Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nate Berkus' new talk show clears NBC O&Os

In what can be described as very good news for the NBC owned-and-operated stations, the group acquired Sony's new daytime talk show from Nate Berkus for airing this fall. The deal includes WMAQ-TV locally.

According to the New York Times, all ten NBC-owned stations are carrying the show.

The move is part of a huge shakeup of the NBC O&Os daytime schedule, and coincides with the announcement Wednesday of Martha Stewart pulling her talk show from syndication and moving it to cable's Hallmark Channel. Ms. Stewart's program was carried on eight of NBC's owned stations.

The pickup of Mr. Berkus' show also fills other holes, with The Bonnie Hunt Show going out of production soon and Deal or No Deal expected to do likewise. There is a possibility the NBC stations could double-run Berkus, similar to what some Fox-owned stations are currently doing with Sony's freshman talk show Dr. Oz, which has been a huge hit this year.

WMAQ and other stations hope Mr. Berkus' show will turn around their moribund daytime schedules, thanks to his connection with Oprah Winfrey, whose Harpo Productions is producing this show. In 2002, CBS Television Distribution's Dr. Phil - another Oprah Winfrey-connected program, aired on a few NBC-owned stations for three years (2002-05) before being outbid in those markets by other stations.

NBC is paying cash to carry the show, with will carry barter advertising. Though no word on what the split will be, it is expected to be the standard 3:30 national ad/10:30 local ad split common in most first-run syndicated talk shows. The deal was done late Friday night - two days after the NATPE convention wrapped up.

In the past, such deals were struck and announced at NATPE - but in the last decade or so, those type of mega-deals have not taken place at the convention. Sony Pictures Television (and its Columbia TriStar Television predecessor) has not exhibited at NATPE for the last few years.

Mr. Berkus is a design expert and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the past, giving advice and tips on home-related matters.

For the record, the last time NBC and Sony made a group deal for a program was in 2000, when the stations aired the disastrous Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus relationship-oriented talk show hosted by Cybill Sheppard - whom Columbia replaced four months into its run. The show was based on the book written by John Gray.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

T Dog's Four Pack

Here's the recent list of winners and losers of the last week-in-a-half  - plus an extra-long rant at the end...

What worked for yours truly...


Conan O'Brien. His final "Tonight Show" drew 10.3 million viewers, with one of the classiest send-offs I've ever seen from a host. The result: new found respect from the public, including yours truly.

Chicago raises more than $3 million for Haitian relief.
The recent "Chicago Helps Haiti" fundraiser from our local media outlets was a big success recently. Even though we have a love-hate relationship with our local TV and radio stations, they do a great job when the call comes to help others in need.

CBS accepts Focus On The Family Ad.
Sorry lefties, but CBS made the right call on the Tim Tebow ad. Let it run.

Makers of TiVos and DVRs everywhere.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to end limits on spending on political campaigns - and who can contribute to them - means more political advertising on TV, which means more negative ads - which means a rush to the local electronics store to grab those commercial-skipping devices.

...and what didn't


Tribune executives get $45 million bonus. Or bailout, if you prefer the term. (wait a minute... I guess they actually are "winners".)

Jay Leno returns to the Tonight Show. And in his interview with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday, he admitted he lied about wanting to give up The Tonight Show. Well, now you got it back. Congratulations.

Bill O'Reilly. He's comparing earthquake-ravaged Haiti to the South Side of Chicago now, isn't he? The only reason why there isn't much outrage or surprise about his comments from these parts because we already know how he feels about people of color.

It's Jesse's fault. First and foremost, yours truly is no Jesse Jackson fan. With that said, some of the comments on Feder's blog and a few message boards on the reason why WGN-TV's Allison Payne - who admitted to problems with alcoholism - and her mini-strokes - and the reason why African-Americans are hired at local media outlets in general - are because of the influence of Rev. Jackson.

Give me a break. In this era of Big Media - which is about to get bigger thanks to the Comcast-NBC Universal deal - does anyone really think one person can wield so much influence on local media outlets? Funny, I've never seen the Reverend try to stop any Big Media deal.... And the African-Americans who work in media outlets in Chicago and other markets made it there on their own merits, not Jackson's.

What some of the bloggers and posters don't tell you - and won't tell you - is there was little outrage in the minority community when the lead anchors on the 10 p.m. newscasts slowly became all white. Why? Is it because the household shares of the network O&O stations at 10 are at 40 percent? Or is it younger viewers - especially minorities - don't watch local news in greater numbers? Or is it the wealth of viewing alternatives in the time period, like The Daily Show and Family Guy and The Office reruns? How about at 9 p.m (when WGN and WFLD has news) where CSI: Miami, The Mentalist, and CSI: NY attract large audiences of African-Americans as does several cable programs (e.g. The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Monday Night Football)?

As I said before, Big Media needs to focus more on attracting the next generation of local news viewers instead of worrying about the racial makeup of the news team - and ignore those who are out of touch with and don't understand today's viewing patterns... like Jesse Jackson.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trifecta Entertainment to launch soap in syndiction

For the first time in 13 years, a soap opera is being made available to local television stations for syndication..

Trifecta Entertainment plans to roll out Hacienda Heights, a weekly one-hour scripted serial (split into two 30-minute episodes) focusing on a Hispanic family living in San Francisco.

The program will be shot in both English and Spanish; Trifecta plans to sell the program to both English-language and Spanish-language stations.Trifecta is pitching this as a straight soap opera - not a telenovela, which is a long-time staple of Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo.

While a syndicated soap opera is certainly something different, this is a very risky venture for Trifecta - in the history of syndication, there has not been one successful program in the genre. Back in 1984, Telepictures (now part of Warner Bros.) trotted out a half-hour soap opera strip titled Rituals. The poorly-acted, poorly-written, and poorly-reviewed show would become one of the biggest bombs of the 1984-85 season despite airing 52 weeks of fresh episodes.

In 1990, several Fox-owned stations aired Tribes, a teen opera set in California. It lasted only a few weeks.  Ditto for Swans Crossing, which came and went quickly in 1992. A year later came an Australian import titled Paradise Beach, which was salvaged by critics both here and Down Under; it too would last only a few weeks, but somehow managed to last a year in Australia before being canceled. In 1994 came Sweet Valley High, which did last three ratings-challenged seasons in syndication before moving to UPN where it was subsequently canceled.

The one soap that would even come close to being considered a "hit" in syndication would be the Christian-themed serial Another Life, which would have a concurrent run on Christian Broadcasting Network (now ABC Family) and syndication between 1981 and 1984. The program ran mainly on religious TV stations.

Despite this and other odds (daytime serials are currently going the way of the dinosaur it seems), Trifecta and Heights' producer (Desmond Gumbs) are pushing forward. The program is being shot on location in San Francisco, where Gumbs has production facilities and a soundstage. Other series in the past shot on location in San Francisco include Nash Bridges and of course, the 1972-77 ABC crime drama The Streets of San Francisco.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ABC cancels "Ugly Betty"

Remember two weeks ago when yours truly made up a "tweets" page for Ugly Betty as a response to her "blog"? Here's the newest tweet from Ms. Suarez:

- Mode closing. Sad. Readership fell off; ad pages dropped. Out of work like a lot of Americans. :-(

Yes, even fictional Mode magazine isn't immune from the problems plaguing the media industry.

ABC pulled the plug on Ugly Betty today after four seasons. The program - which along with Heroes - was in the elite freshman class of 2006 with terrific writing, strong characters, and plot structure.

But ratings - and quality for both have declined since, even though the quality of Heroes declined faster than that of Ugly Betty.

Even so, the plots became more outlandish and more cliche - particularly the story arc where they put Gabrielle Union in the stereotypical "crazy black woman" role you find in Tyler Perry movies.

Ugly Betty started off strong on Thursday nights opposite Survivor, but never really made a dent in the reality show's ratings. It was moved to Fridays last fall, where it fell victim to the Friday Night Death Slot curse. It recently moved back to Wednesday at 9 p.m. Central Time, but it fared no better opposite CSI: NY and even The Jay Leno Show.

The series ends its run in April, but no word on whether Betty (played by America Ferrara) will fall in love with her boss, which happened toward the end of the run of its Colombian counterpart (Betty La Fea), which Ugly Betty is based on.

Football Championship Sunday draws big

Blackhawks a big draw in Canada over the weekend

Even though three of the four teams who participated in last Sunday's NFL Conference Championship games came from smaller markets, the ratings were certainly big enough.

The NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints drew a whopping 58 million viewers, the most for a NFC Championship Game since the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers matchup on January 10, 1982, which featured "the catch" Dwight Clark made to put the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

In New Orleans, WVUE-TV, a Fox affiliate owned by Saints owner Tom Benson - scored a huge 63.2 household rating and a 82 share, ranking it as the highest rated NFL game in the market's history.

The game went into overtime and kept viewers glued to the edge of their seats. The Saints won on a field goal, advancing them to the Super Bowl for the first time in their 42-year history.

Earlier in the day, the AFC Championship Game between the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts drew 46.9 million for CBS, the most of an AFC Championship Game since the January 12, 1986 matchup between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, where the Patriots advanced to face the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX. The Colts beat the Jets to earn a trip to the Big game on February 7 on CBS.

With the Saints and Colts in the big game, the affiliates in those home markets - Belo's WWL-TV and LIN Broadcasting's WISH-TV - will certainly get huge financial windfalls.

WWL is already the ratings leader in New Orleans and has been for decades, and is one of CBS' highest rated affiliates. The station received a Peabody Award for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

WISH in Indianapolis is also one of CBS' highest-rated affiliates and ranks a strong second to market leader WTHR-TV, an NBC affiliate owned by The Dispatch Group. WISH recently took the lead from WTHR in the market's 11 p.m. news race, thanks to NBC's failure with The Jay Leno Show and CBS' strong prime-time lineup and Indianapolis native David Letterman late-night gabfest as a lead-out.

Also: While the Blackhawks have been setting ratings records in Chicago all season long, they've been a big draw north of the border as well.

The Blackhawks-Canucks game in Vancouver Saturday night drew 1.13 million viewers to CBC in the second game of a Hockey Night In Canada doubleheader. The first game - featuring regional matchups between either the Toronto Maple leafs at Florida Panthers, or the New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens - drew 1.45 million viewers.

Local ratings for the Hawks-Canucks game - seen locally on Comcast Sportsnet - were not available. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Martha Stewart's syndicated talk show heads to Hallmark Channel

Martha Stewart is pulling an Oprah Winfrey - only difference is she's leaving a year earlier.

In news that caught NBC Universal off guard, Martha Stewart Living Enterprises announced The Martha Stewart Show is moving from first-run syndication after five years to cable's Hallmark Channel, this coming September. The daily one-hour strip will be a part of a block of Martha Stewart-related programming on the channel, which will run from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m Central Time, which kicks off with The Martha Stewart Show, which began on September 12, 2005

The deal is part of a overall deal which lets Ms. Stewart develop programming for the network, which would include prime-time specials.

According to executives at the cable network, Hallmark - originally known and Faith & Values Channel, and later Odyssey, is a good match for the older- female skewing cable network.

Ratings for Martha however, hasn't been "a good thing" - the program has finished last among all syndicated talk shows for the last few seasons, and fared poorly in the target women 25-54 demographic, which means stations (at least outside of the NBC-owned ones) who carry her show won't likely be shedding any tears over her departure.

Still, the loss of a recognizable name like Martha Stewart is another blow to the first-run syndication business from a prestige and advertiser standpoint, which is still reeling from the announced departure of Oprah Winfrey's talk show from syndication next year.

Ms. Stewart's talk show was unusual from a barter sales standpoint - even though NBC Universal Television Distribution handled sales of the show, national advertising (sold for cash/barter) was handled by Martha Stewart Living Enterprises. It is not known if the firm will handle advertising for her upcoming cable programming on Hallmark.

As for the eight NBC-owned stations who carried Martha (including WMAQ-TV locally), it is yet another hour the major station group has to fill this fall.While the NBC-owned stations has picked up Real Housewives reruns from sister cable network Bravo, it still leaves one, possibly two hours to replace since The Bonnie Hunt Show was canceled in December, and Deal or No Deal's future is still up in the air (keep in mind the situation does vary market to market, as WVIT in Hartford, Conn. does not air Martha and WRC in Washington, D.C. does not air Martha or Deal.)

NBC could turn to in-house programming to spread out among its stations as a solution. One possibility is LX.TV, which runs as a 5 p.m. strip on WNBC in New York, while another may be The Daily Connection, which runs weekdays at 3 p.m. on WRC. However, neither show is a ratings winner thus far - especially LX.TV at WNBC, which often lags behind newscasts and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader on WPIX.

And other first-run game, court, and talk shows could be in consideration for those open slots. And of course, there's always the ever-reliable expansion of local news.

Martha Stewart's final syndicated show is scheduled to air September 10.

Monday, January 25, 2010

NATPE News: "Don't Forget The Lyrics" returns

Move likely ends Deal's run ; Debmar-Mercury clears True Hollywood Story in 65 percent of the country; Nancy Grace's format revealed

Today is the first day of the NATPE convention, a three day extravagnza being held in Las Vegas where buyers and sellers meet up. Originally, this was a large syndication convention where shows were sold, but over time, it evolved into a smaller event where new media and other television properties are trotted out.

This is the last time the convention will be held in Sin City, at least for now: next year, the convention moves to Miami. Here's the latest from day one of the convention:

- In a surprise move, Twentieth Television has brought out the former Fox game show Don't Forget The Lyrics to market. The program was sold to My Network TV to air on prime-time on Tuesday nights, daytime first-run syndication, and also to cable channel VH-1.

Locally, the show was sold to Fox-owned WPWR-TV which will likely fill one of the hours being vacated by Jerry Springer, which moves to WCIU-TV this fall. The show was also sold to nine other Fox O&Os with My Network TV duopolies.

On My Network TV, Lyrics wil replace NBC Universal's Deal or No Deal in the Tuesday 8 p.m. (CT) time slot. The host of the new version is Mark McGrath, late of the band Sugar Ray. He replaces original host Wayne Brady, who is now hosting CBS' Let's Make A Deal. As reported here last week, Deal or No Deal dropped 35 percent of its Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader lead-in, prompting the change.

As for Deal or No Deal, the cancellation from My Network TV will likely end the game show's run. NBC Universal has yet to make a formal decision on the show's future in syndication.

Also of note from NATPE:

-Debmar Mercury announced clearences for True Hollywood Story, with 65 percent of the country slated to see daily one-hour airings of the off-E! show. While specific clearences weren't announced, station groups were - among them were Weigel Broadcasting, which makes it a good bet the show will show up on WCIU this fall.

- Nancy Grace's new syndicated show format was finally revealed today. The CBS Television Distribution show won't be a traditional courtroom show like Judge Judy - but one which will have a "next-gen" look, which the set will somewhat resemble the Starship Enterprise (in a nod to sister CBS property Star Trek, no doubt.) Swift Justice with Nancy Grace will also be invented in technology, using Skype and video teleconfrencing. Ms. Grace will use different kinds of evidence to determine cases, from DNA to lie detectors.

But with the Starship Enterprise layout, look for a lot of geeks on this show settling disputes. I can see it now...The Case of The Lost Cylon Action Figure...  Leonard taking Sheldon to court over a busted Dell computer ... The Case of the stolen Green Lantern Comic Book ... (hey, it could happen...)

What's next for Conan O'Brien

So now that Conan O'Brien has wrapped up his tenure at NBC in late night after sixteen years, what's next for the once low-key talk show host?

Mr. O'Brien could have offers from other competing networks from several cable networks  and at least one broadcast network. And he may have helped his cause on Friday night: Ratings for his final Tonight Show - after only seven months - scored the highest 18-49 numbers for NBC all season (excluding football), even outdrawing anything the peacock network has run in prime-time.

The final Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien drew a 4.8 Nielsen rating among adults 18-49 and a 7.0 household rating in 55 metered markets. Beginning Monday, NBC will run older Late Night with Conan O'Brien reruns (his old show) until February 11, when the Winter Olympics start the next day.

As part of his exit deal with NBC, Mr. O'Brien collects a total of $45 million of severance with $4.5 million going to his executive producer, $32 million going to Mr. O'Brien himself and the rest to employees who worked for the show. The deal also keeps him from hosting another program until September.

So, what's next? Here are the possibilities:

Fox. This is the most logical scenario for Mr. O'Brien as Fox has not been in the nightly late-night game since The Chevy Chase Show went belly up in 1993 after just 29 episodes and has been trying to get back since. A Fox spokesperson believed if they can get Conan O'Brien to his network, he could get at least 60 to 70 percent clearance rate - if the series go on at 11 or 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Mr. O'Brien's show is very compatible with Fox's target 18-49 demographic group.

But there are several stumbling blocks - one, many local Fox affiliates - and O&Os have local news at this time - and second, long-term syndicated programming commitments in late fringe. This was the same problem David Letterman faced he moved to CBS in 1993 - many CBS affiliates (including those in Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, and others) delayed his show a half-hour to honor those type of commitments.

One station (WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.) delayed Letterman for an hour to 12:35 a.m. since the CBS affiliate ran The Arsenio Hall Show at 11:35 p.m., which dominated the ratings in its time slot. If the station moved Arsenio to 12:30 a.m.. it would had to pay a cash penalty to its syndicator (Paramount Domestic Television, which would ironically fold into CBS in 2006) for the privilege. When Hall's show ended original production in May 1994, WUSA moved Letterman to 11:35 p.m.

Here in Chicago, Fox's WFLD canceled its 10 p.m. newscast last September, and currently has a late fringe lineup of The Office, Simpsons, and repeats of TMZ and Wendy Williams from earlier in the day. New York's WNYW has The Office, Simpsons, and two episodes of Seinfeld, while KTTV in Los Angeles airs Simpsons, The Office, and two episodes of King of the Hill.

While moving some of these programs to co-owned My Network TV stations in these three markets may make it easier to accommodate a new late-night talk show, it will be a lot harder to do so where a Fox affiliate does not have a duopoly with a CW or My Network TV affiliate or an independent station.

ABC and The CW. Forget about it. ABC officials are happy with their current late night lineup of Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel, while The CW is not interested, given its focus on the female 12-34 demographic.

First run-syndication. This too is a long shot, as many of the studios who are in the syndication business are also owners of the major networks, and therefore, do not want to compete with their late-night lineups. The two major syndicators not aligned with networks (Sony and Warner Bros.) are focusing more on launching first-run daytime programs and off-network sitcoms. Smaller syndicators most likely cannot afford Mr. O'Brien's services.

Plus, many station groups whose stations are not aligned with Fox are hesitant to launch a late-night talk show, given the failures of such shows in the past - anyone remember Magic Johnson's late-night gabber or Stephanie Miller's? Not to mention giving up a lot of local spot inventory, despite the show being sold on on a barter basis. The broadcast station community passed up George Lopez's new late night show for this very reason (it wound up on TBS.)

The last time - and the only time there was a successful launch of a late-night talk show in syndication was Arsenio, which ran from 1989 to 1994.

Cable. A more realistic possibility than syndication - but with so many cable channels out there, would a cable show work? FX has expressed some interest. Turner networks (notably TBS) may also bite. But thus far, the late-night cable fare- outside of the non-traditional Daily Show and Colbert Report has not really made a ratings dent while with BET's The Monique Show and Lopez Tonight reportedly struggling.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Feud" gets another host - Steve Harvey

Back in 2002, The E! True Hollywood Story did a two-hour program on the game show Family Feud, whose hosts dealt with extortion, womanizing, bankruptcy, divorce, and suicide. It was dubbed the "curse of the Family Feud hosts".

Well, the curse has struck again! - somewhat. And unlike the Tonight Show situation, no one is getting stabbed in the back to reclaim his job.
John O'Hurley, the actor and comedian who has hosted the game show for four years has stepped down to focus more on the stage, which includes a touring production of Chicago. In comes Steve Harvey, who becomes the sixth host in the show's history (and the first African-American), which dates back to 1976. There have been very few black game show hosts - only Nipsey Russell (Juvenile Jury), Amhad Rashad (Caesar's Challenge) and Lynn Swann (To Tell The Truth) has emceed game shows. In 2008, Al Roker hosted a "celebrity" version of Family Feud on NBC.

Harvey - who already has a very successful radio show in syndication (heard locally on WVAZ-FM, or V103) - takes over for O'Hurley in September.

Harvey has a wealth of television experience - he appeared on two sitcoms (Me and the Boys and The Steve Harvey Show), and hosted It's Showtime At The Apollo. He is also a successful stand-up comic and is the member of The Original Kings Of Comedy.

Debmar-Mercury is making the change as ratings for the program has declined over the years in this current run of the program, which is entering its twelfth season this fall.

With the renewal of Family Feud, its certainly more bad news for new syndicated shows and a few on the bubble like Deal or No Deal, which takes at least two daily time slots off the market.

Thought: Yours truly thinks installing Steve Harvey as host is a good idea. No, really! Despite yours truly's misgivings on replacing WGCI-FM morning host Howard McGee in 2007 before moving to WVAZ last March (in Clear Channel's own version of The Tonight Show/NBC debacle), the anger was more at Clear Channel and its brain-impaired executives replacing a successful morning host with a nationally syndicated one - not at Steve Harvey personally. Steve Harvey is funny, talented, and should make a good host for Feud (and much better than Louie Anderson, who helmed the show from 1999-2002.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conan gets big severance package

Conan O'Brien will exit NBC tomorrow with a lot of dough.

Due to his exit from NBC's Tonight Show, Mr. O'Brien will collect a total severance of $45 million, with $4.5 million going to his executive producer, and the rest to be split up among 200 employees of the show. As part of the deal, Mr. O'Brien also agrees to stay off the air until September 2010.

Meanwhile, NBC is bringing back Jay Leno to host the "rebooted" Tonight Show at 10:35 p.m. weeknights on March 1, one day after the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. Leno held the gig for seventeen years after departing for his ill-fated prime-time show, which ends on February 11.

O'Brien exits The Tonight Show this Friday night (January 22), with Will Ferrell and Neil Young scheduled as guests (Ferrell appeared on O'Brien's first Tonight Show on June 1, pushing his new movie, the ultra-horrid Land of the Lost - which had about as much success as Leno's prime-time show, LOL.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"5th Grader" back for a second year in syndication

Nancy Grace's court show clears 90% ; "No Deal!" for a third season?

Twentieth Television has renewed game show strip Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader for a second season in syndication with renewals from Fox and Tribune stations, including WPIX-TV in New York and WPWR-TV in Chicago, who airs the show at 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. 5th Grader ranks behind only Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire among syndicated game shows and beats Millionaire in several demos.

5th Grader has also been a success on My Network TV, where it has averaged 2.6 million viewers on Tuesday nights.

Meanwhile, the show that follows 5th Grader on MNT's schedule (Deal or No Deal) is having a tougher time of it - so far this season, Deal has averaged only 1.7 million viewers - down 35 percent from its lead-in. 5th Grader also beat Deal across-the-board in syndication in all demos season-to-date.

NBC Universal has yet to make a decision on Deal for a third season - its fate may hinge on whether or not the NBC O&Os and Sinclair stations currently airing the show pick it up. With the NBC O&Os acquiring Real Housewives for airing this fall, Deal's prospects for survival may not look good. NBCU did not officially renew Deal for a second season until last April - the renewal was delayed in part due to negotiations on a new home for the game show, which had to move out of its longtime Los Angeles studios last year to cut costs.

The network prime-time version of Deal or No Deal was canceled by NBC last April.

Meanwhile, CBS Television Distribution's new Swift Justice with Nancy Grace strip has cleared 90 percent of the country, including all top 50 markets in two year, all-barter deals. In Chicago, either WFLD-TV or WPWR-TV (both Fox O&Os) will carry the show, as its' sister Fox duopoly stations in New York and Los Angeles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

T Dog's Four Pack

Here's what working for me this week...


- Chicago broadcasters branding together to help Haiti. If you read this blog on a regular basis, then you know yours truly often criticizes our town's media outlets - a lot. But these competitors can band together for a cause in a time of need like no other, with Thursday's Chicago Helps Haiti fund-raiser drive from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with all major (and even minor) Chicago-area media outlets (television and radio) participating. Never underestimate the power of local broadcasting. Kudos to all involved.

- The Late Night Wars.  Who isn't enjoying this mess? For once, it's one we taxpayers don't have to clean up.

- TV Barn's takedown of Jay Leno. Aaron Barnhart and Funny or Die dug up a clip from 2004 saying Leno wouldn't mind if Conan O'Brien took over as host of The Tonight Show in 2009. Well, I guess minds can change easily, can't they? Mr. Barnhart stated it's just "proof that Jay Leno is a two-faced hypocritical unfunny lying jerk." Funny, isn't those the terms we use to describe another person named Jay? 

Here you are Conan... The Tonight Show is all yours.... Psyche! 

- Jeremy Green's takedown of Bears fans. Usually, I don't agree with what The Worldwide Leader in B.S. spews out, but here's the story... On Sunday, Bears defensive tackle Gaines Adams died from a heart condition at the too-young age of 26. When ESPN Football Today podcast host (and die-hard Bears fan) Jeremy Green found out some Bears fans were more concerned about losing a second-round pick than a man losing his life way too early, he blew his top on Monday's podcast, and rightfully so.

And now, here's my chance to blow mine... Congratulations, you idiots. Some of you "fans" have about as much as class as the team you root for as well as the pompous ass in the last item and the network he works for. This city has had enough embarrassments on the national stage and we don't need you morons adding to it. How does 0-16 sound to you next season? Kudos to Jeremy Green for pointing this out.


- Dick Ebersol. NBC Sports Chairman ripped into Conan O'Brien and David Letterman on Friday, saying the jokes regarding NBC were unfunny and called O'Brien "an austounding failure". And this coming from a guy who lost $200 million on the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver - much of it being tape-delayed. Given he also lost the NBA and MLB under his watch, he should talk about "failure" - because he's one himself. No wonder his first name is Dick.

- Mary Schmich's take on Leno-Conan. Hey Mary, you're still using two 50-year old hags named Sissy and Missy to write one of your very pathetic articles? A good Scmich article is on days when one doesn't appear in the paper.

- NBC and the Chicago Bears. Which one has the more damaged brand? The one that can't get its act together, or the team no one in their right mind wants to work for? The one that won't get rid of Jeff Zucker? Or the one who won't get rid of Lovie Smith? Maybe the NFL should make a deal for all Chicago Bears games to air on NBC next season - a failure of a football team on a failure of a network. Makes sense to me.

Chicago Broadcasters pitching in to help Haiti

On Thursday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., Chicago broadcasters - television and radio stations - will ask their respective listeners and viewers to help aid the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti.

Last Tuesday, a 7.0 magnitude quake hit the Caribbean nation killing thousands of people, knocking out power, and flattening buildings. It was the first earthquake of that magnitude to hit Haiti in more than several generations.

Titled The Chicago Helps Haiti Relief Drive, almost all of Chicago's television and radio stations are participating in the all-day public service announcement-effort, helped by the Red Cross. The spots will urge viewers to call 1-877-565-5100 to make donations for earthquake relief.

If you can't wait until then, you can help right now by texting "Haiti" to 90999, in which an automatic $10 donation will be added to your phone bill and sent directly to the Red Cross.

In addition, The Chicago Helps Haiti Relief Drive will have a visible presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Late Night Held Hostage - Day... um is it 11 or 12?

A lot of wacky stuff has been going on Late Night Land - too wacky, in fact. In the last few days, we saw Leno caught in a lie, Kimmel slam Leno - on his show no less, an NBC exec rips into Conan O'Brien, and even a protest taking place outside of WMAQ-TV's studios in support of "CoCo":  - the first since Rev. Michael Pflager and community groups marched outside the station in 1998 in protest of Jerry Springer's talk show..

In fact, you can say the principals involved in this fight could resolve their differences on Springer...

Here is the latest:

- NBC is in final stages of offering a severance package to Conan O'Brien worth $40 million dollars for him to leave The Tonight Show, which Jay Leno now will assume on March 1, if all goes according to plan. O'Brien final NBC show will be on Friday.

- But the weekend did not slow down the news coming out of the Leno and O'Brien camps: NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol ripped into Mr. O'Brien, calling him "an astounding failure". O'Brien's staff fired right back: "A 62-year old sports producer giving us advice?" Ebersol tore into David Letterman as well... and here's his response. 

(Ebersol should talk about failure... this is the genius who helped put the XFL on the air...)

- Meanwhile, the barbs between Leno and Conan (and NBC) were intensified last week with both sides taking shots at each other during their monologues. Not even David Letterman was spared.

- Of course, we have the numerous articles writing the obituaries of NBC here, here, and here.

- And what about this rather impressive takedown of Leno from Kansas City Star TV Critic Aaron Barnhart? This clip from 2004 showed Leno more than willing to step aside for Conan O'Brien.

- And to top it all off, fans of Conan O'Brien staged a protest outside WMAQ in Chicago today, as other cities across the country.

Yours truly will write a Think Tank on all this - and more - within the next week, so stay tuned...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chicago Blackhawks set another season high - and record

The Chicago Blackhawks continue to be a success story on - and off the ice.

Comcast SportsNet set hit yet another season high - and broke another ratings record - for a Blackhawks game Thursday night.

The Blue Jackets - Blackhawks matchup averaged a 4.2 household rating, breaking a record set only last week by a Blackhawks-Boston Bruins game (an Original Six matchup). The game peaked at a 4.6 rating at 9:30p.m., defeating The Jay Leno Show, which NBC can't get out of prime-time fast enough.

But what's even more impressive about this feat is the game set the record on a night where the major broadcast networks air their highest-rated programming.

Opposite Grey's Anatomy, The Office, 30 Rock, Fringe, CSI, and others, the Blackhawks finished second in the key adults 18-49 demo, and finished first among men 18-49 - even outdrawing a Chicago Bulls-Boston Celtics game on TNT.

The Blackhawks played the Blue Jackets again Saturday afternoon on CSN, and then head to Detroit on Sunday to play a matinee against the Detroit Red Wings on NBC.

And if you haven't figured out where the Blue Jackets play by now, they play in Columbus, Ohio (yes, Columbus.) The Blue Jackets are celebrating their tenth season in the NHL this year, and the name is derived from "the rich Civil War history in Ohio",with Blue Jackets obviously representing the Union side (though it bordered with neighboring Kentucky, who was part of the Confederacy.). Games are telecast on Fox Sports Net Ohio.

Sunday morning moves

Two Chicago television stations have made adjustments to their Sunday morning schedules effective this week - which brings more local programming into the mix:

- NBC-owned WMAQ-TV is adding Weekend Connection, a new program co-produced by NBC News and hosted by Zoraida Sambolin. The program brings a local focus on national and international news (the devastating earthquake in Haiti this week, for example.) Connection will air at 8:30a.m., leading out of The Talk, a week-in-review roundup show which moves down a half-hour to 8 a.m. Network morning news show Sunday Today moves to 7 a.m.

- Meanwhile, Tribune's WGN-TV has added two local programs that already appear on sister cable news station CLTV: HomesPlus, a real-estate show, and Living Healthy Chicago, a fitness and lifestyle program. Beginning this Sunday, the two shows will air back-to-back at 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Both programs replace WWE Superstars (which is exiting the station, but is being retained on WGN America, WGN's cable superstation.) There are no plans to run neither CLTV show on WGN America.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ugly Betty's "blog"

(Back when I started this blog in 2006, I promised at least a satire piece on the industry. Well, after nearly four years and 1,844 posts later, I finally deliver!)

I came across this blog "written" by Betty Suarez, who "works" at "Mode magazine" in New York. Strangely enough, it was found on ABC's website. It's titled Be inspired, whatever that means.

So I did some searching on the Internet for more on Betty... and volia! I stumbled onto her Twitter page! This is what she posted in the last 24 hours:

- 05:30 am - Wake up - My sister Hilda is talking in her sleep on how dreamy Conan O'Brien is.

- 05:31 am - My nephew Justin is talking is his sleep on how dreamy David Letterman is (ugh.)

- 08:30 am - Arrive at Mode - Amanda does her daily middle finger routine at me

- 09:24 am - Thought of the ex.... hasn't been the same since he got killed on that Harper's Island show

- 10:00 am - Daniel decides to scrap Mode cover featuring Conan on cover - replaces him with Jay Leno

- 10:15 am - Wilhelmina complains she didn't get Tonight Show job

- 10:35 am - Amanda tries to have me deported - again

- 10:55 am - Daniel bores the office again about his cameo on My Name Is Earl.

- 10:56 am - You know, the episode where his acting career begins - and ends

- 11:07 am - Wilhelmina complains about how people mistake her for Vanessa Willams

- 11:08 am - ... she says "I can't stand her... she's nice and has all these Grammys. Where the f*** is my share?"

- 11:29 am - Pass Amanda in hallway. Says to me "Hi, Meg Griffin".

- 11:29 am - Return greeting: "Oh, hi, Mrs. Rush Limbaugh".

- 11:50 am - Wilhelmina brags in office how much she currently bagging Jimmy Fallon in the sack

- 12:05 pm - Watch Fallon online at desk. Makes fun of current girlfriend - "Worst sex I've ever had."

- 12:10 pm - Shut off Fallon, returned to work -  putting me to sleep

- 12:33 pm - Posted this blog item:

- 01:13 pm - Go to psychic during lunch - his name is Marc Berman Nielsen.

- 01:24 pm - Says I will be out of job by May and Mode magazine will close.

- 02:03 pm - Daniel says don't worry about it. "If those 'Heroes' can hang around..."

- 02:04 pm - ... "Our bosses... the one with the mouse ears... are always committed to underperforming properties."

- 07:00 pm - Arrive home. Hilda's boycotting NBC because of the way they treated Conan.

- 07:01 pm - I tell Hilda people have been boycotting NBC since 2004. Where's she been?

- 08:30 pm - Helped Justin with his homework. Asks why Tom Coughlin still has a coaching job with the Giants and why Jeff Zucker is still employed at NBC. 

- 10:00 pm - Turn on Leno. Fails to make me laugh.

- 10:03 pm - Turned to WABC. OMG! Is that me on TV? I really do look like Meg Griffin! Oh God...

- 11:35 pm - Hilda's watching Conan, of course. Her drool is making a mess of the couch.

- 12:05 pm - Next day, go back to psychic. Predicts my next job will be at NBC as Jeff Zucker's secretary.

- 12:06 pm - All of a sudden, I feel very ill....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Syndie cash is out there - but not much of it

The deals made by Tribune, Fox, and Weigel's WCIU for Family Guy last week showed a return of cash into the syndication marketplace, something that has lacking for the past year or so.

But hold the bubbly; in fact, you might have to take the bottle of champagne back to the store.

It turns out Tribune paid less to renew the second cycle of Family Guy in order to keep the program on their station group, in addition to taking on American Dad on an all-barter basis, according to an article in Broadcasting and Cable. In fact, Twentieth agreed to accept a lower license fee for less than half of what Tribune paid for in the first cycle of the show.

Yes, there is still cash in the syndie market - but not much of it.

Broadcasters are being battered by the economy and weak advertising market, as major station groups are losing money and laying off employees. The cutbacks are so severe, it may be now costing them to compete with cable for the off-network rights of some of television's most popular shows. 

Off network sitcoms and dramas have long been the bread-and-butter of television syndication since the 1950's - in the past, stations bought programming for straight cash. But when barter programming became popular in the 1980's, stations feasted on the freebies and it hasn't been the same since.

In the past, a sitcom like 30 Rock would have been sold for cash market-to-market - collecting strong license fees along the way. But this changed when Designing Women and Family Matters were brought to the market on all-barter basis in the 1990's, meaning stations would pay no cash to acquire the show and the show's revenues would depend solely on barter advertising revenues. Today, it's the norm. And even worse for them, cable gets first crack at acquiring off-net programming (30 Rock was sold to Comedy Central and WGN America late last year and then to syndication on an all-barter basis.)

There is fear in the broadcast station community that The Big Bang Theory - currently one of television's hottest shows on the air right now - may be headed to cable - and only cable. Fueling speculation of this is the recent deal USA Network made to acquire the exclusive rights the entire CSI library in 2014- for around $500,000 per episode. The price Warner Bros. may be asking for Big Bang may be too much for stations. The most likely scenario is a shared window between cable and broadcast.

Cable has an advantage that broadcast groups don't - the luxury of collecting both subscriber fees from MSOs and earning advertising revenue, and its one of the reasons they can overpay for off-network fare (of course, they can cover their "losses" by raising their customers' bills.)

In the past, broadcast stations had exclusive rights to off-network sitcoms in their initial cycles, protected by the "syndex" rules beginning in 1990. But in the last several years, cable has become more aggressive in acquiring off-network content - particularly sitcoms. It was only few years ago when most movie packages and off-net dramas started going exclusively to cable.

And broadcasters' reputation for being bean counters will only cost them in the long run - just ask NBC, which gave up dramas in the last hour of prime-time to save bucks and decided to stick Leno in there instead - not to mention the cost-cutting at its O&Os, which saw WNBC-TV in New York get rid of Live at Five for a cheaper (and much lower-rated) lifestyle show and WRC-TV in Washington D.C. dropping Dr. Phil for a re-purposed content show.

With an abundance of off-network D-level sitcoms and low-rent first-run programming, local stations may wind up as third-class citizens in the marketplace.

Broadcast stations are now only repeating the mistakes their brethren at terrestrial radio have made: cut, cut, cut until there's nothing left to cut. And it just might cost them the rights to one of the hottest sitcoms on the air today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

People of Earth: Conan says no to late-night move

His future at NBC now in very serious jeopardy

Oh, it's on.

Conan' O Brien rejected NBC's for him to move The Tonight Show he hosts  to 11:05 p.m. (12:05 a.m.) Central to make room for a half-hour version of The Jay Leno Show, which is being bumped out of prime-time after the Winter Olympics.

Mr. O'Brien said moving Tonight a half-hour later would damage the tradition of the show, part of a statement he released to the press today (you can read it here.) O'Brien said he's been hosting Tonight for only seven months, and the show hasn't proving itself.

While O'Brien's ratings for Tonight top those of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman among adults 18-34, his numbers are way down overall and in other key demos from what Tonight had in the time period last year when Leno was still hosting.

With O'Brien refusing to give up the 10:35 p.m. time slot to Leno, NBC is now very likely to fire him, or O'Brien quitting the show.

If this happens, O'Brien would probably have his contract paid off, and may head to another network - most likely Fox, since ABC announced at the Winter TCA press tour they have no interest in him or his show. Fox has been out of the weeknight late-night business for some time now, since the failure of The Chevy Chase Show back in 1993 - the same year Conan O'Brien replaced David Letterman as host of Late Night on NBC.

Thus, Jay Leno would return as host of The Tonight Show - in its one-hour format.

Thought: This move NBC is trying to pull is absolutely disgusting. So disgusting in fact, it even tops the shrewd moves Bill Wirtz made when he was the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks in the final years of his life. If NBC throws Conan O'Brien under the bus, its reputation - which is already in the crapper - may take years to recover.

While I understand Conan O'Brien is struggling against Letterman's show, putting Jay Leno back at 10:35 p.m. is totally absurd. His prime-time show was a failure. Even if Leno returns to late-night - hour or half-hour, he won't match the numbers he once did in the time period. And the affiliates' reaction to this news is a bit fawning. Instead of reacting professionally, they come off sounding like a bunch of crazed fanboys at a Battlestar Galactica convention.

And Jerry Seinfeld should shut the heck up.  I'd bet be wouldn't be proud of NBC if he didn't have a show (The Marriage Ref)  premiering on the network soon. He should be mayor of Chicago - he has the arrogance for it.

This concocted idea late-night idea coming from NBC's executive suites is ridiculous. Everyone involved in this catastrophic mess should be fired - but it's Conan O'Brien who's being let go. The management at NBC is no different from those running the Chicago Bears - it's easy to mistake one management team for the other. So, if Jay Cutler and the offensive screws up next year, does Jeff Zucker get the blame?

Somebody has got to go at NBC - and it should not be Conan O'Brien.

Living Well HD is doing... um, well

ABC's new high-definition subchannel network titled Live Well HD is certainly doing well in this tough economy (believe it or not, it's already profitable.) So much so, it has expanded its programming lineup effective yesterday.

In addition to the six health-and-beauty related programs to its lineup, the nine-month old channel adds Mary Talks Money, a show produced by ABC-owned WPVI in Philadelphia, a CNET-like program, Gotta Know from WABC-TV in New York City, and Everyday Living from KGO-TV in San Francisco, among others.

The programs are currently available on ABC's ten owned-and-operated stations' digital tiers. In Chicago (where the network is based), Live Well airs on WLS-TV's digital channel 7.2 and Comcast channel 217. The network is available in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, and five other markets where ABC owns stations (if you live in an non-ABC O&O market, don't sweat it - you can view it online.)

According to WLS General manager Emily Barr (who created and developed the channel), the concept is receiving some interest from other station groups, as ABC is looking to expand the channel into markets outside the O&Os. Certainly, the availability of the channel online is perhaps the best selling tool. Response to Live Well has been overwhelmingly positive from viewers and advertisers, according to Ms. Barr in an interview with Vocalo's Robert Feder.

And following in the spirit of The Oprah Winfrey Show - which started off as a local show here in Chicago in 1984, one of these programs could possibly be considered to take over her time slot on those O&Os when her show ends in 2011.

In addition to the new show listed above, two shows from outside sources also premiered Monday on Live Well: Canadian import My Green House, which is a Extreme Makeover: Home Edition clone; and off-PBS episodes of Mexico: One Plate At A Time, hosted by legendary Chicago chef Rick Bayless.

Thought: Now this is a way to make use of your extra spectrum allocated to you. Live Well HD - as well as Weigel's trio of tiers (MeTV, MeToo, and This TV) prove there is an audience available if you put on the right programming.

Monday, January 11, 2010

T Dog's Grab Bag... News and Notes

As of this writing, the "Groovy" is being dropped from "Grab Bag" title - but it is still newsworthy nonetheless: 

...The Winter Television Critics Association press tour is currently taking place in Pasadena, Calif. Among the non-Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien items going on:

- Simon Cowell made an appearance at TCA today to officially announce his departure from American Idol  to focus on the his new X-Factor talent show, which will also appear on Fox. It is scheduled to debut in 2011.

- Fox has also renewed hit freshmen series Glee for a second season.

- CBS has officially canceled Three Rivers, but is introducing a new Friday night medical drama Miami Medical. Also, Rules of Engagement will return to CBS' Monday night line-up soon, replacing Accidentally On Purpose, which moves to Wednesday to replace Gary Unmarried, which now goes on hiatus.

- NBC has picked up eighteen pilots for developement, and is in talks to develop a Law and Order series set in L.A. (but yet, they cut Southland loose. Typical NBC...) Also, America's Got Talent has replaced David Hasslehoff with Howie Mandel as the third judge on the show. This leaves Piers Morgan as the only person associated with the show from the start, which consisted of judges Hasslehoff, Brandy Norwood (since replaced by Sharon Osbourne) and host Regis Phillbin (since replaced by Jerry Springer - and in turn, replaced by Nick Cannon.) Talent returns this summer.

- Speaking of NBC, its New York City station has clearly seen better days. WNBC-TV's newscast finished third in households at 11 p.m. last month (thanks to Leno, of course), and in essence, letting former perennial doormat WCBS-TV finish first for its newscast - for the first time since the early 1990's.

Meanwhile, here's what's going on locally...

- WLS-AM dropped Amy Jacobson from Roe Conn's program on Friday. As first reported by Chicagoland Radio and Media, Ms. Jacobson was being moved to a reporter position with the radio station in anticipation of adding Cisco Cotto to Mr. Conn's show, effective today. Cotto comes from WIND-AM, where he was paired with John Howell.

Last month, WLS-AM severed ties with WLS-TV anchor Ron Magers, who did news reports and made contributions to Conn's program.

- Fox-owned WFLD-TV has added Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker and sports anchor Lou Canellis to its news team. This is Zwecker's second tour of duty with WFLD, where he was from 2000-03. He left for CBS-owned WBBM-TV where he contributed to the station's morning show from 2004-09. Zwecker will be the entertainment reporter for WFLD, mainly focusing on American Idol.

- On a sad note, WVON's Wesley South died Saturday at his Hyde Park home. He was 95. Born in Oklahoma, Mr. Smith came to WVON in 1963 and hosted a very popular call-in talk show simply titled Hotline, which ran for several years. The program was especially instrumental in the days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, which sparked rioting on Chicago's West Side.  He and Pervis Spann teamed up to buy WXOL-AM in the mid-1970's (in a split-signal arrangement with WCEV at 1450AM) and flipped the format to all-talk in 1986. (WVON's call letters were actually still at the 1390 frequency until 1984 when then-owner Gannett changed them to WGCI-AM. Meserrs. South and Spann reclaimed the WVON calls and moved them to the 1450 frequency shortly thereafter.)

The wake will be this Saturday at Good Shepard on 5700 S. Prairie in Chicago at 10 a.m., with the funeral  taking place shortly thereafter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's official: "Leno" out of prime-time

In news predicted by me (and just about anyone else) since Thursday, NBC announced it is moving Jay Leno's prime-time show back to late night (at 10:35 p.m. Central) and cutting it to a half-hour. The move also means Conan O'Brien goes to 11:05 p.m. and Jimmy Fallon heads to 12:05 a.m. The moves begin after the Winter Olympics.

The news was made official today at the Winter Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. by Jeff Gaspin, who heads NBC Universal's entertainment division.

While the move gets Leno out of prime-time, it comes at the expense of both Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon. Leno's move to 10:35 p.m. pushes Conan O'Brien's and Jimmy Fallon's into lower homes-using-television, or HUT time periods.

Despite the announcement, both Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Fallon have yet to sign off on the deals, which take effect immediately after the Winter Olympics conclude. There are reports Mr. O'Brien isn't too keen about being bumped back a half-hour.

Affiliates seemed to be pleased by this move, as many of them were unhappy with Leno's show leading into their late newscasts. However, they are appreciative of Leno's program and hard work ethic.

Still, no word on what will fill the last hour of prime-time at NBC.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Chicago ratings box

Here are some notable ratings items:

- Lewis Lazare's Sun-Times column noted ABC-owned WLS-TV's continued ratings dominance in the month of December. According to the ratings "book", WLS finished first at 10 p.m. in households, followed by CBS-owned WBBM-TV and NBC-owned WMAQ-TV, which continues to suffer from having Jay Leno as a news lead-in (though that may not be the case for not much longer.)

The 9 p.m. news race still has WGN-TV way ahead of Fox-owned WFLD-TV, as viewers have not flocked to Anna Davlantes, who now appears on the newscast regularly.

One thing bugs me about this part of the article: Lazare says that strong competition from prime-time programming has affected WGN's 9 p.m. newscasts. What, from Leno? From Castle and Eastwick? CBS is the only network providing strong ratings in the last hour of prime-time. Lazare also did not mention other reasons: the increasing use of DVRs in the time period; and viewers who are watching fare on the cable nets such as Monday Night Football, where the Vikings-Bears game on Dec. 28 (also simulcast on WLS) did a huge number.

Just how did he get this job writing about media again? 

- Hot Hawks. The Chicago Blackhawks are so hot right now, they are melting the ice they play on! The team is winning in the standings - and in the ratings race, too. Thursday night's game - a road contest against the Boston Bruins - drew a record 3.43 household rating for Comcast SportsNet, opposite the Texas-Alabama BCS Championship football game on ABC.

As for the BCS football game, the matchup between the #2 ranked Texas Longhorns and the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide, the game drew a whopping 28 million viewers.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Head for the shelf

It's shelving day, as several projects are being either delayed or scrapped altogether:

- Fox has indefinitely delayed the premiere of Our Little Genius, the new game show featuring child prodigies answering questions in a new twist on  the old Quiz Kids show. The move came after producer Mark Burnett requested Fox pull the first few episodes because he was not satisfied with them, which means several of them will likely be re-shot. No word on when the series will premiere.

- NATPE Update: While Program Partners has decided to green-light Canadian talk show Steven & Chris, two proposed strips aren't going to see the light of the TV screen this fall: Warner Bros. has shelved MomLogic, a new daily talk show targeted to mothers with the program remaining in development. Meanwhile, Twentieth Television has decided not to bring out National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer, after failing to secure enough clearances.

Two other off-cable series may also be delayed due to weak responses from TV stations: Debmar-Mercury's True Hollywood Story and MGM's Cash Cab, though the latter's financial problems could prevent the series from coming to market altogether.

Off-cable reality programming may face an upcoming backlash from local broadcasters, as the fare is mostly used as cheap time period filler and outlets now want to steer away from that type of programming.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Report: Leno headed back to 10:35 pm

With the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien saga unfolding hourly it seems, here is the latest:

- According to the New York Times, it looks like NBC is expected to move Jay Leno back to 10:35pm (Central Time), beginning perhaps as soon as the Winter Olympics is over.The show is expected to be cut back a half-hour.

- This means Conan O'Brien's and Jimmy Fallon's late night programs will slide back a half-hour - Conan's at 11:05 p.m., and Fallon's at 12:05 a.m.

- If all of this comes together, look for NBC to drop Later With Carson Daly (don't worry... he has that new gig in morning drive at CBS Radio's KAMP-FM in Los Angeles - which he'll screw up sooner or later)

- NBC wants this new late-night plan implemented by January 21, when the affiliates' meetings take place. The affiliates have been the most vocal in voicing their displeasure about Leno's performance since his show lead into their late night newscasts.

- There is no word on what will replace Leno in prime-time. Some options are being considered to fill the vacated slot, including reruns of Law & Order, new episodes of Dateline NBC, and perhaps borrowing a few shows from NBC's cable networks.

-All of this could change in the change in the next few days - or even hours - so stay tuned.

Is Leno coming back to the "Tonight Show"?

It's been an interesting day on the buzz and speculation front regarding the futures of Jay Leno's prime-time show and Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show.

First, NBC denied a report suggesting the network has canceled The Jay Leno Show. In fact, network officials released a statement this morning saying they were in full support of the show and working with affiliates to improve the program.

But later in the day, the network did not deny a report from the "ever-reliable" TMZ  that Leno would get his 10:35 p.m. time slot  back.

As you  recall, NBC made a deal with Conan O'Brien in 2004 to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2009 to avoid a situation that occurred in 1992, when NBC passed over David Letterman and chose Leno to host The Tonight Show, which resulted in Letterman to jump to CBS two years later to host a late-night gabber of his own.

Leno soon had buyer's remorse about his "retirement" and to lower costs in prime-time, NBC gave him a weeknight strip to air at 9 p.m. weeknights. But the results have been disasterous for some affiliates' late news - WMAQ-TV's 10 p.m. has dropped to third place in households in the most recent sweeps period.

Right now, if NBC does give Leno the Tonight Show back, it would still have to pay Conan O'Brien what is owed through his contract. Much like the situation with Bears coach Lovie Smith, replacing him would indeed be costly. And it would be vice versa if O'Brien got his Late Night slot back, pushing Jimmy Fallon out. 

Meanwhile, NBC announced its support for Conan O'Brien in a just-released statement (as of 6:50 p.m. CT.)

And then if this move happened in the short term (like right after the Winter Olympics next month), what would NBC fill the 9 p.m. time slot with on such short notice?

The first hint dropped regarding Leno's future came yesterday, when NBC ordered 18 pilots for next season.

But after today's shenanigans, one thing is certain: Leno will not return in prime-time next season. NBC's press release basically was just saving face and spin control. The peacock network knows when its licked. The only question now is, will Leno make it through the rest of the season? Hell, will he even make it through the winter?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tribune's WGN-TV renews "Family Guy" - with WCIU in tow

Soon, "Family Guy" will have TWO places to call home in Chicago.

In a rather odd twist to a renewal deal, Tribune-owned WGN-TV has renewed syndicated repeats of Family Guy for a second cycle in a new four-year deal through 2015, which kicks in on September 12, 2011. But as a part of the deal, Weigel-owned independent station WCIU-TV will also strip the series in another daypart.

In addition, WCIU picks up American Dad as a strip for fall 2011, and to air as an one-hour all-barter block this fall.

This is a part of a larger syndication deal Twentieth Television made with stations yesterday involving both Seth MacFarlane-produced shows. Twentieth has renewed Family Guy on incumbent Tribune and Fox stations covering 40 percent of the country, along with American Dad. Tribune stations renewing Family Guy include WPIX-TV in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles, WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, KDAF-TV in Dallas, and KIAH-TV in Houston.

On the Fox O&O side, renewals include WFTC in Minneapolis-St. Paul, WRBW-TV in Orlando/Daytona Beach, and KUTP in Phoenix. All three are affiliated with My Network TV.

The deals for Family Guy are for cash/barter - a huge plus for the syndication business, which has seen an abundance of all-barter deals thanks to the sagging economy. In all-barter deals, stations pay no cash, but give up half of their commercial inventory to the syndicator so it can be sold to national advertisers. The commercial split for Family Guy remains the same - three 30-second spots per day withheld by Twentieth for national ad sales; stations get eleven 30 second spots to sell themselves for local or spot advertising.

Family Guy currently ranks second among all off-network sitcoms with barter, behind only Warner Bros. Two and a Half Men. The program does very well with young audiences, particularly in hard-to-reach male demos.

As for the Chicago deal, it marks the first time two competing stations (excluding duopolies) will share the rights for a fairly recent-to-market off-network sitcom. But while the occurrence is unusual, two broadcast stations sharing syndicated programming has actually happened before in other markets.

In 1990, Boston's ABC affiliate (WCVB-TV) and then-syndicator Viacom sold-off The Cosby Show to Fox-owned WFXT for the reminder of its five-year deal, with the program being stripped on WFXT weeknights while WCVB retained a weekly episode to air in prime-time. The Hearst-owned station bought Cosby reruns in 1986, but suddenly had nowhere to put it when it debuted in syndication in 1988. So, it ran the program on weekends in vertical blocks for two years, losing more than $2 million - on top of the tens of thousands of dollars it already paid for the pricey sitcom (in a rather ironic twist, Cosby Show recently returned to WCVB's schedule, where it airs at 2:06 a.m.)

In 1992, CBS affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C. - which stripped Cosby Show at 5 p.m. with little success - scaled back its airings of the program and let WLFL-TV carry the show while retaining a weekly airing until its contract was up a year later.

A few examples of first-run sharing: In the 1990s, Warner Bros. let ABC-owned WPVI-TVand WPHL share weekday airings of Jenny Jones' talk show for a brief period.

In the 2000s locally, CBS-owned WBBM-TV and then-UPN affiliate WPWR-TV shared airings of Judge Judy for about a year or so.

Currently, WGN and Weigel's Me-TV share rights to CBS Television Distribution's The Andy Griffith Show, with WWME airing the uncut version in various dayparts while WGN airs the standard syndication version in overnight hours (WGN has aired Andy Griffith since 1971.)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

T Dog's Fridge Pack: The twelve items that made the decade

In his 2008 speeches, President Barack Obama talked about change.

Well, in the media world, change arrived in the 2000s. And boy, did it ever!

When the decade started, who knew we would be watching clips on YouTube, or friending people on Facebook, or watching network TV shows online?

Or how broadcast television and terrestrial radio would both have trouble adjusting to the changes and now find themselves on the verge of possible obsoleteness?

If this was the decade of change - the 2000s were it. The T Dog Media Blog now takes a look at a twelve can pack of items that shook up Chicago - and beyond:

- YouTube. Invented in 2005 by three former Paypal employees, the new website was one where users can upload videos they shot and share them all over the world. The success of the site made individuals like LonelyGirl15 and a skateboarding dog viral video favorites. In addition, long-lost clips of television shows, music videos, and other material gave users an instant trip into pop culture's past. Movie studios and other producers have used the site to promote their material - while others (notably Viacom) have kept their material off because of copyright infringement.

In 2006, YouTube was purchased by Google.

- The Internet. Okay, this went mainstream in the '90's, but came of age in the 2000s. Today, people can gets their news, watch most of their favorite television shows, listen to radio, go shopping - and a lot of other things - at the expense of traditional media. Some of the biggest news stories have broke on numerous sites, including TMZ and Twitter.

- Mac vs. PC. This campaign from Apple featured Justin Long (as "Apple") and John Hodgeman (as "PC") as dueling "computers" bragging about which one was better. The results? Hilarious ads too good to skip with a DVR.

- Electronic measurement. With the introduction of the Local People Meters fro television (LPMs) and the Portable People Meters for radio (PPMs), tracking who's watching what - and who's listening to what - has never been more accurate. And the implementation of the devices have shook up local marketplaces all over the nation.

- WDRV, The Drive. On March 15, 2001, longtime classical outlet WNIB-FM bid adieu and in came WDRV-FM (The Drive), which Bonneville International purchased a year earlier. Appealing to an older demo with timeless classics and deep album cuts. The Drive has been one of Chicago's most successful - and profitable - radio stations - even in an era where youth is everything.

- Breaking curses. Heading into sports, the 2004 Boston Red Sox and the 2005 Chicago White Sox ended their long World Series droughts - while the Cubs...can we say Bartman?

- The Chicago Bears' 2006 Super Bowl run. Even though they didn't win Super Bowl XLI, the ride was the most fun Chicago has had since the wonderful 1985 season.

- The Chicago Blackhawks finally righting the ship. Once named the worst professional sports team by ESPN, the Chciago Blackhawks blossomed after owner Bill Wirtz's death. In late 2007, new management (led by Rocky Wirtz, Bill's son), lifted the decades-old home television blackout and brought a new audience to the team - just in time to discover the awesome play of young stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. As a result, the Chicago Blackhawks - who were once outdrawn by the Circus at the United Center and on TV by reruns of Sanford and Son -  has seen huge increases at the box office and in the Nielsens.

- American Idol. Turning to television... whether you love this show - or hate it (count me in the latter category), you can't deny the phenomenon this show created. This show has saved two struggling entities at the same time - the television and the music industries, with millions and millions of viewers tuning to Fox every week to see the brighest upcoming superstars and made household names of judges Randy Jackson, , Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell - not to mention host Ryan Seacrest. Idol also made Fox a legitimate competitor, after fifteen years of being known as "the coat-hanger network".

Idol launched the careers of winners Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barriano, Carrie Underwood, and even of those who didn't win - Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, and Chris Daugherty. On the other hand, careers of a few Idol winners (Rueben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Kris Allen) have sputtered.

- Desperate Housewives. When ABC debuted this show in 2004, it was one of the most original dramas to hit television in a long time. The crazy antics of five married women in suburbia brought viewers in every week (and continues to do so), with the perfect blend of comedy and drama.

- Survivor. This show would re-define "reality TV", which up until 2000, consisted of Cops, America's Most Wanted, The Real World, and any Geraldo Rivera special. Survivor made a big splash for CBS that summer, which brought in young viewers the network sorely needed - and would bring "immunity idol" and "voted off the island" into pop culture lexicon. Today, Survivor is still a ratings force to reckon with, if the outrage regarding the recent screwjob of Russell is any indication.

- The DVR. First, it was the VCR that put the viewer in charge. And now, you have the Digital video Recorder - or the DVR - that put the viewer in even more control. The individual not only can record programs, he or she can pause live programming and skip commercials - striking fear into everyone on Madison Avenue.

Honorable Mentions.

- Family Guy's triumphant return to TV. In the past, letter-writing campaigns have gotten a few programs back on the air. But Family Guy did one better - after being canceled by Fox - twice - the show returned due to strong DVD sales of the program's first 49 episodes - a historic feat. Meanwhile, strong DVD sales convinced Twentieth Television to also revive Futurama for Comedy Central this coming year.

- Lost. Little anyone know this program would become a pop culture phenomenon when it debuted in 2004. Who would've thought the island the survivors landed on after a plane crash would become as much a star of the show as they are?

- The Office. The "mockumentary" style of this show was groundbreaking (though the British version of this show did it first), though it inspired a few bad knockoffs (Parks & Recreation, notably)

- Battlestar Galactica. Can robots and humans get along? Just more than an update of the 1980 ABC sci-fi drama, this show went deeper than any other.

Others: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central), Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS - also, the off-network hit of the decade), and CBS (the network of the decade), iPod (and its legitimate children, the iPod Touch and iPhone.), and Jump The Shark (website of the decade - before it was sold to TV Guide who later shuttered it. )

Friday, January 01, 2010

T Dog's Fridge Pack: The dirty dozen of the decade

The 2000s brought with us a decade of change on how we consume media - whether if its at home or on the go.

But it also brought a decade of  flops - some which you have to see - or hear - to believe.

Here are the T Dog Media Blog's twelve biggest media blunders of the decade, in no particular order or ranking:

- The Zone. In November 2000, ABC Radio dumped the Classic Rock format from WXCD-FM (94.7) and launched a gimmicky all- '80's format called The Zone and changed its calls to WZZN-FM. In September 2001, it flipped to alternative rock and morphed into active rock two years later. Ratings improved a bit, but it was too late. WZZN flipped to Oldies in September 2005 as part of The True Oldies Channel, where it remains to this day, only now as WLS-FM.

- Steve Dahl's stint at JACK FM. Chicago radio legend Steve Dahl was a success at WCKG-FM in his weekday afternoon slot. But when CBS Radio decided to drop the talk format for the Fresh FM music format in 2007, the company moved him to morning drive at WJMK-FM, which had the JACK FM format (WJMK was previously oldies.) After a few months - and the switch to PPM - it was curtains for Dahl, who now does podcasts for his website while still under contract with CBS Radio.

- WGCI fires morning personality "Crazy" Howard McGee. So what happens when your discjockey's morning show finishes on or near the top year after year overall and in key demos? They fire you. This is what Urban Contemporary WGCI-FM did in 2007 when it dropped Mr. McGee's local morning show in favor of the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey show. Ratings in the time period dropped off - even more so in younger demos - and earlier this year, Steve Harvey's show moved to WVAZ-FM, where the program fits better rather than on younger-skewing WGCI.

As for WGCI, it returned to a local morning show this year with The Morning Riot.

- Nine-FM. Broadcast over three Newsweb-owned suburban FM sticks (WDEK, WKIE, and WRZA), this was a great idea at first: the concept of "We Play Everything" was a novel idea created to give Chicago-area radio listeners who were disenchanted with corporate FM radio stations a fresh alternative. But when Sky Daniels departed the station in late 2005, the playlists tightened and became a mess, the commercial load increased, and started airing more brokered programs like the shelf life-expired Dance Factory and high school football games. In the process, Nine FM lost key personalities as Johnny Mars was dumped and Joey Fortman fled for the exits, which forced the station to rely on voicetracking and automation. In essence, Nine FM became what it rallied against - bland corporate radio.

I pointed all of this (and more) out in a Think Tank in September 2007, titled "Nine-FM's Not An Alternative." 

The format moved to WKIF-FM in Kankakee in 2008 while the three former "Nine-FM" stations are simulcasting sister station WCPT-AM during the day while contractually obligated to carry Dance Factory at night.

- Satellite Radio.  It was supposed to be cable for the radio set - premium programming delivered via satellite for a monthly fee with a choice of two providers: Sirius and XM. When Howard Stern came to Sirius in 2005, it was a boon for the fledgling industry. But with the high-priced talent became a drain on both Sirius and XM's finances. So, both companies merged, with the blessing of a partisanally divided FCC - and they still bled red ink, filing for Chapter 11 in the process (it has since been bought by Liberty Media.) Seemed like a good idea at first. But then came the price increase (which it and the merger sent consumers fleeing for the exits) - then the tightened playlists on most of its music channels - and now the possibility Stern might not come back when his deal expires.

Today, Internet radio provides more variety and endless channels - and it's free. And when Internet access is finally available in cars (though WiMax), it should be the death knell for a once-promising medium - done in by greed and Mel Karzamin - the same elements who decreased the value of terrestrial radio.

- Viva Laughlin. Turning to television, this 2007 CBS flop - a musical series about a guy who runs a casino in Nevada (wow, what a plot) - lasted just two episodes in four days.

- According to Jim. It wasn't a flop, but it deserved to be - Jim Belushi's laugh-free sitcom somehow managed to last eight years - most of the time at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings.

- My Network TV and The CW. In an era of YouTube, video-on-demand, and the Internet, these two networks were obsolete the day they premiered. Left from the ashes from the closure of The WB and UPN in 2006 came The CW - merging the "best" of both networks. Well, it didn't exactly pan out that way - The CW's ratings were below those of the now-defunct networks and now has reinvented itself as a young-skewing female network - which is still struggling in the ratings.

Meanwhile, those who were left out of The CW bonanza formed a network of their own - My Network TV, with the 10 former UPN affiliates owned by Fox as a launching base. They started out with English-language telenovelas - which bombed. So they went to reality TV programming and a Flavor Flav sitcom titled Under One Roof. They bombed, too. And now they are the home of mostly syndicated repeats.

- Windows Vista. Moving to the tech world, Microsoft's stab at reinventing the operating system took a hit when it came out with Windows Vista in 2007 - the successor to the very successful Windows XP operating system. Plagued with numerous problems - including security flaws and a heavy reliance on Digital Rights Management, users failed to adopt Vista and stuck with XP.

- HD-DVD. Toshiba's attempt to compete with Sony for the next generation of DVD players in high-definition didn't exactly work out the way they wanted. Toshiba corraled NBC Universal, Paramount, and a few others into their camp, but when Warner Bros. (which did both formats) and a few others switched sides to Blu-Ray, it was quickly over for HD-DVD.

- XFL. Moving to sports, WWE honcho Vince McMahon wanted a football league to bring "smashmouth football" back. So he launched the XFL in 2001. But the venture was too gimmicky, and wound up on the trash heap after just three months (hint: it's not a good idea to bring out WWE stars The Rock and The Undertaker to badmouth the NFL on its first telecast.)

And you knew it would go wrong on its first night: instead of the Chicago Enforcers at Orlando Predators game, locally we got the New York-Las Vegas game  - and so did viewers in Orlando. At least one game set an all-time ratings low for prime-time network television.

- The 2008 Detroit Lions.  And finally... up until 2008, no professional sports team  has gone an entire season winless. Then came the Detroit Lions, who set a record for futility by going 0-16 (Editor's note: forgot about the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who became the first winless team in their inaugural season coming in at 0-14.)


- Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire? .. or more to the point, who wants to marry a fraud? The "multi-millionaire" on this Fox special from 2000 was Rick Rockwell, who nurse Darva Conger married on the show - and it lasted only a few weeks. It was later revealed Rockwell wasn't really a multi-millionaire- and he had a history of domestic abuse.

- Carol Marin's 10 O'Clock News - WBBM-TV attempt at a serious newscast with Carol Marin at the helm in 2000 was a surprise flop lasting only a few months. On the newscast's first night, instead of leading with the Wells St. sewer collapse (which truly personally witnessed) - which impacted traffic throughout the Loop, Marin started the newscast with a rather pointless interview with waiting-to-be-convicted treasurer Mariam Santos.

- King of the Hill's off-network run. Now languishing on Adult Swim, broadcast stations spent $3 million per episode on syndicated repeats on this long-running Fox show hoping it would become the next Simpsons or Seinfeld. But results were disappointing and a FX cable run was also a ratings disappointment. Other off-network syndicated busts of the decade included Malcolm in the Middle and Will & Grace.

Coming up next: The twelve most successful items of the decade