The Media Notepad: ABC launches Localish as a diginet

Also: Drew Barrymore’s new show gets a production commitment; trouble ahead for WTMX.

It’s hard to believe, but the LiveWell Network is actually still around – and more than likely, you probably didn’t know it still existed.

Well, it’s finally going away.

Beginning on February 17, what’s left of LiveWell is being replaced by ABC Local-ish, which is basically short-term programming found on ABC’s eight owned-and-operated stations’ websites including WLS-TV in Chicago and on Now it’s going to be a diginet network with longer-form stories and programs.

“We first launched Localish as a reflection of our deep commitment to the communities we serve.” said ABC Owned Television Stations President Wendy McMahon in a press release. “The resonance of Localish’s storytelling has enabled us to forge connections with a new generation of viewers. We’re excited to start this next chapter of the brand and give our viewers even more ways to live like a local.”

Localish plans to launch ten shows at start, including All Good, Bite Size, Worth The Wait and Pumped among others (a full list of the programs and their descriptions can be found on WABC-TV’s website.)

Launched in 2018, Localish produced more than 700 hours of digital content attracting more than 240 million views, drawing material produced by those eight ABC-owned stations. One well-viewed story included a Chicago woman who started a non-profit hair salon in the art of African-American hairstyling to help educate transracially adoptive parents. And Localish has won awards, too: it nabbed the 2019 Innovator Award from TVNewsCheck.

In addition to Chicago, expect to see a lot of material from New York; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area; Houston; Raleigh-Durham; and Fresno – markets where ABC owns stations.

As for LiveWell, the lifestyle diginet actually discontinued nationwide distribution in 2015 but remained on the digital subchannels of ABC-owned stations. Since then, the 7.2 channel has been used for reruns of LiveWell shows, reruns of Chicago Cubs games, the now-defunct Pickler & Ben, and live political debates. LiveWell originally launched in 2009 as LiveWell HD featuring programming produced by the ABC station group and aired in high-definition on the group’s digital subchannels, but it wasn’t successful. Live Well was the brainchild of former WLS-TV GM Emily Barr, who was later named President of the channel but left ABC in 2012 to take a position at Graham Holdings.

Localish has no connection to ABC’s black-ish or mixed-ish, as both sitcoms have a hyphen in the middle where as Localish does not. There are no plans as of this moment to offer Localish outside of the ABC-owned stations.

Even though it’s a Holiday ratings book (equivalent to a July ratings book in TV), there are some troubling trends for a least one local station: The Mix (WTMX), the Hubbard-owned Hot AC station who appears to be in freefall. The Mix topped the market not too long ago and according to numbers released this past week, ranked seventh among all Chicago radio stations while the formerly top-rated Eric In The Morning now sits in eighth place.

It is hard to pinpoint why The Mix is suddenly struggling – maybe it’s the music selection given it is now closer to Top 40 B96 (WBBM-FM) and Kiss 103.5 (WKSC) – or the effects of Kathy Hart leaving the morning show a while back are now finally being felt, or maybe they’re losing audience to sister station WSHE-FM as their syndicated morning show Brooke and Jubal is now closing in on Eric and Co. as they were ranked tenth.

Even more head-scratching, Hubbard recently launched a television ad campaign for WSHE – and not for The Mix. In fact, Hubbard launched one for The Drive two years ago.

We won’t get a full handle of how trends are until the January numbers come in, when regular listening patterns resume. Is it a bloop because of WLIT’s dominance with Christmas music? Or something more? We’ll find out soon.

It’s official: Drew Barrymore’s talk show received a firm go on the first day of the recently-concluded NATPE convention. According to CBS Television Distribution, the series is cleared in 85 percent of the country with the CBS-owned stations on board with Sinclair, Nexstar, Weigel and other station groups.

With a CBS-owned station deal, it is likely CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) will carry the show locally in Chicago, but a time slot has yet to be determined. Barrymore could land at 2 p.m., opposite The Kelly Clarkson Show on NBC 5 (WMAQ), replacing Hot Bench.

So far, no information was available on station clearances on Debmar-Mercury’s Nick Cannon or Sony Pictures The Good Dish, but it is still early.

In other syndication news, Entertainment Studios has renewed its entire slate of courtroom shows for next season, while giving game show Funny You Should Ask a two-year renewal, extending the Jon Kelly-hosted show through 2023. The show airs weeknights at 11 p.m. on CW26 (WCIU).


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