Media Bits & Bytes (1/6/15)

WGN revamping weekend sports programming… The dismantling of WGN-AM 720’s “Sports Central” became official over the weekend. The show’s co-hosts Glen Kozlowski and Jim Memolo are also out. In its place will be “The Beat,” a new sports-centric show featuring Connor McKnight, Adam Hoge and Jarrett Payton — former hosts from WGN’s now defunct all sports format “88.7 The Game” on WGWG-LP.

Todd Manley, WGN’s vice president of content and programming, was quoted in Robert Feder’s column yesterday that the station is incorporating “some of the best things of The Game and reinsert them back into the AM.”

I suppose former Game midday host Ben Finfer be damned — who in my book is an obvious rising star in sports talk radio — for having the audacity to smear station management on air upon finding out that the station would cease operations at the end of 2014.

McKnight and Hoge are both fine talents and are suitable for weekend sports talk duty at WGN. Payton, I’m not yet sold on as a radio personality. Perhaps my negative influence towards him stems from his pairing with Harry Teinowitz and Spike Manton (whom I am not particularly fond of) while on The Game.

As far as the best aspects of the Game, what is the measuring stick? It sure as hell can’t be ratings.

WTMJ adds Brian Noonan to weekend lineup… Brian Noonan, a long-time part-time host at WGN-AM, has signed on at WTMJ-AM 620 in Milwaukee. Noonan will hold the fort each Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. while continuing to work his Sunday night show on WGN.

I’m happy for Brian, who orchestrates an overly fun and informative talk show. He really ought to be more than a part-time radio host. Prior to WGN’s fall 2013 schedule revamp, it seemed inevitable that Noonan would move to a more prominent role there, with my hope that he would occupy a midday slot. His stock had risen at the station during his successful pairing with David Kaplan as co-host of “WGN Sports Night.” Such ideas for a Noonan ascension at WGN stalled when he announced that he had accepted a full-time position outside of radio and would only be available to work his Sunday night show.

I still wonder to this day if that was completely his choice or a fall-back plan after being told by management that they had no plans for utilizing him further.

WNUA going big for country… As of noon yesterday, WNUA-FM 99.5 is now a country music station. The iHeartMedia-owned station’s regional Mexican format previously known as “95.5 El Patron” will now be branded as the “Big 95.5.” With the format change, iHeartMedia hopes to draw listeners from CBS Radio’s WUSN-FM/US 99.5 country format.

With WIND-AM/AM 560 The Answer morning host John Howell’s long-term on air direction still unknown, it’s worth wondering if the former US 99 personality may have an offer from the new WNUA/Big 95.5. Howell, whose contract with WIND expired at the end of December, is still on air as of this week. As first reported by Robert Feder, Howell was believed to be considering an offer to join WLS-AM 890 to take over their morning show, though Feder had mentioned Howell was in talks with at least one other Chicago station.

For the time being, I’ll bet on Feder. I believe Howell will ultimately end up on WLS.

Jonathon Brandmeier missing in action… Jonathon Brandmeier, who originally had penciled Jan. 5 for when he’d resume live broadcasting, remains absent. It was announced via his Facebook page on Sunday that he will continue to air “best of” shows via the Brandmeier channel on TuneIn as his crew continues to get things sorted out (finding a new studio, possibly figuring out how to monetize the show, etc.).

The state of Brandmeier’s show has been murky since it was initially reported by Robert Feder that Tribune Media had parted ways with the host (the following day, Brandmeier insisted that aspect of Feder’s report was incorrect). Brandmeier’s show had been a fixture of the WGN.FM stream since fall 2013, and on air at Tribune Media’s WGWG-LP/88.7 The Game since February. With the dismantling of The Game format, it was later believed that Brandmeier might work out a deal to keep his show affiliated with Tribune Media in an online sense (as of the final week of 2013, WGN.FM was re-branded as “WGN Plus”).

Brandmeier has been grooming his listeners that his show would at the very least continue in some capacity via his TuneIn channel. While it now appears he no longer has affiliation with Tribune Media, he will be left to his own devices to broadcast any further live shows unless the two sides can still come to some sort of agreement. His listeners are encouraged to follow his Facebook page or sign up for email updates via his website.

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