and crime rate, his blabber hasn’t discouraged businesses from investing here – particularly the film and television production industries.

A feature in this past week’s Broadcasting & Cable trade magazine features Chicago and the emerging television production scene. The publication noted several TV shows current being shot here, including Empire (Fox), Easy (Netflix) , Dick Wolf’s trio of Chicago shows (NBC), and The AV Club (Fusion). and upcoming shows Electric Dreams (Amazon) and The Chi (Showtime) from natives Lena Waithe and Common.

Thank the 30 percent state film tax credit, according to the Chicago Film Office. And the Illinois Film Office notes television and film production $499 million in 2016, up 51 percent from 2015, resulting in 13,388 non-extra job hires.

And you can also credit the opening of huge studio Cinespace near Douglas Park, home to thirty stages and eight television shows including Empire and Chicago Fire. And soon, you may be able to go on a tour of the facility, once a backlot being planned is approved by the city.

The boom in production offsets the loss of other major productions in Chicago over the years – notably the closure of Harpo Studios (once home to The Oprah Winfrey Show) and Steve Harvey’s daytime show to Los Angeles over the summer. Chicago also lost two other shows to cancellation this year: Fox’s APB and NBC’s Chicago Justice.

However, not all has gone smoothly. A Chicago Tribune report last October highlighted the complaints residents have made to their aldermen regarding film and TV productions disrupting their daily routines. Still, the burgeoning film and TV production is giving Chicago a strong image which otherwise wouldn’t exist as conservatives and right-wing talk show hosts continue to unfairly attack Chicago.  The increased production also give a boost to the city’s bottom line and in the civic pride department.

If you are a Broadcasting & Cable subscriber, you can read the full article here.

On Wednesday, WGN-AM announced a pair of promotions: Todd Manley becomes station manager, promoted from his previous position as vice-president of content and marketing. In his new role, Manley assumes day-to-day operations of the station and reports to Paul Rennie, who becomes president and general manager – adding to those same roles he has for WGN-TV and CLTV. He will report to Larry Wert, who is at least for the moment is Tribune Broadcasting president.

WGN and the rest of Tribune Broadcasting is in the process of being sold to Sinclair Broadcasting, in a deal expected to close early in the new year. The future of the station beyond that is still uncertain. WGN is also on the move next year as it relocates to Illinois Center, leaving Tribune Tower after 94 years, followed by former sister property the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune isn’t the first media company to combine management roles for its radio and TV stations; Atlanta-based Cox recently made a similar move in several markets where they own radio and TV stations, including Orlando and Jacksonville.

It looks like WYCC is going to be saved in some form: PBS station WTTW announced last week it was purchasing the license of its now-dark former rival, putting the stations under one roof. According to the Chicago Tribune, WTTW is paying $100,000 to the FCC to acquire WYCC’s license. The move means WTTW is likely to launch a fifth digital subchannel, consisting of MHZ Worldview programming, previously airing on one of WYCC’s subchannels (and the main programming channel after WYCC dropped its PBS affiliation) before the station shutdown on November 27.

In addition, WTTW is establishing an internship program for City College of Chicago students. WYCC was operated by the City Colleges.

The channel-sharing and license transfer application have to be approved by the FCC seperately. There is no word on when WTTW plans to sign on their fifth digital subchannel. WYCC sold in the spectrum auction for $16 million, far less than other Chicago TV stations who participated.

After one episode, ABC has dumped The Great American Baking Show after just one airing  due to sexual harassment allegations made toward one of the show’s judges, Anthony Iuzzini.

“In light of allegations that recently came to our attention, ABC has ended its relationship with Johnny Iuzzini and will not be airing the remainder of ‘The Great American Baking Show’ episodes,” an ABC spokesperson said in a statement. “ABC takes matters such as those described in the allegations very seriously and has come to the conclusion that they violate our standards of conduct. This season’s winner will be announced at a later date.

The harassment in question came when four former employees who worked with Iuzzini came forward as they claimed he sexually harassed and abused them. Four more ex-employees came forward earlier this week, prompting ABC to pull the plug.

In its third season and scheduled to run for three weeks, the show didn’t exactly attract an audience – the series’ lone airing earned an 0.8 rating in the adult 18-49 demo, and just 3.85 million viewers.  It is not known if Baking would return in the future, or the winner of this year’s edition would ever be revealed.

The decision to cancel the show is bad news for former Chicago Bears player Anthony “Spice” Adams, who co-hosted the show with Ayesha Curry. But you can still see him every week on Inside The Bears, airing weekends on both WFLD-TV and WPWR-TV.

If you’re a fan of classic 1970’s sitcoms on digital subchannels, you might want to make note of this: Sony-owned GetTV is acquiring several Norman Lear sitcoms. According to Sitcoms Online, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Good Times are moving to the digital subchannel network beginning January 2, with mini-marathons for each one on New Year’s Day.

In a separate transaction, Diff’rent Strokes moves to MeTV beginning January 1.

All four shows previously aired on Tribune’s Antenna TV and like the rest of the company, is being sold to Sinclair. All four shows are syndicated by Sony Pictures Television, and provides a peek into the future of the studio library at Antenna. Other Sony sitcoms Antenna has aired include One Day At At Time and Maude. It would be interesting to see where these shows end up once the rights expire – if they haven’t done so already. In recent years, both Antenna and Get have been broadening their programming schedules to draw more viewers – in Get’s case, moving away from old movies and acquiring more recent programming from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s – notably Designing Women, 7th Heaven, and Ghost Whisperer.

And it’s no coincidence Sony owns GetTV and the shows they’re acquiring.

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