Robservations: Five Weigel networks gain live streaming; Pat Tomasulo debuts stand-up special; Sun-Times stars in Apple TV+ series

MeTV and Story Television

Robservations on the media beat:

Frndly TV

All five of Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting’s digital broadcast networks — including MeTV and the brand-new Story Television — are available in live streaming for the first time. Thanks to a carriage agreement announced this week, the Frndly TV streaming service adds Weigel's MeTV, Story Television, H&I (Heroes & Icons), Decades and Start TV to its lineup. “We welcome the subscribers of Frndly TV into the family-friendly world of MeTV and our full array of entertaining and engaging networks,” said Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting. “The warmth of 'Andy Griffith,' the thrill of all five original 'Star Trek' series, newer and classic crime and court dramas are just a part of what our networks are bringing to Frndly, and we are thrilled to be with this well-positioned service.” Launched in 2019 by former Dish Network executives, the Denver-based Frndly markets itself as “the most affordable live TV streaming service in America,” offering cord-cutters more than 35 channels for $6.99 a month. Continue reading

Meteorologist Ed Curran returns to CBS 2 with new kidney and sunny outlook

Ed Curran (Photo: CBS Chicago/2021)

Three months after receiving a kidney transplant that saved his life, veteran meteorologist Ed Curran will return Saturday to his weekend weather duties at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2.

"I look forward to coming back healthier than I’ve been in a long time," said Curran, 66, who disclosed his ordeal in a social media post Wednesday, publicly thanking his sister for donating one of her kidneys.

"There are simply no words to express my love and appreciation for my sister, Patti Orthwein," he said. "It took months of tests and many four-hour commutes each way to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with her supportive husband, Wayne, to accomplish this life-saving organ donation. Thank you. I’m humbled." Continue reading

Robservations: The Mix unveils new afternoon team; Archdiocese hosts Mass for media in Ukraine; Maggie Vespa joins NBC Chicago bureau

Casey McCabe and Jenny Valliere

Robservations on the media beat:

Lisa Allen

Lisa Allen will move back to her longtime midday shift at WTMX 101.9-FM when the Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station debuts a new afternoon show April 18. Casey McCabe, formerly of KAMP and KROQ in Los Angeles and host of the syndicated “Alternative Soundcheck,” will team with Jenny Valliere, who's been working as midday personality and music director at The Mix since last April. Afternoons had been co-hosted by Allen and Chris Petlak until January when Petlak moved to mornings. “I’m thrilled at all the great talent we have at The Mix, and I’m looking forward to each of them realizing their full potential,” said Jimmy Steal, vice president of brand and content at Hubbard Radio Chicago. In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, The Mix tied for 10th place in afternoons with a 3.1 percent share and a cumulative weekly audience of 459,700. Continue reading

David Kaplan to host new weeknight show on NBC Sports Chicago

David Kaplan (Photo: NBC Sports Chicago)

David Kaplan, a preeminent voice of sports in Chicago, is about to host a new Monday-through-Friday sports talk show on NBC Sports Chicago.

Starting April 4 “Unfiltered with David Kaplan” will air at 6 p.m. weeknights. After a 20-month hiatus, it will mark a return to nightly TV for Kaplan, who hosted “Sports Talk Live” on the regional sports network for more than 16 years. Continue reading

WBBM Newsradio hires Mai Martinez to co-anchor mornings with Cisco Cotto

Mai Martinez and Cisco Cotto

Mai Martinez, former weekend news anchor and reporter at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, has been hired to co-anchor morning news at WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the Audacy all-news station.

Starting April 4, Martinez will team with Cisco Cotto from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and she will report stories from the field for WBBM Newsradio.

The addition, announced Monday, will mark the station's return to dual anchors in morning drive for the first time since Felicia Middlebrooks retired in May 2020. Cotto has been anchoring mornings solo since he replaced Pat Cassidy, who retired in December 2021. Continue reading

MeTV expands ‘Svengoolie’ franchise with fishy friend ‘Sventoonie’

"Sventoonie" and Rich "Svengoolie" Koz (Photo: MeTV)

“Svengoolie,” the monstrously popular horror movie series starring Chicago treasure Rich Koz, is about to get some company in the form of a talking fish puppet dressed like him.

Premiering this weekend on MeTV is “Sventoonie,” a new half-hour companion show airing at 9 p.m. Saturdays — following the usual two-hour “Svengoolie.”

Billed as a limited-run series, “Sventoonie” will be hosted by Toony the Tuna, known to MeTV viewers from the morning cartoon show “Toon In With Me,” hosted by Bill Leff. Toony is voiced by the supremely talented Kevin Fleming. Continue reading

Robservations: Strike at WTTW puts politicians on the spot; 'The Fred Show' gets big ratings Kiss; Sun-Times adds Sunday columns

Employees on strike at WTTW (Photo: Local 1220 IBEW)

Robservations on the media beat:

As the first strike in WTTW-Channel 11’s history enters its second week, politicians are being urged to honor the picket lines — both real and virtual. In an email to political candidates Wednesday, the Chicago Federation of Labor asked them not to participate in remotely recorded Zoom interviews on the public television station while the strike goes on. Local Union 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, representing more than two dozen technicians, graphic artists and floor crew members, walked out March 16 over work jurisdiction and job protection issues. Among those who declined to appear on the “2022 Primary Election Voter Guide” was Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, who’s running to succeed U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in Congress. “Whether in person or online I will not cross a picket line at WTTW,” Dowell said. “I encourage other candidates not to be a part of the WTTW Voter Guide until the workers’ demands are met.” On-air employees and producers at the station, represented by Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, continue to do their jobs under contracts that bar sympathy strikes. A Window to the World Communications spokesperson said: “The company stands ready to return to good faith negotiations with the bargaining team’s representatives as soon as possible.” The last work stoppage at a Chicago station resulted in an 11-week lockout for camera operators, news writers and other technical workers represented by the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 in 1998. It was part of a nationwide labor dispute at the ABC Television Network. Continue reading

NBC 5 names Leila Rahimi main sports anchor

Leila Rahimi

Leila Rahimi is about to make history again.

Last year the Chicago sportscaster broke a 29-year gender barrier when she became the first woman to host a Monday-through-Friday daytime shift on WSCR 670-AM, the Audacy sports/talk station.

Now Rahimi, 38, is about to become the first woman to be named main sports anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. She’s been working part-time for NBC 5 since last fall while co-hosting middays on The Score with Dan Bernstein. Continue reading

Robservations: Tina Sfondeles returns to Sun-Times; 'Jay's Chicago' wraps it up on WTTW; Lightfoot supports TV technicians on strike

Tina Sfondeles

Robservations on the media beat:

It’s back to the Sun-Times for Tina Sfondeles as chief political reporter following a whirlwind of reporting jobs in Washington, D.C., and public relations work in Chicago. Sfondeles will rejoin the paper Monday, according to interim editor in chief Steve Warmbir. “With her excellent sourcing on local, state and national levels, she will only add to the Sun-Times tradition of political coverage that's second to none,” Warmbir wrote in an email to staff. “She's a phenomenal addition to our great roster of first-rate political journalists here at the Sun-Times and our new colleagues at WBEZ.” In her first run at the Sun-Times, Sfondeles rose from preps sports writer and wire reporter to chief political reporter. She resigned in 2020 to join the Washington-based political team of Business Insider, and she later covered the White House for Politico. Since January she’s been vice president of public and media relations for Mac Strategies Group, a strategic communications and government relations firm. Continue reading

Chicago radio ratings: Chicago Public Media WBEZ, V103 tie for first place

WBEZ Chicago; V103

Chicago Public Media news/talk WBEZ 91.5-FM overtook Audacy all-news combo WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM to tie for first place with iHeartMedia R&B WVAZ 102.7-FM in the latest Chicago radio ratings.

WBEZ also led in mornings featuring NPR's “Morning Edition” and “BBC Newshour” with local news anchored by Mary Dixon, according to the Nielsen Audio survey released Monday. Continue reading