The Media Notepad: Steve and Johnnie return to WGN Radio for Saturday nights

Plus:  MeTV expands Svengoolie; MLS and Apple makes linear broadcasting deals; PBS stations to stream on LocalNow.

One of the top-rated overnight voices in Chicago radio is coming back for an encore. 

The husband-and-wife team of Steve King and Johnnie Putnam will be returning to WGN Radio on Saturday nights starting January 7, where they’ll have a weekly show airing from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. It marks their first appearance (aside from fill-in work and New Year’s Eve specials) on the Nexstar-owned radio station on a regular basis since December 2011, when they left after 26 years.

“Returning to the Saturday nighttime slot is a full circle moment for us. Our first regular show as a duo on WGN Radio was in February 1985 – on a Saturday night. Coming back to WGN for version 2.0 seemed like a fun idea,” said King and Putman in a statement.  “Of course, we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular features, but we’re looking forward to seeing where version 2.0 takes us. We’re throwing a Saturday night party for our friends – and there’s no dress code!”

The duo were one of Chicago’s highest-rated overnight voices at a time when local stations filled the slot with live personalities – something that unfortunately these days, is rare. King is a long-time Chicago radio veteran, with his career beginning at WJOB in Hammond and with the exception of a short stint in Indianapolis, has been heard on the airwaves on WBBM-FM, WLS-AM, WDAI, and WIND-AM, where he met fellow host (and future wife) Putnam. King arrived at WGN-AM in December 1984 where he would be teamed up with Putnam two months later. During their time together on the air, their nighttime show was heard in more than 25 states in Canada, thanks to WGN’s clear channel signal. 

Both are also longtime guitar enthusiasts including Les Paul, whose been on their show numerous times. The duo’s friendship with the legendary guitar man was documented in the 2015 memoir A Little More Les.  

Here’s some more Saturday night news: Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting’s MeTV announced a complete Svengoolie takeover of prime-time, expanding the horror movie showcase to two-and-a-half hours, up from the current two. 

The shift to a longer format is to allow for more of the films to be shown with less editing and to make more room for in-house Svengoolie material. As a result, the official “after-show” – known as Sventoonie, shifts a half-hour later to 9:30 p.m. Central, meaning a full prime-time Saturday night of Svengoolie fun.

The expansion begins on January 7 with the Vincent Price thriller The Raven, and in subsquent weeks, features The Invisible Man, Kiss Of The Vampire, and Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

Also expanding is the name: Svengoolie is now known as The Svengoolie Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Movie Showcase. Svengoolie is part of MeTV’s Sci-Fi Saturday Night, which starts with Svengoolie and company, followed by all-night reruns of classic sci-fi series such as Star Trek and Lost In Space

The news is the latest in expanding the Svengoolie brand, which has been successful on a night known for viewers not being home watching television. Back in October, Svengoolie made a appearance at New York Comic-Con and also launched a contest where a viewer can become Svengoolie’s co-host, known as Spawn of Svengoolie with the contest is continuing through 2023. Svengoolie is also getting into the comic book game with two editions being released this year in conjunction with Frank Miller Presents (no, Svengoolie will not be hanging out with Thor or fighting with Wilson Fisk.) 

Svengoolie began at WFLD in September 1970 as Screaming Yellow Theater with the late Jerry G. Bishop playing the title role until  September 1973, and was succeeded by Rich Koz when it returned in June 1979 as Son of Svengoolie, who remains in the top hat today. Svengoolie returned to local TV via WCIU when the station was re-launched on December 31, 1994 after a nine-year hiatus and went national when MeTV did in April 2011. 

As expected, Apple and MLS struck a sublicensing deal with several linear broadcasters in the U.S. and Canada as Fox Corporation becomes the exclusive home for the league in the United States with a new, four year pact. 

Fox, FS1, and Spanish-language sports network Fox Deportes will carry 34 regular-season games (with fifteen of those on Fox) and eight playoff games and in good news for fans, the MLS Cup – the championship game between the top two teams who advance the farthest in the playoffs, will be carried on Fox and Fox Deportes. 

FS1 also gets the new Leagues Cup tournament, featuring MLS and Liga MX teams. Univision will carry twenty of those tournament games in Spanish, as well as the League Cup Final – all part of a larger pact which lets parent company TelevisaUnivision use their platform to host the Spanish-language MLS website. 

In Canada, Bell Media’s English-language sports network TSN and French-language counterpart RDS gets all of what’s mentioned above, including a weekly game featuring a Canadian team.  

“We are proud to continue our partnerships with FOX Sports, Univision and TSN, and we are pleased to have MLS matches on RDS in Canada,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement. “These broadcast industry leaders continue to demonstrate their deep commitment to MLS and soccer. Our linear agreements, along with our partnership with Apple, are the culmination of a series of collaborative discussions to provide our fans with the most expansive and accessible lineup of programming MLS and our sport in the U.S. and Canada have ever seen – and by a significant margin.” 

All games in the linear TV deals are produced by Apple and made available to stream through MLS Season Pass on Apple TV Plus with a selection of games being made available to stream for Apple TV subscribers who do not subscribe to the Pass package. Earlier this spring, Apple and MLS made a landmark ten-year deal to acquire exclusive rights to all MLS games, including linear and streaming. The new deal also marked the end of MLS broadcasts on local stations (Such as WGN-TV, who carried Chicago Fire games for three seasons), regional sports networks, and ESPN/ABC, who carried games since the league’s inception. 

Beginning soon, there will be another to watch your local PBS station – through the Local Now app. As first reported by Deadline, Allen Media Group’s Local Now entered into a partnership this week with PBS to live stream their local stations and 24/7 channel PBS Kids, meaning viewers can stream PBS’ award-winning programming including longtime mainstays Antiques Roadshow, Nova, Frontline, Masterpiece, and more.

The partnership spans more than 300 pubic television stations in the United States, including Chicago’s two PBS stations: WTTW and Northwest Indiana’s WYIN (a third, the former City Colleges outlet WYCC, was closed down earlier this year by WTTW.) Viewers will also be able to stream local programming from the two stations, such as WTTW’s Chicago Tonight

“The addition of local PBS stations is a major achievement for Local Now and cements our position as the leader of free-streaming local news and entertainment in America,” said Byron Allen, CEO of Allen Media Group in a statement. “Viewers of all ages know and love PBS and soon they will be able to stream this amazing content for free, anytime.”

Already, PBS has a FAST channel on Local Now from PBS Digital Studios, which targets millennials and Gen Zers. 

Local Now has content from Allen’s programming, including the Weather Channel and provides localized news, weather, sports, traffic, and entertainment in basically every market in the United States. [add more]


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