T Dog’s Media Notepad: WGN Radio adds Wood, Dempster to lineup

WGN adds Wood and Dempster, plus Manley’s idiotic comment
Media Life magazine article on iHeart causing a stir
Empire roars back
BET to add “Soul Train”

wgn-radio-logo-classy-300x300WGN-AM has recruited former Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster to provide weekly baseball analysis on Thursdays for the Tribune Broadcasting-owned radio station. Beginning this week, Ryan Dempster will talk baseball with Steve Cochran on his morning show, while Wood appears on Roe Conn’s afternoon show at 4:40 p.m. Both will talk about, but not limited to, Cubs baseball.

But here comes the typical Chicago radio management line about the hires – clueless without a clue:

“Woody and Dempster are the perfect pair to drive the conversation during a year loaded with great story lines,” said WGN Radio VP of Programming Todd Manley in a press release. “Baseball’s in our DNA and we can’t wait to get this season rolling.”

Really? If baseball is in WGN Radio’s DNA, when why did they let the Cubs go after 90 years? Yours truly hates to ask what’s in Todd Manley’s DNA. Too much Centrum, perhaps?

i heart mediaAn article about iHeartMedia in Media Life magazine turned a few heads last week regarding the company’s poor financial health. The former Clear Channel Communications is currently in court with creditors over the $21 billion in debt it has amassed over the years. iHeart beloved the creditors are trying to force the company into bankruptcy, and iHeart – which contains 858 radio stations (including six here in Chicago), radio syndicator Premiere Radio Networks, the iHeart radio app, and an outdoor billboard business, could be sold off and broken up.

Believe it or not, iHeart is in more debt than the City of Chicago. And yet, according to the Media life article, they continue to spend lavishly on events, such as this past Sunday’s iHeartMedia Music Awards, which drew only two million viewers over Turner’s entertainment cable networks. So while iHeart is partying hard with rock stars and pop princesses, the company is on the verge of bankruptcy and layoffs and job cuts are all but certain. Where are they getting all this money to spend on this shit?

Meanwhile, radio is also abuzz regarding another failed conglomerate – Cumulus, who basically screwed up a transition at KGO-AM in San Francisco, leaving the entire newsroom department out of work and importing two hosts (Armstrong & Getty) from Sacramento, which often trades the top spot for “America’s Worst Radio Market” with Chicago, Memphis, St. Louis, and New York City. Of course, this is the same company who staged a phony morning show “contest” at WLUP-FM so Mancow Mueller can win.

The sooner iHeart and Cumulus and their IQ-deficient management team go away, the better it would be for radio.

Welcome back, Fox 32.
Welcome back, Fox 32.

The latest victim – er, I mean hire at Fox-owned WFLD-TV is a person with hometown ties. Meet new news director Matt Piacente, where he was the vice-president of news at NBC-owned WVIT in the Hartford-New Haven market. Piacnete begins on April 18 and is official title is vice-president/newsdirector and will oversee all editorial, business, and administrative functions for WFLD and sister station WPWR.

Piacente worked at several Chicago stations as a producer – notably a gig as executive producer of news at WMAQ before he was promoted to the position in Hartford.

Piacente will have his work cut out for him – WFLD places last in the market in news and is notoriously known for a revolving door of talent – on and off-camera.  If you’ve read this blog for the last ten years, then you know what I’m talking about. For starters, hopefully Piacente dumps Lou Canellis’ inane “Lou’s View” segment in the first few minutes of the weeknight newscast.

DonCornelius2011Viacom-owned BET announced it has acquired all 1100+ episodes of the classic TV series Soul Train. Created by former WVON DJ Don Cornelius, rights to the series now is owned by the InterMedia Partners and The Yucaipa Companies.

No word on how Soul Train would be repurposed; reruns of the series were previously split between Centric (a sister network of BET) and diginet Bounce TV.

Soul Train started locally as an afternoon strip on WCIU in 1970 and ran in weekly syndication from 1971 to 2006. Soul Train is currently tied for the longest-running syndicated show in history, with Entertainment Tonight. Cornelius died in 2012 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

While BET resurrected the Soul Train Music Awards in 2009, there are no plans at this time to revive it as a weekly series.

EMPIRE-titlwDon’t write Empire off just yet – the soapy serial earned a 4.7 rating among adults 18-49 and drew 12.8 million viewers in its return last Wednesday night, up from last December’s finale. The program will add more viewers when DVR numbers are tallied in. This is notable given other dramas who’ve returned from three-month breaks – notably Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder – has fared less well in their return. For one, Murder has registered ratings drops as much as 40 percent from last year.

The news comes as Empire isn’t faring as well in international markets. Rogers’ City TV has yanked the series from the air after a season and a half, drawing only 200,000 viewers last fall, shifting it on an online network. Empire is also struggling in Britain, where the series is drawing less than 600,000 viewers. Many attribute the weak numbers to the increase in diverse casting – which makes it a hard sell overseas, according to an article in this week’s Hollywood Reporter.

As for Empire’s U.S. numbers, the industry will be watching to see if the series can keep up the buzz it generated last season.