The Media Notepad: Thanks to Santa, WLIT soars with record ratings

Also: Fox re-ups Animation Domination as White Sox voices Jason Benetti and Steve Stone get reneweals, too; DirecTV adds a NewsMax replacement; Blackhawks’ ratings sag as does the rest of the NHL 

Even though it’s a ratings period most radio stations not playing Christmas music ignore, the “Holiday” book for iHeartMedia’s 93.9 FM The Lite dominated to no one’s surprise as thanks to the Holly Jolly format, the station recorded its highest-rated share ever – a eye-popping 14.8, scoring nearly three times higher than the second place runner-up, The Drive (WDRV).

According to radio analyst Chris Huff, the 14.8 share is the highest for any Chicago radio station since 1974, when WGN-AM was on top.

The rest of the report didn’t contain much of anything notable, as normal listening patterns should emerge during the next ratings period though WXRT recorded a huge one-point drop while WSHE’s ratings continue to fall as listeners continue to reject the station’s new music direction.

Meanwhile, Christmas music also dominated the ratings charts in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. While WLIT was up from last year, their iHeart sister AC stations in New York and L.A. declined with the same format. On the flipside, Bonneville’s San Francisco AC outlet KOIT and Audacy-owned WBEB in Philadelphia scored higher shares with Santa tracks than WLIT did.

In a story in the Seattle Times about the poor ratings the NHL’s Seattle Kraken are drawing, season-to-date Nielsen ratings for 23 U.S. teams were listed as story of the Chicago Blackhawks on NBC Sports Chicago were mixed. According to the chart, the team ranks in the upper-tier of NHL teams placing ninth, behind the Detroit Red Wings and just ahead of the Washington Capitals. However, the team has averaged a 1.04 rating so far this year, down consideribly from what they earned during their championship years.

The rankings exclude Canadian teams and the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators, as their ratings weren’t available. Pittsburgh topped all teams with a 4.8 rating, followed by Buffalo, St. Louis, and the red-hot Boston Bruins.

Despite the high ranking, the one rating isn’t exactly anything to celebrate, as the team’s sexual abuse scandal combined with poor play sunk ratings as the team is only averaging around 35,000 homes a game –  though that’s actually a bit higher than what they were stretching a period between 1997 and 2008 when home TV blackouts were still in effect and the team also played poorly with just one playoff appearance.

The Blackhawks have the league’s worst-record at of this writing.

But a bigger issue is roughly half of the teams are drawing lower ratings than a one as regional sports networks carry most local NHL games. Of those listed, Bally Sports has rights to ten teams, plus Carolina and Nashville. This comes at a time as Bally’s parent Diamond Sports Group may be headed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could affect each team’s revenue stream as the RSN business seems on the verge of collapsing.

An issue for all teams – Blackhawks included – is the rampant cord cutting  as viewers are dropping expensive cable subscriptions. It’s one of the reasons why the Kraken had a difficult time getting a foothold in the sports conversion in Seattle, despite the lack of a NBA team (the Seattle Supersonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008.) So it’s little wonder why the Kraken made a deal with Fox-owned KCPQ in the market for a weekly half-hour show and other coverage, even though the station won’t be able to carry any games (Root Sports has rights to Kraken games in the Pacific Northwest.)

In what is certainly good news for White Sox fans, the South Side team announced a contract extension for both play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti and commentator Steve Stone, assuring they’ll be in the booth for years to come. White Sox games appear on NBC Sports Chicago.

Benetti is considered one of the best announcers in baseball for the team as many considered an upgrade from Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, who he replaced on a full-time basis after the 2018 season. Benetti also has raised his national profile over the years, being an announcer for ESPN’s college football and college basketball coverage, and last season, Peacock’s Sunday morning baseball games. Benetti has also filled in for Adam Amin at times calling Chicago Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago this past season.

A key hang-up in the contract renewal was the number of games Benetti would miss this season due to his other commitments. This season, Benetti jumped to Fox Sports where his first assignment was calling the Northwestern-Nebraska college football game played in Dublin, Ireland (Benetti called the game from Fox’s L.A. studios.) In addition to college football, Benetti is also calling college basketball games and baseball for Fox and FS1, but stepped down from calling MLB games for Peacock.

This upcoming season is Benetti’s eighth calling White Sox games; this is Stone’s sixteenth. Benetti hails from south suburban Homewood.

While Velma continues to stink up streaming platform HBO Max, Fox has renewed its trio of Sunday animated comedies under the “Animation Domination” banner through 2025 with The Simpsons picked up for 35th and 36th seasons; Family Guy for seasons 22 and 23; and Bob’s Burgers for its 14th and 15th seasons. While all three haven’t been buzzworthy for quite sometime, the shows still deliver solid ratings for Fox.

“With this trio of renewals, we celebrate excellence in animation on Fox, our wonderful, longtime partnership with 20th Television and the brilliant creators and incredible voices behind these forever favorites,” said Fox Entertainment scripted programming president Michael Thorn. “Three-plus decades of The Simpsons, more than two decades of Family Guy and over a decade of Bob’s Burgers proves the enduring power of the animation genre on our network and the infinite fan affinity for these outrageously funny comedy classics.”

Earlier this year, long-running game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy were renewed for five more seasons thru 2028 by the ABC-owned stations, including ABC 7 here. Excluding hard news shows, both programs and Entertainment Tonight have been on the air longer than The Simpsons

There was rumors circulating about Seth MacFarlane wanting to end Family Guy (despite no longer being creatively involved in the show) given his relationship with Fox had deteriorated badly, and even more so given his show (and Simpsons and Bob’s) are no longer in-house productions as Disney gained the rights to all three series when the company bought out most of 21st Century Fox in 2019. But this may have been nothing more but a negotiation tactic to keep him voicing characters on the show, used in Hollywood all the time (do you really think Pat Sajak and Vanna White would ever leave Wheel? Come on, now…) 

Most fans of these shows stream each episode on Disney’s streaming services, where all of them do well with Family Guy drawing five million total viewers and is Fox’s most-streamed non-sports program. Meanwhile, The Simpsons have been on a bit of a creative resurgence in the last year or so given its well-received Treehouse Of Horror episodes last October. And The Bob’s Burgers Movie drew fans to the multiplexes last summer, albeit modestly.

Thursday also saw the return of Aqua Teen Hunger Force after a eight-year break, with adult swim ordering five episodes. Co-creators Dave Willis announced the show’s end at a C2E2 panel at McCormick Place in April 2015. 

In a move meant to lessen anger from conservatives for dropping NewsMax, DirecTV announced Thursday the addition of right-leaning channel The First to its lineup, which also includes DirecTV Stream and U-Verse. The channel features former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, in addition to hosts Dana Loesch, Jesse Kelly, and Liz Wheeler. The Right replaces NewsMax on channel 349, effective immediately.

“DirecTV values different viewpoints and perspectives and will always work to preserve expansive choice among a wide variety of entertainment and information services to appeal to the unique tastes and interests of our diverse customer base,” said DirecTV chief content officer Rob Thun. “As we’ve successfully done with other emerging channels, we look forward to helping The First continue to expand its audience reach, while constantly ensuring that our customers receive a strong value.”

DirecTV is adding The First free of charge to viewers, but terms to carry the channel are unknown. Like NewsMax, The First is a online channel available to viewers on numerous platforms including Pluto TV and on The First’s website. DirecTV dropped NewsMax Tuesday as the channel was seeking a carriage fee from them, as they weren’t receiving one before.

Not surprisingly, former President Donald Trump blasted the decision to drop NewsMax on his TruthSocial social media platform. While he mentions the channel was “very popular”, it finished far behind Fox News in the ratings with only around 100,000 viewers according to Nielsen.


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