Media Notepad: WLIT now in Christmas music mode

Meet WLIT’s newest DJ. He’s a seasonal worker. (Credit: Chicago Business Journal)

Also: Fox News wins election night; NBA season to start Dec. 22

IHeartMedia’s WLIT launched its Holly Jolly format (or Christmas music as everyone else calls it) starting at 4 p.m. Friday, and is likely to last through the end of the year. This is the 20th year WLIT has turned its playlist to a Christmas Jukebox, playing Mariah Carey’s very overrated Christmas song ad nauseum. 

“After a year like 2020, we need holiday music more than ever,” said WLIT program director and afternoon personality Mick Lee told Robert Feder. “Listeners can count on us to help spread joy, hope and love across the city as we celebrate 20 years. … We’ll have fun contests, a few new surprises, and of course, the wonderful holiday music.”

While WLIT will dominate ratings for the next two or three surveys, they’ll likely draw those who generally are not regular radio listeners as other stations have held up well during this period. In other words, don’t expect a lot of drain from other radio outlets as the format tends to skew female and older – a lock WLIT already has on the market as an Adult Contemporary station. WLIT is expected to generate significant revenue during the 4th quarter and it’s especially important this year as radio stations’ finances – and other media platforms, were hammered by the pandemic. 

The news has already generated significant mainstream media coverage from the Chicago Tribune to local news stations. 

Many radio stations have already flipped to Christmas, even before Halloween started. Already, WLIT’s sister station KOST-FM in Los Angeles flipped Thursday. 

One station to potentially flip…the recently-launched Trump Country 93.7 in Ft. Myers, Fla. With Joe Biden beating Donald Trump to become the 46th President of the United States (I’ll have more on this in a future post on how a Biden administration impacts the media business), WCFF will likely be Christmas Country 93.7 very soon (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be Christmas country music.) 

Even though the Presidential race wasn’t decided on Tuesday night, there was no disputing who is the winner was as Fox News topped the charts election night, drawing a record 13.7 million viewers with 5 million of them in the key 25-54 demo. The others are as follows: CNN (9.1 million); MSNBC (7.3); ABC News (6.1); NBC News (5.6); and CBS News (4.5) 

Both CNBC and WGN America each turned in a tepid performance with their new ventures. CNBC drew only 127,000 viewers for its coverage anchored by Shepard Smith, while WGN America’s NewsNation could only muster 95,000

Other networks with coverage include Univision, Telemundo, NewsMax, OANN, Fox Business, and Black News Channel among others. In total 21 networks had some form of election coverage.

Overall, 56.9 million viewers tuned in for election night – but surprisingly down from 71.1 million viewers from 2016, suggesting many others were streaming. 

Locally, WGN-TV aired election coverage from 7 p.m. to approximately 2 a.m. 

Really not much to say about coverage, other than ABC News’ programming with Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel was absolutely the worst, while I saw no need for all those political analysts at WGN. On the flipside, CNN’s John King and MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki breaking down the counties and how they voted by using a touchscreen was absolutely masterful. Tuesday also marked the final appearance of Carol Marin as a political analyst at NBC-owned WMAQ-TV (and Thursday at WTTW’s Chicago Tonight), as she is steeping down to focus more time as a journalism professor at DePaul University. She will definitely be missed. 

The Jussie Smollett case did not play any role in the Cook County State Attorney’s race as Democrat Kim Foxx won a second term, although Republican challenger Pat O’Brien did manage to nab about 40 percent of the vote. Even though Smollett drew worldwide headlines early last year for what many now say is a hoax and Foxx’s fumbling of the case after deciding to drop all charges, Smollett faded from the headlines and did not impact the election. 

In what can be described as good news for ailing regional sports networks, the NBA and its players union have struck a deal to start a shortened 72-game season on December 22. Details are yet to be worked out. 

So far, it is not known what kind of Covid protocols the NBA would take, and it would depend greatly on how local government in each city would decide how many fans would be allowed in arenas. The NBA suspended its season in March like every other sports league, and resumed play in a bubble in Orlando. For the Toronto Raptors, they could play in Buffalo -similar to the Blue Jays did with the Canadian border closed to most travelers due to the pandemic. Both cities are separated by Lake Ontario and some broadcast TV and radio stations can be received in each other’s markets.

The news is great for RSNs, who’ve been struggling without sporting events. In Chicago, it affected both NBC Sports Chicago and Marquee Sports Network, as both were able to benefit from a 60-game MLB schedule. It was revealed this week Sinclair – who is a part-owner of Marquee with the Chicago Cubs, took a expensive, $4 billion writedown of its acquisition of 21 RSNs. Sinclair recently lost carriage on Hulu + Live TV, and failed to strike a deal with YouTube TV. 

As for the NBA, ratings for this year’s delayed-until-October finals between the 2020 champion Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat were the lowest ever, as were those for the World Series and Stanley Cup Finals as the games faced tough competition from cable news networks in an election year and cannibalizing off one another as many of these events were scheduled at the same time. Also an issue was the social justice protests that alienated many conservative viewers. 

As for the NHL, the league is planning a January 1 start date for the start of the 2020-21 season. 

NBC Sports Chicago is home to the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox. 


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