Monday, December 31, 2007

The Excellent 10 of 2007 and more

From #10 to #1, the best TV shows of 2007...

10) Chuck (NBC) Computer geek who works at a big-box is also a spy. Great concept.

9) Mad Men (AMC). Realistic look at ad agency business in the 1960's, far more accurate than what you saw on Bewitched. On Mad Men, nobody becomes impotent from spells cast by Endora.

8) Countdown with Keith Olbermann (MSNBC) - Alright, for those of you who don't think Keith Olbermann is funny and witty - you don't have a sense of humor. Or you are on the right. Same thing...

7) King of the Hill (Fox).

6) Ugly Betty (ABC) Down from #3 last year.

5) Pardon the Interruption (ESPN).

4) The Daily Show (Comedy Central) Come back Jon and hurry!

3) Family Guy (Fox). Last year's #1.

2) South Park (Comedy Central) "Guitar Queer-O"and "ImaginationLand: The Trilogy" - the best episodes on TV this year. Congrats to Matt and Trey on another wonderful season.

1) Simpsons (Fox) Great rebound this year, thanks to The Simpsons Movie and a fall season (its 19th) that's the best its been in years.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Steve Wilkos Show (syndicated - no, I'm not delirious), The Amazing Race (CBS), Power of 10 (CBS), Colbert Report (Comedy Central).


- America's Next Top Model. Last year's #4, this last cycle of this show was not exactly one of the best, with obviously staged catfights, Tyra Banks belittling a contestant for quitting, and picking a winner of the competition who's worked with her before (Tyra must've studied Chicago politics before making that decision.) This program is a step away from becoming another reality show also-ran.

- Heroes. Man. And you thought the Bears were disappointing. What happened? Last year's Cristal is this year's Keystone Light, with inconsistent storylines, poor special effects, two lackluster season finales, and over-dramatic acting. I know what the fans of the show are telling me - if you don't like it, go back to watching Girlfriends (hey, yours truly isn't that desperate.) but anyone who thinks Heroes' season two is better than season one also think the Bears' Rex Grossman was a better quarterback this season than last (there I go again...)

- Ugly Betty. Last year's #3. While the show's quality has remained consistent (unlike Heroes), the ratings for the show have dropped. ABC should have moved Ugly Betty to Wednesdays at 8 (CT) for its second season. The program would play much better there than on Thursdays in the earlier time slot, where it is getting swatted by Survivor and now by that 5th Grader show.

BEST COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: The Chicago Blackhawks. After Bill Wirtz died, the team was taken over by his son Rocky. What did he do? For starters, he put home games on TV, hired John McDonough (formerly of the Cubs) as president of the club, and improved the team's marketing efforts with the focus on two rookies - Patrick Kane and Jonathan Loews. This exciting young team has made hockey in Chicago watchable again. Restore the roar, indeed.

BEST COMMERCIAL: A classy tribute to the late Dick Wilson (a.k.a "Mr. Whipple") from Procter & Gamble, who always reminded us not to squeeze the Charmin. Best tribute since the ads honoring Wendy's founder Dave Thomas and Fred ("Time to make the donuts") from Dunkin' Donuts when they died. A great nod to the past.

BEST PROMOTION: 7-Eleven converting ten of its stores nationwide (including one here on the city's Southwest Side) to Kwik-E-Marts to promote The Simpsons Movie.

BEST TEAM: No doubt about this - The New England Patriots with their undefeated season.

BEST MOVE BY A CHICAGO RADIO STATION: WLIT canning Delilah's loser of a syndicated show. Yeehaw! (and getting rid of Whoopi Goldberg's show in the process.)

BEST MEDIA OUTLETS: WGN on the radio side and WLS on the TV side. This has been for how long now?

And that's a wrap for The T Dog Media Blog in 2007. Thanks for stopping by and see you next year!

Say goodbye to Nick GAS, Court TV

The new year brings changes to cable lineups as Court TV becomes TruTV on Tuesday and Nick GAS (which ran out of gas long ago - couldn't no longer afford to fill up the tank, perhaps?) becomes teen-oriented channel The N, split off from pre-school/tot channel Noggin. Effective today, both become 24/7 services.

Both Nick GAS and Court TV join The Tube as digital and/or cable channels going into the graveyard this year.

UPDATE: Because of a technical snafu in switching over to The N, Dish Network customers will continue to get Nick GAS until January 31. The N continues to share the space with Noggin.

updated at 19:13 on 2008-01-03

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Toilet Bowl of 2007

There were a lot of forgettable moments in media in 2007, and we have them right here... First, let's start off with the year's worst TV, from #10 to #1:

10) The O'Reilly Factor (Fox News): This show still sucks.

9) Around the Horn (ESPN) Ditto.

8) Chicago Sports (various channels) What a great year for Chicago Sports! The Cubs imploded in the playoffs, the White Sox didn't even make them, the Bears - fresh off playing in the Super Bowl - stunk up the joint with the play of alleged "quarterback" Rex Grossman, the Bulls' poor play this fall (with the coach getting the ax), and The Beaver - Jay Mariotti. Who needs Cavemen when when you have bad TV like this in Chicago on a regular basis?

7) Bionic Woman (NBC) Bad remake of a bad TV show that was canceled by two TV networks in the 1970's.

6) Online Nation (CW) How many viewers watched this show, you ask? 50? 100? 200? 4? Whatever the number, it was enough to shelve this piece of junk after four weeks.

5) Pirate Master (CBS) A Survivor rip-off that lasted walked the plank after five weeks. Aarrgh, matey!

4) Kid Nation (CBS) See above, except that this show hasn't been canceled yet.

3) Anchorwoman (Fox) One episode was more than enough for this "experiment", which wasn't entertaining given the hell we were put through this past summer with the Amy Jacobson/Craig Stebic fiasco.

2) Cavemen (ABC) In 1964, CBS gave us Linus the Lionhearted, a Saturday Morning cartoon based on a line of Post cereals (including Sugar Bear.) In 2007, ABC gives us a TV show based on an insurance ad. Man, how times haven't changed. The only difference between Linus and Cavemen was Linus actually had talent behind the characters - something Cavemen apparently lacks (and to you smart-asses who said I haven't watched a single episode of Cavemen - I did. So there.)

1) Viva Laughlin (CBS) Two episodes, done in four days. The only surprise here is this show was even worse than Cavemen.

DISHONORABLE MENTION: The Bachelor (ABC), 1st and 10 (ESPN), I Love New York (VH1), John from Cincinnati (HBO), Journeyman (NBC), National Bingo Night (ABC), The Singing Bee (NBC), Temptation (syndicated), WWE Raw (USA).

WORST PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR: Sanjaya from American Idol, who thankfully faded from the spotlight. Now, if only Randy, Paula, and Simon (and this stupid show) can do the same...

WORST COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Britney Spears. Her performance at the MTV Video Awards was as about as bad as the show itself, and her new album flopped - with two singles from her CD failing to break the top 10 on Mediabase's Pop Chart. Don't worry Britney fans (if any), she still lives on every night in ET/Extra/Access:Hollywood/Insider/TMZ/E! land.

WORST TEAM: The Miami Dolphins. Well, duh?

WORST PROMOTION OF THE YEAR: The Aqua Teen Movie promotion in Boston that went awry. Didn't exactly drive people to theaters to see the flick. Hey Aqua Teen guys - stick to the small screen.

WORST PROMOTION OF THE YEAR (Chicago Edition): Hiring 83 year-old Bob Barker to promote Q101's The Morning Fix, with billboards across the area featuring him telling listeners to "get fixed". After six months, it was The Morning Fix that got neutered.

WORST MOVE BY A CABLE NETWORK: From a Toon fanboy perspective: Cartoon Network airing 5 hours of Scooby-Doo a day. And you thought Deal or No Deal was overexposed... Well, at least none of those episodes had Scrappy-Doo in them.

WORST MOVE BY A RADIO STATION: WGCI-FM firing Crazy Howard McGee for the comic stylings of Steve Harvey.

WORST COMMERCIALS: Those unfunny "Epic Movie"/"The Comebacks"/"Meet the Spartans" spots. And you thought the current crop of sitcoms on TV were bad. These movies makes Cavemen look like The Dick Van Dyke Show. Almost. Followed closely by those inane "What would Chicagoans do without their Comcast "spots with the Bears' Brian Urlacher (be a lot happier.)

WORST PLOTS OF THE YEAR: Take your pick: Vince McMahon's "death" on WWE Raw or Mederith Grey's "death" on Grey's Anatomy? Whatever the case, those stunts made those programs even more popular. Somebody, please explain this to me...

WORST REALITY FIASCO: The Pussycat Dolls' reality show, a program featuring the sextuplet (and I use that term loosely) music group that was looking for the next "doll" - a program ignored not only by men, but also by the targeted female audience. Well, the Maxim Magazine babes found her - and she promptly quit.

THE DEVA VU AWARD: To WLS-AM overnighter Nate Clay, who jokingly promised listeners one thousand dollars for anyone who could identify the person who wrote the classic song "Stand By Me" (which was turned into a techno-pop hit this year under the guise of "Beautiful Girls" for Sean Kingston.) Clay was suspended for the incident. In 1988, WLS-AM overnighter Mike McDonald jokingly promised "the keys to a brand-new shiny Porsche" to a listener who could correctly answer a question. He was fired.

THE "JUMP THE SHARK" AWARD: ESPN's widely panned Who's Now segments on SportsCenter. And even worse, PTI's Michael Wilbon actually defended them. Man, oh man Wilbon, you've been hanging around Jim Belushi too much.

THE LAST WORD: This list isn't complete with the writer's strike. With those guys on the picket line and more "reality" programming expected, rest assured there will be plenty of worst programs on this list for 2008 starting with Celebrity Apprentice.

(Editor's Note: I accidentally omitted one show in the dishonorable mention category - ABC's "National Bingo Night" and corrected the spelling of "Journeyman" - T.H. Updated 2008-01-02 at 2:23 p.m.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Letterman returns on Wedensday - with writers

The first deal the Writer's Guild made since the strike began is for Late Show with David Letterman. The new interim deal covers not only Letterman's show, but Craig Ferguson's as well, since Letterman owns his show and Ferguson's (a main stipulation in the CBS deal when he came to the Tiffany Network in 1993.)

New shows began January 2, as will a lot of other late-night talk show hosts, but without writers.

A thought...

Recently, several individuals who have made contributions to their respective fields - from Donda West to Jimmy Stagg from Roger King to Mark Sullivan to Terry Armour - have passed on. They made them in their own, unique ways.

One person was a very gifted and talented DJ in the 1960's. Another wrote a column for a major newspaper and had the heart and personality to warm the room. Another was a person who turned the syndication business on its head and made it and his company a multi-million dollar venture. One was the mother of a major hip-hop star - and a person who excelled in her own right as a successful educator (at my alma mater, no less) and an author. Another was a singer and songwriter who loved radio and was an all-around good guy.

Yes, we are mourning their deaths. But let's celebrate their lives as well.

This is a reminder to everyone - life is what you make it. You never know when it is going to be taken away from you. Make every minute of your life count. Make contributions. Make a difference. These wonderful people did.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Former WCKG host Terry Armour dies

More sad news: Chicago Tribune columnist and former WCKG co-host Terry Armour has died unexpectedly at the too-young age of 46.

Armour was rushed to the hospital this afternoon after falling ill. He died a short time later.

Armour worked at the Tribune, covering the Bulls' championship run in the 1990's and previously co-hosted a midday talk show with Stan Lawrence on WCKG-FM until two months ago, when the station dropped its FM talk format.

This is the second time in the last 36 hours that a Chicago media personality has died. On Thursday, WILV-FM DJ Mark Sullivan passed away at the age of 40.

Sun-Times: Tribune columnist Terry Armour dies

Feder's Media Awards for 2007

Always a fun read, Rob Feder of the Sun-Times reviews the highlights (Delilah getting canned) - and lowlights (Amy Jacobson at Craig Stebic's house) - and everything else in between - in the year that was in Chicago Media.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

WILV's Mark Sullivan dies

Sad news to report: WILV-FM (Love FM) nighttime DJ Mark Sullivan has passed away at the too-young age of 40 from a heart condition. An obituary has been posted on Love FM's website.

WVON program director quits - on the air

It's not every day that somebody quits on-air - it happened once in 1960 when Jack Paar shocked everyone when he quit The Tonight Show - in the middle of the broadcast - after NBC cut out a joke he made regarding the initials W.C. being confused for a water closet instead of a wayside chapel the previous night (hey, it was 1960 after all...)

Yesterday on urban news/talk WVON-AM, program director Coz Carson - filling in for the vacationing Santita Jackson - quit his position as he was signing off. He announced that he was taking a position with a New York City radio station effective January 2.

Carson left the station because of "creative differences" with Melody Spann-Cooper, who is President and CEO of WVON's owner, Midway Broadcasting. Carson was at WVON only six months.

By the way, Jack Paar returned to Tonight a month later, but left again in 1962 - and was replaced by an upcoming star named Johnny Carson.

(Editor's note: To read Coz Carson's side to this story, click on the comments section. - T.H.)

updated 12:52 a.m. on 2007-12-28

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Patriots-Giants game to air on three networks

NFL Fans now will get a chance to see history in the making.

The Saturday Night game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants - which was only going to air on the barely-distributed NFL Network - will also air now on NBC and CBS - both of which will simulcast the NFL network feed.

The last time NBC and CBS simulcast a football game together was the first Super Bowl (and was also known for a fight between the NBC and CBS crews - they had to erect a fence to separate them both.)

The game will also air on WWOR in New York and WCVB-TV in Boston (with a simulcast on WCVB's sister station, WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H). Those three stations had the rights to air the game beforehand (yeah, I bet WWOR and WCVB are real happy about this...)

The 15-0 Patriots have a chance to become the first 16-0 team in NFL history and rank as one of the most dominant sports teams in history. The last time any team in professional sports went undefeated was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 14-0 and won Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins.

One thought: Did this move by the NFL was related to Senator John Kerry's threat to haul the league onto Capitol Hill for hearings if they didn't make the game available to the broadcast networks?

UPDATE: The game is also being carried in Canada on broadcast network CTV, and cable channels TSN and TSN HD.

"I wanted to be on the news"

That's what the driver of the van said after he crashed it into WLS-TV's studios on Sunday night during the station's newscast. He has been charged with criminal damage to property over $100,000.

Man, that phrase is so 1976. Son, have you ever heard of YouTube?

"Judge Hatchett" to end production

Sony Pictures Television's Judge Hatchett daytime strip will end original production after eight seasons, but instead will pitch "best of" theme weeks to TV stations for next fall.

Hatchett airs locally on Fox-owned WFLD-TV.

Since there are so many episodes produced of Hatchett over the years, Sony says the move makes economical sense - there are well over 1000 episodes in the can.

Sony is actually taking a page from what many syndicators did in the 1990's did with court shows. Warner Bros. ended production on the original version of People's Court (with Judge Joesph Wapner) in 1993 after amassing over 1,000 episodes over twelve seasons, and aired repeats in syndication for several years thereafter (People's Court did resume production in 1997.)

Warner also handled Love Connection (a game show) in the same manner, as did Genesis Entertainment with The Judge and Blair Entertainment with the Judge William Keene version of Divorce Court.

Sony will have a new courtroom this fall with Judge Karen, which has been cleared locally over WCIU-TV.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Minivan crashes into WLS-TV's studios - during a newscast!

A van crashes into WLS-TV's studios - three minutes into the station's 10 p.m. newscast. Notice what the ticker says on the photo to the left. Ironic, isn't it?

Tonight's top story... Is right here at the station! A minivan crashed right into our studio... right when we are on the air!

A minivan crashed into the studios of ABC-owned WLS-TV last night just three minutes into the station's 10 p.m. newscast. Anchor Ravi Baichwal was in the process of handing it off to a reporter for a live shot when the minivan crashed right into WLS' storefront studios on 190 North State Street in Downtown Chicago.

According to the station, it appears that the driver drove into the station's studios on purpose. Chicago Police arrested a 25-year old individual from north suburban Evanston in the incident, and charged him with reckless driving and driving without insurance. No one was injured. Witness standing outside the building said the driver was making a series of U-Turns on State Street before he crashed into the building.

Here is video of WLS' coverage and anchor Ravi Baichwal's reaction to the crash, courtesy of YouTube:

This bring back memories of another weird incident that took place at WLS on a Saturday night in 1990. Chased by Chicago Police, a robber fled into WLS' building and held himself captive there, causing an evacuation and knocking the station off the air for several hours. The robber arrived minutes before the station's newscast was set to begin.

(Note: This post is a combination of two posts on this subject that appeared earlier.)

Bulls fire head coach

Like the Blackhawks did in 1976 to their coach, and what happened to former Bulls coach Tim Floyd in 2001 (he resigned), Bulls coach Scott Skiles gets canned on Christmas Eve in 2007, fast becoming a Christmas tradition in Chicago.

The Bulls, which are quickly becoming the NBC of the NBA, are 9-16, and were blown out in back-to-back games over the weekend.

Interesting to note that both NBC and the NBA were partners in the '90's and since have gone their separate ways, both share the same characteristics - nobody wants to watch them, particularly in the nation's two biggest markets - New York and Chicago, where the teams suck - and they have total boobheads running the joints into the ground.

The 2007 NBA Finals were the lowest rated of all-time and NBC posted record low numbers in the recent November sweeps.

Maybe Scott Skiles should become NBC's next programming chief - after all, he has the credentials - he already knows how to screw up a losing team.

As for the person who is there now - Ben Silverman - I got a new job for him - The Bulls' ballboy.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fox sells eight TV stations to Oak Hill

News Corp. had made good on its promise to sell eight of its Fox TV stations, and it did to the newly-formed Local TV group headed by private equity firm Oak Hill Partners for $1.1 billion. The proceeds from the sale gives News Corp. the cash it needs to purchase the Wall Street Journal.

In a separate development, Tribune and Oak Hill have agreed to create a third-party management company that will share administrative duties. Randy Michaels, who was CEO of Local TV, was named Thursday as CEO of Tribune Broadcasting and Tribune Interactive.

The eight stations being sold are: WJW-TV in Cleveland, KDVR-TV in Denver, KTVI in St. Louis, WDAF-TV in Kansas City, WITI-TV in Milwaukee, KSTU in Salt Lake City, WBRC-TV in Birmingham, and WGHP-TV in Greensboro-High Point, N.C.

Six of these stations - WJW, KTVI, WDAF, WITI, WBRC, and WGHP - were former affiliates of the Big Three networks that were involved in the New World-Fox affiliation switch in 1994 and 1995. New World Communications sold all but two of its stations to Fox in 1997.

Local TV launched earlier this year when it made a deal to acquire eight former New York Times Co. stations, including WREG-TV (CBS) in Memphis, KFOR-TV (NBC) in Oklahoma City, WNEP-TV (ABC) in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., and WQAD-TV (ABC) in Moline, IL.

The transaction leaves Fox with 26 stations (for now - the fate of WHBQ in Memphis is still undetermined), including WFLD-TV and WPWR-TV in Chicago.

updated 10:44 p.m. on 2007-12-22

Friday, December 21, 2007

USA dumps "Dead Zone", "4400"

The Dead Zone lives up to its name: it really is dead. USA dropped it and 4400, after four and three-year runs, respectively.

Debmar-Mercury currently distributes The Dead Zone in broadcast syndication.

You Be 'Iiiin'

Urban Contemporary WGCI-FM is launching a new show featuring local hip-hop and R&B artists called Go Ill.

The program premieres this Saturday night at 9 p.m. and run in that time slot every week. It will also feature interviews with the artists behind the music. WGCI has often been criticized for not featuring enough local artists on its station (other than R. Kelly and Jennifer Hudson.)

The program derives its title from the last two letters of Chicago and the first three letters of Illinois. While some people may have a problem with its name, Go Ill is a far better name than say, oh, Cavemen and Anchorwoman.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stewart, Colbert to return on the air January 7

Good news for fans of the Comedy Central duo. The bad news is, like everybody else, they're returning without their writers. 

It's official: Zell takes over the Tribune

The Sam Zell era officially began this afternoon with the closure of the $8.2 billion deal to take the Tribune Co. private. 

Randy Michaels returns to Chicago

Robert Feder in the Sun-Times today has a rather detailed look at the career of Randy Michaels, the guy who saved WFLZ-FM in Tampa by creating "The Power Pig" - and his most infamous radio stunt right here in Chicago - Using "hell" as a marketing slogan in 1991 that practically destroyed former contemporary-hit radio station WYTZ-FM (Z95).

Michaels is being tapped by Sam Zell to run Tribune's broadcast operations of the Tribune Co., in which Zell is taking over today. Zell hired Michaels when he owned Jacor to run its radio division. Michaels became a top executive at Clear Channel Communications when Jacor sold its stations to the media conglomerate.

Brian Holmes (formerly of WFLZ) had a great website (which is now defunct) detailing how Michaels, as a radio consultant from Cincinnati, turned around WFLZ from a middling oldies outlet in 1989 to a CHR powerhouse - one that continues to this day. Among the stunts Michaels would conceive:

- To launch the format, WFLZ "held" one of WRBQ-FM's (Q105) deejays "hostage" - Cleveland Wheeler. Though still an oldies outlet, they were threating to flip to the Top 40 format Q105 had a monopoly on, unless the station paid WFLZ $1 million. It finally flipped to the format on September 25, 1989, re-branding the station as Power 93: The Power Pig and taking WRBQ-FM (Q105) on head-to-head.

- WFLZ began selling "Screw the Q" T-shirts around town from the Pig Van.

- The stunts created buzz in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and also attracted national attention .

In 1993, WRBQ-FM left the contemporary-hit format forever and flipped to Country (the station is still known as Q105 and is now an oldies outlet.)

WFLZ also was home to two discjockeys with Chicago ties - The Tim and Tom Show, which featured future WLUP-FM executive Tim Dukes, and their replacement on the evening shift -former WBBM-FM personality Bubba The Love Sponge (Todd Clem, who now has a show on Howard Stern's 101 channel on Sirius Satellite Radio.)

The sad part about Michael's Chicago experience was that the "hell" stunt he created for WYTZ to compete with arch rival WBBM was clearly ill-conceived. Here's a marketing lesson for you kids out there - never use anything related to Satan as a marketing tool.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trifecta lands "Idol Rewind"

That was quick: Just days after Tribune announced it was shuttering its syndication operations, Trifecta Entertainment announced it was picking up syndicated rights to one of the series Tribune used to distribute: American Idol Rewind, the hour-long weekly series that is currently in its second season in syndication.

Two-year old Trifecta is best known in syndication circles for distributing weekly series UFC Wired and a Jack Hanna animal show.

Rewind airs locally on WGN-TV Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Mondays at 2:30 a.m. The program is re-packaged past episodes of American Idol, with new footage added.

FremantleMedia (once in the syndication business itself) produces the program for Fox and had a multi-year deal with Tribune to handle syndication sales of the show. The deal basically gave Idol a year-around presence, given the program's season starts in January and wraps up in May.

Barter ad sales for the show have not been determined, though there is a possibility that Trifecta may stick with Tribune for such duties. It is also not clear whether or not Rewind will be back on the Tribune stations for a third season.

No word when or if other Tribune fare, such as Soul Train and U.S. Farm Report, will be picked up by other syndicators.

Lowry reaches out to Drudge readers

Brian Lowry reaches out to Matt Drudge readers in his Vairety article today. Not sure if it is a good idea to reach out to a bunch of racist, right-wing nutjobs who worship this fraud and Jay Mariotti (yeah, I threw that in there...)

Notice the article I linked to was the printer (and moronic commenter free)-friendly version...

FitzSimons steps down

Dennis FitzSimons is out as President, Chairman, and Chief Executive of the Tribune Co. in wake of the $8.2 billion sale of the company to Sam Zell, who will become a board chairman.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tribune Entertainment, R.I.P. (1982-2007)

Company to live on as ad-sales operation only

The company that launched its first syndicated show in 1982 with At the Movies featuring Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, has closed its doors.

Tribune Entertainment's syndication division shuttered a few days ago, ending its station sales (distribution) operations, with three executives from its Chicago office laid off. However, its advertising sales unit will continue to operate. Tribune Entertainment was initially based in Chicago, but moved the bulk of its operations to Los Angeles in 1996.

This comes as Sam Zell is closing in on his $8.2 billion purchase of Tribune Co. The move marks a major reversal from what was reported last spring, when Zell met with Tribune Entertainment executives and seemed to indicate that the syndication division would ramp up again with first-run programming.

Tribune launched with mostly weekly shows in the 1980's with At the Movies, British import Dempsey & Makepeace, and U.S. Farm Report, and took over the syndication duties of Soul Train.

It took a big step in 1987 by launching its first-ever strip, a talk show hosted by Geraldo Rivera, with help (from the sales side) from Paramount. The strip helped launch the sleaze era of daytime TV, highlighted by a brawl that took place on his show in November 1988 between civil-rights activists and white supremacists, in which a chair broke Geraldo's nose and landed him on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

In 1989, with help from Paramount, it launched The Joan Rivers Show in syndication. In 1991, it took station sales of Geraldo and Joan Rivers in-house, with a launch of another syndicated Geraldo Rivera-hosted strip, Now It Can Be Told.

But trouble began in 1992 when Told folded and a high-profile late-night talk show strip from Dennis Miller failed. Joan Rivers' syndicated daytime show was relaunched in January 1994 as a talk/shopping hybrid and was shown the door after six months.

While the company continued to pump out successful weekly shows like Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda, the company's efforts to launch a first-run strip continued to falter with the failures of The Charles Perez Show and Buzz!. The company lost its only first-run strip on at the time when Geraldo Rivera decided to end his talk show in 1998.

When the weekly hours ran their course, demand for action hours in syndication dried up, leaving Tribune with little presence in high-viable weekend time periods. Tribune continued to struggle in the first-run strip arena with the quick demises of Talk or Walk and Beyond with James Von Praagh.

Tribune did secure rights to syndicate three of Fremantle's game shows when that company left the syndication business in 2001, but two of those programs were quickly canceled and left Tribune with only Family Feud, which changed syndicators this season when Debmar-Mercury won the rights to the show.

Another blow for Tribune came when Don Cornelius Productions shut down production of Soul Train in 2006, leaving the program entirely in reruns. Soul Train, which began in Chicago on WCIU-TV, ran in syndication for 35 years. An annual Christmas special, The Soul Train Christmas Starfest, isn't airing this year, and the future of other Soul Train specials - including The Soul Train Music Awards - is unknown.

The future of current Tribune product, including American Idol Rewind and U.S. Farm Report is up in the air, though Fremantle can always find another syndicator for Rewind while Farm Report and Soul Train reruns could likely be on their way out.

Tribune though, is expected to continue to sell ad time for Debmar-Mercury's South Park repeats in syndication.

updated at 11:20 a.m. on 2007-12-19 (add Feder link)

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel to return on Jan. 2 as well

He will join Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien in doing shows without writers on Jan. 2.

Big Media gets Christmas gift from FCC today

The ownership vote fell among party lines 3-2. Which means a lump of coal for the rest of us.

As you all know, this is far from over. Look for this to be challenged in court, and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is truly a sad day for independent media in this country.

One good thing about 2007: It's almost over

And that phrase is not just coming from Chicago sports fans. Expenditures were down across the board for traditional media for the first nine months of 2007 (with the exception of cable) according to TNS. Not a good year for ad spending on TV, particularly with Spot sales and syndication (thank you, Macy's.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

KYW anchor arrested

Alycia Lane, a reporter for CBS-owned KYW-TV in Philadelphia was arrested in New York City Saturday night for striking a police officer in the city's meatpacking district. If you recall, Lane appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil a few years back to discuss her failed marriages (Dr. Phil also airs on KYW and sister station WPSG in Philadelphia.)

Dr. Phil is syndicated by CBS Television Distribution (CTD). KYW, WPSG and CTD are all owned by CBS Corp.

KYW has placed Lane on "indefinite leave" and is on vacation until further notice.

UPDATE: Lane has also been pulled from all of the station's promos and has been cut out of the KYW's holiday special, fueling speculation that she might not return from "vacation".

So, how's that working for ya? Not too well, I see...

updated at 11:29 a.m. on 2007-12-18

"Survivor" still packs a punch

All right, Survivor may not be a popular show in the Windy City - but it's popular everywhere else it seems, as last night's Survivor: China finale got a big boost last night with the ratings up 15 percent from last May's Survivor: Fiji finale.

However, compared to December 2006's Survivor finale, the numbers were off.

In a stunning upset, Todd Herzog from Utah walked away with the million dollar prize, beating favorite Amanda Kimmel (who received just one vote) and Courtney Yates.

The ratings resurgence for Survivor comes as another once red-hot reality show, ABC's The Bachelor, has also experienced a ratings revival this year. This gives new hope to NBC's Apprentice, in which the slumping reality franchise comes back in January with a celebrity edition.

Survivor returns in February with a new twist - pitting eight All-Stars against eight Superfans (rest assured none of them come from the Chicago area.) This time, the setting is in Micronesia.

It is unclear how fans of the show will receive this format, as there was some backlash from Survivor: All-Stars, which pitted sixteen past contestants against one another.

Yes, Survivor contestants had to play a game to backstab and lie and hurt people they cared about.

They'd make great politicians.

Leno, Conan return to NBC late night

Taking a page from Johnny Carson's playbook in 1988 during the last writer's strike, NBC announced Monday that Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien will return to work with new episodes of their respective late-night shows on January 2, in lieu of writers.

Meanwhile, Letterman's production company (Worldwide Pants) is negotiating with its writers to return The Late Show with David Letterman back on the air as soon as possible.

"Duel" premieres tonight - at 1:35 a.m.

Thanks to something called a Bears-Vikings game on ESPN, and is being simulcast on ABC-owned WLS-TV in Chicago. Duel is also being delayed in Minneapolis because of the game, but it gets a better time slot: at 11:35 p.m. on ABC affiliate KSTP-TV (Being delayed in Chicago behind Oprah is one thing, but behind a Jimmy Kimmel Live repeat? Come on...)

Don't worry, the new game show is running in prime-time all week long, so you won't miss out. The host of the show is former Chicago resident Mike Greenberg of ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning and a former CLTV and SportsChannel sports anchor. Greenberg is also a WMAQ-AM and WSCR-AM (The Score) alum.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Worst Person In Media This Week - 12/14/07

Hi, my name is Bobby Petrino. I just abandoned my owner, players, and fans in Atlanta - just to be with you guys. Because you're special. And I am too. And one day, I may do to you what I did to the people in Atlanta. Now, lets call those hogs! Woooooooooooo Pig slop!

Kind of a slow week for evil in media (though that likely won't be the case next week if a certain government official holds the vote on cross-ownership rules - and he would be the first person to win the award twice. Try to guess who he is...)

So this week, we hand out the WPIMTW to someone not in the industry. And that award goes to former Atlanta Falcons coach and new Arkansas college football coach Bobby Petrino. With the emphasis on "former Atlanta Falcons coach".

After just thirteen games into his contract, Peterino abruptly resigned from his job as coach of an already struggling Atlanta team without Michael Vick that is currently 3-10. Owner Arthur Blank (who also runs The Home Depot hardware chain) said he felt betrayed and let down by Petrino. He was really pissed. Yep, Petrino s**tted on his... I mean, quitted on his team.

And the Falcons players? They have words for him, too: Disloyal. Coward. Liar. Loser.

Falcons fans? Words I can't print here.

The Media? You don't want me to go there now, do you? (and you thought Chicago sportswriters were rough...)

Yours truly? Given the Bears' struggles this year, I'm glad we don't have the mess that they have in Atlanta.

As for Arthur Blank - The way he's been running this team, he makes the late Bill Wirtz look good. And Blank doesn't have to worry about blacking out home games on TV. Falcons fans not showing up at the Georgia Dome is all its needed to ensure that.

So go on, Peterino. I hope you're happy. You screwed over the entire Falcons organization. You truly are a classless douchebag. Good luck in Arkansas next year. You'll need it. Loser. Wooooooooooooooooo Pig Sooi!!!!!!!!!

"Lost" to return January 31

On Thursday nights at 8 (Central) with eight episodes instead of the sixteen they promised because of the strike. To see ABC's mid-season schedule, click here (you'll need a road map to understand it.)

Roger King laid to rest

Now on to a class act. Syndication veteran Roger King's funeral service was held yesterday in Palm Beach at Donald Trump's Mar-a Lago resort.

King suffered a stroke on Friday at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. and died the next day. King will be buried on Saturday.

Among those who paid their last respects included Oprah Winfrey and Phil McGraw - both of which owed their successful careers to King - as well as Inside Edition's Deborah Norville, former American Journal host Nancy Glass, Rolonda Watts, CBS boss Les Moonves, Viacom boss Sumner Redstone, Rachael Ray, Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak and Vanna White, and Mr. Food himself, Art Ginsburg (whose one minute segments were syndicated by King World for many years.)

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was not able to make it, as he suffered a minor hearttatck Monday night, which has left him hospitalized.

Propaganda alley

It's too bad I already decided on who gets the WPIMTW award this week, but there's always next week:

- The Prick Tofu Crud (a.k.a the Parents Television Council) is at it again, this time complaining about an episode of NBC's Las Vegas that aired at 9 p.m. (Central) on Nov. 30 regarding a scene involving a stripper. They are urging their members (or fascists as I call them) to flood the FCC with complaints.

- And it turns out we've got our own PTC-like group in the Chicago area: The Glen Ellyn-based Illinois Family Institute (funny name) headed by resident dork David Edward Smith (who "claims" that he drove Mancow Mueller from the airwaves), is starting a petition drive to force the networks that carry NFL games (mainly CBS and Fox) to town down the content during the commercials. Among the spots he cited included promos for Family Guy and 'Til Death and ads for theatrical movies on CBS (not stated in the article, but I assume the promos for CBS' lineup of its raunchy Monday night comedies were among the complaints as well.)

This comes after the FCC recently rejected a complaint from someone in Naperville regarding WGN-TV's often raunchy programming, which included Maury and CW's Friday Night Smackdown!

Rant: Enough. I've had enough. I am tired of these right-wing, facist groups who think they can control what people watch on TV and tries to hoist "their lifestyle" on other people. Face it, it's not 1965 anymore. What pisses me off even more as this Smith guy from the suburbs (who probably is the only guy in this "Illinois Family Institute") thinks he can do the same thing.

I dare you to cross Austin Blvd. (or heck, even the Tri-State Tollway) and spread your "gospel" and your definition of "family" and see what you get. Do like everyone else and get a DVR if you don't like the commercials.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh, the horror!

Robert Feder has a column in the Sun-Times today about a new book that goes behind-the-scenes of Chicago's horror TV shows, a staple of the tube from the 1950's through the 1980's.

Titled Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theater To Svengoolie, the new book details the history of the shows, from their low-budget production values to their zany comedy antics as filler during the B-level monster movies that were shown.

TV horror movie shows were quite common in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, as local television stations filled downtime during late night and weekend time periods with such fare. The most famous perhaps, was Ghoulardi, a Friday night movie horror show that aired on CBS affiliate (now Fox-owned) WJW-TV in Cleveland in the 1960's. Ghoulardi was played by the late Ernie Anderson, who would later go on to become one of the most recognizable voice-over personalities in America.

In Chicago, those shows included Shock Theater, which aired on the former WBKB-TV (now WLS-TV) from 1957 to 1959, featuring a hispter beatnik named "Marvin" (played by Terry Bennett), and of course Svengoolie, which originated as a character on WFLD-TV's Screaming Yellow Theater in the 1970's played by Jerry G. Bishop and now resides at WCIU-TV on Saturday nights with Rich Koz in the role (Koz took over as Son of Svengoolie at WFLD when the program returned to the station's lineup after being canceled several years back.)

These types of shows would serve as inspiration for later programs like Mystery Science Theater 3000, which began on Minneapolis' KTMA-TV (now CW affiliate WUCW-TV) in 1988 and later wound up on Comedy Central.

For more info on Chicago's horror hosts (courtesy of, click here.

A tribute to Dick Wilson

Before the Charmin Bears and before the "roll-in-a-half" commercials of the 1980's (shivers...), there was Mr. Whipple - always remind us not to squeeze the Charmin. Well, the actor who portayed him in those ads (Dick Wilson) passed away a few weeks ago, and Proctor & Gamble takes us back in time with this thoughtful tribute.

Dolphins-Patriots moved to late-afternoon slot

CBS and the NFL has moved the 14-0 New England Patriots against the 0-14 Miami Dolphins from an 1 p.m ET start to 4:15 ET on Dec. 23 (gee, who will win that one?), with the Washington Redskins-Minnesota Vikings game moving to NBC's prime slot that same night.

The Patriots are trying to become the first team in NFL history to have a 16-0 season while the Dolphins - who had a 14-0 season in 1972 - may set history of a different sort - they could become the first team to go 0-16 (which may be fine with Bears fans on both fronts.)

So if you want to see some history made - that is, to see how many points the Patriots can roll up on the pathetic Dolphins - be my guest. Yours truly has the Patriots as 116-point favorites.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The journey ends for "Journeyman"

NBC has apparently let its option to pick up the back-nine episodes of its Monday night drama Journeyman lapse, effectively canceling the show. Meanwhile, ABC has knocked Big Shots down to size by putting the low-rated drama on indefinite hiatus. The first initials of this drama pretty much describe this show. And it looks like CBS' Kid Nation might not be back either.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

News and notes

- The game between the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins that aired on WPWR-TV last Thursday night from the NFL Network averaged a 16.6 rating - the highest number on that station since at least 1994, when WPWR aired the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But it's not so good for the Bears: The 16.6 rating and the 5.0 contributed by the NFL Network marks the lowest rating this season a Bears game, as the team fades into oblivion after a bad season. The Thursday game faced tough competition from original episodes of ABC's powerhouse lineup (at least in Chicago) which included Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty, which meant plenty of casual fans tuned out the Bears game.

The next game for the Bears will be on Monday against the Vikings, airing on ESPN and sister station WLS-TV.

- Considering buying an Apple TV? You might want to rethink that idea. Apple has sold only 400,000 units of the hard disk you can hook up to your TV. Apple TV: The Selectavision of today's generation.

- Considering buying an Apple TV at CompUSA? Might want to rethink that, too. The retail computer store chain was sold again- this time to a liquidator, and the remaining 100 stores will close at year's end. CompUSA exited the Chicago market earlier this year.

- Best wishes to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebex, who suffered a minor heartattack late last night. He was admitted to a hospital in Los Angeles, where he is resting comfortably. This comes on the heels of the death of Roger King, the CEO of CBS Television Distribution, who died Saturday. CBS currently syndicates Jeopardy! and was syndicated by King World, which was headed by King.

Da Trends

The second set of trends for the Arbitron fall book for Chicago radio stations are out, and there is some movement on the chart among several radio stations. Thoughts...

- It looks like WGN is going to be #1 for the foreseeable future.

- WGCI rebounded to third place this trend, perhaps silencing critics (such as yours truly)

-WLS-AM rebounded nicely as well.

- Regional Mexican outlet WLEY finished seventh, hitting an all time high.

- WKSC dropped to ninth, reaching a year-long low with 3.1. So much for Britney's comeback.

- WBBM-FM (B96) dropped to 12th place, perhaps an all-time low (post-1982) for the rhythmic outlet.

- Oldies station WZZN also took it on the chin.

-WCKG/WCFS saw a ratings drop with the switch to the new AC format.

John H. Idler to head WTVD

Current WLS-TV vice president and general sales manager John H. Idler has been promoted to president and general manager of WTVD in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Idler succeeds Bernie Prazenica, who was promoted to the same positions in Philadelphia at WPVI.

WLS, WPVI and WTVD are owned and operated by Disney/ABC.

WTVD is a solid number two in the Raleigh-Durham market, behind only Capitol Broadcasting's CBS affiliate (and longtime leader) WRAL-TV.

WTVD currently airs a daily lineup consisting of Live With Regis & Kelly, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!.

TCA cancels tour

To no one's surprise, The Television Critics Association tour scheduled for January 2008 has been canceled due to the ongoing writers' strike. This is perhaps the only positive thing for the networks, who now get to save tons of dough - and they didn't even have to call Geico.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The battle of South Bend

Broadcasting & Cable's Market Eye reports this week on nearby South Bend, Ind., where the battle for number one comes down to two long standing rivals - Schurz's CBS affilate WSBT and the former Notre Dame-owned station, NBC affiliate WNDU-TV, which is now owned by Gray Television (WNDU is still located on the campus of Notre Dame.)

Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting also has properties here - with three low power stations, one of them ABC affiliate WBND-TV (or "The Bend"), a station that is launching an 11 minute newscast next month simply called 11 at 11. WBND became the ABC affiliate in 1995 after WSJV gave up the alphabet network to hook up with Fox.

Remembering Roger King

Tributes are pouring in from all over the industry, from television executives to television personalities, on Roger King and what he meant to the business.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Roger King dies

The television community is mourning the death of Roger King, a television legend who helped bring the once-dormant syndication business into profitability and stability.

King suffered a stroke Friday at his Boca Raton, Fla. home and died on Saturday at the age of 63.

King World was founded by his father, Charles King in the 1960's, which one of its first television properties was the Our Gang shorts, that featured The Little Rascals. After Charles King's death in 1972, Roger, his brother Michael and other siblings took control of the television syndication company. Along the way, they picked up two off-network series, Branded and The Guns of Will Sonnett, and other shows.

In 1982, the company's first first-run syndicated series, Soap World, failed.

But in 1983, Roger and Michael made a power play and acquired the nighttime syndication rights to Wheel of Fortune from Merv Griffin. The program was cleared in only 40 percent of the country on a cash basis, and did not clear New York and Chicago at first.

When Wheel became a hit in those markets that aired the show in November 1983, Wheel was finally sold to WCBS-TV in New York and WLS-TV in Chicago for prime access beginning in January 1984. The rest was history. In September 1984, Wheel became the number one syndicated show in the country, knocking out Viacom's Family Feud.

King World found a companion piece later that year with Jeopardy!, also from Merv Griffin, and it quickly became syndication's number two show.

Then in 1985, King World struck a deal with WLS-TV's Oprah Winfrey to launch her successful Chicago-based morning talk show in syndication in September 1986. She knocked Donahue off to become the number one talk show in February 1987 and the rest was history (Oprah would go on to become one of television's most popular - and richest personalities.)

1989 saw King World launch controversial news magazine Inside Edition, a show that helped make current Fox News talker Bill O'Reilly a star (he replaced the original host, David Frost.)

King World would also launch another newsmagazine called American Journal (1993-98), and also would hire Rolonda Watts to host a talk show. In 1998, it was able to land Whoopi Goldberg to be the center square in its revival of Hollywood Squares (in 2002 however, she was dropped from the show, and Squares came to an end in 2004.)

Other shows King World handled included Headline Chasers (1985-86), David Brenner's Nightlife (1986-87), George Schlatter's Comedy Club (1987-88), Instant Recall (1990), a revival of Candid Camera (1991-92), and The Roseanne Show (1998-2000).

King World became one powerful independent syndicator under the King Brothers. But with the business rapidly consolidating (and the departure of brother Michael from the company), the days of being independent came to an end in 1999 when the company was sold to CBS. For the first time, Roger King had a boss.

King World inherited fare from CBS' Eyemark Entertainment syndication arm, including Martha Stewart Living, Bob Vila's Home Again, and off-network rights to Everybody Loves Raymond, which would challenge Seinfeld for the top off-net sitcom in syndication shortly after its launch in 2001. It would syndicate other fare produced by CBS Productions, including CSI and Caroline in the City.

In 2002, King World launch a successful spin-off of Oprah with a talk show featuring Dr. Phil McGraw, which became an overnight success. Oprah's production company would strike gold again in 2006 with the launch of The Rachael Ray Show, featuring the well-known Food Network personality and author.

King World however, did lay a couple of eggs during its' CBS tenure, with talk show flops The Howard Stern Radio Show (1998-2001; developed originally by Eyemark), The Cindy Margolis Show (2000), The Ananda Lewis Show (2001), and Living It Up With Ali & Jack (2003).

In September 2006, CBS Corporation announced that it would merge its separate syndication companies, King World and CBS Paramount Television Distribution into one entity named CBS Television Distribution. Roger King was named the CEO of the new company, which handled over 50,000 hours of programming and over 100 television programs. The King World name was later retired.

Recently, King was out selling a new spin-off from Dr. Phil called The Doctors, which has already cleared 50 percent of the country for a September 2008 premiere, with Chicago's WCIU-TV on board.

The legacy Roger King laid out made him a very rich and successful man in television. Hard working until the end, there is no doubt his legacy will continue.

Here's a TV Week article from 2004 called The King World Story: Retold.

Friday, December 07, 2007

2007-08 TV season over

Just like the Bears, the 2007-08 season for television appears to be over early with a disappointing thud. And with talks broken off between the WGA and AMPTP, negotiations are unlikely to resume soon - and television can join its sister medium radio on the road to obsoleteness.

Call it the Dying Medium Duo.

Gumbel sucked as much as game did

The play-by-play of last night's Bears-Redskins game on the NFL Network (broadcast locally on My Network TV affiliate WPWR-TV) was about as bad as the play on the field.

Bryant "Kermit the Frog" Gumbel was quite awful, as usual. Analyst Cris Collinsworth was sharp, and delivered the best line of the night, summing up the Bears: "There's professional football and unprofessional football. Right now the Bears are playing unprofessional football. It's embarrassing."

Just about as embarrassing as Chapter Two of Heroes. And to think yours truly passed up Survivor for this (which itself is having a Rex Grossman-like season.)

The Bears-Redskins game, for starters wasn't like last week's much-hyped Packers-Cowboys tilt, in which people bailed out after Brett Farve got hurt. Last night's matchup had about much buzz as a Edmonton Oilers-Columbus Blue Jackets NHL game.

If Survivor can pull fourteen million viewers for an episode in a lousy season, if Heroes can pull in eleven million likewise, and the Bears-Redskins game can't even draw six million viewers on the barely-distributed NFL Network, then the NFL isn't as hot as they think they are. Especially with two bad teams. Yes, Survivor and Heroes have been crappy as of late, but their fans aren't bailing out on them en masse like Bears fans seem to be doing. Unless you're the Cubs, fan loyalty doesn't mean anything in sports.

On the bright side for the NFL Network, at least it wasn't a Dolphins-Bengals game.


Meanwhile, a promo touting WPWR's lineup aired during the game and it pretty much showed why people don't watch the station. "We're the home of Law & Order spin-offs and Reno 911! reruns!" Who cares? Its' lineup is about as bad as WGBO-TV's (not so "Super 66") was back in the day, before it was purchased by Univision, and proved that the Spanish-language programming it put on was better than the English-language junk it was previously showing (all right, I know what you're saying. I'm nuts. But the Spanish shows have hot-looking Latin women, don't they? I rest my case.)

WGBO was your home for endless ultra low-rated reruns of Perry Mason, The Rifleman, and Highway to Heaven, plus plenty of infomericals. And even those choices were better than last night's Bears game.

With last night's loss, the Bears are pretty much done and WPWR can go back into obscurity.

Worst Person in Media This Week - 12/06/2007

This was a long time coming.

This week's award goes to FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin. Why, you may ask?

Pursing a personal agenda.... The 70/70 market-threshold position to regulate cable... The continuing war on indecency... Making a decision on Tribune even before the FCC hearings here in Chicago last September... A person who's nothing but a puppet for the Bush Administration, and could care less about communications... Scheduling a hearing in Seattle at the last minute... Fumbling on minority issues regarding ownership of TV and radio stations... Delaying a recent hearing in Washington for 12 hours... Congressmen from both parties hate him... Wanting a vote on Dec. 18 so he can speed his personal communications agenda through... An all around jerk...

I could go on and on and on... He is truly the worst FCC commissioner ever, coming from the worst Presidential Administration ever. No one is surprised here. The sooner he leaves, the better.

WPIMTW Scorecard:

PTC, Tyra Banks, Prince, AMPTP, Drudgies, William Beavers, and Kevin Martin: one each

TV Guide sold - again

TV Guide, the once-popular magazine that has fallen on hard times in recent years has been sold again - this time through a merger of its parent, Gemstar, and Macrovision, which the merger valued at $2.8 billion. The transaction is a cash-and-stock deal.

USA renews "Raw" until 2010

Three more years for WWE Raw on USA Network. So, that means three more years of Vince McMahon and brain-dead wrestling fans screaming "What?" at every opportunity. Ugh.

So if David Stern and Gary Bettman can stick around and continue to ruin the NBA and NHL, respectively...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Patriots-Ravens set cable record

Monday night's football game between the undefeated New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens set a cable ratings record - 17.5 million viewers for the ESPN, slightly more than the previous record - the 17.2 High School Musical 2 earned in August.

The last half-hour of the game notched a whopping 23.9 million viewers - higher than any program on the major broadcast networks that night.

Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" most loved

Edison Research has released a national survey they did of the most loved and hated Christmas songs. Topping the most loved list was Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song", with Bing Crosby's classic "White Christmas" second. The most hated was the instrumental version of "Jingle Bells" by the Singing Dogs (They just bark the tune. Literally.)

Also making the most hated list was "Grandma Got Run Over A Reindeer" and Eric Cartman's ("South Park") rendition of "O Holy Night".

Memo to Eric Cartman: Though it's fairly common, cartoon characters should not sing. Ask anyone who had to sit through "Do The Bartman."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

PTC idiots at it again

The Parents Television Council, a.k.a. The Pricks Tofu Crud, is considering boycotting CBS' sponsors if they go ahead and air some Showtime programs such as Weeds and Dexter as replacement fare for shows affected by the Writer's Strike (the programs are being edited to adhere to broadcast standards.)

For your information, if boycotts truly worked, Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and half the stuff on television and on the radio wouldn't be on the air. The PTC are a bunch of commie bastards.

What if Oprah ran radio?

Inside Radio founder Jerry del Colliano thinks Oprah Winfrey could be just the person to turn around the radio business if she had the chance (as long if it's her and not Tyra Banks.) It's a great post, and one every radio programmer should read (especially those at Clear Channel.)

Read the comments section below on the post. An absolute hoot!

Deconstructing Feder

Picking apart Feder from the Sun-Times today:

- While other CBS-owned stations saw ratings increases in the just concluded November sweeps (I'll have a post on November sweeps figures shortly), the free fall continues at WBBM-TV, whose ratings were flat in households and down 15 percent in adults 25-54. And this comes after one of the best investigative reports in years from political reporter Mike Flannery regarding the loony antics of Illinois political joke Rod Blagoveich. It was a refreshing throwback to the Kurtis-Jacobson era at WBBM.

- Remember the WGN-TV license challenge yours truly talked about the other day? Turned out it was someone from Naperville who filed the complaint to the FCC.

No surprise, given Naperville probably has the largest number of Parents Television Council members in the area and want to impose their bland tastes on the rest of Chicago. But hey, at least give WGN some credit. They're one of the few Tribune stations that doesn't air "Jerry Springer".

- Feder mentions Thursday night's Bears-Redskins game on WPWR (Channel 50) and goes on to say: "probably will be the first time Channel 50 has drawn a double-digit rating since it joined the Fox family. Then it'll be back to the embarrassing anonymity of MyNetworkTV."

The "embarrassing anonymity" moniker should also apply to The CW, who has been just as invisible. Check out the ratings for CW's Sunday night lineup and you'll see what I mean.

- And former WBBM-FM jock Brian Middleton has landed on his feet as a evening personality at rhythmic AC WILV-FM (Love FM).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hawks score ratings increase for home games

The Chicago Blackhawks finally got on the board with the November 30 home game telecast against the Phoenix Coyotes. The game notched a 1.2 Nielsen rating (fourth item), for Comcast SportsNet, up from the 0.8 rating the last home game it aired on November 11, against the Detroit Red Wings.

In other sports ratings news, the game much of the country did not get - The Packers/Cowboys tilt that aired on the barely-distributed NFL network - managed to get 10 million viewers (third item). Fox-owned My Network TV affiliate KDFI scored big with the game in Dallas, which attracted 815, 739 homes.

And if you were wondering what the first item of the linked article was, it was about something we touched on Sunday - The Bears airing on WPWR-TV this Thursday. It is reported that WPWR paid a whopping $700,000 to air the game from the NFL Network.

If WPWR can attract 815,000 homes or better like its sister station did in Dallas for the Cowboys game, the price would be more than worth it. Rupert Murdoch certainly knows how to use his checkbook.

Layoff lane

Cuts at Clear Channel Chicago and 65 layoffs at Oxygen, which was taken over by NBC Universal over the weekend.

Among the cuts at CC Chicago: Armando Rivera, a mixer-turned-assistant program director and music director at WVAZ (V103); WGCI's nighttime jock Victor "The Diz" Blackful; and overnighter Alexx Dupri at Top 40 WKSC-FM. The cuts at Clear Channel mirror those that happened recently at their clusters across the country, including Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco, and Detroit (where twenty positions were recently eliminated.)

- Check out this blog post from Cleveland media veteran John Gorman, and scroll down to the comments section and read some of the Chicago-related posts, especially from one poster named Break Dance King. Couldn't said it better myself.

"We are re-expressing our assets to achieve greater results", says a manager at the Chicago cluster. Gee, how can you achieve greater results by firing the assets? Looking at WGCI's and WLIT's recent numbers, I say you guys need to do a whole lot more than "rearrange the assets".

WDJT launches 9 p.m. newscast

Milwaukee CBS affiliate WDJT-TV, owned by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting (owner of WCIU and WWME), is launching a 9 p.m. newscast on its independent sister sation, WMLW-TV beginning Jan.1.

The newscast is to compete with Fox-owned WITI's newscast, which airs at the same time. Sinclair's CW affiliate WVTV had a 9 p.m. newscast from 1989-94 and again from 2003-06, but low ratings and high costs shuttered them both.

WMLW is aiming to do a show different from its Fox counterpart.

updated at 11:58 p.m. to add Tim Cuprisin link

Monday, December 03, 2007

CBS, NBC unveil midseason schedules

A lot more changes than usual because of the ongoing writer's strike. This includes a revival of American Gladiators on NBC.

You know, there was an episode of "The Simpsons" from 1992 where Homer Simpson complains about missing prime-time, where "the stars come out to shine." Well, let's just say he won't be making that complaint today, because he won't be missing anything.

Think Tank Light: WGN-TV's FCC license challenge dismissed

Ah, a think tank that isn't more than ten paragraphs long...

The FCC has dismissed a bogus license challenge against WGN-TV, coming after the Tribune Company got waivers to permanently keep WGN-TV, WGN-AM, and the Chicago Tribune.

The interesting thing yours truly has observed regarding this controversy, is that many Chicagoans don't seem to be concerned (or care) about the three media entities being held together. This was a bigger story in Washington (where the vote came across party lines) than it was in Chicago.

Are the Democratic FCC commissioners making too much of a big deal out of this? They don't reside here, you know. You think the Republican members of the FCC granted the permanent waivers in Chicago in the name of localism for us Chicagoans so WGN-AM won't get gobbled up by a out-of-town media conglomerate? Gee, how convenient.

Then again, you wonder if this waiver is a victory for Chicago Democrats, who love corruption and have benefited from the lightweight reporting on the matter from the Tribune as well as the Sun-Times. Not one Chicago Democrat spoke out on what went down Friday at the FCC. Typical.

And yes, these are the same people Chicagoans keep electing into office term after term after term. No wonder they are not concerned about the Tribune Company. They complain, but at the same time, don't care. Maybe they will care when the tax bills starting arriving in their mailbox.

Just a thought.

WLS-TV relaunches website

WLS, and other ABC owned-and-operated stations, including top-rated outlets WABC-TV in New York, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia and KTRK-TV Houston relaunched their websites over the weekend, with large Flash video players and added more video to make their websites "more like a TV newscast".

Check out WLS' new website here. (Thought: I like the new site. It's easier to navigate and isn't as cluttered as before. Plus, you no longer have that annoying guy popping up to sell you a Toyota.)

WorldNow, a new media company founded by former Genesis Entertainment founder Gary Gannaway, is handling the video on the ABC local station websites.

To this day, Genesis Entertainment is the only syndicated television company in history to successfully launch all of its syndicated shows (that is, at least getting them on the air.) Gannaway sold Genesis to New World Entertainment in 1994, which in turn was sold to News Corporation (Fox) two years later. Gannaway co-founded WorldNow in 1998, which specializes in providing media companies with web publishing, streaming video, and advertising solutions.

updated at 5:20 p.m.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Get reacqainted with WPWR

An article written in the Sun-Times today (how come Feder didn't get a chance to write this?), mentions four call letters you'd better get reacquainted with - WPWR.

Of course, Fox-owned WPWR-TV (Channel 50), a former UPN affiliate now-turned My Network TV affiliate has the Bears-Redskins game Thursday night, which is carried on NFL Network, which of course, you can't get in Chicago unless you shell out more dough if you're a Comcast subscriber. (Washington's My Network TV affiliate, Fox-owned WDCA-TV is also carrying the game.)

The article mentions the days when WPWR (then WBBS) was an outlet for the failed SportsVision pay-per-view service in the early '80's.

But what it doesn't mention is WPWR was a successful independent at one point - in 1994, it had a share as high as 8. It ran successful programming such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Roseanne, Baywatch, Bablyon 5, and Ricki Lake.

But the beginning of the end came in 1995, when it became a UPN affiliate and former Univision affiliate WCIU-TV launched a general-entertainment format that became very aggressive in acquiring product (Univision would purchase former indie WGBO-TV in 1994.) Neal Sabin, the former station director at WPWR became general manager at WCIU at the time of its re-launch.

Ratings started to fall in the late 90's, even before Fox took control of the station. In 2002, Newsweb sold WPWR to News Corporation for $425 million, the most ever paid for a UHF station. It became a duopoly with Fox-owned WFLD-TV.

When UPN closed down to merge with the WB to form the CW in early 2006, WPWR, as well as eight other Fox-owned UPN stations, signed on with My Network TV, a new network put together by Fox in only a matter of weeks.

My Network TV (MNT) launched with English-language telenovelas in September 2006, but nobody watched. MNT scrapped the format in mid-2007, going with a lineup of reality and non-scripted programming.

Today, WPWR (as well as fellow MNT Fox stations WWOR in New York and WDCA, among others that are in duopolies with other Fox-owned stations) are barely scraping by with a 2 share. The stations are usually known as dumping grounds for third-rate syndicated fare and programming that didn't work on their Fox sister station. (KTXH, the Fox-owned My Network TV station in Houston, doesn't even have an updated website.)

But the stations are making a comeback by airing more sporting events, such as high school athletics and pro sports teams. The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly looking for an over-the-air partner to air a few games, and WPWR would be a good fit, particularly with the team's resurgence this season.

Also, WPWR is getting stronger programming in the next few years, with the station acquiring reruns of the NBC demo-friendly hit The Office.

Let's hope WPWR's comeback starts this Thursday night with the Bears game.

Retro: Here's a YouTube video with WPWR's (then at Channel 60) sign-on - at 2:30 a.m., when the station shared a frequency with Spanish-language WBBS (the quality of the video is poor), and here's another featuring a promo for Morton Downey Jr.'s show in 1988.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Worst Person in Media This Week - 11/30/2007

We're back this week with the Worst Person in Media This Week award, after a break last week (because of the Thanksgiving holiday).

Although Carson Daly (for crossing the picket line) is a worthy nominee, handing out this week's WPIMTW award is a no-brainer...

Usually we give these awards to media people and politicians who are involved in the business who screw up. But for the first time, we're handing it to someone who is not involved in the business, but whose comments this week were about as inflammatory as anything radio talk show hosts Glenn Beck and Michael Savage have said.

And thus, we hand this week's award to Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, who claimed the Cook County budget battle was about race (Beavers is black.) He said that if Cook County Board President Todd Stroger (who is also black) was white, then the budget- filled with tax increases- would be passed.

Um, excuse me genius, but wouldn't the higher taxes actually hurt the poor, who the majority of which are minority?

He also singled out another commissioner, calling him a racist (I'm surprised that person didn't file a slander lawsuit against Beavers.)

Beavers was not only slammed in the media for his comments, but also on black talk radio. And the Sun-Times put the matter on the front page of Wednesday's paper for all to see.

Remember, this was a man who helped engineer Eugene Sawyer to be installed as Chicago's mayor after Harold Washington's death back 20 years ago, and during his tenure as an alderman, his 7th ward saw a sharp increase in crime. This is a guy who stabbed the African-American community in the back. And he has the nerve to talk about racism. What an ass.

Basically, Chicagoans are numb to this crap anyway. You see this on TV reality shows all the time, and we all knew a long time ago that politicians are no different than people you see on these shows. Like reality show contestants, politicians are air-headed, stupid morons. No wonder our city, county, state, and our country is so screwed up. Who here can tell the difference between Beavers and Omorasa?

Beavers is no different from Beck, Savage, or O'Reilly - constant race-baiters who are seeking attention because the spotlight isn't on them. And so they spew rhetoric based on cheap heat to get into the press. It doesn't matter if it's from the left or the right, liberal or conservative, black or white - it's all the same crap. And sadly, this is what media outlets want- the nutjobs to boost their ratings, sell their papers, etc. - instead of focusing on the issues.

Nutjobs like Commissioner Beavers, who is truly a human piece of garbage.

And knowing the radio business, your next talk-show host. Ah, The Beck & Beavers Show. Coming soon to a radio station near you.

Remind me not to tune in.

WPIMTW Scorecard:

PTC, Tyra Banks, Prince, AMPTP, Drudgies, and William Beavers: one each