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Ch.2 Is November News Leader


Channel 4 has been referring to itself as “Western New York’s news leader” for years, but that generic claim is debatable after the arrival of the November news ratings.

Channel 2 News now has the right to call itself it that if you’re adding up all the ratings points for the nine half-hours of local news when the news departments compete against each other on weekdays.

WNY is a market that is notoriously slow to change news leaders and once a station becomes No. 1 it generally has remained there for years, if not decades. Channel 7 was a dominant news leader for decades before Channel 4 overtook it and held the title for years.

Now it appears that Channel 2 — which was helped a year ago when Oprah Winfrey retired the popular talk show that gave Channel 4 a strong lead-in for its early evening newscasts for years – could be ready to assume the title for a lengthy stay if it doesn’t mess things up.

Channel 2 and Channel 4 compete directly on weekdays for four half hours from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., for three half hours from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and for a half hour each at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.  

I’ll try not to give you too many numbers, but remember I was a math major in college for a year and like arithmetic almost as much as Bill Clinton. According to my math, Channel 2 has a collective 62.0 rating points for the four and a half hours of news that it competes directly with Channel 4, and Channel 4 has a collective 56.8 rating points.

Jacquie Walker: Still No. 1 at 6 and 11

If you add the station’s ratings for its midday newscasts, Channel 2’s margin of victory is tighter. Channel 4 averages an 8.0 rating at noon to give it 64.8 rating points. Channel 2 averages a 3.8 at 11 a.m. to give it 65.8 rating points or a point higher.

The momentum is clearly with Channel 2. It had impressive ratings increases — during a very busy news month — from November, 2011 everywhere but for its 10 p.m. newscast on WNYO-TV. On the other hand, Channel 4 saw decreases everywhere but at noon, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Channel 2’s 4:30 a.m. newscast isn’t factored in because Channel 4 doesn’t compete with it. Similarly, Channel 4’s 7 a.m. “Wake Up” on WNLO isn’t being counted. Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscasts on Saturday and Sunday on WNLO weren’t factored in and nor was any weekend newscast because college and pro football make a mess of the news schedule.

Channel 2’s overall victory was fueled by its big wins for “Daybreak” over “Channel 4’s Wake Up” at 6 a.m. and at 5 p.m.

In co-anchor Jodi Johnston’s last sweeps period alongside John Beard, “Daybreak” saw audience gains of 30 percent from a year ago to a 7.4 rating, while Channel’s 4’s morning show in the first ratings period without Victoria Hong and Joe Arena slipped more than 10 percent to a 4.7.

In Johnston’s last sweeps period at 5 p.m. with co-anchor Scott Levin, Channel 2 saw about a 20 percent bump to a 10.7, while Channel 4 slipped slightly to a second place 8.1.

The good news for Channel 4 is that the newscasts co-anchored by Don Postles and Jacquie Walker still win at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. despite all of the station’s self-destructive changes in its news personnel over the last few years.  Channel 4′s 10 p.m. newscast on WNLO also is still a big winner. Its 6 p.m. win was narrow. Channel 4 averaged an 11.0 rating to a 10.6 for Channel 2, which won from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. by healthy margins.

At 11 p.m., Channel 4 won, 9.1-7.1. It is helped by the strong lead-in it receives from CBS’ prime time entertainment programming. Channel 2 narrowed the gap from three points a year ago, possibly because of the improvement in NBC’s prime time programming.

Channel 4’s 10 p.m. win over Channel 2 was as decisive as usual – 4.8 to a 1.7 for Channel 2’s “10 at 10.”

If you’re wondering where Channel 7 is, it is deep in third in all newscasts. However, it is up from a year ago at noon, 5 p.m. and at 11 p.m. The 11 p.m. gain of 1.1 points is the most impressive and should give co-anchors Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri something to smile about.


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Psssstt! Some Thanksgiving Leftovers

Some leftovers after the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend:

I’m wondering how many things were thrown at TV sets across Western New York when CBS analyst Rich Gannon praised Buffalo Bills Coach Chan Gailey’s play-calling during the Bills’ 20-13 loss to Indianapolis Sunday afternoon.

Gannon was often as infuriating as Gailey’s play-calling because of what he said and what he didn’t say.

Maybe John Murphy, the voice of the Bills, should watch a replay of this game and reconsider his praise of Gannon earlier this season as one of the best analysts on TV.

While Twitter was all over Gailey’s play-calling before the first half when he chose to throw two passes rather than run out the clock, Gannon was silent. The coach’s decision cost the Bills three points as the Colts drove down for a field goal with the 30 seconds or so remaining in the half.

Gannon also had little to say about Gailey’s decision to punt on the Colts’ 34-yard line rather than try a 51-yard field goal or go for it as many fans suggested on Twitter.

Then there were Gannon’s opinion of Colt fumbles. He thought the ball was out on one occasion before deciding it wasn’t. Well, he covered both angles.

I stopped counting Gannon’s infuriating moments after the Bills fell behind, 13-6, and the analyst praised Gailey’s play-calling.

Marv Albert, Gannon’s play-by-play partner, has been slipping in recent seasons and Sunday’s game was no different. He had his share of misidentifications, suggesting he needs a different spotter. He also seemed to see penalties and other things well after viewers could see them and didn’t say what yard-line the ball was on at key times.

Known for his sense of humor, Albert did provide viewers with one unintentional laugh. He said the Bills’ Mario Williams was just credited a third sack with just over two minutes left in the game. The Bills and WGR radio had reported via Twitter that Williams had three sacks about 20-30 minutes earlier than CBS did.

I don’t think there is anything more boring than watching a TV report on Black Friday or reading about it the next day in the Buffalo News.

Psssstt! Speaking of The News, it is running promos at the bottom of sections that note that “over 57,000 people have already registered for BuffaloNews.com digital access.”

I’m not sure if that is 57,000 people who didn’t subscribe to the printed paper before The News began charging for digital access or if the 57,000 consists primarily of previous subscribers. If it is new readers, it is very impressive and a big bonus to the bottom line. If it includes old subscribers, not so much. After all, you would hope that every subscriber to the printed paper would want digital access since it doesn’t cost them anything.

Anderson Cooper

I am somewhat amused that the great majority of the Pssstt! promos feature relatively young women, as do most of the ads in the newspaper’s ad campaign. When I was at The News, the paper had a policy of putting a woman’s photo on the front page because women were the toughest demographic to get to read the paper.  It would be nice if the ad campaign had more balance and featured more older male readers who read the paper (especially sports) in greater numbers than the pretty young women in the ad campaign.

Pssstt! Channel 2’s new 4:30 a.m. news gets around the same rating as its “10 at 10 “newscast on WNYO during the November sweeps. The 1.7 rating isn’t much. Channel 2 has to be more pleased with the 4:30 a.m. rating than the 10 p.m. rating.

My primary memory of the late Larry Hagman — who died Friday — concerns how cordial he was with TV critics. How cordial you ask? The man who made J.R. Ewing such an indelible character actually opened his Southern California house on the Pacific Ocean to TV critics for a party during his “Dallas” days. He also was consistently one of the best interviews during the press tour, primarily because he had such a sharp wit and never took himself too seriously.  

Though Anderson Cooper’s syndicated talk show has been canceled, it didn’t do that poorly on WIVB-TV. It actually experienced a local ratings bump in its second season. However, it probably was because Ricki Lake’s new syndicated talk show carried by Channel 7 is tanking opposite Cooper’s show here.

It was unfortunate that more of the University at Buffalo’s football games early in the season were carried on television that the games in it its late season, three-game winning streak led by Williamsville South graduate Joe Licata at quarterback. Licata pretty much saved Coach Jeff Quinn’s job, which made me wonder even more why no one seemed to question how long it took for Quinn to make Licata his starting quarterback. I’m wondering why no sportswriter or sportscaster wondered if UB would have won a few more games if Licata had started earlier.

Psssstt. Finally, there was some controversy over the holidays in the Pergament household over my frequent references to “my companion” in this blog. One of my sons — a big “Seinfeld” fan – told me over dinner at Chef’s that he thought using “my companion” suggested that I am gay (his friends agreed with him.) As Jerry would add, “not that there is anything wrong with that.” But my son thought it was dishonest and made me appear to be something I am not. I laughed and said I didn’t care what anyone thought. But the same night my best friend piled on by saying over the phone “you should stop referring to your companion. You sound gay.” So for now on, she will be referred to as my girlfriend.


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A Lazy Blog on a Lazy Day

I was going to be lazy today and not blog, but then I read the television column in The Buffalo News this morning and realized that apparently there is no shame in being lazy on the day after Thanksgiving.

On the front page of the Home & Style section, the tease for Jeff Simon’s column read “Jodi Johnston will be missed; Lindsay as Liz is laughable.”

So naturally, I expected the hard-working critic – who is among the most prolific writers at The News – had watched Lindsay Lohan play Elizabeth Taylor in Sunday’s Lifetime movie, “Liz & Dick.”

But he actually wrote that he hadn’t seen it. He had just heard the consensus among those who watched was that it was awful. 

Jodi Johnston: Her Daily Photo Here

It probably is dreadful. One of my favorite critics, the USA Today’s Robert Bianco, wrote this morning that it is awful.. But Simon often doesn’t vote with “the consensus.”

However, he did agree with the consensus when he reviewed the movie “The Master” and gave it four stars. I have yet to see it or find anyone who has who didn’t hate it and wasn’t tempted to leave the theater in the middle of the movie.

I agree with the headline that came from the portion of the Simon column dealing with Johnston’s departure from Channel 2’s “Daybreak” for a job with First Niagara. She will be missed. I think I’ve written that 100 times or so in the past week.

Simon said he was baffled that Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner couldn’t find a way to keep Johnston. After all, Toellner is an astute guy. (So am I on occasion. I know running her picture every day may attract readers.)

I agree on Toellner. But I was baffled why any critic of four or five decades who understands where local TV news is headed would be baffled if they read and accepted Johnston’s explanation of why she is leaving TV.

Johnston has repeatedly said she is leaving to have normal hours and spend more time with her son Max, who is in the third grade. She also had enough of waking up at 3 a.m., which meant she didn’t get to send Max off to school.

Even if Toellner had offered Maryalice Demler’s 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. news anchors shifts to Johnston, it wouldn’t have satisfied Johnston’s need to spend more time with Max. Those hours may be the absolute worst for any mother who wants to spend more time with her young child, and the anchors who do it have sacrificed a great deal in their family life.

As frequently documented here, the local news business in Buffalo also has had a pronounced shift away from big anchor salaries.

Johnson is going to what will be mostly a 9 to 5 job at a prestigious bank. There is no need to be baffled why Toellner couldn’t find a way to keep her.

Speaking of movie critics, local reviewer Michael Calleri said he is scheduled to appear tomorrow on “CBS Saturday Morning” at the top of the 8 o’clock hour to discuss censorship. Calleri drew attention when he wrote a column posted on Roger Ebert’s website that dealt with his experiences after a new owner of the Niagara Falls Reporter – a weekly — told him he needed to approve what movies he could review.

Unfortunately, Calleri’s appearance won’t be seen here and it has nothing to do with censorship. Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate, doesn’t carry “Saturday Morning.”

Calleri – who reviewed movies at Channel 4 for more than six years — is hoping the station will use highlights on its newscasts.

Media Laugh of the weekend: The News ran a cutline Thursday that said Grinnell sophomore Jack Taylor put up 20 shots per second when he scored 138 points in a college basketball game. That would have been a truly unbelievable achievement. The story correctly said he put up a shot every 20 seconds, which was pretty incredible, too.

Finally, it is raining and I’m feeling lazy so I think I might go to a movie this afternoon. My companion wants to see ”Life of Pi” but I’m a little worried. Like “The Master,” Simon gave it four stars. This time, I’m hopeful he’s right and we’re not tempted to walk out of the theater.


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Kilgore’s Tribute Tops Sweet Johnston Farewell


I got up at 5 this morning to watch a momentous local television event – the final day of Channel 2 co-anchor Jodi Johnston on the station’s popular “Daybreak.”

OK, I lied.

I didn’t get up at 5 a.m. I got up at a reasonable hour and watched the two-hour love fest from my DVR list.

It really wasn’t that momentous an occasion since Johnston has only been on local television for a little more than 12 years and has decided to move on to a big bank job in media relations.

I’ve been covering local TV for about 30 years and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it for an anchor who has been on a relatively short period of time in Buffalo compared to TV legends.

Most people leaving TV get about 60 seconds to say goodbye if they are lucky.

They don’t usually get a mayor to declare it their day. But there was Mayor Byron Brown on the set declaring today “Jodi Johnston Day.”

But, hey, “Daybreak” certainly has time to fill on a daily basis and all the goodbyes on the last morning of the November sweeps from current and past co-workers were nothing if not sweet and timely a day before Thanksgiving.

After listening to all the testimonials from co-workers emphasizing Johnston’s warmth, compassion and ability to connect with viewers, a viewer couldn’t help but think one of two things. 1) Boy, she is a great person or 2) I hate her because she is perfect and has it all – looks, personality, a great family life and a great job. 

Seriously, I mean “hate” in the best possible way. I mean every day may seem like Jodi Johnston Day to jealous audience members. If you didn’t like Johnston before all the goodbyes sprinkled in between news and weather, you probably did after them.

My favorite goodbye was the brief one from sportscaster Ed Kilgore, who started out by saying TV doesn’t do Johnston justice. “I’m not talking about looks,” said Kilgore, realizing that’s what the audience might have thought. He meant TV doesn’t “give the true sense of the type of person she is. She is a fantastic lady.” I would have preferred “fantastic woman” but you got Kilgore’s point.

Runner-up for favorite was Dave McKinley, who praised Johnston by saying he told his wife that she would probably like Johnston the best among all his co-workers.

The bronze medal goes to Pete Gallivan, who was Johnston’s co-anchor until John Beard took the co-anchor spot three years ago. Gallivan discussed how Johnston connected with the audience and gave some specifics. He told the story of a guy named Gary who was stuck on the Thruway for 12 hours during the October storm and communicated with Johnston throughout until he got home.

“I still am in touch with Gary and I know you are watching,” said Johnston.

Johnston’s son Max read a sweet letter. Her husband, Tom Quatroche, came on the anchor set and wasn’t identified for a while before telling everyone how much the family will miss the Channel 2 family.

As always, Johnston was a class act throughout the love fest. She exhausted just about all the ways she could tell those showering her with praises and gifts “you don’t know how much this means to me.”

Just about every Channel 2 personality got a shot at saying goodbye and tried to find different ways to say the same thing about how wonderful Johnston has been and how much she has meant to the station. Anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes plastered on a Johnston-like smile and gave a sweet speech that I thought should have ended with the comedic line “and I want your anchor job.”

At least I would have laughed.

Replacing Johnston is no laughing matter. “Jodi Johnston Day” proved what I wrote Monday – she is one act that will be pretty tough to follow.





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Ch.2′s Long Report on Bills Future Is Old Story


You know it is a slow news day when a local TV station spends seven or eight minutes on the timeless story of whether the Buffalo Bills are going to stay in Western New York beyond Owner Ralph Wilson’s lifetime.

Channel 2’s Scott Brown spent that amount of time at 6 p.m. Monday in a feel-good, speculative report that rehashed interviews with NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell from four years ago and Wilson five years ago and included new material from so-called local and national experts reading the tea leaves.

Brown’s report concluded that the Bills were going nowhere as long as the area continues to meet strict NFL guidelines against relocation and fans continue to support the team, a few hundred million is spent to repair The Ralph and the team remains profitable.

Scott Brown

After the report ended, Channel 2 anchor Maryalice Demler said during happy talk that she can sleep better now.

I wish I was as sold on Brown’s conclusions. But his report was overly optimistic and needed some balance as much as much as the Bills desperately need a stronger pass rush.

A realist or cynic was needed to point out some holes in Brown’s Pollyanna argument in the story. Or perhaps Brown could have asked the two experts he interviewed  –national stadium relocation expert Mark Ganis and Canisius College sports management expert Shawn O’Rourke  – some questions that realists might want answered.

Brown’s optimism included suggestions that three local billionaires – Terry Pegula, Jeremy Jacobs and Tom Golisano – could be local buyers. I hope Brown is right but they didn’t become billionaires by making bad investments. The Bills possible price tag of $800 million or so makes it a questionable investment even if you accept the $29 million profit that Brown reported the Bills made last year.

Here are some of the things that I would have liked to hear explained away.

Like President Clinton likes to say, it is simple arithmetic. Wilson paid $25,000 when he bought the Bills and presumably has no debt on the team. If the new owner financed, say $500 million of the purchase price, one wonders if the interest costs certainly would take a big bite out of the team’s profit. If so, how hard would it be to show a loss and achieve one of the NFL’s requirements to move the team? 

Then there is the issue of fan support. Yes, the Bills have gotten solid fan support during this endless playoff drought and have sold out all of their home games so far this season. But there are thousands of tickets left for this year’s remaining home games. The Bills also have one of the lowest ticket prices in the league. What’s preventing a new owner with a heavy debt load to come in and raise prices substantially in a few years? If the owner does, it also might become more difficult to sell as many seats. If so, could another of the NFL’s requirements to move the team be easily achieved?

Then there is the issue of whether other owners would approve a move. Brown reported 75 percent of the 32 owners – 24 if you do the math – have to approve. My question is how many times do you think the owners have voted no on a move and made it stick? My guess is probably almost as often the Bills have a prime time game and no fan gets arrested.

Brown’s final positive vibe came from Commissioner Goodell’s roots. His father Charles was a U.S. senator and Roger was born in Jamestown so the theory goes he would do everything possible to keep the Bills in Western New York.

I’d like to believe that. But Goodell works for the owners and can only do so much if a persuasive case is made to move the Bills.

Hey it’s a couple of days before Thanksgiving so I am all for positive vibes. We should all be thankful that the Bills have been around so long in one of the smallest markets in the league and hopeful that this optimistic report rings true in a few years.

But other than helping Demler sleep, the report really didn’t amount to much.

While I am on Channel 2, the newscast also included a story by Pete Gallivan about a woman who supposedly saw two sanitation workers urinate in a garbage truck. Oh, well, I did say it was a slow news day.

A Scott Norwood reference was made Monday by Tony Kornhesier on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Talking about the difficulties of Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby, Kornhesier said you can’t have a struggling kicker in the playoffs and mentioned three kickers. Norwood was unfairly referenced as one of them. He wasn’t struggling before he went wide right on that 47-yard Super Bowl kick. By the way, the Norwood miss also was in Brown’s Channel 2 report.


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Looking Back, Johnston Will Be Pretty Tough Act to Follow

By the time you start reading this, Channel 2 co-anchor Jodi Johnston will have finished the first day of her three-day goodbye tour on “Daybreak.”

That’s right, the NBC affiliate is going to spend some time in the final three mornings of the November sweeps to say goodbye to Johnston before she leaves for a big bank job after 12 years co-anchoring the mornings.

On Saturday and Sunday, Channel 2 also ran a quarter page advertisement in the Buffalo News promoting the three days with the sub-headline “A Look Back and a Look Ahead.”

Jodi Johnston

Channel 2’s classy way of allowing Johnston to say goodbye is impressive. Channel 4 sure didn’t give the numerous recently departed anchors-personalities like Victoria Hong, Lisa Flynn, Paul Peck, John Murphy and others the star treatment. They were lucky to get 90 seconds to say goodbye.

And it isn’t as if Channel 2 needs big audiences for Johnston’s three goodbyes to win the early morning ratings during the November sweeps. Channel 2’s “Daybreak” is destroying Channel 4’s “Wake Up!” this November, partly because Hong and her former co-anchor Joe Arena have left WIVB-TV for better jobs.

Going into the final week of the sweeps, Channel 2 is averaging a 7.5 rating at 6 a.m., up about 35 percent from a year ago. Channel 4 is averaging a 4.6 rating, down about 15 percent from a year ago and now is closer to third place Channel 7 (3.1) than to Channel 2.

The other newscast that Johnston co-anchors at 5 p.m. also has seen big gains this November, which has been a big news month with the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy.  It is averaging a 10.6 rating, up about 20 percent from a year ago while Channel 4’s 8.7 is flat from a year ago.

Johnston’s success with co-anchor John Beard in the morning and with co-anchor Scott Levin in the late afternoon may surprise some of my blog readers who have been very critical of her presentation.

Looking back, I wasn’t always a big Johnston fan. My early reviews noted that she was a little stiff as an anchor. She handled the criticism with grace. When Johnston relaxed and the improvement became noticeable, I recalled having a brief telephone conversation with her when she gently reminded me of my initial criticisms.

She still isn’t the most natural TV performer. Her cadence is pretty much the same on every story. But Johnston has the ability to make many viewers feel like she is one of them even if they aren’t as fortunate in the looks department. That became obvious when viewers missed her when she was off the air for months after suffering a foot injury.

Channel 2 also was fortunate that she was willing to work such a punishing morning-late afternoon split shift. It undoubtedly won’t be able to find anyone else to volunteer for that killer schedule.

Melissa Holmes, who worked mornings at Channel 4 before coming to Channel 2, remains the in-house favorite to get Johnston’s “Daybreak” shift. However, the station isn’t in any hurry to give it to her, which suggests it may be considering other people from outside the station.

The plan is to rotate staffers in the morning during the heavy vacation schedule from Thanksgiving until the end of the year before whoever gets Johnston’s role permanently makes her debut after Jan.1.

If it is Holmes, Channel 2 also will have to get a new 10 p.m. anchor. That also could make it an ideal time to give up on its backwards “10 at 10” news presentation that Holmes has been saddled with.

If Holmes doesn’t get the morning shift, she would appear to be a candidate for Johnston’s 5 p.m. shift. In a way, that would make more sense in that Holmes could anchor at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

A few words about Jeff Kaye, the former Buffalo radio broadcaster who went on to become one of the voices of NFL Films: As you may know, I’ve always been a connoisseur of voices and used to periodically rate the best local sports voices. Kaye may have had the best all-time voice in local radio and certainly was in the Top 2 or 3.

As one of my blog readers remembered upon Kaye’s death late last week, once upon a time I wrote a column for The Buffalo News with the headline “Van, Stan and Fan” critiquing the performance of Van Miller, Stan Barron and Kaye as the radio broadcast team on a Buffalo Bills game. I was not too kind to Kaye, who was miscast as a Fan on the broadcast.

It was just about the only thing that Kaye didn’t do spectacularly well in radio. He made it to the NFL as a narrator thanks to that incredible, descriptive, unique voice.

Finally, the list of cancellations of new shows has expanded. I’m not surprised since I labeled this season’s new offerings as the worst in recent memory. According to the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, ABC has axed “The Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue.” They will play out the rest of their initial 13-episode order before dying. They join CBS’ “Made in Jersey” and “Partners,” and NBC’s “Animal Practice” on the cancellation list.


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A Top 10 Assessment of Bills Game

Paul Peck

Here’s a Top 10 list of things to take from the WBBZ-TV and NFL Network coverage of the Buffalo Bills’ 19-14 victory over Miami Thursday night.

  1. WBBZ General Manager Bob Koshinski said the 18.3 rating that the station received was about what it expected because it was simulcasting The NFL Network feed that received a 13.9 rating. The collective 32.2 rating was up about 20 percent from the Bills-New England rating, the lowest-rated game of the season. However, it was in line with most Sunday afternoon game ratings. That makes it a little disappointing since the occasional prime time games the Bills get often generate higher ratings. Koshinski added that WBBZ’s post-game rating exceeded expectations.

The post-game rating of about 7.5 at 11:45 p.m. slipped to a still decent 3.5 at midnight. That’s better than Jimmy Kimmel gets on Channel 7 here for his ABC late-night show.

Not many people seemed to care about the two-hour WBBZ pregame show hosted by Koshinski. But at least the 1.3 rating for the two hours is higher than the rating “The Fred Jackson Show” gets on Mondays.

“Broadcasting the game was absolutely worth the investment and all the hard work by the entire WBBZ staff,” wrote Koshinski in an email.

2. It is too bad that a technical glitch meant The NFL Network didn’t show the nation the impressive military salute the Bills prepared for pregame ceremonies.

3. It was nice to hear former Channel 4 sportscaster Paul Peck offer analysis on the WBBZ post-game show. But I could have done without Twitter comments being read. I read enough of them during the game. I certainly didn’t need to hear a tweet from a politician.

Mike Mayock

4. Mike Mayock might not be the most entertaining prime time analyst, but he may be the most informative. He gave an interesting description of the Bills’ two-level or two-layer pass route, noted that safety Jarius Byrd makes up for his lack of speed with his instincts, criticized Bills back Tashard Choice for  “lack of effort” on a third down pass play, and had several other interesting observations. He also noted that he wasn’t sure that anyone has gotten more money for less performance in the past few years than the Bills’ Shawne Merriman. What Mayock didn’t do was weigh in some questionable play-calling and the conservative decision of Bills Coach Chan Gailey to punt from the Dolphins’ 36-yard line late in the game. In his post-game interview, Gailey even criticized himself for perhaps being too conservative.

5. I’m surprised more people didn’t watch on WBBZ when you consider it showed the game about a second earlier than The NFL Network did on cable. I’m no technology expert, but I’m told “it might have something to do with how Time Warner processed the satellite signal.” Whatever that means.

6. After watching the Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggle, do Bills fans really want the team to use a No. 1 draft choice next April on a rookie franchise quarterback and suffer through his growing pains for a few seasons?

7. The NFL Network’s Deion Sanders looked ridiculous wearing winter gear on its outdoor set even before the Bills’ C.J. Spiller wore his shirt-sleeve uniform to a post-game interview. It was about 32 degrees, not below zero as Sanders and fellow analyst Marshall Faulk made it look like. Give Michael Irvin props for manning up in a suit and not piling on about how cold it supposedly was here. Even play-by-play man Brad Nessler played into the cold narrative, calling Bills fans “hearty souls” in the opening. Guys, come back in late December and then you’ll see “hearty souls.” As Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said in a post-game interview “this is beautiful weather here in November.”

8. Mayock and the other NFL Network guys were much quicker to accept the excuse by the Bills Mario Williams that his injured wrist was responsible for his poor early season than Bills fans and columnists have been. However, Mayock seemed to be a much bigger fan of Kyle Williams than Mario.

9. Nessler had a solid game, but he surely had some Bills fans shaking their head when he said the team had committed its highest number of penalties in the game. Nessler apparently didn’t watch the Bills loss to New England in which they had a record number of penalties that would have been hard to beat.

10. Buffalo women were spared the indignity of having a national TV audience hear that Miami’s Reggie Bush didn’t want to see anyone of them topless. Neither Nessler nor Mayock mentioned Reggie’s silly radio remark.


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“Lincoln” Is Must-See Film That TV Used to Make


I was in New York City last weekend and had a choice between seeing two icons – James Bond or Abraham Lincoln.

I wanted to see Bond, James Bond in his new movie “Skyfall.”

My lovely companion voted for “Lincoln.”

Not surprisingly, I was out-voted. We went to “Lincoln,” which opened in NYC a week earlier there than in Buffalo.

On further review, I’m glad we did.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Thanks to a mesmerizing lead performance by Daniel-Day Lewis as President Lincoln that made me forget how long it was, the film directed by Steven Spielberg is an extraordinary retelling of American history. It also has a timely message about the need for the two main political parties to come together for the nation and mankind’s good.

However, it isn’t entirely what one expects from a Spielberg movie. There are a few wonderful cinematic moments primarily dealing with Civil War scenes. But his direction is mostly restrained because by necessity the film is more about dialogue and ideology than it is about “wow” scenes.

“Lincoln” scores on multiple levels – it is dramatic, it is comedic and it is historical.

After leaving the theater, I told my companion that “Lincoln” reminded me of one of the historical films that the broadcast networks used to make into miniseries before they became unprofitable. They’ve left them for pay-channels like HBO (remember “John Adams”?) to make occasionally.

However, “Lincoln” may have given broadcast TV some second thoughts. A trade newspaper, the Hollywood Reporter, reported this week that NBC is thinking of making a regular series about George Washington. Among those involved is Buffalo writer Tom Fontana of “St. Elsewhere” and “Oz” fame.

I imagine the interest in “Lincoln” has something to do with NBC’s interest in bringing our first President to life.

Spielberg’s name and that of the extraordinary Irish actor Day-Lewis in addition to American icon Tommy Lee Jones give the film big box office possibilities. I had to buy my tickets in NYC a day early and the showing was so packed that my companion and I had to sit a row behind each other. I doubt that problem is going to happen starting today in Western New York.

Besides the big names and the big history lesson, “Lincoln” enabled me to play a game with myself: Name that TV series actor. The cast is loaded with actors who have done extensive work in TV as well as film.

Sally Field, lately of ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters,” plays Lincoln’s wife and is telling everyone that she had to screen test to get the role. Stephen McKinley Henderson, the University at Buffalo professor, plays a White House servant. Gloria Reuben of “ER” plays a dressmaker who is one of Mrs. Lincoln’s personal aides. Jared Harris, the late Brit on “Mad Men,” plays Ulysses S. Grant.  Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays Arnold Rothstein on “Boardwalk Empire,” plays a guy with a swing vote on the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. James Spader (“Boston Legal”) plays a comedic role as one of the men trying to “persuade” or “bribe” outgoing members of Congress to vote to end slavery. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come a long way from “3rd Rock from the Sun” to become a major film star. He plays Abe’s son. S. Epatha Merkerson of “Law & Order” has a surprise cameo.

If my father were alive, I’m sure he would have whispered in my ear throughout the film where each actor appeared previously – that’s if we would have been able to sit together.

The Name Game aside, “Lincoln” works so well because honestly Abe is such a great storyteller and a bit of a comedian. He tells so many stories that at one point a character says something like, “oh, no, not another damn story.” (I wasn’t planning to write about the film so I wasn’t taking notes).

The humor offsets some very serious business in which the Republican president – (yes this is somewhat ironic considering how few African-American votes Republican Mitt Romney won a few weeks ago) gives out some gifts to rivals and makes some compromises to try and end slavery at what he believes to be the ideal political time after winning re-election.

Of course, we all know how Lincoln’s life ends. My one criticism is the movie seems to end three times. I much preferred the visually compelling and poignant one before the assassination. When I told my brother about this criticism, he said he read a review that said the film had four endings.

So I heartily recommend “Lincoln” and hope you see it this weekend. I’m going to see Bond, James Bond, with one of my sons.

WBBZ beat The NFL Network locally in viewership for the Bills’ 19-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins Thursday night. The game had an 18.3 rating on the local independent station and a 13.9 rating on The NFL Network for a combined rating of 32.2. WBBZ’s telecast did have one advantage – its HD feed of the NFL Network’s HD coverage seemed to be almost a second ahead of the NFL channel. That’s probably something to do with a technological issue that I don’t understand.


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Bush Comment Gives WBBZ Some Needed Buzz


WBBZ-TV owes Miami Dolphin running back Reggie Bush a thank you card.

In a throwaway line on a Miami radio show, Bush slammed Buffalo women as hard as Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger was sacked in Monday Night Football’s game with Kansas City.

OK, it wasn’t quite that hard. It was more like a love tap, as anyone on Twitter or Facebook knows by now.

When the radio hosts agreed that you wouldn’t want to see any Buffalo women topless in the stands on a cold night, Bush added “Not Buffalo women.”

Reggie Bush

Miss Buffalo responded by calling a national website to defend Buffalo against such cheap shots.

The Bush-league throwaway comment is bound to add some buzz to tonight’s Bills game with Miami that will be simulcast on The NFL Network and WBBZ at 8:20 p.m. after more than two hours of pregame shows.

And this game between the 3-6 Bills and the 4-5 Dolphins needs some buzz, even if it is as silly and manufactured as this one.

I don’t want to defend Bush too much, but he really was set up by the hosts. He gave an instinctive response that probably didn’t take into account how sensitive Buffalonians tend to be about such throwaway lines. And remember he played in the land of plastic surgery at USC and  dated one of the Kardashians so he might not know what real women look or act like.

Anyone who watched HBO’s “Hard Knocks” featuring the Dolphins in preseason probably realizes that Bush is a little bit of a comedian. Bush came off as one of the more likable Dolphins, nicknaming one rookie receiver “‘7-11” because he was always open. (The guy was later cut). The point is Bush is an entertainer and, like the Bills’ Stevie Johnson, sometimes he may go over the line. The media should love both players for it.

“Hard Knocks” actually may have done the impossible – making some Bills fans root for rookie Coach Miami Joe Philbin this season (except when the Dolphins play the Bills). He’s a no non-sense coach who became a sympathetic figure after the tragic loss of his son during the 2012 Super Bowl week when he was the offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers.

The series also gave a hint at the potential of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who laughingly couldn’t name the divisions that NFL teams were playing in during a quarterback meeting with backup Matt Moore.

Of course, many Buffalo fans might not be able to find WBBZ or The NFL Network tonight on their high definition channels without some help. Check your local listings because it depends on where you live.

When WBBZ grabbed the rights to the game in June for what is believed to have been more than $100,000, The NFL Network wasn’t being carried on Time Warner Cable. It is on TWC now, which will probably significantly depress the size of WBBZ’s audience.

The Bills 3-6 record won’t help, either. The exciting Bills loss to New England Sunday that went down to the final minute “only” had a 26.8 rating on Channel 4. I wrote “only” because that made it the lowest-rated game of the season but it still was the top-rated program of the week in WNY as Bills games always are.

WBBZ certainly will get the highest-rating it has ever had. A rating in the high teens or low 20s can be expected on its channel, with another 10-15 ratings points coming from viewership on The NFL Network.

The assortment of classic TV reruns the station carries often receives ratings in the range of .5 (that’s point .5) to 2.0 on a good night. “The Fred Jackson Show,” which features the Bills running back, doesn’t usually hit a 1 rating. “Buffalo Night in America,” a three-hour program that ran in July, averaged a .2 rating (that’s right .2). In other words, WBBZ can expect an audience as much as 100 times higher tonight than some of its shows normally get. You should expect a lot of promos for its regular shows.

WBBZ would be fortunate to get a local pregame show rating in the 2-3 range opposite local news, WGR radio’s coverage and The NFL Network’s pregame show. Bob Koshinski, former Channel 4 sports reporter Paul Peck and 102.5 radio personality Rob Lucas will be featured in the pregame show.

With The NFL Network relatively new to TWC, many subscribers may be hearing play-by-play man Brad Nessler and analyst Mike Mayock for the first time. That’s because The NFL Network schedule, which was expanded to 13 games this season, hasn’t exactly been must-see TV since TWC began carrying the network. In the last two games, the woeful Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars made appearances.

Mayock, who often accurately predicts who the Bills will pick in the NFL draft, is a solid analyst who praises and criticizes players when warranted. This separates him from ESPN’s analyst Jon Gruden, whose tendency to praise every player has become downright laughable this season now that Ron Jaworski is off Monday Night Football and Gruden has more time to fill. I used to be a big Gruden fan, but now it appears that ESPN got rid of the wrong analyst.

Nessler isn’t as good as ESPN’s Mike Tirico in storytelling, but he’s in the ballpark. And Reggie Bush has given Nessler a story to tell tonight if things get a little dull.


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DVR “Revolution” Is Here; Bills Ratings Drop

Confession time: I rarely watch any prime time TV shows when they are scheduled to air.

My goal is to save time.

I usually watch series after DVRing them to fast forward through commercials or On Demand when many of the shows run less than an hour even if the fast forward option is disabled to force viewers to watch some commercials or promos.

Many of you watch the same way, according to local figures for the first week of the November sweeps.

NBC’s “Revolution” gained more than a third of its local audience from viewing up to seven days after it airs at 10 p.m. Monday. The 8.8 live rating rose to a 14.1 rating – a gain of 5.3 ratings points.

To put that in perspective, the program getting the second most viewers up to seven days after its scheduled airing was ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” which rose by 3.4 points from an 8.8 live rating to a 12.2 rating. The secondary viewership of “Grey’s Anatomy” is especially impressive considering how long Patrick Dempsey and all the other docs have been on ABC.

Patrick Dempsey: “Grey’s” Still Going Strong

CBS’ sophomore series “Person of Interest” gained 2.8 ratings points from a 12.5 to a 15.3. CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” also gained 2.8 points from a 20.3 to a 23.1 rating. “Bang” was the highest-rated prime time program in WNY during the first week of the sweeps.

Other shows that saw gains of more than two ratings points included NBC’s “The Voice,” “Grimm” and “Law & Order: SVU”’; CBS’ “Hawaii 5-0” (which airs opposite “Revolution”), “Blue Bloods, “Criminal Minds,” CSI:NY,” “CSI” and “Elementary”; and ABC’s “Modern Family” and “Revenge.” The gain of “Modern Family” is even more impressive since it is the only program that isn’t on Time Warner’s Primetime On Demand channel.

With the exception of first-year series “Revolution” and “Elementary,” almost all the big gainers are series that have been on the air for multiple seasons or premiered last season.

That brings up one of the downsides of secondary viewing. The older series that get the most recording reduce the viewing of newer series, which haven’t established any loyalty yet. That means there are fewer hits each year. “Revolution” and “Elementary” are the only new shows that could be classified as hits.

NBC’s “Chicago Fire” and ABC’s “Nashville” are doing reasonably well here running opposite each other at 10 pm. Wednesday. “Fire” – which already has been renewed for a full season by NBC – wins here over “Nashville,” which had a stronger pilot but has become somewhat tedious in subsequent episodes.

NBC actually is having a decent season of rookie shows for Channel 2. Even the comedy that has already been canceled by the network, “Animal Practice,” is getting stronger ratings here than “The Office” in its final season and its faux documentary cousin “Parks & Recreation.”

Of course, CBS programs carried by Channel 4 remain by far the highest-rated in WNY. They normally appeal to traditional and older viewers than Fox, NBC and ABC series and there are more of those viewers here than there are nationally.

WBEN-AM appears to be taking a shot at the Buffalo News’ recent move to charge readers for substantial online content. The station’s promos note its content on the air and online remains free. One risk The News it taking by charging is sending readers to free sites like those of the local TV news and radio stations. As many oldtimers know, WBEN used to be owned by the same owner of The News and its call letters — BEN — even were named for Buffalo Evening News.

Some Facebook readers seem to think that WBBZ – which is carrying the Bills-Miami game on Thursday – isn’t carried in high definition. It isn’t in HD on DirecTV, but it is carried in HD on Time Warner, FiOS and DISH.

I thought the Buffalo News story about the early start of Christmas music on radio was really amusing, though it was about a year late. According to a radio expert, Christmas music started playing on radio in Western New York around Nov. 9 in 2011, too. Like many radio listeners, I’d rather watch another political ad than hear a Christmas tune on radio before Thanksgiving. I’d even rather listen to a WBEN talk show than a Christmas tune now. Well, almost.

MSG play-by-play man Mike Breen gave St. Bonaventure some love Tuesday night during the New York Knicks victory over the Orlando Magic and former Bona star Andrew Nicholson. Noting that J.R. Bremer was the last Bonnie to play in the NBA, Breen added “it is nice to see St. Bonaventure represented” again. Then analyst Walt Frazier recalled some past Bona players in the pros, including Fred Crawford. I didn’t hear Bona’s most famous pro – Bob Lanier – mentioned, but I joined the game and the conversation late.

The Bills exciting 37-31 loss to New England Sunday had a season-low 26.8 rating on Channel 4. Blame the unseasonably great weather. Or blame the Bills lousy first half of the season. The games usually get ratings in the 30s. I expect the rating to go back into the 30s for the Bills-Miami game Thursday night on WBBZ and The NFL Network.


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