T Dog’s Media Notepad: “All In” special on Chicago violence draws decent numbers

Discussion on Chicago violence draws over a million viewers; also, news on CBS, The Bulls, and Big Bang

As gun violence continues to plague Chicago, the national spotlight on the city isn’t dimming anytime soon with MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes the latest television program to come here to discuss the issue. Despite a last-minute scheduling change (originally scheduled for last Thursday at 8 p.m. local time but switched to 7 p.m. last Friday), All In still drew 1.359 million viewers with 275,000 of them in the covered 25-54 adult demo (MacGyver topped the ratings overall and in the 18-49 demo, while A Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day special on ABC finished second, despite a three-year low.) Notably, All In outdrew the soon-to-be departing Vampire Diaries on The CW.

Last year, ESPN held a similar “town hall” meeting for two days on Chicago violence. The MSNBC special took place less than a mile (at the South Shore Cultural Center) from where the ESPN town hall was held (The Stony Island YMCA.)

As for All In, the one-hour discussion didn’t break any new ground and provided nothing new in the way Chicago violence was addressed – and neither did the two ESPN shows last August (a Thursday night special and the next day’s episode of First Take, which yours truly finally got around to watching after viewing All In Friday) – all three featured a lot of talking heads and a lot of finger-pointing and blame. As dead bodies continue to pile up, solutions need to be found – activists and politicians feigning outrage for the TV cameras aren’t going to help. With the problem happening in inner cities around the country, yours truly is sick and tired of our city being singled out by Big Media and President Trump.

And quite frankly, me – and a lot of Chicagoans – could care less what Stephen A. Smith thinks about our situation.

Even though the struggling Bulls continue to sellout the United Center, their local ratings continue to decline. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the Bulls are averaging a 2.1 household live-plus-same day rating on CSN Chicago this season, down 28 percent from last year. This comes despite the addition of NBA All-Star (and Chicago native) Dwyane Wade to the team. As of this writing, the Bulls are 27-29, two games under .500. You can blame a combination of factors: tough competition (The Cubs’ World Series run early in the season, Monday Night Football, etc.); the team’s off-court drama (Wade and Jimmy Butler not getting along with other players), the team’s low expectations; and the overall crapiness of the NBA product – an issue back in the late 1970’s when ratings for NBA on CBS stunk and playoff games were routinely on tape-delay in late-night (and the Chicago Stadium was a ghost town for Bulls games.)

Also, Chicago fans just dealt with a bad 3-13 Bears season, and decided putting up with one crappy losing team was enough.

More notably, Bulls’ ratings have slipped behind those of its co-tenants at the UC, the Blackhawks. Despite being on top of the NHL’s Western Conference, local ratings for the team have also slipped. The decreases come at a time as more and more viewers are turning away from watching linear (or live TV) broadcasts.

Despite low local ratings and a bad record, the league’s national TV partners continue to feature the team in prime slots – TNT featured the Bulls Thursday against the Boston Celtics and ABC has two prime-time Saturday games in the next few weeks against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bulls have 33 national TV appearances this season – thanks in part to the acquisition of Wade (and the fact the word “Chicago” sells these days – positively or negatively.)

After finally unloading their radio division to Entercom, WBBM-TV owner CBS Corporation has its eye back on TV – in acquiring more TV stations. After the release of fourth-quarter results, CBS CEO Les Moonves said he hopes new FCC Commissioner Ajti Pai raises the ownership cap because CBS would “strategically want to buy some more stations”. And due to strong political advertising climate and retransmission consent revenue, Moonves points out the local TV business is “extremely good for us.”

Currently, the ownership cap is at 39 percent – CBS’ stations cover 37.7 percent of the country. Some companies (such as Tribune) are over the cap, but is grandfathered in.

Moonves pointed out he would buy stations in markets with an NFL team – in CBS’ case, it would be AFC markets. One potential target would be Ohio – notably WOIO-TV Cleveland and WKRC-TV in Cincinnati – both home to the Browns and Bengals, respectively – and is also a political swing state, which would mean a revenue windfall to The Church Of Tisch. However, both stations are owned by powerhouse station owners Raycom and Sinclair respectively, and have duopolies in each market.

Plus, Cincinnati is out of the top 25 – the market is ranked (DMA 36). But having an NFL team and in a political swing state makes it an exception to the rule.

In other words, this is going to easier said than done, regardless of what percentage the cap is. AFC markets where CBS currently owns a station (or stations) are New York City (WCBS/WLNY), Los Angeles (KCBS/KCAL…thanks to the recent arrival of the Chargers from San Diego), Oakland (KPIX/KBCW…assuming the Raiders stay there), Boston (WBZ/WSBK), Miami (WFOR/WBFS), Pittsburgh (KDKA/WPCW), Denver (KCNC), and Baltimore (WJZ). By comparison, Fox has O&O in fourteen NFC markets, including WFLD-TV in Chicago.

Despite an uneven season creatively, it looks like Sheldon & Co. are going to be around for a while – a really loooong while: various media outlets reported Thursday CBS is close to a two-year renewal for The Big Bang Theory, which would bring the series back for its eleventh and twelfth season. If a deal is struck, Big Bang – now in its tenth season, would tie fellow Chuck Lorre sitcom Two And A Half Men as the long-running sitcom in CBS history and be put in a tie for second for the longest live-action sitcom in TV history with Men and My Three Sons and, only behind The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet which lasted fourteen seasons (The Simpsons remains the all-time champ at 28 and counting.)

Despite tougher competition from Superstore and the even-longer running Grey’s Anatomy (both were recently renewed for next season), Big Bang is still TV’s top-rated show in adults 18-49 and in off-network syndication. And CBS needs the show to continue to launch sitcoms – and so far, none of them launched by the Church Of Tisch have been as popular as Big Bang.

But the mess this sitcom has become can’t compare to the real-life sitcom going on in The White House, with President Trump being just as much as a dick as the characters on Big Bang are.

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Think Tank Express: “Idol” moving to NBC?

The rich could get richer

Well, that didn’t take long – NBC and Fremantle Media are in talks about bringing back American Idol sometime next season.

American Idol, of course, ended its run ten months ago on Fox after a fourteen-season run. During its peak, Idol drew more thirty million viewers a week and attracted nearly half of all 18-49 viewers watching TV. It really put Fox on the map, propelling it from “the coat-hanger network” to a major player (although, acquiring the NFL in 1994 actually did so.) Idol also was a cultural game-changer, changing the face of the music industry and made stars of Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood and Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson.

The series’ decline has been documented on this blog and elsewhere.

Now, NBC is looking to revive the series perhaps as the network is looking to cut back on The Voice, the rival show that put Idol out of business.

Wait a minute… The Voice and American Idol on NBC? That’s like the Cubs and White Sox sharing the same home ballpark.

But the idea of bringing it back doesn’t seem as far fetched as you think. In its final season, Idol actually performed well, scoring ratings increases from the previous season. In fact, Idol outdrew many programs in the coveted 18-49 demo, the one advertisers pay the most for. Call it curiosity and hype for the final season, but the numbers still resonate.

Now, as ratings for linear (live watching) television continues to decline, reality-competition shows seems to be the best bet as evidenced by the continued success of The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, The Bachelor, and Survivor.

The announcement of a possible revival so soon caught everyone off-guard – even long-time media watchers.

Fox officials said last week it was too soon to bring back the series, after leaving the airwaves after only ten months. But with NBC now in the hunt, it leaves them in an interesting situation. Much like the White Sox and the Bears, Fox is in rebuilding mode this season – and the next few seasons as the schedule now is dominated by weak and buzzless shows. Fremantle is basic forcing Fox’s hand – can they afford to wait? It’s like Kobe Bryant retiring from the Lakers only for the Golden State Warriors trying to lure him back in the game (it won’t happen.)

And now NBC – who regularly finished fourth during Idol’s heyday and was made the butt of jokes with fare such as The Jay Leno Show and Animal Practice, is now back on top thanks to critically-acclaimed freshman series This Is Us and the popular Chicago dramas – even without Sunday Night Football in the mix. And now they could get even more dominant.

I guess those laughs last – get the last laugh.

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T Dog’s Think Tank: America is suffering from Chicago fatigue

The face of Chicago to some.

Non-Chicagoans tired of hearing about Chicago 

Will advertisers bail out of the Windy City because of negative media coverage?

During NHL All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford were all booed by fans at the Staples Center.

Maybe because of the Kings’ rivalry with the Blackhawks? Keep in mind San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks players were booed, too – but the Chicago disrespect was louder – and more noticeable.

And NBA fans had to endure the ongoing saga involving the Bulls with Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, and others, leading off SportsCenter and becoming a top topic on analysis shows.

Maybe it’s the word – Chicago – that has fans outside the Windy City all riled up. Because they’re sick of us. Chicago this, Chicago that, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago. It’s too much, even for this Chicago native.

We’re everywhere – in the stands in opposing teams’ arenas (by the way, yours truly has no problem with this), on NBC’s prime-time lineup, and in the news cycle. As I noted in a Think Tank two years ago, Chicago has become the annoying houseguest who has overstayed their welcome and wished you just go home already and stay there. We are the Kimmy Gibbler of metropolitan areas.

And Chicago being in the “national spotlight” – which has now become an overused news cliche – isn’t going away anytime soon as the city’s murder epidemic continues to dominate the headlines. The crisis has even overshadowed the Chicago Cubs’ recent historic World Series victory, the only positive event coming out of Chicago recently.

Since becoming President, Donald Trump has slammed the city almost on a daily basis for its crime problem, trying to embarrass Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city leaders. To conservative commentators and the media, Chicago has become a code word for “black people”, despite the city’s diversity and the market’s African-American population only ranking fourth in the country.

Two weeks ago, Trump has threatened to “send in the feds” if Chicago couldn’t control its crime problem. His statement was vague – best case scenario, federal funds to help fight crime. Worst-case scenario: The National Guard.

Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on “60 Minutes” . (CBS/Sun-Times)

The “national spotlight” on the city’s crime epidemic has been non-stop and now is playing out in front of larger audiences. On January 1, the issue was featured on 60 Minutes with an interview with former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, drawing more than 10 million viewers. The city’s crime epidemic has been a nearly nightly focus on Fox News Channel’s prime-time news shows, which draws an average of four million viewers a night – more than The CW and even the Fox network itself. CNN aired eight-part series Chicagoland three years ago, further exposing more of the city’s ills. And Friday, MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes aired a town hall meeting in Chicago on the crime epidemic.

Even ESPN weighed in with a three-in-a-half-hour town hall meeting of its own, spanning two days last summer.

What’s next? Murder in Chicago: An E! Special Report?

And the topic is seeping into prime-time as there are now four – count ’em four Dick Wolf shows based in Chicago with his latest series, Chicago Justice debuting in March. And Fox is weighing in with APB, a series about a millionaire privatizing the police force in a crime-ridden section of Chicago.

And don’t forget, five years ago we had The Chicago Code, a crime drama praised by TV critics but buried by local cultural ones.

Why all the attention? For one, Emanuel is perhaps the best-known Mayor in America thanks to his ties to former President Obama, his adopted hometown – and of course, national exposure on Chicagoland. Can anyone name the mayors in Los Angeles, San Diego, or Dallas? I didn’t think so. And Chicago’s size (third-largest DMA) is also a reason. Smaller markets with crime problems don’t sell – you won’t see a national town hall meeting on Memphis’ homicide epidemic. President Trump knows this.

So what’s to make of all this? Let’s ask Detroit on how they handled a similar situation.

Back in 1990, ABC’s PrimeTime Live featured a story on the Motor City’s violent crime-infested image, featuring a foul-mouthed Mayor Coleman Young. According to now-defunct trade magazine Electronic Media, Detroit’s ABC affiliate (Scripps-owned WXYZ) was sent an advanced copy of the show and station bosses were horrified at what they saw – using the same cliches over and over again about social ills in Detroit.

WXYZ asked for changes, but the network refused. The station also threatened to pre-empt the show but doing so would only “feed the story”, according to then-vice-president and general manager Thomas Griesdorn. After the special aired, WXYZ aired a town hall meeting, allowing Detroit leaders to respond.

Days before the Primetime piece aired, then-CBS affiliate WJBK (owned at the time by Gillett Communications) refused to send coverage and a reporter to CBS News regarding Devil’s Night, the infamous arson spree that annually took place the night before Halloween. The dispute killed a planned segment on America Tonight, CBS’ short-lived attempt to compete with Nightline. Station officials and the network disagreed over the tone of the story.

It was nice to see Detroit’s news directors to stand up to their network brethren. But it won’t happen in Chicago because all the stations here are owned by the networks and run out of New York. Local management has no say in how network news magazines’ content is produced, and the owned-and-operated status of Chicago stations prevents news directors from speaking freely (oddly, WXYZ was owned by ABC until 1986, when the network merged with Capital Cities.)

The Electronic Media story also mentioned how the city’s poor image had an negative impact on national advertisers buying local time on stations, known as “spot” advertising. Despite ranking seventh at the time, Detroit fell behind the then-smaller Houston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. markets in revenues – all three have since passed Detroit in DMA rank. In 2009, St. Louis – another market plagued with image problems, fell behind Charlotte and San Antonio in the same category.

Will the same thing happen to Chicago? Is Lincoln Motor Company, IKEA, and American Express going to stop advertising here? Not likely, given the market’s national TV spot sales are still strong as millennials and businesses continue to move into the city (such as McDonald’s, United Airlines, MeadJohnson, and Caterpillar.) And Chicago’s northern suburbs and DuPage County is home to some of the wealthiest areas in the country.

However, Chicago radio revenue declined in recent years as more and more people move out of the area. And the continued negative media coverage could hamper future growth.

The one thing I said time and time again is maybe Chicago needs some time OUT of the national spotlight. But as long as Rahm is in office and Trump continues to slam the city every chance he gets, it won’t happen anytime soon (yeah, I know – I keep saying that.)

In other words – get used to the hate, Chicago. New York and Los Angeles can’t hog all of it.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Good ratings start for APB – but not creatively

Also: The End for Sacramento’s KDND;  ‘The Insider’ canceled; WIND-AM’s Joe Walsh goes national 

The latest crime procedural based (and filmed) in Chicago debuted Monday night with Fox’s APB, starring Justin Kirk. The premise: after losing a friend to an armed robbery at a liquor store, millionaire Gideon Reeves (Kirk) decides to take over the high-crime 13th police district using high-tech gizmos (such as drones) to fight crime.

APB’s debut earned a 1.5 rating in the adult 18-49 demo, holding all of its 24: Legacy lead-in.

The show is drawing comparisons to another made-in-Chicago crime drama: The Chicago Code, which  like APB, debuted the night after the Super Bowl on Fox six years ago. The debut earned a 2.4 rating, but was canceled after thirteen episodes. Back on February 10, 2011 yours truly wrote The Chicago Code was “a ratings disappointment”.

Even with the lower rating, a 1.5 is much more acceptable today than it was in 2011 as DVR playback is now a more critical component on whether to renew a series.

Chicago has been in the “national spotlight” in recent months, thanks to President Donald Trump’s almost daily non-stop attack on the city and its homicide epidemic, which keeps Chicago in the news cycle. And don’t forget the explosion of Chicago-eccentric shows in prime-time recently, with the success of Dick Wolf’s shows. In other words, Trump may not love Chicago, but Hollywood sure does.

As for APB itself, the writing seems predictable and uninspiring, the dialogue junky, and the action scenes are just as cartoonish as they were on Code. While Code -created by The Shield’s Shawn Ryan was much more critically acclaimed (75 score on Metacritic), APB is not (45.) On the other hand, Chicago columnists (non-TV critics such as John Kass and Mary Schmich) bashed Code after its premiere; this time they and other local cultural critics completely ignored APB. (Update: Kass did write about APB late Thursday and of course, not favorably.)

Yours truly graded it a D. But as always, don’t judge a series by the first episode (I call it “The Bob’s Burgers Rule”.) But this premise isn’t promising.

CBS Television Distribution has canceled first-run magazine strip The Insider after thirteen seasons. Ratings have been low as of late, with the show earning a 1.2 rating in the latest Nielsen syndication ratings report released Tuesday. First hosted by Pat O’Brien and Lara Spencer, The Insider has gone under numerous host and format changes during its tenure, including a phase when the show was titled OMG Insider and had a news partnership with Yahoo.

The series is currently hosted by Debbie Matenopoulos and Louis Aguirre.

The Insider still runs in access (7 or 7:30 p.m., ET) on CBS-owned stations in New York (WCBS), Los Angeles (KCBS), and Philadelphia (KYW). With no available product in the marketplace, those stations could add local news to replace the show, or move the CBS Evening News to 7 p.m. and expand the 6 p.m. news to an hour. Prior the 1988-89 season, WCBS in New York ran the CBS Evening News in the time slot before it was replaced by the syndicated game show Win, Lose, or Draw and then the short-lived magazine series This Evening (a national version of PM Magazine.) Some stations, such as WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. and WSB-TV in Atlanta still run network news at 7:00 p.m.

Locally, the cancellation of The Insider will have no real benefit for opportunistic syndicators: the series airs in overnight time slots on both WCIU and sister station The U Too. Unlike other markets around the country where the series was bouncing station-to-station over the years, The Insider has been on WCIU since its inception.

In a move designed to ease the traction of purchasing CBS Radio with the FCC, Entercom surrendered its license to broadcast on 107.9 FM Monday and moved its Top 40 format and the call letters of KDND down the dial to 106.5 FM, the now-former home of Hot AC sister station KUDL-FM. The decision was due to a license challenge filed by several activist groups over the “Hold Your Water For A Wii” contest, which resulted in the death of Jennifer Strange on January 12, 2007.

“The End” referred to the end of the FM radio dial, which 107.9 FM is. Here in Chicago, the 107.9 frequency is occupied by Spanish language WLEY-FM.

Entercom announced the purchase of CBS Radio last week, including seven stations in the Chicago market.

Despite the principals behind the stunt being fired and Entercom settling with the Strange family in 2009, the FCC (under the then-chairmanship of Tom Wheeler) decided to reopen the case and deferred it to an administrative law judge. Deciding not to take any chances under the new chairmanship of Ajit Pai – even though the new FCC regime would probably been more receptive than Wheeler –  the company decided to surrender the license rather than have the sale held up – which could have taken years.

With the closure of 107.9 (for now) and eliminating its Hot AC format, Entercom would have one less station in Sacramento to divest itself of. Both CBS and Entercom own multiple stations in the Sacramento market.

Local activist group Media Action Center called the shutdown “a huge victory for the public interest”, but with Entercom likely to retain the same number of radio stations it had before – and given the new deregulatory regime at the FCC, the “victory” seems hollow at best.

Pathetic loser Joe Walsh.

Salem Communications – which is tied with Cumulus as the worst radio conglomerate in America, announced Wednesday they have hired former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh to host a syndicated late-night radio show. Walsh will continue to spew his crap on Salem-owned WIND-AM from 5 to 7 p.m. locally, then do his late-night show, which won’t be heard locally (there is a God.)

Since being hired by WIND, Walsh has made controversial comments, notably in 2014 when he on a tirade against minorities on his radio show and did so again (this time on Twitter) last year after five police officers were killed in Dallas. Afterward, yours truly (in a longshot attempt) called for the FCC to revoke the license of WIND. And now, Salem rewards him with a national platform in a marketplace already filled with such junk.

Moves likes these makes you wonder why people hate radio so much. But with the FCC now in control of hands-off deregulators, anything goes – except when someone swears or there’s sex talk involved. As I said before, broadcasters have long stopped serving the public interest, regardless of what the National Association of Broadcasters says, who are still busy celebrating Trump’s victory.

In a related note, Walsh on Twitter said he would leave the state if Illinois passes a holiday for President Obama. There is no doubt yours truly would love to see this legislation pass if it would mean getting rid of Walsh. Oh, when it becomes law and he does leave – he can take fellow retard Mancow Muller with him.

(Updated at 10:43 p.m. on 2017-02-09 to add John Kass link.)

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Super Bowl LI: Historic, but not in the ratings department

New England Patriots come from behind and beat the Atlanta Falcons

History was made in Super Bowl LI – but not in the ratings.

Tom Brady led the New England Patriots from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons 31-28 in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

Airing on Fox, Super Bowl LI was epic in many ways: not only it was the first OT game, it was the first time a team came back from more than ten points behind to win a game. New England was down as many as 25 points.

As for the ratings – that’s a different story. Pending final numbers being released, Super Bowl LI attracted 111.3 million viewers for the entire game-by and far the most-watched program of the season. But it didn’t break the viewership record – it was set by Super Bowl XLIX, which drew 114.4 million for NBC.

Last year, the Denver Broncos-Carolina Panthers Super Bowl 50 matchup drew 111.9 viewers for CBS. 

When the game went into overtime, viewership peaked at 117.7 million viewers, higher than Super Bowl 50’s peak of 111.5 million viewers.

Fox sent a press release Monday stating the Super Bowl drew 172 million viewers,  the most-watched of all-time. However, what the press release didn’t tell you was it accounted for only six minutes of viewing, not the entire game – meaning 172 million watched all or at least part of the game – which is in fact, a new record (some media outlets reported the 172 million was a viewership record without clarification.)

Among households, the game drew a 45.3 household fast national rating, down from last year’s 46.6. This is the lowest household rating mark since Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. The overnight metered market rating registered at a 48.8. 

In markets where the team was in the big game, Boston’s WFXT drew a 54.3 rating, while Atlanta’s WAGA drew a 57.0. But in a surprise, both were topped  – by Pittsburgh, whose WPGH drew a 57.9; and Buffalo, whose WUTV drew a 57.2. Both Pittsburgh and Buffalo are AFC markets whose Steelers and Bills respectively, play in the Patriots’ Conference.

In Chicago, WFLD earned a 44.5 rating – short of the record-setting 51.8 rating the station earned in November when the Chicago Cubs clinched the World Series title for the first time since 1908, historic in its own right (Game 7 drew a little over 40 million viewers nationally.) Last year’s Super Bowl in Chicago drew a 47.5 household rating, and two years ago, Super Bowl XLIX drew a 54.9 rating, inflated thanks to a blizzard that kept most Chicagoans at home.

Spanish-language network Fox Deportes drew 650,000 additional viewers to the game.

Meanwhile, Lady Gaga’s halftime show drew a whopping 117.5 million viewers – more than the game itself.

In terms of streaming, Fox Sports Go served up 1.7 million of them, up from 1.4 million for last year’s Super Bowl on CBS. Unfortunately, the Fox Sports Go app crashed during the forth quarter, leaving a lot of unhappy fans scrambling to get to a TV set.

24: Legacy, a sequel to the original series, followed out of the Super Bowl with a tally of 17.3 million viewers, remarkable given the late starting time (9:59 p.m. CT.) Among adults 18-49 – the key demo for entertainment programming – 24 drew a 6.1 rating. However, this would mark the lowest-rated post-Super Bowl program in history, sinking below the mark set by CBS’ Elementary in 2013. It drew a 7.8 rating, and started outside of primetime.

Keep watching this space as more information becomes available. When it does, I will post it here.



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Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials – 2017

Top 10 best list dominated by…household cleaners and laundry detergent? 

This has got to be the “cleanest list” ever.

In the eleventh edition of T Dog Media’s annual Super Bowl Commercials roundup, there is a surprising bit of irony – four of the best commercials in the top ten belonged to either household cleaners or laundry detergent.

I guess you can say this list in “stain-free” (the real stains are in the “worst” list.)

Among companies, Procter & Gamble had three spots in the top ten – two for Tide and one for Mr. Clean. The other belonged to Persil ProCleaner, manufactured by Henkel.

But the top spot belongs to Melissa McCarthy.

The former Mike & Molly actress appeared in a hilarious Super Bowl Commercial spot for Kia where she was depended on to save the world (and got tired of it.) The ad tops T Dog Media’s Best Super Bowl Commercial List, as did USA Today’s Ad Meter – marking the second year in a row such an instance happened (Kevin Hart’s First Date for Hyundai did so last year.) Ad Meter launched in 1989; T Dog Media has been reviewing Super Bowl commercials since 2007.

In fact, several ads appearing in the top ten on USA Today’s Ad Meter List also appeared in T Dog Media’s Best Commercial Chart – Budweiser for Born The Hard Way, Tide for #BradshawStain, and Mr. Clean for Your Dreams.

McCarthy had a weekend most people would dream of: not only she appeared in a well-received Super Bowl Ad, but she also brought the house down in a hilarious Sean Spicer bit during a Saturday Night Live sketch.

This year’s theme took on a more political tone, given the results of the election which saw Donald Trump ascend to the highest office in the land. Unlike previous years, there wasn’t a really bad commercial that stood out, but a few were boring.

We’ll talk about the game and it’s ratings (and there is a lot to talk about) in the next post.

Here are the this year’s best and worst Super Bowl Commercials – back to ten each this year, from five the previous few years. Commercials airing during overtime are eligible. Not eligible for the two lists were ads previously run weeks before the game (many were from Coca-Cola), NFL ads, network promos (sorry Simpsons, but you had a great Daytona ad!), and local commercials.

Top 10 Best Super Bowl ads – don’t you dare skip these with your DVR:

1. Kia Nero, Hero’s Journey. As yours truly said before, this was a hilarious ad. Best of the bunch!

2. Budweiser, Born The Hard Way. This is one of those ads who took a jab at Trump’s “immigration policy”.

3. Tide, #BradshawStain. Terry Bradshaw spills something on his shirt and go nuts. Literally. And who knew Jeffrey Tambor lived in Houston? Oh, and where are Bradshaw’s pants?


4. Mr. Clean, Cleaner For Your Dreams. Mr. Clean sold as Viagra for women. And it works!

5. Skittles. Romance. Kid throws one piece of Skittles in a window and a lot of hungry people take advantage.

To see the ads for the following, click the link on the title.

6. Avocados, Secret Society. The Secret Society isn’t too keen on streaming their activities. Nor Jon Lovitz showing up subliminally.

7. Persil, 10 Dimensions.  Bill Nye comes out looking clean in this ad.

8. Netfix, Stranger Things 2. This is a reason why Netflix is better than Hulu (who also aired an ad during the game) in launching original series.

9. The Fate Of The Furious. Great movie trailer with lots of action. But more importantly, it beats the crappy Transformers and Ghost in the Shell trailers.

10. Tide, Restain. Follow-up to the earlier commercial, ranked third here. This time is Curt Menefee who spills stuff on his shirt. Jeffrey Tambor isn’t having any of it.

The 10 worst ads – skip ’em 

1. Snickers, Old West. This was supposed to be live – they did tell us the score – but the set fell down around them. What was the point of this?

2. Bud Light, Ghost Spuds. In a Scrooge-like commercial, Party dog Spuds McKenzie returns from the dead to tell a young kid who wasn’t around when he was alive the importance of partying with friends with Bud Light.

3. American Petroleum Institute, Power Past.  An ad telling us how petroleum is cool.

4. KFC, Colonel Vs. Colonel. This ad was panned by a lot of reviewers. A cameo appearance by the non-bronzed Colonel doesn’t make this a competition.

5. Intel, Brady Everyday. I’m seeing him in the game, why would I want to see him in an ad?


To see the ads for the following, click the link on the title.

6. Turbo Tax, Humpty Hospital. Humpty Dumpty was attacked by Game of Thrones cast members and he had a great fall. And this commercial was a great fail.

7. Proactiv, Towel Drop. You’re in a teenage boy in your bathroom and Olivia Munn suddenly shows up. There are several laws being broken here, I’m sure.

8. World of Tanks, Angry Moms. Terrible ad, but can the tank please interrupt an episode of The Bachelor?

9. Wendy’s, Cold Storage.  For the 10,000th time, we know your beef is fresh, not frozen.

10. Sprint, Car.   Verizon Sprint pitchman “Paul” – the “Can You Hear Me Now” guy – jumped ship. Too bad he didn’t jump off the cliff in this commercial.

Halftime Show: This year’s musical act was the Grammy Award-winning Lady Gaga, and she didn’t disappoint: stunning visuals, a vast array of colorful art, and of course, Gaga was damn good in her performance focusing on her music, not political statements or shocking the audience. And social media reaction was generally positive, another plus. Best Super Bowl halftime show since Bruce Springsteen in 2009. Grade: A.

Further Reading: This is the eleventh consecutive year T Dog Media has done a Super Bowl Commercial roundup. For past reviews dating back to 2007, click here (older videos posted in those reviews may no longer be available.)

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Entercom merges with CBS Radio

Seven Chicago radio stations under new ownership

In a deal which marks the first under the FCC chairmanship of Ajit Pai, CBS Radio announced Thursday morning it was merging its station group to Philadelphia-based Entrecom Communications for $1.7 billion. The merger creates a new mega-station group, with 244 stations nationwide and in 23 of the top 25 radio markets. When the deal is done, Entercom would be the second-largest radio group in the country only behind iHeartMedia.

The deal includes some of the most distinguished branding  and historic call letters in radio: WCBS-AM/FM and WINS In New York; KNX In Los Angeles; WBBM In Chicago; WCCO In Minneapolis; KMOX In St. Louis; WWJ, in Detroit; and the old Westinghouse stations, including the first radio station on to sign-on In the country, KDKA In Pittsburgh.

In addition to WBBM-AM and FM, CBS Radio properties in Chicago are: Adult Alternative WXRT-FM; Country WUSN-FM (Us 99); Classic Hits WJMK-FM (K-Hits 104.3); WCFS-FM (105.9 FM, simulcasts all-news WBBM-AM) and all-sports WSCR-AM (The Score).

Entercom owns stations in mostly mid-size markets including Kansas City, Sacramento, Denver, Memphis, and Wichita, Kan.

There are some markets where Entercom and CBS Radio overlap, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. It is not known how this would be addressed under current ownership rules. The latter market could get a hard look at, since Entercom owns five stations there.

The deal is tax-free: had CBS Corporation not spun off the properties in advance of the sale, the company would have been hit with a huge tax bill. Thus, CBS is spinning off the unit first, then sell to Entercom, using a “Reverse Morris trust” transaction. Entercom’s board of directors are remaining in place.

With the deal, the CBS Radio name is expected to vanish. Entercom will be the new name of the company and based in Philadelphia. The CBS radio call letters – some of them they share with CBS-owned television stations (including in the top four markets) are expected to be retained.

The Entercom and CBS deal is the first under Pai and the new President Trump administration. Many media experts predicted media mergers would accelerate under a Republican administration and a Republican commissioner at the FCC since they are more receptive than Democrats on the issue.

As for how the merger affects Chicago stations, don’t look for any wholesale changes yet as the deal does not take effect until late 2017. But a few CBS Radio properties have underperformed in Chicago recently. For one, former country music leader WUSN-FM (US 99) has fallen behind iHeartMedia’s WEBG-FM (Big 95.5FM) in ratings and assumingly, revenue. In the Top 40 arena, longtime leader WBBM-FM (B96) is now getting reguarly beaten by rival WKSC-FM (Kiss). WJMK is in a tight race with Cumulus’ WLS-FM; and WXRT-FM has seen better days.

On the other hand, WSCR-AM (The Score) posted its highest ratings ever thanks to Chicago Cubs baseball and their historic World Series run and WBBM-AM leads the market overall. Sports has been a boon for CBS Radio here, as they hold the rights not only to the Cubs but also the Chicago Bears.

As for Entercom, the company did manage to survive a major public relations disaster ten years ago as their Sacramento Top 40 radio station (KDND-FM, known as 107.9 FM “The End”) held a “Hold Your Water For a Wii Contest” as a woman died in a water-drinking contest with a Nintendo Wii as the grand prize. As a result, the producers and radio personalities behind the stunt were fired, the station’s management was replaced and Entercom reached a settlement with the victim’s family (an FCC license challenge was filed recently in conjunction with this incident, which could delay the sale.)

Around the same time, Entercom was also hit by a fine from the FCC for payola violations.

This is not the first time Entercom and CBS had inter dealings with one another: in 2006, Entercom bought several CBS-owned radio stations after the latter split from Viacom.

The divestiture leaves the industry with very few television companies owning radio stations – notably Tribune Broadcasting with lone radio property WGN-AM, Hearst, Bonneville (with KSL-TV as its lone TV property) and Hubbard Broadcasting. Over the years, many broadcasters have divested radio stations including Clear Channel (now IHeartMedia), NBC, ABC/Disney, and Sinclair (although it recently bought three Seattle radio stations in a package deal with ABC affiliate KOMO-TV.)


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Think Tank Express: Stick with…whatever? Not possible in today’s enviornment

And Pfffffft goes the basketball: Politics is everyone’s favorite sport now.

(Editor’s note: This item – thoughts on the political climate we’re in these days and how it relates to subjects I write about in this blog – was originally in Tuesday’s T Dog’s Media Notepad. But this essay is so important, I decided to give its own post. – T.H.)

As everyone knows, the last few weeks have not exactly been “sunshine and rainbows”, especially since President Trump has taken office. I’ve never seen anyone squander his/her “honeymoon period” so fast (in Trump’s case, his “honeymoon” lasted all of a half-second.) My social media feeds – especially Twitter – has been dominated by all things Trump as he takes a weed wacker to issues such as education, civil rights, abortion, and immigration. In fact, many people on Twitter have complained about too much Trump in their timelines. Many people I follow in the TV and film business hardly tweet about those subjects anymore as my feed has gone from talking about the latest TV shows, movies, and the NFL to Muslim bans, hate crimes, and immigration.

So…should I continue to write or tweet about TV? About geek and science fiction stuff? About radio and sports? I thought about this as writing about HYDRA, Fisk (from Daredevil), Roe Conn, Kenya Moore, and Wil Wheaton seems ridiculous these days given there’s a real villain in the White House: the antics of the Lyon family on Empire just doesn’t measure up. And complaining about The Bachelor clogging up the airwaves seems like a waste of time.

But politics is relative. It affects our lives, whether we like it or not. Politics drives everything in media from TV/radio station ownership to storylines on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Scandal, and The Good Wife. And yes, part of the business I cover is also political, given yours truly writes about journalism and FCC-related issues. As I learned long ago when I read Three Blind Mice by Ken Auletta, the only “liberal” part about the business is Hollywood and the music industry. In other words, the creative talent.

And my turn to vent will be coming soon when new FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai eliminates net neutrality and deregulates the media industry even further. A looming casualty as a result locally could be a sale of Tribune Media, owner of WGN-TV, WGN-AM, and CLTV – not to mention a merger between the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.

So, to put things in perspective, writing about how Mancow got his job at the Loop or the 32nd reboot of Steve Dahl’s career or the latest WGN Radio travesty (putting John Williams back in middays isn’t one of them) seems trivial compared to the injustices here at home and in the rest of the world. The game has changed, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a matter of adjusting.

In the words of That ’70’s Show’s Red Foreman, “Funtime is over.”

T Dog's Think Tank

T Dog’s Media Notepad: Funtime is over

The latest news and um…notes: Todd Cavanah, sticking to….stuff not related to politics, a lackluster MTM tribute, and correction to make and more

Todd Cavanah takes over programming duties at US99

WBBM-FM and WJMK-FM program director Todd Cavanah is adding another new position in his arsenal – program director of sister station WUSN-FM, according to Robert Feder. He succeeds Jeff Kapugi, who was forced out last December. Cavanah was interviewing people for the PD job, but decided to take it himself.

Cavanah is also running WXRT, but is expected to cede the PD job and WJMK-FM’s to another program director.

The moves come as CBS Radio is expected to spinoff from CBS Corporation later this year, making it a likely acquisition target. CBS Radio’s FM properties have been losing ground to rival iHeartMedia’s in market share thanks in part to WUSN’s huge ratings decline in the face of opposition from iHeart’s startup WEBG (Big 95.5 FM.) Last September, Cavanah shifted Stylz & Roman from contemporary hit radio WBBM-FM to a morning slot at US 99 – a move yet to pay dividends.

Riverdale gets off on the wrong ratings foot

The heavily-hyped premiere of the CW’s Riverdale got off to the wrong ratings foot Thursday night as the new drama debuted to a weak 0.5 live-plus-same day rating in the adults 18-49 demo. Based on the characters of the Archie Book, the series details the goings-on in the small town populated by Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. Yours truly will address this further in a TV show review.

The biggest winner of the night? The return of ABC’s TGIT block, led by twelve-season old Grey’s Anatomy, which drew an eye-popping 2.6 rating. This type of number for a veteran show – and in a tough time period no less – is simply amazing. Also benefiting was Scandal (1.5) and How To Get Away With Murder (1.1), both also coming back from long hiatuses.

MTM CBS special dominated by Oprah

The MTM logo, featuring Mary Tyler Moore’s cat, Mimsie. The company was sold to TVS in 1988.

If you tuned in to the Mary Tyler Moore tribute on CBS Thursday night, you probably came away quite disgusted. The special – slotted at the last minute – drew only a 0.8 rating, but this was besides the point. Hosted by Gayle King, the special featured an interview with “her best friend” Oprah Winfrey, which lasted longer than necessary. On social media, it led a lot of viewers wondering if this was a tribute to her rather than Moore.

In addition, CBS showed a photo of Television City where the facility “didn’t have a women’s bathroom” to accommodate Mary Tyler Moore’s writing staff – a third of whom were female. Only problem is, MTM was actually filmed at Studio Center in the Radford section of Los Angeles, not Television City – both owned by CBS. In fact, MTM for a time owned half of the Studio Center facility with the network. At the time, Moore’s show was filmed in the same studio My Three Sons and Gunsmoke was.

Finally, the retrospective ended with the final scene of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Nice, but they could’ve used the final production credit card on the show where in place of Mimsie the Cat, Moore imitated Porky Pig and said “That’s all folks”! (unfortunately, it’s not on YouTube.) Plus, the clips shown lacked context or insight.

A complete total failure for The Church Of Tisch on this special. For all she’s done for the medium – and for CBS, she deserved a better tribute.

Oh and by the way, Winfrey was named “special correspondent” for 60 Minutes.

Think Tank Express: Stick to….whatever

Finally, as everyone knows, the last few weeks have not exactly been “sunshine and rainbows”, especially since President Trump has taken office. I’ve never seen anyone squander his/her “honeymoon period” so fast (in Trump’s case, his “honeymoon” lasted all of a half-second.) My social media feeds – especially Twitter – has been dominated by all things Trump as he takes a weed wacker to issues such as education, civil rights, abortion, and immigration. In fact, many people on Twitter have complained about too much Trump in their timelines. Many people I follow in the TV and film business hardly tweet about those subjects anymore as my feed has gone from talking about the latest TV shows, movies, and the NFL to Muslim bans, hate crimes, and immigration.

So…should I continue to write or tweet about TV? About geek and science fiction stuff? About radio and sports? I thought about this as writing about HYDRA, Fisk (from Daredevil), Roe Conn, Kenya Moore, and Wil Wheaton seems ridiculous these days given there’s a real villain in the White House: the antics of the Lyon family on Empire just doesn’t measure up. And complaining about The Bachelor clogging up the airwaves seems like a waste of time.

But politics is relative. It affects our lives, whether we like it or not. Politics drives everything in media from TV/radio station ownership to storylines on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Scandal, and The Good Wife. And yes, part of the business I cover is also political, given yours truly writes about journalism and FCC-related issues. As I learned long ago when I read Three Blind Mice by Ken Auletta, the only “liberal” part about the business is Hollywood and the music industry. In other words, the creative talent.

And my turn to vent will be coming soon when new FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai eliminates net neutrality and deregulates the media industry even further. A looming casualty as a result locally could be a sale of Tribune Media, owner of WGN-TV, WGN-AM, and CLTV – not to mention a merger between the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.

So, to put things in perspective, writing about how Mancow got his job at the Loop or the 32nd reboot of Steve Dahl’s career or the latest WGN Radio travesty  (putting John Williams back in middays isn’t one of them) seems trivial compared to the injustices here at home and in the rest of the world. The game has changed, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a matter of adjusting.

In the words of That ’70’s Show’s Red Foreman, “Funtime is over.”


An item last week featured an error regarding XETV’s network programming prior to 1994 and how it received American programming being based in Tijuana. The article should have stated network programming was taped in San Diego from an east coast feed and trucked across the border to Tijuana where the station’s facilities are. T Dog Media apologizes for the error. (Thank you to Tom for pointing this out!)

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John Williams returns to WGN Radio’s daily schedule

Kathy and Judy are out….again

Groundhog day isn’t until Thursday, but for WGN Radio, it came on Monday.

As first reported by Robert Feder (whose article on this story has 185 comments – and counting at the time of this writing), the Tribune-owned radio station announced Monday it is bringing back John Williams (not to be confused with the award-winning composer of the same name) to anchor its 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. time slot beginning March 13. Williams will continue with his Saturday show, airing from 10 a.m. to Noon.

The deal comes as Williams’ contract with CBS-owned WCCO-AM in Minneapolis-St. Paul is not being renewed. He held the late afternoon shift for several years, at one point holding gigs at WGN and WCCO simultaneously.

As a result, the midday show now hosted Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey – nicknamed “The Girlfriends” – is being canceled. If you think you’ve seen this headline before, you’re right – Kathy & Judy was released from WGN radio eight years ago in an unpopular move. In addition, Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder late morning show is being cut back, with the third hour exclusively on WGNPlus.com. A business lunch hour show sponsored by a bank continues at noon.

From the station’s PR release via Radio Insight, here’s WGN’s complete weekday and Saturday sked:

Effective March 13, 2017, WGN Radio’s weekday programming schedule:
The Opening Bell, 5am – 6am
Steve Cochran Show, 6am – 10am
Bill and Wendy Show, 10am – Noon
Wintrust Business Lunch with Steve Bertrand, Noon – 1pm
John Williams Show, 1pm – 3pm
Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, 3pm – 7pm
The Download with Justin Kaufmann, 7pm – 11pm
Patti Vasquez Show, 11pm – 2am
Nick Digilio Show, 2am – 5am

Effective March 18, 2017, Saturday programming schedule:
Lou Manfredini, 7am – 10am
John Williams, 10am – Noon
Wintrust Business Lunch, Noon – 1pm
The Innovation Hour, 1pm – 2pm
On the Road with Dane Neal, 2pm – 4pm
The Beat, 4pm – 7pm

As you can see above, WGN is adding two new shows to its Saturday lineup: The Innovation Hour (naming a radio show after a corporate buzzword can’t possibly be a good idea) and On The Road With Dane Neal, an automotive-related show.

Here’s WGN Radio boss Todd Manley: “When we learned there was an opportunity to bring John back to Chicago full time we had to jump on it. There has never been a better time to have more of his inventive and intelligent talk on the station. We’re excited about the Saturday changes and want to express how incredibly grateful we are to Kathy and Judy for their contributions to the WGN family. We will look for every opportunity to continue their legacy.”

Indeed, Williams was a popular figure at WGN from when he started his career in 1997. His return to the daily schedule is a win for the station’s listeners and advertisers.

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San Diego TV station owner shuts doors after CW affiliation loss

XETV flips to Spanish programming on May 31 after losing CW affiliation

(Editor’s Note: It is rare these days for yours truly to write about musings from another TV/radio market since this blog is basically about Chicago radio and TV, and the national TV scene. But this is an unusual story worth mentioning.)

After 64 years, it is lights out for Bay City Television.

On Thursday, management of XETV, the Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico-based station who transmits their signal into the United states announced it was suspending operations. Beginning May 31, XETV becomes an affiliate of Gala TV (formerly Galavision), transmitting its signal from Mexico City.

Gala TV is owned by Mexican communications giant Groupo Televisa, which supplies programming to Univision. Groupo Televisa also owns XETV through its Bay City Television subsidiary, located in San Diego. Gala TV is not related to the Univision-owned Galavision cable network seen here in the United states, though both share programming from Televisa.

Groupo Televisa already has a sister station broadcasting in Spanish, the Tijuana-based XEWT (Channel 12), which is available over-the-air and cable in San Diego.

There is no word if XETV would remain on cable or satellite systems in San Diego once the conversion to Spanish-language programming is complete. The station remains available as an over-the-air outlet.

As reported here recently, the decision comes as XETV – branded locally as “CW6 San Diego”, lost the CW affiliation to a subchannel of CBS affiliate KFMB, which is launching on over-the-air channel 8.3 on May 31. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the station plans to launch several newscasts to compliment the new programming.

As for XETV, the move means an end of locally-produced newscasts and English-language syndicated programming, with news operations ceasing on March 31. There is no word on if KFMB would pick up XETV’s syndicated lineup. Current programming includes The Doctors, Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, Maury, Mike & Molly, Seinfeld, The Insider, Rules Of Engagement, and The 700 Club.

San Diego (DMA 26) was already crowded with six local news operations – even more than Chicago, and certainly a lot for its market size. The market’s CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox affiliates and independent KUSI were already producing news.

The decision to flip XETV came because of an inability to renew a contract with The CW, who had been affiliated with the station since 2008 when Tribune’s KSWB-TV switched to Fox, XETV’s former network partner since the network’s inception in 1986.

XETV’s previous logo.

The switch has nothing to do with the U.S. spectrum auction (XETV is a Mexican station, after all), and nothing to do with President Trump’s push to build a border wall between U.S. and Mexico, where XETV is based. When the station was a Fox – and beforehand, an ABC affiliate, most network programming had to be taped at a facility in Tijuana and driven over the border to San Diego because the FCC does not allow foreign stations to transmit U.S. signals. During its ABC days, XETV was unable to carry network breaking news coverage and live sports programming, such as Monday Night Football.

Like former CW affiliate WGN-TV did here in Chicago, XETV could have returned to independent status – it became one in 1973 when ABC was forced to move to Storer’s KCST-TV (now NBC-owned KNSD; ABC relocated to KGTV in 1977.) But given how poor the market is for first-run and off-network syndicated programming these days – and the lack of major sports teams in the area (the Chargers announced they were leaving San Diego earlier this month for Los Angeles), Groupo Televisa officials decided it was not worth the effort and threw in the towel.

The last time an English-language station became all-Spanish (to yours truly’s knowledge) was in 1994 when Univision bought low-rated independent WGBO-TV. Some of WGBO’s former programming wound up on Weigel’s WCIU, Univision’s previous affiliate as the station became a full-time English language independent. Today, WGBO is one of Univision’s strongest performers, and previously returned to English-language programming via two digital subchannels (GetTV and Grit.)

This is not the first instance on a foreign station transmitting American programming to the U.S: Windsor, Ont.-based CKLW-TV (now CBET) did so from the 1950s through the 1980s, transmitting programming across the border into Detroit with Detroit market rights, run like a traditional independent station. After the Canadian government ruled American companies could not own media properties in Canada, RKO Broadcasting sold the station. Since 1975, CBET has been owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Even though CBET aired American off-network shows and movies it had rights to, it was barred from airing any American programming the CBC had due to rights issues with other Detroit stations.

Local TV (Outside Chicago), Syndication, Television , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Peter Ligouri steps down from Tribune Media

Search for new CEO is underway

Four years after he arrived, Peter Ligouri is heading toward the exit door.

Ligouri told staffers at Tribune Media Wednesday he was leaving his post as CEO of the Chicago-based media group, effective March 1. Ligouri was recently named to Sony Corp.’s board as an advisor, but that’s not the reason why he’s leaving Tribune. Recently, reports have surfaced on Sony possibly selling its TV and film business, which it acquired in 1989 through its acquisition of Columbia Pictures.

Peter Kern is being named interim CEO until a replacement can be found.

Since his arrival in 2013, Ligouri made numerous changes to the then-Tribune Company – for one, spinning off its publishing division becoming Tribune Publishing, which of course became Tronc and now headed by Michael Ferro.

The company he decided to stay on as CEO as – Tribune Media – expanded during his tenure. In 2014, he led the acquisition of Local TV, LLC adding diverse markets to tribune’s portfolio such as Cleveland, Kansas City, and Fort Smith, Ark. He converted WGN-TV’s Superstation to a cable network (WGN America), adding originals such as Salem, Manhattan, and The Outsiders (and dropping all Chicago-related programming including news and sports.) He also brought in Jimmy deCastro to run WGN-AM.

But times have been tough for the last two years. Back in February, Tribune considered putting all or part of the company up for sale. Tribune recently sold its Gracenote music data business to Nielsen for $500 million, and put its real estate holdings up for sale, with the company soon moving from the historic Tribune Tower to a nondescript building on Wacker Drive. WGN America canceled Manhattan and Salem due to low ratings, leaving Outsiders as its only current original on the air. However, the company is developing more original programming for this year.

During his tenure, Ligouri often had a rocky relationship with The CW, whose Tribune was the largest affiliate group. Ligouri criticized the network for underperformance – even as the shows improved in quality and in the ratings. Nevertheless, Tribune renewed its affiliate agreements with The CW last May – but only for five years and without WGN-TV, who reverted back to an independent last September.

Despite being headquartered in Chicago, much of Tribune Media’s operations is located at the company’s KTLA in Los Angeles at the Sunset Bronson Studios.



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Mary Tyler Moore dies

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Iconic actress passes away at 80, was a trailblazer for women in Hollywood

The television community is mourning the loss of Mary Tyler Moore who died Wednesday at the age of 80. She was known for playing two iconic characters: Lauria Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Born in Brooklyn’s Flatbush section, Moore’s first TV appearance was in 1955, as the “Happy Hotpoint”, the Hotpoint Appliance Elf, during commercials for ABC’s The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet. After a few stints here and there, she was cast by Carl Reiner in The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran on CBS for five years. Moore’s portrayal of Laura Petrie won her two Emmy Awards.

But it was her return to CBS in 1970 that made the biggest impact. Starring in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore portrayed an independent, unmarried woman in her thirties – unheard of for a TV show at the time (remember, ABC’s That Girl did feature a young single woman which debuted four years earlier, but she was engaged.) The program was set in Minneapolis – also a first for any TV show – set in the state of Minnesota. And the series was a ratings and critical success, winning a total of 29 Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, a Peabody Award and peaking in seventh place during the 1972-73 season. Moore also spun-off three shows: Rhoda, Phyills, and The Betty White Show.

The Writers Guild of America ranked Mary Tyler Moore sixth in its “101 Best Written TV Series Of All Time” list.

In 1975, Viacom Enterprises (now CBS Television Distribution) picked up the syndication rights to Mary Tyler Moore and sold the series for then-record prices for an off-network sitcom. NBC’s five owned-and-operated stations (including WNBC in New York, KNBC in Los Angeles, and WMAQ in Chicago) purchased the series for $52,000 per episode for seven years. Due to the now-defunct prime-time access rule however, those stations ran Moore in early fringe (4-6 p.m.) as a news lead-in as opposed to 7-8 p.m. (6:30 p.m. in Chicago.)

Grant Tinker with then-wife Mary Tyler Moore. They formed MTM Enterprises in 1969. (Emmys.com)

The independent production company producing Mary Tyler Moore was MTM Enterprises, formed by Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker in 1969 (Tinker died nearly two months ago.) The Mary Tyler Moore show was the first hit in the fin-syn era as the financial interest and syndication rules took effect in 1970, freezing the three major networks out of the syndication business for 25 years. MTM prospered during this era, producing hit TV shows for CBS, then later ABC and NBC.  The logo for MTM was Mimsie The Cat, owned by Moore – intended to parody the MGM lion logo. MTM was sold in 1988 – most of its properties are now owned by 21st Century Fox. (for more on MTM and Tinker, click here.)

Moore’s resume also included memorable theatrical performances including Ordinary People and Six Weeks, and TV movies Finnegan Began Again and Thanksgiving Day, which also featured Chicago radio personality Jonathon Brandmeier.

After her show ended in 1977, Moore was unable to duplicate her past success, bombing in a 1978 variety show (who did give us the comedic talents of David Letterman) and 1985’s ferociously panned sitcom comeback. Both futile efforts were called Mary. Moore did make appearances on several TV shows afterward, including Fraiser, King of the Hill (voicing a nun), The Naked Truth, And That ’70’s Show, where she recreated her hat-tossing moment.

Moore also appeared in reunion movies with Valerie Harper in 2000’s Mary and Rhoda and 2004’s The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. Her last TV appearance was in 2013’s Hot In Cleveland, where she was reunited with former MTM cast member Betty White.

In May 2002, the city of Minneapolis honored Moore by unveiling a statue of her near the location of South 7th Street and Nicolet, featuring her iconic hat throw – the same location where the opening sequence was filmed. The statue now sits in the Minneapolis Visitor Information Center in downtown Minneapolis while Nicolet Mall is being reconstructed.

(Credit: WCCO)


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Ajit Pai named FCC Chairman

Things indeed will be different

As expected, President Trump announced Monday he has appointed current FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman, succeeding Tom Wheeler, who stepped down January 20th.

The move is great for big tech and media corporations given Pai’s free-market stance and promises a living hell for consumer advocates and net neutrality supporters.

Pai was nominated to the FCC by then-President Obama, one of two Republicans on the commission. With the departure of Wheeler and fellow commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC currently stands 2-1 with Republican Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn remaining. The President is expected to nominate two more officials to the commission – one Republican and one Democrat in the coming months.

So far, Pai has wasted no time in preparing for his chairmanship – he announced staff appointments and an acting general counsel, appointing Brendan Carr to the role. Carr served as Pai’s wireless, public safety, and international legal adviser.

Born to immigrants who were from India, Pai grew up in Parsons, Kansas, in the Joplin, Mo-Pittsburg, KS (DMA 146) market. His credentials include graduating from Harvard University in 1994, The University of Chicago Law School in 1997, and was counsel for Verizon, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the FCC. He was appointed to the FCC to serve as a commissioner in 2011.

During his time as FCC commissioner, Pai has often clashed with Wheeler on many issues, including net neutrality and station ownership, among other issues. And as a free-market advocate, he was very supportive of big media mergers, including the aborted Comcast-Time Warner Cable marriage.

Reaction to Pai’s ascension was plentiful – and glowing from opponents of his predecessor. The National Association of Broadcasters, Parents Television Council (yeah, there’s an unlikely pair), and The National Cable Television Association were among the ones welcoming Pai with open arms, while more liberal groups – notably consumer advocate group Public Knowledge slammed the decision.

More neutral reaction came from the likes of the American Cable Association and the Communications Workers of America.

As yours truly noted a few weeks ago, expect a huge change from the previous administration – in addition to the likely elimination of net neutrality and more big media mergers, look for more deregulation of the media business – including the loosening – or perhaps the elimination of television ownership caps.

And Pai is a huge supporter of terrestrial radio – particularly on the AM side. This is particularly sweet news for the likes of struggling radio conglomerates iHeartMedia, Cumulus, CBS Radio and Hubbard, given Pai’s support of media consolidation (which is really bad news for radio listeners – for those who still care.)

Plus, don’t look for what happened in Norway recently to happen here – the shutdown of FM Radio analog signals and converting to digital (in Norway, there is no AM radio to speak of.) The NAB would raise holy hell.

In his first speech since becoming FCC Chairman, Pai pledged to help close the digital divide. “One of the most significant things that I’ve seen during my time here is that there is a digital divide in this country—between those who can use cutting-edge communications services and those who do not. I believe one of our core priorities going forward should be to close that divide.”

As Broadcasting & Cable noted, he hopes the private sector would do much of the work to do so.

In closing Pai said, “I hope my tenure as Chairman will show me to be worthy of the sacrifices they’ve made for me and the lessons they’ve taught me. And I’m ever grateful that this wonderful country has given me and my family the opportunity to
dream big.Thank you again for your support. Now, it’s time to get started! I’m excited to get to work alongside you on behalf of the American people.”

We wish Pai luck. And we will be watching.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: CSN to stream Cubs, White Sox games


Eric and Kathy reup; Blackhawks continue to slide in ratings; CW changes stations in San Diego…again; This is Us renewed two years; Esquire Network closes


In good news for Chicago baseball fans, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Major League Baseball Thursday announced a live streaming deal for Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox games beginning with the 2017 season, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Fans with authenticated credentials can stream the games for free on their smartphones, tablets, and other devices via the NBC Sports App (CSN is a property of NBCUniversal) and on CSNChicago.com. The Cubs, White Sox, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Blackhawks each have an ownership interest in Chicago SportsNet. Last year, Fox Sports’ regional sports nets struck a similar deal.

White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement: “We are very pleased that our partners at CSN will be able to provide fans with the opportunity to watch the White Sox anywhere. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for fans to watch their White Sox, regardless of where they are or what they are doing. Sports fans deserve to see all the action all season long.”

Chicago Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said: “After such a historic season, we are thrilled Cubs fans will be able to stream games on their choice of device, either inside or outside the home. This access has been years in the making for our fans, but the timing is awfully good given the excitement around the 2017 campaign.”

The North Siders won their first World Series championship for the first time in 108 years last year, ending the longest drought in sports. Their championship run brought boffo ratings for CSN Chicago last season.

In more CSN Chicago news – but not as positive, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to slide in the ratings. According to Crain’s, the team ratings are down 17 percent from last year at this time, currently averaging a 3.15 Nielsen household rating. The ratings decline comes despite the team playing well, staying at or near the top of the Western Conference standings.

While the publication cites tough competition from Cubs playoff and World Series games, keep in mind the Winter Classic matchup on Jan. 2 featuring the team dropped 35 percent in the local ratings from the last time the Blackhawks were in the Classic, a 2015 matchup against the Washington Capitals.

WGN-TV declined to release ratings average for their Blackhawks games to Crain’s – which could mean the numbers might not be as good as they hoped for. WGN dropped its CW affiliation last year in order to have more room to air sporting events.

As noted above, CSN is now streaming games – and it may have had an impact on ratings. Keep in mind ratings for linear television is on the downswing as more and more viewers are watching TV on multiple devices. The NHL and CSN struck a deal to live-stream games back in November.

WTMX-FM (The Mix) and owner Hubbard Broadcasting announced earlier this week a multi-year contract renewal for morning personalities Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

For the last twenty years, Eric & Kathy finished first among listeners in the key 25-54 adult and female demo. With the exception of WGN’s Wally Phillips, no morning radio program has dominated as long as they have. Hubbard Radio President and COO Drew Horowitz said in a press release: “I’m thrilled to have the most successful morning show team in Chicago Radio history continuing their run on The Mix and remaining an integral part of Hubbard Radio.”

In what can be described as good news for NBC, the network has announced two renewals for its freshman shows: freshman drama sensation This Is Us, which has been picked up for 36 more episodes over two more seasons; and The Wall, renewed for twenty more episodes.

This Is Us recently scored a high of 3.0 in the key adults 18-49 demo, and is also critically acclaimed: do we say dare the word Emmy? Meanwhile, the not-as-well reviewed Wall has seen ratings growth in its Tuesday slot – recently tying an episode of NCIS in the key 18-49 demo and beating ABC’s comedies in the same demo.

Also, Fox’s The Mick recently picked up an additional episode order, as the series continues to build from its New Girl lead-in on Tuesday Nights, opposite Wall and NCIS. Despite continuing declining ratings on broadcast, it is nice to know a few new midseason shows are bucking the trend. There’s hope for network TV after all!

Once again, The CW is on the move in San Diego. CBS affiliate KFMB-TV announced in a press release the station was acquiring the CW affiliation and is moving it to one of their digital subchannels, yet to be determined. This means current affiliate XETV, located over the border in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, would likely revert back to an independent for the first time since 1986. The move takes place Sept. 1, 2017 – a year to the day when a similar move happened here in Chicago, with The CW moving from WGN-TV to WPWR-TV.

Neither The CW or XETV were available for comment.

This is the third San Diego station CW has been affiliated with: in 2008, The CW shifted its affiliation to XETV after Fox moved to Tribune’s KSWB-TV after 22 years due to concerns over a foreign station being its affiliate. This time however, The CW did not specify any reason why it decided to switch its affiliation to KFMB.

Oddly, there is an existing independent in the market; KUSI-TV, who filed a suit against Fox in the 1990s stating a U.S. network shouldn’t be affiliated with a foreign-based station carrying live sporting events, as Fox acquired rights to carry NFL games beginning in 1994. A similar suit was filed in 1968 by KCST-TV (now NBC-owned KNSD) when XETV was affiliated with ABC; the FCC forced XETV to give up the affilaition to KCST in 1973. In 1977, ABC jumped ship to KGTV after the station dropped NBC.

With this move, San Diego has now gone through five affiliation realignments – the most of any major TV market in the country. There was nearly six – NBC nearly affiliated with KFMB in 1990 but the station decided to continue its partnership with CBS, which began when the station signed on in 1949. KFMB is the only station in San Diego that’s never been through an affiliation change.

The announcement comes a week after the San Diego Chargers announced they were moving back to Los Angeles after 56 years. But at least the city still has Comic-Con – for now.

If a barely-watched cable network falls in the woods, does it makes a sound? Say so long to The Esquire Network, which is closing after only four years due to lackluster ratings and coverage. The move comes after AT&T dropped Esquire from its U-Verse and DirecTV systems recently. The channel isn’t going away – Esquire is converting to an online-only model.

The channel was a joint venture between NBCUniversal and Hearst Corporation. Originally launched in 1998 as female-targeted Style, the channel underwent a transformation in September 2013 when Hearst bought a stake in the channel and change the format to target it toward the male-skewing Esquire magazine it owned.

But ratings were barely visible, as was dropped by Dish last October and by DirecTV/U-Verse last month – costing 25 percent of its audience. Original programming on Esquire include dreck such as Knife Fight, The Next Great Burger, and Friday Night Tykes.

Yeah, it won’t be missed.

This is the second channel NBCUniversal has closed in recent years; the network pulled the plug on G4 officially in December 2014. Ironically, Esquire was to replace G4 but decided to replace Style instead due to wider reach via Dish and DirecTV. And it was both satellite services’ decision to drop Esquire from their channel lineup which factored in their demise.

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