It’s a Chicago country music station smackdown



New startup from iHeart Radio making life hell for US 99.5

In the last few years, analyzing PPM results has been like watching paint dry – no real, earth-shaking position changes usually happens.

But the most recent PPM report out this week showing a huge shakeup in what has become a most interesting development for country music fans.

New country startup WEBG-FM, aka Big 95.5 has closed the gap on CBS-owned WUSN-FM, aka US 99.5 overall, with the March PPM report showing the iHeart-owned station just three-tenths of a point behind US 99.5 overall, compared to a nearly three-point share lead in January.

But among key demographics, Big 95.5 has already taken the lead over US 99, according to Robert Feder. In March, Big 99.5 passed its rival by one-tenth in the 25-54 demo and tied each other in the 18-34s.

Credit an aggressive advertising campaign and a 10,000 songs-in-a row stunt at launch in Big 95.5 helping to become competitive into US99’s lead. In response, US99 recently launched its own television ad campaign.

US99 also plans to have a presence at the heavily-promoted 50th annual American Country Music Awards, scheduled to take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. this Sunday night. No doubt you’ll see some US99 ads this Sunday on during the CBS telecast.

WEBG wasn’t the only iHeart station to make an aggressive format change which paid off in the ratings – in Los Angeles, new urban/hip-hop outlet Real 92.3 (KRRL) vaulted past longtime heritage rhythmic/CHR station KPWR-FM, 3.2 to 2.8, with KPWR declining from a 3.6. iHeart made headlines a few weeks ago by stealing longtime KPWR morning personality Big Boy away, prompting Emmis to sue to stop the move (iHeart eventually prevailed.)

KRRL is the first urban station in the Los Angeles market since the heyday of The Beat (KKBT) in the 1990’s.

IHeart’s KIIS-FM remains the top-rated radio station in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile back in Chicago, WBBM-AM held onto the top spot, ahead of WVAZ-FM, which was the top music station. WTMX-FM finished a strong third, with CHR stalwarts WKSC-FM and WBBM-FM – yes, another iHeart/CBS Radio battle – rounding out the top five.

WGN-AM, who seems to generate more discussion than actual numbers, finished eleventh, while WLS-AM finished in a tie for 26th place. Weigel’s Me TV FM (WRME-FM) debuted with a 0.6, pulling better numbers than its predecessor (WGWG-FM/The Game) ever did.


Chris Harrison named new “Millionaire” host

430.1x1Is there now a Millionaire hosting curse?

Disney-ABC Domestic Television on Monday named Dallas native Chris Harrison as the new host of its syndicated Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game show.

Harrison replaces Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews, who just replaced Cedric The Entertainer this season. Cerdic was named host of the show in 2013 to replace Meredith Vieira, who hosted for eleven seasons prior.

Regis Philbin hosted the ABC primetime version of the show from 1999 to 2002.

Excluding fill-ins, Millionaire now has had five hosts helm the franchise, tying Pyramid for the honor and is just one below The Price Is Right and Family Feud with game show franchises who’ve had the most hosts.

Until Steve Harvey took over as host in 2010, Feud was known to have a “curse”, with a misfortune usually happening to the host after the fact, or the host unable to keep the job. The subject was even featured in a 2002 E! True Hollywood Story, featuring the woes of former Feud hosts Richard Dawson, Ray Combs, and Louie Anderson.

Harrison of course, is best known for his low-profile hosting duties on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, two longtime reality TV franchises and will remain in those roles. In recent years, Harrison also hosted the Miss America Pageant for ABC. He did host a game show in 2001 for Game Show Network called Mail Masters, with Brooke Burns.

The revolving door of Millionaire emcees hasn’t helped. This season, the show is down 19 percent in the key 25-54 female demo and is far behind the other game shows in the genre.

Millionaire has had numerous changes in format over the years, including a “jump the question” gimmick and eliminating key elements from the ABC primetime version.

Millionaire is cleared primarily on the ABC O&Os, but in Chicago, the show airs at 4 p.m. on WPWR-TV, and not on WLS-TV, which has never aired the syndicated version of the show. Millionaire did however, air on CBS O&O WBBM-TV in its inaugural syndicated season in prime access before WGN-TV picked up for a daytime slot in 2003. WPWR has aired it for the last two seasons.

Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ABC 7 off to decent start with Cubs (in the ratings)

Cubs on 7

Wednesday’s game scores in the ratings – despite some production bumps in the road

History was made on Wednesday when ABC-owned WLS-TV broadcast its first Chicago Cubs game since 1949 (when it was known as WENR, pre-ABC’s merger with United Paramount Theaters.)

And it paid off handsomely in the ratings, too: Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals drew a 4 live-plus-same day overnight household rating, according to Chicago Business Journal. It was double what ABC 7’s daytime schedule usually gets in the 1-4 p.m. timeframe.

ABC 7’s sports anchors Mark Giangreco and Jim Rose hosted the pre-game show; and Cheryl Scott handled the weather report.

While ABC 7 used font similar to what ESPN uses, it did not use its graphics package. ESPN and WLS-TV share the same corporate parent in The Walt Disney Co.

The first WLS Cubs broadcast didn’t come off without a hitch: in the opening graphics package (which you can see below), there were some numerous spelling mistakes, and even one graphic saying “San Francisco Mariners” (Good God, Seattle lost another sports team? )


The broadcast is the first of 24 games WLS is scheduled to air this season in a five-year deal. In addition, WLS Cubs games are airing in other Illinois and Indiana markets, similar to what WGN-TV is doing with their sports telecasts.

The next ABC 7 game is Friday against San Diego at Wrigley Field. Game time is at 1:20 p.m.

Sports, Television , , , ,

“Wheel”, “Jeopardy” renewed through 2018

121029jeopardy-wheel1_300x206As expected, CBS Television Distribution’s Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy have been renewed for another two years, taking the veteran game shows through the 2017-18 television season.

The options for hosts Pat Sajak, Vanna White, and Alex Trebek were picked up a few weeks ago, so the game shows’ renewals were right around the corner.

CTD has renewed both shows in 80 percent of the country,  including seven ABC-owned stations, WLS-TV in Chicago among them. The deals keep Jeopardy and Wheel in their 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. slots, respectively. The renewals takes Wheel through its 35th season in syndication and Jeopardy through its 34th.

Other groups renewing the two programs include Cox, Dispatch, Graham, Meredith, NBC, Tribune, and Scripps. The Scripps mention is notable since many of those stations in the group dropped Wheel and Jeopardy in 2012 for their own, company-produced programming: the now-defunct Let’s Ask America and The List, which is still in production.

The president of sales at CTD pointed out the shows’ top-rated positions in syndication in addition to pilling in a lot of political advertising for local stations, given their older skew and sparse DVR use (not to mention a lot of pharmaceutical ads.)

However, both programs have had to fend off serious challenges to their dominance in recent years: one is from Judge Judy, which like Wheel and Jeopardy is from CTD, and has often topped both shows this season.

The other is from Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, whose ratings have surged since Steve Harvey became host in 2010. In recent weeks, Feud has closed in on Wheel and Jeopardy for top-rated game show – the closest Feud has been since the 1983-84 season during the waning days of the Richard Dawson era.

Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , ,

Think Tank Express: Jon Stewart to Chicago: Drop Dead


Here we go again: Overrated, blowhard host of The Daily Show slams Chicago again

Jon Stewart went after Chicago again Wednesday night on The Daily Show – this time not over pizza, but for the city’s residents for re-electing Rahm Emanuel for a second term on Tuesday, defeating challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, 55 percent to 45 percent (for the record, yours truly wasn’t one of them.)

While the national media hasn’t really paid attention to the special runoff election, it didn’t escape the outgoing Daily Show host – who lambasted the city for re-electing Emanuel, calling the city out for “blatant crimes against humanity” and once again ripped the city’s violence, saying the crime rate “is so bad even Detroit left.”


Is this coming out of Stewart’s mouth or Rush Limbaugh’s?

As you recall, the liberal Stewart slammed the city in November 2013 after Emanuel complained about losing the tallest building title to New York’s new skyscraper, ripping our town’s deep dish pizza as “an above ground marinara swimming pool for rats.”

Stewart. Dude. What the hell do you have against Chicago?

Of course, Chicago takes its knocks from blowhards from the left (Stewart) and the right (O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Mancow) and has been disrespected by the national media for years (see the piece of crap CNN produced called Chicagoland.) But some of it is the Windy City’s own making: crime, the murder rate, the corruption, racial segregation, and of course the follies of the local radio industry, which yours truly pointed out two weeks ago. Only in Chicago where a has-been loser like Mancow Mueller can “win” a sham radio contest -just like in politics.

Surprised Stewart didn’t even mention Chicago radio – would’ve been the perfect icing on the cake.

And yes, this stuff does have an impact: Chicago’s radio revenue in 2014 was down 10 percent from the previous year. Chicago being painted as a national embarrassment in everything does not help. And as yours truly pointed out two weeks ago right here in this space, Chicago isn’t exactly home to the most “progressive” and “open-minded” people on earth as these humanoids think the travesty of Cheryl Scott’s wardrobe is a bigger deal than the city’s problems.

Geez, maybe Stewart had a point.

Stewart announced in February he was leaving The Daily Show later this year to be replaced by Trevor Noah, who was criticized for sexist and anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter a few years ago.

Of course Stewart defended the “comedian”. Great future ahead for The Daily Show. Hell, even the Bulls’ Joakim Noah would’ve made a better host.

What yours truly said about Stewart and The Daily Show after “pizzagate” can be read here and yes, it still resonates – my opinion of the man hasn’t changed and he does not deserve any of those Emmy Awards he and his show won. Stewart is an unfunny, overrated hack – even more so than Jim Belushi.  [Not really – but close.] And yes, I won’t miss this clown once he leaves. Don’t hit your ass out the door.

Oh, and Stewart, if you’re going to criticize our town, at least do it right.

In running your mouth about Chicago, you didn’t mention Jay Cutler.

Jay Cutler fumbles again. (USA Today)

Cable, Chicago Media, Television , , , , , , , , , ,

Cubs open up 2015 baseball season

Chicago-CubsFull plate ahead for Chicago sports fans 

The San Francisco Giants (remember them?) may have won the World Series in 2014, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the hype a certain Northside team is getting.

The Chicago Cubs are opening the 2015 season Sunday Night with a nationally televisied game against the archrival St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN2 (Sunday night games are usually on ESPN, but this week’s game is being bumped due to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.)

The Cubs have leapt from also-rans to championship contenders this season, with the addition of manager Joe Madden and ace pitcher Jon Lester. In addition, fans are getting a new look Wrigley, with a new multi-million dollar videoboard in left-field and new bleachers being constructed, though those won’t be ready until at least June.

And as you know by now, the team’s media lineup is changing as well. CBS-owned WBBM-AM has replaced WGN-AM as the team’s longtime radio partner, carrying all 162 games starting Sunday night, ushering in a new era. Another new Cubs era takes place on the television side, where ABC-owned WLS-TV begins carrying 24 games starting with a 1:20 p.m. afternoon game Wednesday against St. Louis. Pre-empted programming (General Hospital, Jeopardy!) will air in the wee hours of the morning after the day’s game, while Rachael Ray (which is on the fence for renewal next season at WLS) won’t air at all.

Meanwhile, WGN-TV has cut the number of Cubs games it is carrying to only 45, with the season debut taking place Tuesday afternoon, and no Cub (or White Sox) games are airing on WGN America this season. Instead, WGN has put together a regional ad-hoc network of stations in Illinois and surrounding areas to carry the games. Five Cubs games are also airing on Fox-owned WPWR.

The White Sox will start their season on the road in Kansas City, but open at home against Cleveland Minnesota on April 10.

And if that weren’t enough, in addition to the Cubs-Cardinals game opening Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues play an important game to determine playoff position in the Western Conference this Sunday night on NBC SN, starting at 6:30 p.m., an half-hour before the Cubs opener. The Bulls play earlier in the day against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavilers in ABC’s “Sunday Showcase.” Both the Bulls and Blackhawks have clinched playoff spots.

Plus, don’t forget the NFL Draft is coming to town for the first time in 50-or so years later this month.

The month of April promises to be a great time for Chicago sports fans. And the best part about it? No mention of the words “Jay” or “Cutler”.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Think Tank Express: “Wrestlemania” highlights on ESPN? Oh, the horror


Yes, this actually was on SportsCenter Sunday night. (Credit:


SportsCenter’s package on Wrestlemania XXXI shows us even the WWE is now gaining legitimate sports’ respect

SportsCenter, the news of record when it comes to sports highlights, showed some of WrestleMania XXXI, the biggest WWE event of the year.

The move took a lot of people by surprise – even die-hard wrestling fans who later praised ESPN for showing highlights of UFC Women’s Champion Rhonda Rousey trashing Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley and even showed some guy named Seth Rollins winning the WWE title. ESPN’s twitter feed was also reporting results, such as Daniel Bryan’s Intercontinental Title win.

WWE on a sports newscast? OMG, what would Johnny Morris think? What would Chet ChitChat think?

Everyone knows WWE is…um, more entertainment than sports. And it has made more of its share of headlines…often of the wrong kind. And some of the headlines were quite interesting to say the least (the Montreal Screwjob.)

But WWE has been on a roll lately, thanks to its ability to attract celebrities to its programs and its loyal audience, which stuck with the product though good times and bad. An episode of Raw on USA Network often averages more viewers than current Fox animated comedies The Simpsons and Family Guy.

As for the WWE highlights on SportsCenter? Meh. Complaining about Wrestlemania highlights is just as ridiculous as Chicago viewers complaining about Cheryl Scott’s or Aiyana Crystal’s wardrobe – and no doubt local viewers would go into a rage if a clip of Roman Reigns slamming John Cena through a table would show up before Cubs highlights.

And if your sport or team isn’t on SportsCenter…well, isn’t that what the web is for? Oh, I forgot – this is a country whose populace never learned how to program their VCRs.

Recently, the WWE has had more of a presence on ESPN programming and vice versa, according to Awful Announcing. Bill Simmons was a guest commentator on Raw recently, and E:60 went behind the scenes of a WWE production, and ESPN scooped everybody when Brock Lesnar announced in an interview with Michelle Beadle he was leaving UFC and rejoining the WWE.

So what does this mean for sports journalism? Nothing, really. Remember when network owned-and-operated stations regularly aired pieces on prime-time dramas like ER and Alias? It’s not a big deal.

While there are some who criticize the WWE for their lame storylines, pushing the wrong people toward success, and featuring those who refuse to leave the ring when their time is up (The Undertaker vs. Big Show again?) at least they have a strong bench of youngsters – unlike a certain communications medium in this town. If Chicago radio execs ran Wrestlemania, your main event would be Steve Dahl vs. Mancow vs. Jonathon Brandmeier in a Triple Threat match every year.

Cable, Journalism, Sports, Television , , , , , ,

T Dog’s Grab Bag: “Monopoly Millionaires'” heads to WGN

Billy Gardell to host "Monopoly Millionaires' Club". (

Billy Gardell and”Monopoly Millionaires’ Club” heads to Tribune stations, including WGN. (

Sinclair realigns newscasts downstate; talent shows to hit syndication; No one is “asking America”

- Remember back in  October when yours truly asked if new weekly hour-long game show Monopoly Millionaires’ Club would air in Chicago because Illinois was not participating in the related lottery game? Well, here’s your answer: WGN-TV picked up the new Monopoly game  hosted by Mike & Molly’s Billy Gardell and premiered Saturday at 11 p.m. WPIX/New York and KTLA/Los Angeles have also picked up the show, for airing in prime-time,  in addition to a Tuesday night airing on GSN.

Scientific Games has cleared the series in 96 percent of the country, mostly in prime access and primetime on weekends. Midwest clearances include WXIN/Indianapolis, WUCW/Minneapolis, WXMI/Grand Rapids, WKBD/Detroit, WICD-WICS/Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, and WITI/Milwaukee. Stations mentioned are owned either by CBS, Sinclair, and Tribune, which owns WGN.

Locally, WGN plans to run the series Sunday nights at 6, beginning April 5 (the series was bumped due to a Blackhawks game, hence the early Saturday night premiere.)

Based on the board game, viewers get a chance to get on the show from playing a lottery game, which was recently revamped (but still not available in Illinois, though neighboring Indiana is participating.)

This is not the first attempt at a TV version of a Monopoly game – ABC aired a short-lived version in the summer of 1990. It grew out of a failed syndicated pilot from King World,  who had Peter Tomarken as host.

- Meanwhile, say so long to Let’s Ask America – Scripps and MGM pulled the plug on the low-rated game show recently after one season in full syndication and three years overall. Scripps developed this inane program as a replacement for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in 2012 on its stations, which Scripps deemed too expensive. Originally hosted by Kevin Pereira, comedian Bill Bellamy took over in the third season when it went into national syndication, but low ratings and rotten time slots (2 a.m. on WCIU Ch. 26.2) did it in.

- He may not be the next Oprah, but he’ll give it a shot: local comic Steve Gadlin has had his StarMakers talent show airing at 3 a.m. Saturdays on WCIU Ch. 26.2, and is now going national. Beginning next month, StarMakers will begin airing in select markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Pago Pago in American Samoa, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Don’t expect mega-production values: StarMakers has a decidedly public-access TV feel to it, with a black curtain as a backdrop and anyone who’s anyone can get on the show and perform. Let’s hope Steve Gadlin’s has a better shot in syndication than Let’s Ask America did.

- Speaking of talent competition, a series with a bigger budget (by syndication standards) is coming to syndication this fall. WCIU has picked up American Television’s The Big Big Show to air beginning in September, which 75 percent of the country currently cleared including WLNY/New York, KDOC/Los Angeles, KDAF/Dallas (where it will film), and KIAH/Houston, the latter two owned by Tribune.

The judges are Andrew Dice Clay, Tara Reid, and Tom Green (no I’m not making this up.) Details were sketchy, but don’t expect a American Idol/America’s Got Talent type of format or someone walking away with a million dollars or a talent deal. The plan is for the judges “raining piles of cash on the best variety acts around the globe.” To get them off the stage quicker, perhaps?

- Downstate: Sinclair Broadcasting has pulled the plug on newscasts produced by ABC affiliate WICD in Champaign and is having sister station WICS in Springfield – located more than 80 miles away – produce them. According to B & C, WICD’s elimination of news will result in layoffs.

While WICD’s news ending production, the Springfield station is producing a new 9 p.m. newscast for Champaign viewers over Fox affiliate WCCU beginning April 7. WCCU is basically a simulcast of Fox affiliate WRSP-TV in Springfield.

An hour south of Chicago, the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market (ranked 85th) is unusual given how geographically wide it its. Springfield, the state’s capital, is 90 miles west of Champaign. Home to the University of Illinois, the Champaign campus is filled with many Chicagoans. The Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market is also home to the largest Chicago Bears fanbase outside of the Windy City.

Champaign-based CBS affiliate WCIA dominates the ratings, as it has for decades.

- Reminder: Beginning today, CBS Television Distribution’s Hot Bench shifts to WBBM-TV at 2 p.m., replacing the now-canceled Queen Latifah Show, which is disappearing from the station. Hot Bench is syndication’s top-rated freshman show this season, with the series recently earning a 1.6 live-plus-same day rating.

Hot Bench had been airing on WCIU.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Think Tank Express: A long way to go on diversity

CBB4XlEXIAAu1zjCBEBrXbUwAA2wgoDeadline article, Bernstein’s comments prove women and minorities still face a hostile environment in the media business 

It’s interesting we have a “communications” as a college major, and yet have a lot of people who don’t know how to communicate – especially when it comes to gender and race issues. And this week, the point was proven more than once.

On Tuesday night, Nellie Andreeva of Deadline penned an article about diversity casting in Hollywood, noting the increase in minority casting “has the pendulum [swinging] too far in the other direction”, suggesting there is TOO MUCH diversity in TV casting.

The article was blasted by almost everyone in Hollywood, from actors, casting agents, writers, and producers – especially Shonda Rhimes. Reaction to the article was even reported in rival publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Wrap. Several minority groups also criticized the Andreeva article.

This season saw the success of many shows with diverse casts – notably Empire, Fresh Off The Boat, and How To Get Away With Murder – all well-written and acted shows. Andreeva’s article pointed out some in Hollywood were not happy with the increased emphasis on diversity.

Then maybe I suggest these people get a job in Chicago radio.

Just a little over 24 hours after the Deadline article was posted, there was WSCR-AM’s Dan Bernstein making some cruel remarks about an African-American CSN Chicago anchorwoman Aiyanna Crystal in a Twitter exchange with fellow WSCR personality Matt Speigel, talking about of all things, her breasts or, her “boobs” (to see the exchange, click here)

Similar to the Andreeva article, there was considerable backlash – female sports personalities Michelle Beadle and Katie Nolan also ripped into Bernstein. Both Speigel and Bernstein apologized, but Berstein’s apology seemed more of “I’m sorry I got caught” variety.

CBS Chicago Radio exec Rod Zimmerman said no suspension is imminent. Of course. As I said earlier this week, Chicago radio is the worst in the country and Bernstein’s antics- which include a past history of such behavior toward women and the fact he’s still employed – only proves my point.

The link here between these two stories is – yes you heard me before as I told you in this very space - the need for more diversity in front of and behind the scenes. While there is some movement in television, you don’t see it in Chicago radio or in media in particular, in an industry still dominated by white males. For one, there are no female hosts or news readers at WSCR, and Chicago has few minorities in key executive positions at any media outlet.

But the attitudes toward change is telling. Hollywood agents are privately complaining about diversity being “forced” on them, while Chicago viewers and listeners seemed to be more concerned about a female’s looks, wardrobe, and delivery (remember, Chicago isn’t the “progressive” and “open-minded” place others in the national media make it out to be – take it from this lifelong resident.)

A comment board section in a Chicago Tribune story about Bernstein (which are full of racists and backward thinking idiots) suggested Crystal only got the job through “affirmative action” or looking like an America’s Next Top Model reject – the very same kind of attitude Hollywood execs displayed in Andreeva’s article. In this business, minorities have to work much harder to prove their hire wasn’t made to meet a “quota”.

Both Hollywood and Chicago media have a huge problem addressing the issues of race and gender within their respective industries. While change is coming slowly, this past week indicate change may not be coming fast enough.

Broadcast Networks, Chicago Media, Sports, Television , , , , , , , , , , ,

Think Tank Express: WDBJ learns the hard way on indecency

site-header-logo-pngOn Monday, the FCC fined CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. a record $325,000 for an indecency violation – airing a clip showing an image of an adult web site in relation to a 2012 story about a former porn star looking to join the volunteer EMT rescue squad, which aired during a 6 p.m. newscast.

Generally, the FCC fines local stations for public file and children’s ad violations, but this is rare indeed. Roanoke lies within the Roanoke-Lynchburg DMA, which ranks as the 67th-largest in the country.

According to the Roanoke Times, several Roanoke County officials said it was inappropriate for a former female porn star to train with the Cave Spring Rescue Squad. A WDBJ reporter urged viewers to “google her name” and see all the pornographic images of her pop up.

WDBJ blamed an editing error for the mishap – turned out someone was using a 4:3 (in length and width) standard definition monitor in an editing bay instead of a 16:9 one. When the material featuring the adult website hit the air – in 16:9 high definition,  the edge of the screen showed the image of an banner ad featuring someone doing um… “the stroke”.

First of all, were these guys high? While there were good intentions, airing a clip of a porn site – at 6 p.m. – was of poor judgement…it wasn’t really necessary, and adds nothing to the srory. Second, you’d think the owner – South Bend, Ind.-based Schurz Communications (who also owns CBS South Bend affiliate WSBT and the South Bend Tribune) would spring for better equipment in the editing bays. Anyone in video editing knows you can’t see all of a 16:9 picture on a 4:3 monitor.

WDBJ’s news director during this period left two years ago and escaped any kind of punishment.

When the fine was announced, out came the lobbyists looking to score political points (the Parents Television Council praised the FCC decision; the National Association of Broadcasters condemned it.) Granted, this is only the second indecency decision handed down in the Tom Wheeler era at the FCC – in 2013, Liberman Broadcasting agreed to pay $110,000 in fines to settle complaints regarding Spanish-language trash talker Jose Luis Sin Censura on its Estrella network, after protests from liberal groups The National Hispanic Media Collation and GLAAD (but not from the conservative PTC.)

Schurz will appeal the fine; it’ll likely be commuted down to a few tens of thousands of dollars. But an incompetent mistake by a WDBJ editor may lead to a chilling effect on local news content, and that’s frightening. More so than ever, it pays to have common sense in the radio and TV business; not doing so would be costly. Literally.

FCC/Politics/Government, Local TV (Outside Chicago), Television, Various , , , , , , , ,

The truth is still out there: “X-Files” mounts comeback

X Files


Get your conspiracy on folks, because Mulder and Scully are about to make another run to find “the truth”.

Looking to strike gold again, Fox announced Tuesday it has ordered six episodes of The X-Files, with production set to begin this summer. With an airdate yet to be set, the X-Files revival is expected to air sometime next season as an “event”.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are reprising their roles as FBI agents Mulder and Scully, respectively. Also on board is creator and executive producer Chris Carter, who was quoted as saying “I think of it as a thirteen-year commercial break.” All three appeared at Comic-Con San Diego panel two years ago, celebrating the show’s twentieth anniversary (which you can watch here.) Anderson noted her character inspired many young women to enter the field of physics.

Premiering on September 10, 1993, The X-Files was one of the most successful science fiction series in television history, airing on Fox for nine years. After three seasons on Fridays, the series moved to Sundays in 1996 and became a huge ratings hit, peaking in audience during the 1997-98 season.

The X-Files also spawned two feature files and a 2001 spinoff, the short-lived Lone Gunmen. Repeats of The X-Files‘ went into weekend broadcast syndication in 1997 and had a successful eight-year run.

Just last year, Fox successfully revived hit drama 24 with 24: Live Another Day, bringing back Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer as an “event” mini-series. Going back into TV history, NBC successfully revived 1950’s crime drama Dragnet in 1967, with Jack Webb reprising his role as Joe Friday. Airing until 1970, he and Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) dealt with the issues of the time (drug use, stop-and-frisk, hippies, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, etc.)

What will Mulder and Scully deal with in 2016 which wasn’t present in the ’90’s? Spying? Video surveillance? Terrorism? Advanced cybercrime? Fans are eager to find out.


Broadcast Networks, Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , ,

NFL punts on blackouts for 2015 season

In the pool, everybody: Jacksonville Jaguars fans will get to see their team on home TV this year, even if Everbank Field isn't sold out. (

In the pool, everybody: Jacksonville Jaguars fans will get to see their team on home TV this year, even if Everbank Field isn’t sold out. (

For those hoping Bears fans would stay away from Soldier Field in order to keep Jay Cutler off their TV sets, you’re out of luck.

The NFL decided Monday to suspend their television blackout policy for the upcoming 2015 season only, and it would be reviewed again after the season. This means all games will be available to TV viewers, regardless if the game is sold out or not.

The blackout policy dates back to 1973, when the NFL gave teams 72 hours to sell out their games, or they won’t be shown in the market the team plays in (before 1973, home games were not televised into the home market at all.)

With the NFL growing in popularity, there were no blackouts in 2014, and just two in 2013. Compare this to the mid-1980’s, when 40 percent of games were blacked out on home TV. The shrinkage of blackouts basically had a lot to do with reducing the number of minimum of tickets sold to avoid one.

Very few teams – the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Green Bay Packers have sellout streaks dating back to when the rule was enacted, meaning no home TV blackouts.

The Bears have a sellout streak dating back to September 1984, though in the late 1990’s, they came close to not selling out before the deadline a few times. In the last few years, the only blackouts have occurred in Tampa, Oakland, San Diego, and Jacksonville.

The FCC decided to eliminate its sports blackout rules last year, even though the NFL’s existing policy wouldn’t be affected.  The move was opposed by not only the league, but others including the National Association of Broadcasters, local stations, and leaders in the African-American community (including Illinois’ three black congressmen), featuring a decline in attendance would lead to a loss of jobs.

Meanwhile, the NFL also announced it would exclusively stream a game this fall from London between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars and with the exception of their home markets, would not broadcast the game terrestrially. The game takes place on October 25 at 9:30 a.m., Eastern Time.




FCC/Politics/Government, Sports, Television , , , , , , , , , , ,

Think Tank Daily: Radio…The Chicago Way

Here's that photo again.

Welcome to “Mancow’s House Of Pain”.

WLUP contest a scam? Nah. That’s the way things are done in the C-H-I. 

Only in Chicago where someone achieves a zero rating on a TV show and gets a radio deal.

Yours truly is talking about human repellent Mancow Mueller, whose recent WPWR show failed to find an audience and somehow managed to snare a deal with Cumulus-run WLUP-FM though a method so phony, the Chicago Democratic Machine would be proud.

(Don’t believe this bullshit Mancow spouts about “quitting”. His no-rated show was canceled when the contract expired last October.)

Remember those stupid “auditions” featuring Mancow and three others? The Loop Morning “Search” was nothing but a scam, with management obviously deciding on the winner before the first vote was even cast. You could vote early and often, but your vote didn’t count, noting on its website later on this wasn’t even “a contest” (to avoid getting in trouble with the FCC, no doubt.)

And worse, Mancow “needed time to think about the offer”, with WLUP pretending he went missing.

In an interview with Robert Feder last week, Ol’ Mancow was back in form, ripping into old adversaries Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier and for good measure, ripped into new WDRV morning co-host Pete McMurray and fellow morning search contestant Liz Wilde.

All of this just shows you how really bad Chicago radio has become the last few years (Want proof? Examples are here, here, and here). Mancow’s “hiring” and this “contest” just proves radio is no different than everything else run in this city, the most corrupt in the country, despite his plans to bring “joyous noise to hardworking men”.

It’s all in a day’s work following local radio: listeners whining about WGN management;  fans thinking Garry Meier is some kind of martyr; management continuing to hire has-beens like Mancow, Dahl, and Brandmeier, making Chicago radio look like a broken down nursing home for past-their-prime talent (Mancow actually got this part right, but he’s also one of them); and the list goes on and on and on…

Sad to say this, but given all the evidence, Chicago is now the worst radio market in the country. Worst than Sacramento. Worst than Memphis. Even worse than Jacksonville,  and this is a market with an Top 40 radio station once branded as APE-FM. (WAPE.) Hiring this idiot again is just icing on the cake. Proof you only need a third-grade education to run a radio station in the third-largest market.

Yes, radio can find space on the dial for Mancow – the one with a zero rating, but not a song from Empire, one of the hottest TV shows in years – the one with a twelve rating. This tells you how completely fucked up the radio business is.

As for this scam of a “contest”, look at it this way, Chicago… The Loop Morning Show Search winner could’ve turned out to be Wil Wheaton.

Various , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cubs, White Sox invade Indianapolis TV

Cubs v. Sox

Deal with WGN sends selected Cubs and White Sox games to former CBS affiliate; nine other Midwestern markets also cleared 

In order to fill a programming void left by CBS, a local Indianapolis TV station is turning to two Chicago institutions.

Media General-owned WISH-TV announced Friday it was planning to air a package of Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox games produced by WGN Sports, starting next month. Several games are also popping up on its sister station, My Network TV affiliate WNDY.

Traditionally known as a basketball hotbed (and later a football hotbed thanks to the success of the Colts), Central Indiana also have a significant amount of baseball fans, notably of the Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds, who play two hours away right down Interstate 74.

When Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT carried Reds games, then-Indianapolis sister station WLWI (now WTHR), also carried them.

The move to syndicate Chicago baseball games to nearby markets comes as WGN America pulled the plug last year on Cubs and White Sox baseball and Bulls basketball on the former Superstation, meaning the end of nationwide coverage. In addition to Media General’s duopoly in Indianapolis, WGN has cleared the baseball package in Des Moines (Cubs games only); Champaign-Springfield-Decatur; Cedar Rapids-Waterloo; South Bend-Elkhart; Quad Cities; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Peoria-Bloomington, Ill.; Rockford; and Quincy, Ill.

Not all stations are carrying the entire package of games. For more specific information, including what other stations are carrying baseball, click here for the Cubs and here for White Sox.

24 Chicago Cubs games being produced by ABC-owned WLS-TV are not part of this package.

Meanwhile, WISH continues to fill the void left by the departure of CBS for WTTV on January 1. Since then, the station has added CW programming in prime-time, added more syndicated shows, and expanded its news operation to fill more hours.

To see the Indianapolis schedule for Cubs and White Sox games, click here.

Sports, Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T Dog’s Think Tank: Radio fails to embrace “Empire”

"Empire" stars Bryshere Gray (left) and Jussie Smollett have music from the show hitting the charts. (Chuck Hodes/FOX)

“Empire” stars Bryshere Gray (left) and Jussie Smollett – who play brothers on the show, have music from the show hitting the charts – in real life. (Chuck Hodes/FOX)

Is radio missing the hottest trend right now?

According to Michael Schneider at TV Insider, contemporary-hit and urban stations have all but ignored the music of one of the hottest TV shows in years, Empire.

While the soundtrack from the show has topped Billboard’s album chart – not to mention on-demand songs from the album serving up more than 20 million streams and generating nearly 600,000 paid downloads through iTunes and other services, it has barely made a peep on CHR and urban stations – especially in large influential markets such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta (Chicago? Please. We’re still trying to figure out who’s sexier – Jonathan Brandmeier or Steve Dahl and the music we associate with Empire is still the “588-2300″ jingle.)

A music director from a Los Angeles station is waiting to hear from Columbia Records (Empire’s label) on what song from the show they should push first.

Given this is the hottest TV show on the frickin’ planet right now – why the conservative approach? From reading the article, radio stations are confused on what to do.

Surprised? Yours truly isn’t. Remember – this is an medium that relies heavily on consultants and “focus-testing”, not audience demand when determining what song a station should play. They’ve been using this method for decades and is now finally catching up with them.

And radio programmers claim there hasn’t been demand for Empire music. Well, what do you think? Radio isn’t the place listeners go these days to hear new music first. They’re hearing Empire from the alternative sources I described above, not from the FM.

Music from television shows have been radio-friendly before. In 1985, the soundtrack from the hottest TV show at the time – Miami Vice – spawned several top 40 hits (Glenn Frey notably), and received significant airplay. An extended Miami Vice theme from Ian Hammer topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a week in October 1985.

Over the years however, TV show soundtracks became less and less successful at radio. The last number one hit to come from a TV soundtrack or show (outside of Glee) was The Heights’ How Do You Talk To An Angel, which topped the chart in 1992 from Fox drama The Heights.

The first soundtrack from Beverly Hills, 90210 flopped at radio, only spawning two Top 40 hits: 1993’s “Right Kind of Love” by Hammond native Jeremy Jordan and “Love Is” from Vanessa L. Williams and Bryan McKnight. Unlike “Miami Vice’s” hits, neither song was exclusive to the album.

So what changed? Less emphasis on music on TV shows throughout the 1990s may be a cause, as programs were eliminating theme songs. Media consolidation shifted the power of song selection away from directors and into the hands of consultants as companies became bigger and bigger. The majority of music stations today are owned by iHeart, Cumulus, CBS, Entercom, and Townsquare.

And there hasn’t been a music-intensive drama on TV in quite sometime, as the networks stuck with safe, unrisky procedural dramas over the years.

Will Empire’s music ever get played on terrestrial radio? Hopefully. But the typical red tape bureaucracy of corporate radio is preventing it from getting there.

Broadcast Networks, Radio, T Dog's Think Tank, Television