Mixed feelings: Colbert moving to ‘Late Show’

Letterman and Colbert

While not a late night television expert, my feelings are mixed now that CBS has confirmed Stephen Colbert will succeed David Letterman as host of the “Late Show.”

Selfishly, I dislike knowing that the world will be losing a gifted comedian who’s act has become an important influence in the political arena. I wonder if Comedy Central wishes this news could have come sooner, prior to John Oliver’s (breakout star from the “Daily Show”) move to HBO.

I’m only familiar, as is most of America (I assume), with Colbert portraying his conservative Bill O’Reilly-like character from the “Colbert Report.” It will be interesting to see the real him (I suspect with shades of his current character — less political, more mainstream) on stage and behind the desk for an hour five nights a week. What I hope is that whatever style of comedy Colbert brings to the “Late Show” can take the stage/desk format of late night television to new heights — in contrast to the way Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” does via his talent as a performer.

While many will miss Colbert’s current act, he has the potential to make a bigger name for himself at CBS. A new late night rivalry between Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel has the potential to be absolutely epic.

Updated at 10:55 p.m… Politico’s Dylan Byers warns the Washington establishment that Colbert is coming for them.  Byers somewhat diminishes my fear that Colbert going mainstream means we lose the component of him that has made him so good.

Still, the next iteration of Colbert will not be altogether different from the current one, and it is all but impossible to imagine that he’ll forgo the political focus that has made him so appealing to Comedy Central’s viewers.

Some fear that the “Late Show” gig will limit Colbert’s ability to ridicule politicians, if only because broadcast television is more cautious than cable. Yet Colbert’s ability to break out of character may allow him to expand beyond his familiar satirizing of conservatives — a requisite aspect of his current show — and go after Democrats and Republicans, and the political and media establishments in general, with equal abandon.

Screenshot: New Fox Sports graphics appear on MLB broadcast

New Fox Sports MLB Graphics 2014

Screenshot from RadioInsight via Twitter – @RadioInsight

Above is a screenshot, courtesy of RadioInsight, showing new graphics for a Fox Sports MLB broadcast. They are the same graphics Fox rolled out in February for NASCAR.

I think the graphics as shown during a NASCAR broadcast are more on the bland side — and judging from only this lone screenshot, they will probably be as bland when used for baseball (and presumably football, this fall). I also wonder what’s up with the “Fox Box” in the lower-left corner of the screen (ESPN’s score bug has been placed in the lower-right for a few years now).

The lower-left seems like an odd place for it. Talk about trying to reinvent the wheel when there’s no reason to. I’ll reserve full judgement on placement of the “Fox Box” and the graphics until seeing them in full use — with today being baseball’s opening day, these graphics will likely roll out on the rest of the regional Fox Sports channels that house local MLB games.

Quick thought on CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’

While CNN’s “Chicagoland” is not a pleasure to watch, it is eye opening and important to see what so many unfortunate people have to live through. It makes my fellow Lincoln-Way area residents come across as “assholish” for having the audacity to complain about the high school’s original decision to cut ROTC due to budget, while so many other children have it far worse, through no fault of their own.

Fox Sports debuts new graphics – NASCAR broadcasts only so far (photos)

New Fox Sports Graphics

NASCAR qualifying race on Fox Sports 1. Fox debuts new graphics package.

After happening to turn on NASCAR qualifying on Fox Sports 1 last weekend, I noticed that Fox was using an entirely new set of on-screen graphics.

What is so surprising about this is that Fox waited until now to debut a new graphics package after just launching Fox Sports 1, their new 24/7 all-sports network, in August. If there was ever an appropriate time to unveil new graphics, it would have been while launching the new network, which happened to closely coincide with the start of the NFL season (and on a year when they were broadcasting the SuperBowl).

Fox Sports typically launches a new set of graphics every three or four years, usually on years they do have the SuperBowl. It’s out of character for Fox to wait until the start of NASCAR season — and after just broadcasting the SuperBowl — to switch to a new graphics package.

So far, the only Fox Sports broadcasts using the new graphics is NASCAR. Any UFC or college basketball that’s aired on any Fox Sports broadcast (including Fox Sports 1 and the regional Fox Sports channels) in the last week and a half have continued using the existing set of graphics. There is always the possibility that the new graphics will be used only for NASCAR, while Fox either continues to use the existing graphics for everything else, or create a new set of graphics for each sport.

My bet is the new graphics will eventually be used for all Fox Sports broadcasts. While some networks roll out new graphics for everything all at once, Fox in years past, has opted not to roll out new graphics for a specific sportsuntil the start of its season. If that were the case in this scenario, then we should see the new graphics in use for either MLB spring training games or at the start of the regular season (Fox Sports 1 will carry a handful of spring training games while several Fox Sports regional channels will air their home team’s spring training games; regular season games on Fox begin in late May).

Fox Sports Graphics - College Basketball

The graphics package Fox Sports has been using on all sports broadcast since 2010 — this graphics package continues to be used for any non-NASCAR live-sporting event shown on Fox and Fox Sports 1.

From what I’ve seen of the new Fox Sports graphics so far, I’m disappointed, not because the new graphics are bad, but because the previous set was were nearly perfect. I don’t quite understand why Fox thought now was the time to potentially get rid of them (one potential reason is Fox acquiring the rights to the U.S. Open — even if that were the reason, that isn’t until 2015).

While the new graphics do have a modern and somewhat stylish look to them, I still can’t help think they look bland. The previous graphics were nicely crafted with a reasonable mix of rounded edges and various slants that accommodated the vibrant colors. The new graphics are more rectangular and often rely on the use of single colors (which is especially noticeable, and awkward looking, with blues and reds).

Between the shape, the choice of fonts and the use of sparkles, I can’t help think that the new Fox graphics are a cheap ripoff of the current graphics used on NBC Sports broadcasts (including NBCSN and the regional Comcast SportsNet channels). The subtle use of moving sparkles is also suspiciously reminiscent of NBC’s graphics (the sparkles do add some much needed flair to the otherwise boring Fox graphics).

The current NBC Sports graphics are absolutely beautiful. While the design is nothing out of the ordinary, the smart use of color gradients and their own use of sparkles make them extremely classy. The new Fox graphics don’t even come close.

New Fox Sports Graphics

Updated Fox Sports graphics include a newly designed ticker for keeping track of current standings throughout the race. Though hard to tell in this screen shot, the name plate graphic shows the subtle use of sparkles, which is reminiscent of the current NBC Sports graphics (see below photo).


The current set of graphics used on all NBC Sports, NBCSN and regional Comcast SportsNet broadcasts.

NHL on NBC Sports Graphics

Another example of the current NBC Sports graphics.

Concerning NASCAR, another problem I have with the new Fox graphics are the lack of custom car numbers. While numbers don’t have much meaning in team sports, they do in NASCAR, where a driver’s number is uniquely designed so that it can be used as a standalone logo. Many of the Fox graphics show the driver’s number generically. This is especially noticeable in the new Fox ticker that identifies the current standings of the race, where you have a series of driver names and numbers that don’t easily pop out, making it harder to consistently follow the driver’s standings.

Speaking of the new standings ticker, Fox was already forced to make adjustments to it after last week’s qualifying races. Originally, Fox had the ticker positioned to the right of the screen. Viewers complained that the new ticker was in the way while trying to watch the race. Fox moved it to the top (where it had been in previous years) for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (last year’s graphic for the current standings was not only at the top, but also scrolled across the screen).


NASCAR qualifying race from Feb. 15, 2014 — Fox Sports debuts new graphics with driver standings graphic on the right-side of the screen. Turned out to be an unpopular decision.

Not long after the Daytona 500 started, I was wondering if I might be too hard on the new Fox graphics. Then, the rain started and the race was delayed, so Fox decided to re-air last year’s Daytona 500 broadcast. Last year’s race was using the previous graphics, allowing me to easily compare this year’s vs. last year’s. A few minutes was all I needed… there simply was no comparison. The previous graphics are far superior (see below photo).

New Fox Sports Graphics - NASCAR

Fox Sports graphics package from the 2013 Daytona 500 – far superior all-round compared to Fox’s new set of graphics.


Another example of the previous Fox Sports graphics, from SuperBowl XLV. Being a Packers fan, I just couldn’t resist using this screenshot as an example.

Perhaps, I shouldn’t fully judge the new graphics until seeing them on other sporting events. If Fox does use them for other sports, it will be interesting to see how they are implemented for baseball and football. Previously, Fox has been guilty of over-thinking seemingly simple concepts and the results have been disastrous (last weekend’s ticker on the right-side of the screen is just one example; another was the attempt to identify quarters by the number of tiny dots lit on the “Fox Box” during a NFL pre-season game several years ago).

Below are a few additional views of the new graphics package from Sunday’s Daytona 500…

New Fox Sports Graphics - NASCAR

New Fox Sports Graphics - NASCAR


Back in the game: Former Score host Mike North named starter at Fox Sports Radio

Mike North

Veteran sports radio host Mike North is back, full-time, reports ChicagolandRadioandMedia.com. North will co-host the Fox Sports Radio morning show “Fox Sports Daybreak,” 5 to 8 a.m. CT each weekday. The program airs nationally via syndication, though there is no Chicago outlet for his program or for Fox Sports Radio. Anyone caring to listen to his show can listen via iHeartRadio or at FoxSportsRadio.com.

This move is North’s first prominent radio role since leaving WSCR-AM/670 The Score in the summer of 2008. Since leaving the Score, North has found ways to stay busy with various projects, including two full-time television morning show stints, one at Comcast Sports Net and the other at WBBM-TV/CBS 2, with his former Score “Monsters of the Midday” co-host Dan Jiggetts. North has also been a regular weekend/part-time host at Fox Sports Radio.

Personally, I wasn’t much of a North fan for most of his second half of his run at the Score, primarily because by then, I think he became too comfortable, and perhaps, let his success get to his head. That said, I remember enough of him from his days as a midday solo host and his “Wise Guys” afternoon days with Doug Buffone, so I do understand the appeal he used to have.

The online hatred for Mike North has been intense, and I admit, I am guilty of that some 10 years ago, when I was younger and more immature. He didn’t kill babies or steal money from the Salvation Army bucket. At worst, he’s a guy who was loud and obnoxious who sometimes came across as a braggart. Various bits such as his “bookie priest,” “Fritzy’s night on the town” and “Caucasian Man” were more head-groaners than anything close to resembling comedy.

I think much of the angst against North was that by the time he and Jiggetts split as a team, his popularity slowly began to diminish. Despite his diminishing performance, he was still perceived as a golden jewel at the station, completely untouchable due to his pull with many advertisers. While not worthy of the malicious ridicule he often received — much of it from the ChicagoSportsFan.com message board — he did plenty to set himself up as a punching bag with some of his ridiculous segments and for his blatant refusal to adapt his on-air style long-after it was obvious that his approach was no longer appealing.

I’m happy for North. Despite any of the negatives associated with him as an on-air host, that shouldn’t disqualify him from getting another job somewhere else. I hope his time away from full-time radio has given him the opportunity to learn that in order to stay relevant in this medium, you have got to be willing to change with the times — even if that means allowing a program director, who you may or may not like, to actually coach or manage you.

At the end of the day, North’s gig is with Fox Sports Radio — remove the “Fox Sports” branding from it and you are left with a Clear Channel operated cluster of syndicated shows occupied by many B or C level personalities airing on a cluster of small to medium-size market stations throughout the United States.

I don’t mean to diminish the value of North’s new role. I hope he makes the most of it and takes it 100% seriously. However, the Fox Sports Radio morning show is nowhere close to being at the same level of prominence or relevance of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” — or of anything else currently airing on the Score.

CNN wants its own ‘Shark Week:’ more attitude & bite, less vanilla

CNN Changes in 2014

Capital New York released an informative piece detailing how CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker hopes to reignite CNN with some significant on air changes expected in 2014.

Some highlights:

“We’re all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

The 48-year-old Zucker initially faced internal resistance to his experiments beyond the realm of hard news, but he now has an irrefutable retort: The No. 1 show on CNN is now “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” a travel-adventure show featuring the bad-boy celebrity chef. Zucker said that inside CNN, his formula has finally been accepted “because people have seen the results.”

More series and films untethered to the news and produced by outside production companies will get runs in primetime: “Yes, there will be more and, yes, they will not just be on Sundays…,” he said. “I think it will expand past just the weekends, and so there’s a little piece of news for you… This is a primetime play. It’s too expensive to confine it to weekends.”

Zucker intends to place further emphasis on its digital mobile resources while also planning to re-brand “HLN” (Headline News), making it rely less on courtroom drama.

It seems like CNN wants to go the route of the Weather Channel or the History Channel — expand outside the traditional line of niche programming that initially gave them their prominence. The Weather Channel capitalizes on more weather related documentaries and specials, while breaking weather coverage involves the naming of winter storms and tracking potential tornadoes via the made for TV sounding TOR:CON Index.

In defending the need for change Zucker makes a solid point:

“… the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we’re doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”

If CNN decides to index the severity of a specific breaking news event, perhaps they can borrow the color-coded terrorist threat scale previously used by U.S. Homeland Security.

Best selection of radio Christmas music

Best Christmas music

It bothers me that so many young people who are connected to the world via their smart phones still chose to listen to whatever generic, “PPM friendly” Christmas station is available via terrestrial. In Chicago, everyone flocks to Clear Channel’s WLIT-FM (93.9). Many of these people probably aren’t aware of the better alternatives available and that they can utilize them via their smart phone, even while driving. Many of these free alternatives have far expanded playlist and are either commercial free or have limited commercials.

Below is a list of some of my favorite sources for Christmas music.

AccuRadio has a variety of different Christmas channels via live stream. With dedicated channels for classic, jazz, children, country, etc., you’re sure to find a channel just right for you.

My favorite might be the Sky.FM Christmas Channel. The playlist varies from new to classic. What makes this station very unique is the many different versions of songs that I have never heard of before. There is also a higher emphasis on the more relaxed type of Christmas songs, which is why I listen to Sky.FM’s channel the most.

WLRA-FM, the Lewis University student-run station. From Thanksgiving to New Years Day each year, the station runs 24/7 commercial free Christmas music. Their playlist includes a mix of modern and classic songs. Promotional messages are played a handful of times each hour promoting the United Way of Will County. The station stream is available on popular radio apps such as iHeartRadio and Tune In Radio, via the WLRA mobile app or via the Lewis University website. Of course, for anyone in the Romeoville/Joliet area, you can listen on the dial on 88.1 FM.

SiriusXM has their own collection of fun Christmas channels, as well. Much like AccuRadio, SiriusXM has a selection of dedicated Christmas channels. These are also commercial free.

Google Play Music All Access and Spotify
Of course you can’t go wrong with full customization and the open-ended exploration provided by any of the music streaming services.

Please, people. If you have a smart phone or are by a computer all-day, spare yourself from the typical terrestrial garbage of a WLIT or any other Christmas radio station plagued with an abundance of commercials and a limited playlist.

By no means is the above list the end-all for good Christmas music listening. If you know of any other options worth considering, please share it by posting a comment below.

Cumulus drops Geraldo from syndication: Potential opening for Mike Huckabee?

According to a report by Inside Radio, Cumulus Media is pulling the plug on Geraldo Rivera’s (semi) syndicated program. Rivera airs on a handful of Cumulus stations, including WABC-AM (New York), KABC-AM (Los Angeles) and WOKI-FM (Knoxville, TN) from 8 to 11 a.m. CT.

Come January 2014, Rivera’s show will be heard as a local program in the New York City market exclusively on WABC.

While Cumulus has not announced a replacement for Rivera’s remaining stations, I’m wondering if Cumulus moves Mike Huckabee’s syndicated program to that slot since his current 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT show runs head-to-head against Rush Limbaugh. With Limbaugh staying put on most of his Cumulus news/talk affiliates, how much exposure does the Huckabee currently get? He would get more exposure on Cumulus stations in the 8 to 11 a.m. CT slot.

At the moment, this story has no implication on WLS-AM 890, the Cumulus news/talk station in Chicago. Assuming Cumulus does decide to replace Rivera with another syndicated talker, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if that person ends up on WLS sometime in 2014.

SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S. channel leaves me wanting more

Politico’s Dylan Byers reports that NBC News journalist and MSNBC host Chuck Todd will soon have his own weekly Saturday show on the SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S. channel. The new program, Unscripted with Chuck Todd, will allow the host to discuss key political issues at greater depth, minus the restraints that come with television.

While I’m pleased by this, the addition of one weekend show doesn’t solve the programming hole P.O.T.U.S. has Monday through Friday once the sun goes down. Once Julie Mason’s live Press Pool broadcast concludes at 5 p.m. CT, it’s all repeat programming of either Mason or the Michael Smerconish Program from earlier in the day until Tim Farley’s Morning Briefing the next day.

I suppose it’s fair to assume P.O.T.U.S. isn’t the most profitable channel for SiriusXM, so going with repeat programming near the end of the day saves a lot of money that they may not make back. By 8 or 9 p.m. though, a Smerconish show from 12 hours ago is sometimes dated if the topic he’s discussing has newer details. I do love the idea of Smerconish’s long-form discussion and think a similar style program live in the evenings would be the perfect fit.

The sole reason I signed up for SirusXM this past summer was for their P.O.T.U.S. channel. I enjoy the free-flow of political conversation that is absent from the stench of partisan agenda. I wish we had more non-partisan political programs options via podcasting or on terrestrial radio.

A ‘Savage’ kick in the balls to Mark Levin

Mark Levin and Michael Savage have long been on-air rivals. The two right wing talk show hosts used to compete in the same 5 to 8 p..m CT time slot — Levin’s show syndicated by Cumulus Media, Savage’s show syndicated by Talk Radio Network. After a bitter divorce with Talk Radio Network, Savage was hired by Cumulus in 2012 to broadcast a new show in the 8 to 11 p.m. slot, following Levin.

Even though the two rivals were now employed by the same syndicator, that hasn’t stopped the two of them from taking occasional swipes at each other. While both individuals are uniquely spirited, Levin has a better way with words, giving him the ability to be far more mean and nasty. And he certainly demonstrated that while going after Savage once again this past May.

“You little troll, you little nobody… I kicked your butt in the ratings, head to head, one end of the nation to the other. That’s why you’re late night. Got it? I’d like you to come back at six pm, against me, eastern of course, so I could do it again, snaggletooth.”

Soon after that diatribe, Savage’s name surfaced as a potential replacement for Sean Hannity’s show, syndicated by Premiere Radio, which airs on Cumulus-owned news/talk stations throughout the country. When such rumors became official last month, that had to be the most vicious low blow to Levin’s ego (I’m guessing today’s conference call with Cumulus COO John Dickey didn’t help). The move to afternoons is a huge promotion, one that Levin lost to a bitter rival who joined his syndicator just one year ago.

While I’m not particularly fond of either guy, I can appreciate Savage from an entertainment standpoint. I hesitate to find any redeeming qualities about Levin.

And I can’t help but appreciate the irony with how this worked out.