Friday, July 31, 2009

"Futurama" voice cast settles with Twentieth

We knew how all of this would come out at the end.

The voice cast of Futurama has agreed to a pact with the show's producers and Twentieth Television on their salaries. The cast includes Billy West, Katey Sagal, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, and John DiMaggio.

The group was to appear at the Futurama Comic-Con panel last week, but was disinvited at the last minute due to the salary impasse. Creator Matt Groening and producer David Cohen did appear at the panel, and expressed hope they would come to a deal.

There were reports the cast were asking for $75,000 an episode - but it turned out the cast's demands were lower than the reported amount. If Twentieth didn't reach a deal with the cast, they threatened replace them with new voice actors - usually a negotiation ploy in a situation like this.

With Twentieth and Comedy Central looking for a way to make the show financially viable for cable, the budget was cut, including staffing fewer writers and shortening the delivery time on episodes.

Another canceled network series (The Game) is also looking for ways to make their show financially viable for a revival on BET. No far, no deal has been made between the producers of the show (CBS) and BET.

"Marie" dropped - before it begins

After speculation that Marie Osmond's new talk show would not go forward, Program Partners made it official today.

The daily talk-show strip was to premiere on September 14 in 80 percent of the country, including WCIU-TV in Chicago. It has been reported some stations had been pulling their offers to air the show.

The weak ad market, the recession, and general economic conditions led to the decision to pull the plug on the series for fall.

News of the possibility of the cancellation first came from Mediaweek's Marc Berman and his Programming Insider Podcast. When he e-mailed Program Partners regarding the fate of the show, he didn't receive any answer.

The move comes as a huge blow for Program Partners, which now has no new first-run strips in production. Two current programs on stations' schedules - Family Court with Judge Penny and Merv Griffin Crosswords - are not coming back this fall. The latter show - which premiered in September 2007 - had been in production hiatus for over a year, and planned to resume production for new episodes in January 2009. However, those plans never materialized.

Program Partners continues to syndicate numerous weekly series, and Canadian import Degrassi: The Next Generation, which runs on The N and on CTV.

As for Marie Osmond, she performs with her brother Donny in a Las Vegas five times a week, where the talk show would've have been taped. Both Osmonds co-hosted a daily talk show in syndication from 1998 to 2000 for Columbia TriStar Television.

The Bugzberg example

A syndicated program getting pulled from production with a high clearance rate among stations is nothing new. Back in 1989, Group W cleared an animated kids' series titled Bugzberg in 90 percent of the country for a September premiere. But when parent Westinghouse sold the company producing the show (Filmation, which was an a cartoon studio powerhouse in the 1960's and 1970s), plans for the series were abruptly abandoned.

In case you were wondering, Bugzberg was pitched as an animated series about a community of fireflies. It was Filmation's last program in development before the studio closed.

Rob Stafford to co-anchor WMAQ's 10 p.m. newscast

In another major move by the NBC-owned outlet, WMAQ-TV announced Thursday that Rob Stafford will co-anchor the station's 10 p.m. newscast with Allison Rosati beginning on August 10.

Stafford will also co-anchor the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscast with Rosati beginning on August 10 as well. The move comes as WMAQ's ratings at 10 have grown in the past few months while its competitors have slipped.

However, the real test comes in the fall when the nightly Jay Leno Show becomes the newscast's lead-in.

Stafford had been anchor weekends at WMAQ since 2006. Before then, he was a correspondent for Dateline NBC, which was reduced to a part-time gig. He also had a previous stint at CBS-owned WBBM-TV.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Anna Davlantes out at Channel 5

Yours truly was celebrating when Ben "Party All The Time" Silverman left NBC Monday. Now comes the bad news: it appears Anna Davlantes is following him out the door.

Ms. Davlantes exited NBC-owned WMAQ-TV today after failing to come to a contract renewal agreement with the station.

WMAQ's station manager (Fran Whitaker) put out a short statement thanking her for her nine years at the outlet.

According to Lewis Lazare at the Chicago Sun-Times, Davlantes was being escorted from the station at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, then a half-hour later, a station spokesperson said she was no longer with the station. But at 5:30, station officials said the station was still fluid.

But by mid-morning Thursday, station management did make Davlantes' departure official.

Davalantes has mainly been a weekend and fill-in anchor at WMAQ, but sources say she had been privately frusturated about not getting a more prominment anchor role at the station.

Davalantes had also appeared on a WTTW Friday night show called Rewind, but that program is currently on hiatus. There is now word on when - or if - the public-affairs program will return.

This is the third major departure at the NBC-owned station in the last several months, following Warner Saunders' retirement and Bob Sirott's exit. The station had been on a ratings roll at 10 p.m. the last few months, with its household ratings increasing while its main competitors slipped.

But reaction to Davlantes' departure has mostly been negative, with many lashing out at WMAQ and NBC management, despite Davalantes reportedly turning down a contract offer from the station. The reaction is understandable, given NBC's prime-time and management troubles (i.e. Jeff Zucker and the departed Ben Silverman) are well known - not to mention many internet posters on messageboards have called out the station recently for screw-ups on several newscasts.

The question now is, what lies ahead for WMAQ without a few recongizable faces? But more importantly, what does the future hold for Anna Davlantes?

Hopefully, it won't be with "Party All The Time" at Barry Diller's IAC.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag - The TCA edition

For the next nine or so days, television critics (or those who are left) will be at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. for Q&A sessions on the new fall shows, countless press releases, and sharp exchanges with network execs (sorry, no more Ben Silverman.) Here are some of the early highlights of the tour:

- TBS is launching a new late-night show titled Lopez Tonight featuring comedian George Lopez on November 9. The show is shooting on the Warner Bros. lot and hope to capture an audience not interested in Conan O'Brien or David Letterman.

- USA has renewed their successful dramas Burn Notice and Royal Pains.

- ESPN plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the network on Sept. 6 with a special anniversary edition of SportsCenter - you know, President Obama's favorite show.

- Instead of launching shows along the lines of featuring rich teenage girls throwing parties and reality shows featuring women vying to be Paris Hilton's leetch, MTV is aiming for something inspirational instead by launching Gone Too Far and The Buried Life.

- And say goodbye to the traditional "splat" logo you've been associating with Nickelodeon since 1984. The kids' network plans to unevil a new logo that unites all of the channel's brands.

The original logo is still associated with Nick programs from yesteryear, including Double Dare and You Can't Do That On Television.

- And of course, there wouldn't be a press tour without a little controversy. On the TV Land presentation, Joan Rivers - who has a new show titled How Did You Get So Rich? slammed Jay Leno, whose new weeknight show will air at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 14. The one-time daytime talk show host - who once referred to former WLS-TV GM Joe Ahern as "a nazi" after he denied her an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show - said about Leno: "I think it's brilliant that they put Leno on at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CT) because America can get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier."

Just like we did with her laugh-free late-night talk show in 1986.

Nielsen won't play in Peoria

Will Nielsen ratings play in Peoria?

Not anymore. Peoria-Bloomington's commercial television stations have recently told the ratings service to take a hike.

According to this TVNewscheck story, the downstate market's two owners - Nextstar and Granite - has ditched Nielsen as their main television ratings provider.

Instead, the stations are replacing the service with "qualitative research and smart sales promotion" (or in other words, some firm calling up your house and asking you what you are watching.)

The market's stations - Nexstar's WMBD (CBS) and co-managed WYZZ (Fox) and Granite's WEEK (NBC) and co-managed WHOI (ABC) and WAOE (My Net) - are standing up to the monolipistic giant, fed up with expensive fees and not seeing any real return from them.

Instead, they plan to sell advertisers on independent research they have conducted, plus data from companies like Media Audit and Simmons. The stations then uses the data collected to create sales proposals for local retailers and other clients.

Nielsen will continue to survey the Peoria-Bloomington market and provide information to PBS affiliate WTVP and Comcast.

As the 116th-largest market, Peoria still relies on a diary-only rating system, where viewers write in what shows thery are watching and send it in to Nielsen, and this is only four times a year. Larger markets (mainly those 60th and larger) have either metered market household ratings, or local people meters, which also measure demo information on an overnight basis.

And many stations from other markets - from as large as Los Angeles - are sitting up and taking notice. Many complain the new local people meter system are undercounting certain demo groups, and is too expensive. In April, Fox affiliate WSVN in Miami sued Nielsen for "unlawful conduct" , i.e. claiming the ratings giant had abused its powers as a monopoly and claiming its data is flawed and of course, too costly. The suit alleges the local people meter system isn't working.

Nielsen became the lone man standing after Arbitron exited the television ratings measuring business at the end of 1993.

Thought: Yours truly's gripe with Nielsen's national prime-time ratings system is this: in the morning comes overnight metered household ratings from 56 markets; then comes the fast nationals, which measures demos and time-period data only and not the shows; then late in the afternoon comes the final numbers, which break down the program's final hosuehold ratings, total viewers, and demos.

Got all that? No? Neither do I. Can anyone tell me why we need three seperate sets of ratings every day? It does not make any sense. No wonder stations in Peoria have dumped Nielsen. Too costly, too confusing, too ridicolous. Nielsen better sit up and take notice of what Peoria-Bloomington is doing before they have a full-scale revolt on their hands.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The offical Comic-Con post game show

The comic book and pop culture gathering in San Diego every July called Comic-Con ended on Sunday. Over 100,000 people attended the four-day geekfest, drawing more bodies than a Nationals-Padres three-game series would've drawn - or any homestand involving the Padres.

Comic-Con has grown to be a important marketing vehicle for Hollywood studios - its now seen as an important way to reach fans of television shows, from The Big Bang Theory to Chuck; for upcoming action movies like the upcoming James Cameron thriller Avatar; and of course lots and lots of comic books and art on display.

While NATPE and Promax have become blah-like conventions (judging from their declining attendance figures), Comic-Con has grown in size and became the place to be for media and marketing. And you don't even have to be an exec to get in (just have a lot of cash on you.)

Here's what went down at the four day convention:

- There were plenty of panels galore for many popular TV shows. Many producers previewed their shows for the upcoming season by showing upcoming clips, while others even provided some entertainment.

- At the Lost panel, the producers vow to answer any questions that are lingering, with the series heading into its final season. One of the show's stars (Jorge Garcia) asked a question posed to the panel - only to be interrupted by co-star Michael Emerson, with the two getting involved in a mock argument and people with their cameraphones capering the moment. Funny stuff.

- At the Futurama panel, there was high drama on whether or not the impasse between the voice actors and Twentieth Television would be resolved. It wasn't, and none of the current cast showed up. Creator Matt Groening said at Comic-Con he hopes the impasse would be resolved soon. Comedy Central and Twentieth recently announced they were producing new episodes of the series.

While there were no signs of animosity toward the producers of the show at the panel, some fans got short-shifted in the merchandise department - when they ran out of Futurama stuff - they were giving out Family Guy boxer shorts.

At least they didn't give out Judge Alex T-shirts.

- Despite horrid ratings, fan apathy, and critical reviews, the Heroes panel was filled to capacity at the Hilton across the street from the convention center. Most of the cast was there, including Jack Coleman and Hayden Panettiere. Given the circumstances, they were elevated to the "loverable losers" status The Chicago Northside Baseball Club usually attains. The only thing missing from the Heroes panel was beer and a billy goat.

Milo Ventimiglia tried to sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the seventh minute of the panel, but was mercifully stopped by Zach Quinto, when he threatened to kick him in the nads.

- On a more serious note, Ron Moore appeared at the Battlestar Galactica/Caprica panel and announced the Caprica series will premiere january 22 at 9 p.m. (CT) on SyFy. Caprica is the pre-quel to Galactica, which is set 58 years before hand.

Also, a Battlestar Galactica TV movie titled The Plan - which looks at events from the Cyclon point of view - premieres in Novemeber.

And you can own the entire series of the recently-concluded Battlestar Galactica series on DVD and Blu-Ray, as of today.

- Surprise hit Star Wars: The Clone Wars enters season two with a more darker tone to attract a more adult audience, according to the producers of the show. The program returns with new episodes on Cartoon Network this fall.

- Even shows who follow the nerd life for a living had panels. G4's Attack of the Show reported at Comic-Con and was one of the more-attended panels - with 1,000 fans turned away. Who thought Olivia Munn would attract an audience? (well, duh...)

- Movies were represented here in a big way, with panels and trailers for new releases 2012, Avatar, and IronMan 2 (with Robert Downey Jr. and Garry Shandling - yes, Garry Shandling.)

- Other well-attended panels included those for Dexter, Burn Notice, Glee, Fringe, Family Guy, and Stargate Universe. One that was huge was for HBO's True Blood, which is riding vampire mania this year (thank you, Twilight - whose New Moon had the girls screaming out of their seats.) Of course, nobody did it better back in the day - or worse - than Dark Shadows, with boom mikes making cameo appearances and all...

- There was also a packed panel for CW's new Vampire Diaries, but the crowd reaction was decidedly mixed.

- While many panels had more than 2,000 people in attendance, there was one that didn't even come close to drawing that many.

Only around 75 people showed up for a panel for The Middle, a new sitcom featuring Patricia Heaton, who was told by Warner Bros. not to even show up because of the low attendance. Asked why a ordinary sitcom not about sci-fi, fantasy, comics, or even animated is even there at Comic-Con, they responded by saying she was a "superhero" in a way.

Obviously, the reason why so many stayed away from the event because they thought the sitcom was about the San Diego Chargers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

CBS Television Distribution launches "Smash Cuts"

CBS Television Distribution surprised many in the industry today by launching a last-minute syndicated show titled Smash Cuts, a weekly hour featuring viral video clips.

The all-barter weekly hour has quickly cleared more than 90 percent of the country, including stations from the Tribune and CBS groups. In Chicago, the program will air locally over WGN-TV.

Usually, syndicated programs are brought out in the fall months and in January right before the NATPE convention. But with both The CW and My Network TV giving up a night of programming each this fall, it created an opportunity for syndicators to grab those time periods abandoned by the mini-nets.

Smash Cuts plans on featuring viral video clips culled from around the Internet, similar to G4's Web Soup.

Other efforts - such as CW's Online Nation and the just-canceled Beyond Twisted (which was tested on six Fox O&Os), were not successful.

Of course, there have been home-video programs more successful than those efforts. Mighty Oak's Whacked Out Sports currently is in its second year in syndication, while others included MCA's Roggin's Heroes and of course, America's Funniest Home Videos.

In fact, CBS Television Distribution's precessdor (Paramount Domestic Television) distributed video-clip shows Real TV (1996-2001) and its spin-off, Maximum Exposure. Both shows were successful financially for Paramount.

CBS Television Distribution is currently auditioning for four hosts to anchor the program.

Ben Silverman out at NBC

The long national nightmare is over - the Bulls Ballboy is moving on.

NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman resigned today after two years to start a new company with Barry Diller's IAC. He's essentially returning to his entrepreneurial roots: he founded production company Reville, producers of The Office and Ugly Betty.

His replacement is Jeff Gaspin, who will now add the responsibilities of the NBC Television Network in addition to NBC Universal's cable properties, where he was successful with continuing revenue growth for USA, Bravo, Oxygen, and other NBC-owned cable outlets.

Marc Graboff will continue in his role as the other entertainment co-chairman of NBC.

Silverman's legacy (if you can call it that) has been a tumulus one, with the entertainment chief failing to find a single hit show (sorry, Parks and Recreation doesn't count), presiding over the deterioration of several others (notably Heroes), launching forgettable shows (Kath & Kim, The Chopping Block, Howie Do It), reviving shows that were only mid-level hits (American Gladiators, Knight Rider, Bionic Woman), airing too many episodes of Deal or No Deal in prime-time (which led to its demise in that daypart) and bringing back idiot reality shows that failed (I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!)

In addition, there have been allegations of drug use and wild partying leveled at Silverman, and the interference it caused at his job.

In the meantime, NBC remained mired deep in fourth place, with ratings continuing to decline.

Affiliates unmoved by announcement

Meanwhile, NBC affiliates had a "meh"-like reaction to the announcement that NBC Co-Chairman Ben Silverman was leaving.

There was actually support for Silverman at some stations, saying two years wasn't enough time to make any difference.

Others said they could use some fresh blood at the peacock network in hopes to generate a couple of new prime-time hits.

But for the most part, affiliates said the move doesn't really affect them.

Despite NBC's prime-time woes, many affiliates' ratings - notably in late news, haven't been really affected. While some have lost ground (e.g. KSDK in St. Louis ceding the #1 late news slot to CBS affiliate KMOV), others have remained the status quo in their overall rankings. For example, NBC affiliates in Washington, D.C. (WRC, an O&O), Detroit (WDIV), Minneapolis-St. Paul (KARE), Denver (KUSA), Baltimore (WBAL), Sacramento (KCRA), Memphis (WMC), and Providence (WJAR) have remained either at or near the top of the local ratings, especially in news.

In Chicago, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV has recently seen growth for its 10 p.m. newscast this year, while its main competitors slipped. WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee won the 10 p.m. news race in the May sweeps, as it has done for decades.

But the overall consensus of it all was, what Silverman put on the screen just wasn't working. And the Nielsen ratings told the story.

T Dog's Think Tank Archive: Zucker, Silverman have got to go

Friday, July 24, 2009

Comic-Con is here!

It's Comic-Con time again!

For four days every July, about 100,000 people descend on San Diego for the annual geek fest and pop culture festival, started in 1970 as just a simple comic book convention. Hollywood has invaded the gathering over the last several years, bringing tens of thousands of people - and a lot of revenue - to San Diego.

And for television exces, Comic-Con has become the place to be to market their wares (remember when NATPE created this much excitement?) Though its not the place to make deals, Comic-Con has replaced NATPE as the place to celebrate everything television and pop culture (and movies, too - except dopey romcoms and anything with Katherine Heigl in it.)

For the latest on Comic-Con, check out either this blog's Twitter page or the Twitter Updates on the right-hand side of the blog and for more coverage, check out the links under the Comic-Con heading.

Plus the Tribune's Mo Ryan and TV Barn's Aaron Barnhart are at Comic-Con blogging and twittering (yes, they can do both.)

Also, keep it here for any extended posting yours truly might write on any news coming from this gathering.

WBBM-TV's news ratings continue to lag

Spent so much time on WFLD lately (Mike Barz's firing and the station's 10 p.m. newscast cancellation), now there's a story of Chicago's other ratings-losing news operation - CBS-owned WBBM-TV.

But what Lewis Lazare flat out ignored in his article is the rise of NBC-owned WMAQ-TV's 10 p.m. newscast, where since January has seen a 13% increase in household ratings and is now only 1.7 rating points behind market leader WLS-TV, where as the ABC O&O is still having signal issues from the DTV switch last month.

WMAQ's 10 p.m. ratings growth is notable given HUT levels tend to drop during the summer months, and its parent network is still struggling in prime-time and ratings for The Tonight Show with new host Conan O'Brien have dropped since he took over.

And among adults 25-54, the numbers are probably closer between the two stations - though Lazy Lazare doesn't report on demos - never mind this is what most local stations look at.

Now back to WBBM... the station's ratings still trail those of its' two main rivals by a wide margain in households, though the outlet is now taking a different approach to presenting its newscasts, including leading off with a local story Wednesday night instead of President Obama's press conference regarding his health-care plan. News director Jeff Kiernan (who arrived from sister station WBZ-TV in January) hopes the move to differentiate itself from its two main competitors pays off in increased ratings.

The station is sticking with anchor Rob Johnson solo - for now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Ugly Betty" sold to - TV Guide channel?

Yes, it's true - Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution has sold off-network rights to Ugly Betty to the TV Guide Channel - a channel known primarily for scrolling TV listings.

The series will be stripped beginning in Fall 2010, but the network will begin airing "re-purposed" episodes of the fourth season of the show two weeks after new episodes appear on ABC.

Also, TV Guide Channel gains the right to stream five episodes a week on its website.

Indicating a possible lack of interest from potential suitors, Disney-ABC Domestic Television only garnered $200,000 an episode from TV Guide Channel. By comparison, Spike TV recently paid $600,000 for exclusive basic cable rights to the HBO comedy hit Entourage, which also debuts in 2010. The serialized nature of Betty also may have hurt the price Disney was seeking for, as this type of program have historically performed poorly when repeated in syndication.

Though Ugly Betty performed well in its first season, ratings have dropped for the last two seasons. The program has lost steam in its 7 p.m. Thursday time slot, opposite Survivor on CBS.

For TV Guide Channel, the move give them a proven series to air as the cable channel diversifies its programming lineup by acquiring more off-network fare. The channel also acquired repeats of P'unkd from Litton Entertainment.

WFLD dumps Mike Barz

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 has dumped morning news anchor Mike Barz after just two years amid allegations he acted at a off-site party.

The former WGN-TV morning sports anchor joined the station in 2007 from ABC's Good Morning America, and fronted Good Day Chicago alongside Jan Jeffcoat. He was suspended from WFLD shortly after he joined the station, after allegations he acted inappropriately toward a company party at a off-site company party, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The latest incident came July 10 at a going away party for Margaret Shortridge, who left the station a few weeks ago.

No word on a replacement for Barz, but David Novarro is one of the names circulating around. Novarro currently co-anchors WFLD's 10 p.m. newscast, but that program is ending September 18. Novarro was expected to leave, but given the circumstances, he may be asked to stay. Good Day Chicago has often been criticized for the lack of chemistry been Barz and Jeffcoat, on the show - not to mention Barz's smug persona.

This move is the latest of a string of setbacks for the Fox O&O, which has struggled for years to gain parity with Chicago's other news operations. The morning newscast has never really been a player in the ratings game, which is soundly beaten by newscasts on other stations.

The station's low-rated 10 p.m. newscast was recently canceled, and a whole number of people were recently laid off from the station.

There is no doubt WFLD has the weakest news operation in the entire Fox O&O chain. For example, WAGA-TV in Atlanta finishes a strong second in morning news and often tops late news (at 10 p.m.) WFXT in Boston often beats one or two competing Big Three affiliated stations at 10 p.m. WNYW in New York and KTTV in Los Angeles dominate local morning newscasts and beat their Tribune-owned rivals easily at 10. KMSP in Minneapolis beats ABC affiliate KSTP's newscast head-to-head at 10 p.m.

In Chicago, WGN easily beats WFLD in most news time periods and has a large margin of victory over the Fox O&O at 9 p.m., despite weak lead-ins from CW network programming. Like CBS (whose WBBM-TV is another struggling news operation), Fox underperforms nationally in Chicago, as witnessed by the lackluster ratings for the American Idol finale.

Plus, their "Asking the Questions" campaign during their newscasts - which they claim they're getting us answers - is doing anything but. The investigate reports are an embarrassment - while the phrase is being lampooned and parodied.

And don't ask about its sister station, My Network TV affiliate WPWR.

Given the parade of GMs that have come and gone from the Fox O&O in the last several years, it may take exactly that long for the station to become competitive in a market with only two successful news operations.

WFLD may be "Asking the Questions", as their annoying promos tout. But the answers from them on why the station's news operation can't gain a foothold in the ratings may be a longtime in coming.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite dies

One of journalism's most trustworthy figures has passed away.

Walter Cronkite, who was a longtime anchor of The CBS Evening News for nineteen years, died this evening at the age of 92. Cronkite was with CBS News for 31 years, when he was forced out in 1981 due to the network's mandatory retirement of anyone who reached the age of 65. He was replaced by Dan Rather.

Cronkite suffered from cerebrovascular disease and after his health become worse last month, his family issued a statement stating Cronkite "was not expected to recuperate."

Cronkite was a very influential individual of his day. He anchored through some of the most roughest times in our country's history, from the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., President John Kennedy, and his brother Robert Kennedy to the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal.

Born in St. Joesph, Mo., Cronkite joined CBS News in 1950 as a correspondent. His profile grew throught the decade as host of You Are There (1953-57)and The 20th Century. In 1962, Cronkite was promoted as the anchor of the then-15 minute CBS Evening News. It expanded to thirty minutes in September 1963.

During his tenure, his news programs' presentation of the Vietnam War changed the way Americans viewed the conflict. He broke into regular programming to announce the assassination of John Kennedy and the first man to land on the moon. He became one of the most trusted journalists in the country.

Cronkite also inspired legions and legions of future journalists, including the Sun-Times' Robert Feder.

Even though Cronkite left CBS in 1981, he still remained active with the network through special reports and hosting the Kennedy Center Honors. Cronkite also keep busy with projects for Discovery Channel and NPR.

And that's the way it is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

- Tuesday night's Major League Baseball All-Star Game drew 14.6 million viewers to Fox, according to Nielsen. Locally, the game drew a 12.8 household rating and 21 household share - a big number despite the fact only two players from Chicago's baseball teams were represented.

In St. Louis (where the game was held), the contest drew a whopping 37 rating and 56 share.

- Also on the sports beat, the NHL and NBC have extended their deal through 2011, coming on the heels of a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 drawing the highest rating for a hockey game in 36 years. NBC's coverage begins on January 1 with the Winter Classic, this year being held at Fenway Park in Boston featuring the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.

- Court dismissed: Program Partners and Judge Penny Reynolds have agreed to pull the plug on Family Court, the daily syndicated half-hour courtroom strip, which debuted last fall. Low ratings and a low clearance rate were to blame for the show's demise.

For Program Partners, this is the second strip to get axed in two years - last year, the company put freshman game-show strip Merv Griffin's Crosswords on "production hiatus", with the second season consisting of reruns and unaired episodes. However, Program Partners is expected to go forward with a new talk show hosted by Marie Osmond this fall.

- Despite WFLD dumping its 10 p.m. newscast, more and more stations are adding news, despite the rotten economic conditions: CBS affiliates KOIN-TV in Portland, Ore. and KEYE-TV in Austin, Tex. are adding 4 p.m. newscasts.

There is also a syndicated program shake-up in Portland, with Ellen shifting to NBC affiliate KGW, and the new Dr. Oz added to ABC affiliate KATU's lineup at 3 p.m., replacing infomercials and Millionaire (Infomercials? at 3 p.m.? Good Grief...)

2009 Emmy nominations announced

Here they are, the 2009 Emmy nominations. Click here to see the list.

Among the biggest surprises of the day was Family Guy getting nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, the first to do so since The Flintstones in 1961, when it lost to Jack Benny.

The Emmy Awards takes place Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. (CT) on CBS.

Thought: This season's episodes of Family Guy were not really the best, in my humble opinion. You think Seth MacFarlane engaged in a little Chicago-style political play with the Emmy board to get his show nominated? I suppose he got advice from several Chicago aldermen on how to pull it off...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chicago's June PPM results

Remember, these are based on are 6+ numbers.


WGN-AM, WTMX-FM (The Mix), WLS-FM, WUSN-FM, WSCR-AM (The Score), WSRB (Soul 106.3), WXRT-FM

Not an impressive debut:

WNUA-FM (Mega 95.5)


WPPN-FM, Q101 and any music station not in the winner's circle

Analysis: The Cubs may be the lovable losers, but they're anything but when it comes to local radio in Chicago.

After a winter of declining ratings, WGN returned to the top of the heap in Chicago's June PPM survey, thanks to Cubs baseball. The team helped WGN to a huge 22% increase month-to-month and landed on top for the first time in the PPM era. Among adults 25-54, the station shot up from a tie in 16th to 10th. Now the challenge is to hold on to those listeners when baseball season is over.

Also with good surveys are The Mix (WTMX, which was tops overall in adults 25-54), US 99 (WUSN-FM, #2 in A25-54) and WXRT-FM, while WSRB-FM continues to nudge upward thanks to the addition of The Tom Joyner Morning Show.

But outside of that, it was a weak survey for many Chicago music stations, which pretty much reflects the sad state of local FM radio and perhaps the music industry in general - not to mention competition from satellite and Internet radio, MP3 players and CDs. Losers include WPPN-FM (down a whopping 41%) and WGRB, with others either being flat or down from last month. Usually, music stations see increases in the ratings during the summer months.

The Score (WSCR-AM) scored - no pun intended - a victory over archrival ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM), but the true strength of these stations lie in the male demos.

As for Mega 95.5 (WNUA), the format change brought a ratings drop of 23%. But the flip did take some steam out of both WPPN and heritage WOJO-FM, with the latter plunging 17% month-to-month.

To see Chicago's PPM numbers for June, click here. To see the 25-54 demo numbers, click here.

Updated 10:53 p.m. (added 25-54 demo information)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tribune, CBS settle payments on syndicated product

CBS Television Distribution and Tribune have agreed on a settlement to reduce the license fees the bankrupt television group has to pay to the syndicator.

CBS agreed to an $1.2 million payment from Tribune - down from $2.4 million it owed, according to bankruptcy filing papers.

The deal covers all CBS Television Distribution properties on the 26-station Tribune group, from Everybody Loves Raymond (in 11 markets) to Matlock and Andy Griffith Show reruns on WGN-TV (at 3:30 a.m.!) to Star Trek: The Next Generation on WGN America (Raymond had aired on 16 Tribune stations in the first cycle, but dropped to 11 after Fox-owned stations acquired the rights to the show in five big markets, including Chicago.)

It also covers WGN's acquisition of Rachael Ray from CBS-owned WBBM-TV, for airing at 10 a.m. beginning on Sept. 14.

Other syndicators have yet to reach similar agreements with Tribune.

CBS is a very important client to Tribune. The station group acquired rerun rights to Next Generation (no word though, if WGN is included in the deal for the Chicago market) and T.D. Jakes' new talk show, scheduled to debut in 2010.

More on-air staff cuts at Q101, The Loop

Here we downsize again: Emmis made another round of staff cuts at its two Chicago rock stations today. From WKQX-FM (Q101), the cuts included Alex Quigley (who did weeknights 7-10), and Kevin Manno who did afternoons with his brother Ryan.

Instead, Q101 hired Tim Virgin to do afternoons from 3-7 p.m. with Ryan Manno moving into Quigley's 7-10 p.m. slot. This is Mr. virgin's second stint with a Chicago radio station.

Emmis' other station in town (WLUP-FM, The Loop) let go four part-time weekend on-air staff members, including 32-year veteran Tim O'Toole.

There is also word that Pete McMurray has also been let go from The Loop.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

T Dog's Four Pack

The best and worst of the last three weeks:


- The Michael Jackson Memorial Service. Tasteful and dignified.

- America's Got Talent. Once again, the hit of the summer season with an average of 11 million viewers. And it still hasn't found its Susan Boyle!

- Casey Kasem. Tip of the hat to the man who practically invented counting down the hits retired from the grind last weekend (though his recent shows, AT20 and AT10 - just weren't the same compared the original American Top 40 once was.)

- 30 Rock. A very good week for NBC Universal's critically-acclaimed sitcom with Comedy Central and WGN America paying $800,000 an episode for the Tina Fey vehicle. Oh yeah, and it was sold in broadcast syndication, too.

Not so good.

- Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Peter King (R-NY). These two complained about the media coverage of Michael Jackson for completely different reasons, if only to promote their self-absorbed asses. Two more reasons to hate New York.

- BET Awards. The tribute to Michael Jackson and the O'Jays were fine, but the rest of the show was junk, especially with Jamie Foxx as host and Beyonce performing in a ridiculous outfit. Quite what you'd expect from BET (and Aaron McGruder would agree.)

- SyFy. An executive from the Imagine Dumber network took to Twitter to explain and defend the name change, as if to persuade the legions of fanboys to change their mind about it. The execution is working real nicely - on the night of Warehouse 13's premiere, a banner ad on YouTube promoted the show - with the old logo and the name of the channel still spelled "Sci Fi"
(click on the image below to enlarge.)

- Celebrity Death Rollcall.
Bea Arthur, Ed McMachon, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, Fred Travelina, Dempsey Travis, Karl Malden, Farrah Fawcett, Gale Storm, Karl Malden, John Callaway - we miss you already!

Friday, July 10, 2009

WFLD cancels "The Ten"

WWOR in New York also drops 10 p.m. newscast, but moves it to 11 p.m.

Time's up for The Ten.

Fox-owned WFLD is dropping its 10 p.m. newscast titled The Ten after two uneventful years and will remove it from its schedule on September 18 (this blog's birthday.) On September 21, WFLD will air off-network repeats of The Office in the time slot.

In addition to its 10 p.m. airing, The Office will also air in prime access, at 6:30 p.m. replacing Seinfeld, which has aired in the time period on te same station for fourteen years. On September 21st, the classic sitcom shifts to sister station WPWR-TV in the same time period.

Premiering on April 9, 2007, The Ten was an attempt to compete with the three network O&Os for the news audience and those lucrative ad dollars that come with it. Instead, WFLD-TV's newscast didn't even come close to competing and was beaten in the ratings by reruns of Family Guy on WGN-Channel 9 and The King of Queens reruns on WCIU. For years, WFLD has had huge success at 10 p.m. with syndicated reruns of The Simpsons, and before that, M*A*S*H.

Recently, WFLD averaged only a 1.4 household rating for its newscast.

Fox had been aggressively expanding its news offerings in many of its markets, including going head-to-head with established network affiliates.

Meanwhile, Fox's My Network TV in New York (WWOR-TV) has also dropped its longtime 10 p.m. hour-long newscast and is moving it to 11 p.m. and cutting it to a half-hour. WWOR's newscast had been finishing behind rivals WPIX and sister station WNYW-TV. WWOR is also dropping all weekend newscasts.

Other news cutbacks include CBS-owned WBBM-TV and NBC-owned WTVJ in Miami dropping their weekend morning newscasts.

No other 10 or 11 p.m. newscasts cancellations are planned in other Fox O&O markets.

All of moves are related to the weak advertising marketplace and plummeting revenues due to the recession, which has affected news operations nationwide.

This announcement is among the first of many changes taking place at WFLD. Beginning Monday, the station premieres the new Wendy Williams Show from Debmar-Mercury at 3 p.m. and 12:05 a.m. The show features the outspoken WBLS-FM personality from New York and tested well in four Fox O&O markets last year. Williams is also replacing the WWOR newscast at 10 p.m. beginning Monday, where it will go head-to-head with Jay Leno on WNBC this fall.

WFLD acquired Dr. Oz from Sony Pictures Television to air at 4 p.m. this fall, featuring the doctor whose made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. There were inklings the station was planning to launch a 5 p.m. newscast in September, but no official word has came from the station regarding it.

While Fox stations appear to be cutting back on news, a few are actually adding newscasts: Tribune's WPIX in New York is on the verge of launching a nightly 6:30 p.m. show to compete with the network newscasts, similar to what sister stations KTLA in Los Angeles and WGN in Chicago (at 5:30 p.m.) have done, while independent KSTC in Minneapolis-St. Paul is adding a 7-to-9 a.m. morning newscast and a 9 p.m. newscast. The newscasts are being produced by ABC affiliate KSTP. Both KSTP and KSTC are owned by Hubbard Broadcasting.

Earlier this week, WCIU announced they were adding news segments to its morning programming block.

Analysis: Initially, WFLD's 10 p.m. newscast drew some viewers away from WBBM in the 18-49 demo and beat the CBS O&O a few times. But it wasn't able to sustain itself in the demo in the long-term - especially when WGN started airing Family Guy in the time period. More embrassing, WFLD's newscasts were being outdrawn by those on Univision's WGBO-TV, a Spanish-language station.

And for those of you wondering, yes, The Simpsons drew higher ratings at 10 p.m, even though ratings for the show were declining in the time period before it was replaced. It's not that hard to figure out.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Jackson memorial draws 31 million viewers

The King of Pop's final act drew a huge crowd to the tube.

The Michael Jackson memorial service drew an estimated 31 million viewers between noon and 3 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday, according to Nielsen. The service was televisied on all broadcast networks (except The CW) and carried on cable networks BET, MTV, E!, CNN, and Fox News, among others.

Meanwhile, crowds of people gathered at public viewing places to see the memorial service including Adam Clayton Powell Park in Harlem (New York City) and the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Chicago's Bronzeville (Grand Boulevard) neighborhood. Crowds also gathered at Daley Plaza to watch the service on WBBM-TV's Jumbotron screen.

The three-hour presentation was thoughtful and respectful in tone. A wonderful way to send off one of music's most successful superstars.

"30 Rock" sold to WGN-TV, WGN America, and Comedy Central

In a blockbuster deal, the NBC Thursday night comedy 30 Rock was sold in syndication to cable networks Comedy Central and WGN America and to Fox and Tribune stations on the broadcast side, each for Fall 2011 debuts.

NBC Universal decided to sell the sitcom to Fox and Tribune station groups, splitting the difference. Locally, 30 Rock will air on Tribune's WGN-TV, while Fox's WNYW in New York and KTTV in Los Angeles will strip the sitcom.

Other sales include... on the Tribune side, WPHL in Philadelphia; WDCW in Washington, D.C.; KCPQ in Seattle, KRCW in Portland, Ore., and WXMI in Grand Rapids, Mich. Fox bought the show for KDFW in Dallas, KRIV in Houston, KMSP in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and WOFL in Orlando. Even though Fox owns My Network TV stations in those markets, 30 Rock will not air on them.

30 Rock is sold on a barter basis in broadcast with four minutes retained for local stations and three minutes for NBC Universal to keep to sell to national advertisers.

Usually, stations pony up cash license fees for off-net sitcoms. But with the economy tight as it is, the station community wasn't anteing up to pay the big bucks for 30 Rock or any other off-network sitcom.

Major sitcoms offered for all-barter isn't new. Warner Bros. offered Family Matters on a barter basis for a two-year term after stations rejected Warner's cash license offers and became a surprise smash hit in off-net syndication when it debuted in 1993. Like Rock, Matters was sold during tough economic times in the industry (1991-92). Unlike Matters, 30 Rock scored a cable deal in its first cycle (Matters was sold to TBS and local stations for a second all-cash cycle in 1995.)

As for the cable deals, Comedy Central and WGN America paid $800,000 an episode combined for the series, fighting off suitors TBS and E! It's easy to understand why NBC Universal went to the cablers first: They had the money to pay, while cash-strapped local station groups did not.

30 Rock stars Saturday Night Live alumnus Tina Fey, who also created the series and serves as executive producer. The show also stars Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. Despite a so-so ratings performance, the program is one of the most-watched online (think Hulu) and creates plenty of buzz on the Internet and the blogosphere. It's an Emmy winner too, with nine awards - including two for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Sam Sylk heads to Power 92

Former WGCI-FM afternoon personality Sam Sylk is headed back to Chicago to fill the same capacity at WPWX-FM (Power 92).

Sylk kept WGCI at or near the top of the ratings during his tenure there, but left in 2006 to join WUSL-FM in Philadelphia to become the morning personality. Subpar ratings forced him out, and wound up at Cleveland's WENZ-FM, where he started his career.

Despite leaving Chicago, Sylk continued his TV show on Chicago Cable Channel 25, a half-hour weekly series featuring music videos and interviews with those connected with the urban music scene.

Sylk replaces Donnie Devoe, who was dropped by Power 92 on June 29th.

With Sylk coming to Power 92 and Soul 106.3's (WSRB) acqusition of The Tom Joyner Show, owner Crawford Broadcasting has made an agressive bid to compete with Clear Channel's urban duo of WGCI and WVAZ. In recent PPM surveys, Power 92 has inched closer to WGCI (though in the last survey, Power suffered a major ratings drop.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"Soul Train" heads to DVD

The legendary music series Soul Train is back - on DVD.

Time-Life has acquired the DVD rights to the Soul Train Library, which it plans to release on home video. The material features artists such as The O'Jays, The Temptations, Al Green, and The Jacksons.

Material featuring The Jacksons and specifically Michael Jackson is hot right now, on the heels of Mr. Jackson's untimely death on June 25. A memorial service was held today for Mr. Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Michael Jackson received a Humanitarian Award during The Soul Train Music Awards in 1993 and performed Dangerous (while sitting in a chair because of an injury.)

Soul Train started as a local show on WCIU-TV in 1970 and went on to national syndication, becoming one of the longest-running syndicated shows in history. The program ran 35 years, ending its run in 2006 (reruns aired until September 2008.) A book detailing Soul Train's Chicago origins was released last fall titled A Critical History of Soul Train on Television, written by Chris Lehman.

T Dog Media Blog's Soul Train archives

New Internet radio royalty rate reached

The long standing battle between the RIAA and SoundExchange, and Internet radio webcasters is finally over after a long two-year battle.

The parties reached an agreement today on a royalty rate to 2015 (2014 for small webcasters) and retroactive back to 2006 - which includes a discount of rates for large webcasters and percentage-based payment options for small webcasters set by the Copyright Royalty Board.

The agreement splits "pureplay" webcasters into three distinct categories: large, small, and paid subscription. The deal also requires stations to keep records of songs played.

Many webcasters feared a large surge in royalty payments would put them out of business.

Pandora has opted to make its Internet streams a pay service, so it will fall under the paid subcription category.

Monday, July 06, 2009

WCIU gets into A.M. news business - sort of

Weigel's WCIU-DT and its sister station ME-TV (WCIU-DT, 26.2) are getting into the morning news business - sort of.

Scheduled to kick off in August, titled "U and Me In the Morning", the news segments run for as little as 30 seconds and as long as 10 minutes. Former WGCI-FM personality and WMAQ-TV reporter Jeanne Sparrow will be live-in-the studio to host the segments beginning in the fall. The segments will be local in nature, and focus on lifestyle stories rather than hard news.

The move is being made to attract more news-oriented advertising to the station and differniate itself from its image of carrying first-run syndicated and off-network programming and Svengoolie.

While the segments will air during both station's morning block, it is not known what programs will air there in the fall. Current shows airing between 6 and 9 a.m. on WCIU include off-network sitcoms One On One and Half & Half; and the previous day's Insider.

Any paid sponsor placements will be idenified on-air, according to WCIU GM Neal Sabin.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

BET to revive "The Game"?

Could canceled CW comedy The Game make a return?

According to TV Guide, CBS Television Studios (formerly CBS Paramount Television) and Black Entertainment Television (BET) are negotiating a lower license fee so CBS can produce the series for cable.

If negotiations are successful, The Game would become the first former live-action network sitcom to be revived on basic cable since The Disney Channel produced a sequel to the classic sitcom Leave It To Beaver titled Still The Beaver in 1985 (the show moved to TBS in 1986 and was retitled The New Leave It To Beaver.)

During the mid-1980's, a few canceled network sitcoms went on to be revived for first-run syndication, including Too Close For Comfort, Charles In Charge, and Mama's Family. And during the same time period, many original sitcoms popped up on cable, including Check It Out!, Brothers, and Down to Earth. But the quality of those cable shows were sub-par at best.

One thing working in The Game's favor is today's cable shows are better produced than they were in the 1980's and the 1990's with programs like Sex in the City, Entourage, and Hannah Montana leading the way. However, not working in its advantage is a reduced budget than the program is accustomed to, which could show up on-screen.

This was the result when Airwolf - which ran on CBS from 1984-86- moved to the USA Network in 1987 after two and a half seasons, becoming the first canceled network drama to move to basic cable with new episodes. However, the budget was cut and the cast was replaced. Viewers didn't like what they saw and fled for the exits.

The idea for The Game to move the cable actually came from the cast, which includes Tia Mowry Hardrict and Wendy Raquel Robinson. 64 episodes currently exist. A new season would make the series more strippable for a possible syndication run. BET currently holds the rights to the existing episodes and airs them on their weekday schedule.

The Game was spun-off from Girlfriends, a sitcom which ran on UPN for six seasons and CW for two. Both shows were created by Mara Brock Akil.

Last month, Comedy Central and Twentieth Television agreed to produce new Futurama episodes beginning in 2010 - seven years after Fox canceled the series, becoming the first animated sitcom ever to be revived for basic cable after its network run ended.

Thought: If The Game returns and the budget is cut, let's hope the following doesn't happen:

- Having the cast change clothes behind bushes outside instead of an actual dressing room.

- Boom mikes making "cameo" appearances.

- Sets made of lots and lots of Styrofoam.

- Making the move to shoot the show on crappy videotape.

- Moving production of the series from Los Angeles to Toronto or Vancouver - or worse, Winnipeg.

This was typical of the early "syndie quickie" first-run scripted syndicated series of the early 1970's (Dr. Simon Locke, The Starlost - shows practically created by PTAR) and early first-run cable sitcoms. With the economy the way it is, are studios this droll to try production techniques like this again?

Well, the syndicated Deal or No Deal is moving to Connecticut...