Media Notepad: NewsNation makes schedule changes – again

Also: A Shark becomes a judge; Pictionary returns; MyNetworkTV adds Chicago Fire and a new Detroit affiliate

Once again, Chicago-based NewsNation is making changes to its lineup.

Announced last week, the network formerly known as WGN America is adding another personality show in primetime, featuring a show hosted by former Fox News personality Leland Vittert, who’ll helm On Balance. Beginning July 19, the show will air at 7 p.m. local time, meaning the original three-hour straight news wheel NewsNation had last fall when it launched has been reduced to one hour. Vittert joined NewsNation from Fox News two months ago as anchor and fill-in host. One of his last duties at Fox was covering the insurrection January 6.

“On Balance will ask ‘why?’ on the most pressing matters of the day without fear or favor,” said Vittert in NewsNation’s official press release. “We also believe, sometimes, two opposing views can both be true at once. We will always respect the intelligence of our viewers and promise them an intellectual, sometimes fun and appropriately irreverent program with a balanced a point of view.”

Also, NewsNation is retitling its 5 p.m. news block to Rush Hour, with Nicole Berlie maintaining the anchor role.

The moves continue the endless evolution NewsNation is going through as the channel continues to draw low viewership. But this isn’t stopping Nexstar execs, who plan to launch a new morning newscast next year.

On the surface, when you come across a new show called Money Court, you probably figure it’s another syndicated daytime courtroom show given there are gazillions of them, led by Judge Judy and her contemporaries.

But believe it or not, it’s a new six episode CNBC prime-time series premiering on August 11 featuring one of the stars of Shark Tank who is known as “Mr. Wonderful”. 

Kevin O’Leary, who appears on this show and similar series Dragon’s Den on Canada’s CBC, presides over real cases featuring people involved in financial disputes. Appearing alongside O’Leary is trial attorney Katie Phang and former judge Ada Pozo. Off-network episodes of Shark Tank run multiple times a week on CNBC in primetime on most nights and weekends while new episodes continue Fridays on ABC.

The three-judge setup is similar to Hot Bench, a syndicated courtroom show from CBS Media Ventures and created by Judy Sheindlin, who of course is the star of the now-concluded Judge Judy (Sheindlin has jumped ship to Amazon’s IMDB to star in a similar series.)

“The pandemic created a massive backlog of unresolved financial disputes in the court system. It is going to take years to clear this log jam. In the meantime, nothing destroys intrinsic value and growth in a business more than a money dispute. It tears families apart, disrupts lifelong relationships and destroys shareholder value,” said O’Leary in a press release. “Money Court resolves these cases in a fair and objective manner and sets the litigants free to get back to work. However, getting to resolution can be gut wrenching and emotional but absolutely necessary. It makes for incredible television and the outcomes are most often a complete surprise. I think America is going to be very engaged!”

O’Leary is chairman of a San Francisco-based investment firm and an investment advisory company.

Unlike other courtroom shows, Money Court is not set in a courtroom – or at least a TV studio that looks like one. And unlike his contemporaries, O’Leary doesn’t don a judge’s robe. Due to the aforementioned pandemic, litigants appear remotely and not in the studio/courtroom – a setup used by a few shows over the last year – notably The People’s Court and Judge Jerry, whose syndicator and CNBC are sister companies of NBCUniversal. 

It’s been a rough year for court as several syndicators have bailed on the genre. Whether “Mr. Wonderful” can rekindle it – and outside of its traditional daytime environment – remains to be seen. 

Maybe the third time’s the charm? Pictionary returned to television Monday in a four-week test on several Fox-owned stations, including My Network TV’s My50 (WPWR), who’ll run the show weekdays at 5:30 p.m., sandwiched in-between several episodes of Family Feud. Hosted by Jerry O’Connell and distributed by CBS Media Ventures, the show could be picked up for full syndication if the test is successful. 

“We’re sure a lot of families got much better at Pictionary over the last 15 months [thanks to the pandemic], so we think the timing is perfect for a fun, innovative TV version, and to have Jerry O’Connell as host is a real bonus,” said Frank Cicha, EVP Programming at Fox Television Stations, who owns WFLD-TV and My50 in Chicago. “We’ve loved working with him in the past, and are fortunate he chose to do this with us.”

The Stand By Me and Sliders star is familiar with daytime TV viewers as in the past he served as a fill-in host for Wendy Willams and CBS’ The Talk, as he was hired Wednesday to take the spot vacated by Sharon Osbourne, who departed in March after comments she made on the show about Megan Markle.

There were two other syndicated versions of Pictionary – one from MCA TV (now NBCUniversal Syndication Studios) hosted by Head Of The Class star Brian Robbins targeted for kids that ran during the summer of 1989; the other airing as a general market first-run strip during the 1997-98 season from Worldvision Enterprises (whose parent Spelling was swallowed up by Viacom in 1999) with Alan Thicke as host. Ironically, both also aired on WPWR.

A similar syndicated game show (Win, Lose or Draw) ran from 1987 to 1990, with a concurrent NBC daytime version running from 1987-89.

The second version is notable for a notorious game show blooper when Erik Estrada accidentally knocked Bill Maher with the back of his hand and broke his nose. 

It’s far from the same level of the Fox-New World switch of 27 years ago with longtime Detroit CBS affiliate WJBK defecting to Fox, but My Network TV is moving their affiliation from Scripps-owned WMYD-TV to independent WADL-TV starting on September 20. WADL is one of the few stations in the country still owned by an independent entity – businessman Kevin Adell, who also runs the Gospel-oriented The Word cable network. WADL airs general-market syndicated programming.

There was no clear reason given why Fox-owned My Network TV and WMYD parted ways. My Network TV programming ran in pattern from 8-10 p.m. ET, though it varies market-by-market. It’s likely WMYD will change their call letters – the station was once known as WXON-TV and later WDWB when it became a WB affiliate upon launch.

My Network TV was formed as a replacement for those who lost an affiliation when The WB and UPN merged in 2006, led by Fox-owned UPN affiliates (including WPWR.) WDWB was one of the few who lost an WB affiliation as The CW was part-owned by CBS and owned the UPN station in town, rival WKBD-TV. Scripps acquired WMYD in 2014 to form a duopoly with ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV.

After a fruitless attempt at programming, the “network” converted into a programming service in 2009, airing only 10 hours a week Monday-Friday. In the last decade or so, My Network TV has aired off-network procedurals on a checkerboarded basis, similar to what Ion does all day. For the last two years, NBCUniversal Syndication Studios has programmed the block as starting in September, off-network episodes of the company’s Chicago Fire joins fellow NBCUniversal product Law & Order: SVU, Dateline, and Chicago P.D


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