Briefs: Conan O’Brien’s TBS show ending; Fox 5 adds 4 p.m. newscast; latest Atlanta radio ratings

Conan O'Brien in June 2010 doing a live show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
Conan O'Brien in June 2010 doing a live show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

Conan O’Brien is leaving basic cable after nearly 11 years on TBS and daily late-night hosting after 28 years. He spent his first 17 years with NBC before moving to TBS in 2010.

He will move on to a weekly variety show for HBO Max after his final show with TBS in June 2021.

O’Brien provided this jokey press release quote: “In 1993 Johnny Carson gave me the best advice of my career: ‘As soon as possible, get to a streaming platform.’ I’m thrilled that I get to continue doing whatever the hell it is I do on HBO Max, and I look forward to a free subscription."

Steve Koonin, who ran TBS and TNT out of Atlanta from 2000 to 2014 and is now CEO of the Atlanta Hawks, surprised Hollywood by successfully wooing O’Brien after the host was unceremoniously booted from “The Tonight Show” on NBC.

O’Brien’s talk show on TBS never quite reached the ratings heights he had on broadcast TV, but he did maintain a loyal audience, building a strong digital following and finding a niche interacting with folks abroad in his specials visiting different countries, like Cuba and South Korea on “Conan Without Borders." He also has a podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.”

His departure indicates a shift in strategy at WarnerMedia, which is now focusing more money and energy on its HBO Max streaming service than its core cable networks.

O’Brien’s show was scaled back to 30 minutes from an hour last year, a sign that TBS’s budgetary commitments were being scaled back when it comes to original content.

Jeff Ross, O’Brien’s long-time producer, told Deadline.com that late-night shows are now “kind of dinosaurs in the business.".

“TBS and these linear cable networks, especially, are just like death," Ross said bluntly. “You know there’s no circulation, so you can’t do it forever. And [Conan] is ready for a change. We’ve got a lot of stuff going on between the podcast and the show and the digital business.”

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Christine Sperow is going to post the entire 4 p.m. newscast on Fox 5. Credit: Fox 5
Christine Sperow is going to post the entire 4 p.m. newscast on Fox 5. Credit: Fox 5

Credit: WAGA-TV

Credit: WAGA-TV

For the second time this year, Fox 5 (WAGA-TV) has expanded its local newscasts, this time by adding 30 more minutes in the afternoon starting Monday, Nov. 23.

The 4 p.m. slot, currently taken up by “Judge Judy” will be replaced by a 4 p.m. newscast hosted by Christine Sperow. Earlier this year, Fox 5 started a 4:30 p.m. newscast.

Fox 5 has by far the most hours of local newscasts of any Atlanta operation, now encompassing more than half its weekday lineup: 12.5 hours a day. The station adds another 13 hours on weekends. The station does not have as many network commitments as its counterparts at WSB-TV (ABC), WXIA-TV (NBC) and WGCL (CBS). The NBC affiliate uses its sister station, WATL-TV, to air extra newscasts in the evenings while its primary affiliate airs NBC prime-time programming like “The Voice” and “Law & Order: SVU.” CBS uses its sister station, PeachtreeTV, for the same reason.

Fox ends its prime-time programming earlier than the other three at 10 p.m., which has allowed its affiliates to run 10 p.m. newscasts. Fox 5 now also airs a full hour of news at 11 p.m.

Fox 5 news director Scott Stucky said solid ratings at 4:30 p.m. encouraged him to add the other half-hour: “Local news is more important than ever...The rapid growth of our 4:30 p.m. newscast was proof that viewers have an appetite for news, and we are hoping this expansion can satisfy it.”

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Clark Howard and Eric Von Haessler are part of the WSB news/talk team. CR: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Clark Howard and Eric Von Haessler are part of the WSB news/talk team. CR: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. Clark Howard and Eric Von Haessler on Friday, July 26, 2019 at the AFLAC Cancer Center Careathon by WSB.

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. Clark Howard and Eric Von Haessler on Friday, July 26, 2019 at the AFLAC Cancer Center Careathon by WSB.

News/talk WSB remains top dog in the October Nielsen ratings with an 11 share of the listening audience, on par with its performance all year. It’s the highest share number of any radio station in the top 10 markets.

In Los Angeles, the top-rated station is K-Earth, a pop station format that doesn’t exist in Atlanta playing mostly hits from the 1970s to 1990s, with a 5.8 share. New York’s top station is a comparable format at WCBS-FM with a 6.2 share. Chicago’s No. 1 station is R&B station V103 with an 8.4 share, and it sounds more like Atlanta’s Kiss (6.9, third place) or Majic (4.9, fifth place) than our city’s V-103, which plays more hip hop and is at No. 4 this past month with a 5.3 share.

Atlanta’s No. 2 station, 97.1/The River — with a 7.9 — follows the same time period (1970s to early 1990s) as the New York and Los Angeles top stations but with a focus on rock as opposed to pure top 40.

This ratings period covers Sept. 10 through Oct. 7 and includes the Atlanta Braves playoff run, which helped elevate 680/93.7 The Fan to its highest overall ratings in years: a 2.6 share. The Fan drew a solid 3.1 (ninth place) among men 25 to 54 though the stronger-signaled 92.9/The Game eclipsed those numbers with a 7.4 share, good for third behind only WSB and the River.

This was also Star 94′s first month in its new format focused on older dance-oriented hits, and its overall ratings fell from a 2 share to a 1.7, its lowest since the current ratings methodology began being used in 2009. It was good for a tie for 19th place. Among women 25 to 54, its target audience, Star ranked 14th with a 2.3 share, tied with hip-hop station Streetz 94.5.

And after six years since Georgia Public Broadcasting took over the bulk of the air time on 88.5/WRAS_FM, its efforts to effectively compete with dominant 90.1/WABE-FM has largely failed. Its ratings remain in the 0.4 share zone, a small fraction of WABE’s ratings, which were at a 3.0 share in the last ratings book, tied for 11th place.

If there is a morning show that has taken a hit during the pandemic, it’s Hot 107.9′s Rickey Smiley Morning Show, which used to be a dominant top two or three show among 18 to 34-year-olds but ranked No. 7 in the last ratings book with a 3.8 share, behind Steve Harvey at Majic (6.5) and Big Tigger at V-103 (6.1) and just ahead of the Breakfast Club on 105.3/The Beat (3.5 share).

Radio listening overall remains below its pre-pandemic norms, especially during the early mornings.

The top 20 stations

1. News/talk 750/95.5 WSB 11.0

2. Classic hits 97.1/The River 7.9

3. R&B Kiss 104.1 6.9

4. R&B/hip-hop V-103 5.3

5. R&B Majic 107.5/97.5 4.9

6. Christian pop Fish 104.7 4.1

7. Gospel Praise 102.5 3.9

8. Pop B98.5 3.7

9. Country 94.9/The Bull 3.5

10. Sports talk 92.9/The Game 3.1

11. (tie) Top 40 Q100, news/talk 90.1/WABE 3.0

13. (tie). Sports talk 680/93.7 The Fan, Top 40 Power 96.1 2.6

15. R&B/hip-hop Hot 107.9 2.5

16. Country Kicks 101.5 2.4

17. (tie) Rock 100.5, R&B Classix 102.9 2.0

19. (tie) Christian pop Joy 93.3, Dance pop Star 94 1.7

Top 10 morning shows

1. Scott Slade, WSB 13.3

2. (tie) Steve Harvey, Majic; Steve Craig, The River 6.8

4. (tie) Bert Show, Q100; Big Tigger, V-103 5.2

6. Toni Moore, Kiss 4.8

7. Kevin & Taylor, Fish 4.4

8. Morning Edition, WABE 3.7

9. Erica Campbell, Praise 3.4

10. John & Hugh, The Game 3.1

Top 10 radio stations among 25 to 54-year-olds

1. The River 8.3

2. V-103 7.6

3. WSB 7.0

4. Majic 6.5

5. Kiss 5.5

6. The Game 4.2

7. Q100 4.0

8. The Bull 3.8

9. Tie) Fish, B98.5 3.6

Top 10 morning shows, 25-54

1. Scott Slade, WSB 8.6

2. Steve Harvey, Majic 7.9

3. Big Tigger, V-103 7.3

4. Bert Show, Q100 6.9

5. Steve Craig, River 5.9

6. Kevin & Taylor, 4.3

7. Toni Moore, Kiss 3.1

8. John & Hugh, the Game 3.7

9. (tie) Spencer & Kristen, the Bull; Rickey Smiley, Hot 3.1

SOURCE: Nielsen

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