The Media Notepad: Chicago sports radio stations not benefitting from Bears’ bad season

Also: Lakers and Spectrum announce DTC option; record set for shortest affiliation deal; Too much Judy?

Have Chicagoans had enough of the Bears? An interesting take surfaced Monday as Chicago’s radio ratings were released. Radio Insight noted most cities’ sports talkers went up at the dawn of the NFL season – with the exception of Chicago’s 670 The Score/WSCR , whose ratings dropped 22 percent from September’s PPM survey. ESPN 1000’s ratings did go up – a fourteen percent increase (1.4 to 1.6), but still disappointing given the Good Karma-owned station became the official home of the Bears this season, with game broadcasts and related programming.

This comes as the Bears are once again off to a bad start; the team is 2-6 after getting blown out in primetime again Sunday night – this time by at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers, themselves a middling team (three years ago, this space begged and pleaded for the NFL to stop showing Bears games in prime-time in a piece still just as relevant today as it was then.) TV ratings released Tuesday showed NBC and its local station besting all competition combined in the ratings, though CBS and Fox had bigger national numbers earlier in the day.

As a reminder – these are 6+ plus numbers as Nielsen rules prohibit the release of demo and daypart breakdowns (obviously at the request of the big radio conglomerates so this space and others on the beat won’t be able to write anything.) It’s likely both stations did better among male demos than the overall numbers suggest. Also keep in mind WSCR generally declines this time of year as the Cubs season concludes but the steep drop suggests it might be more than that – after two consecutive years of poor play by all of our teams, Chicago listeners are likely losing interest and it’s not good news for either sports talk station.

As for the rest of the book, The Drive retook the top spot from 93.9 The Lite. But as we all know, Christmas is around the corner – and so is the Holly Jolly format as WLIT returns to Christmas music at 4 p.m. today – so iHeartMedia’s AC station will be back on top soon, led by Mariah’s non-stop Christmas anthem.

WADL’s logo, now CW-free.

In a bizarre move and what may be the shortest affiliation relationship in history, WADL Channel 38 in Detroit has dropped The CW after just two months. Station officials say a payment dispute was the reason.

According to the Detroit News, WADL owner Kevin Adell said – in a bizarre way – that The CW failed to pay them compensation for airing the network’s programming. “They didn’t pay, that’s really what it comes down to,” WADL owner Kevin Adell told the paper Monday. Quoting lyrics from a Diddy song, Adell said “It’s always about the Benjamins, don’t ever forget it. Everything is always about the Benjamins.” Adell claims he gave a ten-day notice to The CW, but said he was ignored.

The CW and its owner Nexstar, who owns 75 percent of the network, haven’t commented as of yet.

Back in the day, the major networks would pay their affiliates to air their programming. But in the last 25 years, they phased out comp and started asking stations to pay them – termed reverse compensation, something CW predecessor The WB pioneered in the 1990s. This was more prevalent in the 2000s as program expenses went up – notably to carry the NFL, pay for cast raises, and other programming.

Adell is in the process of selling WADL to Mission Broadcasting, a small company who is affiliated with Nexstar under a shared services agreement, meaning they run the day-to-day operations. Adell acknowledged FCC approval of the deal is being held up as several organizations are suing Mission to stop the deal, saying Mission is nothing more than a shell company connected to Nexstar to circumvent the ownership cap, which stands at 39 percent. Mission’s holdings are as large as WPIX New York and as small as Rockford ABC affiliate WTVO, who is in a SSA with WQRF, a Fox station outright owned by Nexstar. 

A local media message board user noted the network vanished on Saturday, as WADL did not carry a college football game The CW was airing.

The CW shifted to stations in eight markets September 1 including Detroit as one-time part-owner CBS dropped the network after reducing its stake to 12.5 percent as former affiliate WKBD became an independent station once again after 37 years (the station had previous affiliations with Fox and UPN.) It is not known if The CW would seek another station in Detroit, or if WADL’s sale to Mission would be completed as the deal may now be in serious doubt. Either way, it looks like this article I wrote on bad network-affiliate relationships in 2019 will be getting an update soon.

While it looks like major syndicators are passing on developing new programs for fall 2024, another small syndicator is looking to make a dent in a big way – a newly formed company is stepping up to the plate with a powerful weapon – Judy Sheindlin.

As first reported by Deadline, Judy Justice co-producer Sox Entertainment (no relation to the two MLB teams with Sox in their name) plans to syndicate nearly 400 episodes starting next September on linear TV. The former Judge Judy star left her namesake series and shifted to a similar show with Amazon, who distributes the show on its Freevee FAST platform.

Neither Amazon or Sox has made any announcement or released any details, and there hasn’t been any station sales.

So far, the only other project announced for next fall is Debmar’s-Mercury planned talk show with Ken Jeong.

Sheindlin had reigned over Judge Judy for 25 seasons, with episodes from 2006 to 2021 distributed by CBS Media Ventures. Sheindlin’s relationship with CBS started to deteriorate several years later with accusations and lawsuits galore, leading to the show’s end in May 2021.

Since then, Sheindlin moved to Freevee and became the first first-run strip created on a FAST platform – notable given most channels are dedicated to endless reruns. The show even had a spinoff Tribunal Justice, a similar show to CBS Media’s Hot Bench, even going as far as to poach two judges from the very show she created for them.

Reruns of Judge Judy continue to pull in viewers, drawing 5.6 million of them so far this season on average. If Judy Justice debuts next year, having the original Judge Judy and the new Judy Justice would mean a lot of Judy to go around, potentially confusing viewers – especially if both shows wind up on different channels in the same market.

The latest regional sports net to launch a direct-to-consumer option is Spectrum SportsNet, who announced last week it was going the route to reach young viewers and cord-cutters.

Named Spectrum SportsNet Plus, the $19.99-a-month (or $179.99 a year) app features the same programming the cable network has in real-time. Owned by Charter, Spectrum SportsNet is home to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, who struck a long-term deal with the cable company (then known as TimeWarnerCable) in 2012 to air all of its non-network games, moving from KCAL and Fox Sports West (now Bally Sports West), respectively.

“With the start of the NBA regular season, the launch of Spectrum SportsNet+ will allow even more fans to enjoy live Lakers games and in-depth, unique coverage of their favorite team, with or without a pay TV subscription,” said Dan Finnerty, who is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Spectrum Sports in a statement. “By offering a variety of packages, we’re giving fans more choice and flexibility and taking another step towards evolving the Regional Sports Network model in this new era of sports viewing.”

Spectrum SportsNet is also home to the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, who play in the same arena as the Lakers. 

In addition to live games, Plus will also have pre and post game shows and team programming. One of sports’ most storied franchises, the Lakers is home to future hall-of-famer LeBron James and has rejuvenated the once-slumping franchise since arriving from Cleveland in 2018, winning a title in the 2020 “bubble” year. The app is available to viewers in Spectrum’s footprint Southern California (L.A., San Diego, and Bakersfield markets), Southern Nevada (the Las Vegas market, home to many Lakers fans), and Hawaii through iOs and Android devices; Roku, Amazon Fire, and Android TV platforms; and Playstation and Xbox game consoles. 

Spectrum also runs another RSN, one dedicated to the Los Angeles Dodgers called SportsNet LA. There’s no word on when a DTC option would be available to fans but given this development, one should be available by next baseball season.


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