The Media Notepad: Introducing the Sven Squad


Also: ABC’s stations team up with Nat Geo on another water special; Spectrum says they will drop more under performing channels; Houston’s Space City Home Network launches

You heard of The Mod Squad, right? Now meet The Sven Squad

Just in time for Halloween, MeTV’s Svengoolie is adding cast members for the first time. Joining the horror movie host on Saturday nights are Gwengoolie, an old time movie movie diva who’s a million years old or something played by Sarah Palmer, who is a actress from California; and Scott Gryder, a Chicago stage show actor who plays Ignatius Malvolio Prankenstein or IMP, a trickery who keeps claiming ol’ Sven is his uncle. Are you down with IMP? Yeah, you know me. Both were selected from on-the-spot auditions in the Svengoolie booth at last year’s New York Comic-Con at the city’s Jarvis Center. 

Rounding out the Sven Squad is Bill Leff as 800-year old vampire Nostalgiaferatoo (don’t tell the GOP he’s still on Medicare.) Leff hosts weekday morning strip Toon In With Me. 

While The Mod Squad solved crimes and rose against the establishment as part of the establishment, The Sven Squad…tries to make Svengoolie make sense of the movies that aired.

Maybe infiltrating a high school to see who’s selling dope sounds like an easier assignment…

Svengoolie – played by Rich Koz from 1979-86 and again from 1995 to the present, has been a giant hit for Chicago-based MeTV and recently expanded to two-and-a-half hours and spun-off (with help from Toon In With Me) another series, Sventoonie. For the past month, Svengoolie took over the entire evening with special programming, including binges featuring the original Twilight Zone and tonight, a double feature with movies Kolchak: The Night Strangler and Trilogy Of Terror

Even though Disney CEO Bob Iger might sell ABC and its owned stations someday, it’s business as usual as they, ABC News, and NatGeo are teaming up for the third part in a series on America’s drinking water crisis. 

Trouble On Tap is the latest in the Our America series, which looks at social issues involving the country including environmental issues and climate change. The third installment of Tap featured a segment on Drilling Into California’s Water Crisis produced by KFSN Fresno and reported on by the station’s Dale Yurong. The special looks at environmental threats to California’s drinking water, including drying reservoirs, flooding, and drought conditions. 

Last year, similar special Forecast: A Fragile Climate was hosted locally by Tom Skilling of WGN-TV, where he traveled to Nevada to investigate drying reservoirs in that state (it also aired as a three-part series on the station’s 9 p.m. newscast.)

California Water Crisis airs tonight at 11 p.m. on ABC 7 (WLS-TV), time approximate after the station’s late news, as does KFSN and KABC Los Angeles, who both will air the special an hour earlier. KTRK Houston and WPVI Philadelphia will air it the next day, and the remaining O&Os will air Crisis in the coming weeks. 

The two previous installments – Life With Forever Chemicals and America’s Lead Problem aired earlier this year and are both available on streaming platforms such as Hulu and Amazon Fire TV among others, and each station’s website, including ABC 7’s

It looks like Charter isn’t done dropping channels – in light of its new deal which saw branded service Spectrum drop eight Disney-owned cable networks, Charter is now targeting channels owned by Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery, and NBCUniversal in their next round of carriage negotiations. 

“We plan to modernize all of our distribution agreements upon renewal in a way that works for customers,” Charter CEO Chris Winfrey said in a third quarter conference call to investors. “That means packaging flexibility and not asking customers or us to pay twice for similar DTC and linear programming.”

“[I]f programmers insist on customers paying twice, we just won’t carry those channels.”

Channels weren’t identified, but this site mentioned several cable networks in danger of going dark in 2017, and some of those could be on the Spectrum chopping block. After a retrans dispute involving Disney leading to a blackout of the company’s channels, Charter and Disney struck a new deal – but agreed to cut eight underperforming networks including Disney XD, FXX, and Nat Geo Wild as content on those channels are easily found on Disney’s streaming services Disney Plus and Hulu. 

Last week, Spectrum announced it was ceasing traditional cable installs and distributing channels through a traditional cable box and entered into a partnership with Comcast using Xumo to distribute internet-connected boxes instead. Of course, existing subscribers can still keep the cable box they already have.

Charter wants to shrink the number of channels it offers as the bloated 300-channel-or-so packages have become too pricey for customers. Charter serves the big New York and Los Angeles markets, but also serves Milwaukee; Kenosha, Wis.; and the St. Louis area, including several Illinois counties in the southwest portion of the state.  

Charter lost 320,000 video subscribers but gained 57,000 residential broadband customers as their earnings went up, so their move to internet-connected boxes seems to be justified. 

Ready for liftoff: The new regional sports network designed to replace AT&T SportsNet in Houston just recently launched. Dubbed Space City Home Network, the new RSN is a joint venture of MLB’s Houston Astros and the NBA’s Houston Rockets, whose network features games from both teams. Houston is known as “Space City” as it is home to NASA and the Johnson Space Center, one of the sixth-largest market’s biggest employers. 

“The change will be a seamless transition for fans as they will be able to continue to access Rockets and Astros games on the same channels they currently utilize,” the teams said in a joint news release, meaning there would be no changes to broadcast crews or programming to the newly-named channel, other than graphics packages and studio sets. Space City plans to air 220 live events yearly including high school and college sports, and programming related to the Astros and Rockets. 

Both teams took over the channel as former parent Warner Bros. Discovery announced in February they were shuttering their AT&T-branded RSNs as the business has declined due to cord-cutting. 

The network officially launched October 3 and aired their first game October 10 between the Rockets and the Indiana Pacers in a preseason matchup. Space City also produced post-game shows after every Astros playoff game (carried by other outlets) but their run was cut short after the team was eliminated by in-state archrival Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

No word if a direct-to-consumer option would be made available; earlier this year, Marquee Sports Network did exactly that

Other news 

Rick Kaempfer’s Media Notebook reports Fox 32 has eliminated its traffic reporter position as the station has let Bryesha Adams go.

Sinclair renews CBS affiliations with Paramount Global in a multi-year deal (The Desk)

Axios names former NBC 5 and WTTW journalist Carol Marin the Greatest Of All Time (or GOAT, which has a completely different meaning in Charlie Brown’s world) 


1 thought on “The Media Notepad: Introducing the Sven Squad

    • Hopefully they have someone besides that annoying Cheryl Scott to host it. At least Larry Mowry or Tracy Butler would be better at this

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