Jennifer Lyons named president and GM of CBS 2 and CBSN Chicago

Former WGN News and NewsNation exec succeeds Derek Dalton

Also at CBS 2: Drew Barrymore, Let’s Make A Deal swap time slots

In hopes to turn around its moribund ratings, CBS-owned WBBM-TV hired WGN-TV and NewsNation veteran Jennifer Lyons as president and general manager, effective Monday. She will also oversee local news streaming channel CBSN Chicago.

“We feel extremely fortunate to have someone like Jennifer, who has a proven track record of success in Chicago, joining as the leader of our team, products and platforms at CBS 2,” said Wendy McMahon, who was appointed president and co-head of CBS News and Stations earlier this year. “Jennifer knows this market like few others, understands what it takes to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with the diverse communities that make up this city and is deeply committed to growing our brands and business for the future.”

Resigning from NewsNation earlier this year after the Nexstar-owned cable network, she replaces Derek Dalton, who was swept out in an investigation into a racist and sexist atmosphere at the CBS-owned stations division. This is the second WGN-TV exec poached from WGN-TV; in 2012, CBS hired Marty Wilke away from the station. She resigned from CBS 2 in 2018 as it turned out her departure was due to the not-so-great work conditions.

A Chicago news veteran, Lyons began her Chicago television career at WGN in 1993 and in her roles as assistant news director and news director, oversaw the station’s news expansion to twelve-and-a-half hours every weekday – roughly half of WGN’s entire schedule. She was credited for helping put together NewsNation when it launched a year ago, an impressive feat during a pandemic. 

Currently, CBS 2 sits at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings among major network-owned stations. However, CBS 2 has won accolades for its investigations into botched police raids and just this week, won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence award.  The challenge for Lyons and news director Jeff Harris now is to convert the critical acclaim to viewership – something not easy to do in television news. 

Lyons was one of four GM hires in the industry on Thursday alone. The others were: Bob Ellis being named GM of NBC affiliate WDIV Detroit; and Gray Television naming Ronna Corrente GM the company’s NBC affiliate WAVE Louisville and Mikel Schaefer GM of Fox affiliate WVUE in New Orleans. 


In unrelated news, CBS 2 announced a swap of two shows with the syndicated Drew Barrymore Show shifting to 9 a.m. and CBS’ Let’s Make A Deal moving to 2 p.m., starting August 30. Launched last September, the CBS Media Ventures talker hasn’t had much luck in the ratings opposite General Hospital on WLS-TV and The Kelly Clarkson Show on WMAQ-TV. The move to mornings is meant to boost ratings, but now goes up against Live with Kelly & Ryan and the last hour of WGN-TV’s popular morning newscast. This marks a return to syndicated talk at 9 for CBS 2 had a tough time establishing any kind of franchise opposite The Oprah Winfrey Show during the 1990s with the original incarnation of The Maury Povich Show, Regis & Kathie Lee, Donahue (an unsuccessful return after being bounced out of the same slot by Oprah in the mid-1980s), and Gordon Elliot each striking out. 

The last time CBS 2 aired network programming at 2 p.m. was during the 1996-97 season, when long-running serial Guiding Light occupied the time slot. Following the lead of other CBS-owned stations and affiliates, CBS 2 moved the soap to 9 a.m. in September 1997 where the show fared far worse opposite Oprah than the syndicated talk shows it replaced. CBS canceled Guiding Light in 2009 and replaced it Deal, who had a fourteen-year run in daytime in the 1960s and 1970s and a syndicated nighttime run also in the 1970s with Monty Hall. 

With CBS 2 now slotting the show at 2, the station aligns itself with other CBS stations that run the Wayne Brady vehicle in the afternoon including KHOU Houston, CBS-owned WCCO Minneapolis, KMOV St. Louis, WCIA Champaign, and WMBD Peoria-Bloomington, among others. 

Drew Barrymore’s second Chicago market airing on WCIU/CW26 is not affected by the changes.  

Updated 2021-08-22 at 11:53 a.m.to add CBSN Chicago information. 

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