Can ‘Monsters’ bring Channel 2 back from the dead?

December 3, 2009

To say that WBBM-Channel 2 has nothing to lose by flushing its morning show down the toilet is an understatement. Last month the CBS-owned station averaged a paltry 0.8 rating from 5 to 7 a.m. weekdays. You could probably reach more people with a bullhorn on an L platform.

monsters-final
Dan Jiggetts and Mike North 

But in ditching its traditional morning news format in favor of what Bruno Cohen, Channel 2's president and general manager, calls "something new and smart that will differentiate CBS 2 from its competitors," there's still no guarantee the station will pull out of dead last in the time period. The plan Cohen announced Wednesday for "Monsters and Money in the Morning," debuting Feb. 1, clearly aims to go after men with its emphasis on sports and business.

"We are targeting an underserved television audience -- Chicagoans who are passionate about sports and want to stay on top of local business news and personal finance -- while at the same time continuing to provide the news headlines, weather and traffic information that people want before leaving home in the morning," Cohen said.

The "Monsters" in the title refer to the veteran sports/talk duo of Mike North and Dan Jiggetts, whose live, three-hour "Monsters in the Morning" show on Comcast SportsNet Chicago ends its one-year run at the end of the month. (Cancellation of the show was attributed to lack of advertising support.) The "Money" people in the new lineup are Sun-Times columnist Terry Savage and former CNBC business reporter Mike Hegedus.

What's missing in the mix is a substantial news presence -- other than headlines and traffic from reporter Susan Carlson and weather from meteorologist Mary Kay Kleist. On mornings when real news breaks out, Channel 2 is likely to turn to all-news WBBM-AM (780) for a hand. That's in keeping with a new corporate mandate to promote synergy among CBS-owned television and radio stations.

Competitors were quick to dismiss Channel 2's low-budget gambit as smoke and mirrors. Said one rival executive: "They can't cover the news, so they're not even going to try." But at the very least, Cohen and news director Jeff Kiernan deserve credit for offering something different in a traditionally tough time slot. Just as Weigel Broadcasting's experimental "You & Me This Morning" is worth keeping an eye on, Channel 2's "Monsters and Money in the Morning" may have potential, too. It's a cinch it'll beat the snoozefest that's on now. Elsewhere on the media beat:

  • On the same day Randy Michaels was promoted to chief executive of Tribune Co., its flagship radio station, news/talk WGN-AM (720), dropped to 25th place in the Arbitron rankings with a 1.9 percent share of listeners between the ages of 25 and 54. Michaels is the "radio genius" who was tapped by Sam Zell to run the far-flung media empire. Funny that Michaels and all the former Clear Channel cronies he brought in can't even fix the radio station a few floors below them in Tribune Tower.
  • Another shoe dropped Wednesday at classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9) with the appointment of Pete McMurray as evening host. It was the last piece of the realignment after Monday's ouster of morning star Jonathon Brandmeier from the Emmis Communications station. "Last time Pete did evenings for us he was "filling in,'" St. Louis-based program boss Rick Balis told staffers. "Now he is a permanent fixture." Or at least as permanent as anyone at the Loop these days.
  • In the spirit of the season, I'm happy to note another twist on around-the-clock holiday music programming: Chicago-based Moody Radio has brought back its religious "Sounds of Christmas" channel, featuring "Christ-focused Christmas songs without all the Santas, Rudolphs and holly jollies," according to Moody's national program director, Denny Nugent. It's streaming online at MoodyPraise.org and via HD Radio on 90.1 WMBI-FM HD2.
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