WGN-TV enters New Years’ Eve countdown game

Brings total number to four

If you plan to stay home on New Year’s Eve this year, you’re going to have numerous local choices.

As announced a few weeks ago, WGN-TV plans to produce their first-ever New Year’s Eve show called Chicago’s Very Own New Year’s Eve Blast, live from downtown Chicago where a large fireworks display over Lake Michigan is planned at the stroke of midnight. The 45-minute special is being hosted by Dean Richards, Ana Belaval, and Sarah Jindra and starts at 11:30 p.m., airing on both WGN-TV and streamed at WGNTV.com./Live.


The news means that longtime front runner ABC 7 (WLS-TV) with their Countdown Chicago show has yet another competitor in a field they had to themselves just a few years ago. Back in 2015, NBC 5 (WMAQ) and Telemundo’s WSNS-TV partnered with the city to produce Chi-Town Rising, an ill-fated plan to compete nationally with the celebration in New York City’s Times Square. The initiative had problems from the start as the city decided to charge people to attend in a ploy to prevent LaQuan McDonald protesters from crashing the event.

Lasting just two years, the heavily-panned-on-social-media event was scrapped by the city, but NBC 5 and Telemundo continued to air a New Year’s Eve special and plan to do so this year, but no hosts have been announced. Of course, WSNS’ special is broadcast in Spanish.

Both NBC 5 and WSNS are owned by NBCUniversal.

With the exception of the 2015-16 program where it was upset by Chi-Town Rising, ABC 7 has dominated the ratings since it started more than twenty years ago. Beforehand, both CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) and Fox 32 (WFLD-TV) each produced local New Year’s Eve countdown shows but were forced to fold their tents after ABC 7 became dominant.

New Year’s Eve programming is known basically as the train-wreck variety as anything goes if you’ve watched CNN over the years (or going back even further, CBS 2’s telecast ringing in 1980.) Thanks to social media, some of these moments go viral in seconds, such as anything Kathy Griffin or Don Lemon did.

In news that will certainly please some people, ABC announced a change in its annual Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve With Ryan Seacrest festivities with actress Lucy Hale replacing Jenny McCarthy in the role of roving reporter in Times Square. Hale previously hosted the New Orleans portion of the show, which is pre-empted here for Countdown Chicago.

Ciara is also back as host for the taped Hollywood segments.

This is the 48th year for Rockin’ Eve, which actually began on NBC in 1972 (with Three Dog Night and George Carlin as hosts respectively in the first two years) before shifting to ABC two years later.

With McCarthy gone, so is part of the train-wreck factor that makes New Year’s Eve programming so irresistible to live-tweet (and to bash.) But keep in mind there are plenty of people who’ll pick up the slack, especially the hosts of Countdown Chicago when the clock strikes midnight.

Regardless of what you think of the programs, WGN jumping into the New Year’s Eve competition is certainly good news for local TV overall – especially as Nexstar is obviously picking up where the former Tribune Media left off in terms of producing local programming.


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