The Media Notepad: WGN-TV’s new “Daytime Chicago” a hit

Also: Paramount Plus adds new streaming channels; Pictionary gets green light for full-time series; Jussie Smollett found guilty

Newsflash: There is a new hit on linear TV not named Ghosts or Law & Order: Organized Crime. In fact, it’s not even in primetime – and it’s local. 

It’s WGN-TV’s new morning show Daytime Chicago, and it pulled out a ratings victory in a tough 10 a.m. time slot during November. As reported by TVNewsCheck, the new show finished first in the key adult 25-54 (0.9) and women 25-54 (1.1) demos, topping network shows The Price Is Right, The View, and Today With Hoda & Jenna. It also beat syndicated talk shows Wendy Williams and Steve Wilkos. Daytime Chicago also scored a 29 percent ratings increase from November 2020’s time period occupant (Rachael Ray) and was the only show in the time slot among commercial stations to do so. Of course, having the top-rated WGN Morning News as a lead-in doesn’t hurt. 

Debuting September 13, Daytime Chicago is hosted by Tonya Francisco and Amy Rutledge.

Daytime Chicago follows a nationwide trend as local stations are slotting more “lifestyle” given they’re more cost-efficient than syndicated programming and also can bring in revenue from product placement. And the genre is a hit with viewers – in Indianapolis, Fox affiliate WXIN ranks first with a similar show, Indy Now

Both WGN and WXIN are owned by Nexstar. 

In other news, NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV) announced the expansion of lifestyle show Chicago Today to weekdays – but at the unorthodox time of 11:45 a.m. Monday-Thursday for fifteen minutes (the Friday show stays at 11:30 a.m. and remains a half-hour.) Can’t think of the last time (other than NBC 5’s Sports Sunday) that a program was scheduled on the quarter hour – with the exception of WTTW’s instructional programming in the 1970s and 1980s, you’d probably have to go back to the early days of television. 

After a four-week test this summer, CBS’ and Fox’s Pictionary has been picked up as a full-time, daily series expanding to the rest of the country starting next fall. 

“After a successful summer run on Fox stations, we’re excited to continue our relationship with Fox and roll out Pictionary to the rest of the country,” said Jonathan Bingaman, who is executive vice-president of sales at CBS Media Ventures. “Game shows have been delivering impressive ratings and growth regardless of daypart, so this is a great opportunity for stations to add another well-known franchise to their lineups.” 

CBS Media Ventures will handle sales and barter ad time for the show with the program already sold to all the Fox-owned stations including Fox 32/My50 in Chicago, the latter airing Pictionary last July for a few weeks at 5:30 p.m. in between episodes of Family Feud

Pictionary could also wind up on several CBS-owned stations in non-Fox-owned markets. 

Jerry O’Connell returns as host, and some of the celebrities who appeared in the test include Ross Matthews, Melissa Peterman (Young Sheldon) and Vivica A. Fox. This is the third time Pictionary has appeared as a syndicated series with a kids-centric version from MCA TV in 1989 and a general audience-targeted version during the 1997-98 season from Worldvision Enterprises, whose parent Viacom (now ViacomCBS) purchased in 1999. CBS Media Ventures is ViacomCBS’ syndication arm. 

It’s not immediately known if Pictionary would be a companion to or wind up replacing Jay Leno’s underperforming You Bet Your Life revival. According to the latest Nielsen ratings, You Bet pulled in a 0.7 rating, tying fellow Fox First-Run game show strip 25 Words Or Less and far behind Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud and CBS’ Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!  However, You Bet has averaged 1.1 million viewers per day, which could give it an edge for a second season. 

The show is produced by Fox First-Run, Bill’s Market and Television Production, and Mattel, who also makes the board game the show is based on. 

Jussie Smollett’s mug shot. (Chicago Police Department)

Remember the Jussie Smollett saga? Well, it came roaring back two weeks ago when the former Empire actor finally went to trial on staging and faking an attack by right-wing “MAGA” supporters in January 2019. On Thursday, Smollett was found guilty on five of six counts of disorderly conduct and lying to police. 

The so-called “attack” occurred on one of the coldest nights of the season and there were doubts whether it happened right from the start. The case generated a media firestorm not seen in years and further politized the country – and Chicago – among racial lines. 

The saga did nothing to boost Empire’s then-sagging ratings as the show continued to lose viewership. After Smollett was written out of the cast, Empire ended its run after six seasons but filming of the show’s final episodes were halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving the remaining fans left of a resolution to the series. 

As the pandemic took hold, Smollett’s case faded from the headlines and had no impact on State Attorney’ Kim Foxx’s re-election, who dropped charges against Smollett in a controversial move. However, the fallout lingers as a surge of crime in Chicago and Cook County has her on the hotseat again. 

Even though the trial is over, this is just the beginning. Smollett’s attorneys plan to appeal with a post-trial hearing coming up January 27. If the charges stick, Smollett could face three years in jail – but that’s unlikely, and could get community service. However, this could change if he faces perjury charges if he lied under oath. 

Cluttered: “The Loud House” with Patrick Mahomes in the background

If you use ViacomCBS’ streaming service Paramount Plus, then you have a new feature to enjoy.

Eighteen “linear” channels were launched last week, found under the “Live TV” section of the streamer’s menu. Among the shows getting the round-the-clock binge treatment are those home to the Star Trek, Spongebob, Jersey Shore, Paw Patrol, and Survivor franchises; and channels devoted to specific genres including procedural drama, comedy, history, adult animation, kids and family, and reality TV. Most of the programming comes from the vast CBS library, ranging from classics such as the original Twilight Zone and Fraiser to more-current titles such as Blue Bloods and The Neighborhood

“Even in the era of on-demand, there is clearly a strong consumer appetite for reimagined linear channels that provide effortless, lean-back entertainment,said Tom Ryan, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of ViacomCBS Streaming. 

If all of this reminds you of Pluto TV, it should – this is basically a smaller version of the wildly successful ad-supported free linear streaming service given it’s also owned by ViacomCBS and set to become a billion-dollar business in 2022. The new channels join existing free streaming channels CBSN, ET Live, and CBS Sports HQ (also available is your local CBS affiliate, but you’d have to pay extra.) 

“Inspired and informed by the winning model Pluto TV pioneered and popularized, these highly curated channels underscore the power of our unified streaming organization and serve as a product differentiator in the SVOD space, by offering subscribers yet another way to experience and discover programming on Paramount+.”, added Ryan.

From this user’s experience, the Live TV section has video from the last channel played running in the background (as you can see in the screenshot), making it hard to navigate and is a significant distraction. There are obviously some kinks to work out.


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