Cheryl Scott, the hottest free agent in Chicago media, is close to accepting an offer from WLS-Channel 7, where she eventually would succeed Jerry Taft as the ABC-owned station’s top meteorologist, sources said.
Finalizing the deal has been delayed by Scott’s former employer, WMAQ-Channel 5, which could exercise its right to match ABC 7’s offer, raising the slim possibility that she would return to the NBC-owned station. But insiders said they don’t expect that to happen.
Scott, 29, signed off last month after three years as weekend meteorologist at NBC 5. She chose not to accept a renewal offer in order to explore other options. “The interest in Cheryl on both a network and local level is very high,” her agent, Chicago-based attorney Andrew Stroth, said at the time.
Stroth declined to comment Monday. Scott was unavailable, but tweeted: “It’s a new day and the sun is shining.”
Sources said ABC 7 has offered Scott a three-year contract that eventually would elevate her to the station’s top-rated 10 p.m. Monday-through-Friday newscast.
Taft, 70, has not announced plans to cut back his duties at ABC 7, where he’s been chief meteorologist for 30 years. But the station has been focusing on the future of its weather front since late last year when it commissioned a market research study that asked participants such questions as: “If Jerry Taft were no longer one of the weathercasters on ABC 7 News – WLS, how much more or less often would you watch the local news on ABC 7 News – WLS?”
John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7, noted that the SmithGeiger survey also inquired about other meteorologists, including Tracy Butler, Mike Caplan and Phil Schwarz. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our product and serve our viewers,” Idler said at the time.
Despite Scott’s emotional on-air farewell September 14, NBC 5 bosses kept the door open for her to return and step up to a Monday-through-Friday position. The hiring of Byron Miranda as meteorologist for the station’s 11 a.m. weekday newscast coincided with word of Scott’s departure but would have occurred even if she had stayed, according to insiders.
If Scott went back to NBC 5, it would not be to replace chief meteorologist Brant Miller, who’s secure on the 10 p.m. newscast, or Andy Avalos, longtime morning meteorologist.
Sources familiar with Scott’s NBC 5 contract said the station retains the right to match the financial terms of other offers for six months. After March 2015, she would be free to accept employment elsewhere with no strings attached.