Cancellations a blow to local TV production
The pandemic has thrown a wrench into local TV revenues and the latest reflection of the tough times came within the last few days as two well-known local TV shows are ceasing production.
ABC-owned WLS-TV/ABC7 announced the end of local talk show Windy City Live as a weekday strip after ten seasons Wednesday, despite continued strong ratings. As first reported by Robert Feder, the move follows the cancellation of another local TV show announced last week, WGN-TV’s Sunday night eatery show Chicago’s Best.
“As we continue to navigate through our industry’s challenging times, we have had to make a tough business decision to sunset the daily airing of ‘Windy City Live”, ABC 7 general manager John Idler said in a staff memo. “I want to thank the outstanding WCL producers and production crew for their tireless commitment to making a decade of great television. WCL’s impactful storytelling and community outreach exceeded all our expectations when we launched the show in 2011.”
Ten full-time jobs and several freelance positions are being eliminated with the move, effective September 3 when the series ends as a weekday strip. Like other shows nationwide (including the since-canceled The Jam), Windy briefly halted production during the onset of the pandemic, but resumed remotely without a studio audience.
Windy is hosted by Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini, who both have hosted the show throughout its entire run. The program premiered on May 26, 2011 at 9 a.m. – one day after Oprah Winfrey concluded her longtime talk show in the time period, held since 1984 when she became host of A.M. Chicago. In 2013, the series shifted to 11 a.m. to make room for Live With Kelly And Michael (now Ryan, as in Ryan Seacrest) and then to 1 p.m. in 2016, where it currently airs. Windy also has a same-day repeat after Nightline.
Windy isn’t entirely going away – Both Warner and Chiaverini are expected to host a Friday morning lifestyle show tentatively titled with the same name at 11:30 a.m. – similar to what WMAQ-TV/NBC 5 does now with Chicago Today and quarterly specials are on tap.
It’s not known what would replace Windy, but one potential candidate could be Tamron Hall’s daytime talk show, originally sold to ABC 7 in an ABC-owned stations deal but was casted off to Weigel Broadcasting due to Windy continuing to air at 1 p.m. Tamron Hall is produced and distributed by Disney Media, who shares the same corporate parent as ABC 7.
Originally airing at 4 p.m., Hall now airs at 10 a.m. on WCIU/CW 26 and 8 p.m. on sister station The U.
Meanwhile, Nexstar’s WGN-TV pulled the plug on Chicago’s Best last week after eleven seasons with the final program airing sometime next month as the station expands weeknight sports wrap-up show GN Sports to weekends. While the show has been successful despite a rotating number of hosts over the years, the pandemic forced the closure of many local restaurants – the main focus of the show.
Other reasons include cost-cutting as WGN-TV canceled other weekend shows such as Man of the People, Weekend Workbench, and SEE Chicago, even before Nexstar took over WGN and other Tribune Media stations in 2019. Another is the tough weekend programming landscape prevalent in the last few years, even before the pandemic hit. One such weekend show (Debmar-Mercury’s syndicated Central Ave.) is not expected back after this current season, although no official announcement has been made.