Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“Law & Order” to finally air in syndication


WPWR picks up series to air on weekends

Television’s longest-running crime drama will now be made available in broadcast syndication for the first time (and about time!)

Fox’s duopoly of WFLD and WPWR acquired the rights to broadcast the original Law & Order on weekends in a deal with NBC Universal Television Distribution for Fall 2011. My Network TV affiliate WPWR is likely to air Law & Order since the station is already home to its spinoffs, Law & Order: SVU (which is on the station’s weeknight schedule) and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which airs Monday nights on My Network TV, which is now a programming service.

Law & Order also cleared Fox duops in New York and Los Angeles, and is likely to air on Fox’s MNT affiliates (WWOR and KCOP, respectively) as well. Other clearances include CBS duopolies in Philadelphia and Boston; Fox affiliate KTVU in San Francisco; NBC affiliate WPXI in Pittsburgh; and Fox affiliate WSVN-TV in Miami, which helps put the tally at 80 percent of households across the U.S.

Law & Order premiered on NBC on September 13, 1990 and  was on the network for nearly two decades. Its bid to surpass Gunsmoke to become the longest running drama in television history was cut short however, when NBC canceled the series in May 2010. Still, Law & Order is the longest-running crime drama in television history.

In 1994, TNT added repeats of Law & Order to its weekday lineup.

In 2006, NBC Universal made Law & Order: Criminal Intent available in broadcast syndication as a strip, marking the first time a off-network drama had been sold in this manner in many years.

In 2007, Law & Order: SVU was sold in weekend syndication and became an off-network strip in 2009.

With the original Law & Order now on board, this marks the first time all three series will air in broadcast syndication at the same time.

WLS-TV dominates households in November


ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” was Chicago’s top entertainment (non-sports) program in November. 

November sweeps came and went and as usual, ABC- owned WLS-TV won the 10pm news race, and also dominated the market overall (thank you Oprah and Dancing With The Stars.)

While household numbers were only available (thanks to an unreliable source), look for WLS to dominate in all key news time periods in key demos, including adults 25-54 and adults 18-49.

CBS' WBBM-TV finished second in households at 10, with Rob Johnson and newcomer Kate Sullivan finished second. While the number is down slightly from November 2009, it is still better than what the newscast earned in the last decade or so, when it routinely finished fifth or even sixth.

Coming in third was NBC's WMAQ, which was up --percent in households, but finished behind WGN-TV's newscast at 9 pm. And speaking of 9, WGN easily creamed Fox-owned WFLD's news, which had perhaps the worst showing in the history of the station in the time period with a 1.7 HH rating, barely ahead of WCIU's off-net repeats of The New Adventures of Old Christine and Frasier. If Bob Sirott & Co. can’t outdraw reruns of a laugh-free sitcom with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the lead, maybe its time for WFLD to throw in the towel.

Meanwhile, the return of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson to WBBM's 6 p.m. newscast hasn't done anything to jump start the numbers - ratings are down -- percent in households from last year. Other  notes from November:

- While the Sun-Times’ Lewis Lazare noted NBC's 9 p.m. weeknight slot improved in the ratings locally from failed year-ago occupant The Jay Leno Show, the opposite was true in Milwaukee: Leno actually did better in the slot last year than this year's offerings, according to On Milwaukee.com's Tim Cuprisin. Despite the drop in ratings from a year ago at 9, NBC affiliate WTMJ finished a close second to ABC affiliate WISN in the weeknight 10 p.m. news race.

- While WGN dominated the 9pm news race over WFLD, here's something else surprising: WGN's CW programming actually drew more viewers in households than Fox's weeknight prime-time lineup, at least from 8 to 9 pm, and nearly beat NBC. But you can chalk this up to weak prime time fare on both NBC and Fox in the hour than a surge in popularity for CW programming.

Return of the big pay day in syndication? Not so fast.

With the second cycle sale of Two and a Half Men to the Tribune and Sinclair station groups for seven – count ‘em – seven years, and mega deals by Fox O&Os for The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family,  you think syndicators would celebrate the return of the big pay day they reaped back in the day. Right?

Think again. In fact, syndicators might want to keep those corks sealed on those champagne bottles.

In Mediapost Monday, LIN TV CEO Vincent Sandusky was critical of the deal and the syndication business in general, saying prices for syndicated fare have peaked and his station group – which includes NBC affiliate WAND-TV in downstate Decatur and CBS affiliates WISH-TV in Indianapolis and WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind. – not to mention other station groups – would be better off developing local programming due to lower costs and the potential of higher ratings and maximizing revenue.

During a recent investor event, Sandusky was quoted as saying"We just don't think shows are going to have those kinds of legs.  The days of the Seinfelds coming off net are really over." The Mediapost article also noted LIN will continue to bid for off-network programming – if the price and terms makes sense for the company.

Many local stations are developing programming on their own as a response to escalating license fees for syndicated product and as a replacement for The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is exiting in September. Many stations are traveling down this road because they feel the money spent on syndicated product would be better invested in local programs, rather than finding the next Dr. Phil and winding up with the next Dr. Joy Browne Show or Dr. Keith Ablow instead.

This is what ABC-owned WLS-TV is hoping for with its new 9 a.m. talk show (tentatively titled Morning Rush),  which replaces Oprah in September. Instead of poaching Regis & Kelly from sister company Disney/ABC Domestic Television, WLS decided to go back to its roots and launch a local morning show in order to maximize revenue and lower costs.  This is what WLS did in the 1970’s by launching A.M. Chicago, which hired Oprah Winfrey to replace Robb Weller in 1984 when he exited to join Entertainment Tonight. The rest is history.

There has already been some local talk show  success stories. Milwaukee NBC affiliate WTMJ airs The Morning Blend at 9 a.m., which features a mix of paid advertising segments and unpaid segments (which is a common practice for a few of these shows), while Minneapolis-St. Paul ABC affiliate KSTP runs Twin Cities Live! at 3 p.m., which has hung tough airing opposite Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.

These are stories some syndicators don’t want to hear. Why? More successful local programs means fewer slots available for their product, which rattles them. For example, the syndication community howled in 1977 when Westinghouse Broadcasting announced it was filling it 7:30 pm prime access time slot with local editions of Evening Magazine every weeknight on its five stations, based on its success at its KPIX-TV in San Francisco (the program later entered national syndication as PM Magazine in a local station cooperative.) One of the reasons Group W developed Evening was because of the dissatisfaction of first-run syndicated product in the marketplace and it stayed true to the now-defunct Prime Time Access Rule, which restricted off-network (but not first-run syndicated) series in the hour before prime-time on network affiliates in the fifty largest markets and encouraged stations to produce local programming.

Today, many station groups have those same complaints. But to be sure, station groups like Fox, Sinclair, and a still-bankrupt Tribune are still paying huge sums of money for syndicated fare and helping dictate the marketplace. But a growing number of station group executives are making syndicators sit up and take notice regarding their grapes about escalating license fees.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The 2010 T Dog Media Blog Turkey Awards

Here's a jive turkey - LeBron James took an hour of ESPN's time - and wasted the rest of ours - by announcing he was signing with the Miami Heat.  The move so far hasn't worked out well for the self-titled King. 

Breakout the turkeys, because it’s that time of year again – it’s the 5th annual T Dog Media Blog Turkey Awards. Gobble up this goodness of mediocrity!

Jersey Shore. Enough said.

Democrats. The party… to the left… to the left… got sacked in this year’s elections as much as Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has (on Twitter, yours truly said Bears QB Jay Cutler, but the joke is now outdated for some reason...)

Randy Michaels, Sam Zell, and Lee Abrams. The media business’ version of The Three Stooges screwed up Tribune co. so badly with their poker parties, NSFW videos, and sexual harassment allegations - not to mention possible fraud surrounding the sale of the company to Zell in the first place. It’ll take years for the company to recover. Their departures won’t be missed.

Kevin Metheny. Pig Virus took over WGN Radio and made a mess of the schedule, resulting in a decline in ratings and revenue with the one-time Howard Stern nemesis losing his job.

Jim Laski. Seriously. No, seriously. This guy? As a radio talk show host? An 88 year-old woman could do a better job than Jim Laski, who was fired on the same day Kevin Metheny was.

Big Willie. This four-episode daytime run featuring Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham was tested in a few markets last summer with bargain basement production values and inane topics. A future T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame Nominee if this series even makes it on the air.

ESPN Baseball Today. When podcast co-host Peter Pascarelli was suddenly replaced by former WEPN-AM New York host Seth Everett, the show went south in a hurry. It should be noted Everett is now pre-game and post-game host on New Jersey Nets radio telecasts - a job even worse than working for Pig Virus.  

Jay Leno. After his prime-time show flopped, he got his Tonight Show gig back – at the expense of Conan O’Brien, who moved to TBS. And the long-chinned one seem less than gracious about it in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. And his late-night ratings since his return? The adult 18-49 numbers have been awful, and he's running neck-and-neck with David Letterman. Congrats Jay, you've received your second straight turkey award.

NBC. And speaking of NBC, this network is now a regular in this column, winning their fourth turkey award thanks to their handling of the Conan-Leno mess. Their continued prime-time woes give a new meaning to the phrases “PR disaster” and “black eye”.

CBS 2 News (WBBM-TV). The return of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson did nothing to boost their  6 p.m. news ratings and the station also has the worst late-night newscast. Can those people at The Church of Tisch ever get anything right? Their second turkey award.

Monsters And Money In The Morning.  And here's another blunder from The Church: you can call this The Jay Leno Show of morning TV. Mike North’s and Dan Jiggett’s ultra-low local show on WBBM-TV was painful to watch. Clearly one of the biggest bombs in Chicago television history, Monsters lasted exactly six months.

Minnesota Vikings. This soap opera featured Brad Childress, Randy Moss, Brett Favre (who has his own subplot) among the cast of characters. The result? 3-7, out of the playoff picture, Moss out of town, and Brad Childress out of a job. And now Favre is the target of an investigation over a sexual harassment claim with a now-former New York Jets employee when he played for the team. He un-retired for this?

Jay Mariotti. Another frequent turkey award winner, this asshat smacked around his woman and brought the former Sun-Times columnist an indefinite (and likely permanent) suspension from ESPN’s Around The Horn and his termination from AOL’s Fanhouse. Once a turkey, always a turkey.

The Marriage Ref. Perhaps the most inane program to air on network TV in the last year (and no doubt a T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame nominee), it's no surprise NBC would be dumb enough to air such crap. Since when the networks started airing fare only sustainable for first-run syndication? And here's another example....

Minute to Win It. Stacking cups in a minute. Balancing a marble on your nose. Shooting rubber bands in a cup. Yes, this is actually a prime-time show in the United States of America.  Thanks again, NBC!

LeBron James and ESPN. The Decision was an hour of television that made you want to throw out your television. Another low for The Worldwide Leader in B.S. , which is actually a compliment to them.

My Generation and Lonestar. Two network series which lasted just two episodes.  Two turkeys.

Outlaw. Jimmy Smits decides to step down from the Supreme Court to become a small-town lawyer in this now-canceled farce – an premise so unbelievable, the 1980's sitcom with the girl robot was more realistic.

One in a Million.  Mark Burnett's plan to launch a daily syndicated talent-singing talent competition for fall 2011 ran into a brick wall when the proposed project was soundly rejected by stations.

Nate Berkus. People will watch Oprah Winfrey's interior decorator on her show - but are viewers watching his own show? So far, the answer is no.

Martha Stewart's move to Hallmark. And their not watching her, either. 

Heroes. For its insipid and uneven storytelling and Tim Kring calling his fans dip- wait a minute… this isn’t on the air anymore? Sorry, force of habit.

Survivor: Nicaragua. The Young vs. Old gimmick didn't work, the only likable player - Fox football analyst and former coach Jimmy Johnson was eliminated in the third week, leaving us with a bunch of idiots who are clearly qualified to be Chicago politicians.

Scooby-Doo, Mystery, Incorporated. This disappointing reboot of the classic Saturday Morning series has been turned into an unappealing CW soap opera knockoff, with awful dialogue and romantic entanglements. Since this is the second Scooby-Doo series to receive a turkey award, maybe they need to leave well enough alone.
Happy Thanksgiving!

updated at 7:30 a.m. on 2010-11-29

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jeremy Kyle makes his way to U.S.

Get ready for yet another British invasion – this time from Britain’s top daytime talk show host.

As rumored  for months, Debmar-Mercury has signed a deal with Jeremy Kyle to host an American version of his hour daytime talk-show strip for fall 2011. Kyle’s show has been cleared in 70 percent of the country, and declared a firm go. The program clears Fox duopolies in the top three markets, including Chicago’s Fox duopoly WFLD and/or WPWR. Other station groups on board include Hearst, Sinclair, Newport, and CBS.

Kyle’s daytime talk show airs on ITV in Britain, where it is averaging a 30 share in its seventh season. The program premiered on July 4, 2005 and occupies the 9:25 a.m. slot. The show is shot at Granada Studios in Manchester, Great Britain.

Jerry Springer aside, foreign personalities traditionally have had a tough time with daytime TV talk shows stateside. The Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr quickly came and went with his cooking talk show in 1990. In 1994, Twentieth Television trotted out Australian Gordon Elliott, whose daytime talk show staggered for three years. Canadians Pat Bullard, Caroline Rhea, Martin Short, and Howie Mandel even a had tougher time with their talk shows, with each lasting a year or less.

DLT Entertainment even tried to export then-top-rated CTV daytime talker Shirley from Canada in 1995, with little to no success.

Kyle’s talk show in Britain is similar in style to those of Springer, Maury Povich, and Steve Wilkos here in the states. (Ironically, Springer was Kyle’s predecessor as he was invited to host a show for ITV for a few months after former host Trisha Goodard left for a program on rival Channel Five.) Kyle’s show has been criticized in Britain for his confrontational style towards guests (like Morton Downey Jr. was on his 1980’s talk show) and there are frequent fights on stage.

The Jeremy Kyle Show became notorious for a head-butting incident between guests in one show, which prompted a Manchester District Judge handling the crime to rip the program for “a form of human bear-baiting” and exploiting dysfunctional people on the show for entertainment, a charge ITV flat out denied.

The UK’s broadcast regulator (Ofcom, similar to the FCC in the United States) have also called out the show for its use of foul language on the show during daytime hours. Politicians have criticized the program for its paternity test shows, similar in the vein of Maury.

Kyle already has a leg up on rival The Bill Cunningham Show, which Tribune has yet to find a syndicator for but has cleared 40 percent of the country for next fall.

MeTV to go national

In a humongous move, Weigel Broadcasting sent out a teaser on major changes coming to MeTV and MeToo, the company’s local classic TV channels.

In like... MeTV is going national.

Weigel plans to announce on Tuesday it will seek to distribute the MeTV concept nationally via a digital subchannel.

Weigel’s forthcoming announcement means they are throwing their hat in the classic television arena outside of Chicago, competing with Luken Communications' Retro Television Network and Tribune/Local TV’s upcoming Antenna TV, which launches Jan. 3 on WGN-DT 9.2, previously home to LATV and The Tube. Weigel plans to target Baby Boomers and others who have a vested interest in classic TV.

The network will air on Weigel’s stations in Chicago, Milwaukee, and South Bend, Ind.  Weigel has agreements with several studios and independent producers to air classic programming over their network. But missing is fare from Sony and DLT Entertainment (Three’s Company, Too Close For Comfort), which Antenna TV has the rights to.

MeTV launched on WFBT-CA (later renamed WWME-CA) in 2005, airing classic TV shows. The success of MeTV spawned spinoff channel MeToo (on WMEU-CA) on March 1, 2008. On the same date, Weigel launched MeTV over a subchannel of CBS affiliate WDJT in Milwaukee. In September 2009, both channels split into different genres – MeTV for classic sitcoms; MeToo for classic dramas.

On Monday, Weigel launched a website (metvnetwork.com), which includes promos that have run on MeTV locally over the years, and a teaser press release regarding Tuesday’s announcement, when full details are to be unveiled.

And if you’re asking, MeTV stands for Memorable Entertainment Television.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fox shakes up schedule; moves second airing of "Idol" to Thursday

The new cast of "American Idol" for 2011, minus Simon Cowell. 

Fox unveiled its new mid-season lineup late Friday and by doing so, caused a huge stir throughout the industry.

The biggest move of course, is American Idol, which now will air Wednesday night and Thursday night. The move means Idol will no longer air on Tuesday - avoiding a direct showdown with ABC's Dancing With The Stars, which outdrew Idol in total viewers last spring to become television's most-watched show.

This comes days after NBC unveiled its mid-season schedule, which features an all-sitcom lineup on Thursdays and the return of Parks and Recreation, Minute to Win It, and The Marriage Ref.

Idol begins with a two-hour premiere on Wednesday, January 19 (last season's season premiere was on Jan. 11, 2010) and will air for ninety minutes beginning April 6, leading in to a new sitcom titled Breaking In. After the season premiere however, Idol will air for only an hour, followed by Human Target (got all that?) For the first time on a regular basis, Idol will face off against Survivor, whose ratings have declined since moving to Wednesday.

Thursday's airing of Idol is at at 7 p.m. (CT), opposite CBS' Big Bang Theory and My Dad Says,  NBC's Community and Parks and Recreation, and CW's Vampire Diaries (ABC has yet to schedule a 7 p.m. Thursday show.) Bones moves to 8 p.m., facing off against CBS' CSI and ABC's Grey's Anatomy. Bones bumps Fringe to Fridays at 8 p.m. beginning January 28, with Kitchen Nightmares airing as a lead-in.

Other new series include the shot-in-Chicago The Chicago Code, which airs out of House on Mondays; Tuesdays will have Glee followed by new game show Million Dollar Money Drop, but on Feb. 8, Raising Hope returns paired with a new sitcom titled Mixed Signals.

On Sundays, Bob's Burgers debuts on January 9 in the cushy time slot between The Simpsons and Family Guy. The animated series knocks The Cleveland Show to 8:30 p.m. - which in turn knocks American Dad to 6:30 p.m. (CT) on Sundays before The Simpsons. This particular move is controversial given American Dad's raunchy content, which isn't suitable for children.

Off the schedule and canceled are poor performers The Good Guys and Running Wilde; both will exit the schedule by the end of the calendar year. Reruns of both series are being exiled to Saturday nights (10-11:30 p.m.) for the foreseeable future (why Fox is still programming this Saturday late-night time slot is a mystery to yours truly.) Fox's programming earlier in the evening (Cops and America's Most Wanted) remains unchanged.

Since Fox lost the rights to the BCS Bowl Games to ESPN, the network decided to move The Cotton Bowl to January 7 at 7:00 p.m., marking the first time the bowl game has ever been held in prime-time. In past years, The Cotton Bowl was held as early at 10 a.m. The game is now held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

Thought: For the first time since it had The Simpsons on Thursdays (way back in the spring of 1994), Fox is major player once again Thursday nights with Idol. Even without Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, Idol will  draw a big number as people are curious to see how new Idol judges Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler will fit into their roles.- It won't reach the mega number it did in its heyday, but it'll do just enough damage to competing networks on Thursday.

Idol will likely send Survivor's ratings spiraling down even further, and deservedly so for this tired franchise.

As for Bob's Burgers, surprise! - it's not a series from Seth McFarlane, who has three series in Fox's Sunday night lineup. Looking at the promos for Bob's Burgers, this is a series that could be easily mistaken for a cartoon on Nickelodeon - and that's not a compliment.

Two and a Half Times the second cycle

Want more Two and a Half Men in syndication? You got it.

But if  you want more crazy Charlie Sheen going ape in a hotel room moments, you’ll have to wait – those come at random.

In a story Broadcasting & Cable broke Wednesday, Tribune Broadcasting and Sinclair Broadcasting announced they has renewed Two and a Half Men for a second cycle until the beginning of the next decade – through 2021.

The deal includes Chicago’s WGN-TV and 18 other Tribune stations, including WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles, and WXIN in Indianapolis.  In addition, Sinclair’s 22 incumbent markets who already carry the show also have it th1ough 2021, including WPGH in Pittsburgh, and WCGV/WVTV in Milwaukee. With those deals, Men is now cleared for a second cycle in 40 markets, covering 47 percent of the country.

Thanks to Tribune programming chief Sean Compton, his station group wasn’t going to sit idly by and watch a rival station group like Fox steal away Men after the company outbid Tribune for two hot off-network properties (Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.) He made a premium offer for the show before Warner Bros. would bring Men to market for a second cycle.

Usually, syndicators wait until the sitcom would end its network run before offering a second cycle, because if the network renews a sitcom for another season in prime-time while the series is concurrently running in off-net syndication, the licensing term for the first cycle is usually extended another six months to a year to accommodate the extra off-net episodes. When  Friends, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond announced the end of their network runs, their respective syndicators were quick to get second-cycle sales pitches to stations immediately.

However, there have been exceptions. In October 1989, Viacom rolled out the second cycle of The Cosby Show, even though the series was only in its second year of off-network syndication at the time and didn’t end its NBC run until 1992 (the second syndication cycle for Cosby started in September 1993.) Recently, Twentieth offered Family Guy for a second cycle mainly because the first cycle was offered as a straight four-year deal with no extensions. In both cases however, the price-per-episode of those shows came down significantly.

With Men, Tribune decided to pay more in the second cycle, akin to what stations did with the second cycles of Friends and Seinfeld. And like those two at the time of their sale the second time around, Men is a hot show in syndication, finishing as the top off-net  sitcom in syndication every week for the last three years – not to mention its stellar Monday night showing on CBS, finishing either first or a close second in adults 18-49. CBS has renewed Men through 2012, ensuring a ninth season of the series.

Men also has a concurrent run on FX (who paid $850,000 per episode for the series), which began running in tandem with broadcast stations this fall. This has helped its national number in syndication to a great degree – the program ranks north of a 5 household rating and a 3 rating among 25-54. Those numbers are up from last year, when it was running exclusively on broadcast stations.

In Chicago, Two and a Half Men reruns usually beat those of The Simpsons, at both 6 and 10:30 p.m.:

Two and a Half Men earned $2 million per episode (not counting barter sales) from broadcasters, who started stripping the series on September 10, 2007.

With Men locked up for the endless future, Tribune can at least claim a victory in the midst of the executive upheaval and the bad press the company has been through in recent months. Certainly, if Michaels and his gang were still around, Charlie Sheen no doubt would be invited to play poker with the boys at Trib Tower.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekend changes afoot at WGN Radio

The first changes since the departure of Kevin “Pig Virus” Metheny  has already taken place.

In his goodwill mission to win back listeners, WGN Radio boss Tom Langmyer is bringing back Sports Central, and fired two weekend hosts, among other changes. In Phil Rosenthal’s Tower Ticker blog, Langmyer stated:  “The goal of WGN weekends is to make our programming more relevant, warm, upbeat, and all Chicago. The lineup will better fit with the mindsets of our weekend listeners as well as be fun to listen to.”

And for the past year and-a-half or so under the direction of Pig Virus (hell to the yeah, I‘ll continue to use the name), it certainly hasn't been that.

Out is ChicagoNow, the inane Saturday morning radio show which featured bloggers from Tribune’s attempt to create a blogger community. Also gone is weekend political talk show hosts Jerry Agar and Shawn Wasson (Agar is a conservative talker; Wasson is a liberal one.)

One good thing to come out of ChicagoNow however, is former Q101 (WKQX-FM) host Alex Quigley (who is WGN’s interim PD) and Amy Guth's program, which has garnered praise from their on-air chemistry. Their reward? Both will continue to host a weekend show on WGN Radio from 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday.

Also returning is SportsCentral, with new host Glen Kozlowski. He'll sit alongside Quigley from 4 to 6 p.m. every weekend. And Nick Digillo’s Sunday night show moves to Saturday nights, airing from 6 to 10 p.m.

Longtime host Milt Rosenberg’s nighttime show (Extension 720) is now extended a day, and Steve and Johnnie Putman’s show gets an extra two hours on Monday mornings, which will now run Monday through Friday from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. for the full five hours.

Meanwhile, Simon Baditner – who has a French accent (you have GOT to be kidding me) -  has been cut to two hours to Sundays from 6 to 8 p.m.

Remember, all programming is subject to sports pre-emptions. Enjoy the new weekend lineup, radio lovers – it's certainly better than what was offered previously.

Bending for news

For the second time in two days, an ABC affiliate announced plans to get into the local news business.

Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting announced on Tuesday the hiring of Aaron Ramey to launch a news operation at WBND-LP (low power) in South Bend, Ind., and plans to develop other programming for the station and sister outlets WCWW-LP (CW) and My Network TV affiliate WMYS-LP. Local newscasts should launch within the next year.

Currently, the station airs an eleven-minute mini-newscast, produced by sister station WDJT (CBS) in Milwaukee.

On Monday, ABC affiliate KDNL-TV in St. Louis announced it would once again airing newscasts for the first time in nearly a decade with original content produced by rival NBC affiliate KSDK-TV.

Weigel plans to hire around thirty people to help launch the news operation, which would compete with longtime established rivals WNDU (NBC), owned by Gray Broadcasting; Schurz Broadcasting’s WSBT (CBS); and WSJV (Fox), located in nearby Elkhart, Ind. and owned by Quincy Newspapers, Inc.

WBND plans to air its news content over multiple multimedia platforms, and cover local  and regional stories aggressively.

WBND became the market’s ABC affiliate in 1995 after WSJV ended its 40-year affiliation with ABC to sign with Fox at the height of the mania surrounding the Fox-New World affiliation switch, which sent a dozen Big 3 network affiliates then-owned by New World Communications to Fox.

In Chicago, WCIU is already producing and airing a semi-news and lifestyle program titled You & Me This Morning, which runs weekdays at 6, 7, and 8 a.m.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Local newscasts return to St. Louis’ KDNL


In Chicago, ABC-owned WLS-TV’s newscast have topped the charts for more than 20 years, completely dominating their time periods – and the same can be said for other ABC stations, including WABC in New York, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WPVI in Philadelphia, WFTV in Orlando, and WSB-TV in Atlanta.

KDNL-TV in St. Louis? Not so much. In fact, it doesn’t even have newscasts. Until now.

In an rather unique deal reported in today’s Bellville (Ill.) News-Democrat, Sinclair’s St. Louis ABC affiliate will begin airing newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. beginning Jan. 3 – with help of competing NBC affiliate KSDK-TV, St. Louis’ top-rated news operation, giving KDNL local news for the first  time in nearly a decade.

KDNL launched a full-time local news operation in 1986, when it signed up to be a Fox affiliate. In 1995, KDNL swapped affiliations with former ABC affiliate KTVI in the Fox-New World affiliation deal.

KDNL’s newscasts trailed those of its competition for years, not making much of a dent in the ratings of its four other competitors, including CBS affiliate KMOV and CW affiliate KPLR-TV. KDNL finally threw in the towel on October 12, 2001 when it canceled the newscasts due to low ratings.

Since then, KDNL has substituted syndicated programming instead. Currently, the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. time slots are occupied by Extra, and prior to that, the 10 p.m. slot was occupied by the half-hour version of Deal or No Deal.

Financial details are scarce – no word on if KSDK will sell the ad time on the news shows or if it is a revenue-sharing agreement. But the Gannett-owned station plans to produce the shows different from the newscasts airing on their own station.

Despite KDNL underperformance as an ABC affiliate, the network renewed its affiliation agreement with the station and eight others owned by Sinclair. ABC has historically underperformed in St. Louis at least since the late 1980’s – when KTVI was an ABC affiliate, it often ran fifth overall in the ratings (the position KDNL occupies now)  with its newscasts finishing behind syndicated reruns on other channels. KTVI even ran daytime talk show Geraldo at 6 p.m. during the 1988-89 season while other network affiliates aired local news and game shows.

KTVI’s ratings have improved since going to Fox, but still remains behind KSDK and KMOV in the news ratings and in most other locally time periods.

With KDNL re-entering the local news race, it leaves CBS-owned WWJ-TV in Detroit as the only Big Four network affiliate in a Top 25 market without evening or late newscasts, though it does air a local morning headline-type news show produced in partnership with The Detroit News.

T Dog's Six Pack: Moo & Oink

Jim Laski and Kevin Metheny: Their immortalized testament to their time together at WGN Radio. Guess which one is Metheny...

The winners and losers for the past week in local and national media. On we go:

The Winning Attitude

WGN Radio listeners. With Moo & Oink (Kevin “Pig Virus” Methany and evening host James “Don’t Drop the Soap” Laski) now gone, maybe there’s a chance quality radio could return to WGN-AM.

The Simpsons. The venerable series was just picked up for a 23rd season by Fox, ensuring the series will pass 500 episodes and will reach 515 by May 2012. Whether it will reach 516 is another matter, though.

Ellen DeGeneres. Her hokey Warner Bros.-distributed talk show is getting a major upgrade in Boston, where ABC affiliate WCVB-TV is moving from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to replace The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is ending its run after this season. You can expect more upgrades for Ellen in the future.

The Price is Right Losing Horns

The New Hawaii Five-O. With recent ratings down 28% from what CSI: Miami earned in the time period a year ago, it may be Oh-Oh for the reboot of Hawaii Five-O (and I’m not the only one who thinks the conflict banter between McGarrett and Danno has become grating.)

Lifetime.  Maybe Lifetime should’ve consulted Patricia Arquette‘s character on the show on the way this turned out: The Walt Disney Co. took a $58 million charge against its quarterly earnings after writing off the cost of off-network repeats of Medium for Lifetime, which it part-owns with A&E.  This may explain why Lifetime recently pulled repeats of the CBS Television Distribution series off its schedule for good and CBS’ decision to cut the order of this season’s Medium from 22 to 13, basically sealing its cancellation.  

Ed Sherman’s Column? Speaking of reaching heights of absurdity, you know something’s strange when this Winners and Losers column talks about another Winners and Losers column – in the Losers section. On Friday, Ed Sherman (who blogs about sports for Crain’s Chicago Business) listed only two winners in his weekly Winners and Losers column this week. Is there anything positive going on right now in the world of sports? Oh, what the heck – let’s just blame ESPN for all the problems.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Metheny, Laski out at WGN Radio

Cue the cute sitcom laugh track: Awwww..... (Photo courtesy of Robert Feder)

This farce starring Randy "Court Jester" Michaels and Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny running WGN Radio would equal a sitcom where everyone is a boob and feature a laugh track. In fact, there was such a sitcom: WKRP in Cincinnati was certainly one of the best sitcoms of its era, in writing, acting, and production and told what really went on behind-the-scenes at a radio station.

Unfortunately, this real-life sitcom starring Court Jester and Pig Virus was only about as funny as an average episode of Webster and Punky Brewster (you can hear the canned laughter now...) Hence, the above photo and caption...

In news that has WGN radio fans jumping for joy across Chicagoland and the rest of the nation, the owner of WGN Radio fired Program Director Kevin Metheny and evening host James Laski Thursday evening.

The departure of Moo & Oink came as no surprise as Randy Michaels was shown the door three weeks ago as CEO of Tribune Co., as it was Michaels who brought Metheny into WGN Radio as the station's new PD in December 2008. Earlier, Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams was let go after he circulated a racy e-mail featuring links to not-safe-for-work videos. Basically, the cancellation clock was already ticking on Metheny the moment Michaels was let go.

Both Metheny and Michaels were former employees of both Jacor Communications and Clear Channel Communications.

During his tenure, Metheny - who was once Howard Stern's boss at WNBC-AM in New York City and Stern was the first to refer Metheny as "Pig Virus" - lived up to his controversial billing and then some. In addition to bringing in Laski, he also brought in Mike McConnell from WLW-AM in Cincinnati where he was known as a polarizing talk show host. When listeners weren't calling in to his show, Metheny had station employees call in posting as regular listeners. Under his watch, he also changed the station's moniker to News 720 - never mind the station technically wasn't all-news. Not surprisingly, his polarizing personality - which he had flaunted throughout his career - alienated employees at WGN Radio. For example, Metheny told radio personality Steve Cochran he was fired - as Cochran was exiting the Men's bathroom. 

While WGN did remain in the top five overall during Metheny's stint as PD, ratings in the all-important 25-54 demos were below 20th place and dropping - and ratings in one of the few demos it does well - the 55+ audience - were starting to decline. Cancellation of popular shows like Sports Central didn't help.

Local media website Chicagoland Radio & Media put together this list of "sins" Metheny was known to commit during his nearly two-year tenure at WGN (for two years, that's quite a lengthy list! Who else can alienate people in such short amount of time?)

Meanwhile, The Jim Laski Show was ferociously panned by critics, as the former Alderman (representing the heavily Democrat - but politically conservative 23rd Ward in the Clearing and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods of Chicago) and City Clerk showed his inexperience in hosting a radio talk show - not to mention his stint in prison for his involvement in the Hired Truck scandal and admitting to drug and alcohol abuse. The program never caught on with listeners - but despite the challenges, Metheny stuck with the show and even used Laski as a fill-in host.

For the time being, WGN plans to use the evening time slot vacated by Laski with fill-in hosts on nights when there isn't a Blackhawks game.

With the departure of Laski and Metheny, WGN Radio took the first step in restoring the station's respectability and image. Apparently, the cure for this Pig Virus infecting WGN Radio was someone at Tribune who finally decided to put a stop to this nonsense by canceling the Moo & Oink Comedy Hour - because this sitcom just wasn't funny.

And the joke was on WGN's listeners.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conan begins life on basic cable

Conan's excited to be on TBS.

Monday finally marked former NBC late-night host Conan O'Brien venture into basic cable on a network which was once stood as a momument to Ted Turner.

Conan's conquest of the Turner Broadcasting System started in essence with an overnight rating of 2.8 for his Monday premiere. But it gets better:

- The program drew 4.2 million total viewers in its 10 p.m. (CT) time slot.

- Of the 4.2, 3.2 million of those were in the prized 18-49 money demo, with put it above both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, and its direct competition of The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

- Conan's show also had the youngest median age (30), compared to Leno (59) and Letterman (53).

The first guests on Conan were Seth Rogen, Lea Michele, and musical guest Jack White.

As for the show itself, it opened with a skit featuring Conan O'Brien turning down NBC's offer going to midnight (as played out last January.) So he leaves (or gets pushed out of) NBC's Tonight Show (they say goodbye by riddling him with bullets) and starts looking for work - interviewing at the Mad Men advertising agency (where they don't have computers or have heard of the Internet) and wound up working at Burger King (next to a person who looks like former Tribune "Innovation" Officer Lee Abrams.... yeah, looks like.)

When Conan meets with TBS executives, they're offer is less - much less. When he seals the deal, he gets ambushed by men in suits - again - assumingly from NBC. Or the Tribune Company.

Conan goes into monologue, noting the applause lasted longer than his last job. Not excactly innovative in the skit department: One tasteless segment was the lottery drawing with the balls drawn from a sack wrapped around the front of a bear (yuck!)

A videotaped message came from Ricky Gervais - which ran way too long.

There's a new band, and it's name? Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band (guess Josie and the Pussycats didn't win the gig.)

Then came the guests and the musical performance from a band nobody has ever heard of, and that was basically it.

So to sum it up, Conan was basically same old show, new channel. If he wants to keep Team Coco from breaking up, he needs to do better than this.

Ted Turner isn't paying him money for an output like this - well, if he still owned the network.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Wheel of Luck

The venerable game show Wheel of Fortune does something it usually doesn't do: make headlines (and trust me, that's a good thing.).

Syndication's top-rated program for 26 years running had a stunner on last Friday's episode as a New York fashion editor correctly guessed the puzzle - with only one letter on the board! And even host Pat Sajak was stunned (click the link above or here to see the video.)

The winning contestant was Catlin Burke, who correctly guessed "I've Got A Good Feeling About This" (no kidding) with one letter (L) showing and won a Caribbean trip worth $6,500, according to the New York Post. She finished the show with a awesome haul of $53,000 in cash and prizes.

But she's solved a puzzle with only one letter? Nice achievement and all, but she couldn't top Family Guy's Peter Griffin, who correctly guessed a puzzle with no letters! :

(Sorry about the quality of the video... it's all I could find.)

In Memoriam:  On a much more serious note, the longtime announcer of Wheel of Fortune passed away a a week ago. Charlie O'Donnell, who handled announcing chores on the CBS Television Distribution game show died on Nov. 1 in his home in Los Angeles from heart failure at the age of 78. He's best known for announcing Wheel (on the NBC, CBS, and syndicated versions), but also had the same duties for the original version of The Joker's Wild and the first syndicated version of Tic Tac Dough, as well as many other game shows and series, including Dance Fever, The Richard Pryor Show, and Solid Gold.

T Dog's Six Pack: Khannnnnn!!!!!!

Senator-elect Mark Kirk and "Captain Kirk" William Shatner: Separated at birth?

Win, Lose, or end up hosting a bad 1980's game show: The past week's winners and losers:


$#!* My Dad Says. OMG. Believe it or not, thus show is actually getting funnier each week. Thank you, Big Bang Theory lead-in.

Kirk. And speaking of William Shatner, his Star Trek character's distant relative won the election for President Obama's old Senate seat. And yours truly will have a lot of Star Trek-related jokes at his disposal. Beam me up to Congress, Scotty!

The portion of  television audience who does not have a DVR. With the elections over, we have no more political advertising to contend with - at least until January in Chicago, when the mayor's race kicks in high gear. Damn.


Democrats. With losses in both the House and Senate, and Governor Quinn winning by a not-so-decisive margin, the Democrats were sacked more times last week than Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (and even he's had a better than than the Dems!)

Skating With The Stars. Somebody, please prevent this from airing. If they wanted "stars", they should've gotten the Dallas Cowboys - they're not doing anything right now.

Undercovers canceled. Worse than NBC's cancellation of this show are the two black leads on this show (Boris Kodoje and Gugu Mubatha-Raw) lose their gigs, and it may be a long time before casting like this again in a prime-time drama on a major network. Undercovers was trashed in the ratings by CBS' fading Survivor, where this season, they have a contestant who acts like Stepin Fetchit (then again, what reality show hasn't had a Stepin Fetchit in the cast?) Talk about a setback.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

ABC sells two stations back to previous owners

In a rare move in the industry, The Walt Disney Company announced the sale of two of its O&Os - back to its previous owners.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, WJRT-TV in Flint, Mich. (serving the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City market) and WTVG in Toledo, Ohio were sold back to SJL Broadcast Management, who sold the duo to what was then Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. in 1995.

In 1996, Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC after the sunset of the financial interest and syndication rules, which forbid studios from owning broadcast networks.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Both WJRT (in the 69th-largest market) and WTVG (in the 70th-largest market) will remain ABC affiliates after the deal closes in early 2011.

WTVG switched to ABC in October 1995 after 25 years as a stand-alone NBC affiliate. Before that, WTVG (then known as WSPD-TV) shared an affiliation with both networks before ABC moved its programming to WDHO-TV (now NBC affiliate WNWO) and was also a CBS affiliate before WTOL  signed on in 1958.

According to the Toledo Blade, WTVG dominated the ratings in the May 2010 sweeps, defeating WTOL and WNWO in several key news time periods. 

WJRT has been an ABC affiliate since it signed on in 1958.
ABC's decision to rid itself of its smallest market O&Os follows a trend of other networks doing likewise in recent years. CBS sold its smallest-market O&Os in Austin, Tex. and Green Bay, Wis. and NBC sold its O&Os in Columbus, Ohio and Providence, RI.

Fox sold a bunch of mid-size market O&Os to Local TV, LLC (Oak Hill Partners) in 2007.

The sale of smaller-market O&Os are mostly strategic moves, and does not indicate the networks are softening their opposition to strengthen caps on how many station a company can own.

For ABC, the sale of their Toledo and Flint stations returns them to the original configuration of eight stations they had when their merger with Capital Cities was completed in 1986. Beforehand, ABC owned five stations- all on Channel 7 (and used the same "Circle 7" logo), including WXYZ-TV in Detroit. In order to satisfy FCC requirements per their merger with Capital Cities, WXYZ was sold to E.W. Scripps, Inc. in 1986 - the last time ABC sold a TV station.

The other four original O&Os are WLS here in Chicago; WABC in New York; KABC in Los Angeles; and KGO in San Francisco. ABC picked up WPVI in Philadelphia, KTRK in Houston, KFSN in Fresno-Visalia, Calif., and then-CBS affiliate WTVD in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., in the Capital Cities merger in 1986.

Monday, November 01, 2010

WSRB rebrands itself as "106.3 Real Radio"; scales back on music

Back on August 23, 1989, a dying WLS-AM stopped playing the hits (or by then, middle-of-the-road music) and ventured into talk radio and hasn't looked back since.

Or in other words, they're throwing in the towel against competitor WVAZ-FM. 

21 years later, WSRB-FM is hoping for the same successful results with the station rebaranding itself as "106.3 Real Radio".

In an unexpected move, the Crawford Broadcasting-owned station dropped its Urban Adult Contemporary format for the most part and shifted to talk with mostly syndicated programming. WSRB is adding Warren Ballentine from 9 until Noon and  Dave Ramsey's financial show from Noon until 2:00 p.m.

The only holdovers are Tom Joyner's morning show (also simulcast on sister station WPWX-FM) and Michael Baisden's afternoon show. Both programs feature some music, so WSRB isn't totally ditching the tunes.

The station has yet to announce plans for its evening, overnight, or weekend programming, but it is expected music will fill those slots for the time being.

In the recently released October PPM survey, WVAZ finished second overall, while WSRB finished 31st.

Make it Non-Stop

Today not only marks the beginning of a brand new month, but a brand-new channel on Chicago's television landscape.

NBC-owned WMAQ-TV is launching Non-Stop Chicago today on digital subchannel 5.2, Comcast channel 252, RCN channel 130, and other dial positions once occupied by NBC's now-defunct WeatherPlus network. In the time since, WMAQ had been running a non-stop loop of weather maps (which one can joke that the channel usually drew more viewers than Ion, WJYS, or MyNetwork TV.) News of the new channel first surfaced on Robert Feder's blog back in July.

The new Non-Stop channel is modeled after the one operated by sister station WNBC-TV in New York City, which airs a variety of local news programming and entertainment shows on its Non-Stop outlet. Its signature show is a hour-long 7 p.m. newscast hosted by veteran anchor Chuck Scarborough.

WMAQ plans to air several original local programs, including a 7 p.m. half-hour news program titled The Talk, hosted by Marion Brooks (Ironically, CBS has a similar program with the same name, which may mark the first time in television history two programs with the same name and format has aired simultaneously on a daily basis in the Chicago market.)

The Talk will go head-to-head with WTTW's long-running Chicago Tonight.

Also, Citadel's WLS-AM will let Non-Stop Chicago air three hours of Roe Conn and Richard Roeper's afternoon radio talk show air daily from 3 to 6 p.m, with the 4 to 6 p.m. portion a live simulcast.

And WMAQ will air The Rundown at 1 and 6 p.m., which features a more in-death analysis of the day's major news stories.

Non-Stop Chicago also will feature some local entertainment programming as well, thanks to the gang at Nude Hippo and existing local and nationally syndicated LX TV shows.

Some syndicated programming is planned to air on Non-Stop Chicago, including Sony's Nate Berkus Show, which gets an additional airing at 10 p.m. (Berkus already airs on WMAQ at 2 p.m.)

The Non-Stop strategy is being rolled out to most NBC O&Os, with Dallas, Miami, and NBC's three California outlets next up to launch around the first of the new year. Non-Stop outlets launched in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. last week (the launch of Non-Stop at WVIT in Hartford has been put on hold for now.)

Meanwhile, Non-Stop Chicago is scheduled to provide election coverage Tuesday night, along with its WMAQ sister station.