2023: So how did we do?

Here’s the outcome of the issues we looked forward to at the start of the year with the results in italics below: 

1. Will the Writer’s Guild of America strike? This would be the top issue to look at this year as the WGA West is concerned about the decline of earnings for its writers, plus eroding residual payments and shorter episode seasons among other issues as Hollywood continues its transition to streaming. If there is a strike after their contract expires May 1, it would be the first since 2007 – one that took years for Hollywood to recover from. SAG-AFTRA and the Director’s Guild also have contracts expiring this year (June 30) and they could strike too. 

The WGA went on strike May 1, followed by SAG-AFTRA on July 12 in one of the nastiest work stoppages in decades. Both guilds won hard-fought issues in negotiations including pay, health insurance, and artificial intelligence (AI.) The WGA’s strike lasted 148 days; SAG-AFTRA’s ended after 118 days.

2. The Chicago mayoral race. Local media outlets are already benefitting from the increase of political ads, as more candidates have money to spend. Can incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot hold on to her job?

Lightfoot was defeated in the primary election as Brandon Johnson won the general election over Paul Vallas in one of the most closest races in Chicago history. But the Johnson administration stumbled out of the gate and suffering from the same problems his predecessor had.

3. Will Twitter still be around? Since Elon Musk bought Twitter last year, he’s cut the workforce by as much as 75 percent while restoring previously banned accounts. As the social media platform’s credibility continues to sink, will it be around by the end of the year?

Well, Twitter the name is gone but the platform was renamed after the 24th letter of the alphabet as users and advertisers fled for the exits with Musk re-transitioning the platform with right-wing propaganda front and center and allowing banned accounts to return, such as one belonging to Alex Jones in the name of “free speech”.

4. Who will be the Bears’ official new home? With Fox 32 reportedly not renewing their agreement with the team (don’t panic, their games will continues to air on Fox through the network’s contract with the NFL), who will land the pre/post-game shows, Inside The Bears, preseason contests, and other team programming? Nexstar’s WGN-TV and the Cubs/Sinclair’s Marquee Sports Network are strong contenders.

The Bears remained with Fox 32 as their “official home“, but no longer on an exclusive basis as Marquee won rights to the “official post-game show”. Meanwhile, the team canceled its long-running magazine show “Inside The Bears”.

5. The financial saga of Bally Sports. And you can expand this to all regional sports networks as cable cord-cutting continues to decimate this once lucrative business. 

As this is being typed, Bally Sports’ future is still unclear as the network is reportedly shutting down in 2024. However, there are reports Amazon is looking to invest in the company and take over distribution of its streaming channels. Bally decided to cut ties with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres as MLB took over production and distribution of the team’s games. We’ll have more information here on a future date. 

6. Potential media mergers. Despite losing billions, media companies remain committed to streaming and are willing to do anything to make it work – even if it means ruffling a few feathers in Washington. Could Comcast spinoff NBCU and sell it to Warner Bros. Discovery or Paramount Global to build up scale? Is Paramount going to be put up for sale? And what about smaller studios such as Lionsgate and Sony?

As of this writing, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery are discussing a merger. We’ll have more here in the weeks ahead. 

7. Will DirecTV and Dish merge? And speaking of mergers…with NFL Sunday Ticket exiting and plummeting subscriber counts, how long can DirecTV hold on? Will rival Dish buy them? Moreover, will the government allow it?

A merger didn’t happen, but Dish and ex-parent Echostar did.

8. What will The CW look like. With Nexstar now in full control of the network, will youth-oriented scripted dramas continue to dominate, or will more older-skewing fare arrive? Moreover, will The CW return “home” to WGN-TV after seven years away given both are now under common ownership?

The CW’s lineup isn’t recognizable compared to just a few years ago as teen and young-adult-oriented fare vanished for more reality and imported drama fare. As for WGN, the station did pick up rights to the network’s sports programming (except Inside The NFL) – but nothing else as the primary affiliation still rests with WCIU.

9. Chicago in crisis. Despite a declining homicide count, the city continues to lose businesses both big and small as crime is still seemingly out of control, as it has been for years. Can Chicago turn it around?

2023 was another bad year for Chicago as despite a drop in homicides and shootings, violent crime in other categories went sharply up. Meanwhile, the city’s global reputation in the sports world took a hit as a trade magazine ranked Chicago a low ninth in best cities to do sports business and a shooting at Guaranteed Rate Field last August during a game inside the park drew worldwide headlines.

10. The future of Audacy. With the company’s stock price sinking amid lackluster ratings and revenue performance of its big-market radio stations, is Audacy ripe for a hostile takeover?

I think we can re-purpose this question for the 2024: A look Ahead piece.

Editor’s Note: There will be no 2024: A Look Ahead prediction article. Thank you for reading A Look Ahead and How Did We Do pieces over the years.

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