The Media Notepad: Entercom launches new sports gambling station “The Bet”

Also: Dan Bongino takes Rush’s place; ET makes history; Fox Sports Net name change set

Hey remember HD Radio? No? Well believe it or not, it’s still around and here’s your reminder: On Monday, Entercom’s WCFS-FM became 105.9 The Bet, a format devoted to sports gambling. 

However, it’s not on WCFS-FM’s main frequency, where a simulcast of Newsradio 780 continues. It’s available on WCFS’ HD-2 channel where you can access it on a HD Radio – that is, if you can find one. 

The good news is, you can access the channel on, which you can access here. (it’s also available on the app.) The new station includes a syndicated show featuring The Score/WSCR’s own Joe Ostrowski paired with football podcaster Ross Tucker on Bet QL Daily. The format also launched recently on Entercom stations/subcarriers in Los Angeles and Denver part of the new BetQL network, from Entercom’s acquisition of QL Gaming Group.

In a statement, Entercom regional president and market manager Rachael Williamson said: “Since legalization in 2019, sports betting has exploded in the state of Illinois and we’re delighted to enter the arena of this rapidly growing landscape to deliver insightful content to our listeners with the launch of this new station.” 

And you can tell given the flood of gambling and sportsbook ads on local radio and linear television since sports gambling became legal in the Land Of Lincoln. Frequent advertisers include DraftKings, FanDuel, BetRivers, and PointsBet. The commercials bring in vital revenue at a time when the pandemic has deviated broadcasters and are basically DVR-proof given many of them run in live sporting events. 

This isn’t the only gambling-related news to make headlines: Indianapolis’ WISH-TV Monday announced the launch of All Indiana Bets, a new sports betting show to launch in August. Neighboring Indiana was among one of the first states to legalize sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court gave the okay. Viewers outside of the Indianapolis area – including in Northwest Indiana can access the show at at launch and available as an audio podcast. 

A former longtime CBS affiliate, WISH is now a CW station owned by Circle City Broadcasting, with Ryan McCoy as Indiana’s first Black TV station owner.

The relaunch of the former Fox Sports regional networks now has a drop date: March 31. That’s when the nineteen Sinclair-owned sports channels are rebranding themselves as Bally, i.e. Bally Sports Midwest, Bally Sports Indiana, and so forth. 

“We are extremely proud to unveil the Bally Sports logo as it signifies a new, transformative chapter in the regional sports business and is representative of our cohesive partnership with Bally’s,” said Steve Rosenberg, President of Local Sports, Sinclair Broadcast Group. “The upcoming rebrand across our RSN footprint is incredibly exciting, not only for our entire portfolio, but for loyal sports fans across the country.”

The Major League Baseball season begins the next day. 

The changes complete a long journey for the RSNs, who were sold to Disney as part of the blockbuster $71.3 billion deal for 21st Century Fox in 2017. But the Justice Department forced Disney to sell its RSNs due to antitrust issues, with Sinclair winding up with the channels. With the sale, a name change was inevitable so Bally made a deal with Sinclair to slap their name on the networks as part of a larger move toward in-game gambling elements as Bally operates several casinos and sportsbooks through parent Caesars Entertainment. 

If you’re looking to stream Bally Sports Networks…well, unless you have the rather expensive AT&T TV, you’re out of luck as You Tube TV, Fubo, and Hulu Live + TV recently dropped or never carried the channels. The Cubs’ Marquee Network (also owned by Sinclair but is not affected by the name change) is also not available on these services. 

The replacement for the late Rush Limbaugh was finally announced last week – at least in the Chicago area. 

Cumulus’ Westwood One is launching of a new three-hour talk show hosted by former New York City cop and Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who’ll air locally on WLS-AM between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. starting May 24 in the time slot Limbaugh held for decades. Limbaugh died earlier this month from lung cancer.

Even though one Hollywood trade (who does not specialize in covering radio) said he was the appointed heir to Limbaugh, Bongino is only those where Cumulus had the rights, including WLS here. Bongino originally launched a one-hour podcast with Westwood One last year, also repurposed for terrestrial radio.

Bongino has been cleared in top markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas, where Cumulus owns conservative talk stations. 

For Cumulus, it gives them a chance to produce their own conservative talk show instead of paying another syndicator – in this case, Premiere Networks – owned by rival broadcaster iHeartMedia. Cumulus and WLS had been doing this for years as at one time they were looking to drop the show but relented.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting Premiere has no plans at this time to name a replacement for Limbaugh as they are relying on recycled commentary with live guest hosts. iHeartMedia owns numerous conservative talkers including WOR in New York City and KEIB in Los Angeles where Limbaugh was heard. 

After two years, CBS Media Ventures’ syndicated Entertainment Tonight has named a new co-anchor – and it’s Nischelle Turner who joins Kevin Frazier at the anchor desk, filling a position left vacant by Nancy O’Dell’s departure. 

“Nischelle can do it all,” said ET exec producer Erin Johnson in a statement. “She can go from a heartfelt conversation with Oscar-winner Viola Davis about the impact of Cicely Tyson to singing karaoke on a balcony with Jimmy Fallon. She is warm, thoughtful, and full of energy. Celebrities respect her skills as a seasoned journalist, and our audience has taken notice of her fun chemistry with Kevin. There is no one more deserving to lead ET in our history-making 40th season and beyond.”

The pairing of Frazier and Turner marks the first time two African-Americans have co-anchored the show in its forty-season history. Turner been with ET since 2014 and her career has taken her from local news stations WEHT Evansville, Ind, WVUE New Orleans, and Fox-owned KTTV Los Angeles to CNN, where she still makes appearances. She also was named host of CBS’ new Secret Celebrity Renovation, scheduled to debut this summer. 

Turner isn’t the first Black woman to co-anchor and co-host ET – the distinction belongs to the late Paula McClure, who did so early in the show’s run.  

On the air since 1981, ET currently airs on CBS-owned WBBM-TV weeknights at 6:30 p.m., a time slot it has held since January 1988. ET surpassed Soul Train in 2016 to become first-run syndication’s longest-running show. 

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The NFL completes media deals

Blockbuster pacts include new deals for streaming

Just a week after the NHL announced a return to ESPN/ABC, the NFL announced Thursday it completed its television deals. 

While nothing really earth-shattering (Fox stunning the world in 1994 by grabbing the NFL from CBS or Monday Night Football moving to cable), the new deals does send a message – streamers have indeed made their presence known.  Amazon made the biggest pact, snaring the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football (games will be made available to over-the-air broadcasters in each team’s home market.)

Another change is ABC returning to the Super Bowl rotation, with the last time the network airing The Big Game was in 2006 (Super Bowl XL.)

All deals – valued somewhere between $100 billion and $105 billion, begin in 2023, lasting for a decade. Also included are the fourteen-team expanded playoffs (which started this year) and a Week 17 game (starts this year.) 

“These new media deals will provide our fans even greater access to the games they love.  We’re proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Along with our recently completed labor agreement with the NFLPA, these distribution agreements bring an unprecedented era of stability to the League and will permit us to continue to grow and improve our game.”

In fact, ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, Fox Corp. and Disney all have deals new NFL deals which include some kind of streaming component. Here’s how each of those conglomerates fared: 

Amazon. The tech giant now has exclusive rights to fifteen regular season games, costing $1 billion annually. 

ViacomCBS. In addition to CBS renewing the AFC package which it’s held since 1998 (and overall since 1956), Paramount Plus will also simulcast all games (the game airing on your local TV affiliate.) CBS gets Super Bowls in 2023, 2027, and 2031.

Fox. Even though it passed on renewing the Thursday Night Football package, the network retains the jewel NFC package and expanded its digital rights deal to include Tubi to deliver NFL programming, with streaming of condensed NFL games and gives Fox a Christmas Day game when the schedule allows. Fox gets Super Bowls in 2024, 2028, and 2032. 

SNF is renewed on NBC so we can watch the Bears lose to the Packers in primetime for ANOTHER ten years.

NBCUniversal. NBC retains top-rated Sunday Night Football for another decade, and now gets to stream those games over Peacock – not to mention an “exclusive feed of NFL games over the course of the agreement”, meaning they get at least one exclusive game to stream – not to mention expanded NFL library programming. They also get more playoff games – one primetime wild card game, an extra wild card in three years of the contract (2023, 2026, and 2031) and one divisional playoff game per year. Airing AFC games from 1965 (with the American Football League) to 1998, NBC returned to the football business in 2006 with SNF. NBC gets Super Bowls in 2025, 2029, and 2033.

Disney/ESPN/ABC. Obviously, the bigger winner. ESPN continues to air Monday Night Football through 2033, and as noted before, ABC returns to the Super Bowl rotation with games in 2026 and 2030 – not to mention airing several select games on ABC. As far as ESPN Plus is concerned, viewers get one International Series a year and the possibility of simulcasting games from ABC and ESPN. 

In addition, the number of Monday Night doubleheaders triples to three per year; ESPN also gets a Saturday doubleheader with playoff implications in Week 17; a divisional playoff game in addition to a wild-card one; greater ability to flex games in after week twelve; and renewal deals for existing NFL programming including daily strip NFL Live, and NFL Primetime for ESPN Plus. In all, Disney gets 23 games as opposed to 17 in the last contract. 

The original home of MNF from 1970 to 2006, ABC aired the upstart AFL from 1960 to 1965. 

The biggest loser? It’s the NFL’s own NFL Network, who figured to get more money from Amazon in the marketplace than sticking the games on its own network as cord cutting accelerates. NFL Network will continue to air a few games, notably on late Saturday afternoons and evenings late in the season. 

As for the Sunday Ticket element, league officials said no deal has been set, despite a New York City radio station erroneously stating one was struck between ESPN Plus and the league to take over from AT&T/DirecTV, who is unlikely to renew and is undergoing a structural change in its ownership.

The takeaway from Thursdays announcement wasn’t exactly favorable for linear TV. Financial analysts – who basically want linear TV dead thinking the spectrum can be put to better use (think 5G phones), were writing its obituary saying streaming is the way to go.

But it’s the NFL that’s essentially keeping linear TV in business (it sure isn’t Young Sheldon or The Simpsons), and with NFL games now on all four broadcast networks simultaneously for the first time, the platform won’t go anywhere anytime soon. Also don’t forget, we still have a digital divide regardless of what the former FCC Chairman said, who basically removed low-income and minority communities from the context. Financial analysts also seem to have the same attitude.  

Let’s not put all our eggs into streaming just yet until disadvantaged communities such as Englewood and Ford Heights are on the same digital wavelength as Lincoln Park and Kenliworth. It’s not too much to ask given what the NFL is receiving in revenue is more than the net worth of the entire West Side, South Side, the South Suburbs, and Gary, Ind. put together. As for the broadcast groups being the biggest losers in all of this, is anyone going to feel sorry for Sinclair or Nexstar? Their answer is to invest more in their blundering cable properties. Well, good luck with that. 

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Mark Giangreco out at ABC 7 after on-air comment about Cheryl Burton

Out after 27 years at ABC-owned station

As expected, ABC-owned WLS-TV fired top sports anchor Mark Giangreco was fired late Friday after his on-air comment about co-anchor Cheryl Burton.

As first reported by Robert Feder, Giangreco was officially released from his contract, settling financial terms with the station, which were not disclosed. Giangreco arrived at ABC 7 in 1994, after 12 years at rival NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV). Giangreco replaced the popular Tim Weigel as sports anchor, who moved to CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) where he was until 1999 when he was forced off the air due to brain cancer, dying a short time later.

Giangreco made an off-hand on-air comment on January 28 during the sports segment about Burton saying she “can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator.” Burton reportedly complained to management about the comment and Giangreco has been off the air ever since. Giangreco is known for his biting humor, but it has gotten him in trouble numerous times at ABC 7 and apparently to management, this was the last straw.

Earlier, ABC 7 released Janet Davies after 36 years. She and Giangreco co-hosted the highly-rated Countdown Chicago New Year’s Eve special each year.

With Davies and now Giangreco gone, it remains to be seen if viewers tune out as ABC 7 has been the local news leader since 1986 and dominated the ratings once again last month in households and the key 25-54 demos. Back in May 1997, NBC 5 had their own drama after then-trash talk show host Jerry Springer was hired to do commentary on the station’s 10 p.m. newscast, with anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin resigning in protest as Springer lasted only two nights. Ratings fell, but rebounded a few years later.

It also remains to be seen if the news affects his status at WMVP/ESPN 1000, where he is a contributor to the Waddle and Silvy show as he has been absent the last few weeks. Even though ABC 7 and ESPN 1000 share a corporate owner in the Walt Disney Company, ESPN 1000 is managed and operated by Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands.

ABC 7 has survived key departures before, but this time it could be different as viewers are continuing to head for the exits from linear TV to streaming –  local and national newscasts included and it also comes at a time when many are questioning journalism’s transparency, with “fake news” and all. At least Giangreco’s wit actually gave viewers a reason to smile after hearing about the latest on Chicago’s gun violence epidemic night after night. Community activist Andrew Holmes seems to be a bigger local TV star than most of the Eyewitness News team or any other news team in town these days.

This caps a rather strenuous period in Chicago television in recent weeks with the firing of Chicago Tonight executive producer Hugo Balta over social media tweets and a near-revolt of the NewsNation newsroom, with the departure of several staffers including VP of news Jennifer Lyons. I guess you can say there’s just as much drama in Chicago media on the TV side as there is with Harry, Meagan, and the rest of the Royal Family.

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The NHL returns to ESPN in a blockbuster deal

Seven-year deal brings the league back to the Worldwide Leader In Sports

In news certain to please hockey fans across the United States, the NHL officially announced its return to ESPN on Wednesday after seventeen years. This came as the league decided to split its television rights package with two different partners as opposed to one media outfit – in this case, NBC and parent Comcast, who’ve held the rights for the last decade-and-a-half. 

And the deal goes beyond linear TV with a streaming component featuring more than 1,000 games per season marketed to out-of-market viewers. 

ESPN parent The Walt Disney Co. struck a seven-year, $2.8 billion deal with the NHL starting this fall and lasting through 2028. ESPN and ABC will televise 25 games per year as part of the new deal, including all Stanley Cup Final games in four of those seven years with all matches airing on ABC. ABC/ESPN also gets exclusive coverage of one Stanley Cup Playoff Conference Final series and half of all quarterfinal and semifinal games. 

ESPN also gets the All-Star Game and Skills Challenges and the opening night game in October. 

Signaling the sign-of-the times, the deal puts 75 exclusive games on ESPN Plus and Hulu streaming services, and more than 1,000 out-of-market games being made available to ESPN Plus subscribers. It replaces the NHL.TV service, which is being discontinued (The NHL’s Centre Ice package is not affected.) 

“This partnership of the world’s top hockey league and the platforms of The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our game,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use.”

The return of hockey to ESPN is indeed a victory for fans. ESPN was the home to the NHL from 1979-88 and again from 1993-2004 when the cable network and the league went through a messy divorce shortly after the NHL locked out its players for the 2004-05 season. NBC’s been home to the NHL ever since, with the most recent deal in effect since 2010. 

Hockey also returns to ABC for the first time since the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. ABC carried an ESPN-produced package of regular season and playoff games in 1993 and 1994 and again from 1999 to 2004. Fox had broadcast rights from 1995 to 1999. 

Many of those who worked on hockey coverage when ESPN last held rights are still with the network: Linda Cohn, Barry Melrose, Steve Levy, and John Buricross, and they are expected to play a role (play-by-play team Gary Thorne and Bill Clement are not expected to return.) 

Cohn and Melrose currently host an hockey wrap-up show on ESPN Plus, In The Crease. 

As for current rights holder NBC, there’s a chance the network could continue to air the NHL with the other half of the package – which includes the Winter Classic, still up for grabs. In addition, parent Comcast is closing NBCSN at year’s end and if Comcast gets the other package, future games could air on USA Network or streaming service Peacock, though the latter has some reach issues. Also, NBC has unofficially committed to renewing Sunday Night Football and with the price tag upwards of $4 billion amid a pandemic and an economic slowdown, Comcast is being forced to revaluate its rights deals. 

Fox and CBS are also reportedly interested in the second part of the package.

Not affected is the NHL’s current deal in Canada, where Rogers Communications is currently in the middle of a twelve-year deal for exclusive national rights. Rogers sub-leases Saturday night games to the CBC to keep their Hockey Night In Canada tradition alive. 

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Abysmal ratings, bias accusations sink NewsNation

NewsNation in the fight of its short life after Lyons, key staffers depart  

Back when NewsNation was announced in January 2020, Nexstar – who just acquired Tribune Media and cable network WGN America, hoped to provide an alternative to what the cable “news” networks were offering – hard news without opinion. NewsNation launched here in Chicago on September 1, hiring anchors across the country to WGN-TV’s studios and bringing over well-respected WGN news exec Jennifer Lyons and WGN anchor Joe Donlon to work for this new venture. 

Six months later, NewsNation has turned into a debacle. If fact, it’s been a debacle more or less throughout its short run. 

The revamp of its daily schedule hasn’t increased viewership as ratings continue to decline. Moreover, an unflattering article in the New York Times Sunday reveals their destination for “unbiased news” isn’t all as it’s made out to be. 

And as Robert Feder first reported on Tuesday, Lyons announced her departure from NewsNation after just six months. 

According to Nielsen, the new prime-time lineup – consisting of two hours of the recently renamed NewsNation Prime and Ashleigh Banfield’s new talk show drew only 37,000 viewers March 1, down from the already low numbers generated from the previous week. 

Breaking out the numbers, Banfield – which airs at 9 p.m. Central – got off to an extremely slow start, drawing just 17,000 viewers – with only around 8,000 in the key adults 25-54 demo. In essence, Banfield’s key demo audience is roughly the size of far south suburban Crete. By Friday according to FTV Live, those 25-54 numbers fell to 2,000. That’s smaller than the entire population of south suburban Hometown. 

Even worse for NewsNation, the network has been hammered in the public relations department. For one, it was revealed by FTV Live last month the hiring of controversial former Fox News exec Bill Shine as a paid consultant – something they kept secret for months. Shine previously worked for President Trump and beforehand, was accused at Fox for sexual harassment and was fired in 2017. Several staffers have resigned, including news director Sandy Pudar who reportedly claimed interference in news making decisions from Shine and managing editor Richard Maginn. 

“NewsNation’s mission is to provide news based on facts, not opinions. Consistent with our commitment to deliver unbiased news to our viewers, we’ve hired a number of employees and consultants with diverse news production and reporting backgrounds from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, CBS, NBC and ABC, amongst others”, a statement from NewsNation said after news of Shine’s hiring was made public. 

Viewers and critics alike panned Joe Donlon’s interview with President Trump last September.

While Nexstar was pushing this narrative of “unbiased news”, cracks started showing in the facade before it even launched. The day NewsNation launched, President Trump – known for deriding outlets as “fake news”, sent a tweet congratulating Nexstar networks division president Sean Compton on the new venture. It turned out he was friends with Trump and produced syndicated radio features for him while he was at Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia). Then came the critically panned Donlon interview with Trump on September 22, derided as a softball piece arranged by Compton. It failed to boost NewsNation, as only 25,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo tuned in.

Which brings us to The Donlon Report, a new show NewsNation launched as part of the revamped lineup in the prime access (6-7 p.m. Central) hour and up against CNBC’s The News With Shepard Smith, a straight hard news show launched 29 days after Newsnation did. The premiere episode was a complete snoozefest, with boring interviews containing hardly any substance. 

But that’s not all. According to the Times the next night, NewsNation booked Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, who appears regularly in conservative media. She told lies about how “rigged” the recent Presidential election was with Donlon hardly pushing back on her claims. And the Times also reported on a February 3 appearance by another right-wing pundit blaming a rise in crime in big cities – a popular talking point in conservative media – on “the political liberal Democratic values that are being forced upon us.”

“Unbiased” and “non-neutral”, indeed. 

The analysis here is NewsNation has made one asinine move after another, and in the process, damaged its own brand due to managerial ineptness. It’s clear NewsNation has abandoned its position as a source for “unbiased reporting” – if it ever had that position at all.

Then there’s these head-scratching decisions. I’m trying to wrap my head on how Donlon – a middling anchor at best, got his own show – it’s like they picked his name out of a hat. Compton of course, is a holdover from the disastrous Sam Zell and Randy Michaels era at Tribune Co. as Compton had connections with Michaels from their days at Clear Channel. Failing up is a normality in media – look where former Fox exec Dana Walden is now –  chairman of entertainment at Disney – after she and fellow former Fox exec Gary Newman made dumb decision after dumb decision at the network. 

Jennifer Lyons resigned as VP of News at Newsnation Tuesday, bailing out of a sinking ship.

Meanwhile, Banfield is one name most news junkies plain forgot about. Does anyone even remember her? It’s like giving Brett Butler from Grace Under Fire another sitcom out of the blue after being off the air after 20 or so years. 

And there’s the name change to NewsNation from WGN America, throwing away a 42-year old brand (whose name varied over the years.) Why are they rebranding the network when it’s crystal clear they’re not ready yet? You tune in to NewsNation expecting news and here’s reruns of Tim Allen’s awful sitcom, paint-by-numbers procedural dramas, and religious Camp Meeting infomercials. Changing the name to NewsNation when news makes up only a third of the schedule is absolutely the dumbest decision I’ve ever seen.

Finally, there’s the matter of “bias”. When I typed NewsNation into Google, the first phrase to come up was “NewsNation bias”. As a news network positioning to be neutral, this is not good news. Viewers who see this and are looking to escape the partisan nonsense of other cable news networks won’t tune in. And those very few who did left. 

To sum this up, Nexstar has absolutely no idea what they’re doing. NewsNation wants to be a destination for non-partisan news, but at the same time wants to be what some describe as “Fox News-lite”. Nexstar chairman Perry Sook praised NewsNation in a talk with investors last month according to the Times, saying his pet project is doing what it is intended to do – providing “unbiased coverage”. The real question is with these low ratings, you’re wondering if investors are buying the BS Sook and Compton are selling. If I were a Nexstar investor, I would demand some answers. 

Plus, Nexstar isn’t exactly a reputable company. They showed their true colors last year, lying to viewers about Dish yanking their channels in a carriage dispute (only the owners of the channels can do so) – not to mention forcing providers (such as Hulu + Live TV) to carry NewsNation in any future carriage deal with Nexstar’s TV stations. If the viewer is lied to on why their Nexstar-owned local station disappeared from their cable system, why should he or she trust them with NewsNation? 

Can NewsNation be fixed? That’s debatable as in business, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Compton and Sook have their work cut out for them as the vessel is sinking fast. And Lyons is the latest to bail out in a venture that seems to be going nowhere. 

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ABC 7’s Mark Giangreco in trouble – again

A photo from 2019 featuring Mark Giangreco and Janet Davies as hosts of ABC 7’s “Countdown Chicago”. Davies was laid off last month and now Giangreco may be out as well. (Chicago Business Journal)

On-air comment has top sports anchor off-air 

It looks like we’re going to need not one but two new hosts for annual New Year’s Eve special Countdown Chicago

Viewers of ABC 7 (WLS-TV) have noticed top sports anchor Mark Giangreco’s absence for the last few weeks and now we know why he’s been off the air – and it isn’t because of coronavirus or any other illness issues. 

As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday, Giangreco made an on-air comment about co-anchor Cheryl Burton during a newscast on January 28 after showing a clip about hockey player Spencer Jenkin painting his house on roller skates. After the clip aired Giangreco said: “Gotta get him a show on DIY Network. We’ll call it ‘House Fix with Sticks,’ and Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator. I got it all worked out.” [DIY Network is a cable channel owned by Discovery Communications and whose fare is available on streamer Discovery Plus.]

Needless to say, Burton wasn’t happy about the comments and went to station management. As a result, Giangreco has been off the air since then – basically the entire February sweep period with Jim Rose and Dionne Miller taking over sportscasting duties from their respective homes. 

Viewers have been left to speculate why Giangreco was off the air as not only he was off ABC 7 but also was off social media and also hasn’t been on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy show, where he was a regular contributor. Giangreco hasn’t commented and neither have officials at the ABC-owned station and continue to clam up. 

This isn’t the first time Giangreco has landed in hot water with management. In 2017, Giangreco was suspended for a tweet he made about then-President Trump in February 2017. Giangreco has also had a history of making controversial comments in his nearly 40-plus year career in Chicago television, notably about Walter Payton’s liver condition and joking about the city of Detroit rioting after the Pistons won the NBA championship in 2004. Giangreco has been with ABC 7 since 1994 after hiring him away from rival NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV.)

This is the third time in less than a month a Chicago television station has had to deal with questionable behavior. Last month, WTTW was forced to part ways with Chicago Tonight executive producer and Latino Voices host Hugo Balta for making social media posts supporting liberal candidates and failing to disclose vital information to the local public broadcaster. 

And just last week WGN-TV sports anchor Dan Roan deleted a tweet referring to a Michigan State basketball player as a “thug” after he broke the nose of an Illinois player during a game. He later apologized and wasn’t disciplined. 

With this latest suspension, it appears likely Giangreco is on his way out after 27 years at Chicago’s top-rated news station. Last month, ABC 7 parted ways with Janet Davies after 36 years, and in recent years both were co-hosts of the highly-rated Countdown Chicago. Giangreco’s contract expires next year, and his will likely be bought out. At one time, Giangreco made $1 million per year at the station.

But it’s a reminder to some viewers of what passed for local news at ABC 7 in the 1970s when Joel Daly and Fahey Flynn held sway and headed the “Happy Talk” format, which was a hit with viewers but crashed the station’s ratings by the early 1980s. While every local news station nationwide has some form of Happy Talk these days, it’s best not to treat viewers like they’re at a comedy club during the sports segment – especially at a time when journalism is under fire in some quarters for its transparency while linear TV is facing a impending crisis over shrinking audiences as streaming is taking hold. And that’s no laughing matter. 

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Defy the Doozy and Twist

More multicast networks announced from Scripps, Tegna

Days after Scripps shut down several digital subchannels (now called “multicast networks”) related to their acquisition of Ion, the Cincinnati-based company announced Tuesday two new channels: Defy and the amply named Doozy (yes, Doozy.) Both are cleared in 75 percent of the country for a July 1 launch.

Defy is targeted to male audiences 25-54 which fare such as Pawn Stars and American Pickers, while Doozy is targeted to female audiences 25-54 with fare such as Married At First Sight and Storage Wars

They join another new multicast network announced last week called Twist, from Tegna and feature shows such as Dance Moms, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and Dr. 90210. The channel is expected to launch this spring.

Both Defy and Doozy are joining the existing array of multicasters already on Ion’s system, including Bounce, Court TV, Court TV Mysteries, Grit, and Laff. Some of these diginets were used to replace Qubo, ShopIon, and Ion Plus channels in some markets on February 26 – two days earlier than expected. Scripps acquired Ion last year and earlier acquired Katz Communications’ stable of multicast channels a few years ago.

In Chicago, Qubo was replaced on WCPX-Channel 38.2 by Court TV, already on WGN-Channel 9.3; Ion Plus was replaced by Court TV Mysteries (also available on WXFT Ch. 60.2); and Laff (now on WGBO-Ch. 66-2) replaced ShopIon. The contracts currently with the non-Scripps stations are not being renewed. 

Meanwhile, Tegna is launching Twist on their own station group and made a deal with Univision in larger markets including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, and here in Chicago, where Twist will show up on the digital subchannels of either WXFT or WGBO and is likely replacing one of the Katz/Scripps channels. 

Fueling this multicast growth is the availability of off-network reality cable series. Many of these shows aired originally on Bravo, History, the former Spike TV, etc. in the 2000s when the genre was fairly new. The same off-network programming makes up the centerpiece of Discovery’s new streaming service, featuring backlog programming from their six cable networks (which ironically, were once owned by Scripps before the company split up.) Tegna already has several channels with such material – Qwest and True Crime (formerly Justice) and both are on the subchannels of Univision’s stations. 

Earlier, CBS Media Ventures launched Dabl with a reliance on off-cable series as does newcomer Fave TV, who launched with a much lower profile over CBS-owned stations. 

Also new on the multicast beat is Byron Allen’s new Grio.TV, targeting Black audiences. 

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The Mountain Of Entertainment unveiled: Paramount + is here

36 original series; changes to subscription structure from CBS All Access

[Editor’s Note: This story was updated on March 5. – T. H] 

ViacomCBS officially jumped into the streaming wars this week with their three-hour upfront-like Paramount + presentation Wednesday afternoon, unveiling a slog of programming with a whopping 36 original series and tons of specials all set to launch March 4. The new service builds on CBS’ previous All Access streaming service, launched in 2014. 

“This isn’t your father’s ViacomCBS or my father’s” said ViacomCBS CEO Shari Redstone, referring to the days when Viacom was a mere syndicator spun off from CBS and infamously known for the zooming V (aka “The V of Doom”) at the end of their programming and later when Sumner Redstone was CEO, in an era where game-changing cable channels MTV and Nickelodeon flourished. This is of course, part of their “reunification” effort, which saw CBS and Viacom come together again after fifteen years apart. 

Paramount + was announced last year, to compete with Disney, NBCUniversal, and Netflix in the streaming space, which is growing by leaps and bounds and redefining the way we consume entertainment. Marketing so far has been lackluster with those terrible Super Bowl commercials. But the meat of the product has been announced so let’s look at what we have here in a Q-and-A-format.

Q: Fraiser is coming back? 

If you like reboots, Paramount + has your number. The highest profile revival is the former NBC comedy Frasier, with Kesley Grammer back in the title role. The series ran for eleven seasons (1993-2004) and won tons of Emmys. Another return is another long-running series, the former CBS procedural Criminal Minds, which only left the airwaves…last year. This time, the series returns with ten episodes but with only one story arc, a marked departure from its regular format. 

Other reboots include Rugrats, Yo! MTV Raps, Road Rules, The Real World, and iCarly. Of note, The Game is being revived again, becoming the first show (outside of Family Guy) to be revived twice. 

Q: Anything else? 

Also on the original programming beat (and I use that term loosely), several movies are being adapted into series, including those based on Grease, Love Story, The Godfather, and Flashdance

If you’re looking for original original programming, there are a few – a drama adapted from a video game (Halo) and a Yellowstone spin-off. And of course, there’s yet another Star Trek show (Strange New Worlds). 

Q: What’s on tap for kids? 

Aside from a new Spongebob spin-off series and a new feature-length movie, the Nick-branded material includes the aforementioned iCarly and Dora The Explorer series, and a live-action The Fairly OddParents show.  

Dora The Explorer is one of the offerings you’ll find on the new Paramount Plus.

Q: What about reality TV and comedies?  

There’s a lot of existing programming here (RuPaul, Big Brother Live Feeds, Ink Masters), but there’s a reboot of The Challenge and Road Rules, not to mention new series Dating Naked and Queen Of The Universe, plus you have a Real World: New York reunion. 

Aside from Frasier, new comedies include Guilty Party, animated Harper House, Comedy Central’s Reno 911 and a weekly Trevor Noah show are on tap, with two feature-length movies based on Beavis and Butt-Head and Workaholics, respectively. Missing from the lineup is Comedy Central’s biggest show – South Park, whose streaming rights were sold to AT&T’s HBO Max. 

Adding to the comedy, Paramount claimed MTV created the reality TV genre in the press release, which in itself is is hilarious. 

Q: I miss music videos on MTV. Will they have them here? 

While there won’t be any music video programming, MTV is contributing Behind The Music (another reboot) and Unplugged, in addition to the aforementioned Yo! MTV Raps to the service.

Q: What other new shows are coming to Paramount +?

Several shows are making the move to Paramount + exclusively: Showtime’s Inside the NFL and TVLand’s Younger

Q: Anything else? 

In the news and documentaries department, look for another 60 Minutes show and new documentaries 76 Days and The Real Criminal Minds. And Paramount + has tons of movies, include the new Mission: Impossible 7 (debuting after a theatrical window of 30-45 days) not to mention classic films from the Paramount library and also from Epix and MGM (post-1986 library.) 

Q: Will I be able to see current CBS All Access shows on Paramount + ?

Everything now in CBS All Access will rollover to Paramount + including the existing scripted programming, classic TV shows, live sports, and news. However, one show won’t make the transition: CBS All Access canceled the latest version of the Twilight Zone after two seasons, but existing episodes will shift to Paramount +. 

Q: Great! Will I’ll be able to see Angie or Wings or The Untouchables? 

Classic TV programming I hear is going to be limited, so if you want the hits, it’s best you stick to MeTV and Antenna TV. 

Q: All right, what about pricing? 

Pricing is going to change. It will be $4.99/mo. for the basic Paramount stuff with ads (you also get CBSN and their local counterparts, CBS network shows, CBS Sports HQ, ET Live, CBS News material on demand, and CBS’ NFL games), but $9.99/mo. if you want live sports and the ability to stream your local CBS affiliate, wherever available (Chicago viewers should have no problems as WBBM-TV and Paramount + share the same corporate cousin in ViacomCBS.) 

Q: Is Paramount + going to be available everywhere? (updated)

Paramount + will be able on iOs (Apple) and Android devices, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire,  Smart TV makers Vizio, Samsung, and LG, and game consoles XBox One and Series X and the PS4 (but not the PS5.) The CBS AA app rolls automatically into the new Paramount one, account info included.

Q: Where I can find more information? 

It’s right here on the T Dog Media Slideshare page

Q: Do we really need another streaming service? 

No, but the entertainment industry (TV and film) is pivoting to streaming, and every studio and media company needs to be part of the action. But keep in mind there are some that serve a distinct niche – i.e. the successful launch of Discovery +, featuring content from Discovery’s cable networks plus original programming. But who’s going to have time to watch all of this content? Busy people, older audiences, and light TV watchers aren’t likely to spring for all of these services, and if they do, it’ll likely be one or two. 

Q: How do I pay for all of these streaming services? 

Consult your financial advisor. 

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“Chicago Tonight” in turmoil: Executive Producer out after social media post violations








Now-departed exec producer threatened show’s journalistic legacy 

If the decision to sell the Chicago Tribune – a local institution dating back to 1847 to out-of-town hedge fund interests who are known as newsroom gutters weren’t enough, now another headache as emerged at another of the city’s top news organizations. 

WTTW’s Chicago Tonight – long considered one of the best local news shows, is in turmoil as the station recently fired executive producer Hugo Balta after a year because of posts he made on social media. 

As documented by Robert Feder, Balta posted bizarre videos on Instagram, not to mention showing support for liberal candidates on social media – a no-no according to the station’s ethics and journalism guidelines. The issue came to light after co-hosts Phil Ponce, Brandis Friedman, and Paris Schultz brought the matter to WTTW bosses in a letter. 

After his termination, Balta spoke out in interviews with the Tribune and with public media trade magazine Current, saying he was wrongly fired. 

Balta also failed to disclose to WTTW he was owner and head content writer of the Latino News Network, an online news outfit in New England. He has since emerged at the Chicago Reader, according to the Tribune.

In the past, Chicago Tonight and the WTTW call letters had a representation for what critics stood for as “Wilmette Talking To Winnetka”, and a report was released about the show in the mid-2000s, criticizing the way it covers Chicago (I’ve praised the Chicago Week In Review in the past in this space, although the show hasn’t the same since Joel Weisman retired.) 

But in recent years, the show has done a better job covering the Chicago area – especially in minority neighborhoods with the coronavirus pandemic and focusing more on social justice issues in the wake of the killing of George Floyd as Balta was a key component. He was instrumental in creating two public affairs shows targeting minority audiences: Latino Voices, which he hosted, and Black Voices, hosted by Friedman (who is also taking over as host of Latino Voices on an interim basis.) Both air at 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, respectively.  

However, as this space has said before – if you are in this business,  you represent your employer around-the-clock – and that includes social media posts. Certainly, endorsing any political candidate – no matter what your position is – violates most journalistic standards and he should know better, especially given his experience. The late John Callaway helped build credibility for Chicago Tonight since it launched as a half-hour late night show in 1984, and it’s hard to feel sorry for Balta and even more so now since he was scooped up by a publication whose former editor lasted just ten days

In an interview with Laura Washington of the Sun-Times – a former Chicago Tonight correspondent and often appears on the weekly wrap-up show, Ponce said Balta’s termination had a lot to do with violating WTTW’s ethical standards more than anything else. “It all has to do with objectivity. And objectivity is, you know, it’s at the core of ‘Chicago Tonight’s’ DNA. If we become partisan and political, or people think we are, I mean, at that point, we’ve lost our credibility and relevance” Ponce said, whose been with the show for more than 20 years and recently renewed his contract. 

Chicago Tonight is certainly a treasure, at a time when many for-profit news organizations are cutting back – and especially when the major broadcast news networks have abandoned serving the public interest to chase ratings and revenue (and to appease Republican members of Congress who hold the key to deregulation) if the Sunday morning news shows, the lackluster coverage of the insurrection, and last year’s Presidential debate debacle are any indication. If you’re looking for non-partisan news programming, this is the place to be and it should stay that way. 

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Syndication update: MGM pulls plug on court shows’ original production

“Paternity Court” is out of production, but remains on air through reruns and podcasting. (MGM)

Court genre thins out, but still viable

After being one of the most reliable genres in first-run syndication during the last decade, the courtroom show pack is thinning the herd a little bit. 

According to Broadcasting & Cable, MGM (through production company Orion, the former film studio acquired by MGM) has halted production on three court shows – Couples Court With The Cutlers, Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, and Personal Injury Court, a newer strip on the air only two years. According to Wikipedia, Injury Court was canceled at the end of last season after only 120 episodes, despite a report in TVNewsCheck last year that it and the other two MGM shows were renewed

The pandemic could be partly the blame for the end of these shows, but also blame the unstable financial condition of MGM, as the studio – now run by reality TV producer Mark Burnett is now up for sale. Earlier, MGM sold two of its diginet channels to Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group – Light TV (which recently became TheGrio.TV) and This TV, a former partnership between the studio and Tribune Media and beforehand, Weigel Broadcasting. 

However, it may not be the end. All three shows’ repeats are still available to local stations and will be for the foreseeable future. Recent ratings for all three are unavailable as MGM does not subscribe to Nielsen. And the article also points out MGM plans to develop more court shows, despite the financial uncertainty.

In addition, Lake has launched a podcast series based on her show. 

Other shows have also ended production. Trifecta’s Protection Court shuttered last year but is also in repeats for the foreseeable future while Debmar-Mercury’s Caught In Providence was canceled after last season. The show is no longer airing on linear TV. 

Part of the problem is the vast majority of these shows has a station clientele consisting of lower-rated CW, My Network TV, and independent stations – and in some markets, these shows air in either late-night or early morning time slots. And when they do air in a decent time slot, viewership is often low as viewers generally don’t seek these stations during the day. Adding to this is a lack of widespread clearances, with some shows reaching a little over 70 percent of the U.S., the minimum needed to secure national barter advertising. 

But despite the shortcomings, reruns are likely to remain on stations’ schedules as replacements are far and few between with the pandemic’s after effects lasting well into 2022, putting a damper on pitches for new syndicated product. 

This comes after the biggest name in court – Judge Judy, is shifting her gavel to Amazon’s IMDB beginning this fall, leaving local stations with…you guessed it, reruns. CBS Media Ventures is currently selling those repeats in multi-year deals, though it is not known if the current Judge Judy station lineup would stay intact since CBS has not released any information on sales. 

Still, stations want to be in the court business, despite the glut of shows in recent years as it has been a doable genre since the premiere of the original People’s Court in 1981. As life gets back to normal, TV production should ramp up and so should pitches for new syndication product. In fact, Fox is already pitching an Ice-T court show with stations testing the program starting next month. And of course, there’s Allen’s five shows, all receiving multi-year deals to continue so even though several courtroom programs have called it quits, there won’t be a shortage of product. And that’s the final verdict. 

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Rush Limbaugh dies

Conservative talk show host revitalized AM band

One of radio’s biggest stars has passed on. 

Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday morning at the age of 70 from lung cancer.  While he’ll be known for revitalizing talk radio, he’ll also be known for the divisive rhetoric he pioneered. 

While conservative talkers were nothing new in radio (Howard Miller, Gary Dee, etc.), it was Rush Limbaugh who took the format national beginning in August 1988 via EFM Media and later, Premiere Networks. After basing his show in New York City, he relocated to his Palm Beach, Fla. home in recent years. 

Limbaugh worked as a DJ in Cape Girardeau, Mo. and Kansas City before leaving radio to work for the Kansas City Royals’ sales department. He returned to radio in Kansas City and later at Sacramento’s KFBK. 

During his time on the air, Limbaugh was credited with spearheading the conservative movement as his show reached nearly 600 radio stations across the country. His talk show helped spawned an entire format at a time when AM radio stations were losing listeners to the FM band. He was credited with helping the Republican party take Congress in 1994 and electing Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. 

And of course, there was controversy. Limbaugh’s show was known for ostracizing anyone who wasn’t a conservative white male on his show, as he targeted Blacks, Latinos, gays, women, and others and locally, scrapped with Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell. In one case I documented here in 2012, he ripped into a college student who testified in Congress on difficulty obtaining contraception and felt she needed public assistance with Limbaugh calling her a “slut” and a “whore”.

When women were atacked in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, the mayor told the Detroit News when she saw a link to his comments, “I thought of Rush Limbaugh, because those type of statements, left unchallenged, creates an atmosphere that devalues women.”  As a result, 40 advertisers pulled out of his show. 

And despite being cleared locally on WLS-AM, Limbaugh had a lot of disdain for Chicago, especially after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. He mocked the city after losing a Summer Olympic bid in 2009 and in recent years mocked the city’s homicide rate, like other conservative talk show hosts.  

His television career was less successful by comparison. Limbaugh signed a deal with Multimedia Entertainment (syndicators of Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Jerry Springer) for a late-night talk show which ran from 1992 to 1996. Although the run was respectable, it didn’t attract advertising due to his controversial persona. In Chicago, his show bounced around three stations (WGBO, WFLD, and WBBM-TV) during its run, mostly airing in late-night and early morning time slots. 

In March 1990, Limbaugh filled in for Pat Sajak in the waning days of his struggling CBS late-night talk show in a disastrous stint. Instead of the usual format the genre is known for, he turned it into a discussion on hot-button topics, which generated howls from the studio audience. His stint as a panelist for ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown was short-lived after he made race-based comments about Chicago-area native Donavan McNabb in 2003.

Limbaugh was inducted into the Radio Hall Of Fame and also received the Presidential Medal Of Freedom by President Trump last year.


With the passing of Limbaugh, Premiere Networks made the following announcement on Wednesday:  “Rush’s voice will continue to be heard, providing comfort and continued insight to his legions of loyal fans. All of Rush’s audio has been extensively archived and cataloged by subject, topic and opinion.  His producers will be able to pull segments that are relevant for each day’s news cycle and allow us to feature the best of Rush for the full three hours of the program.

Guest hosts will be used to “guide Rush’s audio from one topic to another, but Rush will be the predominant voice heard for the three-hour Monday-Friday show, the AM Daily Update and The Week in Review three-hour show.” The show will continue “with this transitional programming until his audience is prepared to say good-bye” with additional information posted at when necessary.”

Earlier, Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! died from pancreatic cancer as no succession plans were made. The show is relying on guest hosts in the interim. 


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Alden Global Capital to acquire the rest of Tribune Publishing

It’s [another] end of an era in Chicago media. But this one particularly stings

In a deal anticipated for months, New York City-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital announced Tuesday it has decided to acquire the 68 percent of Tribune Publishing they already didn’t own in a $630 million deal, giving them full control of the Chicago-based media company. In addition to the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Publishing also owns newspapers in nine other cities, including the New York Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Hartford Courant, among others.

Tribune’s Baltimore Sun is being sold to a non-profit company called Sunlight For All Institute, based in the city.

Alden has been known for bleeding newspapers dry by cost-cutting and reducing the number of journalists at their papers. The group owns more than 100 newspapers nationwide including the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Denver Post, where a newsroom revolt took place shortly after Alden bought the paper with the editorial board calling them “vulture capitalists”.

The news has depressed many in Chicago’s journalism community, fearing local news would suffer even more with the deal. A sampling of some responses, some from the Chicago Tribune journalists themselves.

Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jimenez assured employees in an e-mail this wouldn’t be the case – but he used the same kind of corporate jargon the general public doesn’t understand. “Quality journalism has been Tribune’s driving principal throughout its history and will continue to drive our business well into the future. The actions we have taken to drive digital growth and invest in high-quality content allow our newsrooms, our sales teams and all of our employees across the organization to deliver essential journalism and marketing solutions to the communities we serve.”

Translation: We’ll cut our way to profitability while trying to maintain the same quality journalistic “standards”, even though it is impossible to do without actually investing in it – a problem for years dating back to the day Sam Zell bought the paper in 2007 and took it right to bankruptcy a year later. This blog has documented the Chicago Tribune’s ineptness of covering stories for years, most recently a slip-shod attempt on how Chicago’s Black population has criticized media coverage of their communities – the Chicago Tribune included. And the situation has worsened as those high-quality writers Tribune keep touting have exited the paper in the last decade.

Even though there have been flashes of brilliance in recent years with stories on Crestwood’s water woes and sexual harassment in the Chicago Public School system, you won’t see stories of this caliber anymore, regardless of the babble some CEO says at the paper.

And we could see more of this…

And two journalists went to the New York Times to voice their concerns – though the New York Times is part of the problem to begin with as out-of-towners who tweet this don’t seem to read the Tribune at all.

The deal marks the end of an era in Chicago media, with the Chicago Tribune being the prominent newspaper in the Midwest, founded in 1847. In 1924, the paper invested in an new emerging medium called radio, as they launched WGN-AM with the call letters standing for “World’s Greatest Newspaper”. In 1948, the Tribune did the same with television, launching WGN-TV, carrying home grown programs and sports, such as the Chicago Cubs. By the 2000s, Tribune Co. owned numerous newspapers and became a major television group and a power player in the syndication business, even surviving a 1975 cross-ownership rule the FCC implemented, barring newspaper companies from owning TV and radio stations (Tribune and several others chains received waivers.)

During the Zell era, the company went through layoffs – not to mention questionable ethical practices and an overall dysfunctional atmosphere. In 2014, the company split into two separate companies: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing, with the former keeping the TV stations and WGN-AM (both would later be sold to Irving, Tex.-based Nexstar) and latter the newspapers.

And to make matters worse, Michael Ferro – who had a hand wrecking the Sun-Times, took over in 2016 and later that year, Tribune Publishing would re-name themselves as “tronc” in a widely-mocked move. In 2018, Ferro resigned shortly before allegations of sexual harassment was revealed. Ferro would later sell his 25 percent stake to Alden, later upping their stake to 32 percent.

With the sale, Chicago and Illinois lose another media company to call the state home. Earlier, Quincy, Ill.-based Quincy Media sold its TV and radio stations to Atlanta-based Gray Television and also plans to sell the Quincy Herald-Wiig – and don’t be surprised if it this paper too, winds up in Alden’s hands.

With the Supreme Court set to rule in favor of the FCC’s reworked media rules to end regulation on cross-ownership, it comes too late for Tribune and other former newspaper-TV-radio combos, who broke up years ago. Many of us suspected when Tribune filed for bankruptcy that the company would be broken up and sold to out-of-town interests. Thirteen years later, this has become a reality. But for those hand-wringing about quality journalism at the Chicago Tribune suffering at the hands of Alden, well sadly, that ship sailed a long time ago.

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Super Dud: Bowl numbers fall

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tom Brady’s seventh SB victory doesn’t help ratings

Super Bowl LV wasn’t exactly the ratings bonanza CBS and the NFL hoped it would be. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the big game at their home at Raymond James Stadium, who were awarded the rights years ago. But the team landed a big-name free agent during the offseason to be their quarterback – the one and only Tom Brady, who has six Super Bowl titles to his name during his time with the New England Patriots. 

After three consecutive road playoff wins, the Bucs got to play in the Super Bowl in their own home stadium – an NFL first, although two teams did play in their home metro area (the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford.)  Facing the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs beat them 31-9 and earned their second Super Bowl title in team history and Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl ring, surpassing Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles and perhaps cementing his status as The Greatest Of All Time. 

But it appears viewers didn’t exactly feel the love. Nielsen figures released Tuesday showed viewership falling to lows not seen in years. Among linear viewers, Super Bowl LV drew 91.63 million viewers adding 5.7 million streaming viewers, for a grand total of 96.4 million viewers across all platforms – the lowest tally for the big same since Super Bowl XLII matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts (93.1 million.) In all, viewership  declined from Super Bowl LIV on Fox, which attracted 99.91 million for Chiefs-49ers. 

On the Programming Insider, my Super Bowl predictions fell way short with 99.7 million.

As for actual ratings, the game drew the lowest since Super Bowl III, the Joe Namath-Johnny Unitas matchup from 1969 with a 38.2 household rating, and down from the 41.6 earned last year. 

Among adults 18-49, the game drew a 26.5 rating, down 11 percent from last year and marked the ninth straight year of decline in the demo and the lowest tally since Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. Among adults 25-54, the game drew a 30.7 , down 10 percent from last year and a 20.9 rating in adults 18-34, down 13 percent. 

In Nielsen’s overnight markets, Kansas City was the top market, with KCTV drawing a 59.9 household rating, followed by WBZ/Boston’s 57.6 mark, Tom Brady’s former home market. Tampa-St. Petersburg was third with a 52.3 for WTSP. 

Even though it’s been 35 years since the Bears won a Super Bowl, their local 63.1 rating and 87 share in Super Bowl XX remains a record for any home market whose team was in the big game, with the Bears’ loss in Super Bowl XLII drawing a 50.2/77  local rating and share in 2007 though it did reach more viewers and homes due to Nielsen measurement changes. The Bears victory also remains the highest-rated program in Chicago television history, at least dating back to 1986 (Chicago ratings for this year’s big game were not available.) 

There were several theories on why Super Bowl ratings were down this year, but perhaps the strongest case was the number of people streaming the game – a record 5.7 million. Another likely reason was the game was a blowout, as it was practically over by halftime. And of course, you have the pandemic. 

Other factors in play include many Black viewers sitting out as the NFL continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick, and Tom Brady appearing in (and winning) the Super Bowl too many times. Others believe the NFL’s decision to tackle social issues may have made the game too political for some. 

But the bigger picture is, will these declining numbers affect the NFL when it comes to seeking new television deals? Likely not, given the league’s popularity and despite this year’s “low numbers”, the NFL still outdraws everything on television, hampered by viewers pivoting to streaming. 

Post-game entertainment: The new face of The Equalizer

After the big game, CBS did something no network hasn’t done in years: launch a new show after the Super Bowl though long lasting success isn’t guaranteed (only The A-Team and The Wonder Years, and to a lesser extent, Family Guy and Undercover Boss have achieved hit status.) 

With that said, the premiere 0f The Equalizer with Queen Latifah drew decent sampling with 20.4 million viewers (on the Programming Insider, I predicted 26.5 million.) In the adults 18-49 demo, Equalizer earned a 5.1 rating, and a 6.3 in the 25-54 target demo. 

If this is familiar to you, that’s because CBS aired a similar series with the same name from 1985-89 starring Edward Woodward, who was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Drama series for four consecutive years in the title role. The series’ cancellation in 1989 came after CBS and producer Universal Television got into a dispute over the renewal of Murder, She Wrote. In an odd circumstance, the new Equalizer is being slotted in Wrote’s old post-60 Minutes time slot, a position the Angela Lansbury drama held for eleven of its twelve-season run.  

After its CBS run ended, off-network reruns aired on the USA Network. A film adapted from the TV show was released in 2014 and starred Denzel Washington with a sequel released in 2018.  



2021 Super Bowl Commercial Review: Tracy Morgan’s in my house and in my tub

Tracy Morgan taking advice from the late Larry Lujack: “Take off your clothes and get into the tub!”

Game was a blowout; commercials were about average 

Given the times we’re in with political division, unemployment, and a never-ending  pandemic riddled with deaths, I thought about sitting out this year’s Super Bowl commercial recap.

But pop culture never stops – even during a pandemic. And so here we are – and this year we have a song about oat milk, Bruce Springsteen trying to unite a divided nation, and Tracy Morgan in someone’s house taking a bath. Most of the ads avoided the fact we’re still in a pandemic, masks absent in most spots. Maybe they didn’t want to remind us of the times we’re in, and that’s okay because we’ve have enough of those heart-tugging and emotional ads last spring when the pandemic first arrived.  

So for the fifteenth edition of this Super Bowl Commercial review – where marketers paid $5.5 million per thirty second spot, we have a top ten list for both Best and Worst categories. As a reminder, network promos and movie/streaming trailers do not count. Some of the videos on this page could soon become unavailable, so you may see those annoying gray boxes if you come across this article in the future. In the next post, we’ll talk about the ratings and the game itself. 

The best

We start off with a disclaimer – had Geico run their Scoop There It Is ad with Tag Team during the Super Bowl (it ran before and after the game), it would have won this category hands down. 

1. Rocket Mortgage. Certain Is Better (w/Dave Bautista)

2. Rocket Mortgage, Certain Is Better (w/Joey Bosa)

Both of these were ranked #1 and #2 respectively in USA Today’s Ad Meter thanks to a get-out-the-vote campaign and fortunately for Rocket Mortgage, the ads were funny and very good. I’m pretty sure of it. Oh those poor suckers… er, I mean customers…

3. M&Ms, Come Together. Been a tough year for anyone named Karen or a M&M character (which is basically every year, trying to avoid getting eaten and the like.) Dan Levy is your Special Guest Star.

4. Cheetos, It Wasn’t Me. Real-life couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis appear in a commercial with Shaggy (the singer, not the cartoon character) singing his hit “It Wasn’t Me” to solve the mystery of who ate the Cheetos. And may have been Shaggy. And he would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

5. GM, No Way Norway. Only Will Ferrell could wind up in Sweden thinking it was Norway. You’ve been warned! 

6. Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer, All-Star Cast. The best part of this ad was Don Cheadle trying to evict Don Cheadle from his boat.

7. Tide, The Jason Alexander Hoodie. Well played, using the same song Alexander’s Seinfeld character mocked on a message answering machine (though some on Twitter didn’t get the comparison.) Then again, you wonder why a kid has a Jason Alexander hoodie to begin with. 

8. Scott’s Miracle-Gro, Keep Growing. This ad was terrific and funny with Martha Stewart and John Travolta dancing (and he still has it!)

9. Bud Light, Bud Light Legends. This was like an Bud-Light commercial All-Star game from past commercials including The Cutout Guy and Cedric. 

10. Jimmy John’s, Meet The King. The Champaign, Ill.-based chain has Brad Garrett as a “sandwich king” trying to torch ol’ Jimmy. Does the King usually take the Subway? Ok, I’ll stop now.

The worst 

Note: Click on links to see videos. 

1. Paramount Plus: Sweet Victory; Ice Bridge Crack; Roll Call; Frostbite Hooked It That’s right… a first-ever four-way tie for the worst ad…and it’s for the same inferior product! And the best part about ViacomCBS’ new streaming service ads is they were schooled on their own network by rival Disney, showing how you really market not just one streaming service but three of them. Meanwhile, the look on the CBS stars’ faces showed them wishing their network and Viacom stayed separate companies.

2. Jeep: The Middle. Talk about misreading the mood of the nation, Bruce.

3. Uber Eats, Wayne’s World & Cardi B’s Shameless Manipulation. With the abundance of cord-cutting, who in their right mind is still doing public-access shows in 2020? Plus, Uber Eats is putting small eatery businesses…out of business.

4. Fiverr, Opportunity Knocks.  This commercial fails on all levels with its political bent, given there are those who don’t want to be reminded of anything about the last President. And by the way, Four Seasons is the name of a well-respected heating and A/C company in the Chicago area – I’m certain they can’t be happy with this. 

5. Oatly, Wow Wow No cow. Holy cow, this is one commercial Haray Caray would even throw back. Of note this ranked dead last in USA Today’s Ad Meter Poll.

6. Chitpole, Can A Burrito Change The World? On the surface, this commercial can serve as a pilot for a new TV show with another know-it-all brat, similar in vain to Young Sheldon and The Goldbergs and we don’t need any more of that. And no, it won’t.

7. E*Trade, Workout. See #6.

8. Inspiration4: Join The First All-Civilian Space Mission. Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer went to outer space? Now Elon Musk wants to do this for real, with less amusing results.

9. Robinhood, We Are All Investors. And since we are now all investors, we took GameStop stock and nearly crashed the stock market. Talk about a poorly-timed ad.

10. Vroom, Dealership Pain. Does it seem odd the first 18 seconds of this ad described the last four years of the previous Presidential administration we were under?

Also of note, the NFL’s “Inspire Change” commercials regarding social justice seemed hollow given the league continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Halftime Show 

This year’s presentation featured pop and R&B artist The Weeknd as he performed a medley of his hits, including 2015’s Cant Feel My Face with a variety of weird camera angles and socially distant dancers marching with drolls on their heads. This was boring more than anything else. Too bad Shakira and Jennifer Lopez couldn’t come back for an encore this year. 

The reaction on social media was split, as expected given most people over a certain age hated it or didn’t understand what was going on, while his fans and younger people loved it. Of course, the arrogance of The Weeknd’s fan base showed as one tweeter noted “Slander toward The Weeknd will not be allowed”. Of course, social media is basically 100 percent slander. 

Grade: D- 

Further reading 

NPR’s Eric Deggans has his annual review and you can read it here.

Ad Age also has reviews of the ads, and you can read them here.

The aforementioned Super Bowl Ad Meter from USA Today ranks all 57 commercials here. 

As mentioned before, this is the fifteenth straight year T Dog Media has reviewed Super Bowl Ads. For past reviews dating all the way back to 2007, click here. Keep in mind older videos posted in those reviews may no longer be available. 


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Matt Spiegel returns to the Score and reunites with Danny Parkins

Spiegel can now ruin Pizza Friday every week.

Team reunites after three years apart

After being demoted at The Score three years ago, Matt Speigel is back in the afternoons where he belongs. 

Beginning today, Speigel is reunited with co-host Danny Parkins in afternoons from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Entercom-owned sports talk station after being bounced for a returning Dan McNeil. 

From the press release

“Matt has always been part of the Score team, but the fact that he is now reunited with Danny in Afternoons is great news most for fans,” said Mitch Rosen, Brand Manager, 670 The Score. “Matt’s popularity with our audience throughout all of our platforms is unwavering. The content he delivers on a daily basis is thoughtful, entertaining, opinionated sports talk, and data shows from the previous time together that listeners love this tandem of Danny and Matt.”

“This is where I’m supposed to be: talking sports and more with this audience, creating a daily space for connection and companionship,” said Spiegel. “There’s nothing like it. Danny Parkins is a great host and a good friend. What he and I had found in terms of chemistry was special three years ago and I’m super excited to resume, move forward creatively, and see where we can go.”

Speigel has been with WSCR in some capacity or another since 1994 in numerous roles in a variety of dayparts and recently taken a position with Marquee Sports as a contributor to Chicago Cubs coverage. From 2017 to 2018, he was an afternoon co-host with Parkins until he was replaced by McNeil thanks in part to since-departed Entercom market manager and senior vice-president Jimmy deCastro. Speigel remained with The Score in a fill-in/weekend role. 

Last September, McNeil was fired from The Score after making a sexist statement on social media regarding ESPN’s Maria Taylor on-air wardrobe during a Monday Night Football game. 

This latest change comes a month after WSCR announced the promotion of Leila Rahimi to full-time co-host with Dan Bernstein mornings from 9 am. to noon, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time position at a Chicago radio sports talk station. 

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