T Dog’s Media Notepad: Gannett pulls plug on merger with Tronc


161101103712-gannett-tronc-logo-780x439The proposed merger between Gannett and Tronc is now off the table. Gannett announced Tuesday it would no longer pursue a merger between the two, due to bankers pulling hteir money from the deal. Merger talks between the two was going at a snail’s pace . By comparison, the AT&T-TimeWarner proposed merger took just two days to get together.

The news sent stock prices for Tronc tumbling – however, stock prices for Gannett rose. Tronc chairman Michael Ferro will now face angry shareholders, who feel they were cheated out of a deal with Gannett.

With the proposed merger dead, there is speculation once again on whether Tronc – parent company of the Chicago Tribune, would pursue a merger with Wrapports, the owner of rival Chicago Sun-Times, given Michael Ferro owns shares in both companies. But a merger would face very tough scrutiny from federal regulators and Democratic lawmakers in a deep blue part of Illinois. In other words, a Tribune/Sun-Times merger is even less likely than an AT&T/TimeWarner one.

wshe_logo_chiWSHE-FM announced last week they were going to launch a new morning show in Chicago. Only problem is: the program is based out of Grey’s Anatomy territory.

Beginning November 14, Hubbard’s WSHE-FM will begin airing The Brooke & Jubal Show, a Seattle-based radio show airing on sister station KQMV-FM (Movin’ 92.5 FM) featuring Brooke Fox and Jubal Flagg, who were first paired up at the station in 2011. The show is being syndicated by iHeart Media-owned Premiere Radio Networks, in association with Hubbard. Brooke & Jubal is already airing in several markets.

Out is Brian Peck’s morning show, which is being canceled. Despite being live-and-local, Peck was ranked outside the top 20. Peck’s last day on the air – and at WSHE altogether – is November 11, Veterans’ Day.

The move is not typical of Hubbard – generally, the station doesn’t use out-of-town personalities to fill slot on Chicago stations- having a syndicated show based from Seattle being piped in to Chicago seems a bit oft-putting. On the other hand, airing Brooke & Jubal would be less expensive than a local show. But this is the kind of cheapness that gives radio a bad reputation. So when you tune in one morning and hear endless gushing about Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson or a Grey’s recap on Friday, now you know why.

unnamedAn item I wrote about in 2007 is back in the news: The FCC’s Administrative Law Judge is just now acting on a complaint on a water-drinking contest held by Entercom’s Top 40 radio station KDND-FM in Sacramento, resulting in the death of a young mother, Jennifer Strange.

The case was settled in 2009, with Entercom paying $16.7 million to Ms. Strange’s family in a jury judgement, and the employees involved were all disciplined, moving on to other radio jobs. Now the FCC wants to look into the issue – only problem is, its eight years too late. In fact, the chairmanship of the agency has changed twice since the contest took place – Kevin Martin was head of the agency in 2007.

Holding license revocation hearings now would be a considerable waste of time and taxpayers’ money – the case is closed, and the station’ image has recovered. Revoking the license now would be pointless. It says more about the dysfunctional nature of the FCC – who in its current state is a partisan divided mess along the same lines as Illinois government – than it does about Entercom.

NBCBoston1More information was released about NBC’s new Boston station, set to launch on January 1. For one, the call letters are WBTS-LD (low power), and is being rebranded as NBC Boston. Second, over-the-air channel designation is 46, but PSIP (Program System Information Protocol) will direct viewers to virtual channel 8 or 8.2.

NBC bought WTMU from ZGS Communications for $100,000 to compliment its coverage on Telemundo affiliate WNEU, which will launch on Channel 60.2 on January 1, leaving no doubt NBC will rely on cable and satellite coverage to adequately reach the market.

The station’s weekday lineup will be news-intensive, with eight hours a day. Melody Mendez, who was anchor/reporter at Fox’s WFLD here, is part of the news team, being expanded from NECN, NBC’s regional news channel in New England. Two local programs are in the lineup: entertainment newsmagazine The Hub Today and a Sunday-morning public affairs show.

There’s not much syndicated programming in the lineup. Outside of network and local programming, syndie fare includes Rachael Ray, Harry, and Access Hollywood (and spinoff Access: Hollywood Live.) WBTS plans to launch NBCBoston.com November 10 and will also have a major presence on social media.

This is NBC’s third station in Boston. NBC was affiliated with Group W’s WBZ-TV from 1948 to 1995. When Group W struck a deal to make all of its stations CBS affiliates (including WBZ) in 1994, NBC moved its programming to WHDH, who lost CBS in the Group W deal. Beginning January 1, WHDH joins the growing ranks of independent stations – WGN-TV here in Chicago became an independent on September 1 after ten years with The CW.

page_six_tv_h_2016Remember earlier last summer an article I wrote about syndicated “test” shows? Well, one of them received a passing grade. Page Six, a newsmagazine strip airing on a few Fox-owned stations last July, has now been picked up by the entire Fox group, including Fox’s Chicago duopoly for slotting starting next September. Twentieth Television is handling both station and national advertising sales.

Based on the New York Post’s Page Six column (on page six of the newspaper), the TV version features celebrity news and gossip.

On the Fox-owned stations, Page Six seems to be a perfect fit with similar style programming on the group, including TMZ and Dish Nation. However, Page Six could wind up replacing one of those shows – In its fourth season, Dish has struggled in the ratings, averaging just a 0.7 household rating in the last few weeks. Twentieth, who also syndicates Dish, has not decided if the show would be back for a fifth season.

The New York Post, Twentieth Television, and the Fox Stations Group were all owned at one time by News Corp., but only the Post is currently owned by News Corp. as the latter two are owned by 21st Century Fox, which split from News Corp. three years ago.