Does Chicago Wanna Be New York?

Or is it just lacking ideas? Transplanting devices more accustomed to the Big Apple than Chicago itself? Let's see.

Yesterday, Chicago's local affiliate station ABC7 "broke ground" for its new storefront studio on State Street, across from the Chicago Theater:

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This news comes on the heels of another local affiliate, CBS2's announcement that they've agreed to be a major tenant in Mills Corp.'s Block 37 development nearby at State and Washington:

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But these two are going to be at least a couple years behind NBC5, whose Studio 5 across the street from the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue celebrated its first birthday last December:

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What do these three have in common, besides similarities to each other? They are modeled on similar "sidewalk studios" in New York: ABC's on Times Square, CBS's overlooking Central Park and NBC's studio at Rockefeller Center. It's no surprise that NBC spawned the first of these studios in Chicago; their NYC one has become a model for the rest, though it's an unreplicable model, because of Rockefeller's unique situation, specifically the glut of plaza space (something the Chicago studio has TOO much of, ironically).

So why, all of a sudden, are the Big 3 networks hitting Chicago with these "interactive" studios? At first glance they seem out of place; Chicago is less sidewalk- and street-oriented than New York, witnessed by things like the plethora of street vendors in the latter and a complete absence of them in the former. But most likely the answer has less to do with place than the fact that they're an in-your-face marketing tactic that keeps these newscasts ever-present in the pedestrians mind. It's one reason the Today show (I think) draws more viewers than the other two morning shows.

Although I'm not too excited about the borrowing of this concept from NYC, the possibility of greater "life on the street" is something I agree with. If these three studios existed today, I'm sure CBS's one overlooking Daley Plaza would be the most popular; the spot is prime given the year-round activities featured on the civic space across the street (though the sidewalks at the corner outside the studio might need to be enlarged over what's shown above to allow for large crowds). Next would be ABC's studio on State Street, due to a shifting focus from Michigan Avenue to the Loop. Therefore NBC would ironically be the least popular in Chicago, a victim of its location: far removed from Michigan Avenue at the back of the Equitable Plaza. But CBS's bid to enter Chicago's "street scene" will take some time, as the development for Block 37 will be drawn out much longer than a storefront renovation for ABC.


  1. NYC is definitely a pedestrian giant, almost exclusively. The only other city I've ever been to that has even a partial replication of street life like NYC's is Boston- but on a smaller scale.

    I congratulate the Chicago Big 3 affiliates for this move. Combined with Millenium Park (side note: I'm peeved about the copyrighting of public spaces), Chicago could become America's next greatest pedestrian city. And I'm in favor of that.

  2. Well, for once New York was not the first: CityTV here in Toronto has had a studio looking on to the street long before the Today Show. And you can't walk along Queen Street without tripping over a videographer's microphone cable outside the CityTV building. For all I know, there were examples prior to that. Oddly enough, crowds don't gather the same way they do outside the Today Show. Some people peer in the windows to see what's going on, but unless Coldplay are in the 'Much Music environment' (Much Music is our MTV), most people just walk on by. It's nice watching the morning breakfast show and seeing people strolling by the studio. And I agree anything that adds to pedestrian traffic is a good thing.



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