The Media Notepad: Michelle Beadle becomes full-time host of NBA Countdown

Also: Page Six clears 90 percent  of country First look at new Defenders; ABC 7 drops “First Alert” branding; Frank Mathie retires.

In an unusual move late in the regular season, ESPN announced earlier this week the promotion of Michelle Beadle as NBA Countdown host, ESPN/ABC’s pre-game show. She’ll also host halftime segments in-between games. Beadle returned to ESPN a few years ago after a short-lived stint at NBCSN, where she hosted a daily strip, The Crossover with Michelle Beadle.

The move comes as ratings for its pre-game show – and NBA games on the network have sagged in the ratings, though lousy matchups featuring bad teams (such as major-market teams like the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls) are mostly to blame.

Beadle replaces Sage Steele, whose on-air presence has been reduced to a road-show host for SportsCenter as ESPN is looking to release some on-air personalities in a cost-cutting move. In the last few months, Steele – who is of mixed-race descent – has been embroiled in controversy, angrily tweeting at a NFL player for kneeling during the national anthem and criticizing the African-American community in a Facebook post.

I guess one diva is more than enough – we already have Kenya Moore, Wil Wheaton, and Mancow to suffer through.

With weather becoming increasingly important to achieving ratings goals for local stations, ABC-owned WLS-TV this week has quietly replaced its branding on its weather forecasts, from “First Alert” to Accuweather this week, as first reported by Newscast Studio.  The station is also discontinuing its weather app in favor of one co-branded with Accuweather, available April 15 from the Apple Store and Google Play.

Even though the station has used “First Alert” branding for its weather forecasts, ABC 7 has always been an Accuweather client – though it’s puzzling why they used it in the first place – many viewers thought the weather forecast was sponsored by a smoke alarm company.

Accuweather is used as the main weather provider for all the ABC-owned stations.

In more ABC 7 news, the station saluted human interest reporter Frank Mathie as he announced his retirement after 50 years on the air. Mathie started at the station on April 3, 1967 when the station was still known as WBKB-TV (it changed to its current WLS-TV calls in October 1968.) Mathie’s reports have spanned the gamut from reporting on the tornado that ripped through the southwest suburbs in 1967 (one of his first assignments) to fuzzy animal stories.

ABC 7 celebrated his work with 50 Years Of Frank, airing his best (and sometimes not-so-best) moments. Even though the Milwaukee native has done political and sports reporting for the station, his human-interest stories stand out. Mathie cut back his work schedule in 2006 to part-time status. Now at 75, Mathie is ready to spend more time with his family.

The upcoming syndicated strip Page Six TV has been declared a “firm go” for this fall, which clearances covering 90 percent of the country, including sixteen Fox-owned stations with the series airing over WFLD and WPWR. Other groups taking the show include CBS, Tribune, Sinclair, and Gray, among others. The series features John Fugelsang (a former host of America’s Funniest Home Videos), Bevy Smith, Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeiser and Carlos Greer, who reports for Page Six in the New York Post.

The series was unveiled Tuesday night at a upfront gathering in New York City.

Based on the Post column, Page Six features gossip and entertainment stories, in addition to news of the day. The series was tested on a few Fox O&Os last summer (Chicago was not one of the test markets) and performed strongly on some stations. The series is being distributed by Twentieth Television and produced by Endemol Shine North America.

On WFLD and WPWR, the series is expected to be paired with another new show Top 30 and existing gossip magazine shows TMZ, Dish Nation, TMZ Live, and Extra. Last week, CBS Television Distribution unveiled gossip/talk show Daily Mail TV, which is airing over WGN-TV this fall and other Tribune stations.

More information is being released on Marvel’s new Defenders series on Netflix, which now has a start date: August 18, according to a released trailer. The series pairs together the leads of Netflix’s Marvel series – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and recently-released Iron Fist in an eight-episode mini-series.

Defenders becomes the first series to be streamed in Ultra HD 4k and in High Dynamic Range (HDR). 4K has more picture resolution than Full HD (1080i).

Defenders has the potential of becoming another Avengers, the successful superhero movie franchise, also from Marvel. On the other hand, this could be the next Heroes if the personalities don’t mesh together (and you know the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 is looking for material.)

This version of Defenders isn’t related to the 1961-65 legal drama or the short-lived 2010 Jim Belushi-Jerry O’Connell legal dramedy of the same name (both aired on CBS), but Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) does play an attorney (and superhero) on Daredevil. The 1960’s version of Defenders, like all the Marvel Netflix series, was set – and filmed – in New York City.


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