Flakes and facts, lots on my mind

Gotta love a snow day if you don’t have anywhere to be. Yes, I have a busy week ahead and things to prepare, but they don’t require going out.

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The TV people were right this time. It’s almost 1pm and I’m supposedly getting 3 inches of snow an hour, which should end up as 6-10 inches when it’s done, and the snow didn’t even stick at first.

The storm comes less than a week after this last one, last Friday.

2018-03-02 snowy icy friday
March 2, 2018

Luckily, I have lots on my mind to share with you today.

From ugly weather (to those of you in Florida) to an ugly video: Monday, Britain’s Independent reported, “The National Rifle Association has released a video containing a threatening message to journalists, warning them ‘your time is running out.’”

NRA National Rifle Association official logoYou see an angry looking and sounding “conservative political activist and TV host Dana Loesch telling “every lying member of the media” that “we are done with your agenda” and they have “had enough.”

She names lots of media hosts and shows. Then, at the end, she ominously says, “Your time is running out. The clock starts now,” and she turns over an hourglass.

Talk about bitter! Thousands of Americans have stood behind the young survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Florida that killed 17 of their classmates, as they called on lawmakers to reform the gun rules.

Click here for more details and reaction to the video.

video games

Also Monday, Variety reported President Trump will be talking about gun violence — with leaders of the video game industry!

According to the Entertainment Software Association, which represents major video game makers:

“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence.” … “Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.”

But a group spokesman says they’ll be there anyway.

The entertainment magazine reports after the Parkland massacre, the President said,

“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”

The ESA — which operates a voluntary ratings system — said the White House meeting

“will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices,”

but their titles don’t contribute to real-life mayhem.

In 2011, the Supreme Court struck down a California law to restrict minors’ access to video games, ruling it’s protected by the First Amendment.news flash

I’m excited about something else. It’ll help you watch out for hidden agendas in news, or media that knowingly publish falsehoods or propaganda.

The Nieman Journalism Lab announced a start-up initiative called NewsGuard that’ll fight fake news by rating more than 7,500 news sources. NewsGuard says it plans to hire dozens of people with journalism backgrounds and have them

“research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism — and which aren’t.”

The ratings will be like a traffic light. A real newspaper publishing good content will get green. A fake news site will get a red. Then, according to Nieman,

“A site that’s not putting out deliberately fake news, but is overwhelmingly influenced in its coverage by a funder that it’s not eager to disclose? Maybe a yellow.”

And the ratings — called “nutrition labels” – will come with “a 200- to 300-word write-up on each source’s funding, its coverage, its potential special interests, and how it fits in with the rest of the news” world since the founders acknowledge not all of the sites in a given color category are equal.

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I can’t wait for this to start. The folks behind NewsGuard are Steven Brill (founder of The American Lawyer and Court TV) and L. Gordon Crovitz (former publisher of The Wall Street Journal).

Brill told CNN “algorithms aren’t cutting it, so real-life reviewers are needed to judge reliability.”news websites

They say their “goal is to give everyone the information they need to be better informed about which news sources they can rely on — or can’t rely on.”

Analysts will work in pairs. They may not settle on a rating if they feel they don’t have enough information to be confident, or have editors weigh in if the analysts disagree.news interview

Plus, “The company will also have ‘a 27-7 ‘SWAT team’ that responds to breaking news and news items that are suddenly trending.”
It plans to stay in business by licensing “NewsGuard’s encyclopedia of news sources to social media platforms and search engines” – in other words, GoogleMicrosoft, Facebook and Twitter, which could leave out the reds or use them with a warning – and offering advertising for businesses that “want to be spared any embarrassment that comes from advertising on deliberately fake sites.”generic website

Brill said the tech companies will pay because, “We’re asking them to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”

Good luck, guys!

Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commonsNow, to Rupert Murdoch’s chutzpah and greediness. In January, he called for Facebook to pay for the content his companies – 21st Century Fox and News Corp. – publish on the site, while it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s company that really does him a favor by distributing the stuff! (You can decide how much the stuff is worth until NewsGuard kicks off.)

Now, the U.K.’s The Register is reporting Facebook “abandoned its ‘fix’ for news after publishers complained about a drop in traffic” and that’ll mean more clickbait for the rest of us.

Facebook had added an Explore tab in October, to show us more from friends and family on our News Feeds, and remove professional publishers.

The Register described a few examples:

“Clickbait-focused publishers such as Buzzfeed had benefited enormously from being promoted on Facebook – and owed much of their success to lightweight ‘shareable content.’ But after the changes, traffic dropped sharply. Facebook rushed to assure publishers it was just a test. It has now formally abandoned the experiment, counting “feel-good news and service content” publisher LittleThings among the casualties.”

facebook f logoOn Feb. 28, the U.K.’s Business Insider reported once flourishing women-focused digital publisher LittleThings closed down, blaming Facebook’s huge algorithm tweak.

The Register explained Facebook has “come under fire” since the 2016 Presidential election. First, the News Feed was “hand-curated by low-paid graduates” but “accused of political bias.” Then it replaced the people “with an algorithm that valued ‘engagement’” but a “low bar for inclusion” exposed more “inflammatory and bogus material.”

It also quoted former senior Facebook exec Antonio Garcia Martinez, who explained how viral content was given a premium value.

“Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is,” Martinez said. “If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.”

Donald TrumpAnd Donald Trump’s campaign – which spent very little money – was playing by Facebook’s rules since “rural targets were cheaper to reach than urbanites, and Trump wanted to reach them, so Facebook ad spending proved to be very good value.”

Bottom line, according to The Register:

“The results of Facebook abandoning this particular experiment is that clickbait-hungry publishers will continue to rely on the platform for exposure, rather than building their own brands, and Facebook will rely on clickbait-y free content to keep people on the site. It’s a marriage of the desperate.”

mark zuckerberg facebookThat’s not what I wanted to read.

I suggest Zuckerberg suspend all Fox and News Corp. accounts from Facebook for a week. Every newspaper, TV station, news anchor, etc. That should show ‘em!

Meanwhile, Miami’s CNN’s Jeff Zucker accused Facebook and Google of having a duopoly or monopoly on money from digital content, and wants regulators to look into the two companies.

jeff zucker cnnKeep in mind, CNN was a monopoly on 24-hour cable news from June 1, 1980 to 1996 when MSNBC started on July 15, and Fox News Channel went on the air on Oct. 7. (That’s except for when ABC/Westinghouse’s Satellite News Channel competed from June 21, 1982 until Oct. 27, 1983, and CNN founder Ted Turner bought it.)

Sounds like a sore loser. His ratings stink.

Late last month, he tried to come across as a spokesperson trying to protect good journalism when The Hollywood Reporter quoted him as saying,

“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner (his own company, which AT&T wants to buy for $85 billion, and may put his own job in jeopardy -Lenny) or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster, the fact is nobody for some reason is looking at the monopolies that are Google and Facebook. … That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”

Government “helping to make sure everyone else survives” sounds a whole lot like President Obama bailing out the U.S. banking and auto industries during the Great Recession. It was probably the best thing he did as President. Philosophically, maybe he shouldn’t have, but nobody can deny it worked and saved jobs.

But the banking and auto industries are not journalism. They’re not protected by the First Amendment. And intelligent people will turn to quality news, even if it’s hard to find, and that has already become harder and harder for years.

Advice for Zucker: Do a better job on TV. In contrast to President Obama, explain why you hired so many digital staffers a year ago, only to lay off roughly 50 of them last month – and why you shouldn’t be one to go.cnn

Vanity Fair reports, “Several high profile digital initiatives are being scaled back.” Media analyst Jeffrey McCall told Fox News the layoffs “seem to suggest that CNN may have outkicked its coverage” and Zucker wanted his digital group to “grow too quickly” before having a “comprehensive plan” in place. Also, “It does seem odd that these cuts are apparently targeted for the digital side at this time, when most strategists seem to think that’s an area for potential growth,” McCall said.

And the kicker (rather than “kick ass”), according to the Fox article,

“Last month, YouTube star Casey Neistat — hired by Zucker on the recommendation of his teenage son — abruptly walked away from CNN less than two years after CNN reportedly paid more than $20 million for his video-sharing startup Beme.”

at&t time warnerTime Warner is a big company. It owned AOL – one of the early pioneers of the Internet – until about the time you were hired. Why didn’t TW compete? Or did it, and free enterprise sent the experiment to wherever those 50 laid off digital staffers are?

According to TV Newser, the Justice Department sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal back in November, and the antitrust trial is set to begin March 19.

Zucker, get more people to your website and have your digital salespeople do a better job, you sore loser, or you’ll be out of a job!

comcast new 595x227Back to 21st Century Fox’s Murdoch. He got a black eye about a week ago when Philadelphia-based Comcast (the cable company that also owns competitor NBC) topped his company’s offer to buy the 61 percent of Sky PLC it didn’t already own. That could halt Fox’s attempt to consolidate ownership of the British broadcaster. It has owned 39 percent of Sky for years.

comcast
Today on https://corporate.comcast.com/, obviously important to the company!

But even more importantly, Sky is supposed to be one of many assets Fox plans to turn around and sell to Disney (owner of ABC) — while keeping only its American broadcast network, TV stations (you know by now Fox doesn’t bother list them on its Stations Group website) and plans to buy more, the Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network — in a separate $52 billion follow-up deal.

But Fox was cheap.

fox sky news disney

Reuters reports Comcast offered £12.50 per share ($31 billion), significantly higher (more than 16 percent) than Fox’s £10.75 per share. (Yes, I know how cheap Fox is. I worked for them. The one exception is the NFL.) Sky already agreed to be sold to Fox, but the British government delayed the takeover because it’s concerned about Rupert Murdoch’s influence. In 2011, he closed the News of the World after its journalists admitted hacking phones to get scoops, but he still owns The Sun and Times newspapers.

Fox promised to keep Sky News fully independent for ten years, but faces skepticism across the pond. And with a ten-year promise, I don’t understand how it could be sold to Disney.

Reuters reports Sky’s shares jumped more than 20 percent, while shares of Comcast, Fox and Disney all fell. So if the Sky-to-Fox first part doesn’t happen, investors may expect a bidding war.

You’ll remember in December, Comcast bid $60 billion for Fox’s assets – “substantially more” than Disney – maybe even $10 billion more, according to Philly.com. But Disney’s bid beat Comcast’s. The Wall Street Journal reported Murdoch “was concerned that a Comcast deal would be opposed by U.S. regulators and instead opted for the lower Disney offer.” The deal still needs approval from the Justice Department.

The Hollywood Reporter says Comcast said at the time:

“When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders. … That’s what we tried to do, and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”

More merger news: Broadcasting & Cable reports eight of the 50 states’ attorneys general came out against the SinclairTribune merger. They told the Federal Communications Commission “it does not have the authority to raise the 39 percent national audience reach cap for TV station groups, that it does have the authority to eliminate the UHF discount” – the old rule that discounts the number of viewers UHF stations reach by half, because they were weaker and harder to watch years ago before modern technology like cable, computers, etc. – and that it should eliminate the discount.

That UHF discount was gone until FCC chairman Ajit Pai – a President Trump appointee under investigation for improperly pushing for rule changes to benefit Sinclair Broadcasting in its attempt to acquire Tribune Media. Now it’s back. Critics say Sinclair has forced local stations to provide favorable coverage to Republican candidates for years.

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

B&C claims Pai is “saying the previous commission should have considered the cap and the discount together, which it is now doing.”

The attorneys general are from Illinois (home to Tribune), Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and Virginia.

They – according to B&C – argue “getting rid of the cap would threaten diversity, competition, and localism, and cites Sinclair Broadcasting, whose Tribune deal would benefit from lifting or eliminating the limit, pointing out that it distributes news stories that must run in its newscasts.”

generic tvIn November, The Baltimore Sun reported Maryland’s attorney general opposed the takeover because “the combination would decrease consumer choices and diversity in the media marketplace.” Sinclair is based in Maryland.

According to The Sun, Sinclair claims “the merger would allow the new company to better serve local viewers with expanded local coverage, better facilities and more programming, delivered in part by operational efficiencies.”

The company announced it would sell several stations to stay under a new cap, but the deals it reached would let it continue to control the New York and Chicago stations it sells, so those big cities won’t count. (Is there ANYBODY who thinks that’s OK?)

WPIXAccording to Variety, Sinclair will sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting. More than 90 percent of that company’s stock is controlled by trusts owned by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith. So the Smith children own it. Talk about a shell corporation! Cunningham owns 20 stations but at least 14 of them are run by Sinclair!

WGN-TVAnd it would sell WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.

Those stations are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion.

On top of that, Variety says,

“Sinclair would not only continue to operate the stations and receive the lion’s share of their revenue, but the sale agreement with both buyers gives Sinclair an option to buy the stations back within eight years. That’s seen as a marker for the company to bide its time in the hopes that the FCC relaxes its station ownership restrictions in the near future.”

The $3.9 billion deal – if it goes through – would make the nation’s largest television broadcast company even larger. Sinclair is already largest with 191 stations, while Tribune brings another 42 stations before divestitures. The post-merger reach would be 72 percent of U.S. homes. (Does that include the huge markets of New York and Chicago?)

This is something I didn’t consider in my last blog, about the possibility Fox buys Miami’s CW affiliate WSFL due to the merger, even though it doesn’t produce news, and gives up strong affiliate WSVN – simply to own a Miami station since Miami has an NFL team, the Dolphins. TVNewsCheck‘s editor Harry Jessell reported, “Fox has one other obvious option in Miami. It could buy ABC affiliate WPLG.” Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought it from Graham Media (the former Post-Newsweek) in 2014, and it’s Buffett’s only station.

I’m sure Buffett makes money but he has no vertical integration. Graham was supposed to help run the station after the sale, and it still has a Graham station look. So does its website. Also, Buffett is not the type to get attached (except maybe to Omaha) and would be willing to cash out of the price is right.

If he sells WPLG to Fox, then it makes sense ABC would probably call WSVN. Makes the most sense by far, but I wouldn’t swear on anything. In 1988, CBS seemingly surprised everyone by buying the former WCIX instead of affiliating with WSVN.

Jessell also reported he spoke to Ansin who said Fox hasn’t mentioned anything about “moving into the market and no expression of interest in WSVN.”

I also want to point out another example of a TV network not renewing a local TV station’s affiliation because it competed for viewers in part of a city where the network owned its own station. The last blog mentioned NBC getting rid of WMGM in Atlantic City because of its Philadelphia station, WCAU, and how ABC was much nicer years earlier when it paid the owner of KNTV in San Jose to leave the network because it owned KGO-TV in San Francisco. (WMGM shut down its news department.)

Since then, I remembered NBC dropped WHAG (now WDVM) in Hagerstown, Md., in the middle of 2016 because of Washington, DC’s WRC. Since then, the independent station really became competition, expanding its coverage area by 1.2 million households, also serving Chambersburg, Pa., Martinsburg, W.V. and Winchester, Va.

Also, I learned NBC dropped KENV-DT in Elko, Nev., which served a lot of the Nevada side of the Salt Lake City market. It aired its own news, but was run out of Sinclair NBC affiliate KRNV in Reno. That goliath Sinclair also owns three stations in Salt Lake City, but not the NBC affiliate. KENV is actually owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, and it shut down its news department.

wkptAnd then I remembered something similar in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, where I used to work. ABC dropped affiliate WKPT, the only TV station owned by Holston Valley Broadcasting. Yes, the station was weak. But no, there weren’t any other local stations that carried news. And no, ABC couldn’t get one of the two that did to change over to ABC. Instead, it made a deal to put ABC on the CBS affiliate’s subchannel! That shows it pays to be big and powerful (in contrast to what happened at Ed Ansin’s two stations in Miami and Boston), and that networks have a lot more possibilities for affiliates when it comes to subchannels. It’s not a good idea to get on their bad side. WKPT dropped local news and I showed you the unbelievable farewell to the main anchor just before that happened!

Thursday Night Football logoAnd Jessell also wrote he’s hearing “Fox is once again pushing the idea that it should represent its affiliates in all retrans negotiation.” That means instead of each station demanding money from cable and satellite companies to carry them, Fox would do the work for them all and send each station its share. It would carry the power of nearly 200 stations, and those stations won’t have to bother negotiating. Of course, Fox would also carry power over the stations, and the network’s opinion is its programming (sports) makes the stations worth more and will take its share. Plus, somebody has to pay for Thursday Night Football!

For me, it was nice peeking out the window and watching the snowstorm as I wrote, but like this blog, and certain stations’ newscasts, it appears to be over.

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WSVN without Fox? It’s possible if….

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this reported at all by South Florida media. Yes, they’re still consumed and reeling from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, but this involves THEM, darnit, and they know it.

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There was nothing in the Miami-Herald, Sun-Sentinel, or New Times about it, nor TV stations WSVN and WSFL which could be at the center of it.

It’s the possibility WSVN-Channel 7 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale may lose its Fox affiliation.

I told you here, here, here and here, if the Sinclair-Tribune merger goes through — and the new company has to spin off stations to stay under the limit in order to get Federal Communications Commission approval — then the plan is that Fox itself will buy several Tribune stations – all Fox affiliates already – but also WSFL-Channel 39, which is South Florida’s CW affiliate. Then, what would happen to programming on both stations?

WSFL

Fox TV stationsFox doesn’t own too many stations compared to other groups — even if you find 28 in 17 cities, covering more than 37 percent of American homes astounding. (But the Fox Television Stations Group’s website STILL doesn’t list them, as I’ve written time and time again.)

Of course, putting WSFL on the block goes against Sinclair trying to buy up stations in every city around the country – or just make a deal with the owners to operate them, to get around the rules. That’s because neither Sinclair nor Tribune have any other stations in Miami.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair now, without Tribune

WSVN’s owner is Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. He inherited it. In case you didn’t know, I started my TV news career there.NFL Logo

Fox has been trying to buy TV stations in NFL football cities, and Miami is one of them, but would it give up WSVN’s good ratings and help from its large news department, just to have a station of its own?

From the sixth borough, in a New York minute: YES. There is no more partnership in television. Everything is just to make a buck. Don’t forget that. It’ll repeat over and over as you read.

Look at what happened on a Saturday in January, 1987. I remember returning from the synagogue, going to my grandparents’ condo, and reading in the Miami Herald business section that NBC was buying WTVJ-Channel 4 even though WTVJ was the CBS affiliate, and WSVN was the NBC affiliate. Both networks wanted to own stations in Miami, which was growing and close to Cuba for coverage when Fidel Castro’s government collapsed. (Now, 31 years later, Fidel is dead and we’re still waiting. Typical!)

Of course, NBC didn’t want to own a CBS affiliate and CBS didn’t want its affiliate owned by NBC, but there was a two-year affiliation agreement that had just started at the beginning of the year between NBC and WSVN.

Owner Ansin fought like hell and sued to keep his NBC affiliation since he had stayed with the network during the extremely lean years before The Cosby Show put the network back on the map in 1984.

WSVN 7 logo

Of course, he hadn’t put so much emphasis on his news department since he didn’t have to. Remember, I mentioned at one point owning a TV station was a license to print money, so it wasn’t necessary.

Anyway, you would think CBS would end up affiliated with WSVN, but that’s not what happened. CBS owner Larry Tisch thought that if NBC bought WTVJ for $240 million and he can buy independent WCIX-Channel 6 for a quarter of that — just $60 million — then he got a bargain!

WCIX had its own 10pm news program but Tisch didn’t realize the importance that WCIX’s signal was 30 miles to the south of the other stations, and could not be seen in northern Dade (Miami-Dade came in the mid-1990s) or Broward counties.

In 1995, CBS lost a lot of stations to Fox. It really wanted stations. Westinghouse formed a joint venture before buying CBS, which left them with two stations in Philadelphia. The partnership kept Westinghouse’s KYW-TV, so in exchange for CBS’ WCAU, NBC gave CBS KCNC-Denver, KUTV-Salt Lake City, and also exchanged frequencies in Miami so its station would cover the entire market.

Ratings sucked for years until the two stations, WTVJ and WCIX, switched dial positions (4 to 6, and 6 to 4), and WCIX became WFOR.

Watching Channel 4 that night:

Watching Channel 6 that night:

Before then, affiliation agreements tended to be two years. I mean, how could you sign an affiliation agreement that’s longer than an FCC license to broadcast? That would be chutzpah! And if the station got in trouble and had its license revoked, then there wouldn’t even be a station affiliate partner.

Ansin held out and ended up with the new Fox network. He also had his news director Joel Cheatwood throw everything at crime-heavy local news — in which he could keep all advertising money – with younger, cheaper workers, and surprisingly it stuck, so everyone involved became a hero, the station’s style was copied everywhere and many working there departed for new, higher-paying jobs. And WSVN was temporarily taken off some hotel cable systems, so not to scare tourists!

Then look at San Francisco. NBC wanted to buy its longtime affiliate, KRON. The network really, really wanted to buy it. In 1999, the deYoung family decided to sell and NBC threatened to take away the station’s 50+ year affiliation and make the station worth hundreds of millions of dollars less, if it didn’t get to buy the station. (Can you say steal, extortion, or shakedown?) Still, KRON’s owners sold to a higher bidder, Young Broadcasting. NBC ended up making several more demands, which Young turned down, so KRON turned independent after all those years, at the end of 2001. (Young was bought by Media General, which was bought by Nexstar.)

kron

NBC pretty much invented its own Bay Area station, step by step.

KNTV 1KNTV in San Jose was an ABC affiliate that network didn’t want competing with its own San Francisco station, KGO-TV, in San Jose anymore. It agreed to take money from the Alphabet network and go out on its own — but it offered to pay NBC to affiliate with it. (Just like at the end of 2014, NBC got rid of WMGM in Atlantic City so it wouldn’t compete with its own WCAU in Philadelphia, but that station’s owners got nothing. Unfortunately, times changed.)

KNTV 2NBC had to get a new station and reverse compensation was a new, tempting concept. The FCC reclassified KNTV from a Monterey-area station able to be seen in San Jose, to an actual San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland station.

KNTV 3But the affiliation only lasted long enough for permissions given and the ink to dry. Weeks before the start of 2002, NBC bought KNTV for a fraction of KRON’s price. Finally, in 2005 and against KRON’s objections, NBC moved KNTV’s signal 52 miles closer to San Francisco, so people there could actually watch Peacock programming over the air again. (NBC apparently didn’t care about those people too much!) Now, it can’t be seen over the air in San Jose, but reread the words I just put in italics in the parenthesis.

KNTV 4Other fiascos: KNTV was over the air on Channel 11 but aired on cable channel 3 (conveniently next to KRON-Channel 4). Some genius running the transition decided to brand the station NBC3, which confused people to the east watching NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento, also a Channel 3. Then it became NBC11. Then simply NBC Bay Area.

See what I mean? Watch KNTV news opens through the years, from city changes to affiliate changes  to branding changes.

And Miami people, you’ll remember my former co-worker.

WHDH logo 1Now, take Boston from just last year. NBC wanted to own a station there. It insisted our old friend Ed Ansin sell his NBC affiliate WHDH-Channel 7 to them, just like it would’ve preferred back in Miami in the late 1980s. Anson refused yet again, saying NBC offered half what it was worth and trying to steal it.

(Yes, Ansin got back into business with NBC in Boston, rather than Fox, after CBS dropped WHDH, even after NBC dropped him in Miami. Why? To make money, of course!)WHDH logo 2

So in early 2016, NBC announced it would drop Ansin’s WHDH and start a new station called NBC Boston on New Year’s Day?

Where would that station be found? Nobody else was selling their station. NBC had ended up with New England Cable News, which was owned by Hearst and NBC parent company Comcast’s predecessor, until Hearst sold its share. Over the air, it already owned a weak Telemundo channel in the northern part of the market, WNEU-Channel 60 in New Hampshire. Its signal definitely wasn’t going to cover the entire Boston TV market over the public airwaves.

WHDH logo 3Ansin sued NBC again, claiming the poor people of Boston wouldn’t be able to watch NBC anymore, which kind of made him look like a monopolist. Lawmakers were also concerned, especially because if people had to buy cable to watch NBC, they would have to use Comcast which of course owns NBC! Regulations for fairness were put in place back when Comcast bought NBC Universal in 2011. For example, Comcast’s cable service couldn’t benefit from the ability of viewers to receive the network over the air, and NBC Universal programming had to be made available to any competing cable operators in town.

WHDH logo 4This is what the network did in 2016:

— NBC bumped the Telemundo signal to a WNEU sub-channel, and put NBC on the main channel.

— It bought WBTS-LD (low-powered) Channel 8 (which it couldn’t make more powerful without interfering with channel 8s in New Haven, Conn. and Portland, Maine.

— It leased a subchannel of WMFP (virtual channel 60.5) in Lawrence, Mass.

NECN Logo 2015

nbc bostonSo, by expanding NECN’s news department, it invented its own station out of nowhere!

That station, called WBTS-NBC Boston, went on the air Jan. 1, 2017. WHDH became an independent, added more news and lost some prominent people to the more prestigious NBC.

nbc10 bostonIn 2018, NBC added a channel-sharing agreement with digital Channel 44, under the license of Channel 15, a CD station meaning low power analog often with a digital companion.

It also changed the branding to NBC10, which is like repeating the San Francisco-Sacramento issue, because Providence NBC affiliate WJAR — seen on cable in Boston’s southern suburbs — is powerful on Channel 10. We’ll see how long that lasts!

So Boston got an extra station and most lost viewers since the pie had an extra piece. Was it worth it for NBC, or should it have just kept its affiliation with WHDH?

So Anton got shot down by NBC again, this time in Boston, and that could lead to several other, minor network affiliation changes. For example, in 2006, Ansin bought a second Boston station, CW affiliate WLVI, coincidentally from Tribune. (Just the signal, but not the building or workers. Everyone was laid off, maybe even the producer who beat me for an Emmy Award back in 1997!) Warner Bros. and CBS own the CW Network, and the Tribune stations were a big part of the affiliates. Since Tribune doesn’t own WLVI anymore and CBS owns former UPN independent WSBK, the CW affiliation could move there. (More on this later!)

wlvi 3

By the way, Ansin sold WLVI’s broadcast frequency in the FCC’s recent spectrum auction for an undisclosed amount that he told the Boston Globe was “a lot of money” (definitely hundreds of millions of dollars) and now that station shares WHDH’s channel.

There are several other examples:

In the mid-1990s, NBC decided to replace its Raleigh-Durham affiliate, WRDC-Channel 28, because it did poorly and didn’t carry all of NBC’s programs. That’s when The Outlet Company bought Channel 17, increased its power and changed its call letters to WNCN. Plus, there was already a relationship. Outlet owned powerful NBC affiliates in Providence (mentioned just above) and also Columbus, Ohio.

After a year, Outlet sold all three stations to NBC but that only lasted a decade. Repeat after me: It’s the money, and not what’s best for the viewer or community. In 2006, NBC sold all three stations plus its station in Birmingham to Media General. (Yes, that was NBC selling stations, the opposite of what this post is about!) The Media General time also lasted just a decade. NBC decided to affiliate with the more powerful WRAL, and WNCN soon became a CBS affiliate owned by Nexstar, after that company bought Media General.

Around the same time, NBC planned to sell its Miami station, WTVJ – weaker on Channel 6 after the dial swap – to Post-Newsweek, then the owner of ABC affiliate WPLG. That never panned out, despite both stations saying it would.

WPLG said it was going to happen:

WTVJ said it was going to happen:

Remember the rule about a company owning two of the four most powerful stations in a city.

And Fox played hardball to get a station in Charlotte, home of the NFL’s Panthers which started playing in 1995. One-time ABC affiliate WCCB-Channel 18 was one of Fox’s strongest affiliates and it had (and still has) its own news department.

Despite that, in 2013, Fox announced it was going to buy CW affiliate WJZY-Channel 46. The switch happened less than six months later. WCCB turned to the CW after 27 years with Fox. It’s now one of just three CW affiliates in the eastern time zone with its own newscasts, the others being New York and Indianapolis’ former CBS affiliate.

On the other hand, Fox’s WJZY carried 10pm newscasts from competing stations until starting its own newscasts in mid-December. The station tried experimenting but things didn’t go well, its news was ranked fifth in the time period and there was staff turnover from the top, down. Eventually, it became more traditional and a friend from Philadelphia became its news director.

So networks can create stations out of practically nothing, as we just saw Fox do.

Consider Los Angeles. The CW in there is KTLA, which is owned by Tribune and would be owned by Sinclair. There’s no reason Warner Bros. and CBS would keep the CW affiliation there when CBS has an independent station, KCAL, that could use it.

the CW

In Miami, if Fox buys WSFL, the CW affiliate now owned by Tribune could become a Fox affiliate if the network decides to drop WSVN. Then, WSFL’s CW affiliation would likely NOT go to WSVN but to WBFS, which is owned by CBS and a My Network TV affiliate, for what that’s worth. (Not much.) And that syndication service is owned by Fox!

MyNetworkTV

Would WSVN, dropped by Fox, become an affiliate of My Network TV, which is owned by Fox? Highly unlikely, I think. My Network TV doesn’t do well, Ansin would be angry, and even though he went back to NBC in Boston, My Network TV isn’t NBC.

Keep in mind, there are also examples where networks own stations but don’t put their own programs on those stations, because affiliating with competing stations makes more sense.

CBS owns Channel 44 in Tampa, but affiliates with Tegna’s Channel 10. It owns Channel 69 in Atlanta but affiliates with Meredith’s Channel 46. It owns Channel 11 in Seattle but affiliates with Cox’s Channel 7 (but it did air CBS on 11 for a few years.) It used to own Channel 34 near West Palm Beach but affiliates with Sinclair’s Channel 12.

Even in 1958, when CBS owned Channel 18 in Hartford, Conn., some viewers could watch CBS better on Boston and Providence stations, so it affiliated with Channel 3 (then WTIC-TV; now WFSB, where I went after leaving WSVN) and sold its Channel 18.

You get the picture. So who brings more to the table? WSVN can use CNN for news and not depend on Fox. Anything can happen, but you know what my money is on.

And please, if you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get an email whenever I publish.

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Something on my drive home from New York, Tuesday night, told me to write this post.

Got cable, satellite? You’ll foot the bill for Fox’s Thursday Night Football

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Wikipedia

How many of you watched the Super Bowl this year? Of course, in Philadelphia, that’s a loaded question with the underdog Eagles in the game and beating the seemingly perennial winners, the New England Patriots.

Same thing in New England. Their team was in the Super Bowl and they don’t get sick of Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick. They watch.

But what about the rest of America? Apparently two thirds of Americans did not watch. And this was the Super Bowl!

Thursday Night Football logo

Imagine how that would translate to Thursday night National Football League games, known for having bad matchups and also being available on the NFL Network and streaming, besides being broadcast on a local TV station.

Fox Sports

But three weeks ago, Fox decided to pay a fortune — $3.3 billion for the rights for five years, and expanded digital highlight rights — and the money it’ll cost is going to trickle down to you and me.

Thanksgiving

Let’s talk schedules, the reason and then the money.

Starting this fall, Fox will broadcast 11 games each season from week 4 to week 15. That won’t include Thanksgiving night when you’re eating with your family shopping or resting up to work at midnight on Black Friday.

ESPN reports when Thursday Night Football went to the networks in 2014, CBS paid the NFL just $37.5 million per game for only eight games. Same story the next year, in the 2015 season.

Then, for the past two seasons, NBC joined CBS. They each broadcast five games for a total of ten, at a cost of $45 million each.

Now, ESPN sources say Fox will pay an average of more than $660 million a year. Divide that by 11 and that makes $60 million per game – a big increase over the past four seasons and 33 percent more than the latest. Amazing number!

money x 33

Is that price increase worth it? It depends who the buyer is.

In 1994, Fox arguably overpaid for Sunday afternoon NFC-away games in order to get better TV stations to secure it as a reputable fourth network.

money x 5

(Not many remember Fox trying to take Monday Night Football from founder ABC back in early 1987, even before it started programming. That didn’t work and it took until 1994 for Fox to get an NFL package. Oh, and five times as much money as CBS would bid!)

Monday Night Football ABC

These days, Fox doesn’t have much of a regular Thursday night lineup. The NFL would draw viewers.

Are NBC and CBS upset about losing the rights? No, according to CBS CEO Les Moonves. He says he’s not worried because CBS has The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon instead. Also, Sunday games are much better than Thursdays because they’re exclusive. Thursday night games can be seen on The NFL Network and also streaming.

A CBS Sports spokesperson was more specific:

“We look forward to continuing our terrific long-term partnership with the NFL on Sunday afternoons with more than 100 games per season (Lenny: many in markets where the home teams are playing) including next year’s Super Bowl LIII.”

Speaking of streaming, the price to do so recently increased fivefold, according to ESPN.

Amazon Prime logo

“Amazon paid $50 million this past season to stream the games on Amazon Prime, up from the $10 million Twitter paid in 2016,” it reports. “Rights for the upcoming season have not yet been sold.”

money x 5

So you can say it’s “1st and goal” when it comes to the NFL and Thursday night streaming rights.

Miami Dolphins twitter

Now, look back to 1972 and the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season. At the time, the NFL regular season only had 14 games over 14 weeks. Monday Night Football was only in its third season. Otherwise, football fans were left to Sunday afternoons.

These days, the season has 16 games over 17 weeks. Economically, more games should lessen demand.

On top of that, Thursday nights mark a regular third night of football (before Sunday and Monday), along with early and late Sunday afternoon games.

Plus, ESPN reports players don’t care for Thursday Night Football. Games on so many days cuts down on their time to rest up, recover and stay healthy. And as a side note, just last month, I wrote about how hits and concussions have literally killed former NFL players, years later.

ESPN logo

The last NFL schedule expansion was in 1987 when ESPN started carrying some Sunday night games. It was the first time the NFL aired games on cable and they only took place in the second half of the regular season. Two years later, the NFL added games on TNT in the season’s first half. TNT aired those games until 1997, when ESPN took the whole season. Like today, games in each competing team’s home market also aired on a regular TV station, so the games were not cable-exclusive but close. But the arrangement ended after the 2005 season.

nbc sports cbs sports

That’s because NBC had no football for seven seasons and was desperate to get it back. It had lost AFC team away games to CBS, which itself had been outbid by Fox for NFC team away games.

Fox TV stations

Part of Fox’s reason to spend so much in 1994 was to take TV stations in big-markets with (mostly) NFC teams and make them affiliates of the new network that would air the games. Fox eventually bought those stations (but STILL doesn’t tell you what it owns on the Fox Television Group website) and sold about half.

ABC Sports
Not “Reaching New Heights” as Wang Chung might sing — but this brand is history and the ESPN name is in.

Back to the story. In 2006, Sunday Night Football moved to broadcast TV, on NBC, and Monday Night Football went the reverse.

Cable network ESPN took rights from sister-broadcast network ABC, which came up with the idea in 1970.

That didn’t mean a new night of football but Sunday night games became especially popular since they air on the most-watched night of TV, they follow other games on CBS and/or Fox but most importantly, the NFL considers Sunday Night Football its featured game of the week.

Sunday Night Football NBC

NBC was given flexible-scheduling for most of the second half of the season, meaning it can “steal” regular Sunday games from CBS or Fox that are better than what was on its original schedule, and the whole country can watch.

cbs fox

When that happens, NBC will tell the league at least 12 days (two Tuesdays) before, and move that CBS or Fox game to NBC. However, CBS and Fox can “protect” five Sunday afternoon games over six weeks, weeks 11-16. Also, the league can move games between 1pm to the more-watched 4pm ET slot.

For the last week of the season, games are decided just six days earlier, so match-ups with major playoff implications could air in as many cities as possible.

football

Now that you understand that, Thursday night games were actually added back in 2006 and air on The NFL Network, so the NFL could push cable and satellite companies to carry the network very few people were able to watch (and thus charge the subscribers more, which is the crux of this post).

But that’s history. It was really an eight-game package: five Thursday nights and three Saturday nights. More Thursday games were added in 2012.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Thursday Night Football got real recognition. The NFL decided to let a network produce the game – which would air on The NFL Network — but let the producing network simulcast some of the games. That’s what CBS did in 2014 and 2015, and NBC joined to split the Thursday package in 2016 and 2017. The contracts for the rights were short.

Until now.

Fox network

That’s when Fox decided to pay a fortune – much more money – for a longer period of time, over five years.ABC

There are several reasons, which may or may not turn out to be right.

21st Century Fox plans to sell off most of its assets to Disney/ABC, although Philadelphia-based Comcast/NBC had really “offered substantially more” – maybe $10 billion – according to Philly.com.Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commons

 

But it said last Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported Fox boss Rupert Murdoch “was concerned that a Comcast deal would be opposed by U.S. regulators and instead opted for the lower Disney offer.”

Besides a lower price, that would pretty much leave the so-called New Fox with its network, the TV stations it actually owns, and cable’s Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. That’s it.

Add the Thursday rights fee of $3.3 billion to the cost of producing all the games, estimated to be even more than that, and you wonder how Fox will pay for it all.

That’s where you and I come in.old tv sets

For years, if a TV station wanted to appear on a cable or satellite company’s lineup, then the cable or satellite company would have to pay the TV station. Otherwise, the TV station could take away the right to carry it, the station would not air on the cable or satellite company’s lineup, the viewers wouldn’t be able to watch it, both sides would blame each other, and finally there would be a secret agreement and our prices would go up.

tv airwaves

That happens all the time.

But the TV station doesn’t get to keep all that money the cable or satellite companies pay it. The networks figure they’re the reason the TV stations are worth so much to the cable and satellite companies, and demand their share in retransmission fees.

comcast new 595x227

In December, I wrote about Comcast starting to charge more just days before Christmas. Comcast is in a unique position. It’s a cable company, it owns the NBC broadcast network, the TV stations owned by the network and various cable channels.

Also, it used to be that a network would pay its affiliates in every city to carry its commercials (which kept them in business), and the programming that surrounds them (that attracts more people to the commercials and therefore more money). That has been completely reversed and it’s called – of all things – reverse comp, meaning compensation. The stations now pay the networks.

networks

And when a network decides to pay for a special event, it asks its affiliates to help out.

That’s what Michael Nathanson, at MoffettNathanson, predicts Fox will do, according to TVNewsCheck editor Harry Jessell: demand extra bucks from its affiliates.

NFL Logo

Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox, said, “NFL football continues to be the most valuable commodity in all of media.”

Yes, ratings may be lower – down 9.7 percent this season after an 8 percent drop in 2016, according to ESPN – football may be available at more times, over more weeks and not even exclusive anymore, but there’s nothing else that brings America together like NFL football these days. That’s worth a trifecta: viewers, attention and money.

squeeze money

So Jessel reports Nathanson’s thinking is Fox will demand more money from stations in cities with NFC football teams because they air on the local Fox affiliates most Sundays.

He also says it can happen to stations in AFC markets because Thursday night games have teams from all over competing, not mostly the NFC but nearly equally the AFC.

That means Fox stations can expect a call from the network demanding more money for providing better programming – especially in cities with NFL teams – and that may not be so bad, considering what Fox airs on Thursday nights these days? (Do you know?)

Sports Illustrated reported Thursday Night Football is the No. 2-rated show in primetime.

And where will these stations get that extra money? Sure, selling ads for higher prices, but also demanding to charge your cable or satellite company more when its contract is up — Fox will insist they do — and that will raise your bill.

girl watching tv

It has been estimated cable and satellite companies pay ESPN about $6 per month per subscriber. Think about what your cable or satellite bill is. Do you watch ESPN? Would you be willing to go without it and save $6 every month? If your answer is yes, then do you have a choice?

Jessell calls ESPN “a network that forces people who have no interest in sports to heavily subsidize it.”

It’s the same story here, but on a much lower, local level. We may be talking about a quarter – 25 cents – every month for the local station if Fox gets Thursday Night Football. Check out your bill and see what you’re paying for local stations (as a whole) every month. And while you’re at it, see what it costs to get your regional sports networks.

And besides calling on stations, New Fox — much smaller after selling what it plans to sell — needs to make money somehow.

It has two possibilities and is reportedly looking into both.

First is to air as many live events as possible. Scripted sitcoms and dramas are expensive. Live programming, especially sports that’s also expensive, is supposed to draw viewers.

Second is to buy more stations. A TV station used to be a license to print money. That’s not the case anymore, with so much competition and paying networks instead of getting paid by them, but life isn’t so bad.

sinclair broadcast group

Sinclair Broadcast Group – the largest TV owner in America – has been waiting to buy Tribune Broadcasting, which is also one of the top TV station owners in the country.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair without Tribune, from http://sbgi.net/tv-stations/

If the $3.9 billion deal goes through, Sinclair will have to sell off some stations because the Federal Communications Commission (public airwaves) and Justice Department (antitrust) ownership limits. Also, Sinclair and Tribune already own stations in some markets and compete, so the combined company would own multiple stations in one city.

Tribune Broadcasting Company

Fox wants to buy some of those stations, Sinclair will be forced to sell, and New Fox will have the money from selling so much to Disney/ABC.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Variety is reporting Sinclair plans to sell off Tribune’s New York WPIX-TV (CW) and Chicago’s WGN-TV (independent) if the merger is approved, despite wanting to continue filling the map of the U.S. (above). The company filed that with the FCC yesterday. That would leave out two of the three largest broadcast markets in the country based on population. (New York is #1, with 6.4 percent of the nation’s households; Los Angeles is #2; and Chicago is #3 with 3 percent.) Also reported to be spun off instead of taking part in the merger is San Diego’s KSWB (Fox affiliate).

However, there is concern that in the filing, Sinclair said it has buyers for New York and Chicago, and it intends to run the stations through an “options and services agreement” with those buyers. Media watchdog groups have long criticized Sinclair for using shared-services agreements to control stations without owning them, which they see as a loophole around the FCC’s ownership rules.

Sinclair did admit there are eight cities — including Seattle, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City — where it needs to sell a station to comply with FCC rules on the number of stations a single owner can have in a given market. But again, Sinclair said it has buyers for Seattle, Oklahoma City, and Greensboro, N.C., so it can continue operating those stations after a sale.

On the other hand, Sinclair also made a case it should be able to own more than one of the top four stations in Harrisburg, Indianapolis and Greensboro, N.C.

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

If all that sounds complicated, you should also know last April, FCC Chair Ajit Pai — appointed by President Trump — pushed his agency to loosen rules letting TV station owners “greatly increase the number of stations they own,” according to The New York Times. Then, a few weeks later, Sinclair announced its deal to buy Tribune. Coincidence? The new rules made the deal possible.

Last week, The Times learned from New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone and two congressional aides, “The top internal watchdog for the F.C.C. opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair.”

People strongly opposed to the mega-deal argue it would reduce the number of voices in media and diminish coverage of local news.

Seattle Seahawks

So Fox wants to buy more stations and number one is KCPQ, its Seattle affiliate in the home of the NFC’s Seahawks, and where Sinclair already owns a competing station.

Other NFL cities where Fox doesn’t already own a station are the next biggest possibilities. Keep in mind, we don’t how how the late news of Sinclair’s FCC filing and the FCC’s inspector general’s investigation could change or stop things.

I never understood why Fox has insisted on buying station in NFL (especially NFC) cities. Back in 1994, it made sense. It made a network. But consider this: NFL teams play 16 games per year, unless they make the playoffs.

NFL playoffs

Preseason doesn’t count. Those rights are usually bought locally. Not all of the NFC games air on Fox. Not when an AFC team comes to town. Not when the game is on Sunday or Monday nights, or Thursday night until now.

And a competing station can be the local team’s “official station” even if its network doesn’t carry the games. That means special promotions with the team, greater access and maybe a show with the coach. Not too bad.

memory

So will all this work out for Fox? What about your cable or satellite bill? You just read about a lot of variables, and when the Thursday night contract ends and the number crunchers have their say through the 2022 season, the NFL’s other TV rights will be up for grabs. This could greatly determine the price of them then. And don’t forget all the other sports out there, out for rights money!

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Follow-up, fewer watching TV news, future president?

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First, I have to thank everybody who looked at Monday’s blog post. The analytics were incredible, the best ever (and that’s all that counts, right? 🙂). If you haven’t seen it yet, it gives a brief overview of the place I worked for 15 months until August. Feel free to comment below it, or on my Twitter page. You can also subscribe to these blogs with your email address and get an email automatically every time I post.

skype

One thing I left out was that during the long interview process, in early 2016, while I was working a great job in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, the future boss asked me at the end of a Friday Skype interview to write up a critique of the station’s website. I was literally told it was “to see how smart” I am. Two other managers were sitting right there. I was given a week, but finished it that weekend because I was so excited about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia.

Look below and see, it was a very long and thoughtful critique, and included multiple pictures. During my interview at Fox 29 — coincidentally on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2016 — the boss even joked about still reading it! I guess it was good. Too bad most of it was never implemented. That was a clue of what was to come, but it was too late. I had already moved and started the job. (The document is a slideshow. Click below to move forward, back, or to stop it.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s all I have to say here on the subject of that station.

Just this week, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans rely on TV news, and what type they watch varies by who they are. It found,

“Just 50 percent of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57 percent a year prior in early 2016.”

starburst down

That’s a 14 percent decline! Not only that, but the number takes into account local TV (still first place), cable TV (still second place), and also network TV (still third place).

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I think the demographics are even more interesting. According to Pew, college graduates and high-income people watch much less local TV and network TV news. Cable news varies little.

The research doesn’t say but perhaps these people are working longer hours or have more access to news on electronic devices. Or they find the product dumbed-down. The first two possibilities can’t be changed but the last can.

But I think the biggest finding has to do with age. Pew divided the population into four groups, from 18-29 through 65+. It found across all groups, the younger a person is makes them much, much less likely to watch local, network, and also cable TV news. That sounds ominous for the future.

old tv sets

Again, the research doesn’t say, but I’ve learned from working with people young enough to be my children they have no history of getting the news from a scheduled TV newscast, or even cable. They were raised with technology that hadn’t been invented when the older people were growing up. They have no special tie to the TV set, having to watch on schedule, and probably can’t imagine watching in black and white.

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(To go along with that, a huge majority of my students — who were younger around the year 2010, plus or minus a few — hadn’t even heard of a typewriter!) Also notice radio and newspapers were not even considered in the research.

radio newspaper

Note the research was not done on web reading but following my train of thought, Americans will continue to use newer technology to get their news, which makes the web — whether desktop, tablet, phone, or whatever comes next — more and more important. We cannot continue to dumb it down, make mistakes, and hire cheap, good-looking but inexperienced people in big cities. We also need to root out the so-called journalists that lack ethics.

desktop phone tablet

Click here to see the results in a chart, which also divides the American population by gender, race, and politics.

The Radio Television Digital News Association — and we know its agenda — asks, “Is the news for local TV stations all bad?”

Its former chair Kevin Benz admits, “Stations are producing more newscasts because local production is cheap with higher payback potential from selling local advertisers.” Let’s not forget we’re coming off an election year with lots of ads.

The organization claims “profitability has been trending level or up since 2010” and “This is also far from the first time local news has been written off due to changing consumption habits … but newsrooms have been slow to adapt.”

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Back in the Tri-Cities, I was told many people get their news from their Facebook feed. That’s pitiful and of course, Facebook benefits but the publishers really don’t, other than a click to their own websites.

In the past year, not much has come out of the Facebook Journalism Project led by former news anchor Campbell Brown — who has since shown her true politics with The 74 Million, advocating for charter and private schools by taking money away from public schools. (I wrote about that in “Why teaching isn’t for me anymore” here, almost two years ago.)

According to Digiday, problems are that publishers have different business models and want different things from Facebook. And Facebook has mostly let publishers see new products before they launched, and listen to their feedback on various subjects at twice-annual meetings with nice meals. Subjects have included Instant Articles and starting a subscription product so you can’t read unlimited articles for free. There’s also discussion about separating factual news from somebody posting fiction.

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File: Oprah Winfrey

It didn’t help that NBC tweeted about Oprah Winfrey possibly becoming president in the future during Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.

NBC’s website has now clips of her speech and this description:

“The media mogul received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the A-list event, and brought the crowd to its feet with a rallying cry for solidarity amid the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.”

The harassment scandals were huge. That’s what Oprah addressed. I’ve even written about it twice: here (“What is conscience? Elusive in the media, unfortunately”) and here (“Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?”).

I’ve also tweeted about women who weren’t getting paid the same as men.

Variety reported, “Host Seth Meyers even joked about the prospect in his opening monologue. The tweet from NBC said, ‘Nothing but respect for OUR future president. #GoldenGlobes.’”

The next morning, the network put out a statement, blaming outsourcing. Of course, the first tweet was removed.

How horrible! Oprah hadn’t yet spoken at the time, she never mentioned anything about becoming president, viewers won’t know the difference between a tweet from NBC Entertainment or NBC News if it doesn’t say, and why would the network let a third-party vendor tweet on its account, especially without overseeing? The network has no competent employee in-house? Disappointing!

nbc sad
The peacock isn’t proud

And late-breaking Thursday morning, we learned 18-year Fox News veteran James Rosen left the network – without Fox giving a reason – after eight of his former colleagues claimed he “had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists,” according to TVNewser.

Mediaite reports,

“One accusation involved him groping a female colleague in a shared-cab—an action she did not consent to. He then reportedly attempted to retaliate after his sexual advances were denied by attempting to take her sources, which would serve to damage her professional image.”

Also, the Washington Post says it suspended 28-year reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days what it called “inappropriate workplace conduct” involving current and former female colleagues. He apologized in a statement, but the paper will continue to investigate.

I’m going to end on a better note, in contrast to what I wrote about Monday. Know I’ve been interviewing with different national and international companies here in Philadelphia. Tuesday, I found out I made it to the next round with one firm, and I’m obviously very happy about that. I told the woman on the phone who was simply following up on her morning email that everybody has been so supportive. We’d talked before and her response was simply that they are a partnership, rather than a corporation, and that there is no need for competition amongst (potential) employees.

That’s nice to hear, and it gives me hope.

P.S. On a personal note: Tuesday night in Florida, my mother fell in the kitchen. She hit her face on the floor. There was lots of blood, but no concussion. Turns out, she broke her pelvis in three places: two in the front, and one in the back. No surgery required, but she’ll have to spend another day or two in the hospital. The next two weeks are supposed to be very painful, and it could take her four months to get better. The doctor suggested time rehab since she can’t do much. Please keep her in your thoughts. 😦

Rules? NFL throws out ratings book for holiday weekend finale

There’s always a lot at stake at an NFL football game but this year, the league decided to break its own rules to avoid a ratings disaster for the last game of the season, on New Year’s Eve. The National Football League is trying to save face after already having lower ratings than last year, and it doesn’t want to look worse than it already does.

Fat chance.

football

Here is the deal:

The big nationally televised game of the week is Sunday night on NBC. In fact, from week 5 through 16 (out of 17), the Peacock Network can choose whichever game was scheduled for earlier Sunday, as long as it wasn’t the one “protected” by CBS or Fox.

But the NFL can choose the last game of the season, or in this case it chose not to have one.

So usually, NBC gets the best game and — being in primetime on the most watched night of the week — also the best ratings. It pays for that.

NBC Sunday week 17
NBC Sports

NBC’s website says the New Year’s Eve game on Week 17 was supposed to be determined (“TBD”) by the NFL. However, the NFL canceled the game.

What’s in it for NBC? I won’t lose sleep over that. Instead, the other games will be shown on CBS and Fox at either 1 or 4pm ET.

According to the NFL, all games with playoff implications will be played at the same time.

 

2017 NFL release

“We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1pm or 4:25pm ET windows,” NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz announced. “This ensures that we do not have a matchup on ‘Sunday Night Football’ on New Year’s Eve that because of earlier results has no playoff implications for one or both of the competing teams.”

Both CBS and Fox were scheduled to get double-headers on the last week of the season. (I’m not sure about local stations whose team plays at home when their network has a double-header week. They usually lose out on their second game.) But wherever you watch on local TV, there won’t be more than two games at 1 and two that actually count at 4.

Taking a chance is part of life and business, and the NFL punted. Of course, it didn’t have to schedule a New Year’s Eve game that probably wouldn’t have done too well in the first place, but that’s their problem. I also don’t know if NBC objected when it checked the calendar, a year ago.

So the NFL created its own fake drama. It’s moving three CBS games from 1 to 4, and two Fox games from 1 to 4. That means fans who want to see as many games with playoff implications as possible won’t be able to, since they’ll all be played at the same time!

8 Nick Foles Ariz Wikipedia Commons
#8: Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback to Carson Wentz — Nick Foles, when he was back with the University of Arizona. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The NFL figured some of the 1pm games that decide playoff positions will convince teams playing 4pm games to sit out their star players, rest them for the playoffs, and guarantee they wouldn’t get hurt. There would be less of a draw at 4 or primetime, despite the league’s own scheduling rules.

 

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Eagles’ hated opponents, the Dallas Cowboys, have no chance of making the playoffs.
Foles and the Birds are scheduled to play the Cowboys Sunday at 1 because neither has anything to gain or lose.

What they really wanted was a final game that had playoff implications that would get people to watch. This year, to their disappointment, it wasn’t going to happen.

So the NFL decided to inconvenience the fans.

 

 

The Eagles were originally scheduled to play the Cowboys at home, in Lincoln Financial Field, at 1pm. Five other games, involving ten other teams, were moved back.

How many fans? And let’s not forget their families and friends who weren’t going to go, but catch up later.

Fans paying for high-priced tickets who were planning to pack stadiums were aware one game could be moved to prime time, even on New Year’s Eve, changing their celebration plans.

Instead, hundreds of thousands in five stadiums that could be full of fans at 1pm ET will have to change their plans and wait until later in the afternoon. Talk about an inconvenience for all those people who paid for tickets! And the 1pm games will mean nothing.

In a year with — low ratings, two teams moving, a third in the process, controversy continuing over behavior during the National Anthem, and players who protested last year not playing this year — the NFL decided to do whatever it felt like to save itself.

Instead, it’s losing more and more respect in the process.

loser sign
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

I don’t call that a win.

Comment below: Which game(s) do you WANT to watch, and which game(s) WILL you watch?

Today, Merry Christmas to Comcast! You’re welcome!

No waiting until Christmas on Monday. Comcast, you obviously consider yourself too powerful.

comcast santa

Today, your hard-earned rate hikes take effect. Santa says you’ve been such a good company this year, only getting me concerned and wasting my time by forgetting when my Xfinity introductory offer ends.

comcast xmas 1
Comcast notice, page 1 of 7
comcast xmas 2
Comcast notice, page 2 of 7

money dollars cents

Does anyone reading this have suggestions for me for when that offer actually does expire? I need the internet (keeping net neutrality, which nobody is counting on Comcast to do), and pretty much the local and basic cable stations, especially news. Nothing special. None of the new programs I’ve read about but never seen. There are a lot of companies’ names that I’ve read about but never understood. (See new information released today, below.)

Seems like I’ll be looking at something very different and unfamiliar, since my building doesn’t do Verizon’s Fios nor satellite.

comcast old 595x227
Comcast’s old logo, before the feds let it buy NBC/Universal — under several conditions.

Comcast, I know costs go up but Philadelphia is your hometown, you have more to lose here than elsewhere and here, you actually own so much of your own programming and channels, including one for local sports fans (now called NBC Sports Philadelphia) and two broadcast, over the public’s airways.

One is WCAU-NBC10 (where I worked, 1998-2000, under General Electric, before the Universal and Comcast buyouts) and there’s WWSI-Telemundo62, the Spanish station really licensed to Atlantic City, whether or not it concentrates on people down the shore. In case you didn’t know, it comes just less than three years after NBC pulled its affiliation from New Jersey’s only major network affiliate, WMGM-40 in Atlantic City. That voice is gone.

SIDEBAR: Looking at NBC10’s website, I noticed the Channel 10 homepage weather featured “StormTracker4” and thought that was weird. NBC also owns its station in the next city up: WNBC-4 in New York. WNBC also brands its homepage weather “StormTracker4” but that makes sense, since it’s Channel 4!

So I tried another NBC-owned station that’s not on Channel 4 (anymore): WTVJ-6 in Miami. Their homepage weather is called “First Alert Doppler 6000” which makes sense for Channel 6 and is different from NBC’s two northern stations that are bigger, have different channel numbers, but the same name (at least at this moment). I wonder if this is regular or something simply went wrong.

Don’t forget synergy saves parent company Comcast money, and should be factored into our fees, too. (And kudos to Miami for actually selling their web weather preview!)

ANOTHER SIDEBAR: Newswise today, I noticed NBC10 beat Philadelphia competitor WTXF-Fox 29 (where I worked, 2016-2017) that had two headlines way up above the fold that were known and could’ve been written long ago — seven months and 15 months ago, respectively. Their personnel decisions should be going under the microscope.

fox29 headlines 12-20-2017
fox29.com (21st Century Fox)

First, on May 9, 2017, it reported Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office decided not to charge Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian “with a criminal offense” in the May 2015 crash that killed eight people and injured 200 others.

Then, three days later on May 12, 2017, it reported, “Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro expanded on charges a Philadelphia judge approved a day earlier after the family of a woman killed in the crash sought a private criminal complaint” and that specific story, more than seven months old, was for some reason updated today!

fox 2nd article 05-12-2017
Your guess why a May 12 Associated Press article had to be updated Dec. 20 is as good as mine. I don’t know what’s new or corrected from May 12.
Second, a year and a half ago, in June 2016, I had trouble inserting my subway token at the Broad Street Subway’s Spring Garden station. There was no place to insert it. I ended up having to walk up and down steps at three of the four corners of that intersection to finally find a human to take my token and let me down to the train platform. So we knew tokens were being phased out. Besides, how many other cities already did away with them?
Christmas
SIDEBAR OVER: So Comcast/Xfinity, for now, Merry Christmas, but I don’t know how long my even more costly business with you will last. We’ll have to find out if and when our relationship changes in the future. I can’t wait to see (with my own eyes) what you propose.
xfinity 595x227

I also wonder, did @PHLCouncil, and especially my district’s @Darrell_Clarke, who happens to be city council president, allow your rate hike?

P.S. Readers probably figured out I had the Comcast portion of this blog post prepared since shortly after I got my bill (and read it) weeks ago. Coincidentally, I found several other articles on similar topics with updates and possible solutions, this morning alone!

old tv sets

First, The New York Times‘ “How to cut the cord on cable” which prepares us to use the internet and streaming services to save a ton of money. Our viewing habits are different, so we all should read it.

Second, according to The Seattle Times, a Washington State broadband company “filed a claim with the FCC saying cable giant Comcast is unfairly trying to force Wave to provide higher-priced sports TV channels to customers who don’t want them.”

Third, the fighting between station owners, and cable/satellite operators, for retransmission consent money that probably cost you from watching something you wanted at some point (with both sides blaming each other) continues.

According to TVAnswerMan, “AT&T’s U-verse TV service lost two more local stations last night due to a fee fight with their owner, Sarkes Tarzian, Inc.” Satellite provider Dish had been involved in the majority of recent fights. New England Patriots fans almost didn’t see the game against AFC-East rivals, the Miami Dolphins, until the Boston CBS station allowed carriage.

FTV Live‘s Scott Jones put it best:

Finally, Bloomberg warns, “Cable TV’s password-sharing crackdown is coming” and “it’s a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers — and billions of dollars in revenue.”

The article reports TV Everywhere, started in 2009, “was an attempt to appeal to young consumers by letting them access cable or satellite shows on any device.” Of course, that “any device” part led to piracy and password-swapping since companies like Charter/Spectrum only force paying customers to enter their passwords for each device once a year. Somehow, tens of thousands watched just one subscriber’s streams simultaneously for free!

budget
Anyway, after all that, got a solution for my Comcast concern? I’d love to hear in a comment! (Got a web link?) And thanks!

Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?

matt lauer Wikipedia Commons
Matt Lauer, Wikipedia Commons

Today, it was Matt Lauer. Some of you want the newest, shocking details. The Miami Herald called the accusations against him “crude misconduct.”

Less known, it was a two-fer. Well-known Minnesota Public Radio host Garrison Keillor won’t be showing up for work anymore.

Last week, Charlie Rose went down, fired for alleged sexual harassment over the years.

The list of male journalists (and also politicians and some in the entertainment field) has grown since I last blogged about the subject, 20 days ago.

Don’t forget Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin and the late Roger Ailes. And Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Jeremy Piven, Louis CK and, of course, Bill Cosby.

There are now Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Conyers.

Plus, President George H.W. Bush was implicated. And, of course, current President Donald Trump himself has been named repeatedly.

Donald Trump

There are too many others to mention. My previous blog post mentions others.

I hate the story and wish it would go away. Deep, painful wounds are being opened.

Yes, it looks like justice is happening to a degree — and that’s good — but American newsmen (there’s a word from the past, when the behavior may have been looked upon as typical, or maybe even normal and accepted) are making Trump look right in his spat with them and their bosses.

I didn’t hear Trump say so or tweet it, but it really doesn’t help the non-journalist American men who are his base.

And we’re learning way too many other people, including executives, kept the sexual harassment they witnessed or heard about to themselves, afraid of powerful or popular colleagues.

Keep in mind, teachers and several other professionals can go to JAIL for not reporting any suspicion — suspicion — but that involves another of the most vulnerable around us: minors. In Florida, failure to stop what you’re doing and report is now a felony.

 

florida dcf reporting
In case you mistakenly thought I was kidding!

Young women, in or just out of school, are expected to fend for themselves against these wolves — kind of like dangerously going out on stories by themselves in bad neighborhoods at night. These so-called multi-media journalists, or MMJs, shoot, write, edit, and present the news live on TV — and forced to look over their shoulders, as if they don’t have enough to do — and unfortunately this is becoming more popular.

Recently, I’ve been wondering: Has anybody interviewed the mothers of the accused men? Yes, I know the accused tend to be older. Their once-proud mothers may not be around any longer. But several have to be.

older moms
Clip Art

I don’t care where these guys worked. Notice I left out network references, since journalists should be friendly competition to find out the truth and make society better. And most have worked in more than one place. (I did the same with politicians’ parties.)

Politically, I’m close to the middle, depending on the issue. Since the 2016 presidential election, political parties have meant less and less to me every day. It seems both sides have folks who are corrupt, and unworthy of trust and respect. (Kind of like the candidates!)

newt gingrich Wikiquote
Newt Gingrich, Wikiquotes

I’m not justifying Connie Chung’s 1995 interview with new Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s (Newtie’s) mother — and he has a whole lot to answer for, personally — but I’d like to hear some moms’ thoughts on their sons who are accused of sexual harassment these days.

In the Chung-Kathleen ‘Kit’ Gingrich “just between you and me” exchange below, the trusting 68-year-old admitted Newt told her that then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “bitch.” Mrs. Gingrich died in 2003 at the age of 77.

 

Have any of you heard from any of today’s moms?

Lenny with a Brian Williams poster while working at NBC affiliate WCYB. It’s long-gone for a different reason. I don’t remember a Matt Lauer poster. Maybe there was a Today show ensemble instead. I wonder where it is tonight.

Disgraceful daughter

into the great wide open
1991: Cover art for the song Into the Great Wide Open (Wikipedia: fair use)

Every situation is different, but death always seems to be a hard topic. We could be talking about a close relative, an acquaintance from years ago, a pet, or a famous person. How people respond is unique and usually understandable.

Usually. And I will say it. Tom Petty’s younger daughter seems to be an exception.

Monday afternoon, I heard about her father’s sad situation as a quick breaking story on some local newscast. It all but said he was dead. I think it also credited TMZ which, like it or not, would’ve been sued out of business if it wasn’t so right on the money. Again, it turned out to be true.

petty people

Then, since I get emails from People magazine for some reason, this came: “Rock Legend Tom Petty Dead After Full Cardiac Arrest at Age 66.”

I really didn’t think much of it because it had become expected, and being in the news business for decades jaded me. I was tired after watching hours of Las Vegas shooting coverage and if I had thoughts at the moment, they would’ve been to get file video, old facts, and be on top of whatever new was being reported.

But there seemed to be no update on TV for far too long. I’m not so heavily into music but even I was familiar with Tom Petty. Maybe it was the Florida connection.

Anyway, I eventually clicked the People link and saw the headline “Rock Legend Tom Petty ‘Clinging to Life’ After Massive Cardiac Arrest at Age 66: Report.” Notice the evidence, as if necessary, how the original headline was reflected in the web address http://people.com/music/tom-petty-dead-66-heart-attack/.

petty real people

I became interested. This one-time soap opera fanatic knows real people don’t come back to life, and doesn’t waste time on fake news, or the people and sites that publish it.

My friend Eric, in the media whom I completely trust, posted on Facebook about what he’d done earlier:

“My Petty post was based on information from LAPD. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office now says: LAPD did not handle Petty call. WE did. Petty has a DNR (legal Do Not Resuscitate order: Lenny) and is “clinging to life,” “not expected to make it through the night.” So, to recap, Petty not dead yet… but soon.”

The fact is, except for the victim, this was a local Los Angeles story. Who from outside the area knew there was a difference between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department? Not me, even though I covered O.J. Simpson’s murder trial and those of us in the east of a certain age are familiar with the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs), thanks to NBC.

Then, the LAPD (police department) heard reports of Petty’s passing and tweeted this:

petty lapd tweets

“The LAPD has no information about the passing of singer Tom Petty. Initial information was inadvertantly (sic) provided to some media sources. However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”

Yes, this was a huge story. Also, keep in mind most of the east coast media had been woken up early that morning for the Las Vegas massacre I alluded to, and members of the west coast media may have been up 20 hours. And nobody is perfect.

Back to a family tragedy. Loved ones rush to a hospital room. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, or when. There’s panic and confusion. People aren’t thinking clearly.

However, it seems the younger of Petty’s two daughters, AnnaKim Violette, spent a lot of time during this unfolding unexpected tragedy on an Instagram account, (warning about the next link) taking on Rolling Stone magazine which I don’t read. The last I heard of them, they retracted a story about purported group sexual assault at the University of Virginia and I read wire copy since I worked in Virginia shortly after that.

After-the-fact reports blame CBS for being first with the wrong story, but the network explained: “CBS News reported information obtained officially from the LAPD about Tom Petty.”

petty cbs

 

Then, between early Monday afternoon until about midnight (Pacific time), seeing the network’s first tweet caused other major media outlets and celebrities to react incorrectly.

Maybe Rolling Stone had something to do with it. I don’t know why Violette, in her 30s, picked on them, but the barrage of vulgarity was completely unreasonable to do by her dying dad’s bedside. I can’t think of any reason for her to be interacting with anyone she doesn’t know personally at that time, much less constantly be interacting with the whole world. (Last warning is over comments below this picture.)

petty instagram
Instagram post via http://uproxx.com/music/tom-pettys-daughter-slams-rolling-stone-annakim-violette-slams/

I don’t know what she was doing besides typing but if I was there with reason, I would’ve wanted her out of that hospital room.

Could anyone imagine Tom Petty wanting any of us to think about her misbehavior when they remember the end of his life?

Click here for pictures from the Instagram account. Click here and here for several other posts including thoughts and pictures from the same Instagram account.

Sorry to break it to you, AnnaKim, but your father was your father and also a human being, and he was also a celebrity whose premature death was news, whether you like it or not. A family statement would’ve solved a lot of this and you had too much time on your hands.

So take your inheritance (including any possible genetic gifts) and consider it the price of being born into a famous family, not that you chose to. Others would’ve appreciated your luck. You’re far from the only mourner out there. Millions are. You just seem to be the angriest and most out of line. Let’s hope.

Wikipedia Mircosoft Word clip art
June 20, 2016 at the Fillmore San Francisco (Microsoft Word clip art crediting Wikipedia)

P.S. The media should be embarrassed enough. At least this time, they’d been given incorrect information and had been up too many hours. They were wrong. Maybe there’s no excuse, but this comes close.

A great ‘day’ in Lenny’s ‘life’

Lenny and the castWhen you’ve watched a daily TV show on and off for 20 years, even very rarely recently because work gets in the way, it becomes part of your life. There’s no getting around that.

So when I found out several members of the Days of our Lives cast were going to be two hours away, and we were running crawls telling viewers about it, I knew I had to be there. Good thing I work for an NBC station. The other guys weren’t interested, for some reason like competition.

The 50th anniversary of Days of our Lives is coming up, November 8, and cast members were touring the country. For some reason, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee — not far from Dollywood, where I visited a few years ago — was chosen. That’s why you’ll see ship stuff in the background. See my preview article.

wcyb preview article

garry

Garry and I got press passes to cover the big event for the station, thanks to outgoing boss John. Garry was my crew, and talk about a big event!

We got there early, 9:30am, and my gosh, the crowd! Hundreds and hundreds of people! Too bad for them, they would have to wait awhile.

street sign

crowd2crowd1We got into the Iceburg parking lot. (Gotta love that name at the Titanic Museum!) Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas, was in the car in front of us but we didn’t know it at the time. We parked next to him, to the right. Very cool! He had a Cooper Mini, probably rented, with a New Jersey license plate.

Then, we checked in. No problem. Showed my card and license, and they had my name. Waited with other media people for a little while. Finally, we went into a room with some contest winners. I think the NBC station in Knoxville held some sort of contest. They’re bigger than us and closer to Pigeon Forge. Anyway, there were three cast members there. They were all guys. I guess the women needed a little more time to prepare!

The contest winners did their thing — took pictures and got autographs in the new 50th anniversary book — while the media waited around. Garry shot everything with his cell phone. I had mine for backup. Amazing things you can do these days! (But still, I would’ve preferred something a little bigger, and a microphone with a mic flag to look more professional and get a better guarantee of good sound. The interview videos are on my Facebook page. Some are better than others.

Deirdre hall dressed for Halloweenyes were on tv lenny deirdreThe first person I really got to talk to was Deidre Hall, who, of course, plays Dr. Marlena Evans Brady. Maybe Black, if she married John. (I told you I haven’t watched in a while, but I still know the characters. That never goes away.) She had a little mask on because it’s Halloween.

 lenny made a funny w deirdre  2000 lenny marlene

I was most excited to see her because I just happened to have a picture of the two of us from 15 years ago when she visited one of the stations I worked at in Philadelphia. She had a little trouble seeing without her glasses. Luckily, we both look exactly the same! She was probably my most serious interview. I asked her why Days is still on the air after so many other soaps were canceled. (There are only four left.) And she’s just happy to be a part of the show after almost 40 years, even though she plays a great-grandmother.

bryan laugh after 1st question

bryan 2nd laughMy most personal talk was with Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas Roberts (now Horton). We’re just a few weeks apart, so I’ve always related to him. I started by telling him the room we were in, which looked like a hotel meeting room, reminded me of the room where he and Sami first hooked up (and their son Will was conceived)! Not surprising to those of you who really know me. Lots and lots of fun! We talked about him being a grandfather on the show, and he immediately brought up real life: his 15-year-old son and the ladies! Also, we talked about his character’s old drinking habit (he liked Kamikazes) and relationship with Alison Sweeney, who played Sami. He actually took her to her prom when he was 21 and she was 16, and questioned whether that’s legal in California. He also said he liked proving he can act seriously (he’s an actor and can do anything). He just hadn’t done it because the writers waited years before giving him the material.

showing theresa old brady family historytheresa signing sorry about the fireplace poker

My biggest surprise was Jen Lilley because she’s relatively new and I didn’t know her. Luckily, she came up to me and started talking!

john coma autographShe plays Theresa, who is one of those (misunderstood) characters you love to hate. She’s a Brady and also a Donovan, so there are lots of family relationships. She told me she gets her scripts about a week before shooting, but usually memorizes them the night before, kind of like cramming for a test. Whatever works! I can’t imagine how they memorize lines. Anyway, she signed my book with apologies to the character John, who she hit over the head with a fireplace poker, putting him in a coma. Somehow, I did watch that on TV when it aired (and I’m not a fan of the John character).

Then, there were Thaao Penghlis (Tony) and Lauren Koslow (Kate). Realize they’ve been through so many storylines and my head was way in the past, when I watched more religiously. She plays Lucas’ mother and I think she had a relationship with Tony’s father, Stefano.

starting tony & kate         kate describing chopping fish

Anyway, I brought up her first scene on the show (she replaced Deborah Adair, who had left about a year before), when she’d been held prisoner on a fishing boat. She demonstrated how they had her chopping fish with a real knife. As for him, he was a bad guy in the past, like his father, and was killed off. Now, I think he’s back as his cousin Andre and (in real life) said some wonderful things about what to expect on the show this month, including seeing something the show hadn’t done before.crowd3

By now, time was running out. The cast had to take pictures, and remember there were hundreds of people waiting outside in the cold, the whole time! See WBIR-Knoxville’s story.

lenny with the 3 guys

Peter Reckell (Bo), Stephen Nichols (Patch, and he only put it on before meeting the fans) and Andrew Masset (Larry Welch before my time, the bad guy who tried to marry Hope) who were talking amongst themselves.

lenny patch bo

Garry interrupted, like he did other times, and introduced me as if I was somebody they should know. We chatted briefly.

lenny & hopeKristian and Lenny

After that, Kristian Alfonso (Hope) signed my book while walking.

Then, Melissa Reeves appeared an hour late. She’d driven in from Nashville, which is in the Central Time Zone. (Maybe that’s the reason?) There wasn’t enough time and the picture didn’t look good, but I can prove she took the time to sign. I also mentioned her character’s name is Jennifer Rose Deveraux Horton and my sister-in-law is Jennifer Rose Walk Cohen.

reeves lenny       reeves autograph

While all this was going on, people were taking lots and lots of pictures, many of me interviewing the stars. I didn’t know anyone other than Garry, the cast, and the few women I talked to earlier wearing WBIR clothes. I wonder where those pics will turn up! (Please let me know if you see any.)autographs

So we left with a bunch of autographs that mostly look scribbled but I have memories, and pictures and videos too.

Thank you to John, who’s also a fan, for making the day happen for me. Also Garry my crew. Plus, Ed in Philadelphia who didn’t know about Days and didn’t care and let me meet Deidre Hall the first time around, in June 2000. And Jamie, who’s actually a news director in Knoxville but was morning executive producer at WSVN in Miami 20 years ago and let me mention Days‘ 30th anniversary in my newscast on November 8, 1995.

jen lenny 50 more yearsI appreciate longevity and 50 years is a heck of a long time to be on TV daily. Of course, not every storyline has been stellar. Things haven’t always worked out. But that’s life, we’re all human, and the show has a pretty good track record. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that, and make a living at it, too?

As Jen Lilley and I ended our conservation, here’s to 50 more years!

Odds & ends from 3 weeks

warmer weather
warmer weather

I haven’t posted anything in about 3 weeks. (I also haven’t heard from you asking for a post. Unbelievable! What’s up with that?) I haven’t been relaxing at the beach. Been doing plenty of writing. Just very busy at work and home.

Nobody said anything about walking into the Bristol Motor Speedway
Nobody said anything about walking into the Bristol Motor Speedway

My parents’ visit has come and gone. Went very well. Wasn’t sure for a while. Garry cleaned and made sure things were pretty good around the apartment. The only shortcomings were the bedroom carpet, kitchen, and the stickers still on items from the move. (I brought up that one.) My mother didn’t mention my hair. Mom and Dad both LOVED spending time with the kids. (Click any pictures to make them larger.)

Happy family!
Happy family!
Nice to meet  you
Nice to meet you

The trip to and from Asheville Airport wasn’t the most pleasant but worth it, and now I can say I’ve made it to Asheville and Jonesborough. Also picked up kosher food at the Trader Joe’s in Asheville. (Thanks to the ladies at the synagogue for that tip.)

Cousins Barry and Ellen stopped by on their annual drive from Florida to Massachusetts, and brought presents for the kids.

2015-05-13 casey gift from Barry & Ellen   2015-05-13 casey gift from Barry & Ellen   2015-05-13 casey gift from Barry & Ellen

2015-05-13 Yeti gift from Barry & Ellen2015-05-13 Yeti gift from Barry & Ellen2015-05-17 screen door & dog gate

Around the same time, Garry installed a portable screen to keep bugs out when the door is open and also a fence to keep Yeti in the patio area (but he hasn’t tried that yet).

Now, I’m left with a ton of travel brochures and I’m learning a lot more about Bristol and the rest of the area. Should help at work.

Speaking of work: several accomplishments since I last wrote here.2015-05 Red Nose Day button

Red Nose Day to support the poor is Thursday and NBC will air a three-hour special. I was able to take a button, place it on the homepage, and link it to a page I wrote. Also, we have a daily Facebook contest going with viewers submitting pictures of themselves with red noses. (Check out the app. You can have red noses implanted on your photos!)

family red noses

2015-05 work email signatureI was also able to get Web links onto email signatures at work. The digital manager should have Web links, right?

fb mrdrs section

Trial was in the OTHER Washington Co. courthouse, not the historic one my parents & I saw
Trial was in the OTHER Washington Co. courthouse, not the historic one my parents & I saw

We had big coverage of a Miami-style murder trial. It’s known as the Facebook murders. In short, Dad killed a young couple because the woman unfriended his adult daughter on Facebook. Dad was already convicted. This trial was for adult daughter and also Mom. (Daughter’s ex-boyfriend was also going on trial, but turned state’s evidence just before.) Oh, and the female victim was murdered with her infant son in her arms. Anyway, our reporter at court tweeted out everything, and I wrote the stories and created a section with photo galleries, videos, and old stories.2015-05 app button on mobile too (By the way, both were guilty. Life in prison.)

I was able to put the new app button from the regular desktop Web site onto the mobile Web site as well. Analytics are looking good.2015-05 bear slideshow popular

A big spring story here has been a good number of bear sightings. I started a picture gallery and think it was my first to make the “Most Popular” area.

The original pic is still packed somewhere.
The original pic is still packed somewhere.(Notice Facebook’s response to the comment.)

There was some sad (arguably more shocking) news and that’s Kelley Mitchell died. Those of you who visited me at WSVN in the 90’s met her. She was great on TV. We had our ups and downs from the beginning to the end, but she seems to have gotten raw deals on jobs and proved her dedication by taking her dog to chemotherapy regularly for months. RIP, Kelley.

There’s good and bad news on the Miami condo rental front. I got tenants! There were finally approved and they moved in. Of course, they’re complaining about things I never complained about. Things will get done (at least some) but luckily, I have a manager so I don’t have to hear whining. Worth the price. Still thinking I should’ve sold.

Another interesting week ahead. Tuesday is Election Day in three Sullivan County municipalities. I wrote up a voter guide and plan to stay late, to put results on our Web site.

Definitely more important (except if you’re a candidate) is Casey’s 7th birthday on Friday! I still don’t know the exact details on the celebration, other than singing. Yeti will be there. She has occasionally been picking me up from work.

Meeting one of our anchors while picking me up from work
Meeting one of our anchors while picking me up from work
house cat angelo
A Connecticut anchor‘s cat recently celebrated two years!

Anyway, off to get a haircut so I look good in Casey’s birthday pics!