Update: The tough marketplace for weekend programming continues

“Central Ave.” is a new weekly syndicated show being offered this fall in order to make stations’ lineups less boring.

But one syndicator is making an actual investment

Back last July, this blog detailed how tough it is to launch a weekly show as the weekend landscape outside of sports programming has become dominated by reruns, paid religion, infomercials, and fourth-rate programming. The tough marketplace led to the demise of WGN’s Man Of The People with WGN morning sports anchor Pat Tomasulo, lasted a little over a year in weekend late-night.

A week ago, TVNewscheck weighed in on the situation, and painted an even more dire situation than this blog did.

The article provided an insight on how the weekend programming business has been zapped over the years, hitting on the same points this blog did: lack of available time periods, sports pre-emptions, viewers flocking to streaming services, and a lack of will on syndicators’ part to produce anything worth watching. But it hit on some new points,too: continued expansion of news and sports programming (notably the XFL and UEFA soccer) and syndicators forcing station groups to take weekend runs of first-run and off-network programming airing on weekdays, taking away even more time periods.

Since the T Dog Media article was written, there has been more developments on the weekend programming front: WGN has made a major news expansion push, adding newscasts at 10 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday plus a Sunday morning political show; ABC adding another hour of GMA Saturday; and a reduction of E/I fare by an hour by a few local stations.

WGN’s “Man Of The People” debuted as a weekly offering in 2018 but was canceled after 17 months, a victim of a tough weekend marketplace.

Plus, more programs have fallen by the wayside. In addition to WGN cancelling People, the station also axed S.E.E Chicago and Weekend Workbench; NBCUniversal dropped Sunday morning finance show On The Money at the end of last year; and long-running syndicated series LatinNation and American Latino were both canceled last August.

And there’s more sports coming into the marketplace: Last fall, ABC moved the start times of its prime-time football games to a little after 6:30 p.m. Chicago time, removing an hour of local programming for affiliates. And there’s the return of the XFL, who’ll gobble up even more time periods and without a Chicago franchise to boot. The second coming of Vince McMahon’s football league is airing both ABC and Fox, mainly on weekend afternoons.

And now we have four local stations running Joel Osteen every Sunday.

Some syndicators are actually making some investments in weekend programming: Debamr-Mercury announced Monday it is launching Central Ave. as two weekly half-hours for weekend play starting this fall with the Fox O&Os on board, including Fox 32 and My50 locally. Tested in November as a strip at 7:30 p.m. on WNYW New York, the multicultural magazine focuses on urban entertainment news. The hope is with the weekend runs, Central Ave. expands to a first-run daily strip in the future.

Entertainment Studios is offering two off-Weather Channel hour-long series: Storm of Suspicion and Weather Gone Viral. Last fall, ES launched The World’s Funniest Weather to market.

And there are still some vital shows in the weekend marketplace though from smaller syndicators: Matter Of Fact; Raw Travel; Small Town, Big Deal; and Full Court Press With Greta Van Susuren among others.

And locally, WGN still has Chicago’s Best and Backstory With Larry Potash.

But the bottom line is, there is very little being offered this fall in syndication – even when it comes to off-network dramas of which there are none.

If what I mentioned above doesn’t interest you – or if you don’t care for news/political talk, sports, reruns of Friends and Law & Order: SVU ad nauseam, or TV preachers yelling from the pulpit, you’re better off with streaming services where original programming is always available. And it’s going to be like this for the foreseeable future.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *