CLTV to close up shop

CLTV’s panel discussing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s State Of The City address.  (CLTV)

Nexstar pulls plug on local cable news channel after a little over 25 years

In a move you can blame on cord-cutting and general cost-cutting, Nexstar announced Monday the closure of local news channel Chicagoland Television, or CLTV after nearly 27 years of operation.

The channel goes dark at the end of this month.

In a memo from WGN-TV and CLTV vice president and general manger Paul Rennie, he cited the proliferation of 24-hour cable news channels and digital streaming services as the reason Nexstar is pulling the plug.

CLTV launched on January 1, 1993 on area cable systems such as the former TCI and Cablevision (now owned by Comcast) at a time other cities were launching local all-news channels such as New York (NY1 and Long Island News 12) and Washington D.C.’s WJLA 24/7.

Even though CLTV was marginally profitable, the channel had issues trying to get carriage on non-Comcast systems. For example, Dish, WOW, AT&T U-Verse, and DirecTV never carried CLTV, and RCN only began carrying CLTV a few years ago. CLTV was never available for streaming.

The memo also stated WGN plans to expand news on weekends and add more local programming on sports and politics but didn’t offer details, saying they would be unveiled early next year. Currently, CLTV airs nightly programs SportsFeed and Politics Tonight.

A CLTV screenshot from 2015.

In recent years, CLTV has relied less on live news and more on other types of programming, such as airing infomercials overnight and simulcasting the first hour of John Williams’ and Roe Conn’s WGN-AM radio shows, not to mention repeats of WGN’s newscasts and local programming such as Chicago’s Best and S.E.E. Chicago. At one time, CLTV also carried Cubs baseball and was a “plus” channel for Comcast SportsNet’s (now NBC Sports Chicago) programming. Originally based in west suburban Oak Brook and separate from WGN-TV’s news operations, CLTV moved to WGN’s Bradley Street headquarters in 2009.

You can also chalk up CLTV’s demise to accelerating cord-cutting among cable subscribers, as customers’ bills continue to rise. Although CLTV wasn’t listed, in 2017 this blog named 12 cable networks in danger of shutting down due to low ratings and cord-cutting. Ironically, only Chiller closed its doors with Esquire and Cloo following suit.

There is no word on what would take the place of CLTV once it goes dark on Comcast and RCN, but there is a likelihood Nexstar would surrender the cable space.

Nexstar purchased former WGN and CLTV owner Tribune Media earlier this year for $4.2 billion, putting CLTV’s future immediately in question. Since WGN and CLTV merged their respective news operation under Tribune, only a handful of layoffs are expected. Even though CLTV is closing, Chicago won’t be without an local all-news channel for long: CBS is expected to launch CBSN Chicago early next year, an ad-supported streaming service free and available to all.

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