The Media Notepad: “Game of Thrones”, Masters score big

Also… Face The Truth won’t be back for a second season; CourTV returns May 8; AT&T sells Hulu strike

While HBO turned Chicago’s weather into one big promotional machine (Winter came on Sunday…and left a big, slushy mess), it seemed to have worked: Sunday’s eighth-season premiere of Game Of Thrones proved to be a big draw. The season premiere attracted 17.4 million viewers to the premium service at 8 p.m. (CT). The 17.4 million included streaming through HBOGo and HBO Now, and of course, good ol’  linear TV.

Broken down, Thrones drew 11.76 million linear viewers, earning a 5.0 rating in the adults 18-49 demo; a 3.7 in the adult 18-34 demo; and a 6 rating in the adult 25-54 demo. Thrones was also the most tweeted entertainment show of the day, with more than five million of them.

There were problems reported with HBO’s streaming platforms, notably in the Northeast and overseas.

The successful premiere led to a halo-effect for the rest of HBO’s Sunday night lineup, with Barry, Veep, and Last week Tonight all posting gains.

HBO created several marketing campaigns for the show, including a Super bowl commercial with Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light and tie-ins to Turner’s March Madness coverage.

There is only six episodes in this current season of Thrones, its’ final one. If you thought these numbers are amazing – wait until the series finale, scheduled for May 19 – the final Sunday night of the television season.


Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, nearly 11 years after his last major win. (Getty Images)

Game of Thrones wasn’t the only ratings success on Sunday: Tiger Woods’ Masters triumph was a huge ratings grabber for CBS, despite an earlier start due to inclement weather conditions forthcoming to Augusta National.

After recent years of struggles, Woods won his first major since 2008 and his first Masters championship in 2005. To put it perspective since the last time Woods was on top of the golf world, the Cubs won the World Series; the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups, and Roseanne’s Barr’s comeback attempt came and went.

Nationally, Woods’ comeback earned a 7.7 household live-plus-same day rating in the nation’s metered markets, peaking at 12.1 between 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. when Woods won his fifth Green Jacket. Despite the earlier start time, The Masters was up in metered markets from 2018’s presentation in its regular late-afternoon slot.

In Chicago, CBS’ WBBM-TV earned a 7.8 household rating and 20 share, ahead of sister O&Os in New York (WCBS, 5.5/16 ) an Los Angeles (KCBS, 5.4/21), but the highest rating came from the Greenville-Spartansburg-Ashville market where Nexstar’ WSPA rang up a whopping 13.8/27. CBS’ WCCO was next with a 14.5/38; Milwaukee’s WDJT had a 8.6/21.

The local ratings in Chicago was helped by a lack of competition (aside from the White Sox-Yankees game on cable) as the Angels-Cubs game scheduled for WGN-TV was snowed out.

With time to fill, CBS opted to repeat Tiger Woods’ win for those who weren’t home earlier on Sunday, and earned a 3.4 rating beating an NBA Playoff game.


The end has come for CBS Television Distribution’s Face The Truth as the syndicator announced said it would not return for a second season, Broadcasting & Cable reported last Friday.

In an unusual format, Truth was sold as a hour-long strip but was split into back-to-back half hours, reducing flexibility stations had with scheduling the show. Despite a 2 p.m. weekday clearance on CBS-owned KCBS in Los Angeles, Truth still averaged around a 0.6 Nielsen household rating.

In Chicago, Truth aired at 8 and 8:30 a.m. weekdays mornings on Weigel-owned WCIU, out of the ratings-challenged The Jam local morning show.

Truth is the fourth syndicated show to get the ax in recent weeks, following the cancellations of Twentieth’s Top 30 and Page Six TV as the syndicator is being absorbed into Disney-ABC and Scripps’ decision to end Pickler & Ben.

Even through Truth won’t be back for season two, CTD remains in business with producer Stage 29 Productions as the syndicator picked up The Doctors and Daily Mail TV for another season. “Stage 29” refers to the home of Dr. Phil at Paramount Studios, whose parent Viacom split from CBS in 2005. The outfit is headed by Phil McGraw’s son, Jay McGraw.

As I’ve said before, The Doctors is not related to the former NBC soap opera or the 2016 South Korean drama of the same name.


Court is back in session on May 8: Beginning on this date, Court TV makes its return to the airwaves as a new digital subchannel and streaming service.

As reported here a few months ago, Katz Broadcasting and Scripps bought the intellectual rights to the name, relaunching it as a digital subchannel network and streaming service. Court TV plans coverage of trials taking place across America with Yodit Tewolde, Julie Grant, and Seema Iyer all anchoring live coverage. From 5 to 8 p.m. (CT), Vinnie Poltian, who was one of Court TV’s original anchors when it was a cable network, hosts a daily trial wrap-up show aptly named Closing Arguments.

Turner Broadcasting sold almost 100,000 hours of old CourtTV programming to the new incarnation to fill evening and weekend time periods when live trials are not taking place.  Turner replaced the original Court TV with TruTV on January 1, 2008, dropping all court and justice system-related shows.

Thanks to deals with Tribune and Scripps stations, the new Court TV has a 50 percent clearance rate including the top five markets such as Chicago (WGN, likely channel 9.5.) The new Court TV also plan to strike deal with cable and satellite operators, though none have been announced yet. Court TV is also being made available to stream over-the-top, available on numerous platforms.


In another shift in the streaming world, AT&T has agreed to sell its stake in Hulu to its partners, Disney and Comcast.

Originally, TimeWarner (now WarnerMedia) bought a 10 percent stake in the streaming venture with Disney and Comcast owning the rest. But Warner’s future in the company was in question after AT&T purchased the media conglomerate last year. Now, AT&T has decided to bail out as planning to launch its own streaming service next year.

Disney and Comcast are buying out the stake, worth $1.4 billion. Disney previously owned 30 percent, with 21st Century Fox and Comcast owning the other 30 percent. But Disney purchased most of Fox’s assets nearly eighteen months ago, including the 30 percent of Hulu they owned, upping their control to 60 percent. AT&T’s sale now means Disney owns two-thirds of Hulu, with Comcast owning the remaining third.

Since its launch in 2007, the streaming service has been losing tons of money, but have stuck with the joint venture.

The sale means Disney now has a firmer control over Hulu, and the likelihood of Warner Bros. and Turner programming exiting the service.

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