Media Notepad: Chances for writer’s strike increase

Also: ‘Showtime At The Apollo’ returns; The end of the road for “MyTV” branding? Blackhawks’ ratings for 2016-17 drop

An update on the WGA labor situation: With the May 1 deadline approaching, the chances of a walkout by the Writer’s Guild seems to be increasing. According to the New York Times, progress has been made on issues such as pay increases, but health care remains a huge sticking point.

Another issue the “exclusivity” clause, which means writers were prohibited from looking for work in a certain time frame even if their show ended.

As pointed out here a month ago, market changes are driving a wedge between producers and writers – the rise in scripted series (“Peak TV”), the decline in films being released; the decimation of the off-network syndication business, the drop in the number of episodes in a given season, and so on.

The WGA and AMPTP have broken off talks until next week as the union takes a strike vote – which gives them only a few days to come to a settlement. Should a deal not be reached in two weeks, it would be the first work stoppage in a decade. For the latest information on negotiations, follow T Dog Media on Twitter @tdogmedia.

(Western International Syndication)

After two successful prime-time specials, Fox announced Monday the return of It’s Showtime At the Apollo as a weekly series beginning sometimes next year. Returning as host is Steve Harvey, who hosted the series during much of its run.

Taped at the world famous Apollo Theater in Harlem area of New York City, the program presented R&B acts at a time many of them weren’t seen on television (aside from Soul Train.) The show was best known for Amateur Night, where the crowd determined whether if you were good – or would be pushed off the stage by a clown (no, not Donald Trump.)

Apollo premiered in syndication in 1987 and generally ran on late Saturday nights – in many cases, after Saturday Night Live (as was the case in Chicago, where WMAQ-TV carried the show for its entire run.) As more and more stations started pushing out weekend first-run programming for off-net dramas and infomercials, Apollo left the air in 2008 after a 21-season run and 1,093 episodes.

There is no word on where Fox would schedule Apollo; while a weekly late-night Saturday night slot in late night would be ideal, it would be prone to sports overruns and was partly the cause of Fox’s last late-night failure, Animation Domination Hi-Def.

The Devil Made Me Do It: Flip Forsberg scores first Nashville goal Monday night as a Blackhawks player protest. (Getty Images)

As I write this, the Chicago Blackhawks season is on the brink of ending: the team lost to the Nashville Predators Monday night, falling to a 3-0 series hole in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This comes as the Blackhawks are coming off one of their worst-rated seasons since 2011. According to Crain’s, the 2016-17 season averaged a 3.3 Nielsen household live-plus same day rating, down 15 percent from last year.

The article pointed out numerous reasons for the ratings declines, such as competing against the Cubs’ historic World Series run a month into the regular season. But keep in mind ratings have fallen in almost every sector of TV – including sports (notably the NFL.)

Like the Blackhawks, ratings for Game 2 Saturday night were a disaster. The 5-0 shootout by the Predators drew a 0.9 household rating, and around a 0.5 rating in the 18-49 demo, making the lowest-rated prime-time telecast ever for an NHL game. Earlier this TV season, the Bulls and the Bears also scored either record-low (or close to record-low) national ratings for their primetime games. Excluding the Cubs, it is clear Chicago teams are not the national draw they used to be, despite being the third-largest media market in the country.

Still, an early exit for the Blackhawks would be indeed bad news for the NHL’s American television partner Comcast, owners of NBC and NBCSN and the regional sports network it operates, CSN Chicago.

Washington D.C.’s WDCA-TV is undergoing a major branding change beginning July 17 – transforming to “Fox 5 Plus”. In addition, the station is launching a new prime-time newscast on the station from 8 to 9 p.m.

WDCA is a sister station of WTTG (known as Fox 5) and both are owned by 21st Century Fox. A former UPN affiliate, WDCA airs My Network TV programming and was branded as My 20. Washington is one of nine duopolies Fox has including Chicago, home of co-owned WFLD and WPWR.

Earlier, WPWR dropped its “My 50” branding when the station joined The CW network last September. Fox’s KICU in San Francisco was recently rebranded as “KTVU Plus”, referencing its sister station in the Bay Area. KICU, which never was a My Network TV affiliate, was purchased along with KTVU by Fox in 2014. If the WDCA rebranding is successful, other Fox-owned My Network TV stations in duopoly markets could follow suit.

Both WDCA and WPWR plans to relocate to their partner station’s spectrum within the next 39 months during the FCC repacking process. Both stations’ spectrum were sold by Fox.

WDCA was a strong independent station throughout its history, airing a mix of off-network and first-run syndicated programming. The station was also once home to the Washington Capitals and Baltimore Orioles. WDCA was also cited for airing a lot of violent material in studies conducted by TV anti-violence organizations – notably Capitals games, movies, and Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Remember in this space yours truly talked about a new show being pitched for fall called BOLD? Well, don’t look for it on Chicago TV anytime soon. Tegna announced Tuesday it was scaling back the project and would debut this fall only on its 36-station group. The program is also being renamed Daily Blast Live as the program could debut in syndication at a later date.

Tegna does not own any stations in Chicago, but does own stations in nearby Grand Rapids (WZZM) and St. Louis (KSDK).