The Media Notepad: Bears, NFL score ratings wins

Also: Don’t Bet Your Life; Bids made for Tegna; Johnny B to host RHOF ceremony

The NFL continues to rack up impressive numbers at a time when viewers are abandoning linear TV in droves. Case in point: The Bears game on Sunday against the Bengals drew a household 22.9 rating and 60 share for Fox-owned WFLD-TV Chicago Sunday, easily making it the highest-rated and most-watched program of the week locally despite the noon start. With Justin Fields in the game for an injured Andy Dalton, the Bears won 20-17 to become 1-1 in the young 2021 season.

However, the game did better a better rating in Cincinnati, where Gray-owned Fox affiliate WXIX drew a 24.1/52.

The number was down only 3 percent from the comparable week two game last year when the Bears played at home against the New York Giants on CBS-owned WBBM-TV, also a noon start.

This comes as the NFL scored across the board ratings increases for week two:

– Fox’s “singleheader” game was up 10 percent in total viewership from comparable year-ago week two games.

– CBS’ doubleheader games were up 33 percent from last year, and had it most-watched September doubleheader since 2014 with the Dallas Cowboys home game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium (LOL) drew 24.3 million viewers, up 29 percent from last year.

– NBC’s Sunday Night Football drew 19.8 million for Chiefs-Ravens, up 8 percent from last week’s Bears-Rams blowout and also up 12 percent from Patriots-Seahawks last year. The game also drew 630,000 viewers from NBC’s digital platforms. Of note, the Emmys on CBS drew 7.4 million, up from when the ceremony aired on ABC last year.

– ESPN’s Monday Night Football drew 13.8 million viewers across all platforms with a Lions-Packers matchup but the big story was the “ManningCast” on ESPN2. Featuring commentary from Peyton and Eli Manning (and a few special guests), the second installment went up a whopping 100 percent from 800,000 viewers in week one to 1.86 million in week two.

With the pandemic halting merger and acquisition activity, the engines are getting revved up again: Standard General, a key investor in Virginia-based Tegna, Inc. is teaming up with Apollo Management for an $8 billion bid to take over the entire company. The move has also opened up other bids from outsiders, with Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group putting together a $10 billion bid with Ares Management. The news was first reported in the New York Post on Monday.

Allen’s group has a bid of $23 a share, a dollar more than Standard’s offer.

Tegna owns 64 stations in 51 markets, made up mostly of the old Gannett TV group. It owns ABC affiliate WFAA Dallas, the largest non network-owned station in the country, and WUSA in Washington D.C., the largest CBS affiliate in the country not owned by the network. In Illinois, Tegna owns ABC affiliate WQAD Moline and KSDK St. Louis, serving the MetroEast area and other parts of southern Illinois. Tegna also owns digital subchannels True Crime, Quest, and Twist.

Plans were circulating for a possible sale of Tegna last year, but offers were rebuffed and was later derailed due to the pandemic. Now M&A activity is heating up again thanks to Gray Television’s acquisition of Meredith’s and Quincy Media’s TV holdings

Since being spun off from Gannett in 2015, Tegna has been plagued by internal problems, including a lackluster stock price and acquisitions of racism at the company. An NPR article from earlier this year documented three Latino women and their problems with racial harassment at NBC affiliate KUSA, the top-rated station in Denver (one of the women is a former Chicagoan, a Southwest Side native.)  Standard General has been dissatisfied with the way incidents of racism have been handled at Tegna, demanding the entire board be replaced. Tegna has also been involved in a carriage dispute with cable provider Mediacom for ten months running, perhaps the longest retransmission dispute involving a broadcaster in recent memory.

On Tuesday, Tegna released a statement: “Tegna today confirmed the company has recently received acquisition proposals. Consistent with its fiduciary duty to Tegna shareholders, the Board will carefully review and evaluate these proposals.”  Tegna’s stock on Tuesday closed a $21.62 a share, up 11 percent. 

A sure sign of normalcy: The 2021 Radio Hall of Fame ceremony returns in-person this year and has tapped fellow Radio Hall of Famer Jonathan Brandmeier as host of the festival. Hosted by the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the gathering takes place October 28 in downtown Chicago.

Eight inductees are scheduled to be introduced into the Radio Hall of Fame, including former ESPN and NBC Sports personality Dan Patrick, whose hosted numerous radio shows in his career.

“Jonathan Brandmeier is as talented on stage as he is behind the microphone,” said RHOF chairman Kraig T. Kitchen in a statement. “This years’ induction ceremony honors both our Class of 2021 as well as welcoming the 2020 Inductees. We’ll need great energy on stage and JOHNNY B. is the perfect host.” He added, “I’m thrilled to welcome this deserving Class of 2021 and look forward to celebrating their inductions in Chicago.”

Of course, the pandemic sacked last year’s ceremony as inductees for 2020 included Glenn Beck, Cokie Roberts, and New York Hip-Hop radio personality Angie Martinez. Of note, Martinez and fellow Radio Hall of Famer Rick Dees are the only two radio personalities to have a Top 40 hit on the charts in their careers (Brandmeier did sing with a band called Johnny B. and the Leisure Suits and while very popular locally, the group never had a chart single.)

If you’re planning to go, pony up: Tickets for the ceremony cost $650 a piece and $7,000 for a group of ten and $9,000 for a group of twelve. 

Maybe they should rename the new You Bet Your LifeDon’t Bet Your Life and you should know better if you put your life in the hands of Jay Leno.

Premiering last week, the classic Groucho Marx game show reboot from Fox First-Run is so boring it puts a can of Red Bull to sleep. What was supposed to be a vehicle for everyday people to come on and hilariously share their stories (with the gameplay secondary) instead is used for Leno’s tired comedy bits from the Tonight show including Headlines and even viral videos, which seem out of place on a game show. Leno’s performance is uninspired and certainly lacks the wit of Marx, whose show was so popular, it went into reruns in syndication in the 1960s and again in the 1970s and 1990s.  There’s too much emphasis on gameplay, whereas the questions are way too easy and you expect Leno to say “Is that your final answer?” all for a measly $5,000 – on a game show targeted for prime access (6-8 p.m. ET) opposite Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune. You Bet airs on all the Fox-owned stations including WFLD (Fox 32), who airs the show from 3-4 p.m. weekdays. 

Sidekick Kevin Eubanks – who was Leno’s bandleader on Tonight, adds absolutely nothing to the show, so why is he even there? And where’s the duck? There is no duck in this version but a shameless plug for some car company when the secret word is said, which Leno even leads you to.  

Social media reaction – or what little of it – was not very favorable as there is absolutely no youth appeal whatsoever with way too many dull contestants – no, you won’t find the next Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez here. The show’s Twitter account as of Thursday has even fewer followers than this blog. Think about it. 

Watch Groucho’s version on YouTube or on one of the streaming services – he puts Leno to shame. It’s even worse than Buddy Hackett’s failed 1980 version, at least he showed more interest in the contestants (we won’t talk about the 1992 version for obvious reasons.) 

A Nielsen embargo has kept the press from accessing ratings for any show outside of primetime or the NFL, so I guess no news is good news, right? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the numbers aren’t good. Too bad we didn’t get You Bet Your Life with Peyton and Eli Manning instead; it would have been more entertaining than this farce.

You Bet Your Life as a long-term franchise in syndication? Don’t bet on it. 


3 thoughts on “The Media Notepad: Bears, NFL score ratings wins

    • I have to agree with your comments about the new You Bet Your Life with Jay Leno. I really wanted to like this show because I absolutely enjoyed the repeats of Groucho Marx’s version from back in the 1970’s or 1980’s on WFLD-TV Channel 32. (Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s is when TV stations like WFLD-TV and WGN-TV knew how to program their schedules!) I didn’t think this new version would have the duck drop down when the Secret Word is said, but at least something more exciting than how it now is handled. And, yes, Jay so leads the contestants to the word, it’s kind of sad. The plug by the car company seems so out of place. While we don’t get as many new first-run syndicated offerings as we did in the past, I have to say this one is a disappointment. It’s no wonder local stations are filling up their schedules with endless and repetitive newscasts and probably pushing more viewers to find actual entertainment on streaming devices.

    • The show was recently canceled due to the writer’s strike. I am surprised it was renewed for a third season in February. The show was bad! Jay seemed so bored…as if he were just doing the show for a paycheck. His jokes were so weak and usually consisted of mimicking contestants’ voices or making fun of their weight or, in one contestant’s case, the size of her boobs. Hello!? Why didn’t anyone at the show tell Jay that making fun of a person’s appearance or voice is NOT cool or PC in 2023?

      Kevin didn’t do much except laugh at Jay’s so-called jokes and pull out props (such as a baton or balls to juggle) for contestants to show off their skills. In the second season, he was tasked with handing contestants a stack of bills every time they answered a question correctly. But that seemed silly because we knew the contestants didn’t actually leave the studio with the cash. In Kevin’s credit, he often seemed more engaged and interested in the contestants than Jay did. The producer relied too much in pre-interviews on stories about the contestants’ childhoods. Sorry, but it is just not interesting hearing about how someone who collected insects at age 10. It was much more interesting hearing about contestants’ unusual jobs or hobbies that they had as adults or their dating stories.

      Despite the show’s failures, I was kind of hooked on it and liked to watch it every weekday But between Jay’s two accidents and the writers’ strike, reruns were much too common. The producers should have had another host fill in for Jay while he was recovering. I do admire Jay for suspending production of the show to support the strike. I would like to see the show revived in the future with a funnier host — and harder questions.

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