Monday, September 19, 2011

The T Dog Media Blog has moved!

In five seconds, The T Dog Media Blog is re-directing you to its new home at Please update your bookmarks. If it hasn't redirected in five seconds, please click on the above link.

Adios, Blogger! It's been a great five years.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The T Dog Media Blog is moving

After approximately five years, The T Dog Media Blog is moving on to bigger and better things.

Like to yours truly's own website.

With The T Dog Media Blog entering its sixth season Monday (man, time flies!), yours truly has made the decision to move the blog from Blogger to Wordpress platform on my newly launched website:

The existing posts - all 2,131 of them - have been imported into the Wordpress site and all have been tagged and categorized so it can be easier for users to find items.  

At some point during this weekend, the web domain will direct to the new site at This way, there will be no need to update your bookmarks. As of September 19, all new items will be posted on

The new site is being hosted by Bluehost.

Why is the blog moving? Well for one thing, I wanted my own platform to provide the blog - that is, my own web domain name and site as opposed to piggybacking off of Blogger's.

Wordpress offers more features than Blogger - not to mention a much better mobile interface where yours truly can post on the go. The T Dog Media Blog will now be easier to read on your iPhone, iPod Touch (which I have), Android, or WebOs device with an simple mobile interface (I used Blogger's mobile interface, but Wordpress' is far more superior.) In addition, Wordpress offers me an opportunity to offer my material in on a platform that doesn't really feel like a blog.

In addition, the Twitter badge on the new T Dog Media site is far better than the one used on Blogger. Here, you can see my Snoopy (or a retweeter's) avatar, and you can reply, retweet, or favorite a tweet right from the page! How awesome is that?

With the move, T Dog's Media Friends are being fully updated with new links (like TV Media Insights) and the removal of dead links (goodbye PI feedback and Jeff Roteman's WLS Tribute Site.)

In the future, I will be adding new features, such as a YouTube video page and possibly a podcast - but that's a little bit down the road.

Even after the launch of the new site, there will be a few tweaks made here and there.

Finally, you no longer have to go through a verification process for commenting as I enabled that on Blogger to keep spammers out - Wordpress has a stronger system that handles the e-junk. However, the old rules still apply when commenting - they must be relevant to the subject matter (if you want to praise or criticize me for the article, well, you can do that too.)

Monday marks the start of the sixth season - and a new era - of The T Dog Media Blog. So come on along for the ride!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life After Oprah

Anderson Cooper's new syndicated talk show began on Monday.

Welcome to Life... After Oprah.

Monday marked a new era in syndication as repeats of The Oprah Winfrey Show came to an end on Friday (her last original episode aired on May 25) as the broadcast business is without the queen of talk for the first time since Sept. 5, 1986 as Oprah Winfrey decided to devote more time to her fledgling cable network.

While some stations made their moves on May 26 (WLS-TV premiered Windy City Live at 9 a.m. while a few others launched new newscasts), others are now just making their post-Oprah plans - and some are eschewing syndicated fare for local programming. For example, CBS affiliate WCIA in downstate Champaign is launching a new local news/lifestyle show called, possibly the worst name for a TV program I've ever heard of (aside from ABC's 2002 sitcom dud Wednesday 9:30/8:30 Central.) If the title of the show is a joke, Imagine what the content would be like...

While some premieres won't take place until September 19, several new syndicated strips made their debuts on Monday (all programs airs Monday-Friday, unless otherwise noted):


Warner Bros.' Anderson (WFLD, 2 p.m.) - as in Anderson Cooper - is a vehicle for the likable CNN personality and 60 Minutes correspondent who plans to cover a wide variety of topics, though Mr. Cooper has stated the series isn't a news program despite his hard news background.

Also on tap is CBS Television Distribution's Excused (WCIU, 11 p.m.), which tries to bring the dating/relationship genre, which was popular in the late 1990's/early 2000's (think Blind Date) back into the forefront. Entertainment Studios is launching a pair of freshmen strips this week: We The People (WMAQ, 12:30 p.m.), yet another courtroom show with Gloria Allred as the Judge (yikes), and Who Wants To Date A Comedian (WCIU, 3 a.m.). Yes,Who Wants To Date A Comedian is a real show. Ladies and Gentlemen, I can't possibly make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, Debmar-Mercury and ITV Studios USA are premiering new newsmagazine strip America Now! hosted by Orland Park's own Bill Ranceic and former Entertainment Tonight co-anchor Leeza Gibbons. The series, airing primarily on Raycom-owned stations (such as WOIO in Cleveland and WXIX in Cincinnati), currently does not have a Chicago clearance.

Other new first-run strips set to debut next week include Debmar-Mercury's Jeremy Kyle (WFLD, 1 p.m.), The new - and hopefully improved - Bill Cunningham Show (WGN-TV, 2 p.m. in a limited national rollout)  and Dr. Drew's Lifechangers (WGN-TV, 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.), which is cleared primarily on CW affiliates.


There is a lot of activity this year in this arena as five new off-network sitcoms and the return of Law & Order: Criminal Intent to broadcast syndication vie for audience.

- The two big off-net entries this year are Warner Bros. The Big Bang Theory (WPWR, 6:30 p.m.; WFLD, 10 p.m.) and 30 Rock (WGN-TV, 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.). Both series also start their cable runs this year: TBS has Big Bang and WGN America and Comedy Central are airing 30 Rock. How this will effect local stations' ratings remains to be seen. Both debut September 19.

 - Expanding from four weekend episodes to a daily strip on the same date is Twentieth Television's animated American Dad (WCIU, 8:30 p.m), while sister animated series Futurama begins its syndicated weekend airings (WCIU, Sat. 7-8 p.m. and 10-11 p.m.) on September 24.

- NBCUniversal's Law & Order: Criminal Intent returns to weekday syndication for the first time since September 2009 as a double-run strip (WPWR, 10 p.m., 11 p.m.). If that wasn't enough, the original Law & Order makes its appearance in broadcast syndication for the first time ever as weekend offerings. Look for the series on WPWR the weekend of September. 24.

- Last - and certainly least, is a series no one thought would make syndication, since nobody watched this series on Fox. But Brad Garrett vehicle Til Death did, and you can catch the Sony-syndicated series while you can on WCIU-TV Sunday nights at 9 and 9:30 p.m. If you can stomach this series twice a day, then head over to WCIU's sister station (UToo - available on OTA channel 26.2) for two vomit-inducing episodes back to back from 4-5 p.m.

What's Out.

Aside from the departure of Oprah, there are several first-run and off-network syndicated programs that didn't make the cut for the 2011-12 season:

- As noted here two weeks ago, Warner Bros. passed on renewing Judge Jeanne Pirro for another season.

- Also gone is The Real Housewives..., whose reruns (and new episodes) still can be seen on Bravo.

- Off-network syndication contracts for My Wife & Kids, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and George Lopez were not renewed, resulting in their recent departures. However, there is good news for fans of George Lopez (and bad news for the rest of us) - ION has picked up the sitcom for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday airings. Well, at least we're no longer subjected to George Lopez's nightly talk show...

- Game shows 5th Grader and Don't Forget The Lyrics end their syndicated and My Network TV runs this week.

- Other syndication cancellations include Reno 911!, Deadliest Catch, and Smash Cuts.

- Finally, there's always a year where a syndicated project fails to get on the air. This time around, its Geek Meets Girl, a proposed series from Trifecta Entertainment that was scrapped at the last minute. In recent years, other proposed Trifecta series (Hacienda Heights and One in a Million) met a similar fate.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Grab Bag: You, the people

This Grab Bag is for you - that's right. You - the people. You have the right to gripe about yet another newscast or yet another new daytime courtroom show (We The People) on the horizon. You also have the right to have an alternative to the regular crap on TV - thanks to two new diginet TV channels. You have the right to critique about Merlin Media's new all-news stations - and a lot of listeners are exactly doing that. And you have the right not to suffer through another Q101 article. This Grab Bag - a collection of items that happened since this blog was put on a unfortunate hiatus earlier in the month - is dedicated to you - the people.

- In an item first reported by Robert Feder at Time Out Chicago, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV is launching a midday newscast - the first in nearly twenty years. The new half-hour noon newscast is being anchored by Marion Brooks. WMAQ's low-rated noon newscast was canceled in 1991 to make room for soap opera Santa Barbara, which moved from its longtime 2 p.m. time slot to make room for Jenny Jones' new syndicated talk show, which was shot here in Chicago at the NBC Tower.

- Filling out the hour on WMAQ is a new, last-minute-to-the-marketplace daytime courtroom show from Entertainment Studios titled We The People, with Attorney Gloria Allred presiding over cases for arbitration. The series has cleared six other NBC O&Os, including WNBC New York, KXAS Dallas, and WVIT Hartford.

While airing a courtroom series is out of character for an NBC O&O (in Chicago, court shows usually air on WCIU or WPWR), the move is being made since NBCUniversal decided to withdrawal reruns of The Real Housewives from broadcast syndication after a lone, unsuccessful season (don't worry, you can still see the dysfunctional dames on Bravo.)

The last time WMAQ aired a courtroom show was in 1997-98, when it aired a new revival of The People's Court with former New York Mayor Ed Koch (Court now airs on WCIU with Marilyn Millian presiding.) WMAQ also aired the original version of The People's Court from 1982-87 with Judge Joseph Wapner.

- The new Bounce digital subchannel network has signed Weigel Broadcasting's low-power WWME here in Chicago and WBME in Milwaukee to carry their new service, which launches on Sept. 26. Created by Martin Luther King III, former Atlanta mayor and current Ambassdor Andrew Young, and the principals behind Rainforest films, an African-American production company. Bounce is targeted to African-American audience in the 25-54 demo and recently signed Toyota USA as its first national sponsor. Other clearances for Bounce include WMCN Philadelphia, KHOU Houston, WUAB Cleveland, KSMO Kansas City, and WISH/WNDY Indianapolis representing the LIN, Meredith, Belo, and Raycom station groups.

Bounce plans to feature a wide variety of films, sporting events, off-network programming, inspirational shows, and original programming targeted to African-American audience. Bounce launches on Sept. 26 with the 1978 theatrical The Wiz, a musical take-off of the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz featuring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. You can find Bounce on WWME's 23.2 digital subchannel.

- Also on the diginet beat: Adell Broadcasting's Detroit independent station (WADL) has signed a deal with Antenna TV to carry the Classic TV digital network over its Channel 38.2 subchannel and on Comcast Cable Channel 295. Chicago-based Competing classic TV diginet MeTV is still without a affiliate in the Motor City, but things could open up soon if the ongoing turmoil at RTV is any indication - currently, WXYZ is affiliated with the faux classic TV channel on Channel 7.3.

- If you've noticed, Crawford Broadcasting's WSRB-FM has returned to its Soul 106.3 branding after a few months as Real Radio 106.3, whatever that meant.

- And speaking of radio stations "not winning", yours truly has his first verdict on Merlin Media's new all news-talk WWWN-FM - not exactly impressed. Moments of dead air, mispronounced words, lots of flubs, too many repetition of stories, uncompelling content (shopping tips?), and an overall amateurish presentation. While yours truly understands this station is targeted to the soccer mom crowd aged 25-54, this has a long way to go to pose a legitimate threat to mass appeal WBBM-AM. And believe it or not, there are actually women out there who don't care about shopping or chocolate!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

T Dog's Six Pack: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

As you may know - if you've been following on Twitter - The T Dog Media Blog is leaving Blogger and is moving to a new home as part of the new website I'm launching officially on September 19, when the sixth season of The T Dog Media Blog begins. Visit to view the progress of the site as yours truly works on it. It's currently in Beta, so the look of the site will change several times as the 19th gets closer.

Due to a major tagging project for the new website, yours truly haven't been able to do much writing in the blog as of late (which unfortunately, meant no Comic-Con or TCA Press Tour posts.) But the tagging project is finally over, so its back to writing about the wackiness and fun that is local and national media. In the meantime, you'll see postings on both the Blogger version of The T Dog Media Blog and on the T Dog Media site. But on September 19, all new material will be exclusively on the new site.

Speaking of goodbyes, there are a lot of them in this edition of the Six Pack - a well-respected media columnist is moving to a new online home; a legendary businessman stepping down due to health issues; a pair of TV show cancellations; and two managers at a local TV station who ought to be packing their bags. A lot to get caught up on, so on we go - the winners and losers for the months of July and August:


Windy City Live. While it was a given the new local morning would not match the numbers for the program it replaced (The Oprah Winfrey Show),Windy City has done decently well, topping Regis & Kelly, Today, and Good Day Chicago in recent ratings reports, meeting WLS-TV's expectations - not to mention attracting a significant amount of African-American viewers.

Sorry haters - Windy City Live is here to stay.

Steve Jobs. The Apple CEO officially resigned this past week due to health issues, but he'll be remembered for changing the way we consumed entertainment though iTunes, iPods, and iPads. While Hollywood might not want to admit it, Steve Jobs was a visionary who helped give the public more control over when to watch their favorite TV shows and movies and making the Walkman obsolete. 

Marc Berman. It's sad to see the Programming Insider go after twelve years - thanks to Mr. Berman's departure from Adweek this past Friday (Berman originally wrote for the now-defunct Mediaweek, which folded into Adweek after A.C. Nielsen sold the magazines.) But the good news is, you can follow him to his new home at TV Media Insights where you can sign up to receive his new daily column and visit him at his new Mr. TV website. Both links will be included into the blogroll when the new T Dog Media website launches on September 19 (the old PI Feedback site was shut down Friday evening.)

To read his final Programming Insider newsletter, click here.

Best of luck to Marc Berman in his new home! With such a great talent for writing about TV and media, he'll fit in his new home fine.


As usual, there is a multitude of losers to choose from - the return of the insipid Bachelor Pad, Chicago baseball, the Bears Family Night fiasco, Kim Kardashian and her new, temporarily unemployed NBA "superstar" leech of a husband, Mancow whining about the now-defunct Q101 again (dude, let it go already), the unimpressive debut of WWWN-FM's all-news format (absolutely NOT "winning") and more. But these are the three that stand out:

Judge Jeanne Pirro. The thing is, she's now back to being just Jeanne Pirro: Warner Bros. canceled her Chicago-based daytime courtroom show after four seasons, the first two on CW; the other two in syndication.The departure of Pirro leaves just Judge Mathis and Rosie O'Donnell's soon-to-launch talk show as the only national daily programs produced in the Windy City.

Lopez Tonight. There won't be a Lopez Tomorrow: TBS canceled George Lopez's late-night talk show after two low-rated seasons, which took a ratings hit after being downgraded last November to make room for Conan O'Brien.

CBS 2 blows it again. Continuing our "...blows it again" franchise... CBS-owned WBBM-TV aired a story last month during its barely-watched 4:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. newscasts regarding a shooting in the city's Grand Crossing neighborhood, and featured a 4 year-old African-American child who stated on camera he wanted a gun when he was older - giving the impression that the kid wanted to be a gangbanger when he becomes an adult.  But what the station didn't show was footage with the kid saying he wanted to be a police officer to help battle the bad guys. The edited video wound up on YouTube and other video-sharing sites.

The station was criticized by the NAACP, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), and many other journalist watchdog groups, including The Maynard Institute. Station officials admitted the mistake but never apologized, and there hasn't been any disciplinary action taken that I know of. If you've read this blog for the past five years, you know how really screwed up CBS 2 management has been over the last few decades - from erroneous reporting regarding Fred Hampton's death in 1969 (those "bullets" were just ordinary holes in the wall) to coverage of a "pot party" in 1971 to the tabloid-like newscasts that dotted the station in the '90's to the Amy Jacobson bikini fiasco in 2007. And oh yeah, there's the matter of a boycott by Operation PUSH in the mid-1980's after the Harry Porterfield debacle at a time when CBS ownership was in turmoil.

And you wonder why the station has never been able to attract African-American viewers. And Les Moonves' and other CBS executives' silence on the matter speaks volumes.

Yep, just another typical day at The Church of Tisch.

To borrow a phrase from Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom... News director Jeff Kiernan and GM Bruno Cohen: your plane is boarding. Hopefully, we'll see WFLD's GM Mike Renda and news director Carol Fowler on the same flight out of town.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Stay up late with... Clarissa?

Melissa Joan Hart, pre-Sabrina

But you no longer can't with Monique and soon, you won't be able to with George Lopez, either

Late-night has become a rather bizarre place lately - outside of the usual nuttiness of course - with an insomniac sheep running around, reruns of obscure kids series from the '90's earning high ratings on an obscure channel, and a program proven to survive anything (it is bizarre, but as not bizarre as Lenogate in early 2010.)

- On July 25, TeenNick (formerly known as The N and Nick GAS beforehand) launched an nostalgic late fringe block titled The '90's Are All That featuring - what else? Old Nickelodeon favorites that aired in the 1990's, including Clarissa Explains It All, Kenan & Kel, All That and other series scored impressive ratings by improving its time period numbers on its first night - and even crushed competing fare on other basic cable networks. For example, reruns of Kenan & Kel and All That beat TBS' Lopez Tonight by 60% in total viewers. in the 11-12 a.m. (CT) time slot, and beat newer, more expensive off-network sitcoms How I Met Your Mother and Old Christine on Lifetime by 20%. Among younger viewers (18-34), the '90's block improved the time period from previous programming in the time period, including off-network sitcoms Malcolm in the Middle and Undeclared. In addition, the classic Nick shows have been the top trends on Twitter in the U.S. in the late fringe hours.

- And the after effect of Teen Nick's success may have determined the fate of two low-tier late-fringe cable talk shows: BET has announced it has canceled The Monique Show after nearly two years on the air. Hosted by Oscar-winning star Monique Hicks, the late-night series failed to gain ratings traction with viewers. The series' final first-run episode airs on August 11. Monique is best known for her for her portyal as an abusive mother in the film Precious, but also starred in the UPN comedy The Parkers.

- And it looks like George Lopez may follow Monique out the door as well - a decision is due this month on the fate of  TBS' Lopez Tonight, as it tries to get renewed for a third season. Premiering a month after The Monique Show, Lopez got off to a good start ratings-wise, but tailed off considerably and even more so after Conan O'Brien bumped him into the 11 p.m. (CT) time slot. And with reruns of 20-year old Nick shows beating Lopez, the future of the former sitcom's star looks just as bright as Pat Sajak's show did in late 1989 (translation: the axe is waiting to swing.)

- In life, there are two things that can survive a nuclear disaster: a Twinkie factory and Comics Unleashed. Despite low ratings and numerous time-period downgrades over the years, Entertainment Studios has managed to keep Comics Unleashed With Byron Allen on the air somehow.  The series has been picked up for two more seasons thanks to CBS-owned stations in the top three markets, including WBBM-TV here in Chicago as well as WCBS-TV in New York City and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles. Comics Unleashed began in 2006 on WCIU-TV in prime-time, but has aired on WBBM in late-night in recent years.

By the way, the founder of Entertainment Studios is ... you guess it... Byron Allen, who was one of the co-hosts of NBC's 1979-84 reality series Real People.

It's all to make Frank Woolanski's puppet-like head spin.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

FM Radio enters an "all-news" era in Chicago

Last week, Chicago did not have FM all-news stations. As of 8:10 a.m., we had not just one - but two as the race between the Court Jester and The Church of Tisch for all-news supremacy begins.

On Friday, WWWN-FM (101.1 FM) dropped all music from its airwaves and became all-news, with Merlin Media making the announcement official on Sunday via press release. And at 8:10 a.m. Monday, CBS-owned WCFS-FM began simulcasting sister station WBBM-AM.

Judging by tweets and message board postings, listeners were not impressed with Merlin's Media's new all-news station. Many criticized WWWN for numerous screw-ups and some compared it to a bunch of interns on-air at a college radio station and for being just downright amateurish (not exactly "winning" radio.) Others continue to bemoan the loss of WKQX-FM/Q 101 and cursing at Randy Michaels.

As for WBBM-AM's move to the FM dial this morning, the move took later than expected: Church of Tisch management decided to hold off on flipping WCFS from its failed "Fresh" format to Newsradio 780 until 8:10 a.m. so special guest Mayor Rahm Emmanuel can "push the button" to make a change (an engineer actually does that) was nothing more than a glorified publicity stunt. The flip should have taken place at 5 a.m., at the start of Pat Cassidy's and Felicia Middlebrooks' shift.

While many are lauding the moves of both WWWN and WCFS for switching to FM News formats, especially as some music fans are getting their tunes elsewhere (i.e., MP3s, Internet and satellite radio, etc.), others are bemoaning the loss of not one, but two music stations as the FM band is starting to evolve away from music.
As for WBBM-AM's move to the FM dial this morning

Friday, July 22, 2011

The new WWWN-FM: It's winning radio

The new WWWN-FM and Charlie Sheen... A "winning" combination!

Welcome to WWWN-FM - Winning Radio - a place where someone is always winning and where you definitely won't find the Cubs (or the White Sox.) And holding down morning drive is the one and only... Charlie Sheen! He's always winning!

Okay, so the new 101.1 isn't nicknamed "Winning Radio"... and Charlie Sheen isn't the station's new morning personality (with Randy Michaels however, it's never out of the realm of possibility...) but Merlin Media did officially change the call letters of the now-former WKQX-FM on 101.1 to WWWN on Thursday, while in New York, Merlin changed the call letters of the former WRXP-FM to WEMP-FM.

Both stations are currently in a "stunting" phase using Hot Adult Contemporary music after ending their respective Alternative/modern Rock formats last week and are expected to flip to a News/Talk format within the next ten days or so.

Merlin swapped the call letters of WKQX with those of a dark (not currently operating) station in Wateska, IL, which is owned by Randy Michaels, who is founder of Merlin (and 1 percent owner).

No word on what WWWN stands for, but it could stand for something related to women, which its new news/talk format is expected to target (and not anything related to Charlie Sheen or "winning", who departed Two And A Half Men earlier this year and used the term endlessly to describes his battles with Men producer Chuck Lorre.)

Meanwhile, WWWN launched its first on-air news briefs this week. Usually six minutes in length, the news brief features top headlines, traffic reports, entertainment stories, and some commentary.

Only time will tell if this new format Merlin Media is pimping out is "Winning Radio". If not, WWWN might have to trade in the "winning" attitude of Charlie Sheen for the "losing" one of Meg Griffin or the Cubs.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Merlin vs. CBS in a "Fresh" smackdown

Meet Merlin Media's new mascot. Don't let the Florida Marlins garb fool you. 

Ladies and gentlemen... grab a ringside seat because it's time for the Chicago radio smackdown between old standby The Church Of Tisch and newcomer Merlin Media!

In what promises to be the first of many clashes between CBS and Merlin, the two exchanged not-so-friendly letters to each other regarding the use of the word "Fresh".

The corporation that was once ruined by cheapskate Laurence Tisch sent a "cease-and-desist" letter to the company founded by the Court Jester. In it, CBS legal counsel Lauren Marcello warned Merlin Media COO Walter Sabo that WKQX-FM's (now known as WWWN-FM) use of the word "Fresh" infringes on their  copyright as The Church of Tisch uses the moniker for some of its AC stations around the country, including its soon-to-expire WCFS-FM here in Chicago, which simulcasts all-news WBBM-AM beginning on August 1. In the letter (which you can read here), CBS uses language such as "trademark infringement" and "unfair competition" and "cease and desist".

So how did Merlin respond? By sending a letter of rebuttal (which you can read here) to The Church Of Tisch penned by The Merlin Marlin, The New  101.1 Mascot, denying the use of the word "Fresh" on air.

Mr. Marlin also pointed out two Chicago businesses who uses the Fresh name in their  title and their respective websites. The letter concluded by saying the term is used by hundreds of Chicagoland businesses and has no plans to be one of them (and the letter was signed with a smiley face.)

So, you wonder who The Church Of Tisch would go after next? Will Smith, who was once known as The Fresh Prince? Or what about Kool & The Gang, who had a 1985 hit titled Fresh, which went to number nine on the Hot 100, and number one on both the R&B and Dance (12 inch sales) charts?

Yes, Fresh describes CBS Radio's inane way of thinking - keeping a format which turned out to be one of the biggest bombs in recent Chicago radio history - and The Church Of Tisch clowns' blocking local management from instituting needed changes. Ironic why The Church Of Tisch would be pissed off at Merlin for using the word "Fresh" - it was never in CBS Radio's vocabulary to begin with... just look at CBS' lame attempts at Top 40 radio in New York and Los Angeles...

Old cheapskate Larry Tisch - who never approached a "Fresh" way of running CBS  - would be proud.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Radio 101: Taking you back to the old school

Today's lesson on Radio 101: We're taking you back to the old school - with an old school jock.

As part of its soon-to-be launch of its news/talk format, WKQX-FM, which was known as Alternative/Modern Rock Q101, is heading back to its Adult Contemporary roots as part of its "stunting" until its new permanment format is ready to go.

First reported by Robert Feder at Time Out Chicago, WKQX is bringing back former morning man Robert Murphy to helm the 5-10 a.m. morning drive shift starting today, at least in the short-term (and sorry, he won't be bringing his straightjacket, in which he appeared in dozens of ads for the original "Q101" in the 1980's.) Murphy was morning personality at the station through much of the 1980's and early 1990's. He left the station shortly after the flip to Alternative.

Until News/Talk is up-and-running, the station plans to "stunt" with an Adult Contemporary or Hot Adult Contemporary format, which it had until 1992 (in the last few months of the format, Q101 played more up-tempo music during nighttime hours - and yes, the station was programmed by PD Bill Gamble, who would soon flip it to Alternative.)

Meanwhile, Chicagoland Radio & Media released more details about 101.1 FM's new format on Monday. 

An impressive roster of producers, reporters, and on-air talent has been assembled for the new radio station. A partial listing of individuals involved include Ed Curran (whose hiring was announced today), Rob Hart, Brant Miller, Sam Sylk, Lise Dominque, Charlie Meyerson, and Veronica Carter.

New call letters are being assigned to 101.1FM, with WWWN-FM as the front runner (and no, Charlie Sheen will not be involved with this station.)

But judging by the preparation of this project, Randy Michaels & Co. clearly have a "winning" attitude - gets an "A". But executing it is another matter. And if this turns out to be a "losing" proposition and gets an "F", let's just say... there are no refunds for this course.

Homework: Your assignment is to view this 1980's Q101 commercial of Robert Murphy in a straightjacket. Hey, you wish homework was really this fun...

Class dismissed - until tomorrow...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Meet WGN-TV's new late night host... a sheep

The late-night battle for viewers is quite fierce. Battling for audience - and all those ad dollars, you have Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, George Lopez, Chelsea Handler, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Monique, and Frank Woolanski.

Wait a minute... who's Frank Woolanski??

In news first reported by CRM yesterday, Tribune-owned WGN-TV announced it was rebranding its late fringe sitcom block as WGN Night Cap, and its being hosted by a puppet named Frank Woolanski beginning this Monday. Every night, he'll appear in bumpers between the station's sitcoms from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Woolanski will not appear on WGN America.)

WGN currently airs Family Guy, Two And A Half Men, Entourage, Friends, According to Jim, and Curb Your Enthusiasm in late fringe. This fall, WGN plans to add new off-net sitcom 30 Rock to the block while Entourage and Curb exit the station's schedule as both off-HBO series are being pulled from broadcast syndication due to low ratings. WGN and other Tribune who currently air Friends recently extended their contracts to air the series through 2017 - and is being made available in HD beginning in 2013.

This comes as Tribune - a company still mired in Chapter 11 bankruptcy - is trying to find ways to attract viewers to its languishing station group. Recently, CW affiliate KIAH-TV in Houston rebranded and revamped its local newscasts as News Fix; and the company's My Network TV affiliate in Seattle (previously known as KTZZ-TV) changed its call letters to KZJO and rebranded itself as "Joe TV" in September 2010 with four animated series airing back-to-back from 5 to 9 p.m. weeknights branded as Cartoons From Hell. Similar to these two efforts, WGN is already using social media to promote Frank Woolanski via Facebook, Twitter, and through

So you're asking - who is Frank Woolanski? According to his Facebook page, he says he is an unemployed "sleep induction specialist" and he lost his job because he couldn't put people to sleep (he should've got a gig anchoring the local news instead.) He's a native South Sider (a plus... as far as I'm concerned ), and is into '80's hair-metal bands. He also claims his great-great-great Grandpa's wool was made into a jacket for mayor Richard J. Daley. His favorite foods are deep-dish pizza (of course) and Dr. Pepper (which coincidentally is a sponsor of WGN Night Cap.)

While he may not be able to top Svengoolie and Bozo as Chicago's best-known fictional character - at least not yet, the sheep is already funnier than Leno and Letterman.

Did you know? WGN did air a late-night talk show before - but it wasn't successful. In January 1992, Tribune launched the short-lived The Dennis Miller Show, and after months airing at 1:30 a.m. (after the station's late movie), WGN moved the SNL alum to 10:30 p.m. in June 1992, replacing Hunter reruns. After drawing even lower ratings than it did at 1:30 a.m. (and lower than the show it replaced), Tribune decided to pull the plug on Miller in syndication after seven months.

T Dog's Six Pack: Put away the beach ball

For the first time in a long time, its been an active time here on the blog with a lot of breaking local radio news and the demise of Q101- and its only going to get busier with Comic-Con and the Television Critics Association Press Tour coming up and Fresh 105.9's musty smell finally going away. Summer vacation? There's no summer vacation here at The T Dog Media Blog!


Q101's final week. Was Q101's final week perhaps the best material ever to air on Chicago radio? Letting the radio personalities play the music they chose... with a proper goodbye from the staff to its fans and listeners. Brilliant. And the final episode of Local 101 this past Thursday night - paying homage to local musical acts - was the best sendoff of any program - radio or TV - since the February 28, 1983 finale of M*A*S*H.

There is some good news for Q101 fans - the station will live on online - thanks to Broadcast Barter Radio Networks, which will stream the station's old format over Broadcast Barter has also bought the intellectual rights to all Q101 properties - even Robert Murphy's straightjacket from those wacky commercials from the 1980's.

WBBM-AM... now on FM too! In a long overdue move, CBS-owned WBBM-AM is simulcasting its signal on WCFS-FM (105.9 FM). Beginning August 1, the all-news station improves its reach including those who can't get the signal downtown and attracting younger listeners who otherwise would not tune in to AM radio - not to mention increasing revenue.

HBO. The Emmy Awards were announced this week with HBO programming receiving a whopping 104 nominations ranging from Boardwalk Empire to Game of Thrones. HBO's renting a U-Haul.


You, the consumer. Entertainment is sure getting expensive if you're a fan of Steve Dahl or if you use Netflix. Dahl is charging $9.99 a month for his podcasts beginning next month while Netflix users will have to pay $16 a month starting in September if they want to continue to stream content and receive DVDs in the mail. Yeah, the economy is really improving - for some.

The MLB All-Star Game. A sporting event which usually is the highest-rated program of the summer found itself getting beaten by NBC's America's Got Talent and set a record low viewership, losing two million viewers from last year. Reaction to Fox's telecasts were harsh on Twitter as the mid-summer classic has become nothing more than a boring spectacle.

Men Of A Certain Age. TNT's drama about the trials and tribulations of middle-age men was canceled Friday after nearly two years. In a cable TV sea of Jersey Shore, Evil Housewives and Cupcake Wars, this great character-driven drama stood out. Sadly, shows with really thin plots featuring singing "teenagers" are hot these days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fresh goes stale

In news that first broke Thursday afternoon by Robert Feder on Twitter, CBS radio has finally pulled the plug on WCFS-FM, or Fresh 105.9 after three-and-a-half years of underperforming ratings and is replacing the Adult Contemporary format with a simulcast of top-rated WBBM-AM beginning on August 1st.

The move could be read as a preemptive strike against Merlin Media, which plans to flip WKQX from Alternative/Modern Rock to either all-news or News/Talk station. But basically, this move means CBS Radio can gain higher ratings and revenue from the simulcast on 105.9 FM. CBS recently started all-news simulcasting on a FM station in the Bay Area and has been a success from a ratings and revenue standpoint.

Launched on November 5, 2007 at 5 p.m. to replace talker/rocker WCKG-FM, Fresh was a lame, ill-convinced attempt to target females 25-54, using mostly uptempo pop acts. With the field already crowded with female demo powerhouses WLIT and WTMX, Fresh's on-air presentation was lacking at best. In addition, employee turnover was high with low advertiser revenue. Fresh disappointed as usual in the most recent PPM survey with a tie for 20th place - clearly earning its cancellation stripes.

You knew something was wrong with the "Fresh" branding when one of the artists played on the station is Kool & The Gang (which incidentally, had a single called "Fresh".)

With the long overdue plucking of this turkey, Fresh goes down as one of the biggest format flops in Chicago radio history, alongside Jammin' Oldies and the original version ('80's format) of The Zone. The Church of Tisch radio executives out of New York had the gall to think this format still had the potential for success. Even a few local CBS Radio executives wanted the Fresh format out as early as a year-and-a-half ago so they can simulcast WBBM-AM on 105.9. Unfortunately, Chicago CBS Radio execs were vetoed by The Church of Tisch morons in the Big Apple. It took the switch of WKQX-FM's format to all-news for CBS to finally take action. They basically slapped a "Fresh" label on something that was clearly stale. 

With the end of Q101 and now WCFS-FM, Chicago is left with two less music stations on the FM dial.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Q101 to say goodbye with Local 101

These days when a format change takes place at a radio station, it usually happens without notice and the radio personalities are usually thrown out onto the street without the chance to say goodbye.

Thankfully, that won't be the case Thursday as WKQX-FM (Q101) prepares to shift from Alternative/Modern Rock to either all-News or News/Talk. Before handing the keys over to new owners Merlin Media, Emmis Communications is letting its on-air personalities say goodbye to the listeners they connected with over the years. And to top it all off, Q101 is airing a special final edition of Local 101 (which showcased local rock bands) Thursday night at 11pm.

At the same time Q101 goes dark, sister alternative rocker WRXP in New York City is also exiting the format and is also presumably switching to News or News/Talk.

Merlin Media is taking over operations of Q101, WLUP-FM, and WRXP through a local marketing agreement at 12:01 am on Friday. But the programming plans for Q101 and WRXP is anyone's guess since the News/Talk format won't be ready for a couple of weeks. Could Merlin stint with a different format-a-day stunt that was tried at WNIB between for two months in 2001 before converting into WDRV and The Drive?

Meanwhile, many listeners are a praising Q101 for being very creative with their playlists in the station's final days. On Tuesday, former Q101 jock James VanOsdol tweeted: "Q101 sounds great today. Note to radio programmers: don't wait for a format change to let your air talent be real and play music they like."

Amen, brother. Amen.

Did You Know? The last time their was a simultaneous format flip in two different large markets was the June 3, 2005 conversion of Infinity's (now CBS Radio's) WJMK-FM in Chicago and WCBS-FM in New York from Oldies to JACK-FM. Both stations has since dropped the JACK branding and image and became Classic Hits stations.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Merlin Media to take over Q101, The Loop, WRXP early

Remember when Merlin Media purchased a majority stake in WLUP-FM, WKQX-FM (Q101), and New York's WRXP-FM from Emmis Communications and said it would take weeks for them to  take over all three outlets, perhaps as  soon as mid-August.

Well, scrap that: those changes now take place this week.

Merlin announced today it will take over the operations of all three stations via a local marketing agreement on Friday, which means the Alternative/Modern Rock format will be exiting Q101 and WRXP earlier than planned. Both stations are expected to flip to a news/talk format on Friday. No word yet on who the personalities will be for either station.

With the announcement, the entire on-air staff at both stations have been released from their contracts as of Thursday. Out at Q101 are morning personalities Brian Sherman & Steve Tingle; midday personality Christine "Electra" Pawlak; night jock Tim Pogo; afternooner Tim Virgin; and various fill-in and weekend jocks.

The move also marks the end of the Alternative/Modern Rock format at Q101 after 19 years and the end of the Q101 monkier after more than 30 years. 

Meanwhile, there are no changes planned for The Loop, which for now remains Merlin Media's sole music outlet.

With the departure of Q101 and WRXP, Alternative/Modern Rock loses two of the top three markets and the number count reporting to Mediabase drops to 68, a blow for an already struggling format. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Steve Dahl to his podcast listeners: pay up

THIS was the announcement fans of Steve Dahl have been waiting for weeks?

Speculation on "the big news" to be announced Monday at 12 Noon ranged from Dahl heading to Merlin Media to host a talk show at WKQX, a return to WLUP, or even a gig at WGN Radio.

And when noon hit, this was "the big announcement": if you are a listener to his podcasts, you'll have to pony up some dough. 

Seems like a cruel April Fools joke to play on someone in July.

Announcing the news on Twitter, the 34-year Chicago radio veteran plans to charge listeners $9.95 a month beginning August 1 to listen or download his podcasts, which he has been doing for nearly two years.

As you recall, Dahl was dumped from CBS' WJMK-FM (then branded as Jack FM) as morning personality in December 2008 after 13 months due to poor ratings. With a long contract and basically nowhere else to put him, Dahl was shifted to Jack in November 2007 from his longtime afternoon slot at CBS' WCKG-FM when the bosses decided to shift the station's format to Adult Contemporary. In order to reach out to his fans in his absence from radio, Dahl started original podcasts in 2009 with CBS, whom he was still under contract with. Those agreements and contractual obligations came to an end on July 9.

According to a spokesperson for Dahl, his daily podcast has been downloaded nearly 7.5 million times since its inception. 

More details are available at Dahl's website.

This isn't the first time a well-known radio personality has decided to go the pay-model route. After WLUP-FM canceled his show last year, Dr. Demento took his long-time radio show out of syndication and moved it to an Internet-only paid-subscription model

Dahl's decision has been panned on Twitter, Facebook, and various message boards, with many indicating they won't pay to continue to listen for him. But there are others who would gladly pay $10 a month because they believe the content is really that good. With this logic, it seperates the hardcore fans from the causal ones. On the other hand, Dahl greatly reduces his reach beyond the hardcores. And isn't asking fans to pay $120 or so a year a little bit steep? For that price - and his sake, he'd better be putting out the best content in the world.

Wait a all are laughing at what I just said, aren't you? Oh well. Welcome to The Island of Obscure Radio Personalities, Mr. Dahl. And you can forget Rudolph rescuing you - he won't pay the $9.95 to do so because he has that red nose to maintain. But for the price you're charging, I hear Gilligan and the Skipper are available.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

T Dog's Six Pack: The winning (radio) spirit

For the first time ever, the three items in the Winner's circle this week are all radio items - how about that? (of course its summer, and there's very little TV news to report on. But still....)

Winning Attitude.

John Williams. WGN Radio's John Williams raised more than $25,000 during his Thursday show for the Animal Welfare League to replace air conditioning units that were stolen last weekend at its shelter in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood. Cheers and God Bless to Mr. Williams and his listeners for the donations - this is what local radio is all about. At a time when negative headlines dominate local news  - this is one story that stands out in a positive manner.

Tampa Bay CHR radio fans. Here we go again - 22 years after Randy Michaels and WFLZ-FM flipped from Oldies to contemporary hit radio to take WRBQ-FM, Cox communications' is borrowing a page from Michaels' "Power Pig" playbook - by flipping former Retro AC outlet The Point 101.5 (WPOI) to Hot 101.5 to take on FLZ- and attacking FLZ morning personality MJ (Todd Schmitt) and the station on-air and online - is a smart move. However, Hot 101.5 has ALREADY stumbled on the social media front. Removing negative posts about the format flip and banning posters isn't cool - or professional. Ever heard of free speech?

Steve Dahl. By using social media (Twitter and Facebook) to let fans know where he will end up after his CBS contract expires this weekend, Dahl is creating buzz in Chicago media and has everyone in the industry here talking. As Charlie Sheen would say, that's "winning". And smart. He'll announce what his next gig will be Monday at noon on where else? Twitter.

Losing Attitude.

Chicago baseball. I don't give a damn about what Crain's Ed Sherman says in his "winners and losers column" about Chicago baseball - he's full of shaving cream as usual- with ratings heading south for the Cubs and White Sox, Chicago sports fans are more than clamoring for the NFL lockout to end. The hell with this crap, bring on Comic-Con.

Tribune. With the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court ruling telling the FCC that the 2008 cross-ownership rules should get a do-over, Tribune and other media companies - grandfathered or not -  could be forced to divest their portfolios.
Nancy Grace. Okay, you love playing the heel in the media. But how's that working for you? Are you happy in your life? There's a difference between playing a heel in front of the cameras and being one off-camera. Skipping out on a syndicated show with your name on it because you managed to scam someone out of being credited for it tells us what little integrity and moral character you have.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Is the Alternative Rock format on the ropes?

More talk, less music - as in none at all. Say goodbye to Q101, who Winnetka-based Fall Out Boy credits for helping launch its career.

With Randy Michaels about to take over Emmis' WKQX-FM (Q101) in Chicago and  WRXP-FM in New York City and the all-but certain likelihood of shifting both stations from Alternative Rock to either all-news or news-talk, what does this mean for the format?

The Alternative format, (also known as Modern Rock) blends Punk Rock, New Wave, and Grunge music and was adopted by many radio stations in the late 1980's. In 1988, Billboard created a new Modern Rock Tracks chart (now named Alternative Songs Chart) to monitor stations playing such fare. But it was the explosion of Grunge in the early 1990's that put the format on the map, led by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Sonic Youth. Other bands becoming mainstays of the format were Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and Chicago's own Smashing Pumpkins. Even some hip-hop artists made it onto the format, including The Beastie Boys, Eminem, and Kid Rock, and some Alternative Rock songs had elements of rap in them, such as P.O.D.'s Youth of the Nation.

But the last decade hasn't been kind to the Alternative/Modern Rock format. While the advent of the iPod and other MP3 players, satellite and Internet radio, terrestrial radio in general lost listeners but the Alternative/Modern Rock has been affected the most. The number of stations in the Alternative format have also declined in the last few years as audiences' taste shift.

According to Mediabase and All Access, the number of monitored stations in the Alternative/Modern Rock format stands at 70 as of this writing, with 74 Active Rock stations monitored and 34 Mainstream Rock reporting. But these numbers are easily dwarfed by other formats with Country at a whopping 230 stations, followed by CHR/Top 40 (180), Adult Contemporary (147), Hot AC (125), Rhythmic Top 40 (98), Urban AC (86), and Urban (76). Obviously, the splintering of the rock genre into three formats (four if you include Triple A) is a problem, with several acts appearing simultaneously on two charts, or even all three.

Also contributing to rock's struggles is the proliferation of FM Talk stations, the direction Q101 and WRXP are obviously headed. However, the FM expansion is not just unique to replacing rock music formats - "spoken word" formats replaced a CHR in Pittsburgh, and News/Talk replaced six Adult Hits stations, including Nine FM in Chicago and "Movin'" (a Rhythmic AC format) in St. Louis.

And another problem is the lack of advertiser support as the Alternative format as female listeners (who many advertisers pay a premium to reach) fled for the exits over the years to Hot AC and Top 40 stations, thus making the stations less attractive for media buyers. Much like the Smooth Jazz format (which attracted too many older listeners for advertisers' tastes), rock formats tend to skew too young and male - not the female 25-54 audience advertisers target.

As for Q101, the attitude amongst its listeners is "this is what passes for an Alternative format." Many complain about the music having too hard of an edge, with angry and depressing lyrics (which were popular 20 years ago, but how many times you can hear the same Nirvana-like song over and over again?) Others say several artists - Guns N' Roses and Nickelback in particular - do not fit the format. Since the Mancow Mueller era ended in 2006 with a nasty divorce, the station's moves (launching the lame Morning Fix, being "On Shuffle", etc.) alienated what was left of the audience (and even Q101 adding Mancow back in '98 was the beginning of the end from an ad revenue standpoint, as he was basically a female repellent.)

But while the Alternative format is down, it's certainly not out - there are some success stories. CBS-owned KROQ-FM in Los Angeles still does well, attracting a cume of two million listeners a month, even though it came in an unimpressive twelfth in the latest PPM survey. Clear Channel's KTBZ-FM regularly ranks in the top ten in Houston. And Simmons' Media's KXRK-FM in Salt Lake City does phenomenally well, placing third overall in the latest ratings book.

But with the coming departure of two of the largest markets in the nation, the Alternative/Modern Rock format will take a hit. The future of the format will likely live on where niche formats are thriving - satellite radio and online. But in the money-grubbing world of commercial radio, it's a fading format. The piece Alternative takes out of the revenue pie is only going to get smaller and smaller.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jeff Probst signs talk show deal with CBS Television Distribution

Jeff Probst with "Survivor" producer Mark Burnett (left). 

CBS Television Distribution announced on Monday it has signed Survivor host Jeff Probst to helm a daytime syndicated talk show to debut in September 2012.

The Emmy Award-winning host plans to cover a wide variety of topics from newsmakers of the day to families and individuals facing challenges (like having to put up with Probst for an hour?) The series is targeted for daytime and early fringe time periods - the same ones Disney/ABC is targeting for Katie Couric's new talker, also set for September 2012.

"There's no one else in daytime TV like Jeff Probst. He is interested in finding the answers to the same questions our audience is asking, which makes him relatable to both women and men,"according to John Nogawski, President of CBS Television Distribution. Adds CTD's Programming and Development head Aaron Meyerson: "Anyone who has seen Jeff on Survivor knows how he connects with people, and has an instinct that makes him a natural and compelling host for daytime. With the same adventure Jeff approaches his own life, the show will take the same path. Whether it's a newsmaker-of-the-day, a celebrity or ordinary folks, Jeff will go further than typical discussion. The show will cover a range of topics from relationships to human interest. And like Jeff, the show will encourage action, change and discovery."

Probst will continue to host Survivor and serve as executive producer of the show. 

CBS' decision to add Probst to its roster of first-run properties comes as the company's Oprah Winfrey Show ended its run in May after 25 years. Probst will be competing with not only with Couric for time periods, but also newcomers Ricki Lake (which is actually a return) and Anderson Cooper, whose show debuts this fall. Probst could catch a break: CTD has yet to announce renewal plans for talker Rachael Ray, whose contract is up next year. 

Probst has proven to interact really well with guests, particularly with Survivor contestants during those live reunion shows. But should saucy topics - like paternity tests or mothers who sleep with their teenage daughter's boyfriends - should ever come up, keep in mind Probst is more than qualified to handle wild guests - he's had to put up with Johnny Fairplay, Russell Hantz, NaOnka, and Phillip, didn't he?

The Grab Bag: Contract renewals, a promotion, and RTV guts its lineup

RTV: The R stands for "ruined".

- Good news for fans of Richard Roeper and Roe Conn - the duo at WLS-AM signed a three-year contract extension to continue their successful afternoon show through the year 2014. The move come as Cumulus is about to take over Citadel Communications, owners of WLS-AM and FM in a merger.

If you want to see Richard & Roe in action while they are doing their radio show, by golly, you can - the 3 to 6 p.m. portion of the show is simulcast on WMAQ's digital 5.2 subchannel, also known as Chicago Non-Stop.

- Univision has named Carlos San Jose Vice President and General Manager of its Chicago duopoly of WGBO-TV and TeleFutura affiliate WXFT. He begins his new position on July 5 and reports directly to Ramon Pineda, who is Senior Vice President and Regional Director of the Univision Television Group. WGBO is the market's top-rated Hispanic broadcaster.

- If you are one of the few viewers of RTV, then you probably noticed some changes since Sunday - the diginet (whose signal through low-power WPVN has limited reach in the Chicago area) lost rights to the classic series from the NBCUniversal library and replaced the programming with low-budget and obscure fare from The Peter Rodgers Organization (I Spy, The Bill Cosby Show, etc.), a few dramas from Sony Pictures Television, and Canadian dramas from PPI Licensing, such as Cold Squad and DaVinci's Inquest. In addition, RTV has low-budget fare like Crook & Chase, Celebrity Kitchen, The Great Outdoorsman, and Daytime. Not exactly what I call a classic TV channel (what is this... TNN's lineup from 1987?)

No word on why RTV couldn't come to a deal with NBCUniversal, but sources suspect it might have something to do with Comcast's takeover of NBCU earlier this year. The loss comes at a bad time as competitors Antenna TV and MeTV have beefed up their affiliate and their programming lineup.

- As you know by now, HLN nighttime host Nancy Grace is exiting syndicated strip Swift Justice after one season because according to producer CBS Television Distribution, the series is moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles to cut production costs. But according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution media writer Rodney Ho, this might not be the case: Grace was sued for $15 million in March for breaching a contract by former collegue Patricia Caruso, who pitched a syndicated series with Grace and agreed to be executive producer of what would become Swift Justice with Nancy Grace. When the series was announced however, Caruso was not included in the deal. CBS decided to move the show shortly after the lawsuit was filed (Nevada judge Jackie Glass, of  the O.J. Simpson case fame, takes over the show this fall.)

After all, think about it - a TV series moving production from Atlanta to L.A. because its cheaper to shoot there? Strange, given Georgia has tax incentives to lure production away from other locations (Tyler Perry's sitcoms shoot in Atlanta and Steve Harvey's Family Feud moves there this fall from Orlando.) Plus,  BET (and former CW sitcom) The Game moved from Hollywood to Atlanta for this very same reason.

Even more odd, The Game is produced by CBS Television Studios - a sister company to CBS Television Distribution, which syndicates Swift Justice. Something is fishy here... if anyone thinks the real reason Swift Justice is moving to L.A. because  of cheaper production costs, then I have a 2011 Chicago Cubs World Series Souvenir Program to sell you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

WGN-TV, Tribune renew "Friends" through 2017

WCIU clears Rules of Engagement; show now in 75% of country 

You can always count on your Friends - especially in syndication.

Tribune Broadcasting announced a third-cycle syndication renewal for Friends, the Emmy-winning sitcom that was a mainstay on NBC's "Must-See TV" from 1994-2004. The renewals cover the fifteen Tribune stations currently airing the series, including WGN-TV here in Chicago and WPIX-TV in New York  and KTLA in Los Angeles. Tribune stations have carried off-network repeats of Friends since 1998, and ran on WGN at 6 p.m. until 2006 when it was replaced by the ghastly According to Jim (not exactly a bright programming move.) However, Friends has been a solid utility player in late-fringe for years.

Other Tribune markets renewing the series include Philadelphia; Dallas; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Seattle; Miami; Portland,  Ore; Indianapolis; Hartford; Grand Rapids; New Orleans; and Lancaster-Harrisburg-York, Pa. market.

The renewals come as syndicator Warner Bros. announced last month it was pulling HBO's Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm from broadcast syndication after just one season. Both series were cleared primarily on Tribune stations.

-Not only Friends is scoring deals, so are its numerous army of clones (well, at least one of them.) WCIU announced recently it has picked up Sony Pictures Television's Rules of Engagement, beginning in the fall of 2012. The Friends-like sitcom (the difference here in the show features two married couples and a Joey clone played by David Spade) has cleared 75% of the country, including WCIU, WPIX, and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. Other station groups clearing the series include Sinclair, Meredith, Belo, and Newport.

In a rather odd move (for an odd show), CBS is moving Engagement to a Saturday night time slot beginning this fall.

Friday, June 24, 2011

T Dog's Six Pack: You can even win by being a loser

More X Factor for everyone - whether we want it or not.

This week, Randy Michaels makes a comeback - which sends the Alternative Rock format on the ropes; and the Crosstown Classic - not to mention interleague baseball - is a flop. The week's winners and losers:


Randy Michaels. If this was on an ethics level, The Court Jester shouldn't be here. But he is. And he made a bold power play by partnering with private-equity firm GTCR to acquire a majority stake in Classic Rock WLUP-FM, and Alternative/Modern Rock WKQX-FM and New York City's WRXP, with plans to flip WKQX to either an all-news or news/talk station.

X Factor. Fox is so high on this show, they are giving Simon Cowell's baby four hours a week in primetime for its first two months on the air (though it is subject to preemption from the ALCS and World Series.) Have you ever seen hype like this for a freshman show?

My Network TV. (yeah... as you can tell, I'm really stretching the winners list this week.) Another item that shouldn't be here. But after singing CBS-owned independent WSBK-TV in Boston, the programming service now has adequate clearance in the home of the Stanley Cup champions instead of former affiliate WNDS-TV (now known as WBIN), which didn't cover the whole market. 


The Alternative Rock format. With the loss of radio's third largest market and possibly the biggest radio market in the United States, Alternative Rock could be the next Smooth Jazz -a format barely hanging on for dear life. For those who don't want to pay for Sirius/XM or bother with Internet Radio, the options for Alternative Rock fans in New York and Chicago could be severely limited.

Marvel ditches Comic-Con. Disney-owned Marvel shuns the annual comics and geek fanfest for their own D23 Expo in Anaheim (where Disneyland is conveniently located, no less.) What a dick move by Marvel, choosing synergy over fans and providing a parade of lame excuses ("Get bigger or go home".) Look Marvel, this isn't the NATPE Convention and you're not a syndicator. It's a small world after all.

The Crosstown Classic. With the Cubs and White Sox struggling - not to mention Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen ripping into fans, is it any wonder why Chicagoans don't give two shits about the Crosstown Classic? It's about time fans wised up and see what this event really is - an overrated, bloated, boring event sponsored by a bumbling oil company.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Q101, The Loop sold to... Randy Michaels?

The Court Jester rides again.

In a move that took everyone by surprise, Emmis Communications sold controlling interest in WLUP-FM (The Loop) and WKQX-FM (Q101) and a New York City station (WRXP-FM) to a constroium headed by former Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels and Chicago-based equity group investement group GTCR, Inc. 

The news was first reported yesterday as a tip on Robert Feder's Time Out Chicago blog.

Michaels' new company - christened Merlin Media, LLC - is expected to take over all three stations in 45 days under a local marketing agreement (LMA). Emmis also retains "a significant minority stake" in all three stations.

Already, Merlin Media hired two executives to help run its' operations: well-respected Chicago radio veteran John Gehron, who is Merlin's Chairman of the Advisory Board (Gehron remains as Chief Operating Officer of Chicago-based AccuRadio) and Liz Aiello, who is Vice-President and will oversee Merlin's New York station.

Merlin also has launched a website, which basically a placeholder for now.

Emmis' other New York properties, including Hip-Hop/R&B outlet WHQT-FM (Hot 97) and Urban AC WRKS-FM, are not included in the deal and Emmis is retaining full ownership of both properties. Emmis purchased Q101 in 1988 from NBC, when it still was a Pop Adult station (a forerunner to today's Hot Adult Contemporary format.) WLUP was acquired by Emmis in 2005 after swapping stations in Phoenix with Bonneville Broadcasting. Rock outlet WRXP was acquired by Emmis in 1998.

While changes are not expected at WLUP or WRXP, WKQX could be getting a complete overhaul: Merlin is expected to drop the Alternative Rock format which has been present in one form or the other at the station for the past 19 years and launch either a all-news or a news/talk format - meaning the current staff at Q101 is unlikely to be retained.

It's a huge blow to the Alternative Rock format, which is now left with no full-signal station in the nation's third largest radio market. Q101 switched to Alternative Rock from Hot AC in the spring of 1992 and was an instant success, riding high on the popularity of grunge music at the time.

At one time, Q101 was in a heated rivalry with ABC's WZZN-FM (94.7), which flipped to Alternative in September 2001 to take them on and the volley between the two made headlines in the industry - with some comparing it to the WLS-WCFL Top 40 wars of the early 1970's and the WBBM-WYTZ Contemporary Hit Radio wars of the late 1980's (ironically, ABC also owned WYTZ, which was also on the 94.7 frequency.) In 2003, The Zone adjusted its format to Active Rock, but folded in September 2005 leaving Q101 as the victor.

While Q101 was successful in attracting a young male audience and had decent billing, the station was doing poorly overall, tied for 22nd in the latest PPM reports. On the other hand, WLUP's ratings have grown since a format adjustment in January, finishing 16th overall in those same reports. The lackluster ratings for both stations showed up in the balance sheets: Emmis was bleeding in the red locally and there has been speculation building for the past year about the potential sale of both stations.

For Randy "Court Jester" Michaels, he returns to the Chicago media scene in a bigger force than expected. Michaels left the Tribune Co. in disgrace last year amid allegations of lewd conduct within the walls of the Tribune Tower - some of the shenanigans described in a new book written by former Tribune employee Jim O'Shea. Michaels also hired many of his ex co-workers/cronies at Jacor/Clear Channel like Lee Abrams, one-time Howard Stern-boss Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny, and countless others. The Court Jester is best known for his remarkable turnaround of Tampa's WFLZ in 1989 and basically re-writing the book in taking on - and taking down a competitor. Unfournately, he fell flat on his face in Chicago when he tried to re-invent flagging WYTZ in 1991 by renaming it "Hell 94.7". It lasted a week, with the CHR format exiting the station later that year.

But in a business that seemingly rewards failure (see Katie Couric and Jay Leno), Michaels' resurgence was a given. Nobody expected it to happen this soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

T Dog's Six Pack: Dewey defeats Dallas

It's like saying Power 92 is #1 in the Streets!

Yep, it's been a week of mistakes for some - ask the Miami Herald and the Toronto Star who declared some teams champions last week when they weren't, and for anyone who went into Downtown Vancouver Wednesday evening. It's not just some bizarre universe where Dewey defeated Truman for President - nope, it's another edition of T Dog's Six Pack (actually, it's seven...):

Trophy worthy

NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals rock the house. The six-game NBA Finals and the seven-game Stanley Cup Final were rating smashes: The Mavericks-Heat series drew an average of 17.3 million viewers, with 23.9 million tuning in for the sixth and deciding game, in which the Dallas Mavericks won their first NBA title. Meanwhile, the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins drew 8.54 million viewers for NBC in the U.S. and a record 8.76 million for the CBC in Canada, making it the most-watched NHL telecast in the country's history. The Bruins won their first Cup title since 1972.

Oprah Winfrey. The last first-run episode of her long-running talk show drew 16.4 million viewers and an 11.5 household rating- the most watched episode of the show since 1993. Congrats, Oprah! (on the other hand, she has a lot of work to do to try to get viewers to watch her newly-launched OWN network.)

WLS-FM. Remember when the 94.7 frequency would go through some kind of a format change at least every two years? - Well, WLS is having its biggest ratings success since the early years of the WYTZ/Z95 era.  In the May PPM survey, the oldies outlet finished as the second-most listened music station in Chicago, and finishing first in the 35-64 demo - not  to mention burying newcomer K-Hits (WJMK-FM).

Razzie worthy

Power 92. After firing its three most popular radio personalities and finishing in a tie for 27th place overall (and 12th among its target 18-34 audience) in the May PPM survey, it's time to write off Power 92 as a lost cause. New slogan should be "Power 92: #1 as a Major Fail In The Streets".

TV Critics blown away in the Windy City. With Paige Wiser's forced departure from the Sun-Times, Chicago's two major newspapers are left without a full-time TV critic for the first time in recent memory - a huge loss for the medium locally.

LeBron James. Oh what class you show on - and off the court. Ripping the fans who hate you saying they have "miserable lives" was classic. Yes, we "miserable people" don't have championship rings... oh that's right LeBron... neither do you. What an asshole.

All right... let's add one more item...

Vancouver. Speaking of assholes, Canucks fans booed the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup Presentation Wednesday night and acted like a bunch of assclowns with a post-game riot, which included breaking windows, setting fires, and looting stores. These morons gave Vancouver a black eye and made the city they live in the butt of jokes around the world (something Chicago is used to.) LeBron James would be a perfect fit up there - if Vancouver still had a basketball team, that is.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WGN-TV expands morning news to 4 a.m.

If you thought the 4:30 a.m. news craze was something... wait 'til you hear about the next one in the works - the 4 a.m. news craze.

Tribune's WGN-TV announced today it is launching a new 4 a.m. newscast beginning on July 11th, becoming the first station in the Chicago market to expand into the half-hour. The move comes as more and more viewers are waking up earlier to start their commutes (or so they say.) But what's driving this early morning news expansion is advertiser demand - many are willing to pay a premium to reach viewers heading out the door in the morning.

Erin McElroy (formerly Mendez) and Paul Konrad will anchor the newscast from 4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., with Larry Potash and Robin Baumgartnen taking over for McElroy at 5:30 when she shifts over to the traffic beat.

With the expansion, WGN now has five hours of news in the morning from 4 to 9 a.m - more than any other Chicago station, and nine hours of news a day - roughly over a third of its daily schedule. 

WGN usually leads the market with its morning newscasts, ahead of Good Morning America and Today and decisively beats WFLD's competing newscasts.

With WGN shifting to a 4 a.m.start for its news, look for others to do the same: WMAQ-TV became the first to offer a 4:30 a.m. newscast in 2007 and the rest of Chicago's stations eventually followed.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Grab Bag: Power 92 fires its daytime personalities; VanOdsol exits Q101; and Rosenthal's new gig

Sorry, you guys never really were.

It's an all-local version of The Grab Bag! News and notes from Chicago media:

- In news that broke Friday evening on Chicagoland Radio and Media's website, Urban Contemporary WPWX-FM (Power 92) has drastically changed its weekday lineup by cutting loose several of its on-air personalities including late morning host Trey Da Chocolat Jock, early afternoon host Shawn Knight, and late afternoon host Sam Sylk, who used to work for rival WGCI. The station also plans to spit its evening team The Hot Boyz with Shag Nice staying in evenings while Tone heads to afternoons. Power 92 also plans to drop The Tom Joyner Morning Show with The Rickey Smiley Show (Joyner can still be heard on Soul 106.3.)

The shakeups are merely a cost-cutting move.  

After nearly pulling even with WGCI in the ratings a little over two years ago, Power 92 has all but collapsed since. In the last PPM survey, WPWX ranked 28th in the 12+ numbers, while WGCI placed 11th. Despite this, all three of their daytime personalities did manage to ranked in the top 10 in the adults 18-34 demographic - but each still trailed WGCI. Whatever it is, it's time to write off Power 92 as a lost cause, despite their self-proclaimed ranking as "#1 In The Streets".

At this time, the station has no plans to change formats.

- Also exiting from radio - but on completely different terms - is James VanOdsol, who is leaving Alternative Rock WKQX-FM (Q101) to focus more on selling his new book Off The Record Collection: Riffs, Rants, and Writings About Rock. VanOdsol had been the hardest working man in Chicago radio - in addition to holding down weekend shifts at Q101, he also was an Affiliate Manager for Emmis Interactive during the  week (Emmis owns Q101 and WLUP-FM.) VanOdsol is also a rock music blogger.

A book release party is scheduled for June 24 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Challengers' Comics + Conversation at 1845 N. Western in Chicago. He'll be on hand to sign autographed copies of his book.

- Another shake up on Chicago's media beat - but this time its good news: Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal is becoming the paper's new business writer, beginning next week. Rosenthal will cover a wider aspect of the business world as opposed to the media business, which he has been writing about for the Tribune since April 2005. Rosenthal previously was the Sun-Times' TV Critic and before that, he also wrote about sports and sports media for the Sun-Times.

The Tribune plans to make an announcement in the coming days regarding its media beat coverage. Congratulations to Phil Rosenthal on his new job!

Phil Rosenthal is not related to the Everybody Loves Raymond creator and producer of the same name.

T Dog's Think Tank: Rewarding failure

"I failed at doing the CBS Evening News. Now ABC is going to reward me with a big contract for doing a talk show no one will watch. Suckers!! "

On Monday, Katie Couric joined The Walt Disney Company as a syndicated talk show host in what has to be the worst syndicated deal ever. The multi-year, multi-platform deal also has Couric as a regular contributor to ABC News, where she'll appear on the network's news platforms.

Yes, this is the same Katie Couric who flopped as an anchor for the storied CBS Evening News, which was in last place during the duration of her run. She departed the show on May 19.

And guess who's on board as executive producer of Couric's new show? None other than former NBC exec Jeff Zucker, who nearly brought the network down with his boneheaded decisions.

It's just another example of how the media business rewards failure. But don't be surprised - we Chicagoans are used to it - the Cubs and Bears reward failure all the time. It explains why Jay Cutler, Lovie Smith, and that Marmol pitcher on the Cubs still have jobs (it also explains why current WFLD news director Carol Fowler keeps getting work.)

Yeah, yeah, I know - Couric and Zucker worked together at NBC's successful Today Show back in the 1990's. But this is a "what you have done for us lately" business. Since both left Today, Couric and Zucker haven't really done anything worth noting.

No point investing in fresh new talent when you can grab today's has-beens, thrust them in front of and behind the camera, and call this bullshit a success with a 1.0 rating. Even local stations aren't buying this game anymore, as local station GMs are having doubts on whether Couric can succeed (see Jane Pauley's venture into talk show hell a few years ago.) If viewers didn't want to see Couric anchor the news, why would they want to see her host a talk show (though admittedly, her talker would likely be in the vein of Oprah, and viewers would like to see Couric more in that type of role.)

Even more stupefying is how this deal came about.

ABC announced it has cleared Couric at 3 p.m. time slot on all eight of its owned stations, including WLS-TV in Chicago, where it would be replacing long-time ratings winners Inside Edition and Jeopardy! (to see the full list of programs the ABC-owned stations are airing at 3 and 4 p.m., click here.) But at the same time, the network announced it was giving the affiliates the time slot back to program - and hoping ABC affiliates pick up Couric.

Say what?

Yep, ABC is giving the 3 p.m./2 p.m. Central time slot so the affiliates can program themselves. But there's no doubt ABC's syndication division will pitch their own affiliates first before going to NBC and CBS stations. Good grief, wouldn't it be easier to put Couric's talk show on the network at 3 p.m. (ET) instead?

Simple. ABC and Couric thinks it can make more money going the syndication route rather can clearing it for free on their own network.

There was actually something on the books back in the day that would actually prevented all of this. Called the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (or fin-syn for short), the rules kicked the networks out of the syndication business, prevented them from owning programming in prime-time (existing programming was grandfathered), and kept them from acquiring or merging with major studios. Created in 1970, the rules were were done in 25 years later by the rise of Fox, cable, satellite TV, and the Internet. And with those rules gone, we see lots and lots of vertical integration, which has stifled creativity and unleveled the playing field.

But the real loser in all of this is the longtime soap General Hospital.

The 48-year soap could be axed if the replacements for the already canceled All My Children and One Life to Live bomb in the ratings.

ABC said it would "continue to support" GH, but we all know this is a cock-and-bull story. The reason ABC canceled the two other soaps were because of high production costs and declining ratings (or so they say.) Even with lower ratings, the  two lifestyle shows - The Chew and The Revolution - would be cheaper to produce than soap operas and could make a profit - even with lower ratings because of lower production costs. And even if one or both of the series fail, ABC could easily come up with new programs in the lifestyle genre to replace them - General Hospital getting even one of those spots isn't guaranteed.

And General Hospital's recent ratings performance doesn't help its cause either. Neither does the decision not to renew the contract of actress Vanessa Marcil, who returned to the series last year after stints in prime-time shows including Beverly Hills 90210 and Las Vegas.

So rewarding failure is commonplace in media, in sports, in life. If Katie Couric fails at this new venture (or more likely, her show loses a boatload of money five years from now), look for ABC to replace her with former Will & Grace co-star Megan Mullally, whose talk show expired after only a few months in 2006. If it were up to these fools, she would probably get another shot. And why not? Former NBC exec Ben "Party All The Time" Silverman would be producing.