Here we grow again… Tribune’s WGN-TV announced Thursday they are launching a new prime access news hour, airing from 6 to 7 p.m. local time beginning April 4. As first reported by Robert Feder, the new newscast will be anchored by the current 4 and 5 p.m. anchors of Mark Suppelsa and Micah Materre. Replacing them at 4 are Ben Bradley (who just arrived from WLS-TV) and Lourdes Duarte, who previously was on WGN Morning News. Also being added at 4 are weather person Demetrius Ivory and sports anchor Jared Payton. The latter is the son of Chicago Bears great Walter Payton and hosted CLTV’s Sports Feed.
“Prime Access” is an industry term is the hour before prime-time, as created by the “Prime Time Access Rule” in 1971 when the FCC forced the Big 3 networks to give a half-hour back to stations. The controversial rule, which prohibited Big 3 affiliates in the 50 largest markets from airing network and off-network programming in the hour before prime time, expired in 1996. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, CBS-owned WBBM-TV and ABC-owned WLS-TV aired hour-long evening newscasts leading up to prime-time to fill the void before being cut to add first-run syndicated programming. In recent years however, many network affiliates have expanded their local newscasts into the prime access hour replacing such fare.
The second half of WGN-TV’s 6 p.m. newscast is going up against two shows who benefited greatly from the rule: Entertainment Tonight and Wheel Of Fortune, the latter replaced the second half of WLS-TV’s newscast in January 1984. WGN’s 6:30 p.m. news show would be the only news option in the time period.
WGN will now have 70.5 hours of news in the market a week – more than any other local station in Chicago.
Even though local news viewership is declining overall, advertisers continue to find it valuable – one of the reason why stations continue to expand. Plus, the market for syndicated programming continues to be weak. Recently, WHDH in Boston decided to fill the time slot vacated by NBC programming with local news, though it’s a move yet to pay off in the ratings.
While WGN is adding newscasts, crosstown station WCIU is subtracting a show. As first reported by Robert Feder, the Weigel Broadcasting-owned station canceled You & Me, the female-targeted two-hour show hosted by Melissa Forman and Jeanne Sparrow. Both women were released from the show Thursday, and the program enters lame-duck status now hosted by correspondent John Hansen.
WCIU officials said they are launching a new show to replace You & Me this spring, but did not announce any details.
It’s no secret low ratings were the culprit for the show’s demise as You & Me – despite an aggressive marketing campaign, only made a blip on the Nielsen ratings radar in a very crowded morning show landscape. In 2014, Fox-owned WPWR-TV canceled Mancow Muller’s TV show after two seasons (two seasons way too many in yours truly’s opinion) due to miniscule viewership.
Chicago may be currently the most hated city by conservatives by far, but when it comes to TV drama, we’re on fire and viewers are loving it. Wednesday was Chicago night on NBC as three Dick Wolf shows – Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and the premiere of new drama Chicago Justice participated in an epic three-show crossover event – and the stunt paid off handsomely in the ratings, giving NBC its most-watched Wednesday night lineup in two years. According to Screener, two of the three shows each finished first in the adult 18-49 demo, beating ABC’s When We Rise mini-series and Fox’s Star.
Usually airing on Tuesday night, Chicago Fire led off drew a 1.7, nearly double what regular time slot occupant Blindspot pulls in and tied ABC’s The Goldbergs and Modern Family for the time period lead. Fire was followed by Chicago P.D., which drew a 1.9 rating, and drew a personal high of 9.6 million viewers. Both led into the premiere of Chicago Justice, which premiered with a 1.7 rating, easily winning its time slot.
Thursday night drama Chicago Med was not part of the event, but did feature cast members from the show in the crossover.
Chicago Justice now heads to Sunday nights, where it will have a tough task – facing television’s top-rated series in the 18-49 demo, The Walking Dead.
The latest niche cable channel running into trouble is eleven-year old Chiller, NBC Universal’s horror/sci-fi channel. Spectrum Cable (formerly known as Charter before its merger with Time Warner Cable) announced this week it was dropping the channel next month due to low viewership. This comes as several cable and satellite distributors are cutting little-viewed niche channels with small reach as customers are steering away from big cable packages for smaller bundles.
A few weeks ago, NBC Universal shuttered Cloo after losing several distribution pacts. Cloo was a mystery/suspense-themed channel airing many programs from the NBC Universal library. NBC Universal also pulled the plug on the Esquire Channel, a little-watched channel targeted to men.
And more weed whacking is yet to come. New Viacom boss Bob Bakish is shifting resources to six channels and/or brands: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Spike (soon to be renamed the Paramount Network.) That’s bad news for channels such as TV Land, a classic TV channel forced to shift its properties to fresher fare due to competition from diginet channels MeTV, Cozi, Antenna TV, Decades, and GetTV (all available for free if you have an over-the-air antenna.)
And you don’t have to look far to see the effects: RuPaul’s Drag Race recently announced a move to VH1 from sister Viacom network Logo, which will only air encore presentations. Originally featuring programming to the LGBT community, Logo now airs primarily off-network reruns such as Married…With Children, Roseanne, and The Golden Girls (in other words, reruns that aired on other Viacom networks.)
Recently, Chiller averaged 64,000 viewers reaching just 31 percent of cable homes, according to Ad Age.