Monday, November 30, 2009

Jonathan Brandmeier out at WLUP

For the second time in as many years, Jonathan Brandmeier is no longer calling The Loop home.

The eclectic morning radio personality and his show was canceled by Emmis-owned WLUP-FM on Monday after four years, with Friday being the last show (Pete McMurray filled in today.) Brandmeier recently signed a one-year contract extension with the Classic Rock outlet, with Emmis management betting economic conditions would improve - but they did not. Now, Brandmeier is out with three months left on its contract.

Also out are most of Brandmeier's staff.

This was Brandmeier's second tour of duty with the station; he was morning personality at WLUP from 1982 to 1994, then moved to a less successful stint in afternoons, where his show was voice-tracked from Los Angeles. In 1997, he jumped to Infinity's WCKG-FM (now CBS-owned WCFS-FM), where he did shows for that station and sister KLSX-FM in L.A. until 2001.

After a four-year absence, Brandmeier returned to Chicago and the morning shift at WLUP in 2005, but was unable to generate the same kind of success he enjoyed in the 1980's and early 1990's. In recent years, his morning show often ranked in the bottom half in the male 25-54 demo.

Some fans have criticized Brandmeier lately for "mailing it in": i.e. starting his show late, taking numerous vacation days, and replaying bits that aired earlier in the broadcast.  There has also been reports of tension between Brandmeier and Emmis management - especially if management is running WLUP from St. Louis, where Emmis owns several stations.

As for the future of Brandmeier, there have been reports he has received overtures from Tribune's WGN-AM and Citadel's WLS-AM, so he is likely to remain in town.

He may also focus on some television projects - though his 2008 pilot titled Almost Live for NBC-owned WMAQ-TV was basically a one-and-done. Brandmeier of course, is best known (rather infamously) for Johnny B. On The Loose, a syndicated late-night strip from Viacom which lasted all of five weeks in the summer of 1991 (and a member of the T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame.)

As for the new morning personality, Brandmeier is being replaced by "Byrd", aka John Kempf effective on Tuesday. WLUP GM Marv Nyren said the station plans to have a music-oriented show in morning drive instead of a personality-focused one, which Brandmeier was doing. Kempf was WLUP's morning host in 2004 and 2005 before Brandmeier returned to the station.

Thought: While yours truly never really listened to Brandmeier's show on The Loop (but unfortunately has seen his 1991 TV show - more than once), the man is a local morning institution - back in the '80's he drew hoards of young adults to WLUP and to FM radio in general. But his return in 2005 saw a dramatically different radio landscape - in addition to competition from other radio stations, he also had to face competition from satellite radio, mp3 players, and other alternative options.

Reading comment boards on this story on other sites, I noticed another problem - many posters said Brandmeier was doing the exact same show today as he did in the 1980's -those who grew up listening to him felt this revival was old hat. At the same time, Brandmeier failed to attract the younger audience he was able to do a generation ago.

As for The Loop - which has played rock for 33 years (except in 1994-95 when they mostly went all talk) - they are focusing more on the music. But what kind of mileage are they getting from playing Van Halen, Aerosmith, and Styx all the time? This is the problem with commercial radio - playing all too familiar songs listeners have heard over and over again. Once again, the management at Emmis - which is running its Chicago cluster from St. Louis (shouldn't it be the other way around?), doesn't have a clue what its audience - which is dissipating faster with every release of a PPM report - wants.

Given recent developments, I thought broadcast, over-the-air television had radio beat in the "medium that's dying the fastest award." Leave it to Marv Nyren and Emmis to prove yours truly wrong - at least for this week.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 T Dog Media Blog Turkey Awards: The year of the disappointment

If 2009 were to sum up anything in the media world, it's this word:


Yes, it has been a disappointing year around here. And what better way to sum all of it up than to give out T Dog Media Blog Turkey Awards for the fourth consecutive year. So grab your favorite beverage, relax, and hope 2010 is a whole lot better than this!

And the winners (losers) are:

NBC. Congratulations for making this list for the third consecutive year - thanks to the inept team of Jeff "Doogie" Zucker and Ben "Party All The Time" Silverman, who departed the network months ago. And now, the network is about to become Comcast's bitch. It doesn't get any worst than this.

Fox Chicago News. Nice way of taking advantage of your Fox network lead-ins and squandering it. And what about reporter Tera Williams asking a insensitive question to Mayor Daley during his press conference which caused him to walk out (asking the questions, indeed.) It's Uncle Rupert's Amateur Hour over there at WFLD.

Mayor Daley. And speaking of which, there hasn't been a worst mayor in the City of Chicago - besides Bilandic, that is.

The Jay Leno Show. Wow, who would have thought stripping this at 9 p.m. every weeknight was a good idea? (um...)

The Chicago Bears and Jay Cutler. Would you believe the Bears and this quarterback's play this season would be this bad? With a 4-6 record (as of Nov. 25), forget the playoffs. This Bears season and Cutler were the biggest bombs of 2009, even bigger than Leno.

Jon & Kate. Just hearing their names makes me want to stick my head in a brown paper bag.

Chicago Baseball. And speaking of brown paper bags, this was the fashion of choice to wear over your head if you were attending a Cubs or White Sox game this year.

Secret Girlfriend. A recent T Dog Media Blog Hall of Shame inductee, this inane sitcom's main character is you, the viewer, where you follow two unemployed paint thinner-sniffing idiots around all day and have whining female acquaintances bugging you all the time. If I were you, I'd find better friends than these. This is the worst sitcom of all time - even worse than My Mother, The Car and Chicken Soup and that says a lot.

I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Another turkey returned to the air courtesy of the current turkeys in the Nielsens, NBC.

Heroes. The third straight Turkey Award because of its mere existence and continued suckage.

FlashForward. What started out as a promising sci-fi series - finding out how everyone in the world "blacked out" for two-and-a-half minutes - has involved into a mess of bad acting, characters who get duller by the week, and very hard-to-follow and slow-as-molasses plots - not to mention the series has lost one-third of its audience since its debut. Wow, it was like if I was talking about the show above this one.

Osbournes Reloaded. This Fox "special" was so bad, it was dropped or delayed by 16 affiliates and trimmed to 35 minutes. There are five remaining episodes left. Really? Another recent T Dog Media Blog Hall of Shame inductee.

Chicago's Olympic Bid. The city spent tons and tons of money on a worthless endeavor which saw Chicago get eliminated in the first round of competition and made our metropolitan area a worldwide laughingstock.

The Beautiful Life. The CW drama lasted only two episodes. Wow, I'm surprised it lasted this long!

The Parents Television Council.  I'm giving them an award because I just flat out hate them. Third straight year on this list.

T Dog. Yes... your friend, T Dog, even made this list.... for thinking The Jay Leno Show in prime-time five nights a week would actually work!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mya did NOT win "Dancing With The Stars"

, Donny Osmond did. But it won't stop yours truly from posting this sexy photo from a Vibe Vixen cover she did in 2007. Giggity.

Though Donny Osmond won, Mya was clearly the best dancer (and clearly better looking.) I know Quagmire would approve!

Monday, November 23, 2009

T Dog's Think Tank: A tribute to Oprah Winfrey

After 25 years on the air, The Oprah Winfrey Show - one of television's most successful daytime programs - rides into the sunset. Her final show airs on September 9, 2011 as the world gathers around their sets to say so long to one of TV's most successful shows. So in honor, The T Dog Media Blog honors and salutes Oprah Winfrey for her achievements in television and contributing a lot to the City of Chicago.

So, yours truly posted my loving tribute to the Queen of Talk on Marc Berman's PI Feedback Forum, ran by Mediaweek Magazine. Here is most of what I said (to read the tribute, click here and scroll down to the fourth post on the page):

"I remember back in 2005 when the founder of Chicago-based Johnson Publishing (John H. Johnson)- the publisher of African-American-targeted magazines Ebony and Jet, died and Oprah did not attend his funeral - which I thought was very disrespectful. The two magazines covered her a lot and this is the way she pays them back?

Not only that, IMHO, I feel Oprah has not done enough to help African-Americans like myself and other minorities to break into the television and media businesses. She has contributed very little to Chicago's African-American community - to my knowledge, she has not done any interviews with the city's four black radio stations, at least in the last decade or so. Every time I happen to stumble on to her show on TV, I hardly see a minority face in the studio audience. So it wasn't surprising when her announcement was greeted with mostly yawns in the African-American community.

In addition, she hasn't done much to contribute to the local television and radio community either. You think you had a hard time trying to get an interview with Oprah? So has Robert Feder, Maureen Ryan, Phil Rosenthal, Steve Johnson, the late Allan Johnson, and other local TV critics and reporters during her tenure here. One thing that irritated me was when she threw her big party on Michigan Ave. last September, she only did interviews with the syndicated tabloid shows, NOT the local media who have been covering her over the years. She talks all this bullshit about how much she loves Chicago and never really shows it.

I respect and appreciate all Oprah has done for the city I live in, but I wish she did a whole lot more - like acknowledge South Siders like me even existed. She's done nothing for us."

Well.... what did you expect? (After all, THIS IS The T Dog Media Blog.)

While yours truly has appreciated what Oprah Winfrey has done for Chicago's image - and is especially proud of her becoming the first African-American female to successfully helm a talk show and an empire amassing millions,  I wished she spent more time in Chicago's African-American community - not to mention helping more minorities break into the media business. It's disappointing to say the least. When was the last time she appeared in the Bud Billiken parade? Or appeared on any black radio station in Chicago?

And on top of that, she has contributed little to the local media community here - whom she has fed off the backs of for years (and no, throwing a few crumbs at the Museum of Broadcast Communications doesn't count.)  So it didn't surprise me in the least when she did not attend Johnson Publishing Company founder John H. Johnson's funeral, which was attended by dignitaries such as Tom Joyner, Roland Martin, Dick Gregory, Diahann Carroll, former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Richard Daley. Ms. Winfrey said she was vacationing in Hawaii, but word of his death never reached her. If she was more connected with the local media community here, she would have known sooner.

And don't let Big Media fool you to thinking Ms. Winfrey has universal support in the African-American community - she doesn't. I know many people who have told me personally that they don't like her.

So when you hear and watch these tributes to Oprah Winfrey over the next year or so, think about what I said. Oprah is leaving, but to us in Chicago's African-American community - and the local media community - it was like she was never here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

T Dog's Four Pack -The Oprah Winfrey Edition

Welcome to a special edition of T Dog's Four Pack (special because this is a bit serious in tone.) On Thursday, Oprah Winfrey announced she was leaving her syndicated daytime talk show after 25 years and ending the program on September 9, 2011. She is focusing on launching her new cable network with Discovery Communications, which goes live in January 2011.

Her move will drastically alter the television landscape in a generation. So, let's break down the winners and losers:


-Oprah Winfrey herself. Of course. The queen of talk leaves on top of the daytime talk heap, going out on her own terms.

- Discovery Communications and Cable TV in general. With Oprah Winfrey on board, Discovery Communications' profile has risen significantly - and so has basic cable's. Landing one of the biggest names in television isn't bad for a form of television whose original claim of fame was Farieie Tale Theater and The New Leave It To Beaver - the shows airing at the time Oprah premiered.

- NATPE. With Oprah out of the picture, NATPE will be in for an attendance boost as stations and syndicators will be looking for the next talk show sensation  This means a brighter outlook for the beleaguered television convention, which has slumped in recent years. In addition, Oprah has a second late-night run  in many markets - including Chicago, which would mean even better news for syndicators looking to launch late-night projects in 2011.

However, some stations (notably the ABC O&Os) may expand local news instead in those early fringe time slots now occupied by Oprah - rather than depend on expensive syndicated fare.

- Jimmy Kimmel. As far as Chicago is concerned. Oprah's depature from syndication means that Kimmel's late-night show - which has been delayed an hour by WLS-TV (a rarity for an O&O to do) until midnight or later because of a second airing of Oprah's show - will now air at the network-mandated time of 11:05 p.m - assuming Kimmel's show lasts beyond 2011.

A free, extra item: Existing syndicated fare. You get an extra item in the winners' pack: If stations decide not to fill the vacant hour with news or other local programming, they can upgrade existing syndicated programming into the time slot with fare including Ellen, The Doctors, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and several courtroom shows. The move would be great news to Warner Bros. and even CBS Television Distribution, who is losing Oprah.


- CBS Television Distribution. On the other hand, with stations no longer willing to pay top licensing fees for her show, CBS loses some revenue - and a little oomph in the syndication business. Not only that, contracts will be up soon for the company's two other longtime successes - Wheel of Fortune and Jeporady! in 2012. Will stations walk away from those two older-skewing shows as well? We'll see.

- ABC O&Os and other stations who carry Oprah. Maybe. Without Oprah's strong lead-in, there might be some ratings realignment in several markets - particularly in larger markets where ABC owns stations with the rights to Oprah.

On the other hand, some stations have been successful without Oprah, and since the ABC O&Os are strong - even the loss of her might not affect them too much. This fear was prevalent at Denver's KUSA-TV in 1989 when the then-ABC affiliate lost The Oprah Winfrey Show to then-CBS affiliate (now ABC affiliate) KMGH-TV, which was a distant third in the ratings.

The results? Gannett-owned KUSA (which became an NBC affiliate in 1995 due to a three-way network station swap) saw in news ratings remain constant and is stilll a powerful number one, though the ratings race has tightened. Oprah flopped on KMGH (it was even beaten in the ratings by KUSA's 4 p.m. news at one point) and later moved to KCNC-TV, Denver's CBS O&O.

In Raleigh-Durham, CBS affiliate WRAL-TV - a news and sign-on/sign-off powerhouse - regularly beats Oprah on ABC O&O WTVD at 4 p.m. with a same-day delayed airing of The Young and The Restless.

- The City of Chicago. With The Oprah Winfrey Show ending its run, the city and the businesses who operate in the West Loop near her Harpo Studios stand to lose revenue, especially from tourists who come in from out of town to see her show - not to mention some prestige on the world stage. The city's TV and film industry would also take another major hit. Earlier this year, The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show exited Chicago to move to Stamford, Conn. to take advantage of tax breaks. Oprah's exit means for the first time since the early 1970's - when Phil Donahue moved his nationally syndicated show from Dayton, Ohio to Chicago - there will be no major syndicated talk shows taped here - leaving us with only courtroom shows Judge Greg Mathis and Judge Jeanne Pirro - which are taped at the same studio at the NBC Tower.

- Broadcast television in general. With Ms. Winfrey leaving free, over-the-air TV for the riches of cable, the prestige of broadcast television also takes a hit. With politicians talking about taking away the broadcast spectrum broadcast television uses for wireless broadband, more and more viewers turning to online streaming and video on-demand, local stations' revenue plummeting, CTV in Canada talking about closing local stations if it doesn't get retransmission content fees from cable operators, and Comcast's impending takeover of NBC, over-the-air television broadcasting may just be even more endangered than radio is. Losing Oprah doesn't help matters much.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Good news for rival syndicators, bad news for ABC O&Os - and the City of Chicago.

Click here for more info.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

T Dog's Four Pack - Put 'em up

It's a mid-week edition of T Dog's Four Pack - the winners and losers of the past week: And to describe the contestants, they are split into two groups: Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.  If you follow boxing, you already know which one is the winner.(if you don't, click the link.)

Floating like Pacquiao

- WBBM-TV brings back Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson. For one night only on November 13, the CBS-owned station brought back the former duo to 10 p.m. newscast to fill-in for Rob Johnson, who had the night off. The results? A solid second in household and in adults 25-54, behind only WLS-TV and way ahead of WMAQ-TV. Overall, a solid newscast from The Church of Tisch - the one they used to do and what WBBM should be known for, instead of the tabloid crap they put out in the 1990's.

- Lopez Tonight. In its first week, the new TBS late-night talker drew 1.6 million viewers (with 3 million viewers on its first night thrn TBS, TNT, and TruTV) and drew more viewers than Letterman's tired show. Plus, Lopez had the youngest median age of any late-night talker - at 33. As for the show itself, a great production - though George Lopez needs to freshen up his monologue with more topical material.

- Chicago Blackhawks. What's this? A Chicago sports team actually winning some games? They won seven in a row at home.

- Gray Television rips into Leno experiment. The Chief Operating Officer of the station group said The Jay Leno Show in prime-time is not working and is harming his NBC affiliates' late news (WNDU-TV in South Bend and WMTV in Madison, Wis. are some of the NBC stations Gray owns.) Finally, a station group who's telling it like it is and not sugarcoating it - unlike others, who have their lips planted on NBC's ass.

Stung like Miguel Cotto

Aw, this is too easy. You know the losers' lineup for the week: The Bears, Jay Leno, FlashForward, Heroes, etc. Those guys are in the loser's column every other week. So instead of repeating ourselves week after nauseating week, here are four OTHER set of losers:

- Rupert Murdoch. He wants to take all News Corp. material off Google's search engines and wants YOU to pay for the company's content. Hey Rupert - using the Bill Wirtz model hasn't exactly worked - ask the Blackhawks. One upside: maybe he'll blackout Fox Chicago newscasts on home TV.

- WRC-TV's new Daily Connection. Speaking of dumb corporate media decisions, NBC's O&O in Washington, D.C. is using re-purposed material from NBC Universal's properties edited from the company's headquarters in New York -  to fill out a 3 p.m. "local" show, according to the New York Observer. Call it "video voicetracking". I didn't know Clear Channel beat Comcast in the race to acquire NBC.

- Bloody Wednesday. Exactly a week ago, Hank, Eastwick, and Dollhouse were all canned in one day. (not decrying the cancellations, just saying they were losers to begin with.)

- Chicago Now on WGN-AM. Robert Feder blasted the Tribsters on his new blog at Vocalo last week, slamming them for airing what amounts to a four-hour infomercial featuring the dopey blogging venture on WGN Saturday mornings, and described it as a waste of time. If you've seen the content on Chicago Now and listened to WGN on weekends... well, it makes sense to me!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

T Dog's Grab Bag: The syndication edition

It's a syndication edition of T Dog's Grab Bag. Reach in!

Is this a sign Oprah's relationship with CBS Television Distribution is over? Ms. Winfrey's production company is developing a new talk show with designing expert Nate Berkus -  and Sony Pictures Television, the company that's syndicating Dr. Oz. with Harpo Productions. Berkus has been on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the last eight years.The strip is expected to launch in fall 2010.

The move to Sony - which until this year, did not have a successful talk show in first-run since the heyday of Ricki Lake (when it was Columbia TriStar Television) - has boosted the independent studio's profile.

Earlier this month, speculation grew on whether or not Ms. Winfrey will continue her talk show with CBS, change syndicators to Sony, or moving the program to her new cable network, which launches next year. Her contract with CBS expires in 2011.

-Debmar-Mercury has renewed The Wendy Williams Show through 2012, on Fox-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Chicago, despite WFLD moving the show from 3 p.m. to 11 a.m. recently.

The self-proclaimed "Queen of All Media" was recently inducted in the Radio Hall of Fame. Ms. Williams' radio gigs included WQHT-FM (Hot 97) and WBLS-FM, both in New York.

- Debmar also cleared TBS sitcom Meet The Browns from Tyler Perry in 70 percent of the country, including Chicago's... you guessed it: WCIU-TV, which already airs Tyler Perry's other sitcom, House of Payne.

Look, be grateful it's Meet the Browns and not Comedy Central's Secret Girlfriend, which hands down, is  the worst sitcom in the history of television.

- In what has to be a first (and goes to show you what power a single station group can have on the industry), Judge Karen - a failed first-run courtroom strip from last season - is coming back next season after all - and you can thank - or blame - Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

After Sony canceled the series and Judge David Young last year to focus more on launching newer fare like Dr. Oz., Sinclair convinced the show's agents, which convinced Litton Entertainment to revive the series for first run sydnciation for fall 2010, under the new title Judge Karen's Court. Sinclair is already on board of course, and other station groups are likely to join them.

Locally, Judge Karen aired at 2 p.m. weekdays last fall on WCIU, but moved to 10 a.m. after Sony pulled the plug. The courtroom show also aired on cable network BET.

Sinclair said Judge Karen did well for its 60+ plus station group, even though the show wasn't doing well anywhere else. Sinclair - which owns stations in downstate Springfield and Champaign and two stations in Milwaukee - has often labeled as the poster child of what's wrong in the television business. The station group has been criticized for owning large number of stations and once used its clout to block an episode of Nightline in seven markets in 2003 when it featured a tribute to those killed in the Iraq War. The group in the past has also been criticized for cutting corners on its local newscasts to save money, using a centralized news operations titled NewsCentral to distribute prepackaged news segments.

While the return of Judge Karen Mills-Francis to television is indeed good news to her fans (I know what you're saying... what fans?), you have to wonder about just how much clout - and influence - large station groups like Sinclair have on whether or not a show lives or dies - no matter what the rating is.

Anna Davlantes moves to WFLD

In a coup for Fox-owned WFLD-TV, the station landed one of Chicago's most popular news personalities.

Anna Davlantes, who spent nearly a decade at NBC-owned WMAQ until leaving the station earlier this year, has now signed a multi-year deal with WFLD, where she will be handling contributing anchor and reporting duties.

The move is a plus for the struggling station, which has lagged behind practically every other news outlet in the market - even behind a surging WBBM-TV.

She will debut this Monday.

Monday, November 09, 2009

T Dog's Four Pack

Breaking down the haves - and have-nots - from the past week:


- V. The new version of the 1983 mini-series and 1984-85 television series drew 14 million viewers and a 4.9 rating in the 18-49 demo for ABC last Tuesday night. Will it hold up? We shall see.

- Fox. Game 6 of the Yankees' World Series clincher drew 21 million viewers. Now if they can only keep them through the rest of the season when Idol's not around.

- Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer, and trash TV talk show fans everywhere. No word on if Oprah plans to move her show to her cable network, but no such drama for fans of trash TV:  NBC Universal (Jerry Springer, Maury, Steve Wilkos) and CBS Television Distribution (Dr. Phil) locked up their controversial talkers through 2012 and 2014, respectively.

-  The Museum of Broadcast Communications ...and radio & TV fans everywhere! MBC founder Bruce DuMont announced at the Radio Hall of Fame dinner Saturday Night that he secured $6 million in funding to complete construction of the new building located at State and Kinzie located in the North Loop. The project was suspended when money allocated for the project was lost in the Blagojevich scandals. Yours truly will be first in line when it opens! (It shouldn't be too hard - I work right across the street.)


- The Chicago Bears. The loss yesterday to Arizona pretty much says it all.

- FlashForward. Speaking of disappointments, there is a lot of negative reaction on internet message boards regarding this show (lack of character development, slow advancement of the plot, etc.) And this as ratings continue to fall. It seems fans are discovering flaws in the show and its not meeting expectations (see above.) To paraphrase Dennis Green, FlashForward isn't who we thought they were (see above.)

Next week, look for the show to add Lovie Smith to the cast as a FBI agent who somehow bungles the FlashForward investigation. His conclusion to why the world blacked out for nearly three minutes? It was Tommie Harris' fault.

The Parents Television Council protests Gossip Girl episode Threesome. And no one cares about neither.

- Talk of Christmas Music - while it's 70 degrees outside. Yours truly wore short-sleeve shirts this weekend - who's thinking about Christmas? When the temperature drops by half, we'll talk.

Friday, November 06, 2009

"Dr. Phil" renewed through 2014

Renewed in 70 percent of the country, including CBS-owned WBBM-TV

If Oprah Winfrey decides to hang up her the mic in syndication after 2011, CBS Television Distribution is going to have an insurance policy.

Dr. Phil, the talk show which spun-off from The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002, has been renewed through 2014 in 70 percent of the country, including the core CBS owned-and-operated station group that carries the show.

WBBM, which snatched Dr. Phil away from rival NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in 2005, is a part of the deal, which also includes the Belo, Gannett, LIN, and Media General station groups. Phil currently airs at 3 p.m. weekdays.

Dr. Phil's renewal came just hours after Tribune renewed NBC Universal's Jerry Springer, Maury, and The Steve Wilkos Show on the majority of its stations through 2012, in addition to five Warner Bros. first-run series, including Judge Mathis and The People's Court. It also came on the same day speculation heated up on whether or not Oprah Winfrey's talk show will leave syndication for her new cable network, slated to open in 2011.

As part of the new deal, the license fee structure for Dr. Phil is changing to make it more affordable for stations to keep the talk show on the air. It also affects the current deal stations have with CBS - it has been restructured so stations would actually be paying lower license fees for the show and when the new deal kicks in, those fees go even lower. This is good news for stations, who are cash-strapped and are not seeing as much ad revenue coming in than they have seen in years past due to the recession. In addition, ratings for Dr. Phil declined significantly over the past half-decade and last year in particular.

These issues were sticking points in whether or not CBS could bring back Dr. Phil - not to mention content problems, in which KPRC-TV in Houston cited as one of the reasons the station dropped the show.

But the show's content hasn't affected ad sales, which continue to attract blue-chip clients. By comparison, NBC Universal's just-renewed trio of talk shows has more questionable content issues and weaker advertiser sales, with national spots clogged with direct-response advertising (but all three remain profitable, due to budget cuts made by NBC U - i.e. moving production to Connecticut.)

But at the same time, the new deal with Dr. Phil came when a report surfaced that Oprah Winfrey was leaving her syndicated talk show in 2011 to focus more on her new cable network partnership with Discovery Communications.  A spokesperson for Harpo Productions denied the report, saying no decision has been made on whether or not Ms. Winfrey will continue her talk show in syndication with CBS. But given the source - a very respected Hollywood Insider - Harpo's denial is likely nothing more than spin control.

While Dr. Phil and NBC Universal's trio of trash talkers are sticking around, Broadcasting & Cable's Paige Albiniak pointed out that since 2004 (the year Ricki Lake ended her talk show), ratings for daytime talk have declined 45 percent in households - and even more alarming, down 50 percent in adults 18 to 49. Since Ms. Lake's departure, daytime talk has skewed older - and not helping matters much is the departure of Tyra Banks' talk show from syndication earlier this year to run on The CW. Thanks to the presence of Ricki Lake, daytime talk was aflush with young viewers in the 1990's, with her success spawning clone after clone after endless clone.

Currently, Dr. Phil McGraw's son (Jay McGraw) has his own deal with CBS Television Distribution with sophomore daytime strip The Doctors, and a proposed new strip from his production company (Stage 29 Productions) titled The Lawyers. 

Stage 29 Productions is named, of course, after Stage 29 - the soundstage where Dr. Phil shoots his talk show and where Arsenio Hall did his late-night talk show from 1989 to 1994. Since the CBS-Viacom split in 2006, Dr. Phil and The Doctors are the last two CBS-syndicated shows to be taped at Viacom-owned Paramount Studios, with CBS' Entertainment Tonight and The Insider moving to company-owned CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Calif. last year.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

NBC Universal's talk shows renewed through 2012

No decision on the future of Oprah's show

A report surfaced on Deadline Hollywood Thursday regarding the future of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which may or may not leave broadcast syndication for Oprah Winfrey's new cable network, which is being launched by Discovery Networks.

Oprah distributor CBS Television Distribution said the news caught them off guard. 

But a spokesperson from Harpo Productions denies a report that Ms. Winfrey has made up her mind on the show.

But that hasn't stopped rival syndicators from making deals.

Tribune Broadcasting announced it was renewing three of NBC Universal's daytime talk shows - Jerry Springer, Maury, and The Steve Wilkos Show - through 2012.

Even though ratings for all three are treading south of 1.5 and often wind-up on a lot of advertiser hit-lists (thanks to groups like the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association), the programs remain profitable - due to the trio moving production facilities to much cheaper digs in Stamford, Conn. Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos were taped at the NBC Tower in Chicago until last spring.

The move locks up time periods for two more years, keeping rival syndicators out of those slots.

While Maury is on Tribune's WGN-TV locally, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos appear on other outlets, with Jerry on Fox-owned WPWR-TV and Wilkos airing on WCIU-TV. Previously, Wilkos aired on WGN.

So why are the shows being renewed despite so-so numbers? Chalk it up to that NBC Universal philosophy of cheap production + lower ratings = profits - its the excuse they use for the mere existence of The Jay Leno Show.

Meanwhile, Tribune has also renewed five Warner Bros. shows, including Judge Mathis and People's Court - both which appear locally on WCIU.

As for NBC Universal's other talk show (The Martha Stewart Show), there is no word on a renewal for next season - it is the lowest-rated talk show currently on the air, with a recent number of 0.6.

Thought: I may get beat up by this guy, but Steve Wilkos is a no-talent assclown. But since NBC Universal is filled with them, I'm not surprised his show got picked up for two more years. Speaking of no-talent assclowns, does this mean Heroes gets renewed for a fifth season as well?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

T Dog's Grab Bag - The syndication edition

The T Dog Media Blog has a lot of syndication items in the Grab Bag this week. Let's see what we have:

- Program Partners, which was burned earlier this year by failing to find the funds to launch Marie Osmond's daytime talk show, is turning to Canada once again to launch a syndicated program.

The syndicator acquired Steven and Chris to air as a strip beginning in September 2010. Launched by CBC in 2008, the talk show is hosted by Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman. The program previously aired on HGTV in the U.S. The last time a Canadian talk show was offered for sale to U.S. syndication was D.L. Taffner's Shirley in 1995, which only managed to clear only a handful of markets. Shirley aired on CTV in the 1990's.

Currently, Program Partners does not have any weekday strips on the air outside of Degrassi: The Next Generation, which does not even air as a strip in many markets, shunned off into weekend blocks on Saturday or Sunday mornings (including Chicago). The last two years saw Program Partners launch Merv Griffin's Crosswords (2007-08) and Family Court with Judge Penny (2008-09) to unsuccessful results.

- Trifecta Entertainment recently announced its intention to launch three new first-run syndicated shows next fall: Judge Heck, an all-barter, first-run courtroom strip featuring Anthony Heckemyer; a weekly E/I series called Mystery Hunters; and a ambitious first-run strip titled Tooned In, which is an entertainment magazine hosted by animated characters. Yes, you heard right (I'm not making this up!)

The plan for Tooned In is, "[To] explore pop culture just like the traditional shows, but with cheeky writing and a US Weekly kind of feel to it,”, according to Trifecta CEO Hank Cohen. The animation is being produced by Film Roman Productions, who animates The Simpsons and in the past animated King of the Hill and Garfield and Friends. (I guess this is the kind of innovation yours truly said was lacking in the syndication business. Will this offbeat strip make it on the air? Let's keep our fingers crossed. Somebody gets it!)

Meanwhile, Trifecta is in the process of selling Bill Kurtis' Cold Case Minutes (which are already airing on CBS-owned WBBM-TV during its 10 p.m. newscasts) to other stations around the country. Cold Case Files repeats are already airing in syndication (locally via WBBM.)

- On to the programs currently airing in syndication - it was not a good week for most shows heading into the first week of the November sweeps period, thanks to the World Series and lower-than-expected PUT (persons using television) levels. All magazine shows dropped, with many (TMZ, Extra) falling below a 2.0 rating. Wheel of Fortune led the syndication pack with a 7.1 rating.

- Fox-owned WFLD has flip-flopped time periods with The Wendy Willams Show and Judge Joe Brown. Retroactive to this Monday, Wendy moves to 11a.m. from 3 p.m., while Brown moves from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The move is in response to the slow ratings start for Wendy, whose show may be more suited for mornings than late afternoons - it has been airing at 3 p.m. since July 13. Wendy's most recent national rating was a 1.2, while Judge Joe Brown scored a 2.1.

It's "Sunny" for stations

In the latest of a slew of off-cable programs hitting the broadcast syndication marketplace, Twentieth Television has cleared FX sitcom It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia for Fall 2011 in 45 percent of the country.

Clearing the show are a wide variety of stations, meaning no over-the-board group deals (which is good.) The clearences include WPSG-TV in Philadelphia, the CBS-owned CW affiliate where the sitcom is based in. Other CBS stations (all CWaffils) clearances include Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Sacramento-Stockon.

Locally, the program cleared Fox's duopoly in Chicago (WFLD/WPWR), in addition to other Fox-owned duopolies in Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Orlando.

Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting has cleared the show on WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles, in addition to other company-owned stations in Washington D.C., Houston, and Miami.

Meanwhile, two other stations picked up the show - Sunbeam's WLVI in Boston and Adell Broadcasting's WADL in Detroit. The purchase of Sunny is a major step forward for the Motor City independent station, which historically has relied on paid programming and religious fare to fill much of its programming lineup. In recent years, WADL has transformed into more of a general-market independent station.

Recently, Sunny repeats were sold to Comedy Central for Winter 2011. The show stars Danny DeVito in his first role in a TV series since he played Louie DePalma on the Emmy-winning sitcom Taxi, which ran from 1978-83 on ABC and later NBC.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Settlement reached in Sacramento radio case

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed nearly three years ago by a family whose mother died from the aftermath of a radio stunt.

The Strange Family was awarded $16.6 million from a jury who felt the radio station - Entercom-owned KDND-FM in Sacramento, known as The End, was neligient in the stunt. The jury only held the station's licensee (Entercom Sacramento) liable, but not the parent company. The jury awarded money to Strange's widow and her three children.

Jennifer Strange participated in the "Hold Your Water For A Wii" contest on January 12, 2007, where she competed with others to see who can drink the most water without urinating and the winner would be awarded the then-hard to get Nintendo Wii video-game system.

When Ms. Strange arrived home that day, she complained of headaches and rushed to the hospital, where she died  from water intoxication the very same day. The death sent shockwaves throughout the radio community and put the spotlight on Big Media companies and their indifference for its audience.

Entercom laid the hammer down hard on those running the contest, firing everyone involved for violating the company's guidelines for conducting contests and canceled KDND-FM's morning show, titled The Morning Rave.

While Sacramento Police did not file charges against anyone from the station, the family filed a wrongful death suit, which went to trial last month.

Is it not known whether or not Entercom Sacramento plans to appeal the jury's decision - it is believed to be the largest wrongful death suit settlement in Sacramento history.

Thought: I wrote a Think Tank titled Radio Blew It Again back on January 28, 2007, two weeks after this tragedy occurred.  Though yours truly basically tied this to the shortcomings of local government, the message is the same - the problems of the industry needs to be addressed and the reputation the radio business needs to be improved. Stunts like this only further the negative perception people have regarding radio.

While Entrecom fired the people behind the stunt, that was a given. Practicing responsible radio is the only way the medium can improve its image. Unfortunately, there are many who still believe shock jock radio is the only way boost ratings and revenue. And much like your leaders in Chicago government, the suits in Big Media are only looking out for themselves and their wallets and patronage - and not us, the audience.

On Thursday, the jury sent a message to Big Media - a $16.6 million one. Let's hope Big Media learns from this tragic mistake. Unfortunately, I have a feeling the Cheap Channels of the world won't.