Also: ESPN 1000 gets new GM; Packers have new Milwaukee radio home; Sinclair still have trouble from ransomware attacks
Leila Rahimi, who joined WSCR-AM/The Score earlier this year as Dan Bernstein’s co-host, is now returning to television as a part-time sports reporter and anchor.
The Denton, Tex. native has joined NBC-owned WMAQ-TV/NBC 5’s sports department as part of a rotation that includes Jeff Blanzy and Mike Berman. She replaces Siafa Lewis, who is returning to his hometown of Philadelphia to anchor newscasts at CBS-owned KYW-TV.
Coming over from NBC-owned WNBC in New York City, Lewis came to NBC 5 in 2014 as a sports reporter and join the station full-time in 2017 as lead sports anchor. He co-hosted the station’s Sports Sunday show until he moved to the morning shift, leaving Blanzy to anchor solo. The program’s half-hour length was recently restored after being cut to fifteen minutes due to the pandemic.
“We thank Siafa for his years of work here in Chicago and send him back to his hometown with our best wishes for his future success,” said Frank Whittaker, who is station manager and vice president of NBC 5 in an e-mail to staffers.
It’s a bit of a homecoming of sorts for Rahimi, who was at NBC Sports Chicago as a personality for five years, before being laid off in a round of cost-cutting at NBCUniversal, who owns NBC 5 and NBC Sports Chicago (the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox each have a stake in the RSN, but no editorial control.)
In January, Rahimi joined Audacy-owned The Score in a midday slot with Bernstein in a move widely praised by observers.
Good Karma Brands’ WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 has filled its open market manager position and it’s Keith Williams from the company’s Madison, Wis. station, who takes the role. Williams fills the seat formerly occupied by Mike Thomas, who left to take the same position at Audacy’s cluster in Boston.
Williams is a 22-year-old veteran of Good Karma, overseeing as many as five stations with the company.
“I’m thrilled to join the team at ESPN 1000 and work with the talented group of teammates and loyal partners we have in Chicago,” said Williams in a press release. “I’m looking forward to furthering Good Karma’s track record as a best-in-class operator of world class brands to ESPN Chicago and can’t wait to get started.”
Williams takes over at a time when ESPN 1000 trails The Score in the ratings. But the station did get a boost from airing White Sox games over the summer, after a short stint at WGN-AM.
Meanwhile, Williams is being succeeded in Madison by Tom Olson, a ten-year veteran of Good Karma.
Good Karma Brands owns stations in Milwaukee, Cleveland, the aforementioned Madison, and operates ESPN 1000 in an agreement with ESPN.
The Green Bay Packers announced a new deal with iHeartMedia on Wednesday, which puts all games on the company’s Milwaukee station WRNW-FM, known as 97.3 The Game and becomes the team’s new flagship station, replacing longtime rightsholder WTMJ-AM in the role, dating back to 1929.
“We are excited to welcome a new station to the Packers Radio Network in the Milwaukee area beginning in 2022,” said Craig Benzel, Packers vice president of sales and business development in statement via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “iHeartMedia enthusiastically pursued the opportunity that being a part of the network creates, and we are looking forward to how their innovative approach will appeal to Packers fans in southeastern Wisconsin.
“The Packers have greatly appreciated the partnership with WTMJ over the years and will always respect the history they have with the franchise.”
Other iHeartMedia stations carrying the Packers include Madison’s WIBA-AM/FM; Eau Claire’s WBIZ, and Moline, Ill. WFXN-AM.
No changes to the broadcasts are being made; Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren will continue as commentators. Larrivee was the former play-by-play man for Chicago Bulls games on WGN-TV during the Jordan era. Like many NFL teams, the Packers produce their radio broadcasts in-house; they’ve been doing so since 2018.
Even though the Packers play in Green Bay, the team is very popular statewide including in the state’s largest city, Milwaukee. In terms of radio, Milwaukee is the 41st largest market. But while the Green Bay-Appleton area ranks 67th in television, the market is split in radio with Green Bay ranking 186th and Appleton-Oshkosh ranking 138th, meaning Packers games are carried on four stations in the area -the unusual setup is basically the reason why the Milwaukee station is the flagship. The Packers even played a few home games in Milwaukee, usually three annually from 1933 to 1994.
WTMJ-AM was also home to the Wisconsin Badgers; they too went to WRNW several years ago.
With the FM frequency and its limited reach, some Packers fans (who are able to access the team on TV) outside of Wisconsin may be out of luck as WTMJ-AM traveled well, especially at night reaching into numerous states, including Chicago and the rest of Illinois. Northern Illinois fans of the team who are not near the state line could listen to the team’s games on WFXN if they can. Otherwise, they would have to shell out money to listen to the team on Sirius/XM or NFL Game Pass.
Sinclair Broadcasting is continuing to have problems due to a ransomware attack on their systems nearly two weeks ago. According to WVXU Cincinnati media critic John Kiesewetter, Sinclair CBS affiliate WKRC-TV and digital subchannel CW Cincinnati and My Network TV affiliate WSTR-TV are still being affected from the attack, leaving the trio unable to air numerous syndicated shows including Dr. Phil and Young Sheldon. It could take weeks for everything to get back to normal.
Buffalo News media critic Alan Pergament reported Thursday Fox affiliate WUTV in Buffalo wasn’t able to air Family Feud as a Western New York family was scheduled to compete on the show.
Shows in numerous Sinclair markets were replaced by programming from the company’s own digital networks including TBD, Charge, and Comet and news show The National Desk.
Technical problems were also reported outside of Sinclair’s broadcast stations. Sinclair’s Ring of Honor Wrestling was forced to scrap a planned new episode last weekend and was replaced with a “best-of” edition, and recent Oklahoma City Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks games on their respective bally Sports RSN channels had technical difficulties.
So far, no problems have been reported with Marquee, a channel owned by the Cubs but is operated by Sinclair.
The fallout from the Sinclair ransomware will reverberate across the industry – especially with syndicated shows. With Sinclair owning more than 150 stations, the failure to air syndicated programming due to the attack will likely affect their national ratings as the numbers for the week including the ransomware attack are due next Tuesday or Wednesday. Fortunately (and I can’t stress this enough), Sinclair does not own local broadcast stations in top markets such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles as otherwise, this would have been a bigger disaster. If you recall, Sinclair tried to buy WGN-TV owner Tribune Media three years ago as their own incompetence and arrogance did them in. when the deal collapsed.