T Dog’s Media Notepad: White Sox sink into the ratings abyss

White Sox BaseballThe White Sox may not have the worst record in MLB for 2015, but earned an even-worse honor.

According to Sports Business Journal, the South Siders again finished dead last among all 29 U.S. teams, with a 0.8 live-plus-same day household rating on CSN Chicago, down 29 percent from 2014, where they finished 27th out of 27 teams excluding Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers due to distribution issues (numbers for WGN-TV and WPWR were not available, but you can be assured the numbers weren’t all great – especially with the switch to lower-rated WPWR from WCIU this year.)

On the flipside,  the playoff-bound Chicago Cubs notched a 122 percent jump on CSN Chicago, improving to a 3.3 rating.)

With improved distribution due to the switch from CSN Houston to Root Sports – not to mention a vastly improved team, the Astros scored a whopping 497 percent increase. Technically, the Astros placed last among MLB teams in 2014, but reach problems were the main culprit. The Dodgers also improved distribution, but still remained in the bottom five.

Both of Missouri’s teams – the Kansas City Royals (12.3) and the St. Louis Cardinals (10.0), ranked first and second respectively,  among U.S teams.

As for the White Sox, look for Ken “Hawk” Harrelson to cut back his workload to 84 games next year – mostly road contests. No word on who would replace Harrelson for home games. Given the poor ratings, thre White Sox telecasts need to be refreshed, as the games are meant to promote the team and the experience at the ballpark. Judging by the mostly negative reaction on message boards and social media, Harrelson’s “Hawk-isms” are outdated (and admittingly, annoying), and does nothing to draw viewers to the telecasts – or to U.S. Cellular Field, as the large number of empty seats attests.

Is this a Kris Bryant or Cookie Lyon town? Or does it belong to Jonathan Toews? Chicago TV viewers will be in a conundrum come Wednesday night – not only the Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a MLB Wild Card game, but the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks open their season the same night against the New York Rangers.

And if that weren’t enough, a new episode of Empire is airing the same night. The hot drama cooled off a bit last week with a 5.4 adult demo rating, but jumped to a 7.7 with three days of DVR usage added in. Will Empire have another DVR surge this week? Don’t be surprised as when it comes to sports in this town, there is a live-viewing preference. Sorry Cookie, but your nookie doesn’t compare to Cubdom.

Chicago_Blackhawks Speaking of Chicago sports, the Blackhawks have found another market to call home… Indianapolis. Starting this weekend, Media General’s independents WISH and WNDY are slated to carry nineteen Chicago Blackhawks games produced by WGN Sports beginning with Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders. Both stations already carry a package of Cubs and White Sox games produced by WGN and will do again so next season.

However, don’t look for Bulls games produced by WGN to show up on Indianapolis TV. Due to NBA territorial rules, no local station or RSN can carry the team due since the market is home to the rival Indiana Pacers.

Meanwhile, Media General’s ownership of the Indianapolis’ duo is up in the air after Nexstar made a bid for the company, besting the one made by Meredith Corp., owner of TV and magazines. Nexstar is a “pure-play” broadcaster (meaning they own no other properties other than TV stations) and owns a few Illinois stations, including CBS affiliate WCIA-TV in downstate Champaign.

Sources indicate Media General is now dropping its bid to acquire Meredith due to a lack of shareholder support.

WGN-TV News WGN-TV debuted its 10 p.m. newscast Monday night and the results are so far, so good: the Tribune-owned station ranked third in households and among adults 25-54 and finished ahead of CBS-owned WBBM-TV. In fact, WGN nearly had a full ratings point lead over WBBM in the 25-54 demo (both WLS and WMAQ tied for first at 10.) Replacing a third run of Celebrity Name Game, WGN’s decision seems to be a good move.

One of the principle features of WGN’s new 10 p.m. newscast is Tom Skilling’s forecasts. As a result of adding extra duties (and to avoid stretching him too thin), WGN has assigned morning meteorologist Demetrius Ivory to handle the weather duties during the station’s midday newscasts (11 a.m. and Noon.)

freeform– Come January 1, the ABC Family you’ve come to ignore is changing its name to… #Freeform (and yes, the hashtag is part of the network’s name and yes, it has a lot of do with social media…) the cable channel – home to Pretty Little Liars is now targeted to 18-34 female millennials – not the family-friendly audience the current name suggests.

Recently, Fuse re-christened itself as “FM”. Oddly enough, the former WCKG-FM (now WCFS-FM, simulcast of WBBM-AM) was branded as “Free FM”, the elements ABC Family and Fuse are now using for their makeovers. Needless to say, the WCKG rebrand was not a success.

ABC Family was originally known as CBN, and was owned by Pat Robertson, carrying family-friendly off-network programming, The 700 Club and cable’s first made-for soap opera, Another Life. CBN became The Family Channel in the late 1980’s, and started producing original programming (Big Brother Jake). The name changed to Fox Family Channel in 1997 after Fox parent News Corp. acquired the network, and sold it to Disney in 2001, where it became ABC Family.

And yes, no matter what it’s named, the channel is still contractually required to carry The 700 Club, a show I’m sure is a hot topic among millennials.


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T Dog’s Think Tank: Clueless Cumulus


(Editor’s Note: Strong language in this piece. Reader discretion is advised. – T.H.)

As you know by now, Cumulus Media made a major executive shakeup this week by tossing longtime CEOs John and Lew Dickey out the door, and replacing them with former Reader Digest exec Mary Berner. The exits took place before the start of the National Association of Broadcasters’ radio show in Atlanta, Cumulus’ hometown.

Investors were fed up with the years and years of mismanagement by the duo, with a stagnant stock price and declining revenues. Hell, even a bag of Starburst is worth more than Cumulus stock these days, trading at 69 cents a share.

And you see the Cumulus disorganization right here in Chicago. Stories are well-known about WLS-FM’s shortcomings, with their outdated “less talk, more music” mantra from the 1980’s, refusing to let their personalities shine. WLUP held a bogus morning show contest and did it “The Chicago Way” so Mancow Mueller can “win”, while playing Def Leppard and Pink Floyd ten to fifteen times a day. And WLS-AM thinks its keys to success is hiring has-beens like Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier and pandering to an aging fanbase who refuse to move on. Jan Jeffries, who is on the same level of stupid as Jeff Zucker and Randy Michaels, ran WLS-FM into the ground under his watch, and is now ruining another station in Washington, D.C.

Outside of Chicago, there’s the legendary Scott Shannon, who jumped from Cumulus’ WPLJ-FM to rival WCBS-FM in New York as morning personality. And then there’s Cumulus severing relationships with Premiere Radio Networks and ABC News.

And to top it off, you have NASH-FM, an attempt to consolidate its country music stations under one brand name, whose results have been mixed, at best.

Not bad for a company who was formed just 17 years ago, and went right into debt from acquiring 460 radio stations.

But wait a minute, you ask. Isn’t radio – even those stations run by Cumulus – a success due to its record reach? Yes junior, radio remains one of the most reliable mediums to reach an audience, and does boast record listenership, a point pounded down over and over again by the radio trade groups. But that doesn’t mean all is well behind the scenes. It’s like the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Knicks losing a lot of games (forever it seems), but hordes of fans still show up. In other words, listeners still tune in despite horrors such as voice-tracking and 45 minutes of commercials an hour.

So what happens to Cumulus now? While Berner doesn’t have any radio experience, she can’t be any worse than the Dickhead brothers, who proved even with experience, you can still fuck up a good operation. As far as Chicago is concerned, changes are likely at both WLS-AM and WLS-FM. The former is bringing on Bulls and White Sox games next year as it transitions to a more mass appeal format. The latter could be flipping formats for the 182nd time, for all we know.

As for the two stations it operates under a local marketing agreement, WKQX continues to be successful with a format the 101.1 frequency never should have abandoned in the first place. Meanwhile, WLUP continues to suffer from Manshit’s presence. If WLUP disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, no one would give a shit. If Berner wants to start cleaning house, start with the fucking brain-dead idiots who run “The Loop”.

Given all that has transpired, one could wonder if John and Lew Dickey got what was coming to them for helping ruin a once-proud medium.

Revenge is a bitch.

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Chicago drops to fourth place in African-American homes in the U.S.

logoTV rank drops to fourth as market’s black population moves out

Chicago may be home to the hottest show with TV’s number one show among African-Americans with Empire, set in New York City but filmed here.

But when it comes to attracting and keeping blacks in the area, Chicago is in a deep freeze.

A recent DMA (designated market area) report issued by Nielsen for the 2015-16 season shows Chicago has dropped to the fourth largest African-American television market in the country, down from third last year and down from second place in the 2006-07 TV season.

Chicago lost 3,640 black TV homes from last season, a decline of 0.6 percent. Meanwhile, Washington D.C. jumped from fourth to third with a whopping increase of 15,220 homes, or 2.6 percent. And Chicago is barely ahead for Philadelphia – the City Of Brotherly Love ranked fifth with a loss of only 340 homes.

Despite the loss in TV homes, Chicago is still the third-largest radio market in the country among African-Americans, with 1.3 million listeners, behind only New York City and Atlanta, and still the third-ranked TV market overall.

This comes as a recent report from Nielsen showed African-American media usage growing – and in the report, showed the most affluent African-American cities are now coming from the South – smaller markets like Baton Rouge La., Columbus and Augusta, Ga. – despite each dropping two notches season-to-season among TV homes.

Chicago plunged to 21st place among African-Americans making $100,000 or more after ranking in the top ten fifteen years ago. Other northern cities, such as Detroit and Philadelphia, also declined.

African-Americans still faces challenges in Chicago in terms of employment in many industries – especially in media. In a town where Soul Train was born and where Oprah Winfrey successfully hosted a talk show and ran a business for years, diversity has remained elusive. As yours truly has said in this space for years, there needs to be greater diversity in the media business – especially in Chicago.

In Atlanta – which replaced Chicago as the second-largest black TV market in 2007, the market boasts more than one hundred TV productions – many of them headed by African-Americans such as Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Steve Harvey (who does his TV talk show in Chicago.)

And to add insult to injury, the Chicago Tribune’s crime reporters who cover many of the city’s crime-plagued African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods – are predominately Caucasian.  One example is an “Overnight Log” where the crime coverage team cover stories and tweet overnight – unless you’re a crime victim, there is not one black or Hispanic face found.

Chicago not only lost affluent African-Americans over the last decade, but blacks of all income levels. 200,000 African-Americans have left the Chicago area in the 2000s according to the Census Bureau, and the decline continues into the 2010s as the drop in DMA rankings attests. High taxes (especially in the south suburbs), lackluster job opportunities, and crime-plagued neighborhoods on the city’s West and South sides and in suburban Harvey; Maywood; Robbins; and Gary, Ind. are driving African-Americans out of the area for better opportunities.

The Nielsen report notes African-Americans watch more TV than their Caucasian counterparts and spend more money. Blacks’ median income grew 2.3 percent in 2012-13.

To read the entire report, click here.

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WGN-TV takes heat for on-air offensive screw-up



Tribune Media’s WGN-TV was getting hammered on social media for putting up a graphic during Tuesday night’s newscast demeaning to the Jewish community.

WGN-TV was doing a story on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday celebrated in late September. While fill-in anchor Tom Negovan was reading a story on the holiday, a Gold emblem graphic appeared on-screen.

Problem is, the graphic shown was a patch the Nazis made and forced Jewish people to wear during the Holocaust – an offensive symbol to the Jewish community.

Marc Karlinsky, an editor for Chicago Lawyer Magazine, first pointed it out on Twitter:

The goof attracted attention not only from other local press, but TV and Hollywood trade websites (Variety and the Hollywood Reporter), political blogs, and other national media.

After initially posting a statement on WGN’s website apologizing for the error, WGN-TV GM Greg Easterly and News Director Jennifer Lyons offered a more detailed apology:

“Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the artwork we chose to accompany the story contained an offensive symbol. This was an unfortunate mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake.

We are investigating how this situation occurred, reviewing our in-house policies and making changes in order to avoid such mistakes from happening in the future. Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better.”

WGN declined to elaborate further on if any discipline was administered.

This is not the first time erroneous graphics have popped up on local TV – these bloopers happened at local stations and national networks throughout the country, and alarmingly, at a more frequent rate.

Last spring, WLS-TV put up a graphic reporting on a Chicago Blackhawks victory stating “Blacks Win” instead of Blackhawks win. Over the years in Los Angeles, local news stations have mistakenly aired the NBA’s Sacramento Kings logo instead of the Los Angeles Kings’ one when reporting on the team.

But there is no excuse for this error made by WGN.

This comes as staffs at local TV stations are being cut and tasks are being stretched thinner and thinner among personnel as stations are adding more local newscasts. With all the money coming in from political advertising and retransmission fees, you’d think they would spring for a proofreader.

But guess what? Much of the “money” is going to out-of-town owners to pay down debt incurred by buying more and more TV stations, witnessing the recent mergers of Meredith and Media General and Gray and Schurz Communications, and others over the last few years. Wall Street may like it, but the on-air product leaves something to be desired. In other words, expect to see more of these errors in the future.

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Think Tank Express: “Best Time Ever”. Not

Next stop: The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame for "Best Time Ever".

Next stop: The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame for “Best Time Ever”.

A T Dog Media TV review

This embarrassment even makes Johnny B. On The Loose watchable 

Maybe there should be a class action suit against NBC and Neil Patrick Harris for their new Tuesday night “variety” show, Best Time Ever, because it is blatantly false advertising. This program features stuff we haven’t seen on Ellen or Jimmy Fallon’s shows before – only much worse. In fact, this is even worse than Jonathan Brandmeier’s short-lived disastrous syndicated late-night strip Johnny B. On The Loose from 1991.

The September 15 debut of the series featured Reese Witherspoon as guest announcer (why?) and his hefferish co-host, Nicole Scherziger – who I cannot stand – makes this tough to watch right off the bat. And he opened the show with a character named “Little NPH”. Okay…

First, Harris stalked this Alabama couple who was at their wedding, at their football game… without them even knowing it. Harris even trolled them in an Alabama football mascot costume. Rolled tide, indeed. Next, he drags out Gloria Gaynor for some karaoke where contestants were waiting to be embarrassed on national TV right in the comforts of their living rooms. And for some reason, Carrot Top shows up. What, Pauly Shore wasn’t available?

Then Harris goes out and competes in some zipline contest from NBC’s America Ninja Warrior. Whee.

We get another fun and games spectacle – this time Harris quizzes a random woman from the audience with ridiculously easy questions – and boom – she wins a car, trips, merchandise, etc. Easier to win it here than on The Price Is Right, I suppose.

Then we are treated to something straight out of TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes: Harris going undercover in a disguise as a host of the Austrian version of The Voice to prank the judges of the American version and its host, Carson Daly. Wow, another NBC crossover. Is a prank involved with the Today show next?

And to top it all off, it just gets bizarre at the end with The End Of The Show Show, whatever that is.


There is a reason variety shows are dead in this country. Remember Dolly Patron’s ill-fated effort from 28 years ago? NBC paid big bucks to buy the rights from a show in Grreat Britain (Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway) to give to Neil Patrick Harris to make his own. And despite how talented he is, this show is just plain unwatchable. Only eight episodes only have been ordered. And it’s STILL way too many.

Instead of Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, this abomination should be named Worst Time Ever with Jay Cutler. And we get that every Sunday for sixteen weeks.

Grade: F. See you in The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Bears stumble, fumble in the ratings

pencil-and-paper-animation-PPP_CGENE_LT3_Notepad_w_PencilHaven’t done the Notepad in a while – plus, I’ve been busy with other stuff, so let’s play catchup and see  what’s going on:

The Chicago Bears are back – but apparently, someone forgot to tell the fans: September 13’s heavily hyped home opener between the Lakefront’s NFL Team and their long-time nemesis Green Bay Packers drew a surprisingly low (for NFL football) 27.7 household rating, according to Chicago Business Journal, down 9 percent from last year’s home opener (a 30.3 against the Buffalo Bills.)

In Milwaukee, the game fared much better, earning a 46.7 household rating.

Despite the “low” rating, the Bears game was the most-watched program of the week in Chicago.

It’s hard to tell if Bears fans are buying the program new head coach John Fox is selling as this is only one game – even if is the Packers. Dire predictions for the Bears this season (with one publication predicting the Bears finish 3-13) may have kept some fans away. But if the Bears continue to lose and ratings continue to fall, it would tough to win the fans back. But judging by the loss to Arizona Sunday, the team is clearly heading in the wrong direction.

Last Wednesday, David Kaplan changed stations – the longtime host at WGN-AM has returned to WMVP-AM (ESPN 1000) as host of the new Kaplan & Co., airing weekdays from noon to 2 p.m. Joining Kaplan is a rotation of co-hosts and guests. Among them was former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who joined the show on Thursday.

Since joining the Tribune-owned WGN-AM in 1995, the Emmy-award and Silver Dome-award winning Kaplan has hosted Sports Central and most recently, co-hosted Kap & Haugh on the former WGWG-FM and later WGN Plus, simulcasted on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Kaplan’s move to WMVP essentially ended Kap & Haugh, which aired its final episode on WGN Plus and CSN Chicago on September 11. The regional sports channel has replaced it with paid infomercials and reruns of sports news show SportsNet Central.

– Usually, there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to those PPM ratings in August – but there is one notable item in the most recent ratings report. For the first time in recent memory, Hubbard Broadcasting’s Hot AC station WTMX-FM (The Mix) finished first among Chicago’s radio stations in a spot usually reserved for WBBM-AM or WVAZ, or WGN-AM and WGCI in the distant past.

The station also swept key dayparts as well, finishing first in mornings (with Eric & Kathy) and in afternoons.

The big just gets bigger: Meredith Corp. and Media General announced two weeks ago they were merging with each other, making it the third-largest TV station chain in the country, with 88 stations coverage more than forty markets nationwide.

This was followed by another merger announced last Monday of Gray Television and the TV/radio assets of Schurz Communications, owner of WSBT in South Bend, Ind.

Meredith owns stations in markets such as Atlanta, Kansas City, St. Louis, Phoenix, Hartford, and Portland, Ore, while Media General owns stations in San Francisco, Tampa, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and other markets. Meredith nor Media General owns any stations in Illinois, while Gray owns one station in the state, CBS affiliate WIFR in Rockford.

Schurz owns CBS affiliate WDBJ in Ronaoke, Va. where tragedy struck a few weeks ago when two station employees were recently killed live on-camera. WDBJ also has a pending fine with the FCC over a video editing error.

The merger continues a trend of media companies trying to strengthen their portfolio to gain leverage in retransmission content negotiations with cable and satellite providers. The companies are also angling to get their share of political ad dollars, which is expected to hit another record in 2016.

Earlier, Media General split its print and broadcast properties; Meredith, which owns magazines Better Homes And Gardens among others, is likely to be spun-off

Other media news of note:

-Jon Kelley exits WFLD; replaced by George Smith from WOIO in Cleveland.

-Orion Samuelson undergoes surgery; is expected to make a full recovery.

– New syndicated strips FABLife and CrimeWatch Daily got off to strong starts. Of note is FABLife’s strong start in Chicago, where WLS-TV finished first at 1 p.m. with a 2.4/8 household rating/share. Crime Watch grew in the ratings from Tuesday and Wednesday.

– Add Rizoli & Isles to shows coming into syndication this fall. Premieres Saturday from 7-9 p.m. on Fox’s WPWR.

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Chicago enters the New Year’s Eve game


For the first time in decades, Chicago is holding a big celebration downtown on New Year’s Eve.

As first reported by the Chicago Tribune Thursday, city planners are creating a huge event to ring in 2016, with music, fireworks, and more fun stuff along the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.

Dubbed Chi-Town Rising, the event is being privately financed (with a beer company as a sponsor) and has WMAQ-TV as one of its partners. The NBC-owned station plans to carry the big countdown to midnight on December 31, pre-empting Carson Daly’s New York-based New Year’s Eve show, and also home to Dick Clark’s countdown show.  Chi-Town rising is also being syndicated to other markets, notably in the Midwest.

Hosts have yet to be named.

The last time a Chicago event was syndicated to TV stations was the Ronald McDonald Christmas Parade in the 1980’s, converting into the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (with a different sponsor) in the mid-1990s. Also, the Bud Billiken Parade aired on WGN’s Superstation (now WGN America) until 2011.

Chi-Town Rising also plans to have a huge marketing blitz, including TV and radio ads, plus a digital and social media presence. The hope is to attract tourists who would otherwise not come to Chicago during the Holidays (unless visiting family) due to the notorious cold weather.

For WMAQ, the station now goes head-to-head with WLS-TV with their popular New Year’s Eve show, which has drawn huge ratings over the years – even larger than most prime-time shows, demonstrating the power of local television. The ABC-owned station’s dominance has led CBS’ WBBM-TV and Fox’s WFLD-TV to drop their low-rated NYE entries over the years. WLS’ NYE show have been more noticeable in recent years for its train-wreck variety, as noted on social media – though Chicago’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in the 1970’s were a train-wreck variety in their own right.

WBBM carried the festivities from outside Marshall Field’s for several years. The 1979-80 celebration was particularly notorious, with Warner Saunders, John Coughlin, Bob Wallace and others hosting, with then mayor Jane Byrne stood outside in a fur coat looking quite dazed and confused, counting down to the new year.

Gary Deeb of the Chicago Tribune noted (before the special aired): “If you want to laugh yourself into convulsions, tune to WBBM-Ch. 2 about 11:40pm for the station’s annual New Year’s special. The 30-minute telecast originates live from State and Randolph streets, from the Empire Room of the Palmer House, and from Arnie’s, the gathering place for pampered poodles on the Near North Side.”

Deeb went on to say: “The Channel 2 presentation usually rivals a Marx Brothers movie for uproarious slapstick.

But it didn’t compare to Los Angeles independent KDOC-TV’s (based in Anaheim) first and last New Year’s Celebration at Mann’s Chinese Theater in 2012 hosted by Jamie Kennedy, which saw some live profanity, technical difficulties, Macy Gray appearing on stage drunk, and a fight breaking out at the end of the broadcast.

Courtesy of Fuzzy Memories, you can view WBBM’s 1979 New Year’s Eve show in four parts here here here and here. Maybe this Chi-Town rising special would have the same kind of train-wreck variety New Year’s specials are known for.

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CBS 2 hires a Sarge

Meet CBS 2's new anchor hire, Irika Sargent.

Meet CBS 2’s new anchor hire, Irika Sargent.

The anchor merry-go-around continues at the local chapter of The Church Of Tisch

In the latest anchor change at CBS-owned WBBM-TV, co-anchor Kate Sullivan was fired Tuesday and replaced by Irika Sargant from sister CBS-owned station WFOR-TV in Miami, as first reported by Robert Feder on Tuesday. She gets the privilege of anchoring next to (or putting up with) Rob Johnson at 5, 6, and 10 every weeknight starting next month.

Sargent has been with WFOR since May 2014. The Kansas City native had anchor stops at KPRC in Houston and WALA-TV in Mobile, among others and also practiced law in New York. Unlike WBBM, WFOR is actually competitive in the English-language local news races, only behind ABC affiliate WPLG and Fox affiliate WSVN in the ratings.

As for Sullivan, her sexy librarian on-air look wasn’t enough to boost ultra-low ratings – in a recent ratings report, WBBM’s 10 p.m. newscast averaged only a 0.7 rating in the key 25-54 demo. The move to replace Sullivan comes as CBS just launched The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and is looking to have a better lead-in for The Church Of Tisch’s new multi-million dollar late night star, who ratings are starting to sag a bit, a week after launch.

So how absurd is CBS 2 news these days? On the night of Colbert’s launch, Johnson and Sullivan – along with meteorologist Steve Baskerville and sports guy Ryan Baker each held up Stephen Colbert masks to their faces. This is the stupidest thing yours truly has ever seen on a local newscast.

This is the twelfth anchor change at WBBM since 2000, when Carol Marin anchored solo in an experimental format that was well-received by critics, but not so much with viewers.

CBS 2 news director Jeff Kierman – whose dumbass should have been canned years ago –blabbed in a statement: “Irika is a talented broadcaster who possesses great experience as a journalist and additional insights that were developed during her time as an attorney. We look forward to welcoming her back to the Midwest and having her share her many talents with her colleagues and our viewers.”

The question is, what viewers? At this rate, CBS 2’s newscasts are going to get outrated by Match Game reruns. Kierman would’ve been better off hiring Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly to anchor the news and Kierman himself should’ve been replaced by Gene Rayburn. How dumb is Dumb Dora? At least she’s smarter than Kierman, who should be exiled to Nerdo Crombezia.

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2015 Fall Syndication Preview

"The FAB Life".

“The FAB Life”.

The 2015-16 season begins today in syndication – but in keeping with theme in recent years, there are only a handful of new first-run syndicated programs coming to market. This is mainly due to the continued success of existing syndicated fare such as Ellen, Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer, and Jeopardy!

Also, many time periods are being gobbled up by expansion of local news or talk shows. Locally, Tribune-owned WGN-TV is returning to the 10 p.m. news game, usually reserved for first-run or off-network programming in the past. The only addition to WGN’s schedule this fall is Crime Watch Daily, premiering today at 3 p.m. The others are:

NBCUniversal Television Distribution’s reality TV clip show Crazy Talk gets a 5 and 5:30 p.m. slot on WPWR-TV, replacing one hour of a two-hour block of Family Feud. A weekend version Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. and Midnight.

Disney-ABC Television Distribution launches Tyra Banks’ new The FAB Life on all eight ABC-owned stations, including a 1 p.m. slot on WLS-TV. FAB replaced Rachael Ray here, which is being moved to 1:05 a.m. FAB is also replacing Ray on Houston ABC O&O KTRK, also moving it to late-night hours (more on some veteran syndicated shows in a little bit.)

Bellum Entertainment launched its first-ever syndicated strip on Sept. 7 called Corrupt Crimes, which delves into real-life true crime stories. Primarily cleared on Sinclair Broadcasting stations, Crimes airs at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Weigel’s The U Too.

– Syndication’s only new off-network sitcom debuts on Sept. 21 with 2 Broke Girls airing in primetime from 9 to 10 p.m. over WCIU-TV.

Two other syndicated strips also debut this fall: PPI’s Just for Laughs: Gags, which airs from 6-7 a.m. on The U Too and Debmar-Mercury’s Tosh.0, reruns of the Comedy Central series airing at midnight on WPWR starting Sept. 21, replacing Right This Minute, which at the time of this writing, does not have another clearance lined up in the Chicago market.

Also launching – but in a limited rollout is Hollywood Live Today, airing many on Fox and Media General stations. In Chicago, Hollywood airs weekdays at noon on WPWR.


Many veteran syndicated shows are getting make overs – and/or getting the shaft on local stations with downgrades.

Your new Millionaire host.

Your new Millionaire host.

The show appearing to be hit the hardest is Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Despite a new host (Chris Harrison, from Bachelor fame), the program has been dropped and/or downgraded by several ABC-owned stations, a victim of midday news expansion in New York (WABC), Philadelphia (WPVI), and Raleigh/Durham (WTVD). While the show moves to WLNY New York (at 4 p.m.), ABC-owned stations in Los Angeles (KABC), Philadelphia, Houston, and Raleigh have all downgraded the show to late-night time slots. In Chicago, Millionaire moves to 11 a.m. on The U Too, starting today. Since Meredith Vieira left Millionaire, the series has been

through three hosts.

Speaking of Ms. Vieira, her daytime show is also getting a second-season makeover to boost sagging ratings. Included is a new set, and new segments.

In addition to Millionaire, some older syndicated shows are running on fumes – notably Rachael, Dr. Oz, The Insider, and The Doctors. With the exception of Oz and Millionaire, these shows are slated to air past midnight in the Chicago area. The clock may be ticking on these past-their-prime shows due to their years-long rating declines.

Another change is Law & Order: Criminal Intent reruns shifting to The U Too in primetime from 7-9 p.m. each weeknight.




If you like procedurals, you are in luck: four off-network shows are being added in weekend syndication. This past weekend, summer ABC staple Rookie Blue is airing on WCIU Sunday afternoons at 1 and 2 p.m. Disney-ABC syndicated Blue joins three other crime dramas: CBS Television Distribution’s Elementary and Warner Bros.’ Persons of Interest, both with weekend afternoon slots over WGN-TV (both series have also been picked up for stripping on WGN America.) Also joining the weekend parade is Warner Bros.’ Rizoli & Isles, the off-TNT series airing from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturdays on WPWR.

Bob’s Burgers also gets a weekend syndication deal – the Twentieth-distributed animated sitcom airs at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on WCIU Saturday night as part of its “U Toons” block.

As noted here a few weeks ago, Monopoly Millionaires Club was cut to a half-hour but retains its 6 p.m. Sunday night slot on WGN, now being paired up with a weekend edition of Celebrity Name Game.

Also, U Too has talent competition The Big Big Show, airing Saturday nights at  9 p.m. starting Sept. 19.

What’s Out

Not too many shows, but there are a handful of shows not returning due to cancellation or expiring contracts. Queen Latifah, Let’s Ask America, and weekly action hour SAF3 are all long gone, each canceled earlier last season. Futurama is being replaced in syndication by Bob’s Burgers next weekend, but continues its off-network run on Comedy Central (the series ended in 2013.) Also canceled is The Conspiracy Show and Unsealed: Alien Files, both reality shows running mostly in late night-weekend slots.

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Think Tank Express: Colbert makes his CBS debut

stephen-colbert-late-showStephen Colbert – yes, the real Stephen Colbert – finally made his long-awaited hosting debut last night on The Late Show, only the third time a comedian has hosted under this title. Colbert is no longer chained to his “Stephen Colbert” character he played on his Comedy Central show. While judging a program by one episode doesn’t do it justice, Colbert has a lot of work to do to catch up to his rivals, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel.

The opening titles were really cool; had great artwork. Colbert did kind of an abbreviated monologue, with CBS head honcho Les Moonves in the audience ready to switch to The Mentalist, just in case Colbert bombs. Noting this is The Church Of Tisch we’re dealing with, Moonves could’ve easily summoned Pat Sajak to take over (for those not familiar on why I call CBS “The Church Of Tisch”, click here.)

Skits included Colbert being possessed by a container of Hummus and of course, Donald Trump and Oreos, which were kind of lame. Of course, the more Oreos Colbert ate, the more Trump clips we saw (do we want that?) Fallon, who fronts a competing show on another network made a friendly cameo, noting this won’t be a Jay Leno/David Letterman thing.

Another cameo featuring in the opening sequence was Jon Stewart, who was named executive producer of the show (so that’s what he’s doing in “retirement”…)

Interviews with George Clooney and presidential candidate Jeb Bush were way too short, with much of the latter heavily edited and winding up on Colbert’s website – ridiculous,  given the extended time Colbert’s premiere received (running 69 minutes.)

What saved the show was the marvelous performance of bandleader Jonathan Batiste and special guest Mavis Staples, who performed “Everyday People”.

Still, the opening show could have been better – but at least it wasn’t worse…no Alan Thicke antics or Chevy Chase crap-out here. Colbert will have time to iron out the kinks and settle down, just like Conan O’Brien and Colbert’s predecessor, David Letterman did. Yours truly is a big Colbert fan, and would like to see this succeed.

Grade: B-


The Late Show With Stephen Colbert got off to a flying start Tuesday night, with a 56-market metered household rating/share of 4.9/13, according to Nielsen. However, the number was down from Jimmy Fallon’s premiere on February 17, 2014, which had the advantage of being promoted throughout the Winter Olympics.

Colbert’s highest household rating/share came from CBS owned-and-operated WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, with a 12.4/29, with CBS O&O WWJ-TV Detroit coming in next with a 9.7/23. Here in Chicago, WBBM delivered a 8.5/17 for Colbert, easily winning its time slot. In Milwaukee, Weigel-owned CBS affiliate WDJT came in with a 7.3.

In the nation’s two largest markets, Colbert delivered a 6.8/15 for WCBS-TV in New York, while earning a 5.0/15 for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.

In national numbers, Colbert’s premiere drew 6.6 million viewers, with a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49.

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Bob Sirott, Marianne Murciano out at WGN

Marianne-Murciano-and-Bob-Sirott-300x225The married duo exits amid a programming squeeze

WGN Radio’s early afternoon husband-and-wife team of Bob Sirott and Marriane Murciano were squeezed out of their slot amid programming changes the Tribune-owned station announced Wednesday, resulting in the exit of the duo after just two years.

The pair’s final show is Friday.

The change is being made to accommodate the expansion of two shows, effective Sept. 8: The Steve Cochran Show, which now is extended to 10 a.m., and Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder’s program, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a lunch break at noon for an hour-long business show hosted by a local bank.

The moves comes as WGN Radio’s ratings are respectable – even without Cubs baseball, which was on the station for 90 years before their move to WBBM-AM this year. In the recent PPM survey, WGN was tied for fifth place with urban contemporary WGCI-FM in overall numbers and was flat from the previous month. Keep in mind however, WGN generally skews older and is ranked much lower in the key 25-54 demos.

Despite considerable criticism from Internet board posters, Steve Cochran stunned everyone by finishing first in morning drive last month in overall numbers, according to the Chicago Tribune. Bill and Wendy finished fourth.

On the other hand, Sirott and Murciano finished fifteenth place overall for their noon to 3 p.m. show. Internet posters often ripped into the show – Murciano in particular, noting her lack of experience in talk radio. Posters often made fun of the show, referring to the duo as “Bob and Bride”, whatever that means.

WGN programming chief Todd Manley said ratings nor revenue had nothing to do with the cancellation. “It’s just a matter of resources.”, he told Robert Channick at the Tribune.“This move has nothing to do with the show’s ratings or revenue. Sirott & Murciano on WGN Radio was a success story.”  But a fifteenth-place finish is certainly cause for concern and perhaps I wouldn’t have been in the same room as Manley when he made this statement – his growing nose would’ve pushed me up against the wall. The move was made to eliminate two people from payroll, as their contract came up for renewal.

Earnings for Tribune Media, WGN Radio’s owner – and the only radio station in the company’s portfolio, grew in the second quarter but posted a loss due to high TV programming costs as more and more viewers are ditching cable TV for other alternatives. Tribune owns WGN America, the former superstation.

As for Sirott, a veteran of three local TV and three radio stations, what’s next for him? “After Friday, we’ll be going out to dinner, I guess,” Sirott told the Tribune.

Hope they enjoy the dining experience.

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“Crime Watch Daily” to watch out for you daily

crimewatchdailyHere’s something you don’t see in daytime television – a show all about crime. And I don’t mean the local news.

Beginning September 14, Warner Bros. is launching Crime Watch Daily as an early fringe strip intended for news lead-ins. Announced in January, the series cleared Tribune-owned stations in 29 markets. In Chicago, Crime Watch Daily is airing at 3 p.m. over WGN-TV with a repeat airing twelve hours later. In both cases, it’ll serve as news lead-ins. And it makes sense given crime is a staple of local news.

It is one of three new syndicated strips premiering on September 14 – the others are The Fab Life from Disney-ABC Television Distribution, which airs at 1 p.m. on WLS-TV, and NBCUniversal’s Crazy Talk reality TV video-clip show, which airs at 5 and 5:30 p.m. over WPWR-TV.

Crime Watch Daily focuses on the crimes making headlines of the day, and also focus on missing persons cases, scams, unsolved murders, viral videos, and such with tips on how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Crime Watch also plans on using local stations to contribute to stories, somewhat similar to what syndicated shows PM Magazine and Evening Magazine did back in the day.


Your crime-busting team.

The correspondents are Matt Doran, an award-winning reporter from Australia; America’s Most Wanted veteran Michelle Sigona; former WABC-AM personality and best selling author Jason Mattera; and former WJBK/Detroit reporter Andrea Isom, who recently stopped by WGN’s morning newscast to talk about the show.

A website is already up at crimewatchdaily.com, and on the front page as of Tuesday night, is the murder of a law enforcement officer in north suburban Fox Lake, which is 50 miles northwest of Chicago, with a link to the story from WGN’s website. Crime Watch Daily’s social media accounts are also up and running.

Scheduled for the premiere is a hidden-camera investigation into Uber (the wannabe taxi company) and its practices.

No doubt this is a huge gamble for both Warner and Tribune on this project. The last attempt at a syndicated crime strip in September 1989 with the premiere of Orion Television’s Crimewatch Tonight. Targeted for prime access and late-night slots, the show hosted by former CBS newsman Ike Pappas never gained traction with viewers and vanished within two months. The show’s content had the unfortunate distinction of falling into agencies’ “do not buy” lists, which made it hard to attract national advertising – a common theme for reality, magazine, and issue-oriented talk shows (Geraldo, Morton Downey Jr., etc.) at the time.

Despite the often-hory content, advertising issues are not expected to come into play for Crime Watch Daily as sponsors have softened their stance over controversial programming over the years. For example, despite racially-charged comments made by contestants in 2013’s edition of CBS’ Big Brother, no advertiser defections or boycotts were reported despite widespread outrage.

Crime Watch Daily’s slogan is “We Are Watching”. But will viewers be watching? We’ll soon find out.

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Think Tank Express: Media’s bizarro summer

smashedTV_w720Radio is experiencing a renaissance  and television in the dumps?

Welcome to the summer of the bizarro world.

You’ve probably read several articles lately proclaiming radio’s resurgence, with Nielsen reporting a record reach of 245 million listeners and usage up from years past, with more reach than any other medium.

Great news, indeed. But what the corporate spinmeisters won’t tell you is the medium is still suffering from the problems its been plagued by in the past – too many commercials, idiotic corporate decisions, and disrespect for the listener. Read this recent blog entry from TV writer Ken Levine, and you’ll see what I mean.

If you recall, yours truly declared Chicago the worst radio market in the country as it continues to hire people who won’t get the hell off the stage. Case in point: The Drive hiring has-been Mike North for a three hour- Bears post-game show – on a music station – in a market already saturated with Bears post-game shows – and all for a team projected to finish 3-13 this year. Last time a music station in the Chicago area stopped the hits to air sports was in 2007 when the former Nine-FM aired high school football games. At least we’re spared North talking about Hinsdale Central vs. Hinsdale South.

These decisions made by Chicago radio executives are just as bad as the decisions Bears management makes. Sometimes, you can’t tell the difference between the two. They both practically deserve one another.

Just because radio can reach 245 million listeners doesn’t necessarily mean they’re satisfied with it – after all, ask WLS-FM fans, if any left. But they tune in anyway  … just like they do with the Bears. Everyone loves a trainwreck.

Meanwhile, fallout continues over comments made by FX chief John Landgraf at the recent TCA summer tour regarding “too much TV” as the debate continues on whether too many good series could lead to the medium’s downfall. As I mentioned in this space, “quality” is something a TV exec doesn’t get to decide -it’s in the eye of the beholder. In this “Second Golden Age Of TV” people keep yammering about, there are over 400+ scripted shows (in this “Golden Age”, does 2 Broke Girls count?)

But as cord-cutting accelerates and with media stocks starting to tank, you knew a glut of programming – especially dramas – would have an effect. Glut of any kind of programming – good or bad – does fracture the audience and with lower ratings comes lower ad revenue. Remember ten years ago when we had a lot of reality shows?

While radio’s reach is growing, cable’s is retrenching – and it may not bode well for the television industry. While Sirius/XM and Internet radio has had minimal impact on radio on a large scale, the traditional television business has been hammered by the advent of streaming services and online video platforms such as YouTube.

Yes, it does seem radio is going one way and television is going another. But since the media business is cynical, it won’t be long before these trends reverses themselves – underperforming shows will get canceled and replaced with NCIS reruns and radio is one format flip/bad exec decision away for listeners to be pissed at it again. After all, does anyone want the hottest thing in media in 2015 to be Mike North?

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TCA: NBC wraps up tour; places big bet on “Heroes: Reborn”

Tim Kring with "Heroes: Reborn" cast.

Tim Kring with “Heroes: Reborn” cast.

NBCUniversal wrapped up the last day of the 2015 TCA Press Tour, with panels for NBC and NBCU’s cable networks. Here are some selected panels that took place:

NBCUniversal cable nets (USA/SyFy/CNBC)

-USA Networks’ new Colony sounds like a ripoff of AMC’s new Fear Of The Walking Dead and CBS’ Under The Dome – apocalypse takes over Los Angeles with aliens (instead of zombies) invading, sealing off the city (only with no dome.) But don’t call it an alien invasion, says creator Carlton Cuse. Whatever, dude – I won’t be watching.

=Next up was SyFy’s Childhood’s End, a six-hour, three part miniseries based on a 1953 science-fiction novel where a city is overtaken by pleasant people and becomes an utopian paradise. “There are no heroes and villains in the story,” notes executive producer Matthew Graham, who wrote the script.“It’s not about heroes and villains. There is nothing to fix, nothing to fight against.”  While this recipe could make for a rather boring show, living in an age of harmony does have its downsides, and no doubt you’ll see that here. The series debuts December 14.

-While Jay Leno was talking about his new Leno’s Garage show on CNBC, the car enthusiast was asked how Stephen Colbert would do in his old daypart: “I think he’ll be terrific”, he said. “The idea of a white guy in late night is revolutionary”, he joked. All kidding aside, Leno also said he would like to see more diversity in late night. Leno’s Garage premieres October 7 on CNBC.


-Executive session: Robert Greenblatt addressed the big elephant in the room: what to do with that human garbage disposal, Donald Trump. Though the network dropped him from The Apprentice franchise due to his insensitive comments about immigrants, Greenblatt said Trump is not completely banned by the network.

Among the announcements he made at TCA include a six-year contract extension for Jimmy Fallon as host of The Tonight Show; signing deals to pick up sitcoms from Michael Schur and Tina Fey/Robert Carlock; and Dolly Parton headlines a made-for (Coat Of Many Colors) on December 11, a week after the live presentation of The Wiz.

-Look! It’s another FBI drama in Blindspot. Yay. But this one os at least interesting: unidentified woman wakes up nude in times square, her memory wiped clean and filled with tattoos. So we’ll spend all season trying to figure out who this woman is, and what the tattoos mean. Nice, but if they solved all that, what’s going to happen in season 2?

Interesting fact: Jaimie Alexander, who plays “Jane Doe”, sits in a chair for 7 hours so she can get the tattoos on.

-You can tell Neil Patrick Harris is excited for Best Show Ever, the new live variety show he’s launching next month.“It’s my hope you’ll get to see a bunch of cool shit, and it’s live, so you’ll only be able to reference it the next day,” Harris said to the crowd at TCA. Nice, but it won’t help those “live” ratings. That’s something you can’t see on YouTube.

The best part about Best Show Ever is get to see Neil Patrick Harris show off his talent. The bad news is, this is only scheduled for eight episodes this season. And there’s the matter of living up to the show’s title. If this stinks, watch out.

Best Show Ever premiers after the finale of America’s Got Talent on Sept. 22  and then moves to its regular Tuesday night time slot at 8/7 p.m. the following week.

-Don’t look for new sitcom Truth Be Told (formerly known as People Are Talking) to shy away from controversy – in fact, the show will embrace it when it comes to race issues, according to creator and EP DJ Nash, whom life the show of based off of.

Nash boasted about the diversity of his writers room: “We have gay, straight, black, white, ethnically ambiguous, a couple of us didn’t go to Harvard, we’re single, divorced, young, Catholic… but like our cast, all of us are incredibly f—able!”. He also wanted the room to get into debates, not necessarily agreeing on every point.

This seems to be in the Norman Lear mold. But unlike Lear’s shows, Truth Be Told looks more like former Fox sitcom The War At Home than All In The Family. Don’t be surprised of this piece of shit is the season’s first cancellation with a quick induction into the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame.

– Dick Wolf unveiled his reboot of ER – err… I mean Chicago Hope… err.. I mean his latest Chicago-based drama Chicago Med. Wolf described the Chicago Fire spinoff as “an emotional thrill ride through the day-to-day chaos of the city’s most explosive hospital.” (I think he just described Cook County Hospital.) Look for some “ripped from the headlines” stuff, a Wolf staple. And as a plus, the wonderful S. Epatha Merkerson (from Wolf’s Law & Order) is heading the place.

One interesting footnote – days after Chicago Med’s had its TCA presentation, showrunner Andrew Dettman was forced out due to creative differences.

– The last panel for NBC – and at TCA – was for Heroes: Reborn, the highly anticipated reboot of the 2006-10 series. A lot of info about the series was covered at Comic-Con, so we’ll just go into the latest developments:

  • The series gets a two-hour premiere on September 24, pushing back the season premiere of The Blacklist until October 1. That’s major.
  • Heroes: Reborn will also be screened at the Toronto Film Festival next month, becoming the only TV series to do so.
  • Tim Kring acknowledged some members from the original cast won’t be returning, including Zachary Quinto, Milo Ventimigila, and Hayden Pantettiere, whose Claire character is central to the plot of Heroes: Reborn.
  • Those that are returning will be showing up periodically throughout the series’ initial thirteen-episode run.
  • Instead of being treated like a fifth season, Heroes: Reborn would be treated like a tenth season, as if the series wasn’t off the air at all. Let’s just say the cameras weren’t there for the last five years.

And yes, yours truly will be watching. If it works, great. If not, Jay Cutler won’t be the only person I’ll be bashing on this site in the fall.

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