The Media Notepad: NBC 5 launches new lifestyle show “Chicago Today”

Also: Access Hollywood adds another show; Sinclair closes on Fox RSN purchase; McHenry radio station with historic calls ceases broadcasting

At long last, NBC 5 (WMAQ) is joining the local lifestyle programming game.

Beginning September 6, the NBC-owned station launches Chicago Today, a weekly half-hour show featuring entertainment news, newsmakers, places around town, the latest technologies, and restaurants among other items.

In an unusual move, Chicago Today is only airing Friday mornings at 11:30 a.m., cutting WMAQ’s 11 a.m. midday newscast down to a half-hour. But the blueprint is to expand the show to a weekday strip somewhere down the line.

“Chicago is synonymous with amazing attractions like our beautiful parks and skyline, world-class museums, great sports teams, and an incredible gastronomic culture,” WMAQ president and general manager David Doebler said in a statement. “Chicago Today will dive deeper into all of this and what makes Chicago and its suburbs a world-wide destination for many around the world. If you’re looking to be entertained, find out what the best and latest trends are, and learn about inspiring stories of everyday people doing extraordinary things, I invite you to check out Chicago Today.”

Other NBC-owned stations currently air a similar lifestyle program after their midday newscasts. For example, three NBC O&Os in California – Los Angeles’ KNBC, San Francisco’s KNTV and San Diego’s KNSD all co-produce California Live to air in their respective markets while WVIT in Hartford has CT Live and New York’s WNBC has New York Live.

Hosting the new local Chicago show are Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues. As reported by Robert Feder on Thursday, Hall departed WGN’s top-rated morning newscast this past week where she was a reporter and on-air contributor for seven years. Hall is a suburban Oak Brook native, and joined WGN after working in Champaign’s WCIA and Orlando’s WKMG, both CBS affiliates.

Rodrigues is currently a contributor for the pop culture website PopSugar, where he is continuing in that role.

The program plans to feature paid sponsorship segments – which is normal for most local television shows in this current television environment as more viewers are skipping ads with their DVRs. In fact, numerous local shows – Windy City Live, The Jam, Chicago’s Best, etc. regularly feature some kind of paid sponsor segment.

In Milwaukee, Scripps-owned NBC affiliate WTMJ also has paid sponsorship segments for their weekday 9 a.m. morning show The Morning Blend, as does WDIV’s Detroit-based Live In The D.

ACCESS HOLLYWOOD Pictured: (l-r) Sibley Scoles, Scott Evans, Kit Hoover, Mario Lopez — (Photo by: Danny Ventrella/NBC)

Because the world needs another Access Hollywood spinoff: NBCUniversal Television Distribution announced Thursday a new show to fill the slots left by the departure of Extra on the NBC-owned stations who carried it. Titled All Access, the new half-hour strip departs from the usual slop of entertainment news and Kardashian sightings to delve into true crime and “uplifting” human-interest stories.

The new show is slotted after Access Hollywood at 7 p.m. beginning September 9 as the former host of Extra (Mario Lopez) takes over, meaning those stations seeing him now on Extra will continue to see him in the time slot. Joining him are Kit Hoover, Scott Evans, and correspondent Sibley Scoles. The quartet will also host Access Hollywood, which returns to its original title after three years with the name Access.

Access Hollywood is also going live – but to the Eastern Time Zone only at 7 p.m. as the move is intended to keep up with the ever-changing entertainment news cycle. It is among the many moves of new executive producer Maureen Fitzpatrick, who replaced longtime vet Robb Silverstein in the role earlier this year. She is also showrunner of All Access and one hour daytime strip Access Daily, formerly known as Access Live.

The new All Access is only airing on six NBC-owned stations where it is replacing Extra, including WNBC and KNBC, where it would take the 7:30 p.m. time slot with Access moving to 7 p.m in both New York and Los Angeles, respectively. All Access is not scheduled to air in Chicago, where there is no room on WMAQ’s schedule for the show given Access Hollywood airs at 6:30 p.m., though the NBC O&O continues to air Access Daily at 1 p.m.

The other former Extra station is Dallas NBC O&O KXAS, who isn’t airing All Access, but airing Access Hollywood instead at 6:30 p.m., essentially trading shows with KDFW who inherits Extra this fall through a Fox O&O deal, re-christened Extra Extra with former Access host Billy Bush as host starting September 9. Extra has been on Fox-owned WFLD locally since 2016.

It’s a done deal: Sinclair Broadcasting Group has completed its purchase of Fox Sports’ 21 regional sports networks for $10.6 billion. The Justice Department signed off on the deal Friday as the agency found no problem.

In the Midwest, channels involve Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Indiana, and Fox Sports/SportsTime Ohio.

Sinclair is actually paying $1 billion for the nets; the other $9.6 billion comes from a holding company called Diamond Sports Group, formed in part by Entertainment Studios founder and chairman Byron Allen, known for his syndicated shows such as Funny You Should Ask and The Entertainers.

The company remains in a standoff with Dish, who dropped the RSNs a few weeks ago in a retransmission consent dispute, and it is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. However, Sinclair has struck new deals with Charter and Cox cable systems. But the deal gives Sinclair more leverage against cable and satellite providers like Dish – for example, if Dish wants to keep Sinclair’s Minneapolis CW affiliate on its system, it may have to agree to a deal to carry Fox Sports North.

And the buying may not stop there: Sinclair is reportedly interested in AT&T’s RSNs in Colorado, Washington State, and the Pittsburgh area as the telecommunications giant is looking for ways to slash debt from its purchase of TimeWarner. Sinclair is also partnering with the Chicago Cubs to launch Marquee in February 2020 and already operates digital and streaming channel Stadium, whose operations are based out of the United Center here in Chicago.

With the Sinclair purchase now official, it is very likely the Fox Sports name on those RSNs would be re-branded with a new name and new graphics, but a timetable has not been set. A possibility is the “Diamond” name being inserted in, but don’t look for the Marquee name since its for the Cubs new network (and it refers to the iconic sign outside Wrigley Field.) After all, St. Louis Cardinals fans – whose games air on the now Sinclair-owned Fox Sports Midwest, would absolutely hate the idea.

This week marked the end of the line for McHenry County’s WAIT-AM (850) as the land where the station’s transmitter sits was sold to McHenry County College for an undisclosed amount. According to Robert Feder, the station ceased broadcasting Monday ending with a grab bag of programming, including music and some public service announcements. In July, the station had a Christian format in Spanish.

WAIT is licensed to suburban Crystal Lake and operates only as a daytime station.

Newsweb owned the station since 2003. The one-time WPWR-TV owner sold off some of its Chicago stations in recent years, including WCPQ-FM (99.9) and WCPT-FM (92.5). Both stations made up the nucleus of the former “Nine FM”, a variety-hits music format that ran from 2004 to 2008. However, Newsweb continues to own progressive talk WCPT-AM (820) and three other stations in the Chicago area.

A poster on a local message radio board reported WAIT returned to the airwaves Thursday morning, but for how long nobody knows.

Except for a brief two year period between 2005 and 2007, the 850 frequency has been home to the WAIT call letters since 1986. Before then, the calls were parked at 820 (where WCPT is now) and was best known for a beautiful music and later an adult standards format from the 1960s through the mid 1980s.

(Updated on 2019-08-27 to include new information on Access Hollywood and Extra in Dallas.) 


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