Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Links Alert

Here are some recent additions to T Dog's Media Friends sidebar:

- Company Town. From the Los Angeles Times, a blog on the business of Hollywood.

- Hero Complex. For you geeks out there (including yours truly), a new blog from the L.A. Times covering our world, from science fiction to comic books. And from the L.A. Times!

- Doug Quick Online. Down in the Museum section of The Sidebar, you'll find this wonderful site on the history of Central Illinois TV and radio by Doug Quick, who is Chief Weather Anchor at ABC affiliate WICD-TV in Champaign, IL. Here, you'll find photos, videos, and other good stuff -plus information on the 2005 affiliate switch involving WICD and WICS-TV in Springfield switching from NBC to ABC and WAND-TV in Decatur switching from ABC to NBC. Click here and check it out!

- Sports Media Watch. A great blog following the business of covering sports on television.

And some subtractions:

- Marianne Paswowski's blog at TV Week. Unfortunately, it looks like she left Crain Communications again, as her blog hasn't been updated since March 30 (but Josef Adlian gets one? Yeesh.)

- Inside Music Media. I tried... I really tried to like this Del Colliano guy, but when he revamped his blog (and the new look sucks by the way), he removed the comments section - not allowing any interaction from his readers - cementing the fact that this guy is a pompous ass. Reminds you of a certain somebody who asked the paper he used to work for to remove the comments section from his columns?

Slow week - so come on over to Twitter

Aside from Death Watch '09, there isn't much going on in the business this week due to the big 4th of July holiday. So, for the latest items (and snide comments on media stories and other stories from yours truly), come on over to Twitter and follow The T Dog Media Blog at http://twitter.com/tdogmediablog. Yours truly will keep you entertained (and if you fall out of your chair laughing, I assume no liability...)

This place should be hopping again soon due to Comic-Con and the critics' tour, so keep it here!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

T Dog's Four Pack - In Memoriam

A special edition of T Dog's Four Pack this week, in honor of four individuals who passed away this week - two of these I have already written obituaries for.

- Ed McMahon. Click here for the obit on the legendary pitchman and second banana.

- John Callaway. Click here for the obit on the legendary interviewer.

- Farrah Fawcett. One of the stars of Charlie's Angels and numerous other projects, died Thursday morning at the age of 62 after a three-year battle with cancer. Her fight with the deadly disease was chronicled on numerous newsmagazines and a two-hour special titled Farrah Fawcett: My Story, with drew 9 million viewers last month on NBC.

Ms. Fawcett launched her TV career in the 1970's with appearances on Harry O and The Six Million Dollar Man (with then-husband Lee Majors.) In 1976, she starred in Charlie's Angels as Jill Munroe, which rocketed into the top 10 in its first season (finishing #5 for the 1976-77 season.) But she left the show in 1977 to focus more on movies. When her film career went bust, she returned to Angels to make sporadic appearances.

In 1984, she appeared in the ground-breaking TV movie The Burning Bed, as a spouse who was battered and abused by her husband and decides to take revenge. The movie was a huge smash for NBC and drew attention to the issue of domestic violence. Fawcett earned an Emmy nomination for the role. Fawcett also appeared another made-for (Small Sacrifices), which she also earned critical acclaim.

In 1991, she appeared opposite boyfriend Ryan O'Neal in the short-lived sitcom Good Sports. She returned to the big screen in Apostle; her more recent TV appearances included stints on Ally McBeal and Spin City; she also had a reality series on TV Land four years ago titled Chasing Farrah.

And of course, there's always that poster...

Michael Jackson. And while we were mourning the death of Ms. Fawcett on Thursday, another shocker emerged: The king of pop was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles due to cardiac arrest. He died at 4:26 p.m. Chicago time.

If there was anyone who changed the face of the music and radio industries, it was the gloved one. Mr. Jackson sung with his brothers and were known as The Jackson 5 and hailed from nearby Gary, Ind. They hit the charts with I Want Your Back, Dancin' Machine, and ABC. Mr. Jackson had his first Number One single as a solo artist in 1972 with Ben. ABC (the network, not the song) cashed in with a Saturday Morning cartoon featuring the Jackson Five (but not their voices.)

In 1976, The Jacksons left Motown for Epic, but the hits kept on rolling. In 1979, Michael Jackson released Off The Wall and spawned several Number One singles, including Rock With You, and Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.

But Mr. Jackson wasn't through. His next album (Thriller) was a commercial and critical success. It spawned two Number One singles, and became the first album in history to land seven singles in the Top 40 of Billboard's Pop Chart - all of them reaching the top ten. Michael Jackson's videos were not just music videos - they were presentations. The success of Billie Jean and Beat It helped make MTV a household name - though the network would not play videos from black artists for the most part before Billie Jean hit.

Then came Thriller, the title track from Mr. Jackson's album. The video was fourteen minutes long and premiered on MTV three weeks before Christmas, and on NBC's Friday Night Videos on December 23, 1983. At the time, it was the most expensive music video ever made, and was directed by John Landis. The video won two Grammy Awards and four MTV Music Video Awards.

As for Beat It, Mr. Jackson's song was not only played by Pop and R&B stations - but also AOR rock stations - one of the first times a black artist (other than Jimi Hendrix) was played on those type of stations. Beat It also helped launch the career of Weird Al Yankovic in a way - his parody of the song - and the video - titled Eat It, reached #14 on Billboard Pop Chart in 1984.

And Thriller's success helped contemporary hit radio in a huge way. The format's future was up in the air after disco imploded in 1979 and many stations were shunning away from any type of dance music, especially songs from from black artists (unless you were Diana Ross, Kool & The Gang, or Stevie Wonder.) Jackson's success at radio re-opened the door for other black artists at mainstream radio - including Prince, Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, and Morris Day and The Time.

Believe it or not, Michael Jackson's next release (Bad) had greater success on the singles charts, with five Number One singles and became the third album in history to land seven singles in the Top 40 (Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. was the second.) However, Bad lived up to is name as the album was not as well-received by critics as Thriller and Off the Wall had; and despite five chart-toppers, Bad's sales were lower compared to Thriller and did not spend as much time at Number One on the album chart as its predecessor did.

Jackson's next album (Dangerous) was a major success, spawning hit singles such as Black or White, Remember the Time, and Who Is It, but produced only one chart-topper (Black or White.)

By this time, Michael Jackson's personal and private life came out in the open. He was accused of molesting children and his marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe made for fodder in the tabloids. Jackson's child molestation acquisitions hurt his career as releases of subsequent albums were commercial flops, notably Invincible. Jackson's miscues (such as dangling his baby off of a balcony in Berlin in 2002) made things even worse.

Jackson legal and financial troubles continued to mount, and even though he was acquitted of another child molestation charge (in 2005), legal fees from his defense mounted and left him in worse financial shape. As a result, Jackson decided this year to tour again for the final time - though only in the London area (for the record, Jackson has not toured in the U.S. for many years.)

Despite his bizarre personal life - and whether you loved the guy or hated him (and there's a lot of people in either camp), you can't deny he changed the face of the music industry and pop culture forever. For generations of music lovers, he will always be The King Of Pop.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett die on same day

Sadly, the Grim Reaper has been busy.

Farrah Fawcett: http://tiny.cc/mVgyv

Michael Jackson: http://tiny.cc/BYJX8

With the passing of these two icons - plus the deaths of Ed McMahon and John Callaway, it's been a very sad week.

Rest in peace, all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WBBM-TV plans newscast overhaul

CBS O&O WBBM-TV plans to overhaul its news operation. Again.

According to this article at B&C
, WBBM General manager Bruno Cohen plans to once again remake the station's newscasts, which ratingswise, lag behind others in the market.

Cohen, who came from sister station KOVR-TV in Sacramento, said the station is underperforming in many time slots. Despite the fact the station airs nationally top-rated syndicated and network fare, WBBM has not performed well in the ratings locally. This is not a new problem: for most of the last 20 years, the station had lagged behind NBC's WMAQ-TV and market leader WLS-TV, an ABC O&O - not to mention Tribune's CW affiliate WGN-TV and Independent WCIU-TV at times.

Cohen didn't offer any details, but he hopes the talent in place at the station gels in the right way. Cohen plans to offer a different presentation of news from other Chicago TV news outlets.

Ratings sagged further after a scandal developed after the station taped former WMAQ reporter Amy Jacobson at the house of Craig Stebic, who is a suspect in the disapperence of his wife Lisa. The station aired the tape, and was roundly critized in journalism circles for the decision.

Recently, the station made changes in its news and syndicated programming lineup - though questionable decisions. Rob Johnson is now anchoring the news solo at 6 and 10 p.m. , with former co-anchor Anne State now a reporter. The station laid off several staffers, incluidng long-time station faces Joanie Lum and Howard Sudsberry and discontinued weekend morning newscasts.

As for its syndicated lineup, the station moved Judge Judy - who recently won the first-run syndication crown for the third straight week - to 4 p.m. for a better news lead-in while Dr. Phil moved to 3 p.m. The station decided not to renew Rachael Ray, which moves to WGN-TV at 10 a.m beginning September 14. Ray had been airing at 2 p.m. for the last three years, where it has not had much success.

The station does have some things going for it - since the switch to all-digital on June 12, the station's over-the-air signal has improved (though some homes still are having trouble.) Before, the over-the-air digital signal has been hard to receive. On the same date, Comcast moved WBBM's channel position from Channel 22 to Channel 2. With an improved reach, ratings for the station are expected to inch upward, while continuing to clean up the mess Joe Ahern left behind.

Some experts in the past blamed the station's ratings woes on the station's traditionally inferior analog signal on Channel 2 - though it did not stop WBBM from dominating the news ratings from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's, when Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson were the star anchors.

In fact, Channel 2 wasn't even WBBM-TV's original channel allotment. Until July 1953, WBBM was Channel 4 in Chicago - but was moved to Channel 2 so it wouldn't interfere with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, which moved from Channel 3 to Channel 4 - so it wouldn't interfere with WKZO-TV (now WWMT) in Grand Rapids (which was Channel 3.)

Filed under "Church of Tisch".

John Callaway dies

A day after TV legend Ed McMahon died, another media legend - this time locally - has passed on.

John Callaway - a figure in Chicago media for the last four to five decades, died Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack in Racine, Wis.

Callaway was known for his tough interviews with local and national politicians and other figures, and the mastermind behind the all-news format at WBBM-AM and Chicago Tonight, the nightly public-affairs program airing in prime-time over WTTW-TV for 25 years.

He won over 100 awards for his work, including numerous Emmys and a peabody.

Callaway was born in West Virgnia in 1936, and got his start in the business at the City News Bureau in 1956. He later moved to CBS where he was instrumential in launching the all-news format at WBBM-AM in 1968. CBS executives were so impressed, he was promoted to vice president of CBS Radio in New York. But he returned to Chicago in 1973 to become a reporter for WBBM-TV and a year later became WTTW's news director.

In 1984, he launched Chicago Tonight on WTTW, which went on to become one of the most successful public-affairs program on any public TV station in the country. The program went deeper into news headlines than the local nightly news did. Callaway retired from the show on June 23, 1999, but returned to host Chicago Stories (later renamed The Friday Night Show), a weekly program featuring a Callaway interview.

Callaway's interview subjects included Jimmy Carter, Mayors Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley, Oprah Winfrey, Tavis Smiley, Phil Donahue, Mike Ditka, and Billy Williams.

Chicago Tonight also wasn't afraid to tackle the issues facing journalism itself - particuarly increasing competition from bloggers and other alternative news sources.

In recent years, Chicago Tonight has become a signature show for WTTW, whose ratings at 7 p.m. often beat the fare on CW and My Network TV in the same hour.

Callaway also was a asute storyteller - and an insider in the business of journalism. In Feburary, he was a panelist at the Chicago Journalism Town Hall - held at the Allegro Hotel in the Loop, where he and others discussed and debated the future of journalism. Listening to him speak, he clearly knew the business of journalism and the future it faces.

While Callaway wasn't busy pounding away on the journalism beat, he could be found doing other activities - an author, writing and performing in plays, or performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He also founded a journalism program for students at the University of Chicago.

John Callaway certainly was one of the best interviewers and journalists to ever grace the Chicago market. He asked questions and got answers - something some of today's journalists don't even bother to do. He was clearly old school - and he was comfortable with it. He left us too soon - there were stories still left to be told. His passing leaves a void in Chicago journalism - Unfourtantely, one that won't be filled.

But the legacy he leaves behind in Chicago journalism is an impressive one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon dies

One of television's most recognizable faces - and voices - has left us.

Ed McMahon, best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick for more than thirty years on The Tonight Show passed away this morning at the age of 86.

McMahon's entertainment career spanned more than fifty years, including stints as a game show host, announcer, actor, and commercial pitchman.

Aside from his gig on The Tonight Show, McMahon hosted the syndicated Star Search for its entire 12-year run, from 1983 to 1995. The show helped launch the careers of many stars, including Jenny Jones, Sinbad, Brad Garrett, and Britney Spears. In the first few years of its run, Star Search regularly was in the Nielsen top 20 weekly syndicated rankings.

McMahon was also paired with Dick Clark for NBC's TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, a popular show which ran from 1983 to 1986 (though not with critics.)

More recently, McMahon has battled health problems, including a bout with pneumonia, and with creditors - he filed for bankruptcy and nearly lost his Beverly Hills home.

Recently, he did a Super Bowl ad for Cash4Gold.com with another person with money troubles - MC Hammer.

It was a sad chapter to what was a great career. There won't be another one like Ed McMahon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post No. 1700: Grab a bag.

To celebrate 1700 posts at The T Dog Media Blog (corrupting your mind since 2006), here's the Super Groovy Grab Bag of items! (sorry, no party... the budget's real tight this year...)

- Book 'em, Danno!: David Hernandez, the co-owner of the now-defunct Chicago Sports Webio.com, was arrested today in Normal, IL today a week after he skipped town. He is charged with running a Ponzi scheme and bouncing checks, among other things. Webio ceased webcasting last week after running out of money.

- NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee got a helping hand from Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting over the weekend: After lightning hit its broadcast tower knocking WTMJ's over-the-air signal off, Weigel's WBME-TV stepped in to simucast the station's signal over its 49.2 digital subchannel from noon Friday to about 7 p.m. Saturday (WBME airs the classic TV "Me-TV" format, which run on WCIU's 26.2 and 26.3 in Chicago.)

This was important, given NBC was carrying the U.S. Open Golf Tournament over the weekend. Weigel also owns CBS affiliate WDJT-TV in Milwaukee.

- Speaking of WCIU, happy 30th anniversary to Svengoolie - well, make that Rich Koz as Svengoolie. Last Saturday, WCIU marked Rich Koz's 30th anniversary of playing the funny horror movie host with a airing of Attack of the Puppet People (1958's answer to Eddie Murphy's Imagine That), along with clips from his long-running Svengoolie shows at WCIU and WFLD-TV before that.

Svengoolie started in 1973 at WFLD with Jerry Bishop in the role of the horror movie host. Koz succeeded Bishop in 1979 when he left for the West Coast. When Fox finalized its purchased of WFLD (and five other Metromedia-owned stations) in 1986, Svengoolie was sent packing. When WCIU was looking for a local program to re-launch its general-market programming format in 1995, they hired Rich Koz to revive the character and has been a mainstay at the station ever since.

Koz was hired by WFLD in the mid-'70's to work on the show as a writer after he sent in story ideas.

One question: If he didn't play Svengoolie for nine years, can this still be classified as a 30th anniversary?

- The CW has flipped time periods for Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. This fall, catch One Tree Hill at 7 p.m. (CT) and Gossip at 8 p.m. (CT) - not that it will make much of a difference in the ratings...

- Bryan Fuller has quit Heroes. Again. The writer/producer left the troubled series to focus on several projects he's producing. Earlier, Fuller left Heroes to work for ABC's short-lived Pushing Daisies.

I guess he rejected a demotion from dipshitter Tim Kring in which he would be stuck cleaning toilets at NBC Universal... Hey, that's should be Ben Silverman's job!

- Premiere Radio Networks and Casey Kasem have announced the end of American Top 20 and American Top 10, effective on July 4 - 39 years to the day Kasem launched American Top 40.

American Top 20 (formerly known as American Hot 20) was targeted to Hot Adult Contemporary stations while American Top 10 (formerly known as American Top 20 the name the Hot AC version currently uses) was targeted to Mainstream AC stations. Both had their origins as Casey's Top 20 and Casey's Hot 20 - both spinoffs of Casey's Top 40 when the shows were produced by Westwood One until 1998.

The number of affiliates for both shows have been dwindling for years. While AT20 has never been heard in the Chicago market, AT10 was carried by WLIT-FM until 2005. Kasem stepped down as host of AT 40 in January 2004 to be replaced by current host Ryan Seacrest.

While Casey Kasem is retiring from the weekly countdown grind, he can still be heard on classic American Top 40 shows from the 1970's and 1980's on terrestrial radio and on Sirius XM (for now, anyway - the Sunday Morning show on '80's on 8 was recently downgraded from 11 a.m. to 6 a.m. CT - not a good sign.)

And for the record, Kasem hosted a television spin-off (America's Top 10) from 1980 to 1992 (part-time between 1989-91), with Golden West and later All American Television syndicating the show.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playoff season: That's a wrap!

Finally tallies of the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals:

- The five game series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic drew 14.3 million viewers for ABC, down 4 percent from last year's Lakers-Celtics series. Game 5 drew fewer viewers than Game 4 did, with only 14.2 million viewers tuning in.

- Among ratings, it is the lowest-rated NBA Finals since 1981 and the lowest featuring the Lakers since 1980 - when the Finals were being tape-delayed for late night airings on CBS.

- Still, the series drew more viewers than most prime-time shows and marked an significant ratings increase from 2007's Spurs-Cavilers series.

- The Lakers won their 15th NBA title in franchise history, and coach Phil Jackson won his 10th NBA championship - the most of any coach in professional sports.

- As for the Stanley Cup Finals, the series went the gamut to Game 7 with the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Red Wings 2-1 to win their third Stanley Cup. The game drew close to 8 million viewers - the most for a Stanley Cup Final game since 1973, when the Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium (in an afternoon game on CBS) to win the Cup. That game drew 9.4 million viewers.

- For the entire series, the Stanley Cup Finals drew 4.9 million viewers on both NBC and Versus, with NBC drawing 5.6 million for their airings of the Cup, the highest for any broadcast since 2002, when Red Wings-Hurricanes aired on ABC.

- NBC is in talks to expand its current deal with the NHL until 2011. With one of its up-and-coming stars winning the Cup (Sidney Crosby), it makes the package a little more attractive. NBC currently is not paying a license fee.

Chicago's May PPM results

This is based on the 6+ numbers provided by Arbitron and Stationratings.com (don't forget - Radio & Records - who also provided numbers - no longer exists.)


WBBM-AM, The Mix (WTMX), V103 (WVAZ), WUSN-FM, Kiss 103.5 (WKSC), The Loop (WLUP)

Honorable Mention:

Soul 106.3 (WSRB-FM - thank you, Tom Joyner)

Losing Steam:

WLS-AM, The Drive (WDRV-FM)


Power 92 (WPWX), B96 (WBBM-FM), WFMT


WNUA-FM as a Smooth Jazz station, who flipped to Spanish last month

Click here for the full chart. WBBM-AM remains on top, while WLUP surged and WVAZ had a good showing, despite the departure of Tom Joyner. He did however, help WSRB to a 33 percent increase month-to-month.

After a strong showing, Power 92 regressed in May, with the biggest drop (35 percent) of any station in the survey - putting it even farther behind its rival (WGCI-FM), who remained flat. Sorry Power, it's off to the loser's circle for this performance. Meanwhile, B96 has fallen further behind its Top 40 rival (WKSC-FM.)

The alarm bells should be sounding off at both WLS-AM and The Drive, but both still performed well enough to stay in the top ten.

WNUA finished its run as a Smooth Jazz outlet with a 13 percent drop. On May 22, it flipped to a Spanish Pop format.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WNBC drops "Live at Five" for "LX: New York"

After nearly three decades, the curtain drops on one of New York City's hollowed traditions.

Live at Five, the one-hour newscast on NBC-owned WNBC-TV which aired at - well, 5 p.m. every weekday, is being removed for a new one hour strip titled LX New York. The locally-produced program premieres September 14, and it targets females 25-54 with segments featuring celebrity gossip, cooking, fashion, and other goody-good stuff women can't get enough of.

WNBC (and other NBC O&Os, including WMAQ-TV here in Chicago) already air LX-produced Open House and First Look, which primarily air on weekends. LX.TV was acquired by NBC Universal in 2008 to produce local lifestyle programming for its O&Os.

This type of "infotainment" programming was prevalent in the 1970's and the 1980's. For example, KABC-TV in Los Angeles ran Eye on L.A. as a nightly strip in prime access (at 7:30 p.m.) until 1992, when it was regulated to weekends to make room for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which moved from KCBS-TV the same year.

Group W's stations ran PM/Evening Magazine in prime access for years until 1990, when the show was canceled.

WNBC's Live at Five once dominated the market, but ran into trouble beginning in 1987, when crosstown rival WABC-TV moved The Oprah Winfrey Show to 4 p.m. as a news lead-in. Ratings were hurt further when the station dropped long-time news lead-in Donahue in 1995 for the even less-successful Sally Jessy Raphael. When Judge Judy moved to WNBC as a news lead-in back in 1998, ratings for Live at Five rebounded, but dropped again when it lost the rights to Judy back to WCBS-TV a few years later.

Ratings for Live at Five have not been good as of late, with WNBC trailing its other network O&Os in the 5 p.m. time period in households and key demographics.

Thought: While I applaud local programming - I'm definitely all for it - I'm not sure this type of the program is the answer. There's no doubt a female-oriented show featuring cooking, lifestyle, entertainment, and fashion segments would draw viewers - earlier in the day. But this is not the type of show viewers would look for at 5 p.m. - especially if its a hour long.

There was a similar show which debuted in syndication in September 1985 season titled America featuring this same type of format targeted to the same early-fringe time period. Three months and $22 million later, guess where this show ended up? When will syndicators and station execs ever learn from their mistakes? I guess not, since WNBC committed $15 million for a "content center". Is that reporting on it or making it up as it goes along?

Moreover, LX New York would target suburban women who would typically tune in to cable networks like Lifetime and Bravo according to a LX exec.

Targeting suburban New York women. In a market with 7 million people within its city limits. Right.

Another insipid decision by the suits at Nothing But Crap. Let's hope there isn't a LX Chicago. Here's a $15 million commitment - whoever thought of this idea should be committed.

David Hernandez disappears

And so does Chicago Sports Webio

As expected, the sports-radio internet station closed its doors at 5 p.m. today. But what no one expected was embattled David Hernandez fleeing for the exit.

As of this writing, the co-founder of Chicago Sports Webio is missing. Police are asking for the public's help in locating where the fugitive from the law is.

Hernandez was charged on Monday by the Security and Exchange Commission for running a Ponzi scheme. On Friday, co-founder Mike North, his wife BeBe and Jeff Schwartz were fired by Hernandez after checks issued by Spectrum Entertainment bounced.

With the jig up, and the SEC freezing the company's assets, there was no choice but to shut Chicago Sports Webio down.

The website is still up and running, but the only thing being updated is the scoreboard.

Monday, June 15, 2009

WGN-AM names new morning host

In a surprise (and shocking move), WGN-AM announced today the hiring of Greg Jarrett, formerly of KGO-AM in San Francisco in morning drive.

But wait a minute, you ask. Isn't that the slot John Williams holds? Yes it is, and he's moving to the 9 a.m. - noon slot formerly occupied by Kathy O'Malley and Judy Markey. Williams only started in the morning drive slot six months ago, replacing the retiring Spike O'Dell.

The move comes as WGN-AM is freshening up its lineup to draw younger audiences to the talk-radio station. Recently, the station added personalities such as Garry Meier and trying out others on the weekends.

Jarrett is a sixteen-year veteran of KGO, which like WLS-AM, was owned by ABC for decades until its sale to Citadel Broadcasting in 2006. He worked for ABC News in the mid-1990's, then for a Portland, Ore. station before returning to KGO in 2000. He was laid off from the station earlier this year.

In the last 43 years, John Williams beccomes the shortest-lived morning host at WGN. Wally Phillips held down morning drive for 21 years, while Bob Collins did so for 14 years. His replacement (Spike O'Dell) hosted morning drive for eight years.

Chicago Sports Webio down for the count

Founder charged with fraud

It looks like the axe is waiting to swing on Chicago Sports Webio.

The innovative Internet sports-talk radio station and website may be a casualty of one of the founder's greed and insipidness. And that may be enough to land him in jail.

David Hernandez, who co-founded the station with former WSCR personality Mike North was charged with fraud today after the FBI excuted a search warrant on his offices on Friday. Hernandez also has sued by the Secruity and Exchange Commission and found evidence the convicted felon was running a Ponzi scheme. The SEC has frozen all of Hernandez's assets, which will likely doom Webio.

Hernandez was CEO of Spectrum Entertainment, as well as NextStep Medical Staffing -a temp service to fill jobs in the medical industry. He also owned ChicagoSportsWebio.com, a webiste and an internet radio station.

North made the jump to Internet radio after he was fired from WSCR - and hooked up with Hernandez on the Webio effort.

But two months into the launch, Webio started bouncing checks and North (as well as two other employees - his wife and marketng president Jeff Schwartz) were fired after North asked Hernandez about the company's finances.

Ever since then, the future of the Internet sports-radio station has been in question.

On Monday, Monsters in the Morning - the weekday morning strip hosted by North and Dan Jiggetts did air as scheduled on Comcast SportsNet - but not simulcast on Chicago Sports Webio. All refrences to NextStep were removed from the set.

All refrences to the show and the duo (sans a Sun-Times banner ad) has been scrubed from Webio's website, which is now mostly cluttered with ads.

As for employees of the troubled outlet, the future for them is very murky. Many of them left WSCR and WMVP for a chance to work with Mike North and a man who many thought who was a reputable man.

Now they - and North - are only left holding the bag.

(Editor's Note: An earlier draft of this story incorrectly stated Hernandez was arrested. The T Dog Media Blog apologizes for the error. Well, he SHOULD HAVE BEEN.- T.H.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

T Dog's Think Tank: The joke's on us

In a recent column in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Dahl wondered what the country - and the world - thought of Illinois thanks to Patti Blagoveich (former Governor Rod's wife) appearing on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! He said it gave Illinois a Hollywood feel, but a Third World one at the same time.

Of course, we Chicagoans are used to embarrassment: the political scandals, racial strife, Al Capone, the Cubs, Mancow, etc. It's a freak show element 24 hours a day up in here.

But you can't help but feel if Dahl was also taking a shot at the television industry as well - given much of the programming produced has a third-world feel. Just as embarrassing as Mayor Daley and Governor Rod has been to the city and state, shows like My Mother, The Car and Viva Laughlin (and a lot of programming in between - some of which you can find right here in The T Dog Media Hall of Shame) have been just as embarrassing to the medium. And if you want something embarrassing to both TV and Chicago, two words: Jerry Springer.

Which brings us to Celebrity. In this revival of this failed ABC series from the winter of 2003, ten "celebrities" of the D-list kind are dropped into the Costa Rica jungle to survive in what can be described as Survivor meets Fear Factor. The series has had greater success in Britain, and this what spawned NBC to revive the show for American television.

And so, the program premiered June 8 with Spencer Pratt going insane, his wife Heidi crying, and Patti Blagoveich eating bugs. And to top it all off, Spencer and Heidi (both from MTV's The Hills) proclaimed Rod and Patti the Spencer and Heidi of politics.

Wow, what a compliment. And this from two idiots who act like they just escaped from a mental institution.

But it gets worse. The Pratts quit three times - and then asked to return to the show, even though their replacements have already been chosen and already playing in the "game". NBC execs said the decision would be made with the cast voting them back on the show. They didn't do that. And so, the Pratts were put in some kind of "torture chamber", then there were reports that Heidi was rushed to the hospital, only to find out it wasn't true (she lied about it.) And so, they quit again - for a fourth time - and meant it.

But in the back of your mind, you know they are not done torturing us. They'll be back for the finale at least.

And then there's the rumors going around of this drama is being staged. A phone call made by Mr. Pratt to NBC Entertainment Chairman Ben Silverman who told him, "I'm too rich and famous to be sitting here with these people... this cast is devouring my fame" - a line so brazen you'd think it was created by the WWE writing staff. And who is responsible for this mess? "Party All The Time" Silverman, who has screwed up NBC beyond repair with his idiotic decisions. As James Hibberd pointed out last week, why would he take a phone call from this asshole, but not an agent, manager, or writer?

And what about Patti Blagoveich. Yeah, what about her. She said she's doing this for her family and to present a better image than the profanity-spewing person she has been portrayed in FBI wiretap conversations.

Yeah, I guess eating tarantulas and comparing Janice Dickinson to Judy Baar Topinka is really projecting a positive image (though I think Topinka is more comparable to Joan Rivers - both are old hags who don't know when to shut up.) It's sickening to think people actually are hailing this person as some kind of hero.

If you think the antics regarding Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag were staged, you wonder if this entire competition is, too. It reminds yours truly of the quiz show scandals of the 1950's when producers fed answers to contestants - for example, Charles Van Doren became a celebrity on Twenty-One when he went on a prolonged winning streak. But when it turned out to be a staged farce, his stature plummeted and so did the game show genre. The FCC investigated and Congressional hearings were launched. Laws were passed, prohibiting fixed game shows.

But you won't see any Congressional investigations with Celebrity. Today, most audiences - particularly younger viewers - wouldn't care if a game show is staged or not. As long if it's for "entertainment". And the FCC and Congress would be criticized if they did launch an investigation, instead of focusing on more important issues.

Young audiences are pretty much used to scandals - they grew up in the era of Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson, Tonya Harding, and here in Illinois, R. Kelly, Silver Shovel, and any politician you can think of. To the 18-49 crowd - the one advertisers cater to the most - these scandals are no big deal. It's little wonder the Illinois legislature did not pass one single ethics reform in the recent session. Even after all that has gone on with Governor Blagoveich, the public still didn't care enough for it to happen. Only the Tribune has bitched about it, and as we all know, nobody under the age of 110 reads newspapers.

But when you think about it, it's all about giving people "what they want". Many media executives are slimy pieces of shit, egged on by their Big Media bosses, who contribute to just-as-slimy politicians' campaigns, who let their companies get bigger and bigger and eliminate independent voices in the media. And pieces of shit like Ben Silverman keep their jobs and get rewarded for doing absolutely nothing. No wonder television, radio, and newspapers are dying mediums. Of course, their slimy polico friends will come to the rescue with a governmental bailout. There's no doubt about that.

And they will continue to celebrate the sleaziest morons in society. From Jon & Kate to Mancow's ridiculous waterboarding stunt to "Speidi". And the humanoids lap it up each time because "it's entertainment" and makes "great TV and/or radio". Big Media's job is done here. They succeeded to dumb down the population and only pretend to care about "ethical issues" so they can boost their pathetic sales of their pathetic products (like the Tribune's phony "State of Corruption" and "Tribune Watchdog" campaigns - areas independent news sources like The Chicago Reporter do a whole lot better job at.)

They are all the same. Politicians. Media executives. I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here brings together the worlds of Illinois politics and the media business.

And both need cleaning up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mike North ousted at ChicagoSportsWebio.com

It's not a beautiful thing. Or sight.

With all the news regarding the digital TV transition, this piece of news came out of left field: Mike North was ousted at ChicagoSportsWebio.com today, after helping launch the Internet radio sports station earlier this year.

Also ousted were his wife, BeBe North; and Jeff Schwartz.

North was fired after he asked CEO David Hernandez about Webio's finances, given some of the company's checks have bounced in the last several weeks. North said 30 checks were bounced this week and 12 checks issued to Webio employees also bounced.

In a story on Crain's Chicago Business' website Monday, Hernandez claimed Webio was profitable, though reports surfaced it was spending a lot of money on TV ads, marketing, and personalities including Chet Coppock and former boxer Ray "Boom Boom" Macini.

There are also questions on how the venture could afford to send crews to cover to Detroit to cover the Blackhawks in their playoff series against the Red Wings when more established outlets could not due to budget constraints.

Given the recent developments, the future of ChicagoSportsWebio is definitely in question. Also in question is the future of Monsters in the Morning, whose time is bought for on Comcast SportsNet. Hosted by North and Dan Jiggetts, the daily strip was simulcast on Webio.

Without its most recognizable star in Mike North and now with these newly discovered financial problems, this ChicagoSportsWebio venture has just sunk.

Updated 11:02 a.m. on 2009-06-13 (added Sun-Times link)

Today's the day

For you to make the switch to digital TV.

and if you haven't done so - you'd better.

Remember, if you are a cable or satellite subscriber, you are set.

If you have a digital-ready set or a converter box, you are also set.

If not, and you still rely on analog TV, you'd better do something or you will lose your signal today.

Here are some links for more info:

FCC's DTV Site


DTV Answers

DTV 2009

So if you're not with the program - get moving!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chicago TV stations to form "lifeline" for stranded analog viewers

Three Chicago TV stations are partnering up to inform viewers about the digital TV transition, which happens tomorrow.

NBC-owned WMAQ-TV, CW affiliate WGN-TV and Independent WCIU-TV will run news, entertainment, and informational programming on Weigel's WWME-CA - a low-power station not affected by the analog shutoff for now (all full-power stations are scheduled to shut off their analog signals on June 12.)

WWME's lineup of "Me-TV" Classic programming is available on WCIU-TV digital 26.2 and on cable.

WWME will carry WMAQ's news programming in the morning and at 6 p.m. weeknights. Weekend newscasts airing at 6 and 9 a.m. on Saturdays and both weekend days at 5 p.m. WGN's nighttime newscasts will be carried at 9 p.m. every night, except when either WGN or WCIU is carrying a baseball game.

At all other times of the day, WWME will simulcasting WCIU's (26.1) programming. Public service announcements will run on WWME throughout this period.

This arrangement is effective for 30 days.

T Dog's Four Pack

The list of winners and losers are back!

Yes, they can!

Conan. As Conan O' Brien is settling down in his new Tonight Show role, he has more than proven himself as a successor to Jay Leno (or... maybe not.)

Futurama returns. Six years later after Fox canceled this underrated show, Comedy Central comes to the rescue with 26 new episodes.

Judge Judy tops Oprah in daytime. We have a new queen in daytime - at least for one week. But the real winner (as always) is CBS, who handles syndication for both shows.

WBBM-TV. No, this isn't a misprint. The traditionally signal-challenged CBS O&O should see a bump in the ratings thanks to the analog shut-off Friday with the station's digital signal moving from Channel 3 to 12 (its "virtual channel" remains 2) and the transmitter's move to Sears Tower, and the end result is seeing CBS 2 in HD over-the-air for the first time!

No, they can't!

LeBron... After the Cleveland Cavilers were eliminated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to Orlando, the Messiah walked off the court without saying anything to anyone and skipped talking to the press, with cost him $25,000. A sore loser, indeed.

... and those puppets. What in the name of Jim Henson is going on in those Nike commercials?

Speidi. And the rest of those losers on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

The return of I Survived A Japanese Game Show. Another reason not to turn on your TV this summer.

Bob Sirott out at Channel 5

Longtime media personality and fill-in anchor Bob Sirott and NBC-owned WMAQ-TV parted ways today, apparently over money regarding a contractual provision stating he would succeed retiring 10 p.m. anchor Warner Saunders, which would lead to an increase in salary.

WMAQ tried to renegotiate Sirott's contract to short the multi-year deal, so Sirott and WMAQ decided to end their relationship.

This is the second time Sirott departed WMAQ; in 1993, he was fired as co-host of First Thing In The Morning, the station's 6-to-7 a.m. morning newscast (his co-anchor? Allison Rosati, who was his 10 p.m. partner.)

Sirott went on to stints at Fox-owed WFLD-TV (Fox Thing in the Morning) and WTTW, where he was host of Chicago Tonight. He also has an ongoing gig with a midday show at WGN-AM.

The move may also be related to NBC's decision to strip Jay Leno at 9 p.m. every weeknight. While NBC is saving money by airing a program that costs less than scripted dramas, it could winding up hurting its O&Os and affiliates' late-news programs. Also, the shift from analog to digital is likely to benefit one of its rivals (CBS-owned WBBM-TV), which as of Friday, will appear over-the-air in HD to thousands of Chicago-area homes - which means more viewers to its newscasts.

No word on a replacement, but the name being thrown around is current reporter Rob Stafford.

Thought: When Sirott was fired from WMAQ in 1993, what happened to the ratings for First Thing In The Morning?

They went up.

When Sirott departed Fox Thing In The Morning, what happened to their ratings?

They went up (only to come back down.)

When Sirott left Chicago Tonight in 2004 and Phil Ponce returned as host, what happened to their ratings?

They went up.

Isn't it obvious why WMAQ let Sirott go?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Futurama" returns

Well, how about this.

Six years after Fox canceled the series, Twentieth Television and Comedy Central have agreed to revive the animated sci-fi comedy Futurama. New episodes of the series are expected to air in mid-2010. A broadcast network window (most likely Fox) could open up as well. 26 half-hours are planned.

The move gives the series enough episodes to strip the show in broadcast syndication, which could come in either 2011 or 2012. Comedy Central currently strips 72 existing episodes of the series.

The decision to revive the Matt Groening-created series came as a result of strong ratings from the Comedy Central strip and DVD sales of the existing series - including original direct-to-home video movies. Those specs have run on Comedy Central and have performed well.

The same formula has worked out for Twentieth's sister show Family Guy, which was canceled twice - and was revived after strong ratings on Adult Swim and DVD sales, becoming the first TV show to accomplish such a feat. The revival enabled it to enter broadcast syndication, where it has been a success story. Among off-network sitcoms, it ranks only behind Warner Bros. Two And A Half Men.

Futurama began on Fox in 1999, and had been bounced around the network's schedule for five years, unable to gain traction with audiences, but developed a strong cult following.

After Fox's cancellation, Futurama reruns landed on Adult Swim, where it drew a sizeable audience - particularly among males 18-34. Comedy Central surprised everyone in the industry by outbidding Adult Swim for the rerun rights, which reverted to them on January 1, 2008.

As for the revival, much of the original voice talent is expected back, including Billy West, Katey Sagal, and John DiMaggio.

And Twentieth may not be done yet: the studio is in talks with TBS to air at least thirteen new episodes of My Name Is Earl, which acquired the cable rerun rights to last year. NBC canceled the series a month ago after four seasons (UPDATE - Negotiations between TBS and Twentieth have fallen through, meaning "Earl" is officially dead. - T.H. 2009-06-11.)

Updated at 8:07 p.m. (corrected John DiMaggio's name)

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Rachael Ray" moves to WGN-TV

Rachael Ray is on the move.

After three underperforming seasons at CBS-owned WBBM-TV, Rachael Ray's talk show is shifting to Tribune-owned CW affiliate WGN-TV this fall.

Rachael Ray has not fared well in its 2 p.m. time slot, with tougher competition coming from Chicago native Bonnie Hunt, whose talk show airs opposite it and has beat Rachael in the ratings.

WGN picks up the show this fall to air at 10 a.m. replacing a Maury rerun, which is likely to shift to 2 to replace Steve Wilkos, which is moving to WCIU-TV in September (and production from Chicago's NBC Tower to Stamford, CT.)

The moves comes as CBS Television Distribution renewed the show through 2012 in 60 percent of the country, including ABC-owned stations in New York (WABC-TV) and Philadelphia (WPVI), who air the program at 10 a.m. after Regis & Kelly and wins the time period in households handily.

WGN also airs Regis & Kelly (at 9 a.m.) and is hoping for a silmiar result.

WBBM meanwhile, plans to replace Rachael with two more episodes of Judge Judy (in addition to the ones airing at 4 p.m. Haven't we suffered enough?)

Fact: Rachael Ray's move from WBBM to WGN and the renewal by several ABC-owned stations just proves vertical integration doesn't always work.

In June 1994 for example, Twentieth Television's A Current Affair shifted from Fox-owned WFLD-TV at 11 p.m. where it was floundering, to a better early-fringe 3 p.m. slot at WBBM (fifteen months later it would shift to NBC-owned WMAQ-TV for its final season. Affair did return to WFLD for a brief revival in 2005.)

WFLD and Twentieth are both by News Corp.

WCIU picks up "Old Christine"

Sinclair also picks up sitcom; double run could air in prime, displacing My Network TV shows

WCIU-TV here in Chicago has picked up the off-network syndication rights to The Old Adventures of New Christine from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for airing beginning in the fall of 2010.

The Weigel-owned station is expected to air the show twice a day on a cash-plus-barter basis, with two minutes held back by Warner Bros. to sell to national advertisers.

The show stars Seinfeld alum Julia-Louis Dreyfus as a single mom.

Christine was also sold to Tribune's WPIX-TV in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles, but obviously was passed by WGN-TV in Chicago. The off-net sitcom received a big boost by being acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, who owns 50+ stations.

There are reports Sinclair could drop My Network TV to strip Christine in prime-time, along with recently acquired syndicated reruns of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which were sold to Tribune (including WGN) for 2010. According to a recent government filing, Sinclair was "considering their options we have for programming" once the group's deal with My Network TV ends next season.

Sinclair owns My Network TV affiliates in Milwaukee, Baltimore, Tampa, Birmingham, and Raleigh, N.C., among others.

My Network TV is scrapping original programming next season (execpt for WWE Smackdown on Fridays) and is airing syndicated repeat programming instead.

If Sinclair dumps My Network TV for syndicated programming it can run on its own, it will likely mean the end of the programming service.

How big is Sinclair's influence? Five years ago, 20 of its stations canceled the floundering On-Air With Ryan Seacrest talk show strip, forcing Twentieth Television to pull the plug on the series in first-run syndication.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Chicago DJs rally for peace

Three competing local morning radio personalities gathered together yesterday to rally for peace on Chicago's streets.

Organized by Father Michael Pflager, Soul 106.3's Tom Joyner, WGCI's Tony Sculfield, and Power 92's Trey held a rally at Daley Plaza, urging an end to the violence that has plagued Chicago's (and even some suburbs') streets this year.

Even though serious crimes have dropped this year, some areas - notably the 4th, 6th, and 8th police districts on the South Side have seen a huge surge in murders and other crimes over the last few years.

Even though Chicago's murder rate is high compared to other large American cities, it isn't the murder capital by a long shot - that dishonor belongs to New Orleans (on a per capita basis), followed by St. Louis.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chicago turns out for "Conan"

The debut of Conan O'Brien on The Tonight Show Monday scored huge ratings, though not as big as Leno's sendoff on Friday.

Conan debuted to a 7.1 overnight household rating and 17 overnight household share, according to Nielsen. Locally in Chicago (WMAQ-TV, NBC5), O'Brien's debut notched a 8.7/18 (scroll down), tied for fifth with Pittsburgh (WPXI-TV) for the most-watched market.

Leno however, scored a 8.8 HH rating and 20 share Friday, with Chicago clocking in at 10.9/23 (Baltimore's WBAL-TV had the highest rating, at 15.4/30.)

Markets showing the love for Conan was Minneapolis' KARE-TV with a 12.8/29, followed by St. Louis' KSDK-TV with a 11.4/24, ranked first and second, respectively among most-watched markets.

But they must hate Conan O'Brien here: Raleigh-Durham's WNCN-TV was the lowest-rated market, with a 3.7/8. Then again, it was the lowest-rated market for Leno's sendoff as well (3.9/8).

Dan McNeil returns to The Score

He's back home.

Dan McNeil, who was with WSCR-AM from 1991-2000, has returned to the station and assumed the midday shift at the station.

McNeil was previously at rival WMVP-AM (ESPN 1000) until last January after the station declined to pick up the last year of his contract.

The return of McNeil is good news for the sports talk station, whose ratings are often behind ESPN 1000 in key male demos.

To make room, WSCR is shaving an hour from the Mully and hanny show (Brian Hanley and Mike Mulligan) and will air from 5 to 9 a.m. Boers and Bernstein' show gets another hour added on to its 2-6 p.m. shift with McNeil contributing from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Existing midday shows hosted by the pair of Laurence Holmes and Dan Hampton and Mike Murphy have been dropped.

The fun begins June 15.

Radio & Records folds

We all could use some R&R. But in this economy, even that's going away.

The Nielsen Company announced today it was ceasing publication of Radio & Records after 36 years. The move takes place immediately; the Radio & Records website has been shut down and redirected to sister website Billboard.biz, where some of the airplay charts are available (subscription required.)

This comes as the economic downturn have hit all the industry trade magazines very hard. This week, Television Week ceased publication of its magazine after 27 years, but is keeping its website alive.

Nielsen purchased R&R in 2006, merged it with Billboard Radio Monitor, and changed the source of its music charts from Mediabase 24/7 to Billboard (Mediabase charts can still be found on All Access.)

Many countdown shows used R&R's charts, including American Top 40 (the second Casey Kasem-hosted version) and its various spinoffs; The Rick Dees Weekly Top 40; and Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40. When Nielsen dumped Mediabase for Billboard, these countdown shows stopped using R&R's charts to avoid paying costly fees Nielsen would have charged.

Currently, American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest, American Top 10, American Top 20, Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40 and many others now use Mediabase as the source for their chart information, since they wouldn't have to pay a fee for its use.

With the closure of Radio & Records, its link has been removed from T Dog's Media Friends section, and replaced by links from the Sun-Times new TV Critic, Paige Wiser.

updated at 10:43 p.m.

Monday, June 01, 2009

"Conan" is ready to go (Updated)

Now that the Jay Leno era has come to a close, it's time for Conan O'Brien to step in.

Beginning tonight, Conan O'Brien becomes the fifth host to front The Tonight Show in the program's 55-year history, following Steve Allen (and Ernie Kovacs, who hosted the Monday and Tuesday episodes of "Tonight" during the Allen era), Johnny Carson, and Jay Leno.

Tonight also has a new executive producer (Jeff Ross), a new band (Max Weinberg from O'Brien's Late Night show), and a new set at Universal Studios' backlot in Universal City, Calif., where NBC Universal is basing its West Coast operations.

O'Brien's task now is to fill big shoes again - like he did in 1993 when he replaced David Letterman as host of Late Night. His tenure wasn't always successful: Critics gave the series poor reviews, and ratings were subpar. His show was dumped by NBC affiliates in Houston, Detroit, and Buffalo in the mid-1990's before they returned him to the air, albeit in the wee hours of the morning. However, the show finally hit its stride by the end of the decade with ratings growth in key young-adult demos.

Now with O' Brien taking over as host of Tonight, his competitor in fact, is Letterman - he has hosted CBS' Late Show for sixteen years, the same duration O'Brien spent on Late Night.

One thing going for the former Simpsons writer is the fact Tonight has been the No. 1 late-night franchise since its inception, with the exception between 1993 and 1995 when Letterman was on top.

But O'Brien faces a much different late-night landscape than Leno did when he first took over Tonight in 1992 - he has not only Letterman to contend with, but other options such as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Jimmy Kimmel, and Adult Swim.

In addition, TBS is throwing its late-night hat in the ring by hiring George Lopez to do a 10 p.m. (CT) talk show beginning in November.

When O'Brien started with Late Night in 1993, his contract was only renewed thirteen weeks at a time. Now that he is hosting The Tonight Show, he doesn't have that worry anymore.

Or does he?

Updated at 10:09 p.m.