The Media Notepad: Party’s over for Chi-Town Rising

Also: Dennis Welsh wades into soda tax controversy while his station profits off pro-soda tax ads; Tom Joyner returns to Dallas as Classic Hip-Hop format’s future is questionable; Fox’s late night plans may not include off-network sitcoms

The star has fallen: organizers of New Year’s Eve celebration Chi-Town Rising threw in the towel Thursday and announced they would not bring back the party for a third season. As first reported by DNA Info Chicago, the organizers lost money for the first edition two years ago and even though they didn’t disclosure numbers from last year’s event, it’s safe to assume the most recent edition didn’t turn a profit, either.

After pulling an upset in year one beating ABC 7’s Countdown Chicago, ratings plunged for the second edition on NBC 5 – even though this year’s decline had a lot to do with New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday night as television HUT levels are traditionally lower (Countdown Chicago also experienced a similar ratings decline.) Despite this, numbers for both shows still did far better than most prime-time shows do in Chicago during the holiday week.

There were notable problems for Chi-Town rising from the start: after announcing the festival would be free for all, organizers decided to charge patrons for coming in (likely a ploy at the time to keep protesters upset over the police killing of LaQuan McDonald out of the festivities); there were numerous technical glitches two years straight, including the star reaching the top of the building nearly a minute late after the New Year’s began; and the failure to attract A-list talent as last year’s celebration featured acts you couldn’t identify in police lineup.

The special was broadcast over diginet Cozi TV and 40 NBC affiliates nationwide; it’s hard to imagine anyone watched outside of Chicago for this unorganized mess, which was just as bad as those New Year’s Celebrations held at State and Randolph in the late 1970’s, broadcast over CBS 2.

Despite the cancellation of the event, NBC 5 still plans to produce a local New Year’s Eve special, but details on the telecast have yet to be announced.

Once again, the controversy over television editorials took center stage – not from Sinclair Broadcasting, but a Fox-owned station here in Chicago.

WFLD/WPWR general manger Dennis Welsh last week did an editorial about the recent number of taxes the Chicago area and Illinois in general have been hit with – notably the Cook County soda tax, which sent shoppers across county lines or to Indiana to buy groceries. Soda taxes have been quite the controversy recently, as three of the top six markets – Chicago, Philadelphia, and three municipalities in the Bay Area have some kind of tax on soda and other sugary (and non-sugary) drinks.

The editorial has struck a nerve, with the Welsh piece receiving over one million views on Facebook.

While yours truly agrees with Welsh in the issue, there was one problem – as Robert Feder noted, the editorial featured employees from the Fox duopoly, appearing in the piece. Some unions claimed Fox 32 paid for those ads to appear on Facebook.

You wonder if the guy holding the two-liter of Diet Dr. Pepper in the piece bought it at the CVS next door to Fox 32’s headquarters.

This lies the problem with such pieces – you wonder what really happens behind the scenes and raises a lot of questions – did Fox 32 employees volunteer to appear in the piece – or were they forced by station management? Yours truly made his feelings known about station editorials in 2013 when Welsh starting doing them and last year when WNYW GM Lew Leone criticized New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio for arriving late to work.

Also, the editorial by Welsh seems a bit hypocritical. As he rails against the tax, his station – and others in the Chicago market are happily profiting from Michael Bloomberg, who is funding these annoying pro-soda tax ads, making viewers like yours truly frustrated and sacrificing live viewership for a quick buck from these PAC morons. It’s interesting how local stations and the broadcast networks continue to drive viewers away from television and yet blame someone else when ratings are down.

It also helps to note Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group are among television’s biggest advertisers, with Pepsi as a major NFL sponsor and Dr. Pepper as a major college football advertiser. Should be interesting if the anti-soda lobby would buy local time during football games (so far, yours truly has seen them only during White Sox games.)

As for these “editorials”, it’s going to get worse if Sinclair’s Bottom Line With Boris is any indication -which means we’ll likely see more Bottom Line With Dennis. Welsh might as well hire Larry the vendor from the Dr. Pepper ad to appear in his next editorial. Ice cold Dr. Pepper here!

Boom has gone bust in Big D: Urban One’s KSOC-FM (Boom 94.5) in Dallas announced Monday it was returning to the Urban AC format they abandoned in 2014 and rebranded themselves as “Majic 94.5” (“Majic” is typically used as branding for Urban AC stations.) Also returning to the station is Tom Joyner’s Dallas-based syndicated morning program, airing live from 5-9 a.m.

The news of Joyner’s return to the Metroplex is good news after losing clearances in key markets including Chicago earlier this year when Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM) dropped his show for a local host, former WGCI-FM evening jock Mike Love. So far, the move hasn’t paid off as Love as his new morning show tied for 30th place in a recent ratings report. Joyner’s program has drawn dismal ratings in Chicago since moving to WSRB after he was bumped off his longtime home of WVAZ-FM for Steve Harvey.

It also signals Tom Joyner’s morning show is here to stay, despite a lack of clearances in top African-American markets and defections of talent over the years, including J. Anthony Brown and Sheryl Underwood. Reach Media produces the TJMS and is owned by Urban One, formerly known as Radio One.

Also on tap is D.L. Hughley’s syndicated show in the afternoons and former Chicago radio personality John Monds holds down the evening shift.

The change in the Metroplex is being made as KSOC’s ratings as a Classic Hip-Hop outlet has not been impressive as the station finished 23rd in a recent PPM report. In January, Houston’s Boom 92 went bust after a little over two years and flipped to Top 40. The format however, is still prominent in a few markets, such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia, where they have TWO classic hip-hop stations. But my guessing is this won’t be for long as a major problem with this format is the limited playlists and novelty formats like these are best left to satellite radio (Sirius/XM has two such “throwback” channels) and Internet stations where unlike terrestrial, songs are not bound by censorship.

Thanks for catching up, Variety: The Hollywood trade came out with an “exclusive” story Tuesday regarding Fox’s decision to steer away from off-network sitcoms in late-night as fewer and fewer comedies in the multi-cam format are being produced and the wide availability of such fare on other platforms.

But if you have read T Dog Media for years, then you already knew that. Yours truly has written several articles on the subject, and you can read them herehere and here – even before streaming became the big hot thing. And it’s not just late-night, either: stations – from ALL groups are either reducing or eliminating off-network sitcoms from their schedules. Example: WGN’s decision earlier this year to replace Two And A Half Men reruns with local news in prime access (6 p.m.) – a similar task Fox is doing in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. at 11 p.m., going up against the established local news shows on other channels.

Recently, Fox-owned stations have tested several first-run concepts this summer, including iWitness and comedy game show Punchline, which aired at 11 p.m. on WPWR for four weeks. Fox does have hefty contracts for The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family in most of its duopoly markets, including Chicago.

Fox has been out of the late-night business since The Chevy Chase Show flamed out after five weeks in October 1993, though Fox-owned stations did try their hand airing late-night syndicated talkers from Keenan Ivory Wayans and Magic Johnson during the 1997-98 season. With the failure of those shows (and Arsenio Hall’s 2013 comeback attempt), don’t look for a new talk show as one of the “more of the moment” programming Fox TV stations programming chief Frank Cicha alluded to in the article.