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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The state of syndication in 2017

MGM introduces “BOLD”.

Few first-run series being offered this year as veteran shows – even low-rated ones – continue to roll along

As the National Association Of Programming Executives gathering began Tuesday in Miami, stations are firming up their schedules for next fall as first-run and off-network series are being rolled out onto the marketplace. But what has been the norm in previous years, the shelves are quite bare with only a handful of shows being offered.

On the upside – more shows are being offered than they were last year when Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show was basically the only major entry.

In the last week, there has been increased activity on the development front – particularly from MGM. The syndicator introduced a new strip called Couples Court, a show where two married judges (Dana and Keith Cutler – and before you start, they have no relation to Bears QB Jay Cutler) counsel couples whose marriage and/or relationship could be in trouble. According to a press release, officials behind the show noted: “In the search for truth, the Cutlers will use technology including GPS, DNA, deleted emails, video surveillance, cell phone forensics and surprise witnesses to confirm or dispel accusations of cheating and deception.” In other words, think of it as a high-tech Divorce Court. Couples Court has already been sold to 18 big-market TV stations.

MGM also introduced a new syndicated strip BOLD on Monday. Standing for “Broadcast Online Live Daily”, the series features the day’s top headlines and trending topics on social media with viewers submitting viral video clips and with live, updates feeds throughout the day (this reminds yours truly of a similar effort in 1995-96, CBS’ Day & Date.) The series is being produced in association with the Tegna station group, owners of 46 stations across the country.

Already, Twentieth Television has rolled out two new first-run strips for next fall: Top 30 and Page Six, both were tested on select Fox stations last summer.

Also making an impact is Megan Kelly’s new NBC show, as no decision has been made on when or where in the schedule it will debut.

In the off-network arena, two off-network sitcoms are being rolled out for this fall: Sony’s The Goldbergs and Warner Bros.’ Mom as both were snapped up quickly by Tribune Broadcasting, whose WGN-TV in Chicago needed to fill some much-needed holes in its weeknight prime-time and late fringe lineups. And look out for potential late entries: last year, Disney-ABC quietly brought out Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D  in weekly syndication and Twentieth launched ABC sitcom Last Man Standing – the latter being a surprise success.

One potential late entry could be Twentieth’s animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, currently airing as a weekly hour with back-to-back episodes. It could replace The Cleveland Show, whose contracts with stations are expiring.

The challenge for many of these shows are landing time periods – veteran programs snapped up the best slots years ago and are locked through 2020 in some cases as they continue to do well. Even low-rated programs – including a few court shows and celeb mags – are being renewed as the shows continue to be profitable for the syndicators who distribute them.

On the air since 1999, “Millionaire” is back for another season in syndication.

Just last week, Disney-ABC renewed veteran game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire for a sixteenth season and Right This Minute for its fifth. PPI Releasing (formerly Program Partners, the syndicator behind DaVinci’s Inquest and Merv Griffin’s Crosswords) renewed Canadian import Just For Laughs: Gags, a Candid Camera-type program for two more seasons despite subpar ratings and being slotted in several late fringe and overnight time slots.

Of course, the economics always doesn’t work out: Debmar-Mercury canceled Celebrity Name Game after three seasons last December despite respectable ratings. And Harry Connick Jr.’s expensive talk show is on the bubble – there were reports surfacing that the show had trouble booking high-name guests (known as “A” celebrities) as ratings continue to struggle.

Sixteen-ton gorilla CBS Television Distribution is perhaps, the main reason why time periods continue to be locked up. Seven of the ten most-watched syndicated programs come from the former CBS Enterprises/Viacom/Paramount/Worldvision/Eyemark entity with Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Dr. Phil, and Judge Judy, among others. Their success is one of the reasons why CTD hasn’t launched a new show in three years, the last being Hot Bench in 2014 (CTD had their share of strikeouts too, with the failure of The Jeff Probst Show and Arsenio Hall’s ill-fated comeback in 2012 and 2013, respectively.)

And it too, is renewing some low-profile programming, including The InsiderThe Doctors – which at this point could outlive the former NBC soap opera of the same name, and Rachael Ray – all of which have aired or continue to air in late-night graveyard slots in Chicago (Rachael did move to a more suitable noon slot last fall on The U Too after a few years in late-night on WLS-TV.)

Despite these challenges, syndicators – many of them small outfits – will try to get their shows in the door somehow. In addition to those mentioned above, other shows being offered at NATPE this year:

Foothill 7 TV is producing a new series The Sheriffs Of El Dorado County, already on the air at Tribune’s KTXL in Sacramento. In the style of the early episodes of Cops, the show features the men and women of Sacramento-area law enforcement, dealing with everyday situations. According to Marc Berman, the series has already been tested on ten stations last year and did well opposite tough competition. El Dorado is being offered as a weekly this fall and as a strip in 2018.

Aside from Sheriffs, other weekly shows being pitched for syndication include Don’t Blink, Hollywood Uncut, and Mysteries Of The Unexplained.

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios is offering a new comedy game show, Funny You Should Ask. Targeted for weeknight prime access (6-8 p.m – varies among time zones.) According to TVNewscheck, this series is hosted by former Chicago TV personality Jon Kelley (late of WFLD’s Good Day Chicago.) The “sizzle reel” featured comedians on the show such as Howie Mandel, Louie Anderson, and Jon Lovitz. The series could be a suitable replacement for Celebrity Name Game in syndication.

For more NATPE news, follow T Dog Media on Twitter at @tdogmedia.

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Chicago’s news stations deal with another video controversy

A hate crime video shot live on Facebook has stations debating the use of such content 

In a city whose news stations are accustomed to airing gruesome video and reporting on daily shootings and murders, even this was too much to take.

Chicago’s five television newsrooms were debating earlier this month on whether or not repeated airings of a disabled man being beaten by four hoodlums shot on video was shown enough.

As you know by now, four people were arrested and charged with hate crimes two weeks ago after they were found torturing and beating a person in a West Side apartment, shot and broadcast on Facebook Live. The victim was white; the four suspects were black. In the video, the suspects tortured the individual, and can be heard shouting racial epithets and an unflattering reference to President-elect Donald Trump.

And of course, it didn’t take long for the video to go viral. The video added to an already unflattering image Chicago has possessed for the last few years; the city has been slammed in the press for its high homicide rate and violent crime by both the right and the left. Trump has used Chicago – perhaps too much – to describe the poor condition of America’s inner cities.

The journalism website Poynter recently published an article praising Chicago stations for showing restraint on airing the video and using caution.

According to Poynter, WMAQ-TV news director Frank Whittaker wondered at first if the video was legitimate, given the recent controversy surrounding “fake news”. WLS-TV news director Jennifer Graves also shared similar concerns.

Stations decided to hold off airing the video until Chicago Police could confirm its authenticity and the suspects were charged (Graves had concerns if the suspects were juveniles.) The victim’s face was blurred out of the video.

Salacious videos airing on newscasts – often violent – is nothing new. In 1991, KTLA in Los Angeles aired video of Rodney King being beaten by four police officers, setting a new standard in news storytelling. The acquittal of the officers in April 1992 sparked riots that lasted for days, including the live televised beating of truck driver Reginald Denny in South Central Los Angeles shot from a KCOP news helicopter above (despite claims from hosts of “Fox and Friends” on the Fox News Channel, noting they have never seen a white person being attacked on video by black assailants.)

Recently, Chicago stations had a similar debate over the video of the Chicago Police shooting of LaQuan McDonald, released in November 2015.

Poynter also noted when Chicago viewers have had enough of watching such fare.

Despite the never-ending stream of bad news involving Chicago, ratings for the market’s local newscasts have actually remained stable, thanks in part to a renewed emphasis on weather. But back in 2014, Chicago news stations lost ground from the year before in key early fringe, prime access, and late news time slots in the 25-54 demo. Combined, Chicago stations lost more news viewers among top ten markets, only behind Boston. Chicago news’ recent ratings stability is occurring as viewers are tuning out of “linear” (live) television altogether as evidenced by declining ratings for prime-time television and recent events such as Chicago’s competing New Year Eve’s countdown shows and the Winter Classic between the Blackhawks and Blues.

In addition to interviewing three of the market’s five TV news chiefs, the Poynter article praised local Chicago stations for showing resistent with the video and using good judgement. The author also wrote pointers for TV stations to use when faced with airing such video.

The author also points out journalists do have an obligation to air video, even if it is distributing. But that’s the nature of the news business- it is supposed to reflect the real world. It’s not a procedural crime drama, where the suspects are arrested, charged, and justice is dealt in 45 minutes or less.

For now, the story has drifted to the backburner. But it’s just another reminder of how difficult it is to cover a story such as this in a city plagued by violence.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: President Obama grants interviews with Chicago TV stations

President Obama invites Chicago stations to interview him; Robin Rock returns; ABC 7 launches new anti-fake news campaign; Dish Nation returns for two more seasons.; NBC launches new station in Boston; TCA’s Winter Tour begins 

Thursday was a big day for local Chicago TV news operations as in an unprecedented move, outgoing President Obama gave interviews with all five local stations at the White House. Interviewing the commander-in-chief were Jay Levine for CBS 2; Carol Marin for NBC 5; Judy Hsu for ABC 7; Muriel Clair for WGN-TV; and Dawn Hasbrouck for Fox 32.

Among the questions asked by viewers were whether Obama was going to move back to Chicago (he’s actually staying in D.C. for two years as his daughters are in high school), and several economic issues. But the biggest question asked were about Chicago’s unrelenting gun violence, which President Obama described as “heartbreaking”. Unofficially, 762 people were killed in 2016, the highest total in nearly two decades.

The murder capital designation and shrinking population could cost the Chicago area millions in lost revenue, as it did Detroit, St. Louis, and New Orleans (with an assist from Hurricane Katrina) over the years.

Still, the opportunity for local stations to interview the President on several issues was indeed a shining moment for local journalism.

As you know, there has been some controversy over “fake news” being reported on numerous media outlets. Well, ABC 7 released a promo a few weeks ago addressing the issue, trumpeting this is the station you can trust and the news being presented is genuine. The promo also shows a few ABC 7 viewers taking a tour of the station’s 190 N. State Street newsroom and even hugging a few members of the news team!


While this is nice, this is a bit…bizarre (have you hugged your anchorperson today?)

Of course, this isn’t the first ABC 7 promo known for its unusual nature. WLS-TV and its Eyewitness News Team regularly aired a bunch of “bizarre” but brilliant promos in the 1970’s featuring Joel Daly, Fahey Flynn, John Coleman, and Bill Frink. The one below won a Clio Award!


Fresh after another successful Christmas music season, iHeart Media’s WLIT-FM (known as My 93.9 FM) has brought back Robin Rock to middays last week. It is a homecoming for Rock, who was with WLIT for 17 years – 15 of those in middays.

But the move does have a casualty – the Hot AC station let veteran Brooke Hunter go. It was Hunter who replaced Rock at WLIT in 2013.

During October 2016 – the last month Nielsen’s radio ratings were not totally affected by Christmas tunes, WLIT finished with a 2.9. In the most previous Nielsen report (for December), WLIT – with Christmas tunes – finished second with a 6.3, behind WBBM-AM.

Despite ranking near the bottom of the ratings, Twentieth Television has renewed Dish Nation for two more seasons, taking it through September 2019. The show features radio DJs gossiping about celebrities in segments only shot for the TV show. Even though the series earned a 0.8 rating in households this season, Dish Nation fares better in younger demos. The series is averaging 4.1 million viewers a week, according to a press release. The series airs weekdays at 3:30 p.m. and 11:35 p.m. on WFLD-TV.

You can argue the recently-axed Celebrity Name Game had better ratings (1.3 in households), but it was likely increasing production expenses that sunk the show. Dish Nation on the other hand, costs less to produce and is profitable. After all, it is less expensive to gossip about celebrities than to have them on a game show.

Also renewed is CrimeWatch Daily with Chris Hansen, which was recently renewed for a third season. The Warner Bros. show saw ratings increases this season thanks to the addition of former Dateline reporter and revamping the format to focus on true-life crime stories and catching predators in the act – something Hansen was known for on Dateline.

Crimewatch airs weekdays at 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. on WGN-TV.

NBC finally launched its Boston station eleven days ago with the new WBTS taking over for WHDH-TV January 1 as the market’s NBC affiliate. So far, NBC’s departure hasn’t hurt WHDH much – the new independent is still second in most news time periods, while WBTS claimed a New Year’s Day victory with the NHL Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in hockey-mad Beantown.

However, reports show WBTS finished behind its competitors in the key 25-54 news demos. Today, which aired on WHDH previously, was also beaten by the competition in its new home.

WBTS is an NBC O&O whose over-the-air reach is used by many low-power stations on channels 8 and 60.

Generally, ABC affiliate WCVB is the market’s leader in news programming and overall. This is Boston’s fourth television affiliation realignment – the last came on January 2, 1995 when WHDH and WBZ-TV each exchanged affiliations.

The Winter portion of the TCA Press Tour is underway, and on Saturday, there was an SMH moment: during the Hulu portion of the tour – the streaming service announced it acquired the exclusive streaming rights to ABC’s Black-ish. Ho-hum, right? Well, the muted reaction didn’t compare to the one a 30-year TV show received – when Hulu announced they secured the exclusive streaming rights to The Golden Girls, according to tweets I received, everyone reacted in shock. Really!

The acquisition was even a front-page story on Broadcasting & Cable’s website Saturday.

The Emmy-award winning sitcom ran on NBC Saturday nights (when the night still had viewers) from 1985-92. Reruns aired in NBC Daytime from 1988-90 and in broadcast syndication from 1990-96, where the program didn’t meet stations’ expectations. However, the show has had a resurgence on cable TV in recent years, notably on Lifetime and Hallmark Channel, and of course, on DVD (an excellent place for this show would be diginet Laff, where spin-off Empty Nest already airs.)

Both Golden Girls and Black-ish are distributed by Disney/ABC Domestic Television.

In other TCA news, CW announced a renewal of seven veteran shows – including Arrow, Flash, and the lowest-rated show on broadcast television – the critically-acclaimed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Pedowitz noted the numbers for some of these shows reality didn’t matter. From Variety: “It has nothing to do with numbers,” Pedowitz said. “‘Crazy Ex,’ ‘Jane,’ as franchises, have helped alter the perception of what the CW has become. When you have great critical work, critically acclaimed, award-nominated shows like ‘Crazy,’ it deserved to be picked up. Sometimes with critically acclaimed, great programming, you just [renew it] and hope that it finds an audience. In today’s fragmented world, [awards nominations] give you a calling card.”

(See the item above on Dish Nation – only the series is NOT critically acclaimed.)

Pedowitz wouldn’t give a timetable on when or if Frequency and No Tomorrow would be picked up for another season. Yours truly’s guess is a decision – and all decisions regarding the fate of all broadcast shows –  would be made shortly before the upfronts in May.


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2017: A look ahead

With 2016 officially in the books, let’s look ahead on what to expect in the media business in 2017:

1. The FCC under a Trump administration. With a 3-2 FCC majority, issues the FCC championed under Tom Wheeler: net neutrality, preserving the cross-ownership rule, and other issues are going to get a hard look at – and likely change.

2. Can Chicago bounce back from dreadful 2016? The only positive story Chicago produced in 2016 was the Chicago Cubs historic World Series victory – and even that was overshadowed by the emphasis on Chicago violence, on a record pace of its own. Unfortunately, 2017 isn’t off to a great start, either with a 60 Minutes piece on the subject and the racially-motivated beating of a disabled teen.

3. Can the Cubs repeat as World Series Champions? A World Series- winning – and contending Cubs team is good news for its local television and radio partners as fans hope there is another parade down Michigan Avenue in 2017.

4. How high can the number of scripted series go? With the number at 455, expect it to hit 500 as the glut of scripted programming continues to splinter audiences.

5. Radio stations to watch. How will the retirement of Terry Boers impact WSCR-AM? Can US 99 bounce back from a bad 2016? Keep an eye an on WLS-AM to see if changes (Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano) impact the station, and of course, WGN-AM.

6. Can cable news keep the momentum? With the elections over, it’ll be tough for the three major cable news networks to match their record-setting ratings. But if Trump continues to make news – and he will – even lower numbers would be a big accomplishment.

7. Megyn Kelly’s move to NBC. Her shift from Fox News Channel to NBC could be be bumpy. Will her fans follow over?

8. MST3K returns. The highly-anticipated revival of the cult classic is due to drop on Netflix sometime this year. Can Crow and Tom Servo riff and wisecrack their way to a new generation of fans?

9. NBC’s new Boston station. The industry will be looking to the ninth-largest market in the country to see if their fourth affiliation switch in history pays off for NBC as they shifted to the new WBTS on January 1 as a new O&O. Meanwhile, former NBC affiliate WHDH joined the growing ranks of independents – a list that also includes WGN-TV, which did so in September.

10. The AT&T/TimeWarner merger. In the first test for the incoming Trump administration, they will have to look what could be the biggest media merger in recent memory. Anti-trust regulators and Congress will also get a look.

11. T Dog Media website to get major revamp. About time, isn’t it? The site hasn’t changed in nearly six years, so an overhaul is expected to take place someplace this year. Look for improved links to more social media sites I’m on, expanded use of video, and yes – advertising (the time has come, my friends – the ad-free days are coming to an end. I’ve got to make money off this somehow.)

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Megyn Kelly heads to NBC

Credit: Getty Images

Former Fox News host heads to peacock network in a very lucrative deal, getting a Sunday night news magazine and a daily daytime hour

Megyn Kelly, who became a household name in recent years thanks to Donald Trump, is leaving Fox News to become an anchor and host for NBC News, beginning in a few months.

The lucrative deal calls for Kelly to host a Sunday night news magazine and a daily topical hour-long show on NBC. Network officials hasn’t officially said what hour of Kelly’s new shows would occupy.

This is leading to speculation on where Kelly’s show would wind up.

The most likely spot in the 9-10 a.m. where the third hour of Today is, though not confirmed.

For NBC-owned stations (including WMAQ in Chicago) and affiliates, a decision is needed soon as stations usually set their lineups for September by the end of January, after the NATPE convention. One possibility is for the network to take back time, but this scenario is very unlikely with many NBC affiliates contracted to syndicated shows.

Another unlikely scenario is replacing long-running soap Days Of Our Lives. ABC canceled All My Children and One Life To Live in 2011 and the move turned out to be a huge public relations disaster for the network.

Also unlikely is first-run syndication through NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, who already has five daytime talk shows. Early fringe is out, with NBC-owned stations contracted to Ellen DeGeneres’ talker thru 2020. Already, several NBC stations moved Ellen to an earlier time slot last spring in order to expand their local newscasts, such as WNBC in New York and KNBC in Los Angeles.

If Kelly takes over the third hour of Today, she’ll go up against another Kelly – Kelly Ripa and her talk show, which airs at 9 a.m. on most ABC affiliates, including WLS-TV in Chicago. In some markets, the 9 a.m. hour is delayed until 10 a.m. – this includes Milwaukee, whose WTMJ airs local talk show The Morning Blend.

But one advantage going in Kelly’s favor is – and barring any last-minute announcements,  no new syndicated talk show is expected to launch this fall, leaving the freshman field all to herself.

As for Sunday night, Kelly’s newsmagazine would likely debut in 2018 – after the 2017 NFL season concludes, thanks to Sunday Night Football, television’s top-rated show (when the Chicago Bears aren’t featured.)

Megan Kelly’s rise at Fox News has been remarkable – she received her own nightly hour on Fox News Channel, right between Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity’s programs, becoming a ratings success. She was also a central figure in the takedown of Roger Ailes – Kelly and other women accused the former CEO of Fox News of sexual harassment, which lead to his departure from the network. She also gained more credibility (and criticism) from sparring with Donald Trump on Twitter after the President-elect criticized her for her moderating skills at the Republican presidential debates.

On the other hand, Kelly has been criticized in some quarters for her reporting on social issues – particularly involving issues of race, where she has been accused of race-baiting. Kelly called First Lady Michelle Obama “a whiner” after she delivered a commencement address at King High School, speaking against racism and other racial inequalities she faced. Kelly dismissed it as a “culture of victimization.”

And her Fox prime-time special – where she lobbed softball questions to Trump – was a ratings and critical failure.

Meanwhile, NBC has plucked off another former Fox News personality – Greta van Susteren and she’ll host her own MSNBC show starting Monday. Fox News meanwhile, has tapped Tucker Carlson to replace Megyn Kelly in primetime also beginning on Monday. As you recall, Carlson was made fun of by then-Daily Show host Jon Stewart when he appeared on Tucker’s CNN ‘s Crossfire in 2005, resulting in cancellation.

Whether the hiring of Kelly or van Susteren “normalizing” their schtick is debatable. But you can’t deny the fact the hiring of these two marks a shift in network news.

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Updated post: “Winter Classic” slides in ratings

Despite Blackhawks loss, Winter Classic draws viewers in Chicago, St. Louis – but Chicago numbers down significantly from 2015’s game

Celebrity Apprentice return disappoints

And other ratings news of note

(Editor’s Note: Contains spoilers for Monday’s edition of “The Wall”. This post has been updated from earlier today – T.H..)

Though the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t win, the ninth NHL Winter Classic was a winner, at least in the overnight ratings.

According to Awful Announcing, the outdoor matchup between the Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues at Cardinals Stadium drew a 1.9 rounded overnight household rating for NBC, up 4 percent from last year’s Winter Classic, which pitted the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

However, final ratings show the Winter Classic sliding to an all-time ratings low, according to SportsMediaWatch. The Classic averaged a 1.5 household rating and 2.6 million viewers, down 8 percent from last year’s Classic.

In Chicago, the Winter Classic delivered a 7.4 household rating for NBC-owned WMAQ-TV. While the game was the most-watched program in its time period – defeating ABC’s Outback Bowl and ESPN’s Cotton Bowl, the number was down a whopping 35 percent from the last time the Blackhawks appeared in the Winter Classic, a 2015 New Year’s Day matchup with the Washington Capitals. With the Blackhawks suddenly struggling, the ratings drop locally should be a huge concern for the team and the NHL in general.

Keep in mind Chicago’s two New Year’s Eve specials (Countdown Chicago and Chi-Town Rising) also showed double-digit drops from last year. The ratings decline for all three events in Chicago should sound alarms for local television executives.

In St. Louis, the game scored an impressive 15.5 rating for Tegna’s KSDK-TV.

In other ratings news, January 2 also saw the heavily-hyped season premieres of  NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice and ABC’s The Bachelor. This season of Celebrity Apprentice marks the first edition in two years and features new host Arnold Schwarzenegger, taking over for Donald Trump (you know what happened to him.)

Surprisingly, the Terminator was terminated – ABC scored a 2.1 adults 18-49 rating for The Bachelor, compared to a 1.3 for Apprentice, giving the reality dating series a 61 percent ratings advantage over The Arnold. Given the hype and promotion for Celebrity Apprentice, consider this a disappointing start.

As for The Bachelor…do you think contestants bragging about sex so early in the evening is a good idea? Not exactly family-friendly television.

Then again in an era where you can get porn 24/7 (and for free) – and when the former host of Celebrity Apprentice brags about “grabbing women by the…” well, you know, this shouldn’t come as a shock.

Meanwhile, NBC’s new game The Wall showed tremendous growth night-to-night for its two-day premiere. Monday’s episode premiered out of Celebrity Apprentice Monday with a 1.2 adults 18-49 rating. While it did hold most of the audience of Apprentice, the rating was down from the 1.6 it earned two weeks ago during the special “preview”.

However, Tuesday’s night episode of The Wall averaged a 1.7, tying ABC’s The Middle for second place and came within one-tenth of a ratings point of NCIS, who had a 1.8 (of course, NCIS dominated total viewers with more than 15 million of them.) The Wall’s night-to-night growth was 41 percent.

The Wall also easily passed Fox’s new comedy The Mick, which earned a 1.3. However, the series grew 18 percent from its New Girl lead-in.

Social media reaction to Monday’s edition of The Wall – a combination of The Price Is Right‘s Plinko and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – was brutal – particularly when the couple lost all their money when a red ball (destined to subtract money) slid into the million slot, with many viewers declaring the show “rigged”.

As anyone knows, “rigging” game shows is next to impossible, especially after the quiz show scandals of the 1950’s, with Congress passing strict laws regarding the oversight of game shows. But the angst regarding The Wall more likely comes from the odious format of the show, which leaves a lot to be desired.

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“Countdown Chicago” wins out over “Chi-Town Rising”

But Mariah Carey, Don Lemon steal New Year’s Eve spotlight (what else is new)

After getting butt-whipped last year by Chi-Town Rising, WLS-TV’s Countdown Chicago reclaimed the top-spot on New Year’s Eve.

According to Robert Feder – and running from 11:08 p.m. to 12:08 a.m., Countdown Chicago drew a 12.1/17 household rating/share, beating WMAQ-TV’s 6/14 for Chi-Town Rising, running from 11:09 p.m. to 12:28 a.m.

During the time frame when the clock struck midnight, WLS had a 12.3/21 to WMAQ’s 9.7/25.

According to numbers obtained from another site, Countdown also beat Rising handily, 9.9 to 7.7, among adults 25-54. In the adults 18-49 demo, Countdown also dominated, with a 10.1 to a 6.1.

Ratings were down for both Countdown Chicago and Chi-Town Rising this year, but you could chalk it up to New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday night in 2016, as opposed to Thursday in 2015 as many church goers opted not to stay up late. Still, the numbers put up by both shows are still far better than you usually see on a Saturday night.

As a reminder, New Year’s Eve broadcasts are generally train wreck television – not really suitable for the crowd who usually feasts on Netflix and Amazon. And this year was no exception.

Before viewers lashed out at Countdown Chicago and Chi-Town Rising on social media, viewers got a head start with the inane antics of CNN’s Don Lemon, who appeared drunk on the air, got his ear pierced, said rather unintelligible things, and even had to be pulled off at one point. Meanwhile, Mariah Carey gave a forgettable performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. At times, Ms. Carey seemed choreographically off and poorly lip-synched her material. Not surprisingly, both sides – Ms. Carey’s team and Dick Clark Productions – blamed each other for the fiasco.

Both Lemon and Carey’s viral antics hit social media quickly and reaction was quite negative.

While not as negatively received as Carey’s performance, both Chicago Countdown shows did leave a poor taste in viewers’ mouths (though not as bad as WBBM-TV’s 1979 New Year’s Eve show, with then-mayor Jane Byrne looking bewildered in a fur coat.) Chi-Town Rising’s countdown clock (on a star) to ring in the New Year was off about 25 seconds as opposed to Countdown Chicago’s clock. There were also reported technical glitches throughout the show for the second year in  a row – completely inexcusable. And while last year’s show had the band Chicago perform, this year’s show had several no-name acts you couldn’t identify in a police lineup. This year’s hosts also were less recognizable, with second-tier talent from NBC’s local and national news programs.

Like last year, Chi-Town Rising was carried by NBC affiliates in several Central Time Zone markets, including Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Memphis, and Green Bay, Wis. Dallas’ KXAS and Chicago’s WMAQ are both owned by NBC.

Countdown Chicago meanwhile, did have remotes throughout the Chicago area including a suburban Oak Brook hotel where Cheryl Scott showed up in a fabulous red dress (enough reason to tune in.) NeNe Leakes of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame and in town for a show, also appeared and gave a nice interview to Val Warner. A house band named The New Rat Pack performed – but you can guess viewers under the age of 30 had no idea who they were.

In a surprise move, WLS pre-empted an hour of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve to show Countdown Chicago – meaning local viewers did not see some musical acts (such as Panic! At The Disco and Jason Derulo), nor did they see New Orleans (in the same CT zone Chicago is in) celebrate the New Year, with Rockin’ Eve signing off earlier (at 1:11 a.m.) than in previous years. Generally, WLS interrupted for Countdown Chicago and picked up Rockin’ Eve right where they left off.

Trading in Jason Derulo and Panic! At The Disco for a crappy Rat Pack band? Maybe Dick Clark Productions should buy Chi-Town Rising and add it s a segment to next New Year’s Eve show – it would eliminate these two embarrassing  specials.

Then again, you know Ryan Seacrest and Co. would try to exile Mariah Carey to Chicago to perform. But it beats next year’s musical act on either one of these local shows – The Def Leppard Tribute band.

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2016: So how did we do?

Back a year ago, yours truly did a look ahead into 2016. So how did everything turn out? Let’s find out.

1. The spectrum auction. The upcoming – and complicated – spectrum auction the FCC is holding is likely to change the face of television as we know it. Some over-the-air stations could pack it in and call it a career as the FCC plans to buy back spectrum space from TV stations and resell it to telecommunication companies (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) So far no Chicago stations have opted to take the money and run.

Kind of hard to say how the auction is doing since there is little information out. But a few trade publications have reported it isn’t going very well. 

2. Chicago on the brink. All eyes will be on Chicago again as the city continues to deal with the fallout of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and the future of mayor Rahm Emanuel – a huge challenge for the city’s media outlets. Meanwhile, gun violence and financial problems are taking its toll on Chicago’s image as national media outlets continue to talk about the city’s woes with tourism numbers beginning to decline and Chicago’s perception to the world as a hapless loser is becoming more and more prominent. Unfortunately, 2016 for the Windy City is shaping up to be a repeat of 2015.

Unfortunately, yours truly was 100 percent right on this. 

3. The return of Garry Meier. Beloved radio host Garry Meier is planning to make a comeback with sidekick Leslie Keiling in the first test on whether or not a major show can be sustained online.

Garry Meier launched his new podcast in March, but so far that is all. 

4. Can Empire keep it going? After a red-hot start in its first season, can Empire keep up the momentum? While still dominant in the ratings, a sign of an audience mutiny is starting to mount, starting with…that kiss.

And sure enough, “Empire” declined significantly in the ratings. The phrase “Anika tossed off the balcony” is the new “Jump The Shark”. 

5. “Peak TV”. Last year, there were more than 400 scripted TV series alone, leading critics to declare this “Golden Age of TV” has “peaked”. Is it all downhill from here? Unfortunately, we’ll hear more of the term “Peak TV” until critics come up with another term to annoy us.

The number has only grown since – to 455, in fact. And we’re still using the word “Peak TV”.

6. The CW and Tribune. While The CW has signed renewal agreements with Nexstar and Sinclair station groups, the network still hasn’t come to terms with Tribune, who is the largest owner of CW affiliates – and owns them in four of the five largest markets – and the pact expires this year.

Both parties renewed for five years – but in a surprise move, Tribune’s WGN-TV became an independent again in September, with The CW affiliation moving to Fox-owned WPWR-TV.

7. Reboot fever. The first of the reboot bunch is slated to arrive this winter (The X-Files, Fuller House, etc.) It’s a sure bet nostalgic viewers will tune in, but will they stay?

And there were more… “MacGyver”, “Lethal Weapon”, to name a few. And even more are in the works. 

8. Chicago baseball. The Cubs are moving to WSCR-AM (The Score) this year, and everyone’s watching to see if the team can sustain the same momentum it had in 2015. Meanwhile, former Score occupant Chicago White Sox is relocating to WLS-AM (890).

The Cubs did so and more – winning the World Series for the first time in several generations. As for the White Sox… the team renamed their ballpark after a predatory mortgage firm. 

9. More consolidation? It doesn’t matter if Meredith or Nexstar turns out to be the winner in the Media General sweepstakes… we may see more broadcast companies merge as stations feast on political advertising revenue – and the possibility of Donald Trump being in the White House means lots and lots of deregulation could be on the way.

Nexstar turned out to be the winner… but the riches of political advertising for broadcasters this political cycle actually fell short. Meanwhile, AT&T and TimeWarner announced merger plans last fall, and Donald Trump did win the White House.

10. Batman vs. Superman. One of the most anticipated movies of the year, pitting two superhero babyfaces against one another. If this doesn’t work, there’s always Lex Luthor vs. The Joker.

And it didn’t work – plus, no Lex Luthor/Joker movie. Probably for the best. 


2016 in review: The highs and the lows…a lot of lows

“Jessica Jones” tops odd year in media – and life

When you look back at 2016, there isn’t much to rave about – way too many celebrity and industry deaths (Prince, Garry Shandling, Carrie Fisher, Grant Tinker, Doug Banks, Herb Kent, etc.), the election of Donald Trump, the rise (again) of Rahm Emanuel, continuing media consolidation, and other awful things.

But it wasn’t all bad:  American Idol was finally canceled.

Aside from the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series victory, 2016 was a dreadful year for the Windy City, with the President-elect embarrassing the nation’s third-largest city on the world stage for its escalating murder rate, while the national media (who had their own problems in 2016) gave more press to Chicago’s homicide rate than any other city’s by far – not to mention ignoring a police shooting in the city’s predominately white Mount Greenwood neighborhood, which touched off a near racial riot.

In addition to the murder rate, high taxes, lack of a state budget, and a drab quality of life continue to push local residents toward the exits, with the most prominent name being Steve Harvey, who’s moving his Chicago-based talk show to L.A. next year. The continuing exodus and bad press no doubt will have an effect on revenues for radio and TV stations – radio chains such as Hubbard and CBS and media-buying agency Starcom Mediavest have laid off personnel this year.

And 2017 isn’t shaping up to be any better, with the city’s homicide crisis front and center as a topic on 60 Minutes Sunday night, suggesting the national spotlight isn’t dimming anytime soon.

In terms of  Chicago media, WGN-TV shocked everyone by trading The CW to Fox-owned WPWR-TV, marking the first network affiliation move in 22 years as the Tribune Broadcasting-owned station returned to independent status. WBBM-AM continues to dominate radio ratings while shocking ratings declines occurred for country music station WUSN-FM, who shifted Stylz & Roman to morning drive from sister station WBBM-FM.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune’s parent company renamed itself something a sane person couldn’t understand while Cumulus continues to alienate listeners and advertisers.

In journalism, the Better Government Association forced the Emanuel administration to release private e-mails pertaining to city business, which detailed his cozy relationship with several media professionals (which may explain his ability to convince Chicago radio stations to “roadblock” their programming for an half-hour on November 14 to address the city in an interview with Bill Kurtis), while NBC-owned WMAQ-TV and Carol Marin won a Peabody Award for their investigation into the Laquan McDonald case.

The TV business also seen its share of upheaval this year. The number of television programs continued to grow, with a number now standing at 455 in this “Peak TV” era, likely heading to 500 next year. Ratings continued to drop for the broadcast networks as viewers continued migrating to streaming platforms and other viewing options – even the NFL wasn’t immune. And cord-cutting became part of the vocabulary as more and more viewers are shredding their pricey subscriptions.

And of course, this blog marked its tenth birthday last September, promising to entertain and annoy people for another decade (Ha Ha.)

The best shows of 2016

2016 wasn’t a complete wasteland… as for quality, television continues to soar above and beyond every other medium. In yours truly’s listings of the best shows of the year, Netflix’s and Marvel’s Jessica Jones took the top spot as the best show of the year. Created and produced by Melissa Rosenberg and starring Krysten Ritter (formerly of Apartment 23), this program features an anti-heroine detective who’s tougher than Kojak and proves women can be tough when it comes to fighting crime. A+ all the way!

T Dog Media’s Top 5 Shows of 2016: 

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)
2. Daredevil (Netflix)
3. Empire (Fox; spring season)
4. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
5. Bob’s Burgers (Fox)

Honorable Mention: This Is Us (NBC), Stranger Things (Netflix), The People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX)

Previous occupants of this list in years past are either struggling in the ratings (Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.), wore out their welcome (The Big Bang Theory, which has now become unwatchable – thanks Wil Wheaton!), or just plain tired (Family Guy.) In fact, these shows are lucky they’re not on the list below.

The worst TV shows of 2016

Due to a change in eligibility rules, obvious entries such as the Chicago Bears (who made the worst list AND The T Dog TV Media Hall Of Shame in 2014), the Chicago White Sox, and any appearance of Donald Trump on any show in 2016 are not included in the year-end worst list – though if they were scripted or reality shows, you can bet they’ll be in. The same goes for the Chicago Cubs’ historic title run, only they would be on Top 5 Shows list, and probably number one. In fact, Game 7 provided more drama than any program on the Top 5 list.

Much of TV’s worst was covered in the Turkey Awards this year, but here is the official list:

T Dog Media’s Worst Shows of 2016

1. Son Of Zorn (Fox)
2. Kevin Can Wait (CBS)
3. The Great Outdoors (CBS)
4. Lethal Weapon (Fox)
5. Vinyl (HBO)

Dishonorable Mention: Notorious (ABC); Any show and/or spin-off with the title Love & Hip-Hop (VH1); UnREAL (Lifetime)

Two of these shows (Son Of Zorn and Vinyl) were recently inducted into The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame. Also of note is the appearance of UnREAL in the “dishonorable mention” category, thanks to a huge decline in quality and ratings – it ranked seventh on T Dog Media’s best list in 2015.

Surprisingly, Son of Zorn – which yours truly reviewed in October – wasn’t on many critics’ worst lists. Are Kevin Can Wait and The Great Outdoors really that bad? Does it even matter? It’s like comparing the Bears with the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.

Look for a preview of what to expect in the media business for 2017 in the next couple of days.

Happy New Year from T Dog Media (and good riddance to 2016!)


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T Dog’s Media Notepad: WGN-TV succeeds with annual toy drive

Also: The Wall off to a decent start; WCIU to showcase local comedians; Drew Barrymore talker on hold; Fox duopoly picks up another show.

WGN-TV held its fourteenth annual Drive-Thru Toy Drive on Thursday to benefit needy families in Chicago and the Tribune-owned independent collected nearly 14,000 unwrapped toys at the event held at the station.

Award-winning actress and singer (and Chicago native) Jennifer Hudson and her sister Julia were on hand to participate in the festivities. The event benefited the Julian D. King Gift Foundation and the toys were distributed Christmas Eve at St. Sabina Catholic Church, where Rev. Michael Pflager is pastor.

Julian King was Jennifer Hudson’s nephew and was murdered several years ago along with other family members in an Englewood home.

This is the seventh year Hudson and her sister has participated in the event, which was held from 5 to 10 a.m., during WGN-TV’s highly-rated morning newscast. This once again proves the strong connections local broadcasters have with their communities.

To see video of the event, click on the link above or click here.

If you’re unimpressed with local New Year’s Eve specials Chi-Town Rising or Countdown Chicago, then WCIU is offering up an alternative for you – a sixty-minute special featuring some of the area’s hottest comedians. Taped at Zanies in Rosemont December 12, Chicago’s One Night Stand Up airs New Year’s Eve Saturday at 9 p.m. Hosted by Rebecca O’Neal, the special features eleven other comedians, including Schmitty B, Kristen Lundberg, Pat Mcgann, and Martin Morrow, among others.

WCIU plans to repeat the specials again at midnight (as we enter the new year) and Sunday night at 8 p.m.

NBC ‘s new The Wall game show premiered last week (Dec. 19), and the series got off to a decent start – the game earned a 1.6 rating in the 18-49 demo, thanks in part to an America’s Got Talent Christmas Special as a lead-in. Hosted by Chris Hardwick, the game show has contestants drop giant balls into a chute and they shoot up a huge wall and come down again into slots with cash prizes ranging from one dollar to as much as $12 million.

If this sounds familiar to you – it should – the game is similar to The Price Is Right’s wildly popular Plinko game as a few pointed out on Twitter:

John and Angel Whorton won $1.3 million on the first episode. By comparison, NBC’s last big money game show – Deal or No Deal – awarded its first million dollar prize in its third season. 

The Wall has a two-night premiere “event” as NBC bills it, January 2 after the premiere of the revamped Celebrity Apprentice with new host (or boss), Arnold Schwarzenegger and then settles into its regular Tuesday night slot the following slot, leading off prime-time.

LeBron James is listed as an executive producer of the show.

As stations gear up for the 2017-18 season, don’t look for a new talk show from Drew Barrymore, as has been branded about the last few weeks as the project has been put on hold. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres signed the movie star to a daytime talk show project with Hearst, who owns stations in Boston (WCVB), Pittsburgh (WTAE), and Milwaukee (WISN), among other markets. However, Hearst and Warner were unable to secure clearances in top markets for next season where the major networks and Tribune own stations. As a result, all parties involved agreed to delay the project until possibly the 2018 or 2019 season.

Although Tribune does have time slots opening up with the recent cancellation of Celebrity Name Game, Barrymore’s talker isn’t exactly compatible with other programming offered in daytime on the group, which includes conflict talkers. However, if Harry Connick Jr.’s series continues to struggle in its second season, Fox could use Barrymore as a replacement for 2018 – assuming he comes back for a second season. Currently, Harry is averaging a 1.2 rating this season – below the 1.3 rating Name Game had before it was canceled. Not exactly encouraging news for the crooner.

Remember last summer when yours truly discussed several “test” programs airing in certain markets – with Chicago the notable exclusion? Well, another one of them is getting a national launch. Top 30, a rapid-fire news show, is being rolled out by Twentieth Television nationally next fall with clearances on all Fox-owned stations, including the Fox duopoly in Chicago. Top 30 features the day’s top 30 news stories divided up into segments.

Another “test show”, based on the New York Post gossip column Page Six, is also launching as a nationally syndicated magazine next fall.

“This show is perfect for the stations that don’t have a national news voice”, said Stephen Brown, executive VP of programming and development of Twentieth Television in a press release. “The bite-sized segments with lower-third graphics play well on air and on our affiliates’ digital platforms. Give us 30 minutes, and we’ll get you up to date with everything you need to know each day. That’s our promise.”

Even though Fox has a wildly successful national cable news network, Fox-owned stations and affiliates have never had a national nightly newscast though in the 1980’s, the Independent News Network produced a national nightly newscast for independent stations. The outfit folded in June 1990.

Fox News is not involved in production of Top 30.

Twentieth plans to sell Top 30 on a barter basis, meaning stations don’t have to pay a cash license fee for the show, but give up half of their ad inventory in the show to Twentieth, so they can sell to national advertising clients.

Still no word on if Top 30 fails to deliver thirty stories in thirty minutes, all home viewers watching would get free Domino’s Pizza.


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Bob Sirottt, Marianne Murciano head to WLS-AM

It’s a homecoming for Sirott, who was at the Big 89 in the ’70’s

Chicago radio and TV personalities Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano are on the move once again, this time being added to WLS-AM’s morning lineup.

Beginning January 2, the husband-and-wife duo surfaces in the 10:00 a.m. to noon time slot on the Cumulus Media-owned station. The news is a homecoming of sorts for Sirott, who spent seven years at WLS-AM beginning in 1973 until 1980, when he jumped to sister station WRCK-FM (one of the many formats at the 94.7 frequency) as morning personality. Sirott’s career has spanned 45 years, starting at WBBM-FM in 1971 and worked for CBS News, WBBM-TV, WFLD-TV (twice), WMAQ-TV, WGN-AM (twice), and as host of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

Sirrott and Murciano – who were paired up on the former Fox Thing In The Morning in 1994 and later married, had appeared together on WCKG-FM and had a full-time gig at WGN-AM from 2013-15. A month ago, both appeared on WLS on election night. Apparently, their performance impressed Cumulus officials.

The hire coincides with the cancellation of Jonathon Brandmeier’s show, which ended its run last week. Though based in Chicago, Brandmeier was targeted to national listeners but never gained any rating traction locally or nationally. The move continues WLS-AM’s shift away from conservative political talk, even though Rush Limbaugh continues to have a presence on the station, thanks to a renewal deal Cumulus made last week with the 33 stations carrying his show, including WLS.

With Sirott and Murciano coming on board, WLS is shifting its schedule an hour later than it was before. Starting January 2, the weekday schedule is as follows:

6:00 AM – 10:00 AM Big John Howell and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano

12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Rush Limbaugh (now delayed an hour)

3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Steve Dahl 

Evenings vary, as Bulls and White Sox games often pre-empt the schedule. Mark Levin’s syndicated show is expected to run between 9 p.m. and midnight.

WLS hopes these moves – which brings an additional two hours of local programming per day – would enable them to compete better with rival WGN-AM, owned by Tribune Media. Once a top ten station, WLS tied for 21st place overall in the most recent Nielsen PPM survey, released on Monday.

In August 2015 however, Bob Sirott & Marianne Murciano placed no better than fifteenth in the ratings overall. At the time, WGN program director Todd Manley labeled their show “a success story” even though he deep-sixed them. Well, the duo now can become someone else’s success story – that is, if finishing fifteenth qualifies as one – which in many cases, does not.

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T Dog Media’s Notepad: Brandmeier bows out early

Also: CBS/Viacom merger dead;  Hairspray Live! earns decent reviews and ratings; Alan Thicke dies

Remember the message Jonathon Brandmeier put up on his website back two months ago when he said ” [We’ll] continue on the air until it’s officially over – or until they literally pull the plug?” Well, they just did. Cumulus and Westwood One abruptly pulled the plug on Brandmeier’s lame-duck show Monday, after announcing in October it was ending the program in early 2017. The three-hour program aired on WLS-AM only from 9 to 11 a.m. each weekday.

Brandmeier posted on the show’s Facebook page a message about the decision to pull the plug.

No word on what would replace Brandmeier at WLS – but don’t look for him to return on the station on a local basis. Brandmeier’s “showgram” actually drew lower ratings than the program it replaced.

This comes as WLS-AM and 32 other Cumulus stations announced Wednesday a three-year renewal for Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and announcing Thursday night it was not renewing Michael Savage’s evening show.

Shari Redstone announced Monday the proposed second reunification between CBS and Viacom is off – for now. Ms. Redstone – the daughter of National Amusements Chairman Sumner Redstone – took over the company from him given his ill health. Investors and Wall Street were hoping for a return as Viacom has struggled with stock price over the last several years, as its channels have seen ratings declines and more and more consumers are cutting the cord, or dropping cable.

Viacom ousted its longtime CEO (Phillippe Dauman) earlier this year. A few weeks ago, Viacom appointed Bob Bakish as its newest CEO.

A merger between the two could have left current CBS CEO Les Moonves in charge. National Amusements has 80 percent voting stock in both companies.

The Viacom conglomerate split in December 2005, becoming two separate companies – CBS Corp. and Viacom. Because of the then-financial interest and syndication rules, CBS was forced to spin-off its syndication companies to its stockholders in 1971 and named the company Viacom. The company ranked in millions of dollars from selling syndicated reruns of old CBS shows – as well as first-run syndicated programs throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. The company later bought MTV, several TV and radio stations (including WLAK/WLIT in Chicago), and launched Nickelodeon and VH1. After buying Paramount Pictures in 1994, Viacom and CBS re-merged in 1999.

December 7 saw the fourth live musical production NBC has aired in recent years, Hairspray Live! Based on the 1988 film of the same name – and the musical based on the movie – and the movie based on the musical – and the syndicated TV series based on the movie  (OK, I made the last one up), the presentation drew a 2.3 adults 18-49 rating, down a full point from last year’s The Wiz Live!, which drew a 3.4 rating and 11.5 million viewers. Last year’s presentation aired on a Thursday; this year’s on Wednesday because NBC aired a football game the following night.

As for competition, Fox’s Empire eked out a win with a 2.5 rating. But the number is a far cry from what it drew two seasons ago. The show did jump a full ratings point from its Lethal Weapon lead-in. This past Wednesday night, Fox’s new drama Star premiered and takes over Empire’s slot on Jan. 4 for two months.

The live special was OK – Jennifer Hudson saved the show, as expected. Yours truly didn’t care for the behind-the-scenes stuff, especially as they raced and changed between acts. And the camera often shook during some scenes, giving the impression Baltimore in the 1960’s had a lot of earthquakes.

The next live presentation for NBC next December is Bye Bye Birdie, with Jennifer Lopez.

On a sad note, Canadian-born television personality Alan Thicke passed away on Tuesday at the age of 69 from complications of a heart attack. Thicke was best known to American audiences as Jason Seaver, stay-at-home psychiatrist on ABC’s hit sitcom Growing Pains, which ran from 1985 to 1992. Earlier in his career, Thicke hosted a successful daytime talk show in Canada.

Eyed by Fred Silverman, Thicke was given his own ninety-minute, late-night talk show in September 1983 titled Thicke Of The Night from MGM/UA and Metromedia, whose station group (now part of Fox Television Stations, including Chicago’s WFLD-TV) produced the show. Thicke of The Night was touted as a younger alternative to NBC’s Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, but was a ratings and critical failure, ending in September 1984. After finding success on Pains, Thicke appeared on several other series, including Hope & Gloria, How I Met Your Mother, and most recently, Fuller House.

He and his ex-wife Gloria Loring, wrote the theme songs to NBC sitcoms Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts Of Life. His son Robin is a musical superstar in his own right, with Blurred Lines one of the biggest hits of 2013. Thicke is also survived by his sons Brennan and Carter and current wife Tanya Callau.


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Remembering Grant Tinker

grant_tinker_screenshot_3The television world is remembering Grant Tinker and the legacy he left as he passed away at the age of 90 on November 28 in his Los Angeles home.

While network executives were known for meddling into the creative process, Grant Tinker would be best known for his hands-off approach – which made sense given he headed one of the most successful studios in television history. Tinker not only supported writers, he nurtured them – focusing on strong plot and character development.  It was this environment that gave us ground-breaking programs such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hill Street Blues, The White Shadow, St. Elsewhere, and others.

Many writers who worked for Tinker – James L. Brooks, Allan Burns, Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, Steven Bochco and others – went on to create other hit TV series.

Tinker’s motto was “First, be best…then be first”. And he not only preached this quote… he practiced it.

Born in Stamford, Conn., Tinker served in the Air Force and graduated from Darmouth College. He started his career at NBC as a management trainee and then promoted as operations manager, then departed for an advertising career. as a He returned to NBC in 1961 and became West Coast President, developing series such as I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. In 1963, he bought a script called The Lieutenant, developed by future Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

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

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

Tinker married actress Mary Tyler Moore in 1962, and in 1969 both created television production company MTM Enterprises, using Ms. Moore’s initials and sold their first program (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) to CBS in 1970 as the network was steering away from rural-themed comedies to more urban-based shows. The sitcom’s success – creatively and ratingswise – not the mention the arrival of the financial interest and syndication rules (known as fin-syn) barring the networks from owning studios and participating in the syndication business, led MTM to become one of the biggest independent producers in network television during the 1970’s. In 1972, MTM signed Chicago native Bob Newhart to do a sitcom set in his hometown, The Bob Newhart Show. More comedy hits followed, including Rhoda, WKRP in Cincinnati, and Phyills and a few critically-acclaimed but lesser watched shows (Paul Sand in Friends And Lovers.)

After producing exclusively for CBS, MTM sold its first series to ABC in 1974, the ill-fated sitcom The Texas Wheelers followed by the underrated Tony Randall Show in 1976.

MTM jumped into the drama business with the failed Three For the Road but struck gold with Lou Grant – a spin-off of Mary Tyler Moore which earned critical acclaim and won thirteen Emmy Awards, and The White Shadow, another critically acclaimed series featuring Ken Howard as coach of inner-city Carver High School’s basketball team in South Central Los Angeles featuring an integrated cast.

In 1980, MTM sold its first show to NBC, the groundbreaking drama Hill Street Blues. The business relationship led Grant Tinker to leave MTM in 1981 to become President and CEO of NBC, replacing Fred Silverman (who was CBS President when Mary Tyler Moore debuted on the network) in the role. With the critical success of Hill Street Blues, Tinker’s ties to his former production company helped bring another high-quality drama to NBC, St. Elsewhere in 1982, produced by his son, Mark Tinker.

During his tenure at NBC, he and network President Brandon Tarkitoff helped change NBC’s image from one dominated by the likes of Pink Lady And Jeff and Sheriff Lobo to high-quality series, even sticking with those who initially were struggling in the ratings, such as Cheers. In 1986, NBC finished first in the ratings for the first time in twenty years, going from worst to first in just two seasons, based on the strength of its Thursday night lineup, which would become the linchpin of success for nearly two decades.

Tinker stepped down from his role at NBC in 1986, later regetting taking the job as he missed out on syndication revenues by selling his stake in MTM. Later in the year, Tinker formed a new venture with USA Today publisher Gannett called GTG to produce television series.

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

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

One show was the heavy-hyped USA Today: The Television Show (later renamed USA Today on TV), debuting on September 12, 1988. The magazine show was critically panned and to make matters worse, USA Today was buried in a overnight slot on CBS-owned WCBS-TV in New York and its premiere here in Chicago over NBC-owned WMAQ at 6 p.m. was delayed for three weeks because of the Olympics (WMAQ would downgrade the USA Today from prime access after just six months.) USA Today never gained ratings traction and was canceled in November 1989, which experts at the time dubbed “the most expensive failure in the history of first-run syndication.”

GTG did sell a few shows to the major networks including TV 101, Raising Miranda, and Baywatch. But none of them clicked and the venture dissolved in 1990 (Gannett has since spun off its TV operations into a separate company called Tegna.) Baywatch was picked up by another production company and relaunched into syndication where it became a huge global hit. Tinker more or less retired from the business by 1992, telling the Los Angeles Times he was no longer pursuing independent television production, saying the economics of it became “prohibitive”.

He would turn out to be right. The fin-syn rules – which were instrumental in the rise of independent studios such as MTM – were eliminated in 1995, paving the way for the major networks to merge with studios and to once again dominate the playing field in prime-time broadcast television.

As for MTM, the company was sold to British broadcaster TVS in 1988 for $320 million. MTM changed hands again in 1991, sold to the principals behind the Family Channel (now FreeForm.) The company entered into the first-run syndication business in 1990 with The Galloping Gourmet himself Graham Kerr returning to television with a cooking show. Later came a WKRP revival and a kids show called Xuxa. None of these three were successful.

MTM was sold again, this time to Fox Family Worldwide, a joint venture of News Corp. and Saban Entertainment  in 1997. MTM shuttered a year later after its assets were transferred to News Corp., which has since split with the TV operations becoming 21st Century Fox.

Grant Tinker is survived by his wife Brooke, and his sons, Mark (mentioned earlier) and John.

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“Celebrity Name Game” canceled







Series lasted three seasons in syndication

Although the major broadcast networks had been slow in cancelling shows, one show outright got the ax in syndication.

Debmar-Mercury and Fremantle North America announced Friday it was ending Celebrity Name Game after three seasons. Premiering in 2014, the game show was hosted by Craig Ferguson and was created and executive produced by former married couple Courtney Cox and David Arquette, along with Ferguson.

Debmar and Fremantle’s Family Feud, is continuing. The game show is among syndications’s top rated programs.

Ferguson was best known as host of The Late Late Show, a position he relinquished in December 2014 with David Letterman retiring. The show is now hosted by James Corden.

Celebrity Name Game was cleared on Tribune stations in the nation’s largest markets including WGN-TV Chicago, where the program was double-run weekdays at 10 a.m. and at midnight.The program also had a cable run on Pop!, airing at 5 p.m.weekdays. (Central Time.)

“We’re incredibly proud of “Celebrity Name Game” and grateful to the terrific fan base that has supported the show for three seasons,” said Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, co-presidents of Debmar-Mercury in a press release. “We thank everyone who has contributed to its run, including Craig Ferguson, the show’s extraordinary host who received two Daytime Emmy Awards in recognition of his talent, our amazing partners at FremantleMedia North America, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, their creative collaborators and the outstanding production team.”

Celebrity Name Game is syndication’s first cancellation of the season. It comes as another high-profile series, freshman talk show Harry, shifted to earlier time slots in top markets this week, including Chicago. With no new series officially in the first-run pipeline for next fall so far, it could be difficult to fill potential open time periods.

The pink slip does come as a bit of a surprise. According to Nielsen, Celebrity Name Game had been averting around a 1.3 household rating this season, with the latest report showing the program earning a 1.4 rating. While those numbers would make Name Game eligible for renewal, the program’s production costs may have made another season prohibitive.

Back in April, weekly game show Monopoly Millionaires Club vanished from the airwaves after a year on the air after seeing its format cut from an hour to an half-hour midway through its run.

Despite the cancellation of Name Game and Monopoly, the game show genre is still healthy, as future projects are moving toward with the premiere of NBC’s The Wall on January 3 and the return of ABC’s Match Game the following night. Also, Sony’s $100,000 Pyramid is slated to return to ABC next summer.

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