Robservations on the media beat:
Just when you thought WBBM-Channel 2’s ratings couldn’t go any lower, the CBS-owned station can’t even be seen in thousands of Chicago area homes. A dispute between CBS and AT&T has left thousands of DirecTV and U-verse viewers of CBS 2 in the dark. Chicago is one of 17 cities where CBS programming has been blacked out since early Saturday when the company’s seven-year retransmission agreement expired. AT&T, which owns DirecTV and U-verse, said in a statement: “We had hoped to avoid any unnecessary interruption to any CBS-owned stations or national channels that some of our customers care about. But CBS refused.” CBS responded: “AT&T’s willingness to deprive its customers of valuable content has become routine over the last few weeks and months, and recent negotiations have regularly resulted in carriage disputes, blackouts and popular channels being removed from their service.” Earlier this month AT&T dropped carriage of 120 Nexstar Media Group TV stations in a similar dispute.
No one knows when Nexstar Media Group will finalize its $6.4 billion deal to acquire Chicago-based Tribune Media (including hometown flagships WGN-Channel 9 and news/talk WGN 720-AM). Inquiries to both companies elicit no comments. But insiders are pointing to the next few weeks as the likely time frame for the FCC to give its blessing to the transaction, which will include the spinoff of 21 television stations to comply with ownership limits. The acquisition of Tribune Media will boost Dallas-based Nexstar’s holdings to more than 200 stations covering 39 percent of U.S. households. Nexstar went after Tribune’s 42 stations after Sinclair Broadcast Group’s 2017 bid for the company crashed and burned.
Pat Tomasulo went out with style Saturday as host of “Man of the People,” the locally produced late-night comedy show on WGN. After 19 months and 54 episodes, the show was canceled. “Believe me, the show’s not going away because people weren’t watching the show,” Tomasulo said in his closing remarks. “It’s going away because people were watching it five days later on DVR. I tried to get you people to watch live. I did all I could just short of faking an attack from two Nigerians in MAGA hats. What do you want from me?” The finale featured a hilarious interview of the host by Bill Kurtis. (Here is the link.) Tomasulo continues as sports anchor on “WGN Morning News.”
Look for the announcement any day now that Jason Pullman is joining Entercom country WUSN 99.5-FM as morning personality. As tipped here Wednesday, his hiring would follow a 10-year run as morning host at WUBL in his native Atlanta. While still awaiting official confirmation from Entercom, Pullman texted the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Rodney Ho last week that he is “humbled, honored and so excited to be at the helm of such an iconic, legendary country station.” Slated to join Pullman at US99 is Katie Bright, who most recently has been national director of promotion at Warner Music Nashville.
Lots of radio stations noted the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing over the weekend. But leave it to the clever folks at Me-TV FM to come up with the widest array of songs to highlight Neil Armstrong’s “one small step.” Among the moon tunes heard on the Weigel Broadcasting soft-rock oldies station at WRME 87.7-FM were “There’s A Moon Out Tonight” by the Capris, the theme from “Moonlighting” by Al Jarreau, “Moon River” by Andy Williams, “Sister Moon” by Sting, and the theme from “Moonraker” by Shirley Bassey, among many others. Kudos to program director Rick O’Dell and production director Bill Cochran.
Friday’s comment of the day: Chad Rubel: The new WBBM wattage won’t affect local listenership but is a blow symbolically. Fifty thousand watts is a source of pride when you could hear faraway radio signals at night. I remember listening to WBBM while visiting relatives in Knoxville, Tennessee, as a kid.