The Media Notepad: Digitial network Bounce may soon be on the sales block

Also: Judge Judy and Hot Bench renewed through 2026; Bulls’ regular-season ratings fall; WLS-AM host falls for phishing scam

Digital subchannel Bounce could soon have a new owner, according to CNBC. 

Cincinnati-based Scripps has hired a financial firm to evaluate potential offers. Bounce was founded by Katz Communications and launched in 2011, offering various dramas, sitcoms, and sporting events targeted to Black audiences. The network also produced some original shows, such as the upcoming comedy series Mind Your Business and drama Johnson.

Scripps purchased Katz Communications’ portfolio of digital channels in 2017 and moved Bounce to the digital subchannel space of Ion stations it owns. In Chicago, Bounce was originally on WCIU’s 23.2 channel and moved to 26.5 After Scripps took over, Bounce moved to WCPX’s channel space (38.2) and was replaced by MeTV Plus.

Bounce also struck carriage deals with satellite carrier DirecTV and virtual multiple programming video providers (vMVPD) such as YouTube TV. Scripps also launched a FAST version, Bounce XL.

The word on the street is several Black entrepreneurs were interested in purchasing the channel, though Scripps declined to name them. Earlier, Paramount Global put BET and its related properties on the sales block but pulled it from the market after receiving less-than-satisfactory bids.

While ratings for most linear TV channels have declined, Bounce has gone the opposite direction, with a fourteen percent increase in viewership while its connected TV viewership (known as CTV in trade terms) was up nine percent. Seventy percent of Bounce’s viewership comes from over-the-air TV – a vital audience as cord-cutting grows.

Other competing digitals competing with Scripps are Allen Media Groups’ The Grio and Warner Bros./Gray’s The 365, the latter launched nearly five months ago.

Credit: CBS

As expected, CBS Media Ventures has renewed best-of episodes of Judge Judy and the still-in-production Hot Bench for two more seasons through September 2026 in 95 percent of the country.

“In the third year of its library run, Judge Judy is the most powerful court show on the air, averaging 6.1 million viewers and ranking fourth out of all shows in national syndication. No other show can claim a proven track record like Judge Judy,” said a CBS Media Ventures executive

Indeed, Judge Judy continues to enjoy key afternoon time slots across the country despite being out of production for three years, including WCBS New York and KCBS Los Angeles, where it’s still used as a news lead-in. While the show was renewed for two more years, some groups have upped it for three including the CBS, Fox, Sinclair, Nexstar, and Weigel groups.

In Chicago, Weigel’s CW 26 (WCIU) airs Judge Judy encores in a 4-to-6 p.m. weeknight block and from 5-to-6 p.m. on Sundays.

The success of library episodes of Judge Judy and Jerry Springer led other syndicators to use the same tactic to fill time slots using out-of-production best-ofs, including Maury, Dr. Phil, The People’s Court, and Judge Mathis.

Judge Judy began in 1996 and ended first-run production in 2021 after Judy Sheindlin and CBS couldn’t agree on a renewal. She has since moved to Amazon with a similar show (Judy Justice), which will make its syndication debut this fall and is cleared on some of the same stations the original Judy is on.

Meanwhile, Sheindlin’s other show Hot Bench is still going strong in its tenth season and was also picked up for two more seasons on the same station groups with strong afternoon time slots on CBS-owned stations in Los Angeles and New York, where WCBS recently experienced a 25 percent ratings increase with Bench at 4 p.m. out of Judge Judy. Ratings for Hot Bench were up thirteen percent in women 25-54 despite Sheindlin plucking two judges from Hot Bench for a similar Amazon show called Tribunal Justice, which comes to syndication in 2026.

In Chicago, Hot Bench airs on CW 26 at noon.

The NBA regular season is in the books, as the league saw its ratings grow eight percent in the ratings on regional sports networks measured in 25 NBA markets. The feat is impressive, given rampant cord-cutting and the negative stigma associated with RSNs over the last few years with Diamaond’s networks filing for bankruptcy.

The figure also includes two teams who are no longer on RSNs – the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, who put most of their games on over-the-air broadcast TV this season, with each seeing a 69 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

While fifteen other teams saw year-to-year increases – including the defending champion Denver Nuggets (despite RSN Altitude not being available on area Comcast systems), Orlando Magic, and Minnesota Timberwolves, the Chicago Bulls were not one of them.

Despite making the Play-In tournament and leading the league in attendance with home sellouts this season, household ratings for Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago were down seventeen percent. Critics and fans have salvaged the team this season, blaming the front office for not making any moves to make them more competitive as their up-and-down play on the court proved. It also proves television ratings are a better measuring stick of how fans feel about the Bulls franchise than attendance does – not to mention the hapless home viewers won’t have to put up with the mascot dumping popcorn all over them.

The Bulls’ future on NBC Sports Chicago is up in the air as owner Jerry Reinsdorf is seeking to move his team and the White Sox to his planned Stadium RSN, which could lower the Bulls’ ratings even more as it seeks distribution. The contracts for both teams and the Blackhawks end in October but could be extended for a few more months to give the Bulls and Blackhawks one more year at NBC before shifting to Stadium at the start of the 2025-26 season.

The Golden State Warriors – who also were eliminated in the Play-In, saw their ratings drop fourteen percent on NBC Sports Bay Area but remained the top-rated team in the league.

Steve Cochran. (Time Out Chicago)

A funny thing happened recently on Steve Cochran’s WLS-AM morning show – he admitted he was a victim of phishing scams – numerous times.

According to Barrett News Media’s website, the revelation was made last week during a segment about this very subject when he had President and CEO Steve Bernas of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois on his show, who often makes appearances on Chicago news outlets on consumer-related issues.

“I never talked about me, as you know, but we’re gonna start with phishing scams. I set a Cumulus record for this $4 billion company, in that I clicked on six different phishing scams,” Cochran told Bernas. “And, apparently, no one’s ever been close. I’m quite proud, as you would imagine. I spend all that time this weekend going through court-ordered training,” he joked.

Not sure if anyone is laughing at Cumulus, who owns WLS-AM and its Classic Hits FM counterpart, and Alternative Q101 (WKQX-FM.) Cochran noted his corporate e-mail account at Cumulus became “difficult”.

A veteran of WGN-AM and WIND-AM – and the old WPNT-FM as a Hot AC station, Cochran has been at WLS since June 2022. While the station is labeled as a conservative talker, its local shows are more down the middle and touch on subjects besides politics, such as consumer protection. According to Nielsen’s latest PPM survey, WLS finished 25th overall and in the Winter book, finished far behind WBBM-AM and WGN in the key adult 25-54 and 35-64 demos.

Full disclosure: The person who writes and operates this website was employed by the Better Business Bureau from 2008 to 2016 when Bernas was also President and CEO of the organization.


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