Opposition grows to repealing sports blackout rule


The Chicago Bears and the NFL oppose the blackout rule from being permanently lifted.

The Chicago Bears and the NFL oppose the blackout rule from being permanently lifted.

Illinois’ Black Caucus latest to voice objection

With the NFL now selling out stadiums coast-to-coast with the increased popularity of the league, the logic would be the rule that blacks out home NFL games on TV 72 hours before a game is sold out would be outdated, right?

You might want to think again.

Led by FCC Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the NFL blackout rule, which has been on the books since 1973 would go away, She feels the rule is outdated as NFL games are at full capacity every Sunday amid an era of video changes. The view was also shared by Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai, who said the government should not be involved in rule making.

But scrapping the rule has run into opposition by the National Association of Broadcasters, who fear cable and satellite systems would import the games from out-of-market, which local TV stations also oppose. The National Football League and Major League Baseball also oppose dropping the rule.

For example, say the Chicago Bears are playing the Denver Broncos and the game is blacked out in Chicago. Without the rule, cable and satellite operators could easily import the feed of the Bears-Broncos game to Chicago from the Denver station carrying it, potentially robbing the local Chicago station prohibited from carrying the game millions in revenue.

In recent weeks, opposition to dropping the rule has grown with Fox and CBS affiliates objecting, and now even black leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus have expressed concern if the rule is scrapped, it’ll make the NFL and other sports teams easier to move games to basic cable or even premium cable, shutting out those who couldn’t afford to pay, particularly in low-income minority areas.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson filed wrote in a letter in objection to dropping the rule, stating it could lead to a dropoff in attendance, thus less employment opportunities for low-income and minorities, he said. He also pointed out TV viewers “should not bear the brunt of the harm, and stadiums should not be robbed of their value, especially in communities with some of the greatest economic needs.” Having full stadiums also would benefit businesses near such facilities.

The Congressional Black Caucus voiced similar objections, stating in a letter of the FCC if the blackout rule was repealed, sports leagues – notably the NFL – would be able to move their games to pay TV if attendance dropped and viewers would have to pay to see their teams – a scrneio that could hurt minorities and low-income individuals. They believe preserving the rule would help over-the-air broadcasters in the long term.

Three of the Black Caucus’ Illinois delegation signed the letter – Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st), Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd), and Rep. Danny Davis (7th). Together, they represent more than 90 percent of the Chicago area’s African-American population. The rule does have bearing in Chicago as a significant number of games involving six of Chicago’s pro sports teams (as well as the WNBA’s Sky and AHL’s Wolves) are on over-the-air broadcast TV.

But that could soon change: The Cubs are still hunting for a partner to carry 70 or so games starting next season; WGN-TV is reportedly losing money on its current Cubs contract.

If the rule disappears, it could be easier for the Cubs – not to mention the Bulls and White Sox, whose deals with WGN reportedly expire in 2016 – to strike deals which could move their games exclusively to cable.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has called a vote to get rid of the rule this fall.

And even if the rule were scrapped, sports leagues can still write those blackout rules into contracts, nor would it prevent local teams from also doing so (the Chicago Blackhawks had such a rule until 2008.)

Before 1973, the NFL prohibited home games from being locally televised.

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

Craig Ferguson in talks to land new talk show – in prime access

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

According to Variety, Craig Ferguson is in “advanced talks” to host a new talk show produced by Tribune Media.

But instead of the show being targeted for daytime, early fringe, or late night time slots, which usually is the case for most programs in this genre, Ferguson’s show would be targeted to prime access, generally 6-8 p.m., depending on what time zone you live in.

If this succeeds in getting on the air, it would mark the first time in known memory a talk show would air in the daypart.

Since its creation in 1971, the “prime access” hour – derived from the FCC’s now-defunct Prime Time Access Rule – or PTAR, was developed to create original programming for the hour before prime-time and prohibited any network programming – even off-network programming – from airing in the time period in the nation’s fifty-largest markets on CBS, NBC, and ABC stations.

Since the 1980′s, the daypart has been dominated by game shows such as Wheel Of Fortune, various incarnations of Family Feud, and Jeopardy, and newsmagazine/celebrity shows, including Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and Access: Hollywood.

The last time an unconventional format aired in prime access (excluding weekends) was variety, which saw the likes of Bobby Goldsboro, Stand Up and CheerThe Muppet Show, and Sha Na Na air in the 1970s when stations were still checkerboarding shows in prime access – i.e. airing different shows every night of the week.

Ferguson’s program would likely be a talk/variety hybrid, lasting a half-hour and would be targeted for a fall 2016 launch. Ferguson is exiting CBS’ The Late Late Show as host in December.

Tribune’s massive reach would put the show in 42 markets (including WGN-TV in Chicago) and would be adjacent to either Ferguson’s game show (Celebrity Name Game), which debuts this fall on Tribune stations or an existing off-network sitcom such as Two And A Half Men.

Tribune is expected to partner with a syndicator to sell the show in non-Tribune markets – most notably Debmar-Mercury, who Tribune partners with on Celebrity Name Game.

The news comes as station groups are becoming more and more wary of airing off-network sitcoms: most are now single-cam comedies, and have little mainstream appeal outside niche audiences.

With prime access slots locked up on major affiliates for the next few years, getting Ferguson cleared would be a challenge. However, some local stations – especially CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates and other independents would welcome such a first-run alternative as syndicators are starting to pass up local stations to sell off-network comedies to cable as the market is drying up  (odd, considering PTAR’s expiration in 1996 was supposed to help the off-network sitcom on broadcast stations by opening up new sales opportunities.)

Last week, Twentieth Television sold off-network rights to New Girl to TBS and MTV for 2015, with no broadcast syndication deal yet in place. So far, there are no announced off-network sitcoms being brought to market for fall 2016.

Then, there’s the growing clout of Tribune, who along with Fox and Sinclair, control much of the syndication market on the station side.

If Ferguson succeeds in getting his early-evening talk show off the ground and is a ratings success, it could put the nail in the coffin of the struggling off-network sitcom business.

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T Dog’s Grab Bag: Back to the future for ABC 7′s daytime lineup

"Jeopardy" returns to 3:30 p.m. this fall on ABC7.

“Jeopardy” returns to 3:30 p.m. this fall on ABC7.

- Inside Edition/Jeopardy return to old time slot

- WMAQ adds 11 a.m. newscast

- Chicago Little Leaguers success on and off the field

- Dan McNeil, Cheryl Scott exit while Dish Nation adds a Real Housewife 

- Back to the future in early fringe: as expected, ABC-owned WLS-TV is returning syndicated first-run series Inside Edition and Jeopardy to its respective 3 and 3:30 p.m. slots, beginning on September 15. Also returning to its 2 p.m. slot is General Hospital, the only soap remaining on ABC’s daytime schedule.

Both Inside Edition and Jeopardy were both uprooted two years ago from their longtime slots and each moved an hour earlier to make room for Katie Couric’s ill-fated talk show, in a mandate which forced ABC-owned stations to air the show at 3 p.m. Katie’s last show on WLS is on September 12. The final first-run episode aired July 30.

On the other end of the success spectrum, Jeopardy recently scored a major victory by topping all syndicated shows for only the second time in ten years.

Rachael Ray, which WLS acquired in an ABC O&O deal, is being slotted at 1 p.m. starting September 15, as a lead-out to ABC’s The Chew. Not a surprise given both shows are cooking/celebrity oriented and compliment one another.

The news was first reported by Robert Feder on August 8.

- Daytime changes are a foot at NBC-owned WMAQ as well: as first reported by the Tribune’s Robert Channick Friday, the station is moving its noon newscast to 11 a.m. and expanding an hour, starting September 8. Marion Brooks is being teamed up with Stefan Holt to anchor the newscast, with a returning Byron Miranda on weather.

To make room, WMAQ is moving Days Of Our Lives from 11 to 12 noon – its traditional time slot it held for decades, up until the 1990s. Also starting on the 8th is Meredith Vieira’s new talk show, which replaces Access Hollywood Live at 1 p.m. There is no word if Live would be back for another season on WMAQ, given there is no longer room on the station’s schedule to air the show.

- Comings and goings… well, goings: Unable to come to an agreement, WSCR-AM decided to part ways with veteran sports talker Dan McNeil. According to Robert Feder, McNeil was seeking a pay raise from $300,000 to $500,000 a year – not to mention an unrealistic demand on being moved to afternoons, a spot now occupied by Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein.

Also on the outs is WMAQ weekend forecaster Cheryl Scott (snif), who also didn’t come to terms on a contract renewal (and jeers to the “blue site blogger” who suggested Scott should work for Pittsburgh’s Fox affiliate [WPGH]. One problem – their news is actually produced by the city’s NBC affiliate [WPXI]. Whiff!)

- This shouldn’t surprise anybody: Thursday’s Little League World Series game featuring the South Side’s Jackie Robinson West squad – beat both the Cubs and White Sox in the ratings. According to Nielsen, the game earned a 2.4 for ESPN, compared with a 1.4 season average for the Cubs and a 1.3 season average for the White Sox, both on CSN – ranking 26th and 27th among all MLB teams. Jackie Robinson West - the first African-American baseball team to go to the LLWS in 30 years – played again on Sunday, but lost to a squad from Las Vegas.

Jackie Robinson West: Chicago’s 2014 Major League Baseball Team.

- Dish Nation gets upgrades and adds a Housewife: According to AJC.Com’s Rodney Ho, Twentieth Television’s syndicated Dish Nation has added a new personality - from the Atlanta-based Rickey Smiley Show – but it’s not the same person heard on the radio show.

Claudia Jordan, the former Price Is Right and Deal Or No Deal model, replaced the recently released Ebonie Steele on Smiley’s syndicated radio show, which is heard in sixty markets, including Power 92.3 locally (WPWX.)

But Jordan is not the one joining Dish Nation.

Instead, the gig went to Porsha Williams, who is a Real Housewives Of Atlanta cast member. She has no plans to be on the radio show.

After Smiley’s show wraps up for the day (around 10 a.m. Atlanta time, or so), Jordan departs and Williams comes in, recording the Dish Nation segments with Smiley and the rest of his crew (this means what you see on Dish isn’t heard on the radio show.)

Williams – who is the daughter of civil rights activist Hosea Williams – was originally a fill-in after Steele’s departure. But the chemistry between her and the rest of the cast was there, and she fits in quite perfectly in this awesome sizzle reel:

The move convinced Fox-owned WAGA in Atlanta to recently upgrade the show to prime access (7 p.m.) from 11:30 p.m., due to increasing ratings, swapping slots with NBCUniversal’s Access: Hollywood. (Dish Nation recently scored an 1.0 household rating nationally.) Currently, radio shows from Los Angeles, Seattle, and Dallas (without Kidd Kraddick, who passed away last year) contribute to Dish.

Locally, Dish Nation airs on WFLD-TV weekdays at 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Ironically, Jordan and former Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne star Demetria McKinney are being considered to join the Real Housewives of Atlanta cast – yes, the very show Williams is on. Could there be some “drama” if Jordan joins the show? If so, you can thank an unlikely figure – Rickey Smiley.

Chicago Media, Local TV (Chicago), Radio, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T Dog’s Think Tank: The media fails us on Ferguson


KSDK caught this image of the Ferguson, Mo. police dept. throwing tear gas at another TV crew. (KSDK.com)

KSDK caught this image of the Ferguson, Mo. police dept. throwing tear gas at another TV crew. (KSDK.com)

What can you say about the coverage of the Ferguson, Mo. disturbances from the broadcast networks and cable news networks?

They dropped the ball, of course, with the lack of live coverage of the events unfolding in the St. Louis suburb over the last few nights.

And if you were a journalist, you sure as hell didn’t have an easy time covering the chaos – which actually turned chaotic.

This all began last Saturday with the police shooting of an African-American eighteen year-old man named Mike Brown in Ferguson, who died on the scene. His death sparked outrage nationwide, especially on social media. Protests took place in Ferguson Sunday night, but took a violent turn and became an orgy of rioting and looting. Pictures of the mayhem were posted on social media.

On Wednesday night, Ferguson cops basically became the Barney Fife Police Force and started arresting citizens at will, including journalists. Reporters from the Washington Post and Huffington Post were roughed up by police and detained. Police shot a canister of tear gas at a Al Jazzera America crew during a live shot. And a news crew from local NBC affiliate KSDK was confronted by police “with guns drawn” and was told to get out of the area.

All of a sudden, Ferguson, Missouri became Ferguson, North Korea. Only in a communist country is where you would find someone trying to squelch freedom of the press. And the last time I checked, the United States of America did not fall under that jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, the Barney Fife police chief defended his actions in Ferguson.

Once again, the Internet and social media is where people turned to for a breaking news story.

But what about cable news you ask?

Ha Ha Ha. Don’t make me laugh. Did CNN find the Malaysian plane yet? Is Fox News through blaming President Obama for everything? Has Rachel Maddow of MSNBC developed a personality? I guess CNN would like to bring you live coverage of the Ferguson protests but would have to cut in to show that Rahm Emanuel infomercial called Chicagoland.  Cable news has become irrelevant – is it little wonder why those looking for information on Ferguson sought it out on the Internet – especially on social media?

And don’t even mention Chicago’s local news. Looking for information on Ferguson there is like looking for a physics book at Wal-Mart.

But let’s talk about St. Louis media for a moment. I found this message from someone named “Sick Simoni” on KMOV’s facebook page (click here for a larger view:)

Sick Simoni St. Louis

It helps to note there’s not much choice in local TV news in St. Louis, as media consolidation hit the local newsrooms hard. Last year, Gannett (the owner of NBC affiliate KSDK) bought Belo, the owner of CBS affiliate KMOV and tried to sell the station to a “shadow company” that would’ve given all of the profits to Gannett. (KMOV – a former CBS-owned station under the KMOX calls – is now owned by Meredith Corp.)

The newsrooms of Fox affiliate KTVI and CW affiliate KPLR merged a few years ago, and now share a single owner in Tribune Media.

And Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate KDNL-TV doesn’t even have a news operation.

What this means is those watchdogs put in place to check St. Louis government have lessened. Like Chicago and Cook County, St. Louis City and County are notoriously corrupt, with high taxes and residents fleeing the area.  In 1989, St. Louis ranked eighteenth in market size. Today, it ranks 21st.

Even worse, the St. Louis market ranked 25th with a mere $151 million in revenue (according to BIA/Kelsey in 2009 - the latest year I can find online), ranking it behind the smaller Charlotte and San Antonio markets.

And most recently, the last locally-owned station in St. Louis – My Network TV affiliate WRBU-TV – was recently sold to ION after Roberts Broadcasting went bankrupt (Koplar Communications, another locally-owned outfit, sold KPLR to ACME Communications in 1997, which was swallowed by Tribune in 2003.)

At one time, there was five choices in local TV news in St. Louis. Today, there are only three, tying financially-troubled Detroit for the fewest of any major market.

Look, its about time local stations start earning their FCC licenses. I know the discussion of issues like racism and police brutality isn’t going to send viewers into the entrances. But there are those who are looking for this type of discussion – civic-minded people who are looking for meaningful discussions. Unfortunately, Madison Avenue and Wall Street don’t value these audiences. Instead, you get the same shootings, fires, and accidents you always get on Chicago and St. Louis TV news, and elsewhere because its easier to serve local news like a Big Double at Happy Burger.

As the picture above states, social media is starting to make news outlets useless, on all levels, as proven the last few nights. TV news need to get their act together. And quick.

[Edited at 11:23 a.m. on 2014-08-18: corrected KTVI's network affiliation]

Journalism, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indianapolis to get new CBS affiliate

WTTV_LogoIn a surprise move, CBS announces its moving its affiliation to WTTV, ending a 58-year relationship with WISH-TV

The current battle over retransmission money has claimed another victim – and ended a longtime relationship.

Tribune Broadcasting and CBS Corporation announced a new affiliation deal which shifts CBS from LIN Broadcasting’s WISH-TV – which has been a CBS affiliate since 1956 – to WTTV beginning January 1, 2015. With this deal, WTTV affiliates with a Big Three Network for the first time in 57 years. WTTV was an NBC affiliate from 1949-56 and an ABC one from 1956-57, and was an independent from 1957-95.

Currently, WTTV is a CW affiliate, but the network will shift to a digital subchannel of the station beginning January 1. WTTV has been with CW since 2006, when UPN and The WB merged. WTTV has affiliated with both networks, first with UPN (1995-98) and then The WB (1998-2006).

Tribune purchased WTTV from Sinclair in 2002, to form a duopoly with Fox affiliate WXIN, which it bought in 1996. WTTV actually turned down an offer from Fox in 1986 to affiliate with the then-upstart network.

The reason CBS changed affiliations in the 26th-largest market was it could not reach a deal with LIN, which also owns ten other CBS affiliates. The shift also sent a message that CBS would risk endangering a longtime relationship with a station to get a better deal. In 2002, CBS ended a longtime partnership with WJXT in Jacksonville over the same scenario.

With the CBS affiliation, WTTV gets rights to primetime blockbusters NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, 60 Minutes, and Survivor – and more importantly, Indianapolis Colts football and NCAA Basketball, among other sports. WTTV also plans to launch newscasts, with different on-air personnel from sister station WXIN.

The deal also renews affiliations for Tribune’s existing CBS affiliates in Memphis (WREG);  Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT); Ft. Smith, Ark. (KFSM); and Richmond, Va. (WTVR) All stations were part of Local TV LLC, which Tribune purchased last year. Prior to the sale, the only CBS affiliate Tribune owned and operated was Atlanta’s WGNX (now WGCL) from 1994 to 1998.

WISHWith CBS leaving and the CW not even an option, the future of WISH in uncertain. Owner LIN Media reportedly balked at CBS’ “reverse compensation” demands, thus forcing a move. Up until a decade ago, the networks paid their affiliates to carry their programming. But the practice vanished due to skyrocketing programming costs (note the price tag of the NFL package and the recent raises the cast of Big Bang recently received.) Like WJXT, WISH could become a news-intensive independent.

WISH generally ranks second in news, behind NBC affiliate WTHR.

All CBS branding from WISH’s website vanished some time ago, even before Monday’s announcement. WISH and LIN Media officials declined comment, and WISH hadn’t even made mention of the news, on-air or on its website.

The last major network affiliation switch in Indianapolis (besides WTTV dropping UPN in 1998 for The WB) was in June 1979, when WRTV traded NBC to WTHR for ABC. Ironically, Indianapolis was not involved in the affiliation switch frenzy of the 1990′s, set off after Rupert Murdoch struck a deal with New World to flip its 12 Big Three network affiliates to his Fox network in 1994. Of those twelve, eight of them were CBS stations.

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Robin Williams dies

Robin_WilliamsThe world is reacting to the stunning news of actor and comedian Robin Williams’ death.

The Chicago native was found dead at 12:02 p.m.. Pacific Time Monday, at his home near Tiburon, Ca. The Marin County Coroner’s office investigated, and Williams death was ruled a suicide.

Williams had been suffering from severe depression, and recently entered a rehab facility to maintain his focus. His representatives noted he was not using drugs or alcohol, which he had used in the past.

One of the hottest comedians in the late 1970′s, Williams landed a guest role as Mork on Happy Days, which led to his own series (Mork & Mindy) which finished third in the ratings overall in the 1978-79 season for ABC and became an overnight sensation.

Pam Dawber, Robin Williams 2

Pam Dawber, Robin Williams in “Mork &Mindy”.

However, the series switched to Sunday night from Thursdays in its second season and surprisingly stumbled in the ratings. ABC moved the series back to Thursdays in January 1980, but the damage was done. By 1982, the series was at the bottom of the ratings and was canceled by ABC.

That same year, Williams found success in the hit theatrical The World According to Garp, and went on to a very successful movie career. His movie credits include Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, and Good Will Hunting, which he won an Oscar for in 1997 for his role as a therapist. Throughout his career, Williams won two Emmy Awards and six Golden Globes.

Williams also voiced the wacky genie in Walt Disney’s Aladdin and one of its sequels, Aladdin and the King of Thieves (he did not voice the genie in another Aladdin sequel, The Return Of Jafar due to a dispute with the studio.)

Williams also participated in and was a key person in Comic Relief USA, which raised money for food, health care, and housing for the homeless.

This past season, Williams attempted a television comeback, co-starring with Sarah Michelle Gellar in CBS’ The Crazy Ones, about a father-and-daughter team running an advertising agency in a building that resembled the Trump International Hotel in Chicago. Unfortunately, the series didn’t catch on and was canceled after one season, with the final episode airing April 17.

Mork & Mindy co-star Pam Dawber recently reunited with Williams on Ones, playing an ex of his.

Rest in peace to a comedic genius.

Robin Williams


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Cubs, White Sox viewers continue to flee for exits

Okay, Lucy. Time to get out of the pool, baseball season is over.

White Sox now dead last in TV ratings, with Cubs right behind them

It’s been a tough summer for local Chicago television.

First, Chicago viewers are turning off local news in greater numbers (and as a reward, we’re getting more news!) And now, they’re turning off local baseball – again – as both the Cubs and the White Sox continue to pile up the losses – again.

According to a recent ratings report for RSNs (regional sports networks), both Chicago teams are at the bottom of the ratings list and hurting Comcast SportsNet Chicago, who after a season of highly-rated Blackhawks games, came crashing back down to earth with yet another mediocre season of Chicago baseball.

The report excludes the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, whose RSNs are involved in major carriage disputes, lowering their reach. The Toronto Blue Jays are also excluded due to a different ratings system used to measure audiences in Canada. As a result, the report lists only 27 teams.

And of those 27 teams, according to Forbes and Nielsen, the Chicago White Sox came in dead last with a 1.38 household rating on CSN. Despite the low ranking, the rating was up from last year’s 1.1 White Sox games couldn’t even beat summer reruns on the major broadcast networks or other first-run fare on cable.

Though the team’s poor play is to blame for the low ratings, many others point to the low quality of the White Sox telecasts themselves, notably the play-by-play of Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, considered to be the worst in all of sports (understatement of the year.)

Don’t laugh Cubs fans – your team is right behind, with a 1.4 rating for CSN games and ranked 26th out of all RSNs, down a whopping 72 percent from last season.

Topping the lost are the Detroit Tigers, with an 8.4 household rating, for Fox Sports Detroit, followed by a tie for second between the St. Louis Cardinals (on Fox Sports Midwest) and Pittsburgh Pirates (Root Sports), both with a 7.56 rating. All three of course, are contending teams and each finish first in their time slots.

Cubs and White Sox games also air on WGN-TV; ratings were not available for over-the-air broadcasts, which there are very few of in Major League Baseball nowadays.

While the numbers for Chicago baseball are indeed depressing, there are some bright spots, at least for the Cubs: the hype of Javier Baez’s debut actually paid off: Tuesday’s game against Colorado drew a 2.0 household rating for CSN, up 43 percent from the season average.

And keep in mind despite the low numbers, Cubs and White Sox baseball still draw better numbers than many first-run syndicated shows in Chicago, notably out-rating almost everything on Fox’s duopoly stations, WFLD and WPWR.

As for the Cubs, the team has yet to strike an over-the-air TV deal for next season, leading to speculation that a deal might not be struck until after the current baseball season is over. WGN of course, is the current rights holder and has seen since 1948; the station is reportedly losing $200,000 per game because of the diminished ratings and revenue. WGN has reportedly offered a revenue-sharing agreement instead; it may be the only way to keep the Cubs on the suddenly financially-minded Tribune Media-owned station.




Chicago Media, Local TV (Chicago), Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More news on weekends is good news for CBS 2

press-cbs2chicagoAlso: CBS 2 adds “Good Wife”, “Blue Bloods” to weekend late fringe

On the surface, CBS 2′s decision to expand their weekend newscasts would be greeted with as much enthusiasm as driving on the Eisenhower.

But to the political advertising community, the news of a another news expansion was like waking up on Christmas morning.

As first reported by Robert Feder Tuesday morning, CBS-owned WBBM-TV announced a major weekend news expansion - its second one in several years – by adding three more hours to its current total. WBBM is adding a 5 a.m. hour to its Saturday and Sunday newscasts, adjacent to its existing 6 a.m.-7 a.m. slot on Saturday and its 6 a.m.-8 a.m. slot on Sundays. Meanwhile, CBS 2 will add an extra half-hour to its late weekend newscasts, expanding to 11 p.m., mirroring a similar move WLS-TV made last year.

The last time WBBM aired news programming at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday was Eye On Chicago, which was canceled after host Antonio Mora left town. In the 1980′s and 1990′s, WBBM aired either Bears Extra or a Sunday sports show in that slot.

The changes take effect on Sept. 13. Jim Williams and Mai Martinez anchors the expanded late news shows while Marissa Bailey anchor the morning programs, with Ed Curran on weather.

In a statement, CBS 2 GM Marty Wilke explained : “Local news is becoming more important on weekends. By adding three additional hours of news, we will have more time to tell our viewers what’s happening in and around Chicago.”

A similar move to expand news on weekends were also made in recent years by other Chicago news stations. Recently, WGN-TV added early fringe newscasts on weekends, while WLS expanded its weekend morning shows.

What may be driving local stations desire to expand their newscasts is to cater to political advertisers, who plan to spend heavily between now and November for the Governor’s race. After that is the 2015 Mayoral race, then the 2016 campaign for the White House. Political advertisers and Super PACs usually prefer news programs to reach potential voters, who are more engaged.

In 2009, WBBM canceled its weekend newscasts due to low ratings and budget cuts, but restored them last year due to viewer and advertiser demand.

Meanwhile, WBBM has scheduled syndicated weekend repeats of The Good Wife and Blue Bloods from CBS Television Distribution on Saturday and Sunday nights respectively, also beginning Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, with back-to-back episodes airing at 11 p.m. and midnight.

WBBM was part of a larger Good Wife syndication deal with CTD in 2013, giving them and other CBS-owned stations weekend rights with Amazon and Hulu Plus obtaining streaming rights and Hallmark Channel gaining weekday stripping rights this fall.

Also arriving to off-network weekend syndication this fall is Disney-ABC Domestic Television’s Scandal, which is likely to air on WLS.


Cable, Chicago Media, Journalism, Local TV (Chicago), Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tribune does the split



Tribune finally divides into two separate companies – introducing Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media

Meanwhile, WGN Radio sinks to historic ratings low

Say goodbye to the Tribune Company as you’ve known it for 66 years.

As of Monday, the entity has split into two companies: Tribune Publishing, which handled print, and Tribune Media, which handles television and radio – meaning the Chicago Tribune is no longer tethered to WGN-AM or WGN-TV. The newspaper launched the radio station in 1924 and the television station in 1948. The combination received a permanent waiver from the FCC in 1975 as they adapted new rules banning the ownership of a TV/radio station and a newspaper in the same market, a rule still in place today.

Recently, several companies have split their newspaper and television holdings – notably NewsCorp., Media General, and Scripps, which announced Thursday it purchased Journal Communications and was spinning off the newspapers into a separate company.

Tribune Publishing’s print properties include newspapers, including the flagship Chicago Tribune, TribLocal, Red Eye, The Mash, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Sun-Sentinel, and Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing also includes Chicago Magazine, Hoy, and all websites related to those properties, plus stand alone sites ChicagoNow and Metromix. Jack Griffin was named the CEO of Tribune Publishing.

On Friday, the Chicago Tribune revamped its website mirroring the one the LA Times launched earlier this year, putting more articles – including the popular political blog Clout Street – behind paywalls in order to raise more revenue, which would go to pay down Tribune Publishing’s $490 million debt. The new look websites are expected to roll out gradually and all Tribune Publishing newspaper sites should sport them by year’s end.

Meanwhile, the TV/radio part of the company is now known as Tribune Media, consisting of Tribune’s 42 TV stations (including WGN-TV); Chicago local news channel CLTV; cable channel WGN America; diginets Antenna TV and This TV; WGN-AM; WGWG-LP; Tribune Studios; Tribune Digital (which runs WGN.FM); and Tribune Media Services. Tribune Media will also own all the real estate associated with its properties, including the Tribune Tower and the newspaper.

Also, Tribune Publishing is returning to the New York Stock Exchange for the first time since Sam Zell bought Tribune and took it private in 2008. Tribune Publishing is trading under the symbol TPUB.

Many challenges await both new companies in this new era. For Tribune Publishing, its trying to increase revenues at a time when traditional print media is struggling to turn a profit.
Meanwhile, Tribune Media has its own challenges – especially when it comes to its two Chicago radio stations. As the split became official Monday afternoon, July PPM numbers were released and showed WGN Radio reaching unprecedented lows in overall ratings – finishing in a tie with WGCI-FM and WKQX-FM for tenth place.

Outside of Steve Cochran’s morning show (which finished 3rd), the rest of the lineup is a disaster – notably Bill and Wendy’s afternoon show, which finished in a tie for 14th overall. By comparison, the show it replaced three months ago finished in a tie for 7th. No doubt GMs Jimmy DeCastro’s moves have sent WGN listeners fleeing for the exits.

And if you think that’s bad, a local message board reported Tuesday that WGN Radio barely cracked the top 25 in the 25-54 demo and finished outside the top 10 in the 35-64 one (or, so it said – take it with a grain of salt, since the writer “didn’t bother to post WGN’s numbers since they were so low.”)

Meanwhile, new sports talker The Game is still stalled at the starting gate with a 0.3 overall rating, down from 0.5 the previous month. The generic sports talker with the generic name has been criticized by some for arrogant, clueless hosts (notably the 9a-12p shift hosted by a Tribune sportswriter and one of Gabe Kaplan’s relatives – “Uncle David”), and an overall amateurish presentation. To borrow a phrase from TV Media Insights’ Marc Berman, “Tick Tock, the cancellation clock (or in this case, the format flip clock) is ticking.”

Interesting to note WGN brought back the WGN Bird from 1986 on Twitter recently. Instead of a link to the WGN’s successful history, instead the creature has become the symbol of failure for the DeCastro regime thus far.

The Bird Is The Word

The Bird ain’t the word.








Both Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media have a lot of work to do.

Editor’s Note: Soon, there will be three tags separating Tribune: Tribune Publishing, Tribune Media (replacing Tribune Broadcasting and Tribune Entertainment) and Old Tribune, which covers… well, the old Tribune company. The Tribune tag is being retired. – T.H.

Chicago Media, Radio, Television

Chicago’s late newscasts continues to lose steam










Maybe Chicago viewers are tired of hearing about all the shootings and murders. Maybe viewers are tired of the constant weather hype, even when its nice and only 75 degrees. Maybe viewers are tired of the Breaking News and Developing Story monikers every four goddamn minutes.

Or maybe viewers are just tired (and going to bed earlier.)

Either way you paint it, Chicago’s late and primetime newscasts continue their slide in the July sweeps, mirroring a similar decline in May, with four of the five local late newscasts continuing to lose stream.

According to Lewis Lazare at Chicago Business Journal, ABC-owned WLS-TV was the only station to show an increase at 10 p.m. to destroy the competition (once again) with an 8.7 household rating, up 12  percent from July 2013. The others were down: NBC’s WMAQ were in second place (5.4, -4%), followed by WGN-TV’s 9 p.m. newscast (4.1, -11%); CBS-owned WBBM-TV (3.9, -3%) and Fox’s WFLD at 9 p.m. (1.8, -31%), whose decline can also be blamed on Fox’s weak prime-time lineup and the departure of Robin Robinson, whose contract with the station expired this week.

Granted, these are only household numbers, as the 25-54 demos for July have yet to be released. But when the numbers are translated, the results are unlikely to be encouraging.

The declining numbers continue a troubling trend as Chicago’s late newscasts continue to bleed viewers. During the May 2014 sweeps, the seven major Chicago news stations (including Spanish-language WGBO and WSNS) lost 21 percent of their adult 25-54 audience year-to-year, in various early fringe, access, primetime, and 10 p.m., according to a recent TVNewsCheck analysis of May sweeps numbers in the ten largest markets (only Boston lost more audience, at 23 percent.)

This month’s T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame moment – which ALL the local stations are guilty of – was the ridiculous and unnecessary hype regarding the nice but unseasonably cool weather Chicago experienced during a few days last month, even making it the lead story at 10 p.m. one night. One local station even interviewed slacked-jawed yokels whose complaints about the weather was more suited for winter (one person said she would even move!) The piece made Chicagoans look like wimps and pansties. Little wonder why foreigners look at Chicago with such disdain.

It’s too bad some of the local stations didn’t show that same kind of commitment when the weather was really nasty the night of June 30, preferring to integrate the weather coverage with commercials instead. It’s hard enough worrying if your house might get blown down without Jan trying to sell you a Toyota or Flo selling you insurance you need for that Toyota or hearing that stupid “I’m feeling Subway” jingle.

When it comes to local news, Chicagoans en masse are feeling the urge to reach for the remote.

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Journal, Scripps continue to fuel media merger frenzy

ScrippsTwo Midwest media companies combine as media merger frenzy continues to sweep the nation

In the latest media hookup, Milwaukee-based Journal Communications announced a merger with Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps. With the merger, the newspaper division would be spun-off into a separate company.

Once everything is said and done, Scripps would would own and operate 34 television stations in 24 markets, and 35 radio stations in eight markets (none in Illinois.) The new Journal Media Group would operate newspapers in 14 markets, based in Milwaukee.

Currently, Journal owns The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; News/Talk/Sports outlet WTMJ-AM (which can be picked up in the Chicago area, especially after dark); adult contemporary music station WLWK-FM (once known as Top 40 powerhouse WKTI-FM); and NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV, which Journal signed on in 1947. Journal also owns NBC affiliate WGBA in Green Bay and CBS affiliates WTVF in Nashville and KMTV in Omaha, Neb.

With the purchase, Scripps would have a significant presence in the Midwest, with stations in Detroit; Cincinnati,; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Omaha; Green Bay; and Lansing, Mich.

The combined company would not own any station in Illinois.

The Scripps-Journal marriage is the latest in one of the biggest media merger frenzies not seen since the mid 1980′s. Recently, broadcasters such as Media General, Tribune, and Sinclair have been merging with others to gain leverage over cable and satellite providers (in retransmission consent negotiations) and over studios and other program suppliers.

Meanwhile, the cable and satellite providers are playing their own game of merger mania with Comcast hooking up with Time Warner Cable and DirecTV hooking up with AT & T. Other companies (such as Cox Cable, Dish, and Charter) could also be on the block.

And then there’s the studios. Two weeks ago, 21st Century Fox’s Rupert Murdoch placed a bid to buy Time Warner, but was rejected because the bid was “too low”. However, this is n’t expected to stop Murdoch in his pursuit – he’ll likely come back with a sweeter bid in his attempt for a hostile takeover.

A Fox-Time Warner merger would mean the combined company would control 40 percent of the primetime programming on the major networks. It would also have a near monopoly on adult animation, with Fox’s animation (Family Guy, American Dad) in the same house as Adult Swim (Aqua Teen, Squidbillies.) And the syndication outfits of both companies would certainly merge.

With all the mergers and threats of mergers, this is increasingly becoming like a high-stakes auction in a game of “can you top this”?

This comes as more and more viewers are watching their programs on DVRs and video-on-demand services such as Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix – all are now producing original programming – and thus bypassing the middleman – the network affiliate. In order to stay competitive, stations have been expanding their local newscasts, which attracts blue-chip and political advertising as the networks eliminated network compensation a long time ago.

The Scripps-Journal merger is already bad news for studios as Scripps has dropped several expensive first-run syndicated programming for cheaper, in-house produced programming, such as Let’s Ask America and The List, and the recently launched The Now, which no doubt would be placed on Journal stations once the deal closes in 2015. For syndicators, this development makes the job of selling syndicated shows a lot tougher.

Two years ago, Scripps stations pulled the plug on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which they deemed as too expensive. In Cincinnati, Ellen is moving from Scripps’ ABC affiliate WCPO to Hearst’s WLWT, the market’s NBC affiliate this fall. In Cleveland, Dr. Oz is switching from Scripps’ WEWS to Tribune’s WJW.

In an era where everything in the media business is now changing, this frenzy is only just the beginning.


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T Dog Media’s Comic-Con mess

CconDue to unfortunate circumstances not under my control and time constraints, yours truly has had to suspend Comic-Con coverage on T Dog Media.

I’m not happy about this, and Comic-Con is one of those big media events (TCA and NATPE are the others) that I cover very extensively on this blog. This is truly disappointing.

But good news: if its trailers and panels you seek, I will soon post them on T Dog Media’s Facebook and Google Plus pages. Follow T Dog Media on Twitter and I’ll let you know when they’ll be posted up.

Thanks for your understanding.


Comic-Con: A lot of fun on day one

Comic-ConThe 45th annual San Diego Comic-Con extravaganza began on Thursday with all the pageantry, pomp, and circumstance one could ask for.

There was some bad news – the legendary Stan Lee had to bow out of Comic-Con due to illness (laryngitis.) Production delays earlier forced the cancellation of Star Wars VII panel and iZombie screening due to cast changes (but the panel went on as planned.)

But the show must go on – and go on it did! Here are some selected highlights from day one of Comic-Con.

- You can bet your Big Mac that fans were dancing in the aisles when this was announced at the Con: MTV renewed audience favorite Teen Wolf for a fifth season of twenty episodes, which will be split into two mini-seasons. The stars were on hand in Ballroom 20 answering happy fans’ questions.

Based on the 1985 Paramount movie starring Michael J. Fox (a sequel surfaced in 1987 with Jason Bateman in Fox’s role), Wolf was developed for television by Jeff Davis (no relation to the former WLS-AM personality of the same name), who also created Criminal Minds. Teen Wolf draws nearly a million viewers per week and is one of Twitter’s most talked about TV shows.

- While fans of Community are overjoyed their beloved series will be coming back for a sixth season on Yahoo, don’t look for the series to be “binged” i.e., releasing all the episodes at once, similar to what Netflix did with Orange Is The New Black and Arrested Development. Instead, each episode will be released on a weekly basis. Creator Dan Harmon didn’t specify a time table for the show to arrive on Yahoo, but it won’t be before Christmas 2014. He said the audience will be watching the show the same as before – “except now legally”.

- Stan Lee may not be in San Diego but according to a tweet he sent, he’s in Quahog, thanks to a new app you can download from Apple’s App Store or Google Play, called Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff. You won’t find Lee in the game, but you find a lot of other things, including playing stuff as one of your favorite Family Guy characters (however, you can’t drive Meg off a cliff. Sorry.)

-Things didn’t exactly go over well at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel on Thursday. The remake of the 1990 box office hit was criticized by many in the crowd for the producers “choices”. Worse, a person who moderated the panel for Paramount thought star Megan Fox was a fan and told her “no more questions.”

- Bryan Fuller (Heroes, Pushing Daisies) was on hand for the Hannibal panel at Ballroom 20, though the show’s two leads (Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy) were not present, being out of the country. Fuller revealed in great detail about the upcoming third season of the show, which returns to NBC this fall. To read what Fuller had to say about Hannibal’s third season and more, click here.

- Even though Microsoft’s Xbox studios in now closed, its Halo: Nightfall live-action series from Ridley Scott is debuting this November. Running as a five-part miniseries and set between the fourth and the upcoming fifth edition of the video game, Halo follows the exploits of a new character (Jameson Locke) created for the show played by Mike Colter, late of The Good Wife. An agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence, Locke and his unit must hunt down and find an artifact after a biological attack.

Prison Break’s Paul Schering penned the script for Halo: Nightfall while Scott is the executive producer. Watch the trailer below:

And as a bonus, you can watch the entire Halo: Nightfall panel below:




TCA Summer Tour 2014: FX bids adieu to “Sons Of Anarchy”

From left, Creator Kurt Sutter, Director Paris Barclay and actor Charlie Hunnam speak on stage during the “Sons of Anarchy” panel at the The FX 2014 Summer TCA Tour

From left, Creator Kurt Sutter, Director Paris Barclay and actor Charlie Hunnam speak on stage during the “Sons of Anarchy” panel at the The FX 2014 Summer TCA Tour

The final commercial network to present at TCA did so Monday, and FX had a lot to say, with panels for a whopping nine shows (yours truly won’t be able to cover them all here, so here’s the selected stuff:)

- Exec session: John Landgraf took the stage and talked about where his network stood – and it was looking good – FX was nominated for 45 Emmy Awards – the most of any basic cable network. Landgraf even had to jokingly apologize to critics to contributing “too much good TV”.

Much like Showtime chief David Nevins, Landgraf talked about the FX brand taking risks, pushing against the confines of storytelling.  “We’d rather fail spectacularly and nobly than succeed in a quiet, middling way”, he said. Landgraf also previewed the fourth season of American Horror story, and talked about the failure of W. Kamau Bell’s late-night talk show, one of two African-American late-night hosts who lost shows the past year (the other was Arsenio Hall, whose show premiered days after Bell’s was expanded to a late-night strip.)

Landgraf also announced renewal for Louie and for Fargo, but the latter’s next season won’t be until fall 2015.

- The finale for Sons Of Anarchy still hasn’t been written, so even the creator of the show (Kurt Sutter) doesn’t know how it’ll end, so stop asking him. But you ask about if he cares if the series gets an Emmy (which it never did.). Sutter’s response: “I don’t give a shit.” Big changes are in store, with Ron Pearlman gone (character was killed off) and Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) ascending to the leadership of Sons Of Anarchy. The final season premieres Sept. 9.

- Here comes another vampire show: this one is The Strain, from co-creator Guillermo Tel Doro, and he was joined by co-creator Chuck Hogan (who also co-authored The Strain books with Del Toro) and exec prodcer/showrunner Carlton Cuse (Lost) at the panel. The premise: A government head investigates a runaway full of dead bodies at JFK airport – and it turns out the bodies are infected with vampiric worms that spreads into the populace.

As for the books, don’t assume that’s how it will go onscreen“The way things happen and the fate of the characters is not completely determined by the books,” Cuse said. But let’s have Del Toro have the last word on vampires: “[They] are truly revolting parasites. They drink you like a Capri Sun. They don’t hold you and say, ‘Now I give you my life.’ No, they crush you and throw you away.”

- At the Fargo panel, the just-renewed show announced some major changes for season two: according to creator Noah Hawley, the series is relocating to Sioux Falls, S. D. and based in 1979, with an all-new cast. In fact, only Keith Carradine is returning for season two, only his character is now 33 and just returning home from Vietnam.

How fans would react to these changes remains to be seen – and we won’t find out until fall 2015 – that’s when Fargo returns for its second season.

- So what’s on tap for The Bridge’s second season?  “If I’m going to tell a story about the U.S.-Mexican border, one which these characters warranted, I couldn’t tell that story while they were tracking a serial killer’, said EP Elwood Reid, who seems to be steering away from the serial killer plotline and onto other crimes in the area, which is close to the U.S.-Mexican border. Reid will exec produce the yet-to-be-announced season two solo, with co-exec producer Meredith Stheim departing for Showtime’s Homeland.

- Other FX panels held at TCA include Tyrant, Married and You’re The Worstin addition to unveiling SimpsonsWorld, a new website scheduled to October where viewers can watch every Simpsons episode ever made (but needs cable authentication since it uses the TV Everywhere platform.) Beginning August 21, FXX (the new cable companion to FX) will air all 552 episodes of The Simpsons non-stop through Labor Day.

And that’s a wrap for the TCA Press Tour. See you at Comic-Con!

Cable, Television

Conflict losing its bite at Tribune

Scenes like this may soon be history at Tribune stations. (Multimedia Entertainment)

Scenes like this may soon be history at Tribune stations. (Multimedia Entertainment)

Attention viewers: baby mama drama time may soon be over.

As reported by TVNewscheck on Friday, Tribune Broadcasting may not renew its contracts for its three conflict talk shows from NBCUniversal Television Distribution, hosted by Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Steve Wilkos.

Neither Tribune or NBCUniversal had comment.

Tribune is developing programming for time slots in 2015 and according to TVNewscheck, none of it conflict talk.

Many Tribune stations carry all three talkers in a daytime block; other Tribune stations carry either one or two of the shows. In Chicago, Maury is carried on Tribune’s WGN-TV, while Springer and Wilkos are carried on Weigel’s WCIU. Other markets where the three are split up among Tribune and non-Tribune stations include St. Louis, Denver, San Diego, and Sacramento.

National ratings are respectable by current daytime standards, but all three are down from several seasons ago.

While a lot could happen between now and 2016, the future for all three shows on Tribune’s stations became questionable when the company named Larry Wert as president of its broadcast division. Shortly after taking over as vice president and general manager of NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in 1998, Wert pulled the plug on Springer despite high ratings. It came a year after Springer’s ill-fated stint as a commentator on the station’s late newscast, and continuous demonstrations led by the Rev. Michael Pflager and others.

This possible move by Tribune comes at a time as viewers are shifting away from the “conflict” talk show – pioneered in the mid-1960′s by Joe Pyne and made popular in the late 1980′s by Geraldo Rivera and Morton Downey Jr.  - to “conflict” reality shows on VH1, MTV, and Bravo, whose reruns of such fare now appears opposite those talk shows during the day.

In other words, viewers now prefer Kenya Moore yanking the weave off some woman’s head rather than an unknown talk show guest doing so.

Despite the popularity of the NBCUniversal conflict shows, recent efforts to duplicate their success hasn’t worked. Recent conflict shows hosted by Jeremy Kyle, Trisha Goodard, and Kirk Fox (The Test) failed to gain traction with viewers. Plans to launch another conflict talker by Tribune and CBS (hosted by MC Serch) was scrapped earlier this year after a three-week test of the show yielded poor results.

If Tribune decides not to renew, NBCU could find a new home on another large-market station group such as CBS or Fox, but that could be a long shot. In Chicago, Fox owned the rights to Springer from 1998 to 2009, first airing on WFLD and later WPWR.

Another factor is the trio’s lack of appeal among advertisers due to the saucy content, though Tribune executives insisted this wasn’t an issue.

And of course, there’s the age of at least two of the hosts. When their contracts come up, Jerry Springer would be 72 and Maury Povich would turn 77. If they wanted to, they could ride into the sunset and retire.

Tribune’s wavering renewal on the three shows also raises questions regarding the future of another conflict talker: The Bill Cunningham Show, which Tribune produces for CW.

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