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.

As news and information gathering changes, ABC 7 to revive iconic ‘Eyewitness News’

Channel 7 Eyewitness News

When WLS-TV/ABC 7 dropped the “Eyewitness News” monicker in 1996, the station was Chicago’s undisputed leader in local broadcast news.

Some 17 years later and still number one, ABC 7 will soon bring “Eyewitness News” back, reports Robert Feder, likely in time for November sweeps. John Idler, ABC 7’s president and general manager, tells Feder that revising the “Eyewitness News” name will be done in a contemporary sense — a “look forward to what ‘Eyewitness News’ means to viewers today.”

With all due respect to Idler, I read that as marketing fluff for “we’re changing the name of the newscast while everything else around it will pretty much stay the same.” Without a significant change to the newscast’s presentation or format, a name change with maybe a new studio set (highly unlikely) or graphics (more likely) is nothing more than a fresh coat of paint.

If I were a betting man, one intangible unlikely to change is the theme music. When “Eyewitness News” became “ABC 7 News” in 1996, the station decided to continue using the same music. Considering that ABC 7 has resisted changing it since, there’s hardly any reason to expect they’d do so now (which is perfectly fine by me).

Concerning everything else around the name change, I wouldn’t blame Idler for playing it safe. Even though ABC 7’s ratings dominance in local news has minimized in recent years, any attempt to dramatically alter the presentation or format would likely have an adverse affect. Previous attempts elsewhere have typically bombed.

In 2000, WBBM-TV/CBS 2’s effort to go retro with a more straight-and-narrow newscast featuring Carol Marin was dropped after eight months because of low viewership. CBS 2 went the opposite direction in 2010 with “Monsters and Money” in the morning, which was dropped after only seven months due to embarrassing low ratings.

I don’t mean to pick on CBS 2. Since their newscasts have typically been in or near last place for well over a decade, they’ve had reason to try something different. Lessening the burden on CBS 2 in recent years has been WFLD-TV/Fox 32. When walking past an empty Fox news truck at Monday’s Columbus Day parade, my wife said “Fox is also here. Where do you think they’re at?” My immediate response was “last place.”

In fairness to CBS 2, I am a big fan of the current newscast they’ve assembled, in both mornings and at night. There’s nothing edgy or innovative about it. They’ve done a great job at finding the right talent who also work well together on camera. Even if ratings growth is slow or sometimes stagnant, they are headed in the right direction as far as delivery goes.

Concerning the revival of “Eyewitness News,” Idler told Feder that a research study commissioned by the station showed that even though the name went away in 1996, it still resonates with the public. That to me sounds vague and doesn’t really mean anything to me. I get the sense they’re doing it more so for the sake of change. I hope whoever conducted that study wasn’t the same person or group that swayed WFLD into re-adapting the outdated “Fox 32” monicker.

While maintaining the status quo for local broadcast news may be the safe route, the way society collects and searches for news and information continues to change with the advancement of mobile technology and gadgets.

With the continued decline of print media and its failure to adapt a profitable online business model, local broadcast news should be in the driver’s seat. In the case of ABC 7, the name of the newscast isn’t going to matter in the long-run. What will make a long-term difference is that the quality of news stays superb, that it is easily available on mobile devices and that users can access it whenever they want.

Art Bell subtly talks coincidences, George Noory and that ‘other show’

Since launching “Dark Matter” on SiriusXM last month, Art Bell has kept his thoughts pertaining to his former show, “Coast to Coast AM,” and his successor George Noory to a minimal. Anything on air spoken by Bell in regards to Coast or Noory has been more or less subtle. Bell gave his peace about Noory on a few occasions via Facebook, as well as to Time magazine last month. Such words by Bell were always constructive, not intended to be personal. I think Bell was within his rights, considering he kept his mouth shut for 10 years while Noory slowly destroyed the program that Bell created.


Since late last week, Tobias McGriff was scheduled to appear on tonight’s “Dark Matter.” Sometime over the weekend, “Coast to Coast” booked McGriff for last night’s show. Bell discussed the “coincidence” at the start of his show last night (“Dark Matter” airs prior to “Coast to Coast,” with the last hour of Bell’s program coinciding with the first hour of Noory’s).  Bell made his point, as tactfully as he possibly could, as only he can. And just in case Bell’s message was too subtle, the bumper music played afterwards further makes his point loud and clear.

A few added thoughts…

I’m not a regular “Coast to Coast” listener, but it has been well documented elsewhere that Noory often seems unprepared and uninterested when interviewing guests. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for him to book guests for his show the night after appearing on “Dark Matter?” Noory can listen to the questions asked by Bell (show prep!) and use them on his own show the following night. To the remaining “Coast” fans who are not listening to Bell’s new show, they’d probably think Noory had never sounded better.

If Bell continues with the subtle shots, I picture Noory’s eventual breaking point being somewhat similar to “The Office” where Michael Scott asks Stanley why he picks on him (from the episode “Did I Stutter?”).

Mike McConnell’s status at WGN still unclear

At this point, I’m not sure how newsworthy this is, but the program schedule listed on WGNRadio.com (which includes the “over the air” schedule for shows on WGN 720 AM as well as any additional online-only shows)  no longer includes Mike McConnell’s live stream show.

Last week following a Robert Feder report (which I recapped on this  blog) that McConnell’s agent had accepted an early settlement from his remaining two-year WGN contract, McConnell the next day on his Facebook wrote that he would soon return, at least with a podcast. McConnell’s been posting an update each weekday on his Facebook since doing his last live online-show on Oct. 3.

Until Feder follows-up with a report with absolute 100% confirmation that McConnell is gone or until McConnell says something more definitive on his Facebook page, we probably won’t know for sure what his status is at WGN.

CBS 2 News endless roundabout in the morning (hint, give the job to Marissa Bailey)

CBS 2's Kris Kutierrez and Marissa Bailey with former Chicago Bear Ray McElroy - Photo courtesy of Bailey's Twitter.

CBS 2’s Kris Kutierrez and Marissa Bailey with former Chicago Bear Ray McElroy – Photo courtesy of Bailey’s Twitter @MarissaCBS2.

What exactly is WBBM-TV/CBS 2 waiting for? Going on five months since releasing Susan Carlson and the station continues to stall in naming a permanent morning news anchor.  Since Carlson’s exit, CBS 2 has alternated between weekend morning anchor Marissa Bailey and veteran anchor Roseanne Tellez, who also anchors the 11 a.m. weekday newscast.

In his Sept. 16. piece, Robert Feder mentioned that CBS 2 has searched among some outside candidates, but that staffers within the CBS 2 newsroom would be surprised if the station named a permanent successor anytime soon. The delay in naming a replacement suggested that Carlson’s firing was attributed to saving money (I think that sounds reasonable, because in all honestly, does CBS 2 really expect that the person succeeding Carlson is going to be that much of an upgrade?).

While CBS 2 continues to twiddle their thumbs, the obvious answer is right in front of them — Marissa Bailey. Not because she’s already employed by the station and it would be an easy move (both of which would be true), but because she is a great anchor and fits in nicely within the newscast. While her delivery is good, her overall demeanor is excellent. She is an absolute natural behind the desk.

Having watched enough of the weekday mornings she does work (usually Mondays and Tuesdays), it’s more than obvious that her and co-anchor Kris Gutierrez naturally work well together. Meanwhile, the overall chemistry amongst the entire on air staff, most notably meteorologist Megan Glaros, traffic anchor Derrick Young and the off-beat and versatile reporter Vince Gerasole, is near the same level that it was when Carlson was there.

Tellez, by default, would be an acceptable choice as well, though I do understand the sentiment that with Tellez, there is a “been there, done that” type of vibe (which is a shame because such a sentiment is rather unfair considering how talented she is). I’d be willing to guess Tellez wakes up each morning regretting her 2004 decision to leave the WGN-Ch. 9 morning news fest.

Bailey should have been the obvious no-brainer for CBS 2. It’s a shame that they are still waiting this out. Talk about the classic case of over-thinking something that doesn’t need it. Bailey is right there in front of them.

Again, I ask, what are they waiting for?

Update: Mike McConnell and WGN to part ways

Mike McConnell

Photo from Mike McConnell’s Facebook.

Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. Yesterday, I called B.S. to technical issues preventing Mike McConnell from doing his WGNRadio.com online-stream show. Last night, Robert Feder reported that McConnell’s agent has tentatively agreed to an early settlement from his remaining two-year contract.

To be fair, I had no idea what the situation involving McConnell was when calling B.S. to the technical difficulties excuse. When asking around yesterday among some inside WGN, no one claimed to know anything pertaining to McConnell. Even without comment from WGN Radio President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro, I trust Feder got his information from a very high level source.

The obvious question for the remaining McConnell fans is where he might land next. Wherever McConnell goes, he probably won’t make close to the $500,000 a year he reportedly made at WGN. His willingness to leave that kind of money on the table would suggest taking less money elsewhere is worth more in the long-run where he can presumably work at a station more designated for his brand of news/talk while also having the support of management.

Mike McConnell’s Internet-only broadcast in limbo: Technical issues or something more?

Mike McConnellMike McConnell’s been telling his Facebook fans that technical issues are preventing him from doing his live stream (and subsequent podcast) on the WGNRadio.com website. His Facebook fans aren’t necessarily buying it.

Either way, McConnell’s last show was Thursday, Oct. 3. Later that afternoon, he wrote on his Facebook that there would be no Friday podcast, but that he’d be back on Monday. Three days in and nothing this week.

What kind of technical issues would keep McConnell from doing a live Internet stream for multiple days? It’s a fair question considering Jonathon Brandmeier has had zero problems with his live stream (which technically should operate no differently than McConnell’s — on the surface, Brandmeier’s stream is simply branded under the “WGN.FM” monicker while McConnell’s is not). Even if the problem was as simple as a faulty Internet connection from McConnell’s end in Cincinnati (where he does, from time to time, broadcast from), I doubt that would keep him off the air for more than a day.

I’m calling B.S. on the” technical issues.” Since being jettisoned from the WGN-AM 720 airwaves in early August, it’s seemed obvious that the station wanted him to just go away completely. There’s been no on air mentions or promotion of his move to the “WGN-2” stream channel on the station website, nor have his shows received promotion space on the WGNRadio.com home page.

On Aug. 20, Robert Feder reported that station management was attempting to negotiate an early settlement of his remaining two year contract, worth $50,000 a year. With such an ironclad contract, McConnell should have the easiest gig in the world. Would he be willing to walk away from such easy money, even if the lack of promotion, caller interaction or support from the station makes his time there miserable?

McConnell’s not my favorite news/talker in radio, but I still like his show more then I dislike it. Since moving to online-only, I’ve made an effort to listen to the podcast more regularly. The absence of commercials, news, traffic and weather were an added bonus.

While McConnell is yet to address today’s absence on his Facebook page, that hasn’t stopped his readers from speculating the possibility that he is now completely on the outs at WGN. Whether it has merit or not, one commenter wrote that after texting the station last night, he received a response hinting that McConnell was done.

The longer McConnell goes without commenting about anything on his Facebook, the more reason there is to speculate.

UPDATE at 2:40 pm – Mike’s posted an update on his Facebook a few minutes ago:

Sorry Likers – it’s been a busy day and as you can see no stream or podcast. You’re all pretty good guessers as to what in the world is going on and I’ll let you know as soon as I do.  Thanks for staying in touch.

Definitely no longer just a technical problem…

George Will moving to Fox News, eliminates travel to New York for ABC’s ‘This Week’


Upon learning that conservative commentator George Will was moving to Fox News, my initial thought was”great, now he’ll be the next to sell out his usually composed and reasonable conservative mindset in exchange for a more radical approach to appease the far right Fox News audience.”

I should give him the benefit of the doubt though since I do think (or hope) he is better then that.

According to the linked Times article above, Will wanted to eliminate the travel between his Washington home and New York, where ABC’s “This Week” is based from (on weeks when hosted by George Stephanopoulos — usually three weeks out of the month). According to the Times article, Will has been a regular roundtable participant on “This Week” since 1981.

Like the other Sunday morning news shows, “This Week” was based in Washington up until Jan. 2012 when Stephanopoulos returned as host. The New York move was done to accommodate Stephanopoulos who continues to host the New York based “Good Morning America” during the week.

When ABC first announced this arrangement in Dec. 2011, I wondered how it might impact the show’s ability of booking guest to appear in studio, considering most of the mainstream political guests are based in Washington. These same guests often appear on multiple shows each Sunday morning, the rest of which are based in Washington.

It must not have posed too much of a problem or else Stephanopoulos would have either been flying to DC himself each weekend or the network would have replaced him with a DC based host by now.

Earlier this year, ABC News vacated their studio space at the Washington-based Newseum, where “This Week” had previously been hosted.

WLS’s tribute to Don Wade

With last week’s passing of legendary Chicago talk show host Don Wade, I thought it was appropriate that Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft dedicated last Monday’s show to remembering the late host (Wolf and Proft succeeded Wade and his wife Roma late last year on the WLS-AM 890 morning show).

On Friday, Robert Feder noted that the station would air a special two-hour tribute to Wade, which aired earlier today from 1 to 3 p.m. Unfortunately, I was not around a radio at the time so I was unable to listen, but a Facebook post by Feder earlier tonight caught my attention.

The millions Don Wade made for WLS in his lifetime weren’t enough? They’re running commercials during his two-hour memorial tribute. #classless

While I’m not as offended by it as Feder is, if it’s just the same, I don’t like it any better than he did. At the same time, I would have been more shocked if commercials had in fact been omitted those two hours (WLS is owned by Cumulus Media… which says everything you need to know).

If anything, I’m more appalled at the scheduling the show for a Sunday afternoon. People are more likely to be in their cars when out and about running errands on a Sunday morning. Not that people aren’t listening to the radio on Sunday afternoons, but when you consider the Bears game was on from noon to 3 p.m. yesterday, how many people were likely going to hear it in the first place?

At the very least, the station should podcast the tribute on their website (after removing the commercials, of course), and then promote the hell out of it all over the air all this week.

Stay classy, Cumulus.

ADDENDUM – 9/19/13:
WLS posted the Don Wade tribute on their website, commercial free. WLS news anchor John Dempsey hosted the special broadcast, while several WLS personalities (present and alum) joined in to share their thoughts. To the credit of WLS, it was an awesome broadcast well worth the listen, giving me the opportunity, for the first time, to sample the personality of a younger Don Wade before his news/talk days. Dempsey did an outstanding job, in what I imagine was a difficult circumstance, after having worked with Don and Roma for five and a half years.

Attempting to iron out any brand confusion between Comcast SportsNet and NBC Sports

Comcast SportsNet Logo

About a year ago, the Comcast SportsNet regional sports channels made some minor revisions to their logo, one of which was the addition of the NBC peacock. This change was made to reflect the new partnership between NBC Sports and the Comcast SportsNet stations, which happened following Comcast’s 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal.

Another ramification of the Comcast/NBC deal pertained to the Comcast owned sports network Versus, which fell into control of the NBC Sports division (now known as the NBC Sports Group). At the start of 2012, Versus was renamed to NBC Sports Network, which is now in the process of being phased out in favor of just the acronym “NBCSN.”

NBC Sports Network and NBCSN LogosSo we’re left with NBCSN and the cluster of regional Comcast SportsNet channels. My obsessive-compulsive mindset is thinking that a brand consolidation is needed.

The NBC Sports Network/NBCSN brand seems to be intact, so any obvious change would be to Comcast SportsNet. The most logical step would be to phase out the Comcast name and replace it with the NBC Sports monicker, along with the name of each respective city, state or region — NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Northwest, etc. Another option is to instead implement the NBCSN name to each regional network, along with the respective city, state or region — NBCSN Chicago, NBCSN Philadelphia, NBCSN Northwest etc.

Once the NBC peacock was added to the Comcast SportsNet logo, I naturally assumed such a change was in motion. Fueling the speculation further was the simultaneous implementation of an upgraded graphics package, which is identical to what NBC and NBCSN still use on their broadcasts (the lone exception are the score bugs, which have some minor differences, especially evident during NHL games). Another consideration was the continued phasing out of the Comcast name for its cable, television and Internet packages. Such services have been bundled under the Xfinity brand since 2010.

(On a side note, while the CSN networks use the NBC Sports graphics, why do they continue to use their own separate theme music, such as for NHL games? While I do actually like the CSN NHL music bed used during Blackhawk games, I can’t help but yearn for the official NHL on NBC theme music.)

By no means am I suggesting that Comcast as a corporate name is on the way out. I’m just thinking that they’ve adapted a strategy where less emphasis is placed on the corporate name and instead placed on individual brands within the company.

Comcast Logo with NBC PeacockAnother prominent occurrence at the end of last year was the change to the Comcast corporate logo, which also included the addition of the NBC peacock. I hated it then and I hate it now. That logo, in my opinion, defines brand confusion. The NBC peacock is supposed to be for the NBC brand of television networks — not for a cable, phone and Internet conglomerate. A second reason I hate the logo is because it’s plain and ugly. It comes across as a lazy attempt.

If such a configuration is used for Comcast’s corporate logo, then the addition of the NBC peacock to the Comcast SportsNet logo may have been just the same, with no intention of shifting to the NBC Sports brand name. I do suspect a name change will happen to the regional networks, eventually. It might be something as simple as using the acronym CSN in place of Comcast SportsNet. The CSN monicker has already been in use, unofficially, but merely as more of a nickname (i.e. CSN Chicago). For the sake of brand continuity, I’d rather see all the regional networks adapt the NBC Sports or the NBCSN name.

The Fox Sports property now includes the newly launched national Fox Sports 1 network in addition to their own cluster of regional sports channels — all of which use the Fox Sports monicker. Why wouldn’t NBC want to further capitalize on their brand by doing the same with their own regional sports channels?

The marketing guy in me has obviously put a lot of thought into this. The sports fan in me? I won’t care what the name of the station is come spring time as long as the Blackhawks are poised to win another Stanley Cup and that at least one of Chicago’s baseball teams plays decently.