Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in WFLD-Channel 32 Category

More on the new project front at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. Sources tell us it looks as if an early evening weekday newscast at the station will continue to remain on hold for the foreseeable future. What is more likely to debut in the near future, however, is a weekend morning news product that mirrors those on other local stations such as ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 and NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.

The added weekend package would give the station a chance to say it is expanding news coverage without risking the loss of advertising income it receives from syndicated programming that now airs when an early evening newscast might on weekdays. Sources say Anita Padilla most likely would anchor the weekend morning news product and recently-arrived Tammie Souza would handle weather. A WFLD spokeswoman, however, said she knew of no weekend morning news in the works.

It's official. Mike Leiderman has been named executive producer of Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32's hour-long 9 p.m. newscast, which despite more than 18 months of revamping, remains in last place in the late news ratings race in the Chicago market.

Most recently Leiderman ran his own production company Leiderman Productions. Prior to that he held positions with Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Leiderman also was the executive producer of WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight," during the time when WFLD late news co-anchor Bob Sirott was a host of that news and features show.

Sources say Leiderman was Sirott's choice to oversee WFLD's late newscast. But it remains to be seen whether Leiderman will push the WFLD newscast in the direction of longer, more in-depth segments or opt to quicken the pace of the show. Leiderman comes on board on March 14th.

Also, WFLD is bringing on board Phil Landeros as executive producer of its weekend evening newscast. Landeros comes to WFLD from the CBS station in Tampa, Fla. His first day in the new job will be March 21st.

BILL BELLIS PRINT.jpgFour months after he was pegged as the new lead weather anchor at ratings-challenged WFLD-Channel 32, Bill Bellis finally makes his debut on the station's 9 p.m. newscast on Feb. 23. He replaces Amy Freeze, whose contract was not renewed.

Bellis comes to Chicago from KNXV-TV in Phoenix, where he served as chief meteorologist for eight years. Bellis said he never thought he would give up the sun and desert life of Arizona for the mish-mash of a climate we have here in Chicago. But he decided the move to WFLD is an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

Meanwhile WFLD general manager Michael Renda praised Bellis' dynamic personality, concise delivery and no-nonsense forecasting style -- all assets that apparently will be useful as Renda seeks to make his station the "go-to weather authority in Chicago."

That goal may be news to the folks at WGN-Channel 9, which in the thick of the blizzard earlier this month, identified itself as the go-to outlet for weather reports in the city. WGN has had the popular Tom Skilling on staff for years. Bellis is the newcomer. We will see if Bellis indeed has what it takes to knock Skilling off his perch.

Chicagoans really care about the weather -- especially when a potentially historic blizzard is about to hit the city. Late news overnight ratings were unusually high for all late local newscasts Monday night, with the notable exception of Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

Top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 still bested all other stations with a whopping 11.2 rating (392,000 households), about two rating points higher than usual. But Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9's hour-long 9 p.m. newscast, which features popular meteorologist Tom Skilling in its weather reporting arsenal, was a close second with a 10.2 rating (357,000), nearly double what the station's average late news rating has been in recent weeks. The station has long considered Skilling a major draw, but no more so than now with the blizzard approaching. On Tuesday, the station's spokeswoman Diana Dionisio had even taken to reminding reporters that "we ARE weather to Chicago, after all."

Both NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 also had considerably better-than-usual ratings success Monday, scoring 8.7 (304,500) and 8.0 (280,000) ratings respectively for their late newscasts. Only WFLD seemed unable to pull in any new viewers with the blizzard on the way. The station could only manage a 2.5 rating (87,500) for the night, about what it has been drawing in recent months.

The outcome of the NFC championship game was a heartbreaker for the Chicago Bears and the team's huge fan base. But the game was a stunning success in the Nielsen overnight television ratings in the Chicago market.

The telecast of the game on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 pulled a humongous 50.6 rating and an 81 share. That means 1,771,000 households in Chicago were tuned in to the game on Sunday. That huge 81 share also means more than four out of every five televisions turned on in Chicago while the game was in progress were tuned in to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Bears.

The giant ratings number for the Bears left the city's other major TV outlets with barely any audience for their counter-programming. Top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 managed just a 0.5 rating (17,500 households) while the Bears game was in progress. Both CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and NBC-owned WMAQ could do no better than a 0.4 rating each (14,000 households each).

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 will air a Chicago mayoral debate on Feb. 10, at Kennedy King College. WFLD lead anchors Bob Sirott and Robin Robinson will moderate the debate

The one-hour forum will feature the city's leading mayoral candidates -- chosen based on their standing in polls of the electorate. WFLD is hosting the debate in conjunction with the Chicago Urban League and Harriet's Daughters, an organization founded last year to foster greater economic empowerment among African-Americans.

The debate is expected to be simulcast live on WVON-AM (1690) and WVAZ-FM (102.7). WFLD viewers will be able to engage in the debate before and during the event via Fox Chicago's Facebook and Twitter pages. Chicagoans will vote for a new mayor on Feb. 22.

It hasn't happened a lot recently, but Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 has actually renewed the contract of an on-air talent. The station said weatherman Mark Strehl's contract has been renewed. He will continue to do weather reports Monday through Friday for the station's morning show "Good Day, Chicago."

Sources say Dan Schwab has exited Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as executive producer of special projects. He had been at the station since 2006. It is unclear whether Schwab will be replaced.

But Schwab's departure leaves a big hole in the station's investigations unit. Schwab's departure follows close on the heels of the exit of Mark Saxenmeyer who had been a WFLD special projects reporter working on investigative segments. Saxenmeyer had been at the station since 1994.

Marsha Bartel, WFLD's former top investigative producer, also left WFLD in August for Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9, where she is now working with anchor Mark Suppelsa on investigative projects.

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 is bringing in new weather talent Bill Bellis. He has been a TV meteorologist in the Phoenix market for the past seven years. Bellis begins his new job at Channel 32 in late February. Undoubtedly Bellis will quickly discover the weather is more variable in Chicago than it typically is in Phoenix -- which may make his gig here more interesting. Or more challenging.

Current WFLD meteorologist Amy Freeze's contract is set to expire by year's end. No decision has been made about whether Freeze's contract will be renewed. If Freeze winds up departing the station, Bellis could become her replacement.

It's official. Tera Williams will not return to Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as a general assignment reporter. She had been out on maternity leave since August. Williams is leaving the station to live with her husband Mike Barz, who is now working in Jacksonville, Fla. Barz previously had been a host on WFLD's morning show "Good Day, Chicago," but parted ways with WFLD in 2009, after the station launched an investigation of his behavior at a party attended by other WFLD staffers.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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