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StillTalkinTV to Stop Talkin TV on Vacation

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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ABC News did a story Thursday night asking if President Obama should take his scheduled vacation on Martha’s Vineyard despite the Wall Street craziness going on and the sorry state of the economy.
The story fairly pointed out other Presidents who played golf or headed to their ranch during difficult times. President Reagan, for example, took a month off on his ranch during difficult economic times.
I vote for giving the President a break with his family to recharge and hoping he comes back with some fresh ideas.
Who among us doesn’t need a break?
I certainly do.
This is all my way of telling you that StillTalkinTV is taking several days off from writing to recharge and work around the house (I don’t own a ranch) before college classes and the new TV season begins.
I expect I’ll get more rest than President Obama will.

See you sometime next week.
pergament@msn.com

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Ch.7 News Going HD; Yanks Could Be Next on WBBZ

George Lopez

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Finally, here’s a reason to watch Channel 7 News again.
No, Irv, Tom and Rick aren’t coming back.
HD is arriving.
My spies tell me that Channel 7 has carried an on-air promo announcing that its newscasts will be in high definition. It is scheduled to start Saturday, which also is the day that Channel 7 should get a big audience for the Bills preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.
I needed spies because I don’t tend to watch Channel 7 that often in the summer unless ABC runs a “Modern Family” repeat.
According to sources, Channel 7 staffers have been rehearsing to do a newscast in high definition.
Channel 7’s move to HD would leave Channel 4 as the only local news station to rely on a standard definition picture (or SD) that doesn’t fill the picture of HD sets.
With the loss of Oprah as its lead-in in a few weeks, the Channel 4 News reign already is in jeopardy. LIN TV, which owns Channel 4, would be wise to quickly join the HD party or risk losing more viewers. Its crime-loaded format looks tired and the newscasts anchored by veterans Don Postles and Jacquie Walker look like they are from another century when the picture that HD viewers receive is reduced on the sides.
According to sources, Channel 7 is going to real HD. Channel 2 News began carrying its newscast in something called up-converted HD some time ago and has looked the sharpest ever since it began to fill the screen of HD sets. YNN, Time Warner Cable’s 24-hour news channel, does the same thing.
It doesn’t mean that Channel 7 is going to add any more reporters to its limited staff. But at least the ones they have and anchors Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri will look sharper.
Well, at least in some ways.
* Speaking of HD, New York Yankee fans want to know why the games that WBBZ carries off of a New York channel aren’t in HD on the station’s HD channel.
Phil Arno, the general manager of WBBZ, said the station planned to carry the games in HD and followed the Yankees advice on what equipment to buy to do so before the season. Unfortunately, the Yankees gave the wrong advice and the equipment didn’t work, Arno said.
He’s trying to decide now whether to proceed with new equipment to carry the Yankee games in HD, but there’s a catch. Isn’t there always?
According to Arno, Time Warner subscribers who don’t have HD would lose some of the picture on the standard definition (Channel 5) feed and the noise WBBZ might receive from disgruntled fans could be louder than the praise it would get from HD viewers.
“It’s a judgment call,” said Arno.
As of Wednesday, he hadn’t decided what to do. I’d vote for carrying the games in HD.
If that is Arno’s final ruling and the equipment arrives, he said the remaining Yankee games on WBBZ’s schedule could air on HD in a few weeks.
*Channel 7 General Manager Bill Ransom recently told the Buffalo News that his station’s move to automation that will lead to the eventual dismissal of 10 people in the engineering department isn’t any different than what previously happened at Channel 2 and Channel 4.
“We’re doing what WGRZ and LIN (Channel 4’s owner) already have already done,” Ransom was quoted as telling the paper last Saturday. “LIN has outsourced its master control and traffic years ago and WGRZ has outsourced its master control and promotion years ago.”
Not exactly, protested Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner.
He said his station still does all of its own master control work during most of the week, with it being outsourced overnight and weekends. He added the station didn’t eliminate anywhere near the 10 jobs that Channel 7 will be eliminating after outsourcing master control to an Atlanta company, Encompass, that can transmit feeds in high definition.
Toellner also took issue with Ransom’s suggestion that Channel 2’s local promotions department is history.
“We have a full promotions department that I believe is the largest in town,” said Toellner.
It will be interesting to see how smoothly Channel 7’s transition from local master control to Encompass will be and whether enough issues arise to make viewers notice that things aren’t being done the same way they used to be done. Rarely do these things go off without a hitch.
* TBS announced Wednesday that it is canceling George Lopez’s midnight talk show. Lopez (see above in happier times) had moved this season from 11 p.m. to midnight to make room for Conan O’Brien’s new show at 11 p.m. Conan’s ratings aren’t great but his show was nominated for an Emmy so that should buy some time.
* Finally, Channel 4 sports anchor John Murphy gave Jacquie Walker an unusual shoutout during one of Wednesday’s newscasts. While showing footage of retired Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly at Bills training camp, Murphy noted that Kelly was a Hall of Famer like Walker.

If you joined the newscast just to see the sports, you night have been confused. Meteorologist Amelia Segal had previously introduced a story about Walker and Channel 4 senior producer Vic Baker being named to the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Walker was mentioned in a Buffalo News story after disc jockey Shane, who also was named to the Hall Wednesday.

That placement was more amusing than Murphy comparing Walker to Kelly.

pergament@msn.com

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Fox Joins On Demand, Prompting “Bad,” “Mad” Search

Jon Hamm

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If you’re like me and turn on the TV at night, you’ll often have trouble finding anything worth watching.
This is especially true if you are allergic to NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and its judges – Howie Mandel, Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne.
So that’s one reason why I was happy to hear from Time Warner Cable Tuesday that Fox has finally joined ABC, CBS and NBC and become part of Prime Time On Demand.
Upon hearing the news, I quickly turned to TWC’s Channels 705 (high definition) and 1005 (standard definition) to see what Fox programs was offering via PTOD.
PTOD regulars often can use the Rolling Stones old lament – “you can’t always get what you want” – when it comes to On Demand offerings.
ABC doesn’t offer broadcast TV’s best comedy, “Modern Family,” On Demand but it does offer Jimmy Kimmel Live. CBS offers all three “CSI” series and the two “NCIS” series but I still haven’t seen the much-talked about season finale of “The Mentalist” because that show isn’t On Demand.
Fox’s initial On Demand lineup is limited to “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “COPS” and “Fringe.” And when I clicked on “COPS” and “Fringe,” I was told that no episodes are available. ”Bones” and ”House” are nowhere to be found. Actually, that’s not true. Repeats have been sold to cable channels.
Things are bound to improve as Fox expands its On Demand offerings.
The mere exercise of looking to see what Fox offers On Demand inspired me to look beyond Prime Time On Demand to see what cable series on Channel 926 are offered On Demand for free.
And I was astonished to see what I had missed all summer on nights when I was desperate for something – anything — to watch.
The biggest surprise was seeing that the second season premiere of the pay-cable series “The Big C” with Laura Linney is being offered via a Showtime free preview to non-subscribers. Similarly, the premiere of “The Borgias” is offered for free. Presumably, Showtime’s goal is for viewers to be so entertained by these free previews that they sign up for the service.
MTV offers several series, including “Jersey Shore,” which just had a record-setting season premiere. I’d rather watch Howie Mandel for 10 minutes than Snooki but some of you might want to see what all the fuss is about. And later explain it to me.
AMC offers the first four episodes of Bryan Cranston in this season’s “Breaking Bad,” which lost me with its incredibly violent season opener. I’ll probably go back some time for episode 2. The channel also is offering four repeat episodes of “Mad Men” for those viewers who can’t wait until March of 2012 to see new ones with Jon Hamm (see above) and company.
FX, the Fox basic cable that has been On Demand well before its network parent, is offering three episodes of the current final season of “Rescue Me” if you want to catch up with the craziness surrounding Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and his family in the firehouse and out. I highly recommend it as long as you don’t mind occasionally tasteless (but funny) humor. Speaking of which, FX also offers episodes of “Louie,” which recently earned some Emmy nominations for star Louis C.K. for his acting and writing in the series’ first season.
BBC America is offering “Dr. Who,” which still has quite a cult following.
If you missed the premiere of the new Lifetime drama, “Against the Wall,” you can go to Channel 926 and select it.
“South Park” episodes are available via Comedy Central, “The Glee Project” is available via Oxygen, “The Real Housewives of NYC” is available via Bravo and the Debt Ceiling Debates are on via C-Span.
OK, I lied about C-Span. It doesn’t make the list but some programs on channels with limited viewership – Oprah’s OWN anyone ?– are On Demand.
So thank you Fox for finally joining Prime Time On Demand and reminding me where to go when I can’t find anything worth watching on live TV.
pergament@msn.com

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Change for Tasker at CBS; Sully to Stay at News

2010 Buffalo Bills Schedule Wallpaper

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If anyone is going to miss the histrionics of former CBS play-by-play man Gus Johnson more than the average Buffalo Bills fan, it is analyst Steve Tasker.
The life of the former Bill is changing because his TV partner bolted CBS in the offseason to work for Fox.
CBS is expected to announce in a few weeks that Tasker will be teamed with play-by-play man Bill Macatee this coming NFL season.
In a telephone interview, Tasker said his schedule will be reduced from the 17 games he worked with Johnson last year to 12 with Macatee.
But the downgrade in his schedule won’t cost him any money (he has a contract and isn’t paid by the game) and his reduced schedule is expected to have the side benefit of giving him several weekends to watch one son, Luke play football at Cornell University and another son, Tap, play at St. Francis High.
He’ll miss working with Johnson, whose exuberant style has made him one of the more talked about announcers on TV.
“He’s a good friend,” said Tasker, who was aware that Johnson’s over-the-top style had its critics as well as its fans.
“Even at his most over-the-topness, he meant it,” defended Tasker. “He is real. He didn’t manufacture anything. People like that.”
Macatee couldn’t be more different than Johnson. He’s a low-key versatile announcer, who may have as many tennis fans as football fans.
“Bill is not as high profile as Gus,” said Tasker in one of the understatements of the year.
The departure of Johnson has led to CBS reshuffling its NFL lineup. It hired Marv Albert to replace Johnson’s spot on the roster and work some high profile games. He is expected to be paired with Rich Gannon, who has done his share of Bills games.
Tasker also will work Bills preseason games with another former Bill, Ray Bentley.
“I think they will be much improved, especially on the defensive side,” said Tasker.
But he adds the key to the season could be whether the Bills stay healthy since he is unsure of their depth.
* Buffalo News subscribers will be able read sports columnist Jerry Sullivan kicking around the Bills for another season. One doubts he’ll be as positive about the Bills as Tasker will be during the preseason.
Sullivan, who toyed with the idea of signing up for a new buyout offer, confirmed Monday that he is staying with the newspaper. According to sources, The News made Sullivan happy by giving him a raise, something that is in short supply at One News Plaza or any newspaper these days.
The loss of Sullivan would have been a big blow to The News, which needs to keep as many of its so-called “brands” as possible. Sullivan is arguably the biggest brand at the paper, with his frequent work on WGR radio making him a bigger personality.
In these days of diminishing readership, it is unlikely that anyone will ever again have the following of Sullivan or the lead sports columnists he followed — Larry Felser and Steve Weller.
Staffers at The News have until Friday to decide whether to sign up for the buyout and then they have to wait to see if they have enough seniority to be among those allowed to take it.
Some of those who qualify may return as part-timers, but taking the buyout does come with some additional risk since they will lose their seniority. Seniority would be especially valuable if The News ever decides to cut costs with layoffs.
News editor Margaret Sullivan has raised the possibility of layoffs in the last few weeks without being asked about them, which surprised staffers and may have made a few of them less likely to take the buyout.
According to sources, metro columnist Donn Esmonde and investigative reporter Jim Heaney haven’t decided whether to sign up for the buyout or not. Sources say those who have signed up include veteran reporters Dan Herbeck and Brian Meyer. It is uncertain if Meyer has enough seniority to get the buyout. Sources believe Herbeck is likely to be asked to come back to work part-time.
* While we’re on the sports beat, caddie Steve Williams has been taking a deserved beating for comments he directed at his former boss, Tiger Woods, Sunday after carrying the bag for Sunday’s golf winner, Adam Scott.
To their credit, CBS announcers Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz quickly noted that Williams’ claim that Scott’s win “was the biggest of his life” despite the 13 majors Woods won with him on the bag was “a dig” at Woods and would be talked about on the tour.
But CBS deserves some criticism, too. It spent more time interviewing Williams than Scott and almost made it seem like the caddy actually was the guy hitting the shots. Of course, I suppose CBS shouldn’t be blamed for staying with a guy making news by making a fool of himself rather than give us just another extended interview with a winning golfer talking about his putting.
Williams has since distanced himself from his absurd claim that Sunday’s win was the biggest of his life. Now he should go back to doing what caddies are supposed to do – stay out of the limelight.
* Overexposure: Had to laugh when I read this from Maryalice Demler via Facebook: “I anchored five newscasts (Monday). Lev (Scott Levin) called in sick. Even my own parents don’t want to see me on TV that much. Sorry, folks.”

pergament@msn.com

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TV Critics and Viewers Gain From Access Hollywood

Teri Hatcher

Cover of Teri Hatcher

This is what I’m thinking:
* On Sunday, one of my favorite cable series, CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with UB graduate Howard Kurtz, briefly dealt with one of my favorite organizations, the Television Critics Association.
In Los Angeles, Kurtz had a lengthy interview with Sharon Waxman, who is running an online media site, “The Wrap,” that covers Hollywood from all angles and prides itself on not getting too chummy with celebrities in front of and behind the camera.
At one point, Kurtz asked Waxman what she thought of the semi-annual meetings in which television critics go to Los Angeles and meet network executives who attempt to spin them.
“Aren’t they really getting spoon fed by industry executives?” asked Kurtz.
It would have been easy and self-serving for Waxman to agree with the common complaint that critics are being spun and buy everything told to them.
To her credit, Waxman said that the meetings give critics the opportunity to ask executives any questions they want, which isn’t something that happens in the movie industry.
She’s right. And the questions can get pretty contentious. The truth is the TCA meetings rarely turn into a lovefest and veteran critics are generally skeptical of just about everything executives say.
Near the end of my TCA experience in 2010, the advent of blogging during interview sessions had a disturbing side effect. Many of the younger and newer critics just sat in their seats instantly sending the latest news or what passes for news to their websites via the computer and relied on a handful of mostly veteran critics to ask questions. It made you fear the future when the veterans aren’t around to ask the tough questions.
* Speaking of the TCA, over the weekend the nation’s critics named “Friday Night Lights” as program of the year after its fifth and final season. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I was cheering.
The TCA awards can be a little confusing since “Mad Men” (which isn’t expected to return until March of 2012) was named best drama instead of “FNL.” “Modern Family” repeated as best comedy. Jon Hamm of “Mad Men,” Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” and Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation” won individual awards. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was named new program of the year, Oprah Winfrey won the career achievement award and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” won the Heritage Award. “DVD” is currently playing on WBBZ-TV locally.
* One of the 10 cuts in the engineering department at Channel 7 scheduled for Sept. 30 will be Bob Hellwitz, the vice president of the local NABET/CWA chapter. Hellwitz has been at the station for 29 years and he isn’t even the longest-tenured Channel 7 worker scheduled to lose his job to work outsourced to Atlanta. Sad.
* ABC finally made it official over the weekend – “Desperate Housewives” will be done after the coming season. I lost interest more than a year ago as the plots got more and more absurd, reducing the humor quotient. Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Teri Hatcher stayed at the party a little too long.
* I only had two columns killed in my 28 years as the television critic of The Buffalo News. One of them was my response to what I believed to be unfair criticism by another writer for a minor publication. My boss at the time, Murray Light, told me it wasn’t a good idea to respond to someone who had such low circulation because it was bound to draw more attention to my critic. I didn’t like having the column killed because I thought my response was funny. But Light was right. It would have been a bad idea to run it and look so thin-skinned.
I thought of that killed column immediately when I read the end of a column Sunday by Buffalo News political writer Robert McCarthy in which he responded to some heavy criticism that wnymedia.net has thrown his way. I like McCarthy and respect the work he does. But he needed someone like Murray Light to tell him to kill the item. It lead to a lengthy response Sunday from Marc Odien of wnymedia.net . McCarthy should have known that he couldn’t win and his item would only lead to more criticism. But I don’t blame him. After all, I tried to do the same thing until I was saved by an editor smarter than I. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
* Speaking of the Buffalo News, Saturday’s front page headline shocked me. Over four columns, it read “Investors need to stay calm.” It seemed like an order from the newspaper, which is supposed to be reporting the news and not giving financial advice. That’s because the attribution came below in a one-column sub-head: “Experts say chaos shouldn’t inspire too much fear.” A better headline would have been “Experts to Investors: Stay Calm.” Then at least readers would immediately know where the advice was coming from.
* While we’re on the News, a writer claimed the “announcement story” about the change in call letters from WNGS to the new WBBZ was written by a News staffer. Actually, the WBBZ changes were announced in stilltalkintv several days before the paper finally got to it. Of course, that happens often. (The News isn’t the only media outlet that can pat itself on the back).
*Finally, it was interesting to read over the weekend in The News that there are three upperclassmen competing for the starting quarterback job for the University at Buffalo football team. But it would have been nice to know the Bulls’ plans for their prize freshman QB recruit, Joe Licata of Williamsville South. He wasn’t mentioned. At the very least, the paper could have explained if Bulls Coach Jeff Quinn wants to red-shirt him or if he will give Licata a chance to compete for the job with the upperclassmen. After all, Licata has a lot of fans in his hometown wondering what his status is.
pergament@msn.com

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Mr. Smith Has Fun With President’s Age

Harry Smith from CBS's The Early Show

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Harry Smith, a humorist?
Who knew?
Smith, the former CBS News anchor-reporter (see right), made his debut on NBC Thursday night with an amusing piece on the “Nightly News with Brian Williams” on President Obama turning 50.
Williams introduced the four-minute light feature as an owner’s guide to turning a half century before Smith noted the President has many difficulties ahead as “a man of a certain age” that Congress can’t help him solve.
As if it has been any help anyway.
The reporter suggested “prayer and patience” in eventually dealing with teen-age daughters, golf as a safer sport than basketball and joining AARP to get good hotel deals.
Smith did break one cardinal reporting rule – he made himself part of the story. As a photo of Smith next to the President was shown, Smith added “that gray is OK, but bald is beautiful.”
He didn’t think that the President was in danger of experiencing a mid-life crisis because he’s “already married up.”
After the classy piece, Williams noted that Smith didn’t deal with any medical issues that arise at 50, which prompted a discussion of a procedure involving a camera where the sun doesn’t shine.
All in good fun, of course.
I imagine Katie Couric – who actually had a colonoscopy on live TV during her “Today” days — was even smiling.
If you missed it, you can watch Smith’s piece online.
* Speaking of men of a certain age, sources tell me that Buffalo News reporter Brian Meyer has signed up for the current buyout offer and Dan Herbeck was expected to if he hasn’t already. The deadline is Aug.12. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll get it because it is based on seniority. Meyer is much further down the seniority list than Herbeck and less likely to be able to get it. Jerry Sullivan, Donn Esmonde and Jim Heaney haven’t decided what they will do.
* And former “Cheers” and “Becker” star Ted Danson – who went gray decades ago and has been fighting hair loss forever – has joined the cast of “CSI” as the replacement for Laurence Fishburne as the supervisor of the Las Vegas unit. The 63-year-old actor is expected to bring a lighter touch to the drama. And I’m, not just talking about his hair.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/44026884#44026884

pergament@msn.com

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WNYB Looking to Serve Spanish Audience

According to the latest Nielsen ratings, Western New Yorkers seem to religiously avoid watching the local religious channel WNYB-TV in prime time.
It averaged one-tenth of a rating point in July of 2010 in prime time, equivalent to about 600 homes. And this July, it didn’t register a rating at all.
But now the station which is part of a network that calls itself a leader in Inspirational Television is seeking to serve a new audience.
The local Total Christian Network station based in Orchard Park recently added a fourth digital channel geared to the Hispanic Community with programs that are in Spanish.
“It is the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States,” explained Sean Brennan, the production manager of WNYB.
Brennan has no local figures but he said he has been told by local Hispanic pastors that “there are a lot of Hispanics on the West Side (of Buffalo).”
WNYB, which airs on its standard definition 26.1 and high definition 26.2 channels, has added Hispanic programming on digital Channel 26.4 that can be received by a simple antenna. The channels are also streamed on the TCT Network’s web site www.tct.tv.
Channel 26.1 airs teaching, music, ministries, church services and wholesome entertainment programs that are produced locally and nationally.
Channel 26.2 broadcasts programs from the TCT Network, with more than 70 percent exclusive to TCT.

Channel 26.3, which was launched more than a year ago, is a Family Channel that offers a Family-Friendly lineup with programs geared to youth, children and family. They include many old television favorites, including “Bonanza, “Ozzie & Harriet” and “I Love Lucy.” Hmm. Seems like there is a run on those lately, with the introduction this week of WBBZ.
Channel 26.4, called LaFuente, features Spanish-language inspirational programming from around the world for the Hispanic community. The programs from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and the United States include movies, children’s programs, youth music and church services. LaFuente will also air exclusive TCT favorites in Spanish and newly TCT produced exclusive Hispanic programs.
WNYB-TV is producing “Pregunte Al Pastor” (“Ask the Pastor”) every Monday live at 4:00 p.m. from its Orchard Park studios. A panel of Pastors from Buffalo and Western New York  answer viewers’ questions from the Word of God in Spanish.
So far, Brennan said local Hispanic pastors – who he said number more than 40 – have heard  positive things about the new channel.
“From talking to the pastors, Hispanic viewers really like that they have their own channel,” said Brennan.
TCT was established by Drs. Garth and Tina Coonce more than over 34 years ago, with the mission of “changing the way you see Inspirational Television.”
* Inquiring minds want to know: How did the new program with paid segments, “Winging It! Buffalo Style,” do during the July sweeps on WNLO-TV, compared to the hour of news that ran from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. a year ago?
Not surprisingly, the audience slipped almost 40 percent from a year ago. It averaged a 1.6 rating this July, compared to a 2.5 rating for the news hour a year ago. Of course, “Winging It” isn’t entirely about making ratings. It is about making money.
pergament@msn.com

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“Friday Night Lights” Film Could Score at Box Office

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Notes before I head back home from a brief vacation:
* Three cheers for the idea of a “Friday Night Lights” movie.
Reports that a movie starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton is in the works and could be ready by 2013 surfaced from the Television Critics Association meetings in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Peter Berg, the executive producer of the NBC series that was based on a 2004 movie and Buzz Bissinger’s book, gave the typical lament of series with low ratings — that Nielsen never properly measured its audience.
According to the New York Daily News, Berg told TV critics that “the ratings never really showed how many people were watching this show.”
Berg added: “People found it and they loved it. Something about it really touched people and the Nielsens never caught that.”
As any reader of this blog knows, I loved “Friday Night Lights” as much as anyone. But I never doubted its low ratings because a family series about life in a small Texas town that lived for football was a tough weekly sell.
Still, I agree with Berg that a movie could work.
That’s because a low loyal audience for a TV series of say 4 million weekly can translate into a box office of $30 million or more with movie tickets averaging close to 10 bucks these days.
It would be interesting to see how Berg proposes to deal with the move of Eric (Chandler, see above) and Tami Taylor from Texas to the Northeast. In the poignant series finale, Eric became a football coach at the college where Tami is dean of admissions.
* As a follow-up to notes about the decline of prime time viewing of broadcast TV in the summer, only one of the Top 25 local programs in July locally hit a double-digit rating. That honor went to NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” on Channel 2, according to numbers given to stilltalkintv.
Most of the Top 25 were reruns of popular CBS series that are carried by Channel 4. After “Talent,” the top reality shows locally were “Big Brother” on CBS and the just concluded “Bachelorette” on ABC (Channel 7). Only 10 shows in the Top 25 had a rating higher than 5.5 locally.
* It looks like many Western New Yorkers smartly head over to WNED-TV, the local public broadcasting station, in the summer. It was the No.5 broadcast station in prime time with a 1.9 average rating, which was four tenths of a point ahead of the local CW (WNLO) and only three tenths of a point behind fourth place Fox (WUTV), which averaged a 2.2.
The station formerly known as WNGS averaged a .5 – that’s a .5 – in prime time, mostly with its movie package. It switched its call letters to WBBZ and its format to classic TV series on Monday.
The seven broadcast stations averaged a total of 18.9 ratings points in prime time in July and a 33.1 share. That leaves 37.6 points for cable and other programming, which gets about a 65.7 share of the summer audience. The broadcast channels lost about 3.4 rating points and 4.5 share points from a year ago.
In rough terms, it means about 2 out of 3 local viewers prefer something other than broadcast shows in the summer.
pergament@msnb.com

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Mixed Results for Ch.4′s Youth Movement

Scott Pelley in Antarctica

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This is what I’m thinking:
* Channel 4 newcomers formerly known as the Kiddie Corps are getting mixed results on weekends from local TV viewers.
You could even blame the station’s decision to showcase Nalina Shapiro, Anthony Congi, Bryan Shaw, Rachel Kingston and Amelia Segal on weekends without sprinkling in many news veterans for allowing Channel 2’s 11 p.m. newscast to beat Channel 4 from Monday through Sunday.
Channel 4 still wins the 11 p.m. news from Monday through Friday,  but Channel 2’s margin of victory at 11 p.m. Saturday has more than doubled and enabled the NBC affiliate to win the seven-day average by the slimmest of margins after weekends are included.
Channel 2 averages an 8.3 on Saturday night, down 8 percent from the 9.0 a year ago. Channel 4 averages a 6.1, down 24 percent from a year ago. Channel 7 is third with a 3.2, down from a 3.8 a year ago.
The results at 11 p.m. Sunday are more favorable to Channel 4’s youth movement. Channel 4 wins by the same .2 margin it won by a year ago, but both 2 (down 14 percent) and 4 (down 13 percent) lost a significant portion of the audience from a year ago.
The 11 p.m. weekend figures are the only ones that can be compared consistently because 6 p.m. newscast on weekends can be disrupted by overruns of sports programming.
* I’m sure I’m not alone in turning on the TV every night and wondering why the broadcast networks have practically given up on everything but reality shows.
The recent July ratings show how disinterested most of Western New York is in broadcast summer shows.
The seven top local broadcast TV stations – Ch.2, 4, 7, 23, 29, 49 and 51 averaged a combined 16 ratings points in prime time in July, down about 20 percent from the 19.0 they had a year ago. That means a greater majority of viewers is heading to cable or elsewhere.
* The departure of Meredith Vieira from NBC’s “Today” hasn’t hurt the morning news program locally. With Ann Curry in Vieira’s old seat, “Today’ has maintained the audience it had and actually grown by 2 percent. ABC’s “Good Morning America” is a distant second and has slipped 5 percent. Channel 4’s new young morning anchors and reporters didn’t move the needle at all. Its third-place audience is flat despite Kenmore native Jeff Glor’s participation on the morning team and the occasional shout-outs he gives the area.
* The 6:30 p.m. national news race hasn’t changed much locally since Scott Pelley (see above) took over for Katie Couric as the anchor of The CBS Evening News.
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams remained No. 1 in July and grew by four-tenths of a point from a year ago to a 6.9. Williams owes the gain to Channel 2’s competitiveness as his lead-in. Pelley’s newscast – he was off for several days – slipped three-tenths of a point from a year ago to a 5.9. He has Channel 4’s minor slip at 6 p.m. to blame. ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer had the same 4.9 rating it had a year ago due to Channel 7’s poor lead-in.
The Buffalo market illustrates how important the local news lead-ins are to the national nightly news ratings.
* Bill O’Loughlin is going to get some help when his talk show moves Sept. 6 to noon weekdays on Channel 2. Lydia Dominick, who was the host of Channel 2’s Lunchtime with the Classics, is going to be part of O’Loughlin’s show.
A Channel 2 release noted that Dominick is “a social media guru” who “will bring her quick wit and irreverent style to the show.”
Who knew? It wasn’t as if Dominick had time to illustrate her quick wit as the host of “Lunchtime” or as the former CW 23 spokesperson.
pergament@msn.com

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WBBZ Shift Leads to Channel 2 Changes

''I Love Lucy

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Today’s arrival of WBBZ – the station formerly known as WNGS – is causing a minor programming shakeup at Channel 2.
Talk show host Bill O’ Loughlin signed a Channel 2 contract Friday that allows the NBC affiliate to carry  “The Bill O’Loughlin Show” from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays starting on Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day.
The six-week O’Loughlin experiment at 11:30 p.m. Sundays proved to be a success during the July sweeps, averaging a healthy 3.2 rating and getting about 20,000 viewers.
The move to noon weekdays spells the end of Lunch Time with the Classics, which was going to lose “Cheers” and “I Love Lucy” to WBBZ.
Lunch Time only averaged about a 1.3 rating during the July sweeps, which shouldn’t be too difficult for O’Loughlin to achieve.
Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said that WBBZ’s move to a lineup almost exclusively of classic old TV series eliminated the “uniqueness” of airing classic TV shows at lunch time.
In addition, Toellner said RTN, which carries old TV series on one of Channel 2’s digital channels, will be dropped on Sept. 16. Once again, he cited the lack of “uniqueness” because of WBBZ’s programming as a reason for dropping RTN, which never got cable carriage.
In other words, in with the old at WBBZ (Channel 67), out with the old at WGRZ (Channel 2).

Toellner said there is no plan to replace RTN with other programming on the digital channel. He added that the increased spectrum available after RTN is dropped will help make the programming on its other digital channel, Universal Sports, look much sharper.
By the way, you may have read Sunday that WNGS used to carry religious programming. It was briefly owned by a company that carries religious programming, Daystar, but the station was dark when it was sold to present owner Phil Arno. Before Daystar owned it, WNGS carried old TV shows.
* In case you missed it, David Milch’s next series for HBO, “Luck,” is set to premiere in January. That’s the series set in the horse racing world that Milch knows so well. The cast includes Dustin Hoffman.
pergament@msn.com

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