What to look for in 2020

What’s on the media agenda in the first year of the new decade

The new decade brings us things to look forward to in the world of media. So here’s are the ten things to keep your eye on in Chicago and in general for 2020. We’ll check back in at the end of the year to see how we did.

1. The battle of the streamers. With NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max joining Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Hulu, Disney, and other smaller outfits, 2020 is going to see how much viewers can put up with in the streaming wars.

2. Linear TV’s struggles to continue. With a huge threat from more streaming services, can linear TV – traditional over-the-air and cable TV – stay relevant – especially among younger viewers?

3. The launch of the Marquee Sports Network. This is going to be the most anticipated launch in Chicago, even more so than the streaming services. But as of this writing, the Cubs’ new network still doesn’t have deals with any providers in the Chicago area (outside of DirecTV) and hasn’t announced any on-air talent.

4. Chicago morning radio smackdown. The new year starts with new (and familiar) faces with Richard Miline taking over from Lin Brehmer at WXRT and Bob Sirott taking over from Steve Cochran at WGN. There are also new syndicated morning shows at Soul 106.3 (Ricky Smiley) and Power 92 (The Morning Hustle.)

5. The presidential race. The Race For The White House will indeed generated tons of revenue for local TV and radio stations (not to mention Google and Facebook) as there has yet to be a Democratic front runner to challenge President Trump.

6. Chicago Tribune and Alden Capital Group. The controversial private-equity firm has already bought into Tribune Publishing (owner of the Chicago Tribune) and two seats on the board. On June 30, they can take control with a 51 percent stake. Will local journalism suffer….even more?

7. Retransmission battles. If last year was any indication, 2020 could be even worse for cable and satellite viewers as media companies and providers continue to battle over how much they could get paid to carry their signal, and if negotiations don’t work out… off the air they go.

8. The XFL Returns. No one is going to care in Chicago since we won’t have a team at start, but it will be interesting to see if Vince McMahon can avoid repeating the same mistakes that doomed the league in the first place.

9. The impact of sports betting. With Illinois and other states expected to roll out sports gambling this year, sports networks and radio stations are more than certain to roll out more programming as guides to win (or lose) more money.

10. Will there be a work stoppage in Hollywood? Taking a page from the Chicago Teacher’s Union – who went on strike last fall for two weeks, the Writer’s Guild of America is expected to use some of those same tactics and apply them to their looming negotiations with the studios. If their ongoing battle with agents are any indication, we could in for a long and painful work stoppage.

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