What is WGN? 3rd or 4th (in ratings) in the market?
This is why.
To put this politely (and I bet a lot of you will disagree), Tom Skilling is a doddering old codger. WGN used to be a powerhouse of broadcasting. Now... Not so much. But it won't let go of its past, which I can understand.
The new owners of Tribune may put up the entire division according to this article: http://timeoutchicag...of-two-stations. That threat in and of itself is why I'm not surprised Marty Wilke jumped ship. She saw, as do I, the forthcoming title wave and wanted to get the f*ck out!
From what I hear on this TVNT, that wouldn't completely be a bad thing if all Tribune stations are sold. As we know Cablevision just trashed WPIX from their line-up and no one seems upset.
I am a Denverite; KWGN is run under LMA by LocalTV. While I am sad about the direction it's taken because of the station's history, I don't watch the station and would feel no regret if it was sold to LocalTV or another broadcaster. I think the same is true with many folks and WGN. I know WGN has a lot of history in Chicoland and a lot of history nationally as the first national broadcaster, but in it's current form it is not worth a heck of a lot.
First, WGN is affiliated with The CW, a network that targets young women (not meaning to sound like a sexual predator). I realize that that is a specialty demographic. But the news doesn't exactly represent what that demographic is interested in.
Second, WGN America can most closely relate to MyNetTV. Tribune has hardly done anything with their national channel. If I owned an investment firm, I would buy WGN America and make it a a sydni channel. Instead of MyNet, you could affiliate with WGN America which has a full range of programming where MyNetTV only has a few hours a day. Bully for WGN America!
When your flagship broadcast is up against the last hour of network shows, yet your ratings are 2-3 times greater than that of your direct competitor and more than twice that of your own lead-in, clearly they're doing something right. Sure, their ratings are down over the last decade, but so are everyone else's. It's said that viewer loyalty doesn't mean anything, but something can be said to the kind of respect and acknowledgement that Mr. Skilling and the WGN News product has in the Chicago area - from viewers young and old.
I can't speak for Denver, New York, or any other markets on a personal level. However, I've grown up watching the news in Chicago, and the two most reputable, respected and (most important to the direction of this discussion) consistent products are WLS and WGN...the two stations that are number one in their own strongest categories. WGN is frequently tops after 7am, number one at noon, and sees the highest viewership increases from it's primetime lead-in...and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place spots at 9 and 10 are often traded back and forth by WGN, NBC5 and CBS2. It all depends on the night.
When it comes down to it, WGN is successful. I don't know why Tribune has so many issues with their other stations, but management has let WGN's product evolve naturally. When you watch, you get stability, familiarity and not too much crap. For thirty-four years, there has been a solid foundation in Tom Skilling. He's been one of their best marketing tools, and while I don't know if a million dollars is appropriate in this current landscape, I do know that the guy has a passion and authenticity that cannot be faked, and keeps viewers coming back. The kind of disaster that management would suffer should they fire him would be huge, and would affect ratings across all shows.
And frankly, even at the high cost, is there something so wrong with keeping an icon on the air? I'll watch an older, heavy bald man like Skilling give a reliable, knowledgeable forecast any day versus the eye candy so many stations have thrust on the air just to get some instant viewers. That's only really worked twice in Chicago, with Amy Freeze and Ginger Zee...and it turns out that they didn't sway the ratings and this city was merely a stepping stone to greater things. I'm more than confident that he got better offers back in the day, but he didn't accept. That says something to his character and to how this city has grown to appreciate him. There aren't many like him left in this city or the industry as a whole, so I think it's worth the investment to keep them around as long as they are willing to put in the effort. If he was phoning it in at this point in his career (and many would) than I'd be the first to tell him not to let the door hit him on the way out, but he's not...and he's providing a necessary service to the viewers that have given him their trust over the years.