Bears-Cowboys a hit for Thursday Night Football

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 05: Mitchell Trubisky #10 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field on December 05, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

But local ratings down from last prime-time outing 

The last time the Chicago Bears faced the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field on Thursday Night Football, the game aired only on NFL Network, was on opposite a live production of Peter Pan, and protesters denouncing the police shootings of Eric Gardner and Michael Brown were marching on Lake Shore Drive (Chicago’s own bout with a controversial police shooting wouldn’t come until a year later when the tapes showing LaQuan McDonald’s murder were released.)

When the two teams squared off this past Thursday night, a lot of things were different – including the outcome of the game.

With playoff implications on the line for both teams, the Bears-Cowboys tilt hit a season-high for Thursday Night Football drawing close to 18 million viewers for the Fox/NFL Network telecast and a 10.8 household rating, one where the Cowboys lost to the Bears 31-24.

The victory was the 8th largest audience in TNF’s history, with ratings up 61 percent from last year’s week 14 game and up 67 percent in viewership.

The numbers grow to 18.8 million if you include streaming totals for Amazon Prime, Twitch, and Yahoo, who in total drew on average a combined 1.1 million viewers. Prime also had a separate announcing team with Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer.

By comparison, the TNF matchup on Dec. 4, 2014 drew only a 5.5 final household rating and just 9.1 million viewers, essentially tying NBC’s live presentation of Peter Pan opposite the game.

The 2019 edition of Bears-Cowboys on TNF had major differences from five years ago – competition was noticeably lighter as the major networks aired no blockbuster special programming: CBS stuck with its regular sitcom lineup of Young Sheldon and Mom, while ABC relied on Charlie Brown Christmas and new holiday movie Same Time, Next Christmas; the game aired on Fox and NFL Network as opposed to just NFL Network (and CBS O&Os WBBM-TV and KTVT in their respective home markets); and the Bears’ victory as the infamous 2014 team lost to Cowboys in a blowout.

And of course, there were no protests on Lake Shore Drive.

In news that would surprise a lot of people given how well the Bears (and QB Mitch Trubisky) have been playing lately, the game scored its lowest primetime rating this season, earning only a 26.5 household rating over Fox-owned WFLD and NFL Network combined, only slightly higher than the 2014 game (26.2, combined from WBBM/NFL Network.) Keep in mind overnight ratings now include out-of-home data.

Demographic information and Dallas-Fort Worth area ratings were not available at press time.

The Bears’ next prime-time game is December 22 at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game all but certain to keep its prime Sunday Night Football slot as it looked like a month ago, it was going to get flexed out for another game.

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The Media Notepad: Univision Chicago, Chicago Reporter team to cover Latino community

Also: WLS-FM achieves historic feat; Nick Cannon to get new daytime show; MST3K canceled again

Univision (branded locally as Univision Chicago) and the non-profit Chicago Reporter are teaming up to cover more of the area’s Hispanic community.

As first reported by Broadcasting and Cable, the duo is forming a multi-platform news service named Latintext, and plans to cover important issues including education, health care, housing, and the biggest one of all – immigration as those types of policies are under attack in the current administration in Washington.

In a statement, Chicago Reporter editor-publisher Fernando Diaz said “This project will focus on highlighting Chicago’s rising Latinx voices, in Spanish and English, while reporting on and engaging with our growing and changing communities.” Diaz and Univision Chicago head of content Teri Arvesu will co-manage Latintext.

Diaz is a former editor of Tribune Publishing-owned publication Hoy, which is closing December 13. The news came as Alden Global Capital – a private equity firm known for deep cost-cutting at newspapers – purchased nearly a third of the shares in Tribune Publishing, effectively being the largest shareholder in the company.

Univision owns WGBO-TV and UniMas affiliate WXFT, and radio stations WOJO-FM WVIV-FM,WPPN-FM, and WRTO-AM. All broadcast Spanish-language programming (with the exception of WGBO’s and WXFT’s digital subchannels.)

The initiative plans to first cover Chicago suburbs with the highest Latino population, including Aurora, Joliet, Elgin, Waukegan, Berwyn, and Cicero, among others – and then expand to Chicago proper.

Chicago neighborhoods with a high concentration of Latino residents include much of the Northwest and Southwest Side, notably Portage Park, Belmont Craigin, Logan Square, Lower West Side, West Eldson, Back Of The Yards (New City), Little Village (South Lawndale), Archer Heights, and West Lawn. Southeast side neighborhoods of South Deering, East Side, and Hegewisch also have a large Latino population. The South Side’s South Chicago and West Pullman neighborhoods also have a decent-sized number of Hispanic residents.

According to Nielsen statistics (last updated in 2017), Chicago is the fifth-ranked Hispanic television market, with an estimated 2.1 million residents of Latin decent. Content plans to be produced in English and Spanish and appear on all local Univision platforms, including digital.


In a stunning development, Cumulus-owned WLS-FM finished in a tie for first place in the latest Nielsen PPM rankings, released last week and reported by Robert Feder. The classic hits station tied Entercom’s all-news WBBM-AM and iHeartMedia’s Urban AC V103 (WVAZ-FM).

Even though it’s a tie, the news is quite the feat for a station known to be on a “cursed frequency” (94.7 FM) as over the last 45 years or so, the station had at least twelve format changes between 1978 and 2012. Among the unsuccessful fare served up on 94.7 include disco, classic rock, album-oriented rock (or AOR for short), country, Top 40, news/talk (simulcast of WLS-AM at times), and even an all-80s format under various call letters include WYTZ, WDAI, WKXK, and WZZN.

One of those format changes was responsible for the departure of Steve Dahl in late 1978 as WDAI flipped to disco. Dahl moved over to WLUP-FM a few weeks later, and the rest is history, Disco Demolition Night and all. And the station did have some success in the early-to-mid 2000s as an alternative/active rock station engaging in a spirited and heated rivalry with Q101, the original version of WKQX. The last change came in September 2012 as it transitioned from a fairly successful oldies format to classic hits without fanfare.

In other news, another “cursed” frequency (100.3 FM) had success as WSHE-FM finished seventh overall with the station’s highest ratings since the FM 100 “beautiful music” (some would say elevator music) era of WLOO-FM in the late 1970s. More notable, the syndicated Brooks & Jubal show stunned the market by finishing first in adult demos, even topping the live-and-local Eric in The Morning on WTMX (that’ll give Kristen McQueary really something to complain about although in the piece I wrote last May, I failed to mention Brooks & Jubal.) Both WSHE and WTMX are owned by Hubbard Broadcasting

Meanwhile, the just-fired Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder finished eighth in middays at WGN-AM.

This is the last survey without the full effects of Christmas Music skewing the books; look for WLIT with the Holly Jolly format to take over the top spot for the last two surveys of the year.


Current Masked Singer host Nick Cannon now has a daytime talk show: beginning next fall, the Fox-owned stations will air the new gabfest from Debmar-Mercury, immediately clearing the show in 40 percent of the country.

In Chicago, the show will air twice a day – on WFLD (Fox 32), likely after Wendy Williams (also syndicated by Debmar-Mercury and cleared on Fox stations) and another daytime slot airing on sister station WPWR (My 50). The Real currently airs after Wendy on Fox 32 at 11 a.m., but the show has been renewed on the duopoly through 2022 as part of an overall package deal with the show’s distributor, Warner Bros.

Both WFLD and WPWR are owned by Fox.

“Fox has been an indispensable station group partner for us and we’re excited to team with them once again”, said Debmar-Mercury Co-Presidents Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus in a statement. “They share our strong belief in Nick, a multi-talented force of nature who will bring his fresh approach and track record of success to daytime talk.

“Nick has been able to build a brand name across all platforms with unique ability to connect to the audience, which is exactly what you need to do to succeed in this competitive world.”

Cannon guest-hosted several episodes of Wendy last year, and was also coming off an eight-year stint as host of America’s Got Talent where he was abruptly resigned after a dispute over language used in one of his stand-up specials. Talent was back in the news last week after the show and NBC fired Gabrielle Union, allegedly for speaking out against mistreatment in the workplace.

Cannon continues in his role as Masked Singer host and as morning radio personality at Los Angeles’ KPWR-FM.


In news that doesn’t come as surprising, Netflix has passed on a third season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Netflix had no comment as the series is expected to shopped around to other streaming services. The star of the current version (JOnah Ray) broke the news on Twitter last week:

The new version of MST3K became the first television show to be revived due to a kickstarter campaign headed by former series regular Joel Hodgson (who also was executive producer of this effort), raising nearly $6 million dollars. Netflix opted to purchase the series from Shout Factory and premiered the show on April 24, 2017.

But recent business shifts in streaming obviously sealed it’s fate as Netflix pulled the plug on numerous series (as referenced above in Ray’s tweet) not produced or owned by the studio (notably the entire Marvel Netflix Universe and One Day At A Time) as rival studios are now starting their own streaming services to compete.

From 1970 to 1995, the Hollywood studios (excluding Fox because they did not meet the FCC definition of a network at the time) couldn’t own the broadcast networks and were barred from the syndication business, known as the financial interest and syndication rules. Since the rules expired, the networks were bought by Hollywood movie studios and have been favoring their product through their own distribution channels in a process known as “vertical integration”.

Moreover, the Justice Department is now considering ending the Paramount Consent Decrees as they look to overturn a Supreme Court ruling from 1948, barring studios from owning moving theaters. Streamers Amazon and Netflix are sure to benefit if those decrees go away, meaning they can showcase their own films in their own theaters.

But the news isn’t all bad for MST3Kies: Shout Factory recently launched a 24-hour channel on Twitch, streaming MST3K episodes continuously and the cast is currently touring the country with live shows.

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The 2019 T Dog Media Turkey Awards

Welcome to the 14th annual T Dog Media Turkey Awards – celebrating the worst in media, sports, and life in general. We have 17 recipients to announce, so let’s get gobblin’:

Survivor. The way CBS handled – or mishandled the latest Survivor controversy leaves a lot of be desired. An extra side turkey is given to Jeff Probst for what a pompous ass he is.

President Trump. And speaking of pompous asses, the 45th President swooped into town in October, bashed the city (which he does all the time), attends a fundraiser and skips town. Fifth  straight award for this jive turkey.

Mitch Trubisky. Turning to local sports (and there are a lot of awards to give out here), let’s start with a once-promising QB who turned out to be just as bad as the QB they replaced.

Ryan Pace. Instead of drafting DeShawn Watson, Patrick Mahomes, or Lamar Jackson, thie Bears’ GM is the one responsible for drafting the fraud above. Typical mismanagement by Chicago’s Lakefront NFL Team.

Cody Parkey. You miss a field goal, costing the Bears a chance to advance to the divisional playoffs, and then go on the Today Show and make an ass out of yourself.

The Ricketts Family. Can’t think of a group of douchebags more deserving on an honor, from taking Cubs games off broadcast TV to start their own network funded by a right-wing media conglomerate to turning Wrigleyville into “Disneyland by the L”, not to mention fundraising for an avowed racist . This family is even worse than the Jacksons at the height of their tabloid-frenzy.

Chicago Bulls. Much like Chicago’s NFL Lakefront Team, Chicago’s NBA Team is no better in the management department, with two morons running the front office and a loathsome head coach more suited running Joe Namath’s hapless basketball team on NBC’s 1978 bomb The Waverly Wonders. Come to think of it, Bulls management (and those of the Bears) are worse than those running NBC 40 years ago.

Chicago Blackhawks. The last time this team was in this column was in 2015 (for the way they handled a Patrick Kane press conference), but missing the playoffs for two straight seasons with one of the worst records in the NHL can land you here.

Kristen McQueary. Chicago Tribune columnist slams Chicago radio in an embarrassing piece in which she lacked total knowledge of the subject.

Jussie Smollett. Thank for embarrassing our city on the world stage with your hate crime hoax. We can do that ourselves!

Dish. Arrogant satellite provider gets into retrasmission fights with channels, forcing them to be removed (Fox, the Fox RSNs owned by Sinclair, NBC Sports Chicago, etc.), sending thousands of customers headed for the exits.

DirecTV and AT&T. And the same goes with DirecTV, who got into a retransmission fight with CBS, knocking its owned Chicago outlet and other stations off the air for three weeks in July, proving satellite TV is nothing but a scam. A side Turkey Award goes to phone company CEO Randall Stephenson whose answer to DirecTV’s subscription woes is to throw more money at it. AT&T: Reach out and ripoff someone.

The Red Line (CBS). After surviving through the Jason Van Dyke trial and the Jussie Smollett saga, what makes any Chicagoan think they want to sit through eight hours of this dreck?

Charter Communications, a.k.a. “Spectrum”. Great Business Plan, Part 1: Cable company available in only 40 percent of the country decides to launch original programming such as L.A.’s Finest and a Mad About You revival and makes it exclusively to customers, shutting out viewers in the Chicago area and elsewhere.

The Chicago Fire Soccer Team. Great Business Plan, Part 2: Speaking of making programming exclusive to subscribers, as they return to Soldier Field after 13 years in a taxpayer-funded stadium surrounded by packing firms and trucking companies, the Fire decided to keep its games on a streaming service instead of linear outlets.

Young Sheldon. Yes, this blog listed this sitcom the second best program of 2017 for some dumb reason, but a lead character who is the second coming of Scrappy-Doo does not great make great TV.

Jimmy Fallon. Per the item above, this is what happens when Young Sheldon grows up and gets a late-night talk show. With a program matching the disastrous Chevy Chase, Pat Sajak, and Alan Thicke talkers in the content department, Jimmy Fallon is not worthy of the legacy of this historic program. Then again, neither was Jay Leno.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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T Dog’s Think Tank: “Survivor” stumbles again on social issues with #MeToo controversy

Latest controversy tells us the show’s producers aren’t willing to learn their lesson on social issues

When a contestant named Colton Cumbie exhibited racist behavior on Survivor: One World, this blog called out the show, Hollywood, and the media business in general for failing hard on diversity in a business that’s overwhelmingly white and male.

Nearly eight years later, the people behind Survivor still haven’t learned their lesson about dealing with social issues – and I doubt they ever will as long as the network turns a blind-eye in the quest for ever-so dwindling ratings.

The latest nonsense came nearly two weeks ago after sexual harassment allegations were levied against a contestant. With a lot of unpack here – which would take awhile to explain (I know you don’t want to be here all day), I’ll give you a cliff notes version of what happened: Caucasian contestant and talent manager Dan Spilo was accused of touching female minority contestants Kellie Kim and Missy Byrd, and it was caught on camera.

In the November 13 episode taped last spring – airing with an parental advisory – and documented brilliantly by The AV Club and Andy Dehnart’s Reality Blurred blog, we got a rare “behind-the-curtain” look of what happens during Survivor with producers speaking on-camera to Ms. Kim, who was clearly disturbed about what happened. To make a long story short, Kim was voted out of the game and Spilo stayed as several of the contestants (including Byrd and Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Spiel) decided to put the game ahead of what was clearly was an injustice. In fact, Spilo received only a “warning” from the producers while they went into damage control, meeting with every player individually and as a group.

After an angry online backlash, several contestants who participated in the show issued apologies on social media – notably Aaron Meredith and Byrd for not properly addressing the misconduct and putting the game ahead of anything else. Kim also addressed the situation on social media:

 

Not surprisingly, Survivor host and executive producer Jeff Probst and CBS were ripped for their handling of the issue, with Dehnart calling Probst’s apology “insufficient” as his response was really nothing but the same bullshit he said in the Hollywood Reporter (whose Survivor recapper quit covering the show after this) and Entertainment Weekly, whom he interviews with after every episode. Yes, this is another instance of Survivor missing the boat when it comes to race and gender issues.

Over two years ago, a Survivor contestant outed another as transsexual at tribal council. And in the last edition, African-American contestant Julia Carter detailed the racism she had to encounter on the show via her personal blog – not surprising given she was given the least amount of airtime during this particular season. And on Twitter, she chimed in on what was going on in this edition:

The cast of “Survivor: Island Of The Idols.” (CBS)

What we’re seeing here on Survivor – and on CBS’ other reality hit Big Brother, is the abstract notion CBS feels these issues – racism, sexual harassment, LGBTQ bullying , etc. aren’t important. CBS themselves have had these issues with sexual harassment allegations in the #MeToo era under former CEO Les Moonves and others. Several CBS shows such as Bull and NCIS also had problems with sexual harassment charges with those accused receiving very little, if any repercussions. And earlier this year, African-American exec Whitney Davis resigned from CBS earlier this year noting the lack of diversity at the network’s executive suites – not to mention rampant racism at CBS, saying the network has “a white problem”.

And the hits keep on coming: more than a week ago, two female writers for CBS’ new sitcom Carol’s Second Act quit due to …you guessed it, allegations of sexual harassment from star Patricia Heaton’s husband, who is an executive producer on the show.

All of this comes as no surprise as CBS has a history of dealing with – or failing to deal with these type of issues. And you’ve read them right here in this space – particularly when it comes to our local CBS-owned laughingstock with the Harry Porterfield debacle and a subsequent boycott from Operation PUSH and the Rev. Jesse Jackson leading African-American viewers to walk out and never return, only reinforced by a stupid decision to maliciously edit a 4-year old’s remarks in 2011 (which the news director wasn’t reprimanded for.)

In fact, repercussions are never a worry in this business if you’re a bigoted white male – look at what didn’t happen when HBO’s Bill Maher and former Rep. Joe Walsh both said the n-word on-air or boxing commentator Larry Merchant regularly chastising black fighters such as Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather.

And if they get fired, they can always land another gig like Steve Shannon and D.C. Chymes did after they were canned for saying a racial slur on-air at St. Louis radio station WKBQ-FM in 1993 and returned to the same station under a different owner and format. Or nowadays, you can start your own podcast like recently fired Canadian hockey commentator Don Cherry did.

Even in the #MeToo era and as there is more awareness of racial diversity, CBS and other media conglomerates feel they don’t have to address these types of issues. Media consolidation and overall deregulation of TV and radio has led companies not having to answer to anyone in “the public interest” as the FCC stopped enforcing such rules years ago with current Chairman Ajit Pai continuing to “weedwack regulations”. And all of this in an era of declining TV ratings with clients still willing to pay huge sums to advertise on the broadcast networks’ prime-time lineups, brushing off any content or audience erosion concerns.

Here are two past winners of “Survivor” looking on the tribal council festivities from their own private booth.

Meanwhile, diversity continues to elude the media business as many places from local newsrooms (as I pointed out two months ago) to Hollywood’s writer rooms to the boards at major media corporations continue to be predominately white and male. And the one Hollywood studio run by an African-American is currently fighting Comcast at the Supreme Court over carriage of his cable networks, which could make suing for discrimination on the basis of race much harder.

As I noted in 2015, the industry has a long way to go on diversity issues, and it’s even more apparent now. Media companies say they remain “committed to diversity” but we all know it’s a bullshit line no matter how many token black and Hispanic people they put in front of the camera.

Which brings us back to Survivor. Similar to what happened with Cumbie, those who spoke up (Jamal Shipman, Byrd, and Kim – all people of color mind you) were voted out while Spilo remains, even with clear evidence of him touching the two female contestants while Probst, CBS, and Mark Burnett decided to stick with “the script” – even not allowing Kim to address Spilo from the jury – because to them the sanctity of THE ALMIGHTY GAME is all that matters, even above racism and sexual harassment.

Survivor should’ve been put out of its misery years ago, as sitting on some island for 39 days collecting a flimsy million-dollar prize has become so passe – particularly after a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas waltzed right in to a long-running game show and walked away with a cool $2.46 million amid a 32-game winning streak – and not having to put up with Probst’s arrogance, or this season’s idiotic Island Of The Idols format with tribal council turning into The Muppet Show with two former Survivor winners in the role of Statler and Waldorf.

If you’re looking for change or any repercussions from this debacle, you can stop. Because as long as imbeciles continue to run CBS and other media companies, rest assured injustice will prevail and lessons won’t be learned, regardless of what bullshit Probst says in his weekly fake news column.

The tribe has spoken.

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WGN Radio shakes up schedule; Bill and Wendy exit

Nexstar makes footprint known

As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday night, WGN-AM made significant changes to its schedule, seeing several realignments and the exit of one of Chicago’s longest-running radio duos.

The Nexstar-owned radio station parted ways with Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder even though Leff was on vacation, depraving their fans of at least one final goodbye. Their departure likely means the end of the line for the venerable duo, who started together at the former WLUP-FM in the fall of 1994 and had a two-year run at WKQX-FM from 1996 to 1998. Fifteen years later they were reunited at WGN.

In a memo to WGN staff, director of news and operations Mary Sandberg Boyle told staffers about the departure of Leff and Snyder and stating making these these of changes are difficult. Here’s the new WGN Radio schedule, effective December 2:

WGN-AM simulcast the first hour of sister station WGN-TV’s morning newscast, from 4-5 a.m.

Steve Cochran’s morning show shifts to 5-9 a.m. – provided he can show up on time, which he hasn’t done too often when he was on from 6-10 a.m.

John Williams shifts to late mornings from 9 a.m.-noon.

From noon to 1 p.m. is a business show sponsored by a local bank and hosted by Ji Suk Yi, a former Sun-Times columnist and contributor to ABC 7’s Windy City Live and was in the same role on Steve Cochran’s show.

Roe Conn co-host Anna Davlantes spins off onto her own show from 1 to 3 p.m., with Conn now hosting solo from 3-7 p.m.

Justin Kaufmann’s evening show adds an hour, from 7 p.m-11 p.m.

Nick Digilio remains in late-night/overnights, from 11 p.m.-4 a.m.

There’s no coincidence these changes were announced the day after Nexstar CEO Perry Sook visited the station and reassured staffers the station was safe. Nexstar purchased WGN-AM as part of their $4.2 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which closed two months ago. WGN-AM is the only radio station in Nexstar’s portfolio, who owns 197 television stations across the United States including WGN-TV. Sean Compton – who has a radio background with Clear Channel, became executive vice president of WGN-AM upon closure of the sale.

While Bill and Wendy drew decent ratings in their daytime slot (finishing twelfth), it wasn’t enough to save their jobs as the once-dominant radio station in town with an iconic history continues its difficult transition into the new world of media, now proliferated with podcasting and Sirius/XM. Whether Nexstar is up to the task of running (or ruining) a station in the country’s third-largest market remains to be seen.

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Viewers bail on Bears-Rams snoozefest

Running back Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for a first down against the Chicago Bears in the first half of a NFL football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, November 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

Boring game between two large-market teams doesn’t resonate

(Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 8:58 p.m. with more ratings information. – T.H.)

You have to question why both NBC and the NFL refused to flex out Sunday night’s game between the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams, two teams who made the playoffs last year but are struggling this season.

And as you can see, the ratings results were not exactly great as both teams put up only 24 points as the Rams beat the Bears 17-7.

According to final numbers released by Nielsen, Sunday’s Bears-Rams game drew just 16.85 million viewers and a 9.7 household rating, down tremendously from the 20 million viewers the previous week’s Vikings-Cowboys game earned. According to Sports Media Watch, it is the lowest-rated and least watched Week 11 game in a dozen years.

Moreover, the game was down from last year’s Week 11 matchup (Vikings-Bears), down 9 percent and 11 percent in ratings and total viewers, respectively.

In the adults 18-49 demo, the Bears-Rams game drew a 5.1 rating, the lowest demo for a Week 11 game since NBC acquired the rights to Sunday Night Football in 2006.

Locally, the Bears-Rams game drew a 28.9 household rating and 46 share for NBC-owned WMAQ in live-day, overnight figures – down tremendously from the Bears’ last primetime appearance against the Washington Redskins. The season opener against the Packers did a 35.3.

In Los Angeles, the game earned a 14/27 for NBC-owned KNBC, notably behind four other markets (Chicago, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, and San Diego.)  Both the Rams and the Chargers – who relocated from San Diego in 2017, aren’t strong draws in the nation’s second-largest market who just four years ago had no professional football team.

Even worse for NBC, Sunday’s Patriots-Eagles games on CBS, which went out to most of the country at 3:25 p.m., was the day’s highest-rated and most-watched football game with 24.9 million viewers and a 14 household rating, blowing the Bears-Rams contest out of the water.

Sunday’s Bears disaster – all together now – still outdrew everything else in prime-time both locally and nationally and is the most-watched program in Chicago for the week. Viewers for the most part are shifting their entertainment programming preferences to on-demand or streaming as live same-day numbers for such fare really no longer resonates (one of the reasons why this blog stopped doing start-of-the-season ratings roundups.)

There’s really not much to say about the Bears after this latest loss, as many picked the team to be Super Bowl-bound. What’s been said about team in 2017…2016…2015…2014, etc. still resonates as the goofballs who run Chicago’s Lakefront NFL Team just doesn’t get it.

And neither does the league or NBC. This is yet another embarrassing loss on the prime-time stage – and there have been a lot over the last decade. At least the NBA had the sense to reduce the number of Bulls games televised nationally after they were responsible for some of the least-watched prime-time games (on ABC) in NBA history. Too bad the NFL doesn’t have the same instinct.

If there’s any indication, the Bears are headed back to mostly noon Sunday starts next season. Or so we hope.

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The Media Notepad: Marquee’s future getting on Dish looks very bleak

Also: Big 3 add overnight news repeats; Fox renews three daytime shows; Disney + signs ten million users; two prime-shows pink-slipped

We have an update on the latest with the Cubs’ new Marquee Network and Dish…and I’m guessing those negotiations aren’t going well.

In an interview with the Tribune’s Eric Zorn (a rather pointed opinion piece urging Dish not to carry the channel because of the Ricketts family’s right-wing stances), a Dish representative didn’t seem too keen on carrying the new regional sports network: “Our back-of-the-envelope math tells us that the Marquee Network would cost subscribers between $50 and $70 a month if it simply were sold on its own,” said Dish group president Brian Neylon. “Our view is that those people, the vast majority of our customers, shouldn’t have to subsidize Cubs fans. That’s why we say the business model of regional sports networks is broken.”

Already Dish is in disputes with RSNs NBC Sports Chicago, Colorado’s Altitude, and the 21 Fox regional sports networks, whom Sinclair Broadcasting purchased from Disney earlier this year. Sinclair of course, is a partner with the Cubs in Marquee’s operations.

What this tells us is Dish isn’t exactly willing to negotiate with Marquee – namely because any deal with the Cubs’ new network for them must also include one for the Fox RSNs. Earlier, Dish struck deals with Charter, Mediacom, and AT&T to carry the new Cubs network – in some cases, tied in with Sinclair’s 191 local TV stations, include a few downstate.

So as I’ve said before in this space, if you are hoping for Dish to carry Marquee, you might just want to switch to DirecTV or Mediacom (if your area is served by them) or try another option. But with less than three months to go until launch and notable providers such as Comcast, RCN, and WOW still holding out – Marquee might want to get a move on.


In an almost complete sweep of its daytime lineup, the Fox Television Stations has renewed its three syndicated shows for next fall: veterans Divorce Court, Dish Nation, and newbie 25 Words or Less.

“Every day, America welcomes us into their homes to laugh, cry and play. We are part of their everyday ritual and we look forward to being there for a long time to come,” said FTS executive VP of programming and development Stephen Brown in a statement.

In Chicago, all three shows air on either Fox-owned WFLD (Fox 32) or sister station WPWR (My50) in various daytime periods. This brings the number of programs the Fox-owned stations have renewed for next fall to eight, including Wendy Williams and a package deal of shows from Warner Bros., including Extra and TMZ.

Fox Television Stations syndicates all three shows under the name Fox First-Run as the station group was one of the properties retained by Fox Corporation as much of the company was sold to The Walt Disney Company including Twentieth Television, home of The Simpsons, Modern Family, Last Man Standing, and Bob’s Burgers. Meanwhile, Disney operates Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution separately, with black-ish, Tamron Hall, and Live With Kelly and Ryan in its stables.

But this may not be for long – 13 years ago, CBS Corporation decided to merge the separate King World Productions and CBS Paramount Television syndication operations to form CBS Television Distribution in order to reduce expenses. The company sells the national ad barter time for all three Fox First-Run shows, not to mention Debmar-Mercury’s programming.


If you are up late at night, you might have noticed seeing David Muir, Lester Holt, and Norah O’Donnell. That’s because the three major networks have decided to let a few affiliates and owned stations to run repeats of their national network newscasts in overnight hours.

The trend started back last summer when the NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt starting airing after Later on the network’s owned-stations, including NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV) here. In October, the ABC-owned stations (including ABC 7, WLS-TV) did likewise, airing overnight repeats of ABC World News Tonight With David Muir. And just two weeks ago, several CBS-owned stations (including CBS 2, WBBM-TV) followed suit with The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell. All three shows continue to air at 5:30 p.m. local time, as they done for decades.

Several affiliates of the Big 3 networks have also decided to take repeats of the network newscasts overnight, including WFAA (ABC) in Dallas, WTAE (ABC) in Pittsburgh, WKYC (NBC) in Cleveland,and WGRZ (NBC) in Buffalo.

So why are the networks doing this in the 24-hour cable news era?

According to Variety, a reason may be because they want to cume the ratings together to sell to advertisers. But adding broadcasts of dated news shows overnight may not be the best way to do so. Keep in mind all three newscasts are available online for later viewing and also available to stream and listen to via podcast.

Even more baffling, in CBS and ABC’s cases, the newscasts lead into the networks’ live overnight news shows.

So while it is understood the networks’ are trying to get the most out of their early evening newscasts, airing half-day old network newscasts is about as appealing as eating half-day old muffins.


Well, that was quick: Disney’s new streaming service was a popular item when it launched last Tuesday, achieving ten million sign-ups already – all in just 24 hours.

By comparison, sister service Hulu didn’t achieve its ten millionth customer until 2016 while Netflix didn’t pass the benchmark until 2009. Launched in  2014, CBS All Access has yet to even reach it.

But these numbers could be goosed: Verizon has decided to give their customers free Disney Plus for a year, as their commercials attests (AT&T customers could expect a similar deal when HBO Max launches) and a large number of the sign ups are for the seven-day free trial. It remains to be seen if these signups translate into subscriptions.

The new streaming service did launch as advertised on November 12, but not without hiccups – many users weren’t able to log in because because of a flood of people using it. And Simpsons fans were complaining about older episodes of the series not being in their correct aspect ratio (16:9 widescreen as opposed to 4:3, the format the series was originally produced in), chopping off the top and bottom of the screen.

The sub numbers are from the launch in the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands; Disney Plus is scheduled to launch in Australia and New Zealand this coming week and expand to Western Europe next year. Overall, a very good start for Disney Plus as a nice family-friendly programming option (Simpsons and Marvel stuff aside).


Pink slips were recently handed out to two prime-time shows: ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat and Fox’s reboot of BH90210.

Boat became the longest-running prime-time sitcom featuring Asian-Americans, amassing 108 episodes in its six-season run. But controversy erupted when the show received a last-minute renewal last spring, prompting one of the series’ stars to lash out. Constance Wu wasn’t happy with the news and complained openly on social media with profane tweets (later deleted) as she was forced to decline a project that she wanted to participate in.

Now buried on Friday night amid declining viewership, the show’s final episode is scheduled for February 21. While it is unusual for a veteran show to get canceled in mid-season, it has happened before – after a terrible ratings start, NBC canceled long-running western Bonanza in November 1972 and left the airwaves in January 1973. Approximately a year later, ABC pulled the plug on Room 222 and Love American Style, evicting them from the network’s Friday lineup in January 1974.  Rhoda – which achieved a viewership record for a wedding episode early in its run, was canceled by CBS in December 1978 midway through its fifth season as the series sat at the bottom of the ratings.

Despite 108 episodes in the can, there is no word on any future syndication prospects as the series has yet to make a sale. Most local stations are exiting the off-network sitcom business while cable networks are loathe to spend any money on reruns as linear TV ratings continue to dwindle.

As for BH90210, the loose take on the original 1990-2000 drama about the cast of the series trying to reboot the show didn’t click with audiences this summer (or maybe it confused them), averaging less than four million viewers in live-viewing figures. A similar “inside take” TV series (Cult) was canceled by The CW in 2013 after just two months.

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Entercom’s Jimmy deCastro calls it a career

Exiting Entercom after just two years on job

The Deacon has left the building.

As first reported by Robert Feder Friday, Entercom Chicago senior vice president and market manager Jimmy deCastro is retiring after a little over two years being appointed to the position. 

A replacement will be named next week, with deCastro exiting December 13.

The longtime Chicago radio executive was installed as market manager for the former CBS Radio stations right after Entercom closed on its purchase of the radio group. Among the first moves he made was to flip 104.3 FM from WJMK’s classic hits format to a Classic Hip-Hop 104.3 Jams and adapting the legendary call letters identified with African-American Chicago radio, WBMX.

In addition to running WBMX, all-news WBBM-AM (and WCFS-FM), Top 40 outlet WBBM-FM (B96), country WUSN-FM (US 99), adult album alternative WXRT-FM and all-sports WSCR-AM (The Score,) DeCastro was also responsible for Entercom’s stations in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis.

Aside from WBMX, deCastro helped keep WBBM-AM at or near the top of the ratings with its rigid all-news format, not to mention popular Bears football and Cubs baseball on The Score. But his tenure was also marked by numerous staff changes, including the departure of Stylz & Roman from US 99 amid declining ratings; the hiring (and firing) of Kevin “DreX” Buchar as morning personality at B96 after less than a year; and several changes at The Score, adding David Haugh plus the return of Dan McNeil and the removal of Jason Goff and Brian Hanley. Outside of the AM stations and perhaps WBMX, ratings for the rest of the Entercom cluster have sagged.

His tenure was marked by cost cutting as well, including layoffs and reducing the number of floors Entercom had at Prudential Plaza from three floors to two.

DeCastro came into prominence in the early 1980s being hired at Heifel Broadcasting’s WLUP-FM (The Loop) as GM, at a time when Steve Dahl and Garry Meier were fired by the station for “assaulting community standards” (both returned to The Loop in 1986.) He became one of the investors in Evergreen Media, who purchased The Loop and WLUP-AM (now ESPN 1000) and became President of AMFM, the company formed by the merger of Evergreen Media and Chancellor, and was swallowed up by Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) in 2000.

After serving as president of AOL Interactive and forming The Content Factory, DeCastro resurfaced as President and GM of WGN-AM and short-lived sports station WGWG-LP (The Game.)

Even though deCastro is retiring from radio, he isn’t entirely going away: he’s still President and CEO of his sports marketing company After The Whistle and plans to form a new sports gambling venture.

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Chicago stations beef up gun violence coverage

WTTW’s interactive coverage of gun violence features North Lawndale resident Jsaron Jones, who was a victim.

WGN-TV, WTTW go deeper covering epidemic

With Chicago gun violence continuing to attract global headlines, two stations are ramping up their efforts in order to help combat the problem.

WTTW and Nexstar’s WGN-TV are increasing their coverage on the epidemic with special reports, discussions, and creating more of a online presence.

In recent weeks, WGN has aired a number of special reports of the subject including bail reform; the “code of silence” on the streets, as witnesses refuse to cooperate with law enforcement on shootings and murders; and the odds of getting away with murder (a subject also brought up time and time again on WFLD’s Friday night public-affairs show Flannery Fired Up.) The station plans to air more special reports on gun violence in the weeks ahead.

WGN has also beefed up their web presence on the subject, with WGN’s reports available online on a special website “Unsolved”, which you can access here.

This comes as WTTW this week unveiled a more ambitious project. Titled “FirstHand: Gun Violence“, the public television station goes behind the scenes to see how the gun violence epidemic impacts neighborhoods, families, and the city and suburbs in general in a year-long initiative. The project can be accessed here.

Included in Firsthand:  stories produced in partnership with independent nonprofit publication The Trace, who covers the gun violence epidemic in America; several experts proposing solutions; and a 15-part documentary following five people living with the aftermath of gun violence. The special section also includes the latest news on how politicians and community leaders are trying to solve the epidemic.

The documentary was released Tuesday morning. Several clips were shown Tuesday on WTTW’s flagship news show Chicago Tonight.

Also planned is a discussion guide and a series of community meetings featuring residents, advocates, policymakers, and experts throughout Chicago. The first of those discussions took place Tuesday at Kennedy-King College in Englewood with those featured in Firsthand, urging city leaders to make gun violence and mental health a priority.

The initiative is led by WTTW boss Sandra Cordova Micek, who has made news and public affairs at the station a priority since she arrived at the station seventeen months ago. “WTTW is uniquely positioned to cover the important stories and critical issues facing our city,” Micek told Robert Feder on October 30. “We hope that through our work and this project, we fulfill our purpose to enrich lives, engage communities, and inspire exploration.”

While homicides and shootings are down in Chicago, it doesn’t mean the picture is improving. In a speech to police chiefs at McCormick Place last month, President Donald Trump slammed the city again for its gun violence epidemic, once again trying to score points with his base as he and conservatives often criticize the city and its leaders.

And just this week, a Chicago rapper was gunned down in Country Club Hills, a suburb six and-a-half miles from Chicago’s southern border as the story made global headlines – something Chicago is now used to. Despite the decline, Chicago still receives the lion’s share of gun violence coverage from the national media while ignoring places where the epidemic is just as rampant, such as St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn., where the city is headed for a homicide record.

Also, the city’s media outlets continue to stumble covering urban issues as I pointed out two months ago as newsrooms reporting on the issues facing African-American and Hispanic areas of Chicagoland continue to lack racial diversity.

But the initiative taken by two Chicago television stations seems to be a start as local stations have an obligation to serve the public – it differentiates them from the rest of the media landscape as more and more viewers are abandoning linear TV for streaming services and other options. While these stories paint a grim picture of the city – and is even taking a toll on those who cover the carnage, it’s a harsh reality many in the Chicago area have to deal with on a daily basis.

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Broadcasters, cable news networks prepare for impeachment hearings

Viewers, syndicators prepare for regular daytime TV schedules to be disrupted

(Editor’s Note: This post will be continuously updated with any information on who is carrying the impeachment hearings. – T.H.) 

If you are a fan of daytime TV, get ready for a serious reality check.

Beginning Wednesday, the major broadcast networks and cable news channels will begin carrying impeachment hearings involving President Trump as they head into the public phase.

The hearings begin at 9 a.m. Central and at 10 a.m. on Friday. Hearings are also scheduled from Tuesday thru Thursday next week, although times were not set.

ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS will all carry the hearings as will CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and C-Span. The hearings will also be streamed live on each network’s platform. For example, CBS News’ streaming news service CBSN plans to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage.

This means regularly scheduled programming will be pre-empted, including network programs such as The View and Price Is Right and numerous syndicated talk shows Live With Kelly and Ryan, Rachael Ray, Kelly Clarkson, Tamron Hall, and more.

The potential pre-emptions come at a time when the television business is in the middle of the November sweeps. While the major networks have downplayed them in recent years – especially in prime-time, local stations and syndicators still depend on these periods to charge advertising rates as any disruptions could affect their national ratings.

Moreover, at least in Chicago and a few other markets where it airs in the afternoon (early fringe), the impeachment hearings could pre-empt Jeopardy!, which is in the middle of their Tournament Of Champions featuring 32-game winner James Holzhauer and the contestant who knocked him off his winning perch, Emma Boettcher. Both are meeting Thursday and Friday in the finals – with the latter possibly pre-empted locally for impeachment coverage if it runs past 3 p.m. (Jeopardy airs at 3:30 p.m. here on ABC 7.)

The last disruption of this type took place in 1998 when President Bill Clinton faced an impeachment trial, covered by the broadcast networks and cable channels. But the biggest disruption took place in 1994 and 1995 when the O.J. Simpson murder trial took place. Even though the major broadcast networks did not have gavel-to-gavel coverage, viewership was impacted for over a year as viewers flocked to Court TV (then a cable network) to watch the proceedings.

As for PBS, the network plans to carry the impeachment hearings, but came under fire from some quarters for deciding not to air same-day repeats in prime-time – something the service did during Nixon’s impeachment hearings in 1973, enabling viewers who weren’t home during the day a chance to watch. Last Friday, former PBS journalist Bill Myers and Common Dreams’ Michael Winship took out an ad in the New York Times, calling for PBS to air the hearings like they did back then. PBS plans to provide extensive coverage during the PBS NewsHour, Amanpour & Company, and on-demand on all PBS digital platforms and airing a replay of the hearings on its World digital subchannel .(Moyers’ pleas do seem to be out of touch.)

On Tuesday, Washington D.C. PBS member station WETA announced they would carry same-day repeats of the hearings at night. 

As of this writing, the programming plans for WTTW Wednesday and Friday aren’t known, but during the Justice Kavanaugh hearings, the station opted to air coverage on its Prime digital subchannel (11.2) in order not to interrupt its kids programming on its main (11.1) channel. Both Prime and World (11.3) are carried by some cable systems, but not all, including satellite carriers DirecTV and Dish.

Here are the plans for other local stations:

– Nexstar’s WGN-TV said on its newscast Tuesday it plans to air gavel-to-gavel coverage Wednesday and Friday.

– Fox-owned WFLD-TV’s plans were revealed via TVNewscheck (here’s a cleaned-up, translated version of the memo):

  • WFLD plans on taking the feed from the “Level 2” special report of the impeachment hearings over the air and digitally Wednesday.
  • WFLD will monitor events during the day, and will break [into] programming [whenever possible.]
  • WFLD will monitor the events of Wednesday and then decide on the plan for Friday’s coverage. There is a good chance [the hearings could air] on Fox 32 again, as well.

WFLD has no plans to air any impeachment coverage on sister station WPWR (My50) – at least for now.

With sister network Fox News covering the hearings, the Fox broadcast network is leaving each individual station to decide how much of the impeachment hearings they want to carry.

With so many different ways to watch television in 2019, Trump’s impeachment hearings are going to take on a decidedly different vibe. Millions of viewers tuned in to Nixon’s impeachment hearings coined “the summer’s hottest soap opera”, sending daytime’s homes-using-television levels to record numbers. But today, viewers are going to have different platforms to watch, and coverage is likely more tailored to how you feel about President Trump whether you like him (Fox News) or dislike him (MSNBC).

And the hearings may not have the same influence as the Nixon hearings did as many voters have most likely made up their minds about trump and may not tune in, while other daytime viewers who are not interested are likely to head to their local CW or My Network TV affiliate, entertainment cable networks, or streaming.

So how many days the impeachment hearings take? No one knows for sure. But for the television industry’s sake – and for networks and syndicators, it better not be too many.

(Updated at 9:44 p.m.) 

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Rep. Bobby Rush slams Comcast over Byron Allen lawsuit

1st District Congressman not happy with nation’s largest cable company

In a huge broadside against one of the country’s biggest cable operators, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) slammed Comcast for their role in a lawsuit involving one of the nation’s most successful African-American media entrepreneurs and may lead the company to be broken up.

In a letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Rush criticized the company for challenging a court decision to reinstate a suit against Comcast for discrimination, particularly Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios as the case against the cable company is being heard at the U.S. Supreme Court this Tuesday.

Comcast is asking the court to throw out the case and possibly amend the “section 1891” provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, passed after the Civil War to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. It states “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.”

Using Allen’s lawsuit against Comcast, the Justice Department wants to tighten the rules regarding section 1981, though Comcast stated they were not seeking to roll back civil rights laws.

And this is what has Rush riled up.

“It is evident to me,” Rush wrote in his letter to Mr. Roberts, “that with this demonstration of corporate greed, Comcast has forfeited and repudiated its claim to be an inclusive company that is a friend of the black community.” Rush further slammed Comcast calling them “cold, callous, arrogant, and insensitive to African-Americans” and since the Trump administration is backing Comcast in the suit, he points out it’s an assault on minorities’ rights. He goes on to say “Simply put, it is my belief that the Comcast Corporation needs to be broken up.”

Trump’s support is odd (to some), considering his continued criticism of NBC News, among others calling them “fake news”. Comcast is the parent of NBCUniversal.

Byron Allen, head of Entertainment Studios. (Variety)

Rush represents much of Chicago’s South Side (including the area of where this writer lives) and several south suburbs including Evergreen Park, Blue Island, Frankfort, and Oak Forest where Comcast is the dominant provider – though in Chicago proper, customers can also choose between WOW and RCN in some areas. There are an estimated 1.5 million Comcast customers in the Chicago area, branded as Xfinity.

This is not the first time the veteran congressman has called out a media company: back in 2011, he and other African-American leaders ripped into CBS-owned WBBM-TV after the local station maliciously edited video on the station’s morning newscast featuring a 4-year old wanting to join a gang when he really wanted to go fight criminals. The network and its O&O station were once targets of a boycott by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH in 1985 after WBBM demoted African-American anchor Harry Porterfield. Ratings for the station plunged and never recovered, even to this day.

Comcast has been under fire from Rush and other African-American lawmakers, leaders, and activists for their role in the lawsuit keeping Allen’s cable networks off Comcast. The channels (available on DirecTV) include Pets.tv, Cars.tv, Comedy.tv and Justice.tv. After starting his company with little money in the mid-1990s, A former stand-up comedian who got his big break on The Tonight Show leading to a hosting job on NBC’s Real People, Allen’s company has grown into a powerhouse and is one of the biggest independent studios in the country. First formed as a syndicator, Entertainment Studios distributes numerous shows, with Funny You Should Ask and Comics Unleashed the highest-profiled.

Comcast has defended their business practices and their commitment to serving diverse audiences, noting Allen decided not to join Comcast’s MOU process, bringing four African-American owned cable networks to their lineups. However, most of those channels appear on Comcast’s upper-tiers, generally are the most expensive. And the company settled a lawsuit with African-American workers in 2016 over hostile working conditions in their facility in the Pullman neighborhood, totaling $7.2 million.

The case could have implications beyond the television business. Should the Supreme Court side with Comcast, it could have the potential to affect the way African-Americans and other minorities sue companies for discrimination. The outcome also could launch a revolt against Comcast given much of Chicago’s South Side (especially in Rush’s district) and south suburbs are African-American – which could hurt the company as more and more residents are “cutting the cord” for streaming services. But this could be debatable, given Comcast also sells broadband service.

While a breakup of Comcast is possible – Congress doesn’t have the power to do so though they can hold hearings among other actions (which led up to the breakup of the original AT&T) and reveal how their business practices work. While Trump’s Justice Department can help Comcast fend off this lawsuit, it’s the court of public opinion – especially among African-Americans that could affect them the most and wind up with the absolute worst PR disaster imaginable.

Just ask CBS and WBBM-TV.

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Marquee inks pact with Mediacom; but still no Chicago-area cable deal

Sinclair strikes deal to bring Cubs channel in 2020

We are now at a point where Cubs games are being shown in Des Moines but not in the Chicago area itself on cable.

Thankfully, Marquee isn’t launching until February.

As first reported by the Chicago Tribune Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs and Sinclair announced a carriage deal with cable provider Mediacom.

The Cubs and Sinclair Broadcasting are joint partners in operating the team’s regional sports network.

Mediacom is the nation’s fifth-largest cable operator in the United States and offers service in 22 states including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and others. Mediacom serves some portions of the Chicago market; suburbs include Minooka, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville; other far-flung areas outside of Chicago include Ottawa and Streator.

Mediacom is the dominant cable provider in Iowa, particularly in Des Moines and the Quad Cities area of Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline. Even though Cubs games on the channel are subject to blackout, viewers in Iowa will get to see Cubs games on Marquee when the channel launches on February 22.

Other deals reached so far include Charter Communications (Spectrum) and AT&T, whose DirecTV, U-Verse, and AT&T Now customers receiving the channel. But notably absent are three major Chicago-area providers: RCN, WOW, and Comcast. In an appearance on WSCR-AM Wednesday, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said Marquee achieved 40 percent of the channel’s carriage goals, and is already negotiating with Comcast, not to mention other streaming services such as Fubo and Hulu (he did mention PlayStation Vue, but that service is shutting down in January.) Kenney also said an app is in development.

Comcast is Chicago’s largest cable provider by far covering all points of the city proper and most suburbs while RCN serves the lakefront areas stretching from Rogers Park to Hyde Park. WOW serves mostly Chicago’s South Side.

Also yet to strike a deal is satellite provider Dish, who is currently in an impasse with other regional sports networks including NBC Sports Chicago, Sinclair’s Fox Sports Net, and Colorado’s Altitude, who recently struck a deal with DirecTV to return to the airwaves. Any deal with Marquee would be tied to Sinclair’s other RSNs. But with Dish reporting a surge in customers in the third quarter, it gives them some more leverage against both Sinclair, Altitude, and NBC Sports Chicago, at least for the moment.

Earlier, Mediacom struck a new carriage deal with NBC Sports Chicago.

In other Marquee news, the channel this week named MLB Network’s Michael Santini as their senior vice president of programming and production. 

Marquee plans to carry up to 150 regular-season games for 2020 and beyond, and is the exclusive home to Chicago Cubs baseball. Marquee has also added its first non-baseball sport – if you can call it that. In a deal including all of Sinclair’s RSNs, the channels plan to begin carrying the company’s Ring Of Honor Wrestling, starting Friday (beginning in February for Marquee.)

Marquee Network sizzle reel:

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Fox swaps Charlotte stations for Nexstar’s Seattle outlets; acquires Milwaukee’s WITI

Sale reunites WITI with Fox ownership

In a deal that finally gives Fox ownership of local stations in the Emerald City, Nexstar agreed to sell their Seattle duopoly in exchange for the network’s duopoly in Charlotte.

The stations in the deal include Seattle Fox affiliate KCPQ-TV and My Network TV affiliate KJZO-TV; Fox-owned WJZY and My Network TV station WMYT; and Nexstar’s Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, WITI with the price tag around $350 million. Nexstar acquired Tribune Media in a $4.1 billion deal earlier this year.

The WITI sale returns the station to Fox ownership; the previous incarnation of Fox (News Corp.) owned WITI from 1997 to 2008. WITI was one of eight CBS affiliates who defected to Fox in 1994 in the New World deal as Fox would buy the company outright in 1997.

Fox stunned observers by acquiring then-CW affiliate WJZY and WMYT from Capitol Broadcasting in 2013, stripping the Fox affiliation away from WCCB-TV.

“This acquisition expands the reach of one of Fox’s core assets, our television stations portfolio, and further strengthens what is already a highly profitable and cash generative business. Fox Executive Chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch said. “The Seattle and Milwaukee markets both overlap with key sports markets, creating significant opportunities for growth and collaboration.”

Jack Abernathy, CEO of Fox Television Stations, added: “Acquiring stations in these high-performing NFC markets enhances our already strong nationwide footprint and further demonstrates Fox Television Stations’ commitment to serving our viewers, advertisers and local communities.”

Oddly, the stations Fox is selling to Nexstar is in an NFC market, home to the Carolina Panthers.

Fox is entering a market it long has covered since it is home to the NFC’s Seattle Seahawks while Milwaukee is home to the nearby Green Bay Packers as the network has rights to the NFC package and Thursday Night Football. In addition, Fox has rights to a few regular-season Major League Baseball games plus the World Series and home to the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers.

Fox had a tense relationship with then-owner Tribune Media over KCPQ, even going as far as serving a termination notice of their affiliation agreement in 2014. Fox proposed to buy a local station licensed to Bellingham, Wash. near the Canadian border but dropped those plans after deciding to stay with KCPQ, but with Fox increasing the amount of reverse compensation the station had to pay. When Sinclair tried to buy Tribune in 2017, it offered to sell several stations to Fox, including KCPQ and KJZO but fell through after the FCC put the brakes on Sinclair-Tribune.

As for Nexstar, the deal gives them two more stations in the Carolinas with the acquisition fitting nicely their portfolio as they also own outlets in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Subject to FCC approval, the deal is expected to close early next year. Once it does, Fox would own stations in fourteen of the top fifteen markets, with the exception of Boston’s WFXT, who Fox traded to Cox Communications in 2014 in order to acquire KTVU in San Francisco.

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Fox-owned stations renew Warner Bros.’ syndicated shows in multi-year deal

Group renews quartet of shows and forces format change

In a massive deal, the Fox-owned station group renewed four Warner Bros.’ first-run shows currently on its stations.

But the deal come with some changes that you, the viewer will notice.

Four shows from the AT&T-owned syndicator: TMZ, TMZ Live, The Real and Extra were each given multi-year renewal deals. But now included in those contracts are the elimination of commercial spots after the end of each show, which is basically local ad time – which means the run for each show would clock in at 29:57 (min:sec) and 59:57 past the hour, instead of 28:28 and 58:28 past the hour, as any TV station traffic department can tell you.

All four shows air on Fox-owned WFLD-TV.

“I started in broadcasting, but I’ve spent a lot of time in cable. There, we are very focused on clean breaks from one show to another. In cable news, they do the hand-offs and you don’t even know one show is ending and another is beginning,” said Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernathy.

Effective this December, those local breaks will move to the middle of the show, adding to the commercial time (no national advertising barter time is affected.) “Seamless transitions between programs are long overdue in local television,” Abernathy said. He feels the spots separating the end of the program and the start of another is an open invitation to turn the dial (or in more modern terms, punch up another station on the remote.) It is a plan by Abernathy to implement those type of transitions on the Fox-owned stations. Already, the end of WFLD’s newscast at 10 p.m. goes straight into Modern Family without commercial interruption.

A similar format was in place several years ago for stations airing Paramount’s The Insider and Entertainment Tonight back-to-back in prime access (7-8 p.m.), mainly on the CBS O&Os. The practice was later abandoned.

The move continues a trend the broadcast networks (notably NBC) adapted in the mid-1990s, where they eliminated the local ad breaks in between shows and started squeezing credits and shortening or eliminating program intros and theme songs in order to keep viewers engaged. But this practice has been around in local TV in one form or another since the 1970s when ironically, WFLD pioneered the practice and used it for the longest time but was abandoned in recent years for unknown reasons (WGN-TV, a pre-Fox WPWR, WGBO in its English-language days, and WCIU would adapt the same practice.)

For example, a show would end with closing credits (with or without the closing syndication logo) but instead of a local commercial break, a station promo or ID would come next, and then the start of the next show. Courtesy of Fuzzy Memories, here’s an example: from 1979, an ending of The Partridge Family, the closing credits (the Screen Gems “S from Hell” logo was skipped), a Field Communications bumper (WFLD’s then-owner), a promo for Benny Hill with WFLD station identification, and the start of Green Acres.

Here’s another example of “seamless” transition from CBS-owned WBBM-TV in 1972, as the station ends its 10 p.m. newscast and dives right into The CBS Late Movie, with John Coughlin and Bob Wallace even looking at and pointing to the screen when it starts:

 

The practice is used in order to sell more commercial time within the shows themselves, and to drive up ad rates – and of course, to prevent viewers from changing the channels. Today, the practice is more rushed as credits are squeezed, or shown very fast and in some cases, eliminated altogether – including the syndicatior’s closing logo.

Other programs have also employed tactics in order to get viewers to programs quicker. NBC recently reduced the opening credits to The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon while both CBS and WTTW have instituted cold opens (eliminating the intro segments) for Survivor and Chicago Tonight, respectively.

Since all four shows are syndicated, each show airs at different times in different markets so it remains to be seen how this would work – especially if they plan the have shows “toss it back to one another”. Locally, The Real airs at 11 a.m., Extra at 2:30 p.m., TMZ Live at 3:30 p.m. and TMZ at 4:30 p.m. Fox’s Dish Nation airs at 3 p.m. but soon plans to employ the same format with 25 Words Or Less and Divorce Court.

It remains to be seen how this works outside of the Fox O&Os.

As for the shows themselves, Extra, TMZ and its Live counterpart have been renewed through 2023; with The Real through 2022. Extra has been revamped this year with Billy Bush taking over as host with the series shifted to Fox-owned stations in several large markets this fall (WFLD has aired Extra since 2016.) Extra’s ratings in their key 25-54 female demo has improved as has another entertainment newsmagaine (Access Hollywood, who hired former Extra host Mario Lopez.)

The deal also includes Warner Bros.’ long-running People’s Court, who picked up a three-year renewal over Fox’s duopoly in New York City (WNYW/WWOR). In Chicago, the show is expected to remain on Weigel-owned CW affiliate WCIU, where it airs weekdays at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Previously, Court aired at 1 and 4 p.m. but was displaced by The CW version of Jerry Springer and new talker Tamron Hall, respectively.

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WLIT shifts to Christmas Music Tuesday

Early arrival of winter leads holiday charge

Get ready Chicago radio listeners because the Christmas season is here.

As first reported by Robert Feder, Chicago’s go-to Holly Jolly station The Lite (WLIT-FM) is launching its annual Christmas Music format Tuesday afternoon around 4:00 p.m., which usually brings big ratings to the iHeartMedia-owned station and dominates the market for three of Nielsen’s PPM surveys (November, December, and Holiday.)

“There’s no place like home for the holidays and we are delighted to be Chicagoland’s home for holiday cheer in our 19th year,” said WLIT afternoon host and program director Mick Lee in a statement to Feder. “We’re honored that so many Chicagoans include us in their annual holiday traditions, and we can’t wait to celebrate the season with Christmas music, fun contests, and a few new surprises along the way.”

With a huge crush of cold air coming in from the north and many parts of the country already recording snow (Chicago itself had around four inches of snow on Halloween), many stations have already flipped to all-Christmas music. For example, WNIC-FM in Detroit made the switch November 1, right after Halloween. Others making the leap include West Palm Beach, Green Bay, and Greenville, South Carolina. One station in Youngstown, Ohio didn’t even wait until Halloween was over to flip: they did on October 25, becoming the first station to do so.

Even though it does seem early to flip to all-Christmas music, WLIT’s flip this year is in line with recent years. In 2018, WLIT shifted to Christmas music on November 8, and on November 7 in 2017. The shift came a week later in 2014 and 2015, with each launching the format on November 12. The earliest shift came in 2006 and 2007, taking place on November 2 each year.

But for a time last week however, it seemed WLIT was going to get beat to the punch by a rival station: on Friday, Hubbard-owned WSHE-FM (100.3) teased listeners by playing Christmas music all afternoon. The station returned to regular adult contemporary/variety hits format by evening.

No word was giving why WSHE was playing Christmas music (perhaps punking out WLIT, perhaps) but given the below-average cold temperatures and early snowfall, WSHE certainly read the mood of the city correctly.

Advertisers holiday commercials already filling the airwaves as of Friday, with bows on top of cars and singing Amazon boxes and all. And of course, those Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies, which are already in rotation.

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