“Young Sheldon” is CBS’ centerpiece for 2017-18 season

“Young Sheldon”. ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CBS announces new schedule in front of buyers

CBS held its 2017-18 upfront presentation Wednesday and announced its new schedule in front of ad buyers, and made a case for why the network is the “most watched in America”. CBS CEO Les Moonves addressed attendees at an upfronts breakfast Wednesday morning, subbing in for network president Glenn Geller, who is on medical leave. Joining him was Kelly Kahl, senior executive of primetime. We’ll have more on that later.

But first, here’s what CBS has on tap for the 2017-18 season:

– We’ll start with Tuesday first – and the night remains unchanged with NCIS, Bull, and NCIS: New Orleans. Wednesdays has Criminal Minds sliding over an hour later for new drama Seal Team, about….. Survivor stays pat and takes on Empire and The Blacklist. Fridays also remain pat with MacGyver, Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods, with 48 Hours remaining on Saturdays.

– Sundays has new drama Wisdom Of The Crowd leading out of 60 Minutes, followed by NCIS: Los Angeles and a relocated Madam Secretary.

– Now we discuss Mondays and Thursdays, which are difficult to dissect because of Thursday Night Football. The Big Bang Theory once again relocates to Monday nights due to Football on Thursdays. CBS’ new Young Sheldon, a BBT prequel, premieres on Sept. 25 as a special “preview”. The following week, 9JKL premieres. followed by Kevin Can Wait, new comedy Me Myself and I and Scorpion.

After football, Big Bang shifts back to Thursday with Young Sheldon moving into is regular night and time beginning Oct. 30. This is followed by Mom, Life In Pieces, and the new drama SWAT, which is actually not a reboot of the 1970’s ABC series, but of the movie based on the series.

When Big Bang moves back to Thursday, Kevin Can Wait takes over its spot on Mondays, followed by 9JKL, new comedy Me Myself and I, and the return of Superior Donuts. Scorpion remains pat.

Being held for midseason are Man With a Plan, Code Black, and Elementary (among others), with the latter a last-minute pickup. Canceled are Training Day, Hunted, and Ransom.

Moonves addressed the crowd during the executive session, and he acknowledged NBC’s return of “Must-See TV” moniker, stating his network is the real Must-See TV giving the large number of viewers they attract. Moonves also noted ABC’s acquisition of American Idol, saying the logistics for CBS to buy the show didn’t make financial sense. Moonves also noted what he said about Trump (“he may be good for CBS”, etc.) was a joke, but the way things are going, it’s one he may have regretted making.

As for CBS’ schedule, this isn’t too much to criticize here; after all, they are the number one network (in total viewers, at least.) while their shows don’t seem to have the same buzz as other networks, the networks goes by the late Oakland Raiders Al Davis’ slogan… “Just win, baby!”

One noticeable element of CBS’ fall schedule is the departure from multi-cam comedies, which the network has relied on in the past. 9JKL is the only new show which is multi-cam; the others, Young Sheldon included, are single-cam ones. CBS is betting a lot on how Sheldon Cooper became “The Genius. The Wonder. The Legend.” as a weekly series. But this has a Malcolm In The Middle feel to it – genius kid putting up with a dysfunctional family, and so on – not a bad thing, but it feels like it’s been done before.

CBS’ new Seal Team is a standard military drama, so if you’re into this type of stuff, you won’t be disappointed. Some say 9JKL is similar to the network’s long-running hit Everyone Loves Raymond… kind of a similar theme regarding their new shows.

Overall, not a bad schedule for CBS for next season – given ABC and Fox (especially Fox) are still in a rebuilding phase, staying the course seems to be the best bet. For all the ribbing I give “The Church Of Tisch” over a lot of things, they’ve done a good job running primetime.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.

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ABC releases 2017-18 schedule

“Inhumans” debuts first in IMAX theaters before heading to TV.

Fourteen new series on tap; many scheduling moves

ABC announced its 2017-18 schedule in front of ad buyers during its annual upfront presentation on Tuesday – fourteen new series on tap, including many midseason entries.

But the big news (other than the acquisition of American Idol) is the return of Roseanne to the schedule for the first time in nearly 20 years. And I don’t mean in reruns (more on that later.)

ABC made many schedule changes in its fall lineup, which includes abandoning comedy on Fridays (remember, this was the onetime home of the popular TGIF block); and shifting non-scripted shows to Sundays. ABC made a last-minute pickup of Quantico despite low ratings; I suppose they want to stay in business with Priyanka Chopra, who is becoming an “it girl” of sorts.

Mondays has Dancing With The Stars (and The Bachelor in between) and a new drama The Good Doctor, in the ABC medical drama traditions of Ben Casey, Grey’s Anatomy and Marcus Welby, M.D. ABC continues its sitcom block on Tuesdays with black-ish the new middle anchor in the evening. The Middle starts it off, followed by Speechless, and lead out of black-ish is new comedy The Mayor, followed by new drama The Gospel Of Kevin.

Wednesdays is mostly unchanged with the exception of American Housewife replacing black-ish. Thursdays also stays the same with Scandal entering its seventh and final season.

The nights receiving the biggest makeovers are Fridays and Sundays – the first two hours on Fridays feature dramas – Once Upon A Time shifting from Sundays and Marvel’s new Inhumans, whose pilot episode is debuting in IMAX theaters Sept. 1 before it premieres as an eight-week series, then replaced by the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. The last hour of Friday remains unchanged with 20/20.

Sundays features a major change with unscripted series To Tell The Truth and Shark Tank joining America’s Funniest Home Videos and a new drama Ten Days In The Valley. But all of this is a holdover for the arrival of former Fox hit American Idol, who named Katy Perry as their first judge.

Other midseason entries other than Roseanne and Idol are Dancing With The Stars Juniors, and The Bachelor Winter Games.

With ABC in fourth place, it’s no surprise the network is making some major changes – particularly Sundays, where it needs the most help – Shark Tank should be a great alternative for those who do want to want football or a CBS drama. And American Idol will get instant interest, so it’s all good.

As for their new series – and being biased toward sci-fi and fantasy as yours truly is – The Inhumans is the most interesting. But since the series is only an eight-episode run, the series would have to be good out of the gate or it’ll be written off quick – and airing on low-level HUT Friday nights doesn’t help. The Mayor meanwhile, is being promoted as “a Lea Michele comedy series”, when she’s not even the lead (the series does not bare resemblance to an earlier ABC effort, the 1986 sitcom He’s The Mayor with White Shadow alumnus Kevin Hooks.) The Good Doctor is, ahem “good” if you like medical series, and if it’s better than Marcus Welby, a huge plus. Then again, anything is better than Marcus Welby. 

Black-ish is given a huge vote of confidence moving to a Tuesday night tent-pole slot in a smart move. But other than that, not much change in the comedy ranks.

The biggest news (outside of Idol) of course, the return of Roseanne after two decades off the air. While details haven’t been ironed out yet, the entire cast (including Sarah Clarke, one of the two actresses who played Becky) is returning – even Michael Fishman!

When the announcement was made in front of ad buyers at ABC’s upfronts Tuesday, it got a cold reception…as in none.

As far as reboots for successful series goes – and not counting first-run syndicated revivals (Charles in Charge, We Got It Made, etc.), history isn’t on their side: the most absurd case was a reboot of Get Smart on Fox in 1995, 25 years after the series had its last network broadcast featuring the son of Agents 86 and 99, played by Andy Dick, bumbling and stumbling just like dear ol’ dad. Pathetic. The idea of a Roseanne reboot is ridiculous, and perhaps the stupidest idea yours truly has ever heard of (actually I’ve heard of even more lamer ideas.)

So in addition to Full House, X-Files, Will & Grace, we now have Roseanne. I suppose coming up next, we’ll have a reboot of Dharma & Greg. Or According To Jim.

Or Marcus Welby. The possibilities are fucking endless.

So the question you’re asking is will ABC improve in the ratings next season? Yeah, why not.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.


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Sun-Times, Tribune to merge?

Soon a tronc property?

Owners of Chicago Tribune considering bid to buy cash-strapped newspaper.

It looks like the feared notion of Chicago becoming an one-paper town is about to come to fruition.

On Monday, it was revealed Chicago Tribune owner tronc is pursuing a deal to buy Wrapports, the owners of the Chicago Sun-Times for an undisclosed amount. Should no buyers come forward by June 1, the deal will commence, according to tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.

The two rivals have partnered when it came to distribution and printing; the Chicago Tribune has been printing the Sun-Times since 2007 and delivers the newspapers. But talk of a possible merger fueled when Wrapports owner Michael Ferro also become the biggest shareholder in rival Tribune Publishing, now renamed “tronc”, in smaller-case letters.

In Tuesday’s edition of the Sun-Times, the paper posted a notice of “for sale” sheet in its paper, as requested by the Justice Department, which is reviewing the transaction. In filings, tronc and Wrapports said it would keep the two newspapers separate, and the Sun-Times would be operated independently from the Tribune.

But if the merger goes through, expect some changes. One could be the consolidation of both the Tribune and Sun-Times’ websites. This setup is similar in Philadelphia, where the Inquirer and Daily News are independent from one another, but share a website in Philly.com. Another example is  in Detroit, where the Free Press and News also share services (but not a single website.) Both have an 100-year joint agreement, and operate under the Detroit Media Partnership.

If the Justice Department approves the deal, Chicago would be the largest market in the country with two newspapers under the same owner. Also remains to be seen if several features to the Sun-Times’ website would be returned, including a paywall and comment sections.

Newspapers had been losing market share and revenue in the last fifteen years or so due to the shift of advertising money to digital – a situation also affecting other media such as television and radio. Paywalls have had mixed results in stemming the losses, with the Sun-Times discarding them a few years back. Both the Tribune and Sun-Times’ quality has paled in comparison with others newspapers in other cities, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The move is the latest jolt to Chicago’s media landscape. Last week, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its intention to buy Tribune Media, owner of WGN-TV and WGN-AM and 41 other television stations. Earlier this year, Entercom entered into an agreement to buy CBS Radio, owner of WBBM-AM/FM and several other stations.

While the Justice Department is looking over the deal, don’t look for the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission to get involved as neither has jurisdiction over newspapers. But the recent merger and acquisition activity signals a more deregulatory approach under the Trump administration. Another rule affecting newspapers – the cross-ownership rule forbidding television and radio stations from buying newspapers – is also expected to be looked at, and likely get axed.

The deal is also expected to be opposed by many local community groups and unions, but are unlikely to have any influence in any decision the Justice Department makes.

Wrapports also owns the Chicago Reader, whose unionized employees has been embroiled in a dispute with the company over pay.


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Fox announces 2017-18 schedule

Starlost: Seth MacFarlane (l.) created and stars in “The Orville”. (Fox)

Struggling network goes heavy on sci-fi, picks up Seth MacFarlane show

Fox released its 2017-18 schedule this morning in advance of its upfront presentation Monday afternoon and has considerable changes throughout the schedule.

The biggest move, Wednesday night sees the once-hot Empire move an hour earlier to accommodate the return of Star, the show that temporally replaced it last winter. Empire now goes up against The Blacklist and presumably, Survivor should the series stays in its current time slot (CBS unveils its schedule later this week.)

Meanwhile, Fox has picked up a few sci-fi based series for next season, including one from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane called The Orville, which is set on a U.S.S. vessel in space 400 years into the future – sounds an awfully like failed 1970’s syndicated sci-fi series The Starlost to yours truly. Missing are the styrofoam sets and wooden acting.

Fox scores a Marvel show for the first time by acquiring The Gifted, a show about a suburban couple who finds out their children have supernatural powers. Also new is Ghosted, a comedy featuring The Office’s Craig Robinson being paired with Adam Scott to fight aliens (sounds like a comedic version of The X-Files.)

Debuting midseason is new drama 9-1-1 and comedy LA to Vegas, and also returning midseason is New Girl, (which is ending after this season) and X-Files – two years after season eleven concluded. Not making the schedule next season at all is Scream Queens, out after two low-rated seasons.

The fall schedule features Lucifer paired with The Gifted on Mondays – a rare instance a DC and Marvel are airing together; Lethal Weapon moves to Tuesdays from Wednesdays and paired up with The Mick and Brooklyn Nine-Nine; as previously mentioned, Wednesdays has Empire and Star; Gotham moves to Thursdays and is paired with The Orville; Fridays has Hell’s Kitchen and the return of The Exorcist.

Adam Scott (l.) and Craig Robinson star in “Ghosted”. (Fox)

Saturdays is College Football most weeks; Fox gains rights to several Big Ten games this year, in addition to airing Big 12 and Pac 12 games. With the exception of Ghosted replacing Son of Zorn, Sundays remain unchanged.

Fox’s upfront presentation was heavy on sports, including Terry Bradshaw rapping (yes, rapping) and MacFarlane thinking he’s the second coming of Frank Sinatra. As a sci-fi geek, these new shows should make yours truly happy, but The Orville is the only show worth checking out while Gifted is meh at best and forget about Ghosted.

Fox finally pairs Empire with Star on Wednesdays, a move a few industry insiders suggested. But will Empire’s sex, drugs, violence, and rock ‘n roll (or in this case, hip-hop) play in an earlier time slot? Plus, tougher competition won’t help its ratings, which have declined significantly this year. As for Star, this garbage should’ve been canceled months ago.

Lethal Weapon moves to Tuesdays, but now faces The Voice and NCIS – good luck with that. The Mick and Nine-Nine being paired together is like matching Knicks fans with Nets fans (and like those teams, both shows are not really relevant.) And Sundays…let’s not talk about Sundays. At all. (though yours truly is happy Bob’s Burgers is back.)

While it would be nice for Fox to fill its late Saturday night slot with It’s Showtime At The Apollo – where it traditionally aired when it was in syndication (which is now being held for midseason to air in primetime), it remains with reruns for now – yet another missed opportunity.

Give some credit to Dana Walden and Gary Newman for trying to keep Fox relevant, but what do they have other than football? The brand people associate with Fox now is…a controversial news division who is in President Trump’s pocket and a place where sexist behavior and racial discrimination are running rampant. Certainly not the image Rupert Murdoch had in mind when he dreamt of launching a “fourth network” thirty years ago whose brand in its early years was fronted by Bart Simpson, Al Bundy, and the kids from Beverly Hills, 90210.

Fox has an identity crisis. Turning it into the second coming of UPN won’t help.

To see the fall schedule and read detailed descriptions of each show, including the complete list of midseason entries, click here.

Bonus: Here’s video from someone who was there at the upfronts during Fox Sports’ long presentation. Enjoy. If you can.

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NBC releases 2017-18 schedule

“Will and Grace” returns to NBC with new episodes for the first time since 2006. (NBCUniversal)

Must-See TV is back – and so is Will and Grace

In the “innovative” world of television, there must be something about resurrecting a brand dominant in the 1980’s and 1990s.

Thus, the return of “Must-See TV”.

NBC released its fall schedule Sunday in advance of its upfront presentation, scheduled to take place Monday in New York, and the biggest news: the return of Will and Grace after a eleven-year hiatus. Yes, a eleven-year hiatus. Think about that.

At the time of this writing, the network has not decided on the future of Chicago Justice, the fourth entry in Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise as it is not on the fall schedule.

Mondays has the return of The Voice, with new spinning luxury reclining seat occupant Kelly Clarkson – who was heavily wooed by ABC for its revival of American Idol (she won the first edition in 2002.) It leads into new military drama The Brave.

Tuesdays has The Voice leading into a new sitcom block of relocated sitcoms Superstore and The Good Place, both replacing This Is Us (more on that in a moment.) Chicago Fire remains pat.

Wednesdays is an all-drama night with The Blacklist leading off, followed by veteran Law & Order: SVU and Chicago PD.

Thursday is the night receiving the biggest makeover with the return of Will and Grace with Tina Fey’s Great News – then the relocation of high-rated drama This Is Us in the middle of prime-time followed by Law & Order: True Crime, featuring a story based on the Menendez brothers case.

Both Blindspot and Taken relocate to Friday, with Dateline NBC finishing the night.

When Sunday Night Football finishes in December, NBC is expected to slate Ellen DeGeneres’ new Game of Games, with Little Big Shots and Shades of Blue.

Looking at this lineup, it’s clear NBC wants to be relevant on Thursday nights, wrested away by CBS years ago – that’s why Must-See TV is back, and so is Will and Grace, which played a role in the peacock network’s success on the night in its heyday. Generally, sitcom revivals have a mixed track record (New Monkees, anyone?) But the new Will And Grace has to face TV’s top-rated sitcom The Big Bang Theory starting in November. However, Big Bang is declining creatively (yours truly’s opinion), so Will and Grace is a nice option. But you have to question why this is being rebooted – keep in mind unlike Seinfeld and Friends, Will and Grace was not a big syndication hit.

In a great counter-programming move, NBC gets points for moving This Is Us, which could put the series opposite Scandal on ABC. In the spirit of FX’s critically-acclaimed The People vs. O.J. Simpson, NBC is now trying a limited-series about another high-profile murder trial about the Menendez brothers.

NBC also gets points for moving underrated Superstore and Good Place to Tuesdays after The Voice, so they’ll get amply sampled.

Wednesdays look solid with the Blacklist joining Law & Order: SVU and Chicago PD – this block flows well, but will face tough competition from Survivor and Empire, assuming those shows stay on the night.

Fridays looks iffy however, with Blindspot and Taken, two yawner dramas. Difficult to analyze this night given the low HUT levels.

And of course, NBC will dominate with Sunday Night Football (and thankfully, the lowly Chicago Bears are not scheduled to appear.)

NBC made some good moves here, but will it pay off in increased ratings, especially with a revamped Thursday night? That remains to be seen. But with the Super Bowl (on Feb. 4), NBC would be hard-to-beat in the 18-49 demo.

For more information on NBC’s fall and midseason shows including detailed programming descriptions, click here.

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More renewals/cancellations: “2 Broke Girls” get ax; “Timeless” renewed after all

After initially cancelling it, NBC’s Timeless is coming back for a second season after all. (Warner Bros.)

Believe it or not, many series STILL on the bubble

With the upfronts less than 48 hours away, the networks are finalizing their decisions on “bubble” shows.

In a bit of a surprise, NBC announced Saturday the reversal on a decision they made earlier in the week regarding sci-fi drama Timeless: NBC said it would bring the series back for a second season.

This is not the first time in recent years a network reserved a decision on a show – a few years ago, CBS uncanceled Poppy Montgomery vehicle Unforgettable, renewing it for thirteen more episodes.

Late Friday, NBC gave a last-minute renewal to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – entering its nineteenth season this fall. The mothership (Law & Order) ran for twenty, tying Gunsmoke for the longest-running drama in TV history.

Fox gave last-minute renewals to The Exorcist and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. and Saturday evening, CBS picked up Elementary and Amazing Race for another season.

As for cancellations, the biggest announcement was the end of the line for veteran 2 Broke Girls after six seasons and The Great Outdoors after one. CBS picked up several comedy pilots, but in a reversal from years past, ordered just one multi-cam project (9JKL). A few days ago, ABC canceled its last remaining multi-cam sitcoms, Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken.

NBC pulled the plug on The Blacklist: Redemption after one season.

As of this writing, no word on the fates of a few remaining shows whose fates remain undecided: Quantico, Chicago Justice, Prison Break, 24: Legacy, Trial & Error, New Girl, or Undercover Boss: compared to years past, this is an unusually high number of programs left on the bubble. NBC is likely to release its 2017-18 lineup Sunday afternoon, with its upfront presentation Monday, followed by Fox.

Meanwhile, there is some reported tension between ad buyers and the networks over pricing, according to Variety. With many low-rated network shows returning and ratings for live TV declining, many buyers are scoffing at increased rates for shows. As a result, networks are cutting costs on programming, and slashing licensing fees.

If this is any indication of how negotiations are going to go, the networks and buyers are going to be in for some long nights ahead.

I hope they love pizza, because they are going to be eating a lot of it.

For the latest on renewals and cancellations, follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

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The bubble busts for borderline shows 

Last Man Standing falls after six seasons.









Pickups, renewals take place before upfront week.

As has been the case the last few years, the major networks are clearing the deadwood and making last-minute renewals on many shows the week before upfront presentations take place in New York.

From the looks of things, Fox is likely to overhaul its lineup: five shows so far have gotten the ax: Rosewood, Sleepy Hollow, Making History, and the awful APB and Son Of Zorn, the latter two headed for the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame – if they’re not there already.

Another (Pitch), was canceled last week.

To the surprise of many, ABC canceled Last Man Standing Wednesday after six seasons in the air- this despite decent ratings on Friday night. Also dropped by ABC was The Real O’Neals and Dr. Ken after two seasons.  The cancellation of Ken and Standing may signal ABC is exiting the multi-cam sitcom business for good.

The fourth place network also pulled the plug on American Crime (three seasons), Secrets and Lies (two), The Catch and Imaginary Mary (one season each.) Still no word on the fates of Quantico, Fresh Off the Boat, Match Game, and veterans 20/20 and America’s Funniest Home Videos. 

Earlier in the week, The CW canceled Frequency and No Tomorrow – two shows whom haven’t been on the air since January. NBC also pulled the plug on Emerald City and Timeless and is expected to drop Powerless (also a Hall Of Shame shoo-in.) Also, Grimm was “retired”.

As far as last-minute renewals, there were plenty of those with ABC’s two-year pickup of Modern Family and NBC’s two-year renewal of The Blacklist the biggest.

NBC also picked up Tina Fey’s comedy Great News for a thirteen-episode second season.

Bubble shows also receiving votes of confidence are ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Black-ish, Designated Survivor, NBC’s Blindspot; and The CW’s Riverdale and iZombie.

More renewals and cancellations are to be announced Friday. Stay with T Dog Media for the latest on the renewals and cancellations and follow yours truly on Twitter @tdogmedia for the latest updates.

(Spotted Ratings.com contributed to this report.) 

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Winners and losers in the Sinclair-Tribune deal

Sinclair Broadcasting purchased Tribune Media this week.

With Monday’s acquisition of Tribune Media by Sinclair, it is time to divvy up the winners and losers in this historic deal.

Winner: Sinclair Broadcasting (of course.) No one thought Sinclair would ever crack the top five markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Let’s just say Christmas morning came for the once-obscure broadcaster May 8. And look for Sinclair to reap even more political TV money thanks to heated 2018 congressional and governor’s races – especially here in Illinois where ads are already running.

Loser: Media consolidation foes. Yes, people like yours truly who complained for years about the concentration of media in too few hands, a phenomenon we’ve seen in radio over the last twenty years – you’d think companies would learn from their mistakes. And yet, here we are….

Winner: Over-the-air broadcast television. Prime-time television may be losing viewers, but is fine outside of the daypart as local news continue to be a hot property.

Loser: Cable and satellite providers. With 233 stations covering more than 70 percent of the country, Sinclair has significant leverage with providers who carry the station’s signal. including Comcast, DirecTV, and the like. Sinclair could demand more retrans cash, meaning your cable or satellite bill could go up. Again.

Loser: Fox and the rest of The broadcast networks. And speaking of leverage, Sinclair can negotiate more favorite terms with with the broadcast networks on everything from affiliate pre-emptions to how much retrans money they can take. It’s no wonder Fox tried to stop the deal by trying to acquire Tribune itself – Sinclair would now own 28 percent of all Fox affiliates.

Winner: Republicans. Sinclair’s right-leaning news operations are more friendly to Republicans, and it’s one less outlet Trump and Co. won’t be skewed by. Also helps to “make a deal” with the company for “favorable news coverage” for their “leader”.

Loser: The City of Chicago. With WGN changing hands and the pending closure of Tribune Media, Chicago loses yet another piece of something we’ve called our own. In the last ten years, Chicago has lost Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, several talk shows, and just last week, Johnson Publishing as the Windy City is quickly becoming an afterthought in the media business. At this rate, Chicago would have as many media businesses headquartered here as in Milwaukee or St. Louis. Another black eye for a metro area losing residents and businesses at a rapid pace.

Winner: ATSC 3.0 Technology. The next-gen standard for TV gets a huge boost thanks to Sinclair, who championed the technology for the last two decades. It’ll enable new services to consumers, including Mobile TV.

“Underground” may not have a future as WGN America shifts away from original dramas under new ownership.

Winner: Broadcast companies Nexstar, Tegna, Meredith, Scripps, etc. Since they are competitors, you’d think they would be aghast. Well, two – or more can play at that game: and thanks to the FCC loosening the ownership rules, more companies will be able to swap and merge and cash out. Sadly, competition is a thing of the past – ask the oil companies.

Loser: WGN Radio listeners. Sinclair has no plans on selling WGN – but you can bet they will change the format (for the worst) of the station over time, which would no doubt fuel even more non-stop talk about WGN Radio.

Loser: Rahm Emanuel and the area’s Democrats. With right-leaning Sinclair taking over WGN, look for the station to take a harder line on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the Democrats in Cook County. In the last few years, they’ve gotten more or less a pass from the local news media not named the Chicago Tribune.

Loser: Underground and other scripted dramas. With Sinclair moving away from original scripted programming, it’s curtains for slavery-era drama Underground for WGN America, which means the channel would return to a dumping ground for syndicated fare and B-level programming – just like it was before…not exactly a smart business strategy. Here’s hoping the critically-acclaimed drama finds a new home.

Of course, the impact of the Sinclair-Tribune merger is too early to tell in several cases. Here are some things to look for as this progresses:

The future of The CW. Sinclair now takes over two of the network’s largest affiliates: WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles. While Sinclair has been friendlier to The CW than Tribune has, it’s a whole new ballgame: The CW needs to improve their ratings – they may have to lose the teen dramas and superhero shows. In fact, Sinclair can start their own network if they wanted to and use WPIX, KTLA, and WGN as a launching pad as soon as 2021.

Sports on WGN. Despite a report stating sports rights on WPIX and WGN would be valuable to Sinclair, keep in mind contracts with the Blackhawks (2018) and the Cubs (2019) are expiring soon. It may be cheaper for Sinclair to put on syndicated rerun junk than live sports, which is airing mostly on regional sports networks (the Cubs are looking to launch such a channel in 2020.) Unfortunately, the perennial poor performance of Chicago’s two other sports teams (the Bulls and White Sox) may not provide the ROI Sinclair would be looking for and would be easier to drop live sports altogether.

Syndicators. With Sinclair owning so many stations, a pickup – or a cancellation – could determine any show’s future. If you want your show on the air, you now have to go through Sinclair – it remains to be seen how much “clout” they’ll have

Small broadcasters (Weigel, McKinnon, etc.) The sale of WGN leaves Weigel Broadcasting – owner of WCIU and MeTV as Chicago’s last locally-owned media company. But for how long? Other small broadcasters – McKinnon’s KUSI in San Diego, Adell’s WADL in Detroit, and Ed Ansin’s Boston and Miami stations, could feel pressure to sell their stations given the heightened merger-and-acquisition fever gripping the industry.

How to cover big cities. A Sinclair news station covering Cincinnati and Salt Lake City is one thing, but covering the ultra-blue TV markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – the three largest in the country – is another. If they go down this road, it would be a recipe for disaster. Even with Fox News a more dominant brand, the Fox O&Os are a more neutral news source in terms of local broadcasts.

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“American Idol” heads to ABC

American Idol could head to ABC. (Getty Images)

ABC snags hit Fox show for reboot 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared Sunday and has been rewritten with new information.] 

After rumors American Idol would resurface next year on NBC, ABC has acquired the rights to reboot the franchise.

Variety first reported Friday a deal was near with ABC; but Fox, who aired the series for fifteen years, was reportedly still in the running. NBC, who was pitched first about an Idol reboot, has passed.

ABC would premiere the show in March but it is not known if Ryan Seacrest would return as host as Seacrest recently became co-host of Live! with Kelly Ripa. Live is syndicated by Disney-ABC Domestic Television and airs on ABC affiliates in many cities, including nine of the top ten markets.

Seacrest, who hosted the series its entire run, could host Idol again. But for this to happen, Idol would have to shift locales from Los Angeles to New York – unless he wants to fly cross-country (Seacrest said he would be in L.A. on weekends.) Also, Seacrest was present in the auditions held around the country – it is not known how all of this would fit in his busy schedule if he were to host.

ABC is planning to air Idol would air on Sunday nights – something Fox never did in order not to interrupt their longtime successful Animation Domination block, led by longtime stalwarts The Simpsons and Family Guy.

The addition of Idol to ABC’s lineup could be a boon – ratings for the network on Sunday nights this season has been a disaster, with the recent cancellation of Time After Time and the long-running Once Upon A Time flailing. Idol’s season average last year would be good enough to place second among adults 18-49.

The return of Idol would also be a boon for the ailing broadcast network television business as ratings for the Big 4 broadcast networks have slid off the ratings runway. In the last two weeks, several broadcast networks have been beaten in the ratings by the NBA Playoffs on several nights – despite the “cord-cutting” phenomenon the business is going through. Despite ratings a fraction of what they were during their heyday, Idol still performed better than prime-time shows or the air now, including even The Big Bang Theory and Empire.

ABC 7’s popularity could give a boost for “Idol”, which always lacked in ratings and buzz in Chicago.

Locally, Idol could get a huge boost thanks to the strength of ABC’s Chicago station, WLS-TV, known as ABC 7. Idol has lagged here locally in part thanks to the weak ratings Fox-owned WFLD has as an affiliate overall. Meanwhile, ABC 7 has been the market’s top-rated station for more than 30 years and also has Chicago’s top-rated news operation. Can you imagine Janet Davies (and even Cheryl Scott) talking about American Idol? (I know, I know… yours truly dreads the thought of it myself.) Already, the station’s early newscasts devotes time…actually way too much time to ABC reality hits Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor. Idol could make the newscasts even more unbearable to watch.

If you’ve read the blog over the years, you know how much yours truly detests American Idol – the show was nothing but an over glorified karaoke contest led by an annoying host and an even more annoying pack of judges in Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul (especially Paula.) While it made stars of people like Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daugherty, it also gave us William Hung and Sanjaya – not to mention a contrived joke of season 12, shifting the focus of the show to feuding judges rather than the talent. And speaking of the talent, winners have gone from the talented Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood to too many forgettable white guys with guitars in later seasons.

The only difference today is, we have far more choices for entertainment than ever before – part of the reason of Idol’s downfall to begin with. The only reason to bring Idol back now is there’s an audience who “misses” the show who would tune in and watch. Networks need ratings and revenue and advertisers and Idol is the quick fix in order to achieve this goal in an era of increasing fragmentation.

Thank God for streaming services.

Here’s excerpts from the official press release, via The Programming Insider:

Ben Sherwood, Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC:

“‘American Idol’ on ABC…that has a nice ring to it. ‘Idol’ is an entertainment icon, and now it will air where it belongs, in ABC’s lineup of addictive fan favorites alongside ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘The Bachelor.’ America, get ready for the return of a bigger, bolder and better-than-ever ‘Idol’.”

Channing Dungey, President, ABC Entertainment:

“‘American Idol’ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon. ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”

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Sinclair to buy Tribune Media for $4 billion 

Mega deal is the biggest in television history: 42 station-group sold to Maryland-based broadcaster

Ends local ownership of WGN-TV and WGN Radio after more than 60 years

Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media will change the landscape of local television as we know it.

For one, Tribune – with roots in television going back to 1948 as the WGN Continental Broadcasting Company – was one of the few broadcast groups to compete with the major broadcast networks in the top markets. Along with WGN-TV here in Chicago and WPIX in New York, and KWGN in Denver (acquired in 1966), the acquisition of Los Angeles’ KTLA in 1985 solidified it as a top player, with strong independent stations. The group helped form The WB Network with Warner Bros. in 1994 to compete with Fox.

When Sam Zell took over Tribune in 2007, his disastrous tenure (led by Randy Michaels) made many smart television and radio people stampede for the exits. Tribune filed for bankruptcy less than a year later and after coming out decided to go on a buying spree buying out the Local TV station group. Tribune split in 2014, becoming Tribune Publishing (now tronc) and Tribune Media.

Enter Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair, a company with roots going back to 1971 in Baltimore as Chesapeake Television Corporation, owner of then-independent (now Fox affiliate) WBFF-TV. In the 1990’s, the company expanded ferociously buying the Abry Communications, Act III, and River City station groups. During this time, Sinclair used trickery to get around ownership rules – in 1991, a shell company they created purchased WPTT in Pittsburgh while owning Fox affiliate WPGH in the same market – this way they could control more of the market’s ad revenue. In 1998, Sinclair was instrumental in switching five big-market UPN affiliates to the WB, hurting the former network’s distribution (both networks closed in 2006 to form The CW.)

In recent years, Sinclair’s news operations have leaned more conservative, airing documentaries critical of John Kerry and Mark Hyman’s right-leaning commentaries.

Meet your new broadcast overlords, Sinclair Broadcasting.

Thanks to the FCC’s recent decision to reinstate the UHF discount – something yours truly said was as a scam perpetrated by the Trump Administration – who has strong ties to Sinclair, companies can now buy and swap stations more freely than they could in the past. And on Monday, Sinclair made good on a promise to purchase Tribune Media in one of the most expensive deals in television history – paying $43.50 a share or $3.9 billion and assuming $2.7 billion in debt, beating out 21st Century Fox, Nexstar, and other suitors. When all’s said and done, Sinclair will own or operate 233 stations covering 72 percent of the nation, including stations in seven of the top ten markets and 22 of the top 30. The transaction gives Sinclair ownership of WGN-TV, WGN Radio, and diginet Antenna TV; cable network WGN America; plus stakes in the Food Network and Career Builder.

The transaction means Sinclair would own a station in every media market in Illinois (except Rockford), including areas served by the St. Louis market, where they would own three stations alone. Sinclair already owns stations downstate including Champaign, Springfield, and Peoria. Tribune owned another station in Illinois – ABC affiliate WQAD, which serves the Davenport-Rock Island-Moline market.

The transaction gives Sinclair significant leverage – 28 percent of the country’s Fox affiliates, more than the Fox network itself; the most ABC and CW affiliates; and of course, powerful independent WGN. It also gives them leverage over cable and satellite operators when it comes to retransmission consent – meaning, paying for the right to carry the broadcaster’s signals – which could force consumer’s cable bills to go up again.

And there is talk of Sinclair starting a conservative news network to compete with Fox News. It already owns a regional news channel channel in Washington, D.C. and would gain one in Chicago with reach-challenged CLTV.

In a conference call yours truly listened to, Sinclair indicted they would divest stations in order to comply with the ownership regulations. The company said the transaction would let them invest in new technologies (including the new ATSC 3.0 standard.) However, Sinclair said it would not proceed with original programming on WGN America further – meaning the critically-acclaimed Civil War drama Underground is likely done. Earlier, WGN America canceled dramas Salem, Outsiders, and Manhattan – obviously due to the questionable future surrounding the company.

With Sinclair also buying WGN Radio, its future in its current format is questionable.

The Bulls’ lackluster season could have consequences regarding staying on free TV in Chicago in the future.

Also remains to be seen is WGN-TV’s commitment to sports programming – currently the station has broadcast rights to the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks, with deals for all expiring in the next few years – sports rights was one of the reasons WGN ended its affiliation with The CW. Not helping matters are ratings declines this season for the Blackhawks and Bulls, the latter coming off a poor season (both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.)

And speaking of The CW, the ratings-challenged network’s future may also be up in the air again as contracts with stations come up in 2021. Sinclair now has the reach to potentially begin a new broadcast network, if they wanted to. The CW may have to adjust their programming demo in order to keep Sinclair; in other words, superhero shows and teen dramas may no longer cut it as young viewers are tuning out broadcast TV in larger numbers.

Here are a few statements from Tribune and Sinclair CEOs, culled from a press release:

Peter Kern, Tribune’s Chief Executive Officer:

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of an extensive strategic review, which has delivered significant value to our stockholders,” said “Since we announced the strategic review 15 months ago, we have streamlined the business, monetized non-core assets, strengthened our balance sheet and returned more than $800 million to stockholders — all of which has resulted in a 50% increase in stockholder value. We are extremely proud to join Sinclair, and we’re excited that Tribune stockholders and employees will have the opportunity to participate in the long-term growth of the combined company.”

Chris Ripley, Sinclair President and CEO:

“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company. The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets. The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services, scale emerging networks and national sales, and integrate content verticals. The acquisition will also create substantial synergistic value through operating efficiencies, revenue streams, programming strategies and digital platforms.”

David Smith, Executive Chairman of Sinclair:

“This will be the largest acquisition in our company’s history, and I want to thank everyone from the Sinclair team, as well as our advisors and bankers who made this possible,” commented David Smith, Executive Chairman of Sinclair. “Television broadcasting is even more relevant today, especially when it comes to serving our local communities. Tribune’s stations allow Sinclair to strengthen our commitment to serving local communities and to advance the Next Generation Broadcast Platform. This acquisition will be a turning point for Sinclair, allowing us to better serve our viewers and advertisers while creating value for our shareholders.”

Later this week, yours truly will break down more of this historic deal – what it means for WGN-TV, WGN Radio, Fox, and the city of Chicago. For the latest, follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

Sinclair-Tribune press release:

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Welcome to “The Cutler Factor”

Jay Cutler fumbles again. (USA Today)

Jay Cutler signs with Fox Sports.

Caution! You’re about to enter “The No Fumble Zone”.

That’s because we now know Jay Cutler won’t be anywhere near a football anymore.

But the former Chicago Bears quarterback did decide to trade in his cleats for a broadcasting career by joining Fox Sports’ NFL crew. Beginning next season, he’ll hoof it up with play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt, analyst Charles Davis, and sideline reporter Pam Oliver.

So much for appearing on Dancing With The Stars, where Cutler would’ve gotten fewer votes than Lola Falana.

So here’s my “Talking Points”.

As we all know, Cutler has the personality of a wet cloth if he persona on and off the field is any indication. Teammates couldn’t stand him. Opposing players around the league hated him. So can anyone tell me why he’s cut out for TV?

Then again, they did manage to put up with Bill O’Reilly on its Fox News Channel for twenty years.

Agent May from S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t like Cutler. What makes Fox think anyone else would want to work with him?

But this decision is one of those head-scratchers Fox is known for. The questionable hire of Cutler as an analyst falls in line with many over the years throughout parent company 21st Century Fox, including the hires of Dana Walden and Gary Newman to run the broadcast network, which has been a fricking disaster this year. A network once known for innovating series such as The Simpsons, 24, Arrested Development, The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm In The Middle, and Bob’s Burgers just gave us an useless X-Files reboot and a carbon copy of a failed Chicago crime drama from five years ago.

Its sister news channel – still reeling from a major sex scandal – loves to kiss the President’s behind, as the recent ascension of the guy to the throne may be one of the reasons why Empire is plummeting in the ratings this season, as yours truly pointed out in the most recent post. Empire’s target audience does not want to watch an African-American version of Donald Trump.

And speaking of reboots, the one show that could help the network – American Idol – the show that made the Fox network – could head to ABC (no deal has been signed as of this writing, and Fox is still in the running for Idol.)

But Fox somehow has the funds to sign Jay Cutler, a person who is already paid thanks to stealing money from the Chicago Bears for the last eight years, another organization run by imbeciles. You know what? Maybe Cutler would fit right in.

So here’s the Tip Of The Day: For those opposing the idea of Jay Cutler being in the broadcast booth… look at it this way: at least they didn’t hire Ryan Seacrest.

And The Spin Stops Here. But the fumbles continue for Fox.

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The “Empire” is crumbling

Fox’s highest-rated show is fading fast

You wonder at this point if the Empire Carpet Man can draw better ratings than Empire itself these days.

Wednesday episode of the serialized hip-hop drama drew its lowest ratings to date: a 1.9 rating in the key 18-49 demo, down 47 percent from the May 4, 2016 airing as  Empire was barely ahead of longtime CBS occupant Survivor. Just two years ago when it debuted, this series was hovering around a 6.7 rating in a demo.

Now we’ve seen shows who were hot freshman hits crater before – remember Mork & Mindy? But the series’ decline was due to a rushed time period change ABC made and several cast member changes in its second season, resulting in a 27th place finish – down from third in its blockbuster first season. By the fourth and (very forgettable) final season, Mork & Mindy was not only getting hammered by CBS’ Magnum P.I. on Thursday nights, but also by NBC’s Fame.

To be fair, these are only “live” ratings – without DVR numbers added in. And ratings for almost all network shows are down this season from last. But the rapid ratings erosion Empire is experiencing is concerning. And for Fox, this is more bad news for a network who is getting beat in total viewers almost nightly by its cable news counterpart.

So what’s going on?

For one, Empire is facing tough competition for African-American viewers from the NBA Playoffs – you know, where the Bulls were eliminated from last week? The NBA Playoffs are generally the most-watched programming in black homes – draining live viewership away from Empire and another show popular with African Americans, black-ish. In fact, the NBA Playoffs has also been the highest-rated programming in the 18-49 demo almost every night among all networks, regardless of color. Despite both games being blowouts, the NBA Playoffs on TNT Wednesday beat Empire and all network competition among adults 18-49, with a 2.0 rating.

Second, the antics of the Lyon family seem to be a tougher sell in a new political era where Donald Trump is President. The nonsense of Lucious Lyon and Empire pales in comparison with the heartless, cruel things Trump and his administration are doing – taking away healthcare, eroding consumer rights, and giving corporations more power over people is unfathomable. Who can tell the difference? Lucious Lyon is nothing but Trump in a black man’s body.

It reminds viewers of the very things Trump and cronies (and to a lesser extent, Gov. Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel) does on a daily basis. Why watch the fictional antics of a money-hungry family like the Lyons every week when you can watch the news every day and see the real thing cause real harm to real people? Granted, the current storyline featuring a politician trying to get even with the Lyon family after Cookie spilled the beans about their relationship seems quite far-fetched. In fact, a scene from next week’s episode seemed straight out of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, another ratings-challenged drama. Is Cookie working for Hydra now?

When you think about it, the same can be said for ABC’s Scandal and Designed Survivor – both series are based in the White House. It’s fiction, but can it really compare to the outrageousness of the Trump administration? Ratings for Scandal are also down and Designated Survivor is fighting for survival.

While Lucious Lyon is a evil man, he has nothing on the real evil character playing the President. Maybe it’s a sign of the times. But whether Empire has a future after next season is a question mark. Then again, the same can be asked about the future of Trump in the White House.

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Media Notepad: WGA, AMPTP reach tentative deal

Also: Ryan & Kelly an early hit; Steve Harvey names new EP; WGN-TV launches new lifestyle show 

Whew… that was close! The Writers Guild Of America and The American Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a tentative last-minute deal Tuesday morning averting a strike that would have sent writers to the picket line. The agreement comes after a week of long negotiating sessions. While details weren’t immediately made available, writers obviously won gains in the contribution of their health plan and increases in pay tv and subscription video on-demand residuals.

Last week, the guild took a strike authorization vote, with 96 percent voting yes. The negotiations went a little past the midnight PT time deadline. Had they failed, 13,000 WGA writers – both east and west – would have hit the picket lines, putting a halt to late-night talk shows, soap operas, and Saturday Night Live, which as been on a ratings roll this season. A strike also would have delayed the upcoming television season, forcing the major networks to air reruns similar to what happened at the start of 1981-82 and 1988-89 seasons and forced many programs during the 2007-08 season to close up shop early.

Since the last strike, two recent rounds of contract negotiations went smoothly, but was a lot more difficult this time around thanks to marketplace changes: the number of scripted TV series soared in recent years (to about 450), the decline of the DVD market, and the growing popularity of on-demand streaming.

Monday’s debut of Disney/ABC’s Live With Kelly and Ryan with Ryan Seacrest as the new host of the daytime franchise certainly drew a crowd: According to Nielsen live-plus-same day overnight ratings via Broadcasting & Cable, the show earned a 3.1 rating/11 share, up 48 percent from the April 24th show and in the 25 LPM markets (which measures demos), Ryan & Kelly delivered a 1.3/11, up 44 percent from the previous Monday.

Kelly & Ryan won its time period in the top five markets including Chicago, where WGN Morning Newscast topped Live for the first time ever at 9 a.m. in February. Ironically, Live aired on WGN in the same time period until 2013 when it moved to its current home of WLS-TV.

In the just-released syndication ratings for the week ending April 23, Live tied Ellen for second place with a 2.2 household rating, behind top-rated Dr. Phil. Given the strong start for Seacrest, look for Live to have second place to itself in a few weeks.

For those wondering what is the least-watched talk show in syndication, it’s a tie between CBS’ The Doctors and Warner Bros.’ The Real, both with a 0.8 rating – the latter now down to four panelists with the firing of Tamar Braxton last year.

Just call him Steve as the exodus of Steve Harvey’s show from Chicago is now complete. This past week, NBCUniversal Television Distribution announced Shane Farley is the new executive producer of Harvey’s new talk show, which is being retitled Steve. Farley brings 25 years experience to the position, which includes stints on Rachael Ray, Wayne Brady, and Rosie O’Donnell. Starting Sept. 5, Steve is being produced by IMG and will continue air over NBC-owned WMAQ at 2 p.m. Barring any moves by Fox-owned WFLD, Steve will go head-to-head with another NBCU talk show: Harry, featuring Harry Connick Jr., which has a similar format and based in New York.

With his show’s move to Universal Studios in Hollywood, Harvey has put his condo in Trump International Hotel up for sale, according to the Chicago Tribune. Harvey is also shifting his syndicated morning radio show from Atlanta to L.A. and was recently re-upped in a multi-year deal.

Harvey’s show marks the latest talk show departure from Chicago. In 2009, NBCUniversal moved Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos’ talk shows out of NBC Tower to Stamford, Conn. to take against of tax cuts given by the state of Connecticut. In 2011, The Oprah Winfrey Show ended its run and Harpo Studios closed its West Loop campus a few years later. Another show taped at NBC Tower (Judge Jeanine Pirro) was canceled in 2011. The departures leave NBC Tower with only Judge Mathis, which has been a tenant since it premiered in 1999.

Still, Chicago is well-represented in primetime, home to several Dick Wolf “Chicago” shows, Fox’s Empire, APB (for now) , and several other projects.

Like we need another food/lifestyle/shopping show: WGN hurriedly debuted a new weekly show Sunday called S.E.E. Chicago. Hosted by author and nutrition expert Dawn Jackson Blatner, the series spotlights Chicago’s shopping, entertainment, and lifestyle scene (S.E.E. stands for Shopping, Entertainment, and Events. Wow.)

The program premiered at 10:30 p.m. Sunday, in a weekend late-night daypart known for such fare. NBC-owned WMAQ airs a somewhat similar lifestyle show after SNL titled 1st Look, though its focuses more on travel and is hosted by Ashley Roberts (1st Look was also the title for a short-lived 1991-92 syndicated magazine show created by Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous‘ creator Al Masini.) A local Chicago version of 1st Look previously aired, but quietly ceased production a few years back.

SEE Chicago also airs Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. on WGN-TV and rerun during the week on CLTV (not available in all areas.)

WGN launched a website specifically for the show SEEChicagoTV.com., where viewers can see clips. Currently on the site, you can watch clips featuring a tour of Graceland Cemetery (in Chicago), a classroom visit from Chicago Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk sponsored by South Holland’s Carl Buddig & Co., and one on Urban Remains and the Intercontinental Hotel.

Also on the website: “Holiday Fun In Rosemont”. Never too early…

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It’s “Live With Kelly…. And Ryan Seacrest”

Kelly Ripa (left) and Ryan Seacrest. (Disney/ABC)

The Golden Boy ascends to another gig – the highly coveted co-host slot on Live

While it is a surprise to some (really?), Monday’s announcement of Ryan Seacrest as the new co-host of Live With Kelly gives the long-running franchise more name power.

The venerable personality, who was host of American Idol and seemingly a million other things started in his new gig today opposite Kelly Ripa. Seacrest was rumoured to be in the running to take the place of now-departed Michael Strahan, who left last year to take a full-time gig at Good Morning America. Other names floated around to take the vacant seat included Anderson Cooper and Bravo’s Andy Cohen (who yours truly thought was a better choice.) Effective today, the show is renamed Live With Kelly and Ryan.

It could be worse: at least it’s not Live With Kelly and Wil Wheaton or Live With Kelly and Mancow.

Despite relocating to New York, Seacrest remains as host of his KIIS-FM morning show in Los Angeles and American Top 40, which he took over from Casey Kasem in 2004. As part of the deal with Disney/ABC, KIIS owner iHeartMedia will build a radio studio for Seacrest at ABC-owned WABC-TV in New York. While there is an overlap between when Seacrest does Live (at 9 a.m. ET) and his L.A. radio show (which starts at 6 a.m. PT), the first hour of his morning show will be filled in by his staff, and some voice-tracking by Seacrest is possible. This isn’t new: according to posts I’ve seen on message boards, WGN-AM host Steve Cochran often arrives minutes after his morning show starts with his staff filling in, or something like that.

You wonder however, how listeners to Ryan Seacrest’s show in Los Angeles feel about him moving to New York, making it feel “less than” a local show. With iHeartMedia also owning WHTZ-FM (Z100) in New York, Seacrest could be available to do work for them as well. Seacrest’s KIIS show (minus traffic and weather segments) is also syndicated to radio stations throughout the country as On-Air With Ryan Seacrest, the same name of his short-lived 2004 syndicated TV show.

Just this past week, reports surfaced iHeartMedia may file for bankruptcy to protect itself from creditors and the company “might not last another year”. But despite those troubles, it is full steam ahead (as I said a few weeks ago…  you can always find a way to pay the freight when you’re evil.)

For stations carrying Live, this is good news as Kelly & Ryan is facing tough competition this fall from former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who is taking over the third hour of Today. Live airs at 9 a.m. in most markets, including Chicago’s WLS-TV, who re-acquired the Live franchise in 2013.

Ratings for Live have remained strong in despite of the changes – according to Nielsen, the series recently earned a 2.2 household rating in the latest syndication ratings report. In Chicago however, Live slipped behind WGN’s morning newscast, which finished first in February at 9 a.m. in households and in women 25-54, marking the first time in 33 years a station other than WLS-TV has won the time slot – one historically dominated by Oprah Winfrey.

Reviews for Seacrest’s and Ripa’s first show haven’t been stellar. Mashable’s headline was “Get Ready for Live with Kelly and Zzzzz.” In a bit of an awkward moment, Kelly Ripa revealed on the show when she first lost her virginity (not exactly “zzzz”, but “way too early in the day of this kind of stuff.”)

As for Twitter, a lot of people figured given all the jobs Ryan Seacrest holds, he could be single handedly driving up the unemployment rate.

I mean, can you just feel the excitement?

And yours truly – early Monday morning, said this when a choice for a Live co-host was near:

Sorry, America. Never should have brought up his name.

In addition to what was mentioned above, Seacrest is also host of numerous E! Live Red Carpet specials, in addition to ABC’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and executive produces a number of shows, including those for the Kardashians and has dramas in development at CBS. But it won’t stop there: Seacrest is aiming for world domination here. Here are other “jobs” Ryan Seacrest is aiming for:

– Chicago Bulls GM. Can’t be any worse than the two people currently in charge of the organization, right?

– Mayor of Chicago. Wait…is any difference between Rahm and Seacrest? Nah.

– Governor of Illinois. Only Ryan Seacrest can unite the state’s Democrats and Republicans…in hatred of him. Boom, we have a new budget.

– Chairman of Chicago Public Schools. I can see it now…mandatory courses in how to run a business the Ryan Seacrest way. Oh, won’t someone think of the children?

– President and CEO of Tronc. Michael Ferro talks in the same idiotic corporate speak as Seacrest. They would be perfect for one another.

– President of the United States. Oh God no. We already have an embarrassing TV personality in the White House, thank you very much.

– CEO of Hydra. Perfect. Hail Hydra.

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Black day at Bristol

As anticipated, ESPN lays off staffers, writers, on-air personnel

Several recognizable names cut, including two with Chicago ties

As expected, ESPN announced Wednesday it was laying off around 100 people – many of them on-air personnel and a few of the layoffs were surprises.

ESPN has suffered some ratings downturn in the last few years, and revenues have declined as more and more people are “cutting the cord” of cable and satellite TV because of expense as costs continue to rise.

Some people on social media and in comment board sections attributed the layoffs due to a perceived left-wing bias. But those who are saying this are providing little evidence to back up the claim.

Also notable is the high number of reporters on the list – but not a lot of opinion people, which makes you wonder if the network is moving more toward an opinion-based approach to sports topics – something rival FS1 has embraced.

Among the names surfacing is one Chicago-based writer: Melissa Isaacson, who wrote for ESPNChicago.com and previously wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Former Chicago Cub Doug Glanville is another Chicago-connected name who was laid off, announced during a Wednesday night baseball game.

Another major name on the layoff list is Trent Dilfer, an NFL analyst who appeared regularly on NFL Primetime and NFL Sunday Morning Countdown. A former quarterback, Dilfer led the Baltimore Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants.

Also gone is Jay Crawford, the original host of ESPN2’s Cold Pizza and has also appeared on First Take.

Baseball was hit hard – in addition to Glanville, ESPN let Jayson Stark, Dallas Braden, and Raul Ibanez go. Another sport hit hard was hockey – a sport its fans accuse the network of having indifference toward. Writers/reporters Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun were let go.

Other well-known names laid off include Dr. Jerry Punch, NFL football reporter Ed Werder, college football analyst and ESPN Radio co-host Danny Kannell, and SportsCenter AM anchor Jaymee Sire.

And this is only a partial list. Many more anchors, reporters, and writers were let go.

The ESPN layoffs were mentioned on-air on a few shows Wednesday, including Outside The Lines, The Jump (an NBA news and discussion show), and the early-evening edition of SportsCenter. As of this writing, Scott Van Pelt plans to address the issue during his One Big Thing segment during the late-evening edition of SportsCenter.

Meanwhile, reaction poured in from colleagues and athletes over the mass layoffs. Also weighing in was Cubs manager Joe Maddon. 

It just goes to show you how tough it is out there. While not a media-related item, the Chicago Southland was hit hard with mass layoffs over the last few weeks with the closure of the Ultra Foods grocery store chain, leaving more than 1,000 people out of work. It’s owner (Highland Ind.-based Strack & Van Til) is up for sale and it could mean more store closures – only 22 remain left, 21 of them in Northwest Indiana.

While we hear about a certain someone talking about “bringing jobs back”, in the last few weeks, it’s been exactly the opposite. And no place illustrates this more than what happened at ESPN on Wednesday.

Sports, Television