Media Notepad : Cumulus to acquire WKQX after all

Also: CBS 2 names a new GM; Vivica A. Fox gets new daytime show; WGN celebrates 70th

After all of the hubbub about Cumulus and Merlin Media amid the former’s bankruptcy, the Atlanta-based company announced Tuesday night it has decided to purchase alternative rock WKQX-FM after all – but at a much lower price than agreed upon.

Cumulus agreed to buy the station for $18 million, far below the price of the original deal Cumulus had with Merlin in an option they had in a local marketing with Merlin, also including former classic rock outlet WLUP-FM. The deal was scuttled after Cumulus filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and WLUP was sold instead to Educational Media for just $21.5 million and flipped to a Christian music format.

Since Cumulus is in bankruptcy, the deal must be approved by a judge.

In addition to WKQX, Cumulus picks up all intellectual property related to WLUP, including the slogan “The Loop”, but don’t look for the classic rock station to resurface on Chicago radio anytime soon as WKQX is maintaining its alternative format and WLS-FM remains a classic hits outlet.

The deal closes the book on Merlin Media after just six years as with this sale, they have no properties left.

CBS-owned WBBM-TV announced Tuesday it has hired Derek Dalton as its new general manager.

Dalton replaces Marty Wilke, who stepped down on March 23.

The new hire comes from NBC affiliate WHEC-TV in Rochester, N.Y., an NBC affiliate owned by Minneapolis-based Hubbard Broadcasting, owners of local radio stations WDRV-FM, WSHE-FM, and WTMX-FM.

One of the first tasks Dalton faces is to hire a new news director as Jeff Kiernan is exiting as of Friday. In the meantime, assistant news director Karen Rariden will take the reins.

As noted by Robert Feder, WBBM ranks fifth in the market in both ratings and revenue, despite CBS being overall the most-watched network in primetime and has the most-watched daytime talk show (Dr. Phil) and overall top-rated show in syndication (Judge Judy).

CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn said of Dalton: “Derek comes to us with a great reputation and track record of success everywhere he has worked. We look forward to having him lead the evolution of WBBM as it continues to deliver premium content via all of our broadcast and digital platforms.”

The move comes as CBS and Viacom are once again talking about recombining as the two companies split from each other in 2005. Viacom was originally spun off from CBS in 1971 before merging with each other in 1999.

In this very slow syndication selling season, there’s actually some news to announce: Vivica A. Fox signed a deal to co-host a new first-run daytime strip called Face The Truth from CBS Television Distribution this fall.

In this program, Fox, co-host Jon Tapper (Bar Rescue), and a panel of experts talk to people who have various challenges in their lives in order to overcome them.

The series has been sold to Weigel’s WCIU in Chicago, and could be a potential replacement for either Jerry Springer or Steve Wilkos should those two shows not return to syndication this fall. The renewals of the NBC Universal conflict talkers (including Maury) are being held up due to Sinclair’s pending deal to buy Tribune Media, who holds the rights to those shows in several markets, including New York and Los Angeles. In Chicago, only WGN holds the rights to Maury. The dilemma is unusual since the fates of syndicated shows are usually decided by January or February, and all three contracts are up.

Notably, Face The Truth was launched by getting around Tribune and Sinclair and selling to sister CBS Television Stations group. CBS holds duopolies in key large markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Dallas, but not Chicago.

Truth is produced by Jay and Dr. Phil McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions, who produces Dr. Phil, Bull, Daily Mail TV, and The Doctors, the latter renewed for next season. Truth is only the second show to go forward nationally this fall, only behind new courtroom show Caught In Providence. A proposed show featuring Jane Lynch from Warner Bros. has been officially scrapped.

While we await the boys from Chesapeake Bay for their opportunity to destroy the station, WGN-TV is celebrating its 70th anniversary Thursday night as “Chicago’s Very Own”. Signing on April 5, 1948, the one-hour retrospective looks back at the local programming WGN aired over the years, including Bozo, Ray Rayner, Garfield Goose, Cubs baseball, and more. The station was based at the Tribune Tower until 1961, when it moves to a new color studio on Bradley place where the station remains today.

WGN returned to independent status in 2016 after being affiliated with The CW and earlier, The WB. Early in its life, WGN was also affiliated with CBS part-time and DuMont.

Tom Skilling hosts the retrospective; ten years ago when it celebrated its 60th. it was hosted by Jim Belushi. The special airs Thursday at 8 p.m.


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