Friday, April 30, 2010

T Dog's Think Tank: Basic cable's racy content at a crossroads

Stan wasn't the only one up in arms about Comedy Central taking a hatchet job to a recent episode of "South Park."

For the last few weeks, cable was on a hot streak: SyFy acquired Friday Night Smackdown, stealing it away from My Network TV, while Turner Broadcasting snared both Conan O'Brien and part of the NCAA Tournament.

But on the same day Turner announced it snared some college hoops games away from broadcast, basic cable got slapped with a cold dose of reality: it got a broadcast-like content smackdown, courtesy of Viacom-owned cable network Comedy Central.

The endurable South Park celebrated its 200th episode two weeks ago with a plot centering on celebrities getting revenge on the town who scorned them. In the first of a two-part episode, the Prophet Muhammad  was referenced, angering some in the Muslim community.

The second part aired the following week - titled 201 - with Muhammad in a bear costume. But Comedy Central altered and heavily edited the episode anyway, even censoring Kyle's speech at the end, which did not even mention Muhammad. In one instance, there was one bleep lasting a whole 38 seconds.

And if that wasn't enough, Comedy Central pulled scheduled repeats of 201, did not make it available for streaming on, and yet to make it available for sale on iTunes. In addition, they yanked the one episode Muhammad did appear - in Season 5 on an episode titled Super Best Friends, from Netfix's streaming service, iTunes, SouthParkstudios, and is likely to yank it from the broadcast syndication package (locally, WCIU recently moved South Park reruns to 3 a.m, since the station's contract to air the show ends in September.)

Is this CBS, NBC, ABC, or even Fox we're talking about? Nope, this is Comedy Central doing the censoring on the cable we pay for.

And what prompted them to do all this censoring and bleeping? The Parents Television Council? Nope. The American Family Association? Nope.

It was this New York-based RevolutionistMuslim website who did all the complaining, which even went as far to warn the creators of South Park that they could be harmed for even depicting Muhammad as a censored image in part one of the episode, titled 200.

And so, Comedy Central (which should be renamed Coward Central) decided to do the censoring and bleeping to 201, which made the episode practically unwatchable. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker weren't happy about the cable network's heavy-handed editing, and posted this response on their website.

It's not the first time Parker and Stone had run afoul of the censors. In an episode of 2006's Cartoon Wars, Comedy Central deleted a scene in which prophet Muhammad was in and replaced by a message from the show stating they couldn't show the scene, which some thought was part of the plot.

Ironically, Cartoon Wars centered on the TV series Family Guy airing a scene of Muhammad and Cartman trying to pull Family Guy off the air for good (The creators of South Park have gone on record stating their disdain for Family Guy and series creator Seth MacFarlane.)

And even more stupefying, Comedy Central had aired Super Best Friends in which Muhammad was shown in full view, with little or no controversy. 

So now I guess we can add this Revolution Muslim site to the levy of "watchdog groups" like the Parents Television Council who continue to make life a living hell for those of us who follow media. And as usual, Big Media and Coward Central cave in to these so-called "watchdog groups".

With cable and satellite penetration now reaching 90 percent of U.S. homes, here comes the watchdog groups complaining about content, despite the fact that cable channels don't need a broadcast license to operate. Of course, this doesn't stop the PTC from complaining about Nip/Tuck.

What all of this proves is that no matter what the platform, Big Media will always shackle you with a ball-and-chain when it comes to content, whether it makes sense or not (and yes, even Conan O'Brien will get the ball-and-chain treatment, though the shackles will be looser on TBS than they ever were on NBC.)

In a TV Week story regarding Turner acquiring rights to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, one commenter wrote that "this likely is the last decade where there will be any difference between Broadcast and Cable TV as far as ratings and influence."

On the issue of censorship, it looks like we've already arrived.

Censorship's greatest (or not-so-greatest) hits:

- In the 1950's and 1960's, Jackson, Miss. NBC affiliate WLBT often censored NBC News' stories on the Civil Rights Movement, pretending to have "cable trouble" (in the pre-satellite era.) The FCC yanked the station's license in 1969 from owner Lamar Insurance when WLBT was found to openly discriminate against African-Americans in its newscasts and programming, even going as far to pre-empt NBC series with African-American performers in them, including Nat King Cole's variety show, which ran from 1956-57.

- In August 1973, about 40 CBS affiliates pulled the plug on two repeat episodes of Maude titled Maude's Dilemma, which featured the title character (played by the late Beatrice Arthur) deciding whether or not whether to get an abortion after she becomes pregnant at age 47 in the height of Roe vs. Wade, a controversial subject to this very day. The episodes originally aired in November 1972.

There were protests outside CBS affiliates both for and against airing of the two episodes, which lost sponsors (among those who dropped out were Alberto-Culver, General Mills, and Pepsi.)

- Also in 1973, CBS aired a made-for-TV movie titled Sticks and Bones, a bitter drama about a blind solider coming home from Vietnam who winds up dealing with a lot of family issues and is driven to suicide. More than 90 CBS affiliates rejected the movie, including CBS' then-owned station in St. Louis (KMOX-TV, now Belo-owned KMOV.)

- In 1992, Bonneville's KSL-TV in Salt Lake City delayed CBS' Picket Fences until 11 pm Saturday nights, instead of airing it in its regular 9 p.m. (MT) Friday night time slot. An NBC affiliate since 1995, KSL has refused to air short-lived sitcom Coupling and currently does not air Saturday Night Live, which is shown instead on Salt Lake City's CW affiliate, KUCW-TV (KSL also did not air Maude's Dilemma, both in original and repeat episodes as a CBS affiliate.)

- In 2004, Sinclair Broadcast Group pre-empted an episode of Nightline on its ABC affiliates when it featured a tribute to soldiers who died in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

- Also in 2004, 65 ABC affiliates passed on airing Saving Private Ryan after the network decided not to bleep the movie's profanities, which came at a time when the FCC was cracking down on fleeting expletives in the wake of that year's Super Bowl halftime show fiasco.

- In 2006, Eight NBC affiliates refused to air The Book of Daniel, a controversial drama about Christians and the Christian faith which was canceled after four episodes (Ironically, KSL did air this program.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

CBS and Turner grab NCAA Tournament

CBS and Turner Broadcasting announced a mega-deal that will keep at least some of the NCAA Tournament on the Tiffany network - but much of it is moving to cable.

In an eye-popping 14-year, $10.8 billion deal struck on Wednesday, CBS and Turner's family of networks - TNT, TBS, and TruTV (formerly CourtTV) will carry both the preliminary and second round of the tournament along with the regional semifinals, with CBS carrying it the rest of the way.

But in the deal's sixth year and beyond,  both Turner and CBS will carry the regional finals and alternate the Final Four. For example, Turner gets the Final Four in 2016, while CBS carries it in 2017, and so on.

Also, the NCAA is expanding the tournament to 68 teams, the first since the play-in game was added a few years ago. There were proposal to expand the tourney to 96 teams, which was opposed by many fans.

CBS was in the next-to-last year in an 11-year deal with had the network pay about a billion dollars to air the tournament. The NCAA had a right to opt-out of the deal after this season, and did shop around for a new deal.

But CBS' chances to keep the tournament improved after ESPN decided not to raise its offer.

CBS has been home of the NCAA Tournament since 1982. Beforehand, NBC had the rights and carried the famous Larry Bird - Earvin "Magic" Johnson NCAA Final in 1979 (Indiana State-Michigan State), which thrust the tournament into the national spotlight.

CBS and Turner officials defended the deal, saying one network carrying the tournament was no longer feasible given the change in the way viewers consume media and fans wanted all the games televised in their entirety. The deal comes at a time when broadcasters have been losing some major sporting events to cable.

Thought: I have to take issue here with what Harry Jessell of the wonderful TVNewscheck website had to say about the new tournament deal being bad for broadcasters. While it appears CBS is getting the short end of the stick, it's better than no college basketball games at all. And the deal is a great one for college hoops fans as they get to access (at least those with cable or satellite) all the games in their entirety, and the deal is great for advertisers because more spots and advertising opportunities will now become available.

And why CBS decided to partner up with cable? Because it made more financial sense. NBC, ABC, and Fox were not going to partner up with an arch rival to carry a college basketball tournament. They have their own programming needs - none of them even carry college basketball. That's just insane. And Mr. Jessell, comparing the NCAA Basketball Tournament to the NFL is like comparing apples to oranges.

As for the broadcasters, what Mr. Jessell does not realize is the whole world does not evolve around their industry. College hoops fans (and most other people) don't care about their plight. It's not like broadcast television and radio broadcasters - most of which are owned by out-of-town big conglomerates - have ever cared about us viewers in the first place.  While yours truly is all for broadcasters receiving fair compensation from MSOs and satellite providers, yanking signals from the air and depriving viewers of major events like the Oscars is totally shitful - we the public don't like being used as pawns in a game of greed.

And since broadcasters are going to receive a boatload for cash from political candidates and organizations to air their negative ads whenever there's an election, broadcasters should be fine - as long as they continue to lure suckers to their local "newscasts". Call it The Local Broadcasting Stimulus Plan.

So why should we feel sorry for them?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Join the dawn patrol

It looks like more and more stations are joining the extremely early morning dawn patrol. If you thought 5 a.m. was early, you haven't seen nothing yet.

In two big markets, local stations have or are in the process of expanding their morning newscasts - to 4:30 a.m. In Los Angeles, four stations already have 4:30 a.m. newscasts (compared to Chicago's one) with Fox-owned KTTV as the latest addition, joining KABC, KNBC, and KTLA in the very early dawn patrol. In Denver, market leader KUSA-TV is also adding a 4:30 newscast, the first in the Rocky Mountain city.

So far, the only Chicago station airing a 4:30 dawn patrol is NBC O&O WMAQ, which began as Barely Today with Bruce Wolf, which was an offbeat look at the headlines. After anemic ratings however, WMAQ decided to retool the program and is offered as a traditional newscast, sans Wolf.

The reasons why stations are expanding their dawn news shows are simple: more and more viewers are waking up earlier since commute times are longer; advertiser demand; and of course, revenue accrued from the shows.

According to the Denver Post, the 4:30 a.m. half-hour period could grab an extra $12,000 to $15,000 per week for KUSA, which is owned by the Gannett Co. and has led the Denver market in the ratings as an ABC affiliate before 1995, and now as an NBC affiliate for over 30 years. In a larger market like Los Angeles, the revenue taken in is significantly higher.

In Los Angeles, NBC O&O KNBC pioneered the A.M. news concept by launching Today in L.A., which became the 1st A.M. newscast in the market with its 1986 debut. By 1988, it was the top-rated program in its time period and expanded a half-hour a time to two hours by 2000. Its success spawned WMAQ-TV to launch First Thing In The Morning in 1989, and WLS-TV's early morning newscast in 1991.

Morning news is a profitable revenue generator - stations keep all ad inventory and spots are in high demand for advertisers catching viewers as they head for the door going to work.

Even a few stations are trying a different to a morning show. CBS O&O WBBM is currently airing Monsters and Money in the Morning at 5 a.m., focusing on sports and financial news, with traffic and weather thrown in. So far, the experiment has not found an audience, but WBBM remains committed to the program, at least for now.

With one station in the 4:30 a.m. derby in Chicago, you can bet the other four local stations in town will be licking their chops to start their newscasts a half-hour earlier - there's a lot of potential revenue out there waiting to be claimed - too valuable to waste on an Andy Griffith rerun.

Arbitron PPMs results for March: WOJO's En Fuego!

This is based on 6+ numbers; the 18-34 numbers;  the 25-54 numbers: Male, Female, and Adults.


WOJO-FM, WGCI-FM, V103 (WVAZ), The Mix (WTMX), The Drive (WDRV) , WBBM-FM, WKSC-FM (Kiss)

Honorable Mention:

US 99 (WUSN-FM),

In the Top 5 overall, but very old skewing:





All-news WBBM-AM may have been number one overall, but it was runner-up WOJO-FM making all the noise last month. The heritage Spanish-language station was up 11% in overall numbers, and finished first in total-day among adults 25-54 and male 25-54 demos. WOJO also bested in rivals WLEY by 91% and newcomer WNUA by a whopping 159%

The Mix (WTMX) also had a successful survey as usual, with its Eric & Kathy morning show's continuing dominance of key demos. Bonneville's sister station, classic rock The Drive (WDRV) also did well, finishing third in 25-54s (and first in the demo middays) and sixth overall.

Clear Channel's V103 slipped 12% overall, but remained dominant in its key 25-54 demos, enabling it to stay in the winner's circle. Also landing there is Urban Contemporary WGCI, which despite finishing tenth and was flat from February, it finished fifth total-day in 25-54s and second in the key 18-34 demo. WGCI has clearly pulled away from rival Power 92 (WPWX), whose future is now uncertain.

Despite the controversy over WGN-AM's moves, its showing in all three 25-54 demos were nothing short of pathetic, with the station ranking in the bottom half in all key demos, despite a top five finish overall.

And speaking of pathetic, WNUA's move to Spanish pop is a disaster, down 19% from February with an anemic 26th-place showing in adults 25-54, ranking it last among Chicago's Spanish-language stations. In fact, WLFM - the station which picked up the Smooth Jazz format after WNUA because it was too old-skewing - tied WNUA in the overall rankings.

In the sports department, The Score (WSCR) dominated over rival WMVP in the key male 25-54 demo, with WMVP's only victory coming in the weekday early fringe (3-7 p.m.) time slot.

Finally, WBBM-FM and rival WKSC split leadership in Chicago's Contemporary-Hit battle. While WBBM-FM beat WKSC overall, WKSC topped WBBM in the key 18-34 demo in total-day ratings.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

T Dog's Four Pack: The "C" in CBS stands for crime

The winners and losers of the week:

The stamp of approval:

The Chicago Blackhawks (before Friday's night's loss): The Mighty Blackhawks are mighty once again thanks to record-breaking regular season ratings. The Hawks are in the playoffs against the Nashville Predators, which continue Sunday night. Go Hawks!

Conan moving to TBS.
Fox getting out-foxed by Conan. While Murdoch and the boys were stalling around, Turner Broadcasting got down to business and signed the red-haired one to a five-year contract after just three days of negotiations.

But the news wasn't all bad for Fox: Glee returned to its Tuesday night lineup and drew a huge 5.6 rating in the 18-49 demo despite a three month hiatus, while FlashForward recently returned to ABC's lineup after a similar break and bombed (last Thursday's episode finished fifth with a 1.4 rating - it was even outrated by CW's Vampire Diaries!) What's the difference? Glee kept the promotional machine running throughout this time by visiting Oprah and even the White House, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, magazine covers and a lot more - the anticipation for its return was there.

Dale Hansen's takedown of WFAA management - on WFAA. The longtime sports anchor of Dallas/Fort Worth's ABC affiliate said something most of us already know about local news. Hansen's speech regarding the Belo-owned station airing a secretly-taped video featuring Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones blasting former head coach Bill parcells and draft prospect Tim Tebow was classic. And what's even more cool, he made the speech on their air. Hansen's comments more than applies to Chicago TV stations - just as much as it does to the Metroplex's.

The stamp of disapproval:

Chicago's killing spree. 12 dead this past week, many more shot. I was surprised when Chicago did not land on this list (but not surprised Detroit and New Orleans did.)

CBS now stands for the "Crime Broadcasting System".
And speaking of violence, Saturday night's Strikeforce MMA event was marred by a brawl between camps of several fighters at the end of the show. Then cue WBBM-TV's newscast, which lead off featuring video a man robbing a cleaning store with a loaded gun. Then the news of course, is followed by reruns of CSI: Miami and Without A Trace. For violence - made up and real (kind of hard to figure out where Strikeforce would land in this case), you can't beat the imbeciles at The Church of Tisch.

Broadcast TV. While Conan went to Turner Broadcasting and WWE's Friday Night Smackdown went to SyFy, what were the broadcast network's biggest announcement? Another Law & Order series, this time based in Los Angeles. Yay, I can't wait.

Ryan Seacrest.
The anointed one's behavior on American Idol this season has been - well, strange. But what about Tuesday's lame stab at former Idol co-host Brian Dunkleman? It's worst enough Seacrest the Sap is taking away local radio personalities' jobs for his lame-o syndication effort, so now he's acting like an asshole on top of it? If Idol is looking for a new co-host, pairing Seacrest the Sap with Mancow the Moron is a dream team made in hell.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Analysis: The real winners and losers in the CoCo lottery

The drawing in the Conan O'Brien lottery took place Monday, and it was Turner Broadcasting who turned up the lucky winner.

So what does TBS actually win? Young demos. A proven name. An increased profile. And a new car - advertiser or two.

But it seems a lot of players in this saga appear to winners - TBS, Conan O'Brien, Fox affiliates, advertisers, even George Lopez.

In fact, the only viable loser here is the Fox network - whose pussy-footing around cost them a chance to develop a late-night franchise. Facing defiant affiliates - something the network has never really experienced in its 23-year history - a deal to land O'Brien was never going to get done.

So without further to do, here's the final scorecard in the Conan O'Brien saga:

Conan O'Brien.
No doubt he's a winner here - while he doesn't go to a broadcast network, having 100 percent ownership stake in his show and more free reign on a cable network - is more than a worthy tradeoff. His five-year deal with Turner also includes first look at any projects O'Brien has through his Conaco production company. This is a great move by both parties - Conan and TBS are a perfect fit.

A major winner here: With Conan O'Brien coming on board, the channel once known for ad-nauseam reruns of Leave It To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show has now raised its profile among viewers and advertisers tremendously.

Cable TV.
This deal more than proves of cable competing with the broadcast networks for top-notch talent and high-profile programming. The playing field has changed, and its shifting to cable's favor.

Fox affiliates (except WFLD.)
Lukewarm to any deal - and the fact O'Brien was not able to draw viewers to the Tonight Show once Leno departed (and even more so when Leno returned), Fox affiliates get to keep their off-network sitcoms and local news, which generate revenues for those outlets -at least in the short term. Fox affiliates also proved they have tremendous clout - something they didn't have when they were Chevy Chase was shoved down their throats in 1993. Fox affiliates just flat out said they did not want O'Brien's show.

In an informal poll of Fox affiliate GMs at a gathering at the National Association of Broadcasters show this week, someone asked them if they should get O'Brien to negotiate with them again. Only two people raised their hand (was one of them WFLD's general manager?)

Already battling to keep time periods from local news expansion and infomercials, Conan's defection to cable means they don't have to worry about losing an hour to Fox, which could've hurt their already struggling business even more.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. While a little competition from Conan O'Brien wouldn't hurt, both faux-news personalities are going to have to step it up big time to keep their audience from defecting to the red-haired one.

Local news. While local news may not be affected all that much by O'Brien cable presence at least in the short term, late local news - known more these days for shootings, murders, fires, accidents, and other mayhem - are now going to find it even harder to attract younger viewers to their late newscasts. While still a potent moneymaker, local news' failure to attract the next generation of viewers is going to threaten the model in the long run as more and more markets get measured for LPMs (local people meters) and local news will skew even more older.

Fox. The network once known for taking chances to build their network (think snaring the NFL from CBS) played it safe here, and it cost them. And the next day, Fox's My Network TV lost Friday Night Smackdown to NBC-owned cabler SyFy. Two losses in two days - unusual for a network and its owner (Rupert Murdoch) who usually gets his way when he wants. Not this time.

Broadcast TV. The networks still have hits like Dancing With The Stars and American Idol on their schedules. But with the loss of high-profile talent like Conan O'Brien, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and events like the BCS Bowl games, The British Open, most NBA playoff games, and now possibly the entire NCAA Basketball Tournament, it proves cable is now tougher to compete against - in acquiring and keeping top-notch programming, since it has one thing broadcasters do not - a dual revenue stream, coming from advertising and MSO fees (from Comcast, Charter, Time Warner, RCN, etc...)

WFLD. Unlike other Fox affiliates, struggling Fox-owned WFLD-TV actually had the room - the only sitcom pickup they had for this fall was How I Met Your Mother, not to mention plenty of room on its sister station WPWR-TV. But now they will likely continue running low-rated TMZ and Wendy Williams repeats from earlier in the day in late fringe while its New York (WNYW) and Los Angeles (KTTV) counterparts will run 30 Rock repeats at 11 p.m. come fall of 2011 (30 Rock was purchased locally by WGN-TV here.)

George Lopez. Believe it or not, he's a winner here - despite the fact his late-night show is going to be pushed back an hour. With O'Brien as his lead-in, Lopez Tonight could draw more viewers than it does now and would get increased exposure.

Conan fans who don't have cable or satellite. Remember the 1-800-CABLE-ME jingle? Commit it to memory and let your fingers do the walking over to the phone if you want to see CoCo this fall (a call to your satellite provider will do just as good - in fact, even better.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

BET revives "The Game"

(Note: This is a refurbished and retooled version of a post yours truly wrote on July 1, 2009 - updated to include more recent information, including today's announcement of "The Game" returning to television. Yes, I'm now recycling posts!)

BET announced today at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York that canceled CW comedy The Game will make a return this fall to the cable network.

Most of the original cast - including Tia Mowry and Wendy Raquel Robinson - would return to the program, which ran on The CW for three seasons before it was canceled a year ago.

A comic take on ITV's successful British drama Footballers Wives, the series centers around the women whose husbands (or boyfriends) play for a football team named The San Diego Sabres (a team that could probably beat the real-life Detroit Lions...)

There no word yet on how many episodes will be produced, or what airdate those episodes will premiere.

Back last July, CBS Television Studios (formerly CBS Paramount Television) and Black Entertainment Television (BET) were negotiating a lower license fee so CBS can produce the series for cable.

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

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

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

This was the result when Airwolf - which ran on CBS from 1984-86- moved to the USA Network in 1987 after two and a half seasons, becoming the first canceled network drama to move to basic cable with new episodes. However, the budget was cut and the entire cast was replaced. Viewers didn't like what they saw and fled for the exits. Even though this won't be the case with The Game, at least one cast member (Coby Bell) isn't expected to return - he recently accepted a gig with USA's Burn Notice.

The idea for The Game to move the cable actually came from the cast. A new season would make the series more strippable for a possible broadcast syndication run. BET currently holds the rights to the 64 existing episodes where the program has been successful as a weekday strip.

The Game was spun-off from Girlfriends, a sitcom which ran on UPN for six seasons and CW for two. Both shows were created by Mara Brock Akil. Ms. Akil's husband (Salim Akli) now takes over as showrunner.

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

Thought: The Game is back, but likely with a reduced budget due to the move from CW to BET. As far as production goes, let's hope the following doesn't happen:

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

- Boom mikes making "cameo" appearances.

- Sets made of lots and lots of Styrofoam.

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

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

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

The Game is the only program to date to be removed from The T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame due to bouncing back from a dreadful first season and a vast improvement in quality in its second and third seasons. Unfortunately, CW pulled the plug at the show's creative peak. From yours truly's standpoint, The Game is truly welcomed back.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Grab Bag: "Sex" has a new home, Hawks news, and more

- It appears CoCo has caused a casualty on TBS' schedule, and its Comcastic! E! and the Style network have acquired all 94 (yes, count 'em - 94) episodes of Sex And the City, beginning in the fall of 2011. Both E! and Style are both owned by Comcast.

The former HBO series currently runs on TBS at midnight, but come fall is being pushed out in part by Conan O'Brien's new talk show and George Lopez's new show.

- The playoff-bound Chicago Blackhawks have inked a new three-year deal with WGN Radio, reaching through the end of the 2013-14 season. The games are only available to most of the nation thanks to WGN's strong clear channel signal at night, but also through WGN Radio's website.

This comes as the Blackhawks has set a new regular season ratings record for games on Comcast SportsNet: the team averaged a 2.4 household rating, up 94% from last year. Not only that, but the Blackhawks shot and scored a goal in key demos, too: In Adults 25-54, the Blackhawks earned a 1.8 rating, up a whopping 125% from a year ago.

The Blackhawks begin their run for the Stanley Cup on Friday against the Nashville Predators.

- CBS Radio Jim Ryan has been named program director of both WWFS-FM in New York and WCFS-FM (Fresh 105.9 FM) in Chicago. Guess where he'll be based? You guessed it - New York.

- Get ready for more Law & Order: NBC has ordered thirteen episodes of a new spin-off of the series, this time set in Los Angeles, titled... what else? Law & Order: Los Angeles. It's official: Hollywood has run out of ideas.

-Finally, overrated nationally syndicated morning hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic - better known to their fans as Mike & Mike In The Morning on ESPN Radio, were at Borders on State Street in the Loop Monday afternoon signing copies of their new book Mike & Mike's Rules For Sports And Life. The two imbeciles were in town doing a live remote at the Cubby Bear for the Cubs' home opener.

Funny, I didn't know Borders even sold toilet paper...

ABC O&Os renew "Wheel", "Jepoardy!" through 2014

In good news for the syndication business, two of the platform's highest-rated shows are going to be around for at least a few more years.

CBS Television Distribution's game-show duo of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! has been renewed on the seven ABC-owned and operated stations who carry the programs through 2014. The news broke a week ago on

Sony Pictures Television, which produces both shows, has also renewed pacts for the hosts of the shows (Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek and letter-turner Vanna White) for the duration of the show's run as well.

The programs are the number one and number two-rated shows in syndication respectively, and dominated the ratings for over 20 years.

The ABC deal covers WLS-TV in Chicago, as well as WABC-TV in New York, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, and KGO-TV in San Francisco. Other ABC clearances include KFSN-TV in Fresno, CA and WTVD in Raleigh, N.C.

In Chicago, WLS airs Jeopardy! as a news lead-in at 3:30 p.m., where it regularly wins its time period.

CBS also renewed the programs on the Allbritton (WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.), Fisher (KOMO-TV in Seattle and KATU in Portland, Ore.), and Meredith groups, and Fox affiliate WVUE-TV in New Orleans.

Together, the deals account for 35 percent of the country. The renewals will take Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! into their 31st and 30th seasons in syndication, respectively.

While there was some concern about high license fees for existing first-run syndicated fare, CBS was able to hold the line on license fees for Wheel and Jeopardy!, given their continued strong performances and the expected in the television business. In the recent February sweeps, both shows were up from year-ago time period averages - despite the presence of the Olympics.

Another plus is both game shows usually outperform not only the rest of the syndicated competition, but some prime-time shows as well.  In some large markets, both game shows drew more viewers than the entire prime-time lineup of The CW and at least one of the major networks.

Fun Facts: Here are some items you may - or may not know about Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!:

- Wheel of Fortune actually began as a daytime NBC show in 1975 hosted by Chuck Woolery, but was replaced by Chicago native (and former Little Village resident) Pat Sajak in 1981. Vanna White replaced original letter-turner Susan Strafford a year later. Sajak left the network version of the show in 1988, which moved to CBS in July 1989 and back to NBC in 1991 to finish out its run. By the time its network run concluded, Bob Goen was your host.

- Wheel of Fortune began in syndication in September 1983, but was cleared in only 42% of the country. Among large-market stations, WPVI in Philadelphia and WDIV in Detroit are currently the longest-tenured stations, airing it since day one (WLS didn't air Wheel until January 1984, displacing a half-hour of local news.)

- What was the #1 game show in syndication before Wheel debuted? It was Family Feud, with original host Richard Dawson. Wheel beat it in the ratings for the first time in February 1984.

- While Wheel has been #1 in the Nielsens for a long time, it was displaced a few times. In 1991, a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featuring a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy topped the game show in the ratings for a week.

- In New York City, WABC-TV pulled off an upset in the May 1989 Nielsen book in the 7:30 p.m. time slot with Entertainment Tonight beating Wheel, which was then on WCBS-TV. In Los Angeles in the July 1989 book, ET on KNBC-TV topped Wheel, then on KCOP-TV, while Current Affair on KTTV topped Jeopardy!, also on KCOP.

In September 1990, WABC acquired Wheel to pair up with Jeopardy! and has dominated the prime access hour ever since. KABC in Los Angeles landed both shows in 1992 after KCBS-TV lost them after acquiring the duo in September 1989.

- Wheel and Jeopardy! was removed from top-rated San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON-TV in early 1992 after the station decided to push the network's prime-time schedule up an hour to 7 p.m. King World moved the shows to KGO, where they've been since. As for KRON? Early prime was a failure, and after the station was sold in 2001, KRON's NBC affiliation was yanked and has since tumbled to the Nielsen basement.

- WLS has aired Jeopardy! at 3:30 p.m. and Wheel at 6:30 p.m. since their debuts on the station (both in 1984), and have been there ever since.

- Jeopardy! was an NBC daytime staple from 1964 to 1975, dominating its time period through most of its run. It was also syndicated as a weekly during the 1974-75 season.

- When Jeopardy! returned to the airwaves in 1984, the first few months were rough: WNBC in New York buried it in a late-night slot, and lasted only a few weeks at KCBS in Los Angeles (Ironically, it would return to KCBS five years later.) WABC picked up Jeopardy! to run in the afternoon and moved it to 7 p.m. in early 1987, where it became a blockbuster hit.

- Ken Jennings won 74 games in a row on Jeopardy! in 2004 and 2005, setting game show records and taking home more than $2 million in cash.

Jeopardy! has spun off several editions, including Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, Jep! (for kids), and Super Jeopardy!, which ran on ABC during the summer of 1990.

- In 2006, both game shows became the first syndicated game shows to be produced in high definition.

- Since 2008, Wheel and Jeopardy! has been airing from 7-8 p.m. on the CBC in Canada (except Windsor, where both shows air over WDIV in nearby Detroit.)

"Smackdown" moves to SyFy

In a move which illustrates once again the declining clout of broadcasters - and the growingpower of cable, Vince McMahon and the WWE have announced the departure of Friday Night Smackdown from Fox's My Network TV and is moving it to NBC Universal-owned cable channel SyFy effective October 1.

SyFy smacked down Fox with a $30 million offer to WWE, topping the $20 million bid the News Corp. unit made.

This is the second time in two days cable has trumped broadcasters in a major deal. On Monday, TBS snared Conan O'Brien to do a late-night talk show, catching Fox off guard. O'Brien did Late Night for sixteen years and The Tonight Show for seven months, both for NBC.

Already, SyFy airs WWE NXT, a reality show featuring wrestlers participating in a reality show about making into the WWE big leagues (one wrestler who does appear on the show is David Otunga, who is engaged to R&B singer and Chicago native Jennifer Hudson.) In the past, SyFy aired ECW, the former stand-alone wrestling promotion which went bankrupt in 2001 but was bought out by the WWE and re-created into a brand in 2006. ECW disbanded in February.

NBC's USA Network also airs Raw, a longtime Monday night staple.

Smackdown aired for seven years on UPN when it and the WB merged to become The CW. In 2008, CW dropped Smackdown in an effort to appeal to more young women, as the show was mainly male-driven.

My Network TV picked up the show shortly thereafter, and maintained its ratings. (Recent numbers showed Smackdown drawing an average of 3.5 million viewers per week.) However, My Network TV dropped almost all original programming at the end of last season and became a "programming service", leaving Smackdown as the only show left producing new episodes. Also not helping is the lack of promotion Smackdown has received - not to mention running into delays because of sporting events (which was the case here in February and March as WPWR-TV bumped Smackdown to 10 p.m. or later to run the IHSA Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments.)

With the move to cable, the deal marks the end of an era of sorts with no WWE programming on any over-the-air broadcast outlet or syndication this fall on a regular basis (with the exception of Raw airing on Spanish-language network Telemundo) for the first time in recent memory. In a post I wrote on February 8, 2008 regarding CW's cancellation of Smackdown, this is what I summed up if the show moved to cable:

...[b]ut a move to USA (where Raw already resides) or SciFi (the home of ECW) would also be possible, and if that happens, for the first time in over 25 years, there would be no regularly scheduled wrestling program on over-the-air television. Chalk it up to changing times in the television business. Twenty years ago, the WWE had as many as four weekly shows in broadcast syndication, including "Superstars of Wrestling" and "Wrestling Challenge".
That prophecy has indeed become true.

My Network TV is reportedly in negotiations to acquire off-network rights to USA's Burn Notice, which could fill the two hours left vacant by wrestling. But even if this were the case, the numbers wouldn't even come close to those earned by Smackdown.

Thought: Another day, another program or event lost to cable from the broadcast side. This is especially painful for My Network TV, as the "programming service's" future is now in serious jeopardy past next season. As for Fox, this is two losses in two days. Is Rupert Murdoch channeling the late "Dollar" Bill Wirtz? The former Chicago Blackhawks owner once said winning the Stanley Cup was "too expensive". I guess some broadcasters now feel the same way about acquiring - and keeping good programming, even if it does well in the ratings. One shouldn't ask the Hawks how the cheapskate plan worked out - it sent fans fleeing for the exits and resulted in a near-defamation of a franchise in which the Hawks are only now beginning to recover from. While Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have saved the once-again Mighty Blackhawks, who will save broadcasters?

Monday, April 12, 2010

CoCo heads to TBS

It's something Ted Turner would be proud of - if he still owned TBS.

In a move that shocks a lot of people in the industry, former NBC late-night talk show Conan O'Brien has signed a deal with TBS to do a late night program.

O'Brien broke the news on Twitter earlier today.

Details were sketchy, but O'Brien will begin his new late night journey in November at 10 p.m. (CT), bumping George Lopez's talk show to 11 p.m. The show is expected to air four nights a week, Monday-Thursday. O'Brien will go head-to-head with Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report for the same young-adult audience.

But before any fans of Lopez's get in arms - it was George Lopez himself who suggested  to Conan O'Brien he should join the network's late-night lineup. He reportedly placed a call to O'Brien and urged him to join the network. It got the ball rolling in O'Brien negotiations with TBS, which only took a few days.

O'Brien was in negotiations to join Fox and the those talks were reportedly making progress , but time-period issues with affiliates and the potential loss of revenue from airing successful off-network sitcoms - not to mention upcoming programs they committed those time periods for - may have derailed the deal.

Another factor is many Fox affiliates may have seen numbers Leno put up since his return to The Tonight Show - those ratings have improved in the 10:30 p.m. over what O'Brien earned in his seven-month tenure as host.

And don't forget, Fox affiliates still remember the Chevy Chase and Joan Rivers debacles.

Plus another sticking point was ownership - O'Brien wanted full ownership of his show, which he gets in the TBS deal.

With Conan O'Brien coming to TBS, the move raises the profile of the channel significantly - TBS - or Superstation WTBS from Atlanta - was once known for airing The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, The Andy Griffith Show, A music-video show titled Night Tracks, and of course, Braves Baseball. Over the years, TBS has acquired more recent off-net sitcoms including Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, and The King of Queens among others, and branding itself as "Very Funny". TBS has also branched out into creating original sitcoms as well, including Tyler Perry's House of Payne and My Boys (in 2007, TBS' national feed and its WTBS' local Atlanta feed were separated, and the latter became Peachtree TV, or WPCH-TV.)

Currently, O'Brien is embarking on a comedy tour called "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television", since his agreement with NBC keeps him off TV until September. The tour stops in Chicago on May 19 and May 20.

And as soon as news broke, TBS already had a Conan O'Brien promo up and running, in which you can view below. And if you watch the baseball playoffs this fall on TBS - you can surely bet you'll see a Conan promo - or eighteen.

Conan O'Brien's official announcement via Twitter:

"The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS in November! The bad news: I'll be playing Rudy on the all-new Cosby Show."

George Lopez's thoughts on O'Brien leading into his Lopez Tonight via Twitter:

"I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in. It’s the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy."  He also dubbed the new team "Team Lo-Co."

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Grab Bag: WGN Radio Changes, Local 18-49 numbers

- Put 'em up: It's an afternoon at the fights! In this corner, its WLS-AM's Roe Conn and new partner Richard Roeper... and in the other corner, its Conn's former partner and friend - Garry Meier on WGN-AM. Beginning Monday, Conn & Roeper are on from 2-6 while Garry Meier is on from 3-7 (on days when the Cubs aren't playing.)

This is the latest in moves at WGN radio made by Kevin Methany (whose referred to as "Pig Virus" in a lot of circles.) Another move he made was adding an hour to former Chicago alderman and convicted felon James Laski's evening radio show, which now has been extended to 10 p.m. thanks to popular demand (or really, a lack thereof.) Laski can no doubt be the crooked fight judge in the boxing match between Conn and Meier.

To make room for the changes, Milt Rosenberg's Extension 720 is moving to 10 p.m., which in turn, trims Steve King and Johnnie Putnam's overnight talk show an hour (midnight to 5 a.m.), while Steve Cochran is being shoved into the 1-3 p.m. time slot when the Cubs isn't on.

Wow. Laski getting another hour... NBC renewing the inane Minute to Win It and The Marriage Ref.... The mere existence of Glenn Beck... As yours truly has repeatedly said this year... quality isn't exactly job #1 in television and radio programming as of late.

- On, scroll down to the 12th post and you'll see Local People Meter ratings for Wednesday in the all-important adults 18-49 demographic for the fifteen largest markets: Among the local highlights: American Idol was Chicago's highest rated show at a 6.5 rating and 17 share, about the same as the national average of 6.5/18.  The Cleveland Indians-Chicago White Sox game did a 3.0 rating/8 share on WGN, while Modern Family did a similar 3.0/8.

But the notable performer of the evening was NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, whose 3.1/8 on WMAQ-TV easily cleared WLS-TV's once-reliable Ugly Betty, who had a 1.6/4 and CSI:NY's 1.3/4 on WBBM-TV. In Seattle, NBC affiliate KING-TV did a whopping 5.2/15 for SVU.

In Detroit, Minute to Win It finished first among broadcast stations, followed by America's Next Top Model. Keep in mind however, that Detroit's three professional sports teams (the Lions don't count) were also playing at the same time.

- Oprah Winfrey now has her OWN prime-time talk show on her OWN cable network. Titled Oprah's Next Chapter, Ms. Winfrey is hosting a show which would take place anywhere - except a studio. Word has it that she will also do the show from her OWN planet.

- Fans of the TV series Lost now will have a five-hour celebration to toast (or mourn) the series' finale on May 23. A Lost retrospective is expected to air from 6-8 p.m. (CT), followed by the actual two-hour finale from 8-10 p.m., then after the late local news, a one-hour Jimmy Kimmel special titled Lost: After The Final Rose, which will feature interviews with cast members 

As you recall, NBC threw a similar celebration with the final episode of Cheers back on May 20, 1993 with an one-hour retrospective, finale, and a Tonight Show special with Jay Leno from Bull & Finch's Bar in Boston.

If the Jimmy Kimmel Live special turns out anything like the Tonight Show's tribute to Cheers, look for Lost cast members to take the Dharma initiative by taking their clothes off and running around the studio drunk.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Me-TV, WCIU revamps schedule

Me-TV, the home of classic sitcoms (and a few educational and first-run weeklies) has revamped its schedule, effective this Monday.  The most notable change is the removal of raunchy sitcoms Married... With Children and That's '70's Show from the schedule and airing Scrubs at 12:30 a.m. - a half-hour before its regularly scheduled 1 a.m. WCIU showing.

And speaking of WCIU, the independent is expanding the length of You and Me in the Morning and now scheduling it as regular half-hour shows at 6, 7, and 8 a.m. Before, the program aired in lengths ranging from 30 seconds to 15 sandwiched between syndicated programming. You and Me continues to be hosted by Jeanne Sparrow, who temporarily left the show last month and went on sick leave.

WCIU has also revamped its evening and late-night lineup, also effective on Monday. The most notable changes are pairing up back to back episodes of The King of Queens and That '70's Show in late-fringe and exiling South Park to 3 a.m., as the five-year contract to carry repeats of the show is nearing expiration.

Both WCIU and Me-TV are found over-the-air with a digital tuner on 26.1 and 26.2 respectively, and both are owned by Weigel Broadcasting.

Friday, April 02, 2010

WFLD wins a Peabody, but still loses in the ratings race

WFLD continues to struggle at 9 p.m. with its local newscasts, despite the fact of a strong prime-time lead-in.

The March numbers show the Fox-owned station continuing to lag behind WGN and the other stations in the market in households and key demos.

According to Nielsen and numbers supplied by the Sun-Times, WFLD averaged a 3.1 household rating for its 9 p.m. newscast, which is a respectable number. But when you compare it to the competition, it places fifth in the time period, down 16% from a year ago. Moreover, it trails Tribune-owned WGN-TV's newscasts by 18%

Meanwhile, WGN scored a whopping 182% increase from its CW primetime audience, while WFLD dropped 56% from its Fox primetime lead-in, which contains mega-ratings grabber American Idol. While WGN is fortunate to build from its weak lead-in, other Tribune stations aren't so lucky - its New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas counterparts trail the Fox-owned stations' newscasts in prime-time in those markets by a wide margin.

WFLD's alarming drop means the young viewers who are watching Idol or other Fox prime-time fare are switching to other entertainment programming on the Big 3 networks or cable channels (or switching on their DVRs) in droves at 9 p.m. And the audience that seeks out news at 9 p.m. (notably the 25-54 demo) are not tuning to WFLD, but to WGN instead.

As for the 10 p.m. newscasts, WLS-TV continues to dominate, while WMAQ-TV has bumped up to second now Jay Leno is off prime-time and back into late-night. WBBM-TV is back in third place, but is up 8% from a year ago. However, a 29% drop from its CBS primetime lead in is concerning.

Despite the bad March numbers, there was some good news from the award front for WFLD - its coverage of the fatal beating of high school student Derrion Albert received a Peabody Award on Thursday. WFLD was one of five television stations who won the awards. Other winners included San Francisco Fox affiliate KTVU's coverage of a transit police shooting in Oakland, which touched off days of protesting; and NBC affiliate WYFF-TV's public affairs special Paul's Gift, which encouraged organ donation in the Greenville, S.C.-Spartsansburg, S.C.,-Ashville, N.C area.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

T Dog's Three Pack - An Easter Celebration

Yes, since it's the Easter holiday, there are only three items in this week's pack:

Easter Eggs

24 ends. For fans, it's not the news they want to hear, but for Kiefer Sutherland and the crew of this well-written and exciting drama, the timing is right. Thanks for the wonderful ride!

Dancing With The Stars vs. American Idol. Did you catch Simon's diss of Dancing Tuesday night? And the two highly-rated shows - both of which are taped at CBS Television City in Los Angeles - go head to head Tuesday nights at 7p.m. Central. Whether you like one, the other, both or neither - you have to admit - the top-rated duo's rivalry is the best since Dallas vs. Dynasty in the 1980's.

Butler. The unlikeliest of teams to make it into the Final Four, the Butler Bulldogs of the Horizon League (home to Loyola, UIC, and Valpo) are there this weekend - in their own hometown of Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. Go Bulldogs!

No Easter Eggs

The V countdown clock on Lost. ..are we counting down to the return of V - or the show's demise?

The Bulls and Blackhawks aren't drawing national viewers. For two big-market teams, it's kind of embarrassing. Who do they think they are, the White Sox?

Jay Mariotti to get his own talk show. ..and you thought NBC couldn't get any lower... Beginning this fall, WMAQ-TV will air a new local Sunday night hour-long talk show featuring Mariotti, and his take on Chicago sports, politics, and other issues. He's calling his studio The Mariottiator and will debate his critics by shouting at them non-stop for five minutes and will call them pussies if they can't handle it.

This is got to be the most disgusting television project I have ever heard of - I guess they had to fill the space at the NBC Tower left vacant by The Jerry Springer Show somehow. I guess NBC really, truly does stand for Nothing But Crap because it now has Jay Mariotti on its local Chicago station spewing out crap every week...

...and you know what? None of this is true. APRIL FOOL!!!!