Robservations on the media beat:
In a rare change of network affiliations in Chicago, the CW Network will move this fall from Tribune Media WGN-Channel 9 to Fox-owned WPWR-Channel 50, sources said Sunday. The switch, expected to be announced Monday, will return “Chicago’s Very Own” to an independent station with a strictly local programming lineup, starting in September. Tribune Media still owns CW affiliates in 12 other markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Formed in 2006 as a joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS, the network includes such primetime shows as “The Flash” and “Jane The Virgin.” In addition to two hours in primetime each weeknight, CW also programs five hours of children’s programming on Saturday mornings. Sources said the move to WPWR, low-rated sister station of WFLD-Channel 32, is expected to mean a shift of less than $4 million in revenue.
Dan McNeil will be back on the air Monday, co-hosting the morning show with Pete McMurray on Hubbard Radio classic hits WDRV FM 97.1. The mercurial McNeil has been absent since May 12 when he erupted in anger at his boss, program director Rob Cressman. Witnesses to the hallway outburst said McNeil was provoked by orders not to talk about the ouster of Hubbard programming exec Greg Solk on the air. John Gallagher, vice president and market manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago, denied that McNeil had been suspended, adding: “He is happy to be back.” McNeil declined to comment Sunday except to confirm his return to The Drive. His contract runs through March 2017.
There’s good news at the Sun-Times where editorial employees represented by the Chicago News Guild voted 28-1 to extend their contract to December 2017. The current agreement with parent company Wrapports would have expired at the end of this year. The extension provides no raises, but offers additional protection from layoffs, according to Darel Jevens, Guild unit co-chair at the Sun-Times. Jim Kirk, editor and publisher of the Sun-Times, said in a statement: “I’m pleased that we were able to work with the Guild leadership at the Sun-Times on a contract extension that works for everyone involved. It’s clear that progress can happen when both sides are willing to sit down together to discuss creative solutions.” Contracts talks are ongoing between the company and staffers at the Chicago Reader, who also are represented by the Guild.
The juiciest item to emerge last week in the escalating war of words between Gannett and Tribune Publishing was Gannett’s claim that Tribune chairman Michael Ferro said he might go along with a Gannett takeover if there were something extra for him. “Mr. Ferro has made clear that his own self-interest, and not the best interests of all of Tribune’s stockholders, is guiding his response to Gannett’s offer,” according to Gannett. “During a May 12, 2016 meeting with Gannett’s chairman and Gannett’s chief executive officer, Mr. Ferro stated that a business combination between Gannett and Tribune could make sense as long as Mr. Ferro would have a ‘significant role’ at the company post-closing and was its ‘largest shareholder.’ Mr. Ferro went on to state that he is unwilling to engage in a process unless he, personally, would get ‘a piece of the action.’ ” Tribune responded with a non-denial denial, saying Ferro’s comments were “grossly mischaracterized and taken out of context.”
But wait, there’s more: When Ferro isn’t channeling Donald Trump or Rod Blagojevich, he’s reminding some people of a character in “The Godfather.” After spurning Gannett’s bid for Tribune Publishing, Ferro reportedly told the sales staff of the Los Angeles Times last week that he was turning the tables. “I am going to bid on Gannett,” Ferro said, according to Ken Doctor of Politico Media. “I have lawyers working on it.” (Gannett has a market value of $1.84 billion.) Ferro’s bravado seemed to echo Moe Greene, the Las Vegas mobster played by the late Alex Rocco, who famously bragged: “The Corleone Family wants to buy me out? No, I buy you out, you don’t buy me out.” We all know how well that worked out.
“Windy City Live” devotes Monday’s show to celebrating the great Ron Magers on his retirement as news anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Starting at 11 a.m., the special edition of the ABC 7 talk show will feature “a lot of familiar faces and a few surprises along the way.” Magers also was the guest for an insightful “NewsViews” conversation Sunday with Alan Krashesky, who’s succeeding Magers as 5 and 10 p.m. anchor. In addition, reporter Paul Meincke has been saluting the broadcast veteran’s career in an eight-part series on ABC 7’s news. Farewell newscast for Magers — coinciding with the last night of the May rating sweep — will be Wednesday.
Todd Woolman, executive producer at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, has been hired as assistant news director at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. He replaces Jill Manuel, who left last month. It’s a return to Fox 32 for Woolman, who spent seven months as executive producer of “Good Day Chicago” in 2010. He previously was assistant news director at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and executive producer at ABC 7 and WGN. The move reunites him with Fox 32 news director Matt Piacente, who worked with Woolman earlier at NBC 5.