Monday, March 28, 2011

T Dog’s Think Tank: Fox Chicago News: Major Fail.

Your official mascot for Fox Chicago News.

A little over two weeks ago, yours truly was channel surfing on the night the earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit in Japan and landed on Fox-owned WFLD-TV around 9:02 p.m. or so. While almost every news organization in the world led off with the disaster in the far eastern country, what did Fox News Chicago lead off with?

The NFL lockout, which began the same day.

You have GOT to be kidding me - a conflict between greedy owners and players in a sport that rakes in millions of dollars a year takes precedent over TWO catastrophic events that killed thousands of people in Japan and left the country in peril?

Somebody at WFLD needs to have their ass kicked. Seriously.

For the last 24 years, WFLD’s news operation has been treated like a joke in Chicago media circles, and moronic decisions like these is the reason they still are. It's no surprise the head dork in charge of its news operation is none other than Carol Fowler, who was the genius in deciding to air a video of former WMAQ-TV reporter Amy Jacobson coming out of suspected murderer Craig Stebic’s house back in 2007 while she was news director at CBS-owned WBBM-TV – who was one of the many hires of Joe Ahern at The Church of Tisch – yes, she was the one who clubbed you over the head with a collection basket if you didn’t make a "voluntary financial contribution" for Ahern’s lunch. Since she’s taken over WFLD, many longtime veterans of the station – including Jack Conaty and Lilia Chacon – were shown the doors.

And the incompetence is showing in the ratings – WFLD trails rival WGN’s newscasts and during one night in the February sweeps, WFLD’s newscast from 9:30 p.m.-9:45 p.m. was even beaten by a Seinfeld repeat on its WPWR sister station, which is also struggling (and they even couldn't keep him - Seinfeld recently defected to the better-marketed and better-managed WCIU.) While you can make the excuse the 9 p.m. hour (10 p.m. ET) is tough for every broadcaster right now due to the success of cable programs in the time period (notably MTV’s Jersey Shore) and heavy DVR use, WFLD’s ratings should be better, or at least competitive with WGN's.

On Chicagoland Radio and Media's message board this past week, a poster mentioned the head honchos at Fox Television Stations (who oversees all the Fox O&Os and ten Fox-owned My Network TV stations in the group) are not pleased with the situation at WFLD and are demanding changes. One thing you can forget is a news expansion, which was targeting 5 p.m. weekdays and weekend mornings. Among all of the Fox O&Os who run newscasts at either 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., WFLD’s is the lowest-rated, and the two stations in the Fox duopoly are the weakest performers in the entire group of 27 stations, though a case can also be made for New York’s WWOR-TV.And the arrival of Mike Renda from sister station WTXF in Philadelphia haven't helped matters; if fact, the ratings situation has only worsened.

Bringing back Bob Sirott to pair with Robin Robinson at 9 p.m. hasn’t worked, and the longer, in-depth segments aren’t getting the job done. For example, bringing Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkish to talk to sports anchor Lou Canellis about the lockout was not necessary (anytime the unlikable Arkish appears on radio or TV is enough to turn the dial) Overall, WFLD’s newscasts are completely the worst, with ambush-like interviews and embarassing gaffes, including a Cook County Judge who sued the station for defaming him, claiming he was home on a weekday afternoon while he should have been at work. Only problem is, the footage WFLD showed wasn't even his house. Not surprisingly, mush-for-brains Fowler was named in the suit.

As for the pairing of Corey McPherrin and Anna Davalantes for the station’s Good Day Chicago morning show... well, you know your morning show is bombing when it finishes behind CBS This Morning, The Early Show, or whatever program The Church of Tisch is airing these days at 7 a.m. You have to ask what once-rising star Ms. Davalantes was thinking when she took a job with this failing news organization. It reminds yours truly of Buffy The Vampire Slayer moving from The WB to UPN in 2001 – the show fell right off the buzz meters when it did.

As for the rest of the station, WFLD’s overall ratings – and those of sister station WPWR  - are weak with the duopoly getting clobbered by other stations in the market, including WCIU. Despite airing some top-notch syndicated fare (notably Dr. Oz and repeats of The Simpsons and The Office), viewers continue to stay away in droves. This fall, WFLD has the rights to the new Anderson Cooper talk show and reruns of The Big Bang Theory, but it remains to be seen if those programs will attract an audience to the Fox duopoly.WPWR usually is seen as Chicago television's version of Siberia as I've noted before; just look at the ratings for Everybody Loves Raymond, which hasn't been a success for WPWR or any of the My Net stations since they took the off-net sitcom from five Tribune stations in 2008.

The state of WFLD and WPWR reminds yours truly of the woes the old WGBO-TV faced back in the day. The not so "Super 66" was your home for endless reruns of Knight Rider, Mayberry RFD, and The Rifleman, and plenty of fourth-rate first-run syndicated programming, infomercials, and lousy movies -  all of which produced a wonderful 2 share. In the mid-1980's, Milt Grant, the owner of then-English-language independent ovespent on programming nobody wanted to see, and went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy shortly thereafter. By 1989, WGBO (and Grant's other stations in Philadelphia and Miami) went into receivership and wound up being owned by a bunch of creditors calling themselves Combined Broadcasting, who put very little money in marketing WGBO - similar to what Fox is doing now with its Chicago duopoly. Combined finally unloaded WGBO to Univision in 1994.

Recently, WLNE-TV in New Bedford, Mass. - one of ABC's weakest-rated affiliates - went into receivership and was won at auction by Citadel Communications (no relation to the radio company of the same name.) Like WFLD in Chicago, WLNE's newscasts have been treated as a joke for decades given its distant third (or sometimes fourth) place standing in the Providence market. WLNE recently made headlines for airing infomercials instead of its local newscast at 7 p.m., including one for the Genie Bra.

Apparently, the local Fox duopoly won't go into receivership anytime soon. But I'll tell you one thing - the clueless dorks running both stations have until June to get their act together, or they're history. Then again, Fox did renew perennial ratings-loser Fringe for another season, so who knows? In the meantime, WFLD should adapt Twitter’s FailWhale as a station logo – after all, their newscasts and the duopoly overall are a major fail.

Maybe WFLD should take the lead from WLNE and air bra infomercials at 9 p.m. every night instead. Given the "boob" who run the station's news operation, even a paid program featuring women showing off their curves would be better than watching another Fox Chicago newscast.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

T Dog’s Six Pack: Needing some extra “support”

Ah, lucky Providence, R.I. They get to see women in bras in the prime access hour. We Chicagoans get Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson.

You know, it's hard to be a bra salesman these days in Providence when you have the Internet... and now you have infomercials running as early as 7 p.m.! Is it no surprise that 25% of all bra sales in Rhode Island are from Quahog? Some woman named Lois is a huge customer (not to mention Quagmire's dates... oh, wait a minute, his dates don't wear bras....) Anyway, here are the winners and losers from the past two weeks:

"They're real... and they're spectacular". 

March Madness. CBS affiliates may not like it, but college hoops fans sure are: Ratings for the new format for this year's tournament - with the addition of TBS, TNT, and TruTV and carrying the games in their entirety - resulted in an across-the-board ratings increase when you add the ratings from all four networks combined, as opposed to only CBS carrying the tourney in 2010. The move has been praised by critics and fans alike since due to the ability to channel surf between games. Harry Jessell from TVNewsCheck doesn't like it, but who cares what he thinks? It should always be fans first. Broadcasters need to drop the RIAA-like attitude.

K-Hits. Okay, so the debut of K-Hits on WJMK has much as the same music its predecessor had (JACK FM.) But with local voices returning to the frequency for the first time in years (including old favorites Eddie & JoBo), it's all good - and it just got better Monday with the hiring of former WLS-AM personality (and Larry Lujack's sidekick) Tommy Edwards and the recent hire of former B96 jock George McFly.

Chicago Bulls.  Blowing out opponents on back-to-back nights! Weren't LeBron James and Chris Bosh supposed to do this for the Miami Heat? 

"These are phony as hell. And they leak."

All My Children. What's this? Erica Kane & Co. faltering? According to a report Monday in Deadline Hollywood, ABC is considering canceling the 41-year soap due to declining ratings and ballooning production costs. If Children does depart this fall, consider this another blow to WLS-TV's ratings dominance as the station is already losing top-rated The Oprah Winfrey Show this spring. All My Children has been Chicago's top daytime serial in the ratings dating back all the way back to the 1980's. But with the series recently placing last nationally among six remaining soaps among women 18-49, it looks like Ms. Kane has sprung a "leak".

The Bachelor. Really, why are people still watching this show with 25 "boobs" competing for the affections of an idiot. 13 million viewers for the finale (with reports of yet another breakup), easily winning its Monday night timeslot on March 7? It says a whole lot about our country as TV viewers.

WLNE. So Providence's ABC affiliate decided nearly two weeks ago to pre-empt its low-rated 7 pm newscast for one night for an even lower-rated bra infomercial, soliciting ridicule from many in the industry - not to mention plenty of boob jokes. The station - which was in receivership - was purchased in auction March 22 by Citadel Broadcasting (no relation to the just-sold radio chain), headed up by Phil Lombardo. WLNE has been a weak performer for ABC for years and floated around a threat to drop the station's affiliation if the auction winner wasn't to the network's liking (in 1995, CBS purchased then-ABC affiliate WPRI-TV - just to dump WLNE as an affiliate due to the outlet's poor performance, ending an eighteen-year relationship. LIN Broadcasting now owns WPRI.)

But back to bra-gate for just a second... For those who thought WLNE's 7 p.m. newscast should have aired, it could've been worse...They might have substituted The Cleveland Show instead.

Monday, March 21, 2011

WGA, AMPTP reach new three-year deal

While there is currently labor discord in the NFL and with public employees in Wisconsin, there is labor peace in one place where there was turmoil nearly four years ago - Hollywood.

The Writers Guild of America and The Association of Motion Picture of Television Producers - who represents the major Hollywood studios and the television networks - reached a tentative agreement on Sunday. The new three-year deal includes:

- 2 % increase in annual wage rates

- 20% increase in premium channel residuals

- A 1.5% increase in employer pension contributions (from 6% to 7.5%)

The new pact stands in contrast to the labor mess that occurred during the 2007-08 television season when the WGA went on strike for 100 days over new media and network television residuals, among other issues. The strike decreased the amount of original episodes for many series (effectively cutting their season short) and practically shut down Hollwood, costing the studios, strikers, other workers, and the Los Angeles area millions in lost revenue.

The strike also hurts the major broadcast networks as many viewers fled for the exits to cable and other viewing options as they were forced to air reruns and low-rent reality fare - mirroring a similar situation during the 1988 strike.

The new deal - which has  to be ratified by rank-and-file WGA members in order for it to take effect - falls in line with AMPTP's recent labor deals involving other union guilds representing actors and directors.

So if these guilds and the Hollywood studios got deals done rather quickly and quietly - why can't the NFL and its players union?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Couric, Lake among 2012 syndie talk show contenders

While The Race to Replace Oprah has come and gone with a whimper (and a missed opportunity to use this annoying phrase repeatedly), the 2012 development season is shaping up to be a different story with two familiar names leading the pack thus far, according to a pair of exclusives Broadcasting & Cable reported on its website Monday.

Current CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric’s $15 million a year salary expires in three months and word on the street is she's looking to launch a production company and her own syndicated daytime talk show for fall 2012. Leading the charge is syndication veteran Ed Wilson, a well-respected individual who has headed up syndication operations at NBC Enterprises, Tribune, and others. Showing interest in a Couric syndie talker would be CBS Television Distribution (owned by CBS Corp.) and NBC Universal Television. If she were to launch a talk show, she would need to depart the CBS Evening News when her contract expires.

If Couric succeeds in doing so, a likely home would be NBC’s owned-and-operated stations - but if the show is distributed by sister company NBCU, though who syndicates it could possibly be flexible. Couric is still best remembered for her 15-year run as co-host of NBC’s Today, rather than her current stint at CBS Evening News, which remains in third place in the network evening news race. 

While the article notes Couric would not be a good fit for Tribune given its conflict talkers or the Fox O&Os because of its cost, keep in mind Chicago stations' needs are different from other markets where O&Os are prevalent.  For instance, Tribune-owned WGN-TV airs Live with Regis & Kelly (which usually airs on ABC O&Os) and airs only one of NBC Universal’s conflict talkers (Maury) as opposed to New York's WPIX and Los Angeles' KTLA, which airs all three (locally, Jerry Springer and The Steve Wilkos Show both air on Weigel’s WCIU.) Couric's show could wind up on WGN or Fox-owned WFLD absent of any group deal.

Couric is not the only name throwing her hat into the syndie talk ring for fall 2012: Ricki Lake is plotting a talk show comeback. The 42 year-old mother of two has been meeting with Twentieth Television and at least one broadcast group rep and interest in her has also been piqued by both CTD and NBCU. A deal hinges on whether or not Couric signs on with the two latter syndicators. Unlike her previous effort, Lake plans to aim her new show at  a older female audience, as opposed to the young-female driven talker she hosted in her heyday.

Lake pioneered the young-female skewing conflict format (for better or worse) when her talk show launched on September 13, 1993. The series got off to a slow ratings start, but quickly grew into a young female powerhouse, often finishing second behind The Oprah Winfrey Show among females 18-34 and 18-49, and delivered Columbia (now Sony) Pictures Television its first first-run syndication hit in its 40-year history. Typical topics would include man-stealing, paternity tests, homophobia, dysfunctional families, and more - the material which is the basis of oh- so many reality television series.

By 1998 however, Jerry Springer upped the ante in the sleaze department and eclipsed Lake in the ratings. Lake retired from the daily talk show grind on August 27, 2004, as Sony was more interested in pushing View rip-off and future dud Life & Style - perhaps the worst daytime talk show to ever air in the history of television (not to mention a member of The T Dog Media Blog TV Hall Of Shame, so that validates it.) Lake has been itching to return to daytime television since 2005 – a year removed from her show and the same year Life & Style limped off the air.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sun-Times Chairman Jim Tyree dies (updated)

Photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times

(Editor's note: This story was updated on March 19, 2011 due to new information.)

Chicago Sun-Times Chairman James C. Tyree, (known as Jim Tyree) passed away Wednesday night at the age of 53.  On Friday, the Cook County medical examiner's office ruled his death an accident from an air embolism after a dialysis catheter removal. Secondary causes of his death were due to complications from stomach cancer and pneumonia.

Tyree became Chairman of the Sun-Times after leading an investment group to buy the Sun-Times Media Group out of bankruptcy two years ago for $5 million, including the assumption of $20 million in debt.

Tyree was also Chairman of Mesirow Financial Group.

A philanthropist, Tyree donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and championed research on diabetes.

Tyree grew up on Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood on the South Side and graduated from Marist High School in the spring of 1975. He earned his MBA from Illinois State University and also attended classes at the City Colleges of Chicago. In 2000, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Tyree as Chairman of the City Colleges, a position he held until 2009, when his investment group took over the Sun-Times.

Jim Tyree is survived by his wife Eve, and three children.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goodbye to you, “Jack”; Hello “K-Hits”

The JACK FM era in Chicago ended around 12:35 p.m. with a whimper as WJMK-FM played the rather bland “Goodbye to You”, a forgettable chart hit by the 1980’s band Scandal instead of Ray Charles “Hit The Road Jack”, as in JACK FM.

Forgettable is what you can describe JACK FM’s six-year tenure in the Chicago market.

Today was the day WJMK made its switch from rock-leading Variety Hits to Classic Hits format “K-Hits”, with the moniker “Chicago’s Greatest Hits of the ‘60’s, ‘70’s. and ‘80’s”, playing classic pop and rock hits from the mid-1960’s to the late 1980’s. WJMK’s “K-Hits” is a primary competitor to Citadel/Cumulus’ WLS-FM and a secondary competitor to WILV-FM (100.3, minus the 1960’s-early 1970’s hits.)

Prior to “Goodbye to You” here’s what WJMK played, all in ascending order: R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World And We Know It (And I Feel Fine); REO Speedwagon’s “Time For Me To Fly”; and Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Will Do You Good”, the last 1990’s song played on the frequency.

Notice a theme here?

From 12:44 p.m. to 1:04 p.m., WJMK aired a montage of music, news-making sound bites, and pop culture ditties – similar to what WCBS-FM in New York City did when it flipped from JACK FM to Classic Hits on July 12, 2007, albeit with a few differences – the WJMK montage did not include the years 1964 and 1965 and the WJMK montage focused on every year of the 1980’s. (To here the WCBS-FM montage from 2007, click here. To hear today’s flip at WJMK, click here.)

The first song WJMK played under its new format at 1:04 p.m. was “Beginnings” by Chicago, then new morning personalities Eddie & JoBo welcomed listeners to their new music home. That was followed up by Rolling Stones’ top five 1981 hit “Start Me Up” and Maxine Nightingale’s “Back Were We Started From”.

Eddie & JoBo’s first full day will be tomorrow morning.

But what’s that? You miss JACK FM? No problem, your old buddy T Dog has you covered. Click this link and you’ll be taken to a map where you can find online streams of many JACK FM stations from around the United states, Canada, and Europe – some are localized; others air a nationally syndicated format distributed by Dial Global.

JACK FM’s origins date back to 2000 to an Internet radio stream created by Bob Perry. The first terrestrial JACK FM radio station was Vancouver’s CKLG-FM in 2002; the first U.S. radio station to use the name was KJAC-FM in April 2004. 

The last major format switch in Chicago took place on May 22, 2009, when WNUA-FM dropped its Smooth Jazz format of 22 years and became “Mega 95.5”, with a pop-leaning Spanish music format.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

T Dog’s Six Pack: Winning and Losing

Harry Teinowitz: "I'm winning." 

Okay, so Charlie Sheen is “winning” – if your definition of winning is being fired off a hit show, having police raid your house, and jumping the shark on Twitter after only a week. But the winners and losers this week are for real: They’re really winning and losing, not some dopey sham job Sheen is foisting on the public. Thus, here are the REAL winners and losers in media this week:

I’m Winning

CBS Radio’s decision to kick JACK-FM to the curb. Out with JACK and in with K-Hits: The Variety/Adult Hits format is being shelved for a Classic Hits one and live and local personalities (with Eddie & JoBo in morning drive) instead of Jack’s goofy one-liners.

Chicago Bulls. Sunday’s game against LeBron James and the Miami Heat drew a whopping 11.5 household rating on ABC-owned WLS-TV during the noon-2:30 p.m. time frame and a 3.6 rating nationally. The next night, the Bulls broke a ratings record for NBCUniversal’s Comcast SportsNet with a 7.2 rating for a game against the New Orleans Hornets. That’s real winning.

American Idol. In its tenth season, American Idol is still a force to be reckoned with – even with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler as new judges and Simon Cowell nowhere to be found – the series still dominates the ratings pulling over 20 million viewers a week. Mercy!

Charlie Sheen. Um… no you’re not, Charlie. Get your butt back in the other category.

I’m Losing

JACK. Remember, we don’t take requests! During your six-year run in Chicago, you had very few listeners for you to take requests, anyway.

Harry Teinowitz. One of the hosts of Disney-owned WMVP-AM’s (aka ESPN 1000) Afternoon Saloon was arrested last week in north suburban Skokie for DUI for alcohol and cannabis (the latter charge was dropped.) Good grief, was he coming back from a party thrown by Charlie Sheen? Given who his employer is – who suspended him until next week – then extended the suspension after new details came out on his arrest, Teinowitz will likely join Sheen in the unemployment line. Yeah, that’s “winning”.

WFLD’s 9 p.m. newscast. While everyone else made the earthquake in Japan a top priority in their newscasts, what did Fox-owned WFLD lead off with on Friday night instead? The NFL labor dispute pitting millionaire players against billionaire owners. And you wonder why the station’s newscasts languishes in last place (in February, WFLD’s Fox News Chicago newscast at 9 p.m. drew only a 2.3 household rating, down 32 percent from last year.) Really, station management needs to fire the idiot news director (and its someone who Amy Jacobson is familiar with.)

WFLD’s newscast is getting a new producer (veteran Mike Lederman) soon, and boy, will he have his work cut out for him.WFLD won't be "winning" for a long time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jacked out: WJMK dumps Variety Hits format

Eddie & JoBo return to Chicago radio to new “K-Hits”, which replaces JACK-FM.

WJMK will not be "jacking" their body any longer.

In news that was circulating ferociously for the last 48 hours, it is now official: CBS Radio's WJMK-FM – known for the last six years as rock-leaning Variety Hits (a.k.a. Adult Hits) JACK FM – is flipping to a Oldies/Classic Hits hybrid known as K-Hits 104.3, with former WBBM-FM (B96) duo Eddie Volkman and Joe Bohannon (also known as Eddie & JoBo) at the helm in morning drive. The moves are in effect starting Monday.

News of this story was first reported late Wednesday night on Robert Feder’s blog at Time Out Chicago. Earlier in the day, industry website Radio Insight reported that two domain names were registered: and While it was reported that WJMK and WCFS (Fresh FM, 105.9) were targeted for the switch, it was obvious JACK FM would be the one to flip.

In Feder’s blog Wednesday, Eddie & JoBo alluded to a possible deal with an unknown radio station for a gig, but did not say whom with due to legal reasons. For the past year, the duo have been doing Saturday nights and fill-in work at WLS-AM.

WJMK also revealed today in Phil Rosenthal’s Tower Ticker blog the other personalities scheduled for airshifts at the station: former B96 radio personality Gary Spears (who was at B96 from 1982-84 and 1990-94 and was previously at CHR powerhouse KIIS-FM in Los Angeles) will take the midday shift, while another former B96 alum (Bo Renyolds, who was at the station from 1987-90) is expected to take the helm in afternoon drive. More live and local personalities are expected to be added over time.

The tagline for the new WJMK is K-Hits 104.3: Chicago's Greatest Hits of the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s, and the K-Hits format is similar in style to sister station WCBS-FM who it and WJMK flipped to the JACK FM on the same day (June 3, 2005.) In New York, the JACK FM flip was a complete disaster, sending WCBS right to the ratings basement, and was even criticized by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On July 12, 2007, WCBS returned to its Oldies roots as a Oldies/Classic Hits hybrid (for the record, the last song played on New York’s JACK FM was Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey – ending abruptly at the same point when it was played during the Sopranos finale. You can hear the aircheck here.)

In Chicago, WJMK’s JACK was a little more successful, but still languished in the ratings. For the month of January, Arbitron showed WJMK tied for 19th overall and finished 17th in the key 25-54 adult demo. With the notable exception of Steve Dahl’s thirteen-month stint as morning personality, WJMK was jockless, as is most JACK FM stations.

One must wonder – why did it take WJMK and The Church of Tisch's radio division so long – nearly six years to be exact – to ditch the format, especially in a town where radio listeners are very passionate? Part of the reason was running the station jockless was indeed more cost-efficient. But it reduced the station to nothing more than a soulless, bland, automated jukebox without live or local or even voice-tracked personalities (unless you count Howard Coogan’s one-liners) – not  to mention the competition from other Chicago radio stations who played the same type of music.

And while there was a huge outcry from WCBS-FM listeners in New York over the ill-fated format change, the Oldies void in Chicago was filled in only a few months by WLS-FM when it launched the True Oldies Channel on September 26, 2005, replacing WZZN-FM’s “The Zone” Active Rock format.

And the Variety/Adult Hits format had already been struggling in Chicago with Nine FM’s “We Play Anything” format never really gaining a foothold in the market (the plug was mercifully pulled in October 2008.)

So what will JACK FMs final song be on Monday before the 1:04 p.m. switch? Good suggestions would be Don’t Stop Believin’ or Boyz II Men’s End of the Road, but I’ll go with one most Chicago radio listeners would definitely want to hear:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Report: Axe to swing on one of CBS Radio’s Chicago FM properties

Yeah, but not for long.... 

The axe is waiting to swing on one of CBS Radio’s two struggling properties in Chicago.

Industry website Radio Insight reported today that CBS Radio registered a domain under the name, meaning a format flip for WJMK-FM (JACK FM, 104.3 FM) is imminent. Also mentioned as a possible target is WCFS-FM (Fresh 105.9 FM), another CBS Radio property languishing in the ratings.

But another domain name – – was registered anonymously two months ago – suggesting the target for the flip is WJMK, the rock-leaning Variety Hits station.

There is no word on what this “K-Hits” format would sound like, but there’s talk the proposed station would be a Gen-X-type of outlet, which would focus on late 1980’s or early-to-mid 1990’s hits, such as alternative or “grunge” music – or possibly dance hits from that era. If it leans Classic Dance/Pop, the station would compete for audience against Hubbard’s WTMX (The Mix) and Gold/AC WILV-FM and Clear Channel’s WLIT-FM (The Lite). If it leans Classic Alternative, K-Hits’ competition would be WKQX (Q101.)

Meanwhile, there’s word that Eddie Volkman and Joe Bohannon – better known as Eddie & JoBo may wind up at the new K-Hits station as morning personalities.  Robert Feder mentioned in his Time Out Chicago blog today that Eddie & JoBo could possibly leave their current regular Saturday night stint and fill-in gig at WLS-AM after only one year. The article stated that the duo may have an morning show offer from an unknown radio station, but cannot disclose where or what station or company due to legal reasons.

Eddie & JoBo were the longtime morning personalities at CBS-owned WBBM-FM from 1988 to 1993 and again from 1997 to 2008, though they were pulled off the air in 2002 for several weeks due to contract negotiations. In November 2008, they were dismissed from the station amid declining ratings with a year left to go on their contract. Despite the firings, both men understood the situation, and still have good relations with CBS (in other words, they did not blow up their bridges behind them and showed more class in their exit than The Church of Tisch did.)

Both WJMK and WCFS have struggled in the ratings since their launches, middling in the 1.5 to 2.5 overall ratings range. WJMK flipped from Oldies to Variety Hits under the JACK banner on June 3, 2005, on the same day WCBS-FM in New York did likewise (WCBS has since returned to its Oldies/Classic Hits format.) The format change ended WJMK’s 21-year run as an Oldies station.

On November 5, 2007, CBS flipped the former WCKG-FM from talk to AC-formatted Fresh 105.9 (and the calls to WCFS) and in the process, moved Steve Dahl from his afternoon slot at WCKG to a morning slot at WJMK, where he lasted a little over a year - in fact, he was dropped just two weeks after Eddie & Jobo were shown the door at WBBM-FM.

While both stations’ ratings leave little to be desired (in the latest PPM survey, WJMK tied for 19th while WCFS tied for 22nd), WCFS’ stronger appeal to the more advertiser-friendly female demo (however small that may be) could be the deciding factor in choosing WJMK over WCFS for the flip. In addition, WCFS recently introduced a new morning show with hosts Scotty Smith and Rebecca Ortiz.

There’s no word on when any of these changes take place, as they are not yet official. But if yours truly had to place any bets, he would put money on Eddie & JoBo returning to morning drive at the new K-Hits station.

CSN Chicago shutters Bulls’ ratings record – thanks to tiger blood

In case you haven’t heard, the Chicago Bulls have what newly unemployed actor Charlie Sheen says they have – that tiger blood. What does that mean? According to Mr. Sheen, they’re winning!

And what does winning bring boys and girls? Higher ratings!

Comcast SportsNet Chicago – now part of NBCUniversal – hit a winning (yes, winning) basket Monday with the red hot Bulls facing the New Orleans Hornets. On a night with reduced original programming (42 percent of broadcast network schedules were repeats – including CBS’ Two And A Half Men), the Bulls slam-dunked the competition with a 7.2 household rating, with the game peaking at a 10 rating at 9:15 p.m. – ranking it as the most-watched program in the time period.

The game was the most-watched Bulls telecast in Comcast SportsNet's history - regular season or playoff. The previous record (6.3 HH) was set in 2009 for a triple-overtime playoff game against the Boston Celtics.

Comcast SportsNet is part-owned by the Bulls, and has been the team’s local home since the RSN’s inception in 2004. Before that, Bulls games were previously cablecasted on SportsChannel Chicago and Fox Sports Net Chicago, both during the Michael Jordan era. In that time frame, Bulls games often broke ratings records for both networks.

The Bulls pulled off a winning (there’s that word again) performance, defeating the Hornets 85-77, coming off a victory Sunday against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the first game of an ABC doubleheader. With the victory, the Bulls swept the season series with the Heat 3-0 – a team many predicted would make it to the NBA Finals.

The Bulls – led by Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah - now have the second best record in the Eastern Conference, only behind the Celtics.

As for LeQuit James and the Heat… the way things are going now for them (as of this writing, the Heat are on a five-game losing streak), the team just might be joining Charlie Sheen on the beach later this spring while the Bulls, Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs contend for a championship.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Charlie Sheen fired from hit sitcom

He’s not winning now.

Warner Bros. fired embattled star Charlie Sheen Monday after nearly eight seasons playing Charlie Harper on CBS’ hit sitcom Two and a Half Men.

It was Sheen’s bashing of Warner, CBS, and showrunner Chuck Lorre that led to the decision – not to mention his excessive drinking and drug use.

His actions and subsequent rehab stints has caused Men to be shut down twice in the last thirteen months – with the second time for the season, with the finale airing on February 14.  Meanwhile, Sheen took to the airwaves (and the Internet) to attack his now former boss (Lorre). Not surprisingly, Sheen reaction was livid. Sheen released a statement via TMZ: "This is very good news. They continue to be in breach, like so many whales. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge because now I can take all of the bazillions, never have to look at whatshiscock (Lorre) again and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension." (Hey, an upside!)

Sheen is likely to take legal action against Warner Bros., seeking back pay and then some. Meanwhile, the future of Two and a Half Men is now up in the air for next season. With Sheen out for good, CBS and Warner Bros. could replace him in the Charlie Harper role, or create a new character. Reports have surfaced that John Stamos (of Full House and ER fame) could join the cast in either capacity.

There are cases in TV history where the former has happened – though with mixed results. In 1993, Janet-Hubert Whitten was fired from the Vivian Banks role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and replaced by Daphne Maxwell-Reid and the series ran three more seasons. Toward the end of Family Matters’ run (which moved to CBS from ABC by that time), Jo-Marie Payton was replaced in the Harriet Winslow role late in the ninth and final season by Judyann Elder.

Even less successful was the handling of John Ritter’s character on 8 Simple Rules. When Ritter died suddenly in September 2003, the series continued but barely limped on and was canceled after three seasons. After Freddie Prinze committed suicide in the middle of Chico and the Man’s third season in January 1977, the series limped on though the remainder of the year and was surprisingly picked up for a fourth season (obviously for syndication purposes) with Della Resse and 12-year old Gabriel Melgar joining the cast. But viewers fled for the exits, and the series was canceled in 1978. Like Sheen, Prinze also struggled with drug use (it was later explained that his character Chico also died, but the producers did not reveal how.)

Two and A Half Men has one year left on its contract  with CBS. If Warner Bros. ends the series now with Sheen’s departure, it stands to lose $80 million in additional revenue, much of it coming from syndication. If it does continue, it risks a ratings drop it won’t recover from, and history won’t on its side.

It’s a Catch-22 Warner Bros. did not want to be in. Or in the words of Charlie Sheen, "they're not "winning." And apparently, neither is he.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

“Windy City Live” blows into town

Officials at ABC-owned WLS-TV has decided on a title for its new morning talk show not named Oprah, and it’s blowing into town.

The generic-like name of Windy City Live was chosen as the title of WLS’ new local morning show which replaces The Oprah Winfrey Show. Two weeks ago, Robert Feder of Time Out Chicago reported that WLS sports Anchor Ryan Chiaverini and WGN-TV morning news anchor and traffic reporter Val Warner were named as hosts.

The working title of the series was Morning Rush (The Chicago Thrill would’ve been yours truly’s choice…)

The title is being emphasized as a local talk show shot live in Chicago airing live each weekday at 9 and shot in front of a live audience. It’s live!

Very little information was released about the show, aside from the facts about the title, the hosts, and its multiple-topic format, as opposed to the single or double-topic format of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Marlaine Selip has been named executive producer of Windy City Live, while Cindy Patrasso is the supervising producer.

While a start date has yet to be confirmed, one date has for America's top-rated talk show –the final original episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show is expected to air on Wednesday, May 25 – the final day of the May sweeps period and the final official day of the 2010-11 television season (May 25 is also the date of the American Idol finale.) Windy City Live could start either on May 31 or June 7, or possibly later than that. 

In a situation that is certain to anger local fans of Jimmy Kimmel Live (there's that word again), Oprah Winfrey's talk show is expected to continue at 11 p.m. in reruns, delaying Kimmel until midnight. When CBS Television Distribution ceases distribution of The Oprah Winfrey Show on September 9, Kimmel is expected to finally step in to the post-Nightline slot in Chicago.

Editor's Note: This is a corrected version of a story that was posted earlier here on Thursday. - T.H.