The Media Notepad: Marshall Harris exits CBS 2, Ryan Baker returns to sports beat

Also: Scripps Sports signs Stanley Cup champs; diginet Defy changes owners

As first reported by the Sun-Times, CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) main sports anchor and sports Marshall Harris has exited the station, effective immediately.

Harris verified the report on X/Twitter Tuesday:

“In case you haven’t heard, I’ve officially moved on from CBS Chicago. I’m grateful for my time there. And I’m certainly looking forward to what’s next!”

Harris’ exit means Ryan Baker, who held both roles for more than a decade, will return to those capacities after five years as a regular news anchor.  Harris arrived from KOVR Sacramento in 2021 as both are owned by CBS News And Stations, whose parent company is Paramount Global.

Harris’ resume includes a decade-long run at NBC Sports Philadelphia as an anchor, reporter, and pre-game host.

This marks the second departure from CBS 2 in recent weeks. According to a report from Rick Kaempfer’s weekly Media Notebook column, anchor Brad Edwards exited the station last month. Once a rising star at CBS 2, Edwards was demoted to the station’s streaming channel as anchor after he was replaced by Joe Donlon, fresh off a stint from NewsNation and a former WGN-TV anchor – hired by alum Jennifer Lyons, who also worked at NewsNation, but resigned after the news channel changed focus. She was hired as CBS 2’s vice president and general manager in 2021.

The perennial low-rated news operation seemed to have regressed from its 2020 journalism triumph as it was the first station to report on a wrong-house raid on the house of Anajnette Young by Chicago police. The extensive reporting earned the station widespread praise and several awards. But in recent years, ratings have failed to move as CBS 2 and the rest of the CBS-owned stations developed a rather drab, generic graphics look for its newscasts and a lame music theme based on the five-note jingle heard throughout the network’s programming.

In a town hall meeting last week, Paramount Global CEOs is considering $500 million in cuts, including selling off CBS’ independent stations the saga between Skydance and Paramount’s on-off merger agreement – seems to be on again. 

ABC 7 (WLS-TV) announced Tuesday the promotion of Diane Pathieu to traffic anchor for the station’s early morning newscasts, who is succeeding Roz Varon who retired last month. In addition to traffic, Pathieu is also handling the Weekender and Festival Friday beats, also succeeding Varon in that role. 

“Diane has done a fantastic job connecting with our viewers and making a seamless transition to the traffic role after Roz Varon’s retirement,” said ABC 7 vice-president and general manager John Idler. “She is professional and concise, and commuters trust her to help get them where they need to go.”

Pathieu is a Chicago native who got her start in journalism at a local station in Dubuque, IA. She joined ABC 7 from NBC affiliate WTMJ Milwaukee, where she was a general assignment reporter and frequent fill-in anchor. 

ABC 7 is generally the market leader in local news ratings, as it has been for over 35 years. 

Fresh off winning the Stanley Cup last week, the NHL’s Florida Panthers scored another victory – freeing themselves from the grips of Bally Sports/Diamond by signing a deal with Scripps Sports to produce and televise all non-network games, marking a return to over-the-air broadcast since independent WBFS-TV aired a few games in the 1990s.

“After back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances and celebrating 30 years of Panthers Hockey in South Florida, we could not be more excited about the future of our hockey team. Scripps’ distribution network and accessibility makes them the ideal partner to stream and carry Panthers content on and off the ice”, said Panthers President and CEO Matthew Caldwell.

“Panthers content will be available for free over the air and we are thrilled about the new homes this will reach as we continue to grow our great sport.”

Games will air on Scripps’ soon-to-be-former CW affiliate WSFL-TV (Ch. 39) in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market and independent WHDT in West Palm Beach, a sister station to NBC affiliate WPTV. The team and Scripps also plan to air games in the Ft. Myers-Naples market as soon they can find an outlet. Scripps and the Panthers also plan to develop a new direct-to-consumer streaming option and jointly produce a weekly show about the team.

In recent years, Scripps has snatched up rights for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and Utah’s new NHL team (formerly the Arizona Coyotes), bringing them to over-the-air TV. 

The Panthers become the latest team to defect from Bally/Diamond Sports, who own Bally Sports Florida. The team was concerned about the company’s future going forward as it is mired in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was recently booted off Comcast, the primary cable provider in South Florida, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Pierce. A bankruptcy judge gave Diamond until the end of July to present a plan, but you can’t blame the Panthers for securing their TV rights future and their future rests with Scripps.

In an unusual move, digital subchannel Defy is changing owners to Free TV Networks and relaunched the off-cable reality TV channel, effective today. 

Actually, the “Defy” brand was a free agent after the programming library used to program the channel under Scripps Networks under the name. But a few weeks ago, A + E Networks, who owned the programs used to fill Defy’s schedule, declined to renew their contract with Scripps and signed a new deal with Free TV, a new consortium formed by Gray Television, Lionsgate, and Warner Bros. Discovery and launched new digital subchannels Outlaw and The 365 on January 1. Free TV is headed by CEO Jonathan Katz, who sold his portfolio of diginets under the Katz Communications name to Scripps in 2017 for $302 million. 

The new Free TV channel was originally to be called Dare, but Scripps sold the Defy brand to Free TV for an undisclosed price. 

There is a flurry of station switches with the move, as Scripps decided to bring back Ion Plus to replace Defy – axed along with Qubo in 2021 to make room for Defy and another reality-based TV diginet Doozy (becoming TrueReal at launch), replaced in March 2023 by home shopping channel Jewelry TV. The move leaves Defy without a Chicago home for the moment. 

Despite returning to linear TV, Ion Plus will continue to be offered as a FAST (Free Ad-supported Television) streaming channel. 

Maintaining its format, Defy continues to air Pawn Stars, American Pickers, UFO Hunters, and American Pickers. All previously ran on either A&E or History Channel. 

“With an existing large and growing audience, the Defy network features distinctive, compelling, and, above all, entertaining programming that viewers truly can’t get enough of. Defy offers value-conscious consumers a differentiated and world-class reality channel delivered for free, over-the-air, with addictive series proven to deliver for advertisers,” said Katz in a statement. 

A + E Networks also partners with Weigel Broadcasting and Hearst on diginet Story Television, containing material mainly from History Channel and A&E’s Biography from its library. 


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