Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Some Unchecked Speculation

Unlike certain sports media columns/real estate listings, Your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) clearly identifies items that are purely speculation or "informed guesses" on our part. This is one of those entries.

* OMW mentioned that WSPD/1370 Toledo talk host Bob Frantz, recently bumped from morning drive into a one-hour evening show, could be heading for Cleveland, in specific Clear Channel's World Domination HQ in Independence. As we also mentioned, he's been heard in the past on talk WTAM/1100, filling in for Mike Trivisonno and doing sports talk.

The buzz around the market is pretty strong...we're hearing it from pretty much everyone but the janitor on Oak Tree. Could Bob Frantz be the one who turns "The Big One's" midday show into a local talk show for the first time in a few years?

You only need to look at the Arbitron ratings release calendar to figure this one out. Wednesday's the release of the Winter Phase 1 trends for Cleveland. The Cleveland numbers are embargoed from public release - again - but one wonders if WTAM syndicated midday host Jerry Springer is still floundering in that slot. Continued poor numbers from 9 AM to noon certainly provide the perfect "hook" to bring in a local replacement host.

If not, there's still plenty of work for Frantz at 1100 AM, if temporary - as morning co-host Casey Coleman battles bravely in his bout with pancreatic cancer, and afternoon sports fill-in Mark Schwab is busy in Winter Haven as the station's Indians beat reporter. Not to mention the fact that sports director Mike Snyder's working both ends of the clock in the heart of the Cavaliers' season.

Either that, or Andre Knott works 18 hours a day...

* Speaking of "The Big One", Cincinnati version...OMW's done some digging, and found out what could be a reason for XM Satellite Radio to add WLW/700 to its lineup tomorrow.

The move would seem to be at odds with XM's recent past. When the satellite service started, Clear Channel provided XM with a number of over-air simulcasts, including of Los Angeles CHR KIIS "KISS FM" and New York AC station WLTW ("Lite"). They also programmed talk channels for XM.

That relationship ended a while back, as XM ended the simulcasts and Clear Channel sold much, if not all, of its investment into the satellite radio provider.

Messages on various XM listener message boards led us to an XM Satellite Radio 10Q filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, and in particular, this bit of legalese (come back after the paragraph for our interpretation in English):


As part of Clear Channel Communications’ investment in XM in 1998, the companies entered into agreements which provided for certain programming and director designation arrangements as long as Clear Channel retained the full amount of its original investment in XM. In June of 2003, Clear Channel entered into a forward sale derivative hedging contract relating to its shares of XM Class A common stock. During the third quarter of 2005, Clear Channel and XM arbitrated the impact, if any, of the hedging activity on the Operational Assistance Agreement and the Director Designation Agreement, and certain related matters. The Arbitration Panel preliminarily decided that the Operational Assistance Agreement remains in effect, including Clear Channel’s right to receive a revenue share of commercial advertising on programming it provides to XM, but declined to enforce the Director Designation Agreement. The parties have agreed to abide by the panel’s preliminary decision, to include commercial advertising and share advertising revenue on all Clear Channel-provided programming starting in March 2006, and on the amount of compensation to Clear Channel ($2 million, of which approximately $0.7 million was accrued for in a prior period and the remaining $1.3 million was recorded as an expense in our Statement of Operations in the current period) for the period commercials were not included on some of the channels it programs.


That last part is the key - "all Clear Channel-provided programming starting in March 2006". As far as we know, Clear Channel provides no other programming for XM at this time...until WLW joins the lineup on Wednesday. Adding WLW and selling separate ads on XM for it, with the money split as listed above, would be an easy way to start money flowing again.

We don't see anything about audio quality in the above notation, so we wouldn't be surprised if WLW sounds like those low-bandwidth traffic/weather channels on XM...

Cincinnati and Toledo

Some items from the outer edge of the OMW Coverage Area:

* Cincinnati Public Radio's new NPR news/talker, WVXU/89.1, is getting out of Michigan. The station - formerly the hub of Xavier University's "X-Star Network" - is selling its last two Michigan simulcasters, WVXH/Harrison MI and WVXM/Manistee MI, to operators of local commercial outlets in the state's Lower Peninsula. WVXU earlier sold WVXA/Rogers City MI and a translator in Mackinaw City MI to a commercial operator.

* Still in the Queen City, where the "Nation's Station" takes that title literally starting tomorrow. Clear Channel talk WLW/700 Cincinnati gets a 24/7 simulcast on XM Satellite Radio's Channel 173. The move is easy as far as programming, as WLW still has a fully-local lineup and has no syndicated programming to worry about covering. Well, there is the overnight truckers' show which originates there, but it was already airing on XM's "Open Road" channel. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the WLW XM simulcast will not air Reds baseball or Bengals football games, but Reds games are already on XM as a part of the satellite service's Major League Baseball coverage.

* And in Toledo, where OMW hears that WSPD/1370's Bob Frantz may not be long for his current role as 6-7 PM talk show host at the Clear Channel news/talker. It's likely that Frantz could actually be headed to Clear Channel's Cleveland cluster in some capacity, though we don't know what kind of job he'd take at this time. Frantz was heard on WTAM/1100 doing sports talk fill-in for Mike Trivisonno, before taking morning drive at WSPD...a slot now held by Fred LeFebvre.

WSPD's been a busy place, as former program director Al Brady Law is being accused of E-Mail harrassment by station morning producer Meghan Smith...who, according to a Toledo Blade item, has filed a complaint with Toledo police against him. Law, now program director of St. Louis talker KTRS/550, denies the allegations. Veteran talker Brian Wilson took over as WSPD's PD and afternoon drive host late last year.

Merle Pollis Dies

Veteran Cleveland talk radio host Merle Pollis has passed away at the age of 69. The Plain Dealer's Alana Baranick reports that he died of respiratory failure at the Cleveland Clinic.

Pollis had a place on just about every talk radio station there was since his Cleveland arrival in 1973, as part of the original "People Power" talk format on WERE/1300, which is now running Radio One's urban talk format.

Your Primary Editorial Voice heard Pollis on two stations - WJW/850 in its talk radio days, and the "SuperTalk 1260" format on then-WBBG/1260. We distinctly remember his regular back and forth time with another WJW talk show host, Joel Rose.

Oddly enough, we don't remember Pollis doing any air time at Akron's WHLO/640, where the Plain Dealer says he had a brief stint. That's odd indeed, as our brain is full of memories from the station's first news/talk format under Susquehanna in the mid-70's...and this is coming from a corner that could name the station's entire weekday lineup without help.

In his final days, Pollis kept his toes in radio, with regular commentaries on Willoughby's WELW/1330...one phoned in from home just a week before his death. Like many "name", once-dynamic hosts in markets like Cleveland, his career ended on a small station that can't be heard in most of the market...which is rather sad, but it's kind of the way radio works these days.

At a time where "liberal talk" is the latest talk radio thing, it's easy to forget that voices like Merle Pollis were doing populist, liberal talk since 1973. Pollis' time doing such talk radio even predates WARF/1350's Joe Finan, who did not start doing talk radio until joining WNIR/100.1 in the mid-80's.

Monday, February 27, 2006

"Free FM"'s First Month - Ouch

With the caveat that you can't determine success by a single month's extrapolated trend numbers, let alone the first couple or three full books...

The folks over at Radio & Records Online have taken apart some of the January numbers for the new "Free FM" hosts and formats, and it pretty much looks awful everywhere you look for those attempting to fill Howard Stern's Big Shoes. WNCX/98.5's David Lee Roth, who took over for Stern at flagship WFNY/92.3 New York City and a number of other stations, ranked 18th 12-plus in his very first month on his Big Apple radio home, down from number one for the departed "King of All Media". Apparently, former "Loveline" host Adam Carolla fared even worse in Los Angeles.

And since Cleveland's Winter 2006 Phase One trends aren't available, we'll look at how former WXRK/92.3 morning doggie Rover is doing at his new home base, WCKG in Chicago...not good, according to R&R Online, with a sub-1 share in pretty much every demo they list. Market veteran Jonathon Brandmeier, meanwhile, debuted in the top 5 in his return on WLUP. (We note here that Chicago hasn't really ever been a strong market for Stern...his show regularly finished out of the top 10 in the Windy City.)

Again, we repeat. These are extrapolated numbers in a single trend. CBS suits are correct when they say that shows need time to establish themselves. A CBS Radio spokeswoman once again cited the company's "12 to 24 month" time frame as far as getting a bead on their new shows. And there's a natural listener shedding as changes take place, particularly in a slot ruled by Stern.

Our take - the experienced radio folks, like Rover and even Mr. Carolla - will find their place. That place may not be the rarified air usually occupied by Stern, but it's too early to get a feel for their permanent prospects in just one month of one early trend.

But, we're not all that convinced that one "Diamond Dave" is going to stick it out, though...of course, we say this in a week when he's not even showing up for work. The former Van Halen frontman's future may just be that he ditches the radio gig as soon as contracturally possible, and then he'd hit the road with his ex-bandmates...

Fred Thompson...Good Day! Redux

Some days ago, OMW reported on published speculation...that ABC News Radio was looking to former senator and "Law and Order" TV star Fred Thompson to (eventually) replace icon Paul Harvey. ABC confirmed talking with Thompson in the New York newspaper item, but did not cast him as a Harvey replacement.

It's not quite "rumors turn to reality", but ABC News Radio has indeed signed up Thompson as - get ready for this one - a "Special Program Host and Senior Analyst". We'll translate that for you - "Paul Harvey's Replacement in Waiting". Thompson will indeed fill in for Harvey during vacations, but will be kept busy doing other original programming...doing specials such as a Memorial Day focus on members of the Armed Services.

The title ABC News Radio bestowed upon Thompson is actually kind of funny. It'd pretty much be Paul Harvey's official job title if ABC were hiring Harvey today, and not decades ago. It's a hire that would not be made with such fanfare today, frankly, if Harvey hadn't already established the beachhead of the long-form news radio commentary on the ABC network.

We assume that ABC/Citadel suits are not gently pushing Paul Harvey out the door - at least we hope not - but we still believe the franchise should be shuttered whenever Harvey hangs up the headphones. There's a lot of money attached to Paul Harvey News, so ABC presumably is not ready to let go of that money just yet...but we think they'll find many stations will bolt if it's not Mr. Harvey saying..."Good day!"...

David Lee Roth-less

In a recent OMW item, we put our own kibosh on the rumors that CBS Radio might convert Cleveland classic rocker WNCX/98.5 to a "Free FM" talker, primarily based on the weakness of the morning drive show hosted by Howard Stern's replacement, David Lee Roth.

Here we are in late February/early March, just two months after Roth debuted with much fanfare on Stern's former New York City flagship, along with former Stern stations from Boston to Cleveland. And the former Van Halen frontman is apparently wiped out from doing a four hour daily morning radio show, as he's nabbed what could be the earliest vacation in radio history.

This week, according to the Plain Dealer's Julie Washington, WNCX/98.5 is going local to cover DLR's slot...with a show called "Five Cleveland Mornings". WNCX PD Bill Louis joins popular local musician Alex Bevan through Friday, featuring names linked to local music and radio. Among the guests - former WMMS voices Ed "Flash" Ferenc, Ruby Cheeks, and Len "Boom Boom" Goldberg.

You could almost hear the sigh in WNCX VP/GM Tom Herschel's voice, when Washington asked him why DLR rates something you rarely get in radio, a one-week vacation just two months into your new gig: "He's exhausted. He's a superstar...I don't know why he's taking a vacation."

It's the published sigh of a man who had an aging former rock superstar pushed upon him by CBS corporate as Howard Stern's replacement, that's what it is.

WNCX is not the only DLR affiliate "going local" this week. Flagship WFNY/92.3 New York City is airing their local midday team, "Elvis and JV" (formerly known as San Francisco morning team "The Doghouse"). The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that WYSP/94.1 will run afternoon driver Kidd Chris in morning drive this week. Despite a heavy blitz of publicity, DLR seems to mostly be getting attention by occasional shout-outs to his ex-bandmates for a Van Halen reunion...

Roger's Monday

Just a few comments off of the Roger Brown Monday sports media column in today's Plain Dealer:

* You had to expect that FOX Sports Net Ohio brass wouldn't be thrilled with either the Indians, who rejected their increased offer for game rights, or the team's new SportsTime Ohio network. FSN Ohio boss Steve Liverani tells Brown: "It's totally disingenuous for the Indians to drag us into this [debate], simply because they can't get their deals done and want to deflect attention from that fact." The fact, of course, being that STO is having trouble signing up Any Provider That's Not Time Warner for the new Indians deal...holding the hard line that "our programming is popular, and worth what we're asking for it."

What Liverani does not confirm or deny is if FSN Ohio would have asked for its own rate increase with a higher rights fee this season...telling Brown that "We don't believe you indiscriminately increase your rates just because your expenses increase."

OMW would like to hazard a guess that the truth is somewhere in the middle, as usual. FSN Ohio would not have the same new expenses as the Indians-run SportsTime Ohio, because they aren't creating a network out of scratch. But they likely would have asked for SOME sort of increase, since their rights fees would roughly have doubled if the Indians had accepted their 2006 offer. Liverani has the luxury of not having to answer the question, because his network lost its battle to keep the team.

By the way, the money it will cost to build STO apparently doesn't include paying for its own studios, at least for now...STO, at least in year one, will use the existing facilities of over-air partner WKYC/3 for such things as pre-game and post-game shows. But there is still significant "startup" cost involved.

STO's Jim Liberatore doesn't seem to be budging from his mountain...fully expecting that Tribe fans who don't start seeing games on cable or satellite in April will storm the Bastille at their local cable or satellite provider, forcing the provider to give in. But he's not taking any chances - STO has, in recent days, published full page ads in local newspapers prompting fans to "call their cable or satellite provider". In a recent Akron Beacon Journal item, Liberatore said he believed all major providers "except one" would be on board by Opening Day...we'll assume that's referring to the "Make Them Play Fair" folks over at Cox Cable.

* Brown notes that FSN Ohio, on the lookout for programming to fill its Indians void, may simulcast Salem sports WKNR/850 Cleveland's "Tenth Inning" postgame show this baseball season. And the PD Sports Media Guru (cough) gets a rise out of 'KNR PD Michael Luczak, when needling him about the length of the station's Cavaliers' post game show. (Trust us, getting reaction from Mr. Luczak is not that difficult.) Luczak tells Brown that listener calls often extend the "Wine and Gold Post Game Show" - "When fans want to keep talking, we want to accommodate them," says Luczak.

Well, here we go, getting Mr. Luczak riled up again right here at OMW. If listener demand is so important, why does the station air infomercials and public service programming most nights after Kenny Roda hits the road-uh? One would expect that a live and local evening show could provide at least some fuel to keep the ball rolling into the Cavs or Indians-themed post game shows.

Considering what airs before them, it's a wonder anyone remembers to punch the car radio button for 850 after the last out or buzzer...and even if the station is not going to mount a local evening show, at least sticking with ESPN Radio's "GameNight" - with frequent promos for the upcoming local post-game show - would be a much better bet than the radio wasteland frequently heard at 7 PM.

OMW certainly understands Salem's financial model, but with that reality, throwing out the "we run the post-game show late because of listener and caller demand" seems a bit disingenous.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Triv/Maxwell Swap

OMW missed hearing this, unfortunately, but the buzz is all over the place.

The other day, it seems that WTAM/1100 afternoon motormouth Mike Trivisonno, and WMMS/100.7 afternooner "Maxwell", swapped places in the Clear Channel World Domination HQ in Independence. Triv took over the 'MMS microphones for a while, noting how much better he sounded on FM, and Maxwell took a few in-house shots at Triv's AM audience.

This "early April Fool's Joke" may or may not have any more behind it than an easy way to kill some afternoon drive airtime.

Though there really are no facts to back it up, it's been rumored in the past few months that Clear Channel was looking to turn one of its Cleveland FMs into a talk station. At least one version of the rumor had Trivisonno and company either moving their show to that FM station, or simulcasting it on FM along with their current home of The Big One.

Supposedly, as the story goes, Clear Channel is antsy that CBS Radio will make its own FM talk play in Cleveland, flipping one of the local stations to the "Free FM" format that's spread in various other CBS markets...and would like to make the move first.

OMW has no authoritative sources that would support any of this speculation, but it's been out there for a few months now. Remember, at least one trade publication was SURE that CBS/then-Infinity was going to flip one of its Cleveland FMs to the variety hits format ("JACK FM"), and soon. That was some time ago.

At some point, maybe long down the road, we imagine Clear Channel, CBS or both will put some spoken word format on FM. It's a trend for both of them - with Clear Channel putting up FM talk stations in Pittsburgh and most recently, Minneapolis.

But there are any number of perceived obstacles for it to happen now. The mere presence of 50,000 watt blowtorch WTAM is one reason Clear Channel didn't try to duplicate their success with WPGB/104.7 here...they didn't need to. It's telling that the "Clear Channel talk rumors" being kicked around lately mention a possible competitive threat as being the reason for the proposed change.

As for CBS, they just retooled "Rover's Morning Glory" former flagship alt-rock WXRK/92.3 Cleveland Heights. Rover's done well there for them. WDOK/102.1 certainly isn't going anywhere (you don't really take torches to money machines), and WQAL/104.1 just got the services of veteran AC programmer Dave Popovich.

(SUNDAY UPDATE: We've been reminded by several folks that Popovich actually programmed the old 3WE - aka talker WTAM/1100 in its days as WWWE - for roughly a year or so in the early 90's. We'll modify our statement to say he has no lengthy talk radio programming experience on his resume...to make our point that you don't bring in a big AC name like Dave Popovich for a talk format conversion.)

Does that leave WNCX/98.5? Who knows. Morning man David Lee Roth anchors a number of other CBS "Free FM" talk stations, but one wonders if HE could be the biggest problem for WNCX, and not the classic rock format that follows him.

We can't find the article now, but we believe Cleveland radio gadfly John Gorman - a noted former WMMS program director - mentioned these rumors in a recent column in the Cleveland Free Times. In our searching, we were reminded that like us, Gorman was also biting on the long-ago rumors of Salem sports WKNR/850 Cleveland flipping formats, and then-rumored changes at WMJI/105.7 and WMVX/106.5 in the Clear Channel Cleveland cluster. Grain of salt, meet John Gorman (and OMW, for that matter).

So, this is all speculation, of course. None of this is supported by hard fact, which we always try to make clear. But the noise was getting too loud to ignore, and the little Triv/Maxwell swap - along with what would sound like an over-air hint by Triv in his time on WMMS - makes one wonder.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

SportsTime Ohio and Adelphia

It's been a constant complaint in Your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm): With all the talk of the Cleveland Indians' new cable TV network, we'd heard nothing about how the Indians and new network SportsTime Ohio would handle Adelphia cable, the system serving the bulk of Cuyahoga County's cable customers...not to mention us stragglers down here in Summit County not served by Time Warner Cable.

The omission was odd, in our minds...if STO's Indians games would be seen by "90 percent" of local cable/satellite homes by Opening Day, what about the LARGEST system in the home county of the team? Why not mention it?

We stumbled onto an article in West Life, a weekly newspaper serving western Cleveland suburbs, with the answer. According to an article by the newspaper's Kevin Kelley, Fastball Sports/STO chief Jim Liberatore says Adelphia IS being negotiated separately from Time Warner at this point.

It is the very first indication we've had that anyone was paying attention to this problem. Of course, we blame Liberatore and the Indians/Fastball/STO less than we blame Roger Brown, the quirky sports media columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It's a question Brown should have asked and gotten answered weeks ago.

Instead of the high-profile sports media columnist for Ohio's largest newspaper, we got the answer from a reporter for a small weekly paper that's dwarfed in size even by the Sun Newspaper weekly chain. What's next? Is Roger "Real Estate Listings" Brown going to get scooped by the Weekly Shopper?

OMW itself tried to get this answer out of the Indians, but we don't have the contacts that Mr. Brown has. (Even without that, we've still beaten him on several sports media news items. And for crying out loud...we're a BLOG.)

So, now that the question is answered, and we know SportsTime Ohio is indeed negotiating with Adelphia separately, we'll again de-mount from our high horse until we learn that a deal's been reached. But honestly, guys, if you can't put together a deal involving two months' worth of games on a system that's going away in late May, to be replaced by an existing rightsholder, we're not sure what's going on...

Two Other Quick Notes

Note 1: AllAccess reports that CBS hot AC WQAL/104.1 Cleveland middayer John Connor picks up music director stripes. He takes over the duties from morning co-host Rebecca Wilde, who will concentrate on the morning drive show. It's the first change of any note since the announcement that veteran Cleveland programmer Dave Popovich would take over the program director chair from current morning co-host Allan Fee.

Note 2: Note to Clear Channel liberal talk WARF/1350 Akron "Radio Free Ohio" host Joe Finan, now in the middle of his second week on his new station. When reading a story the other day about two Jackson Township police officers who were fired for reportedly having sex on the job, Finan apologized for not knowing where Jackson Township IS in the area.

Joe? Look out the window while you're doing your show...it's where you now work.

Not that we blame Mr. Finan for that oversight. The postal ZIP Code for most of Jackson Township is North Canton 44720...the same problem used to exist for much of the old Northampton Township in Summit County. Even today, portions of the Akron-annexed areas of what used to be Northampton keep the Cuyahoga Falls 44223 ZIP Code...

Former Personality Back On The Air In East Liverpool

OMW hears that former WOHI/1490 East Liverpool morning host Jim Martin has returned to a regular spot on the station.

Martin lost his long-time morning drive show on the station when it changed format to ESPN Radio, the same change made by other Keymarket/Forever AM stations in Steubenville and Wheeling WV (Bellaire OH). We hear that Martin's back on the air on WOHI in a different time slot - 10 AM to 1 PM weekdays. Martin's new program started on Monday.

After he left WOHI, the former veteran Youngstown radio/TV personality (WFMJ) did some fill-in and part-time work on Cumulus standards WSOM/600 Salem.

It's SportsTime Ohio

The new Cleveland Indians-run TV network has officially unveiled its 2006 schedule, and its name - SportsTime Ohio.

SportsTime Ohio - or "STO" - will launch March 12th, with a tape-delayed spring training contest between the Indians and the New York Yankees. It'd already been reported that the new network will carry 130 regular season games, and 8 spring training outings.

Aside from the name, other news:

* Long-time Indians TV team John Sanders, Rick Manning and Mike Hegan will return for the 2006 season. They'll be joined by WKYC/3 sports director Jim Donovan on the 20 games that the local NBC affiliate will air as the over-air rightsholder.

* All 63 home games carried on the cable side will be in high-definition, in addition to the 20 over-air contests already announced as being in HD.

* The first regular season contest on SportsTime Ohio will be the April 4th contest against the Chicago White Sox. The first WKYC/3-aired contest will be the home opener, April 7th.

* There will be, as expected, a weekly half-hour Indians news program on WKYC/3.

* The team adds two additional cameras for "more angles" in the high definition broadcasts.

What wasn't announced today was also expected - any new cable/satellite deals. STO/Fastball Sports Productions president Jim Liberatore had the expected line about continued negotiations with the services not yet on board with STO (read: everyone but Time Warner Cable). Liberatore once again stands on the "we have popular programming, bug your provider" position...quoting the Indians' second press release:


"We believe that our proposals to these systems are fair and reflect the tremendous value of Indians programming, as confirmed in several different viewership surveys," Liberatore said. "We are working hard to ensure that the Indians games and the related programming are available to the widest possible audience, and we encourage fans to contact their cable company or satellite service to let them know they want to see the Indians programming."


It doesn't sound like the team/STO/Fastball is backing down from a hard-line position, one which prompted local MSO Cox Cable to put up the "MakeThemPlayFair" website we reported earlier. The call to Indians fans is repeated on the new STO website: "Not a Time Warner Cable Subscriber? STO is asking you to make the first pitch of Spring by contacting your local cable or satellite provider before March 12th so you don't miss an inning of Indians Baseball!"

Liberatore continues to talk about the Indians building an over-air network in other Ohio markets, to air the games broadcast by WKYC. But there also is no mention yet of any broadcast TV affiliates in markets like Columbus, Youngstown or Toledo...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My Network TV - No, Not MY Network TV

The other shoe has dropped in the UPN/WB sweepstakes.

Fox Broadcasting has announced a new "network" - or more accurately, programming service - aimed at stations that have been left at the altar in the upcoming retooling of the two smaller broadcast networks into "The CW".

The new service will be known as "My Network TV". A News Corporation press release says it'll air on all of the company's soon-to-be-former UPN affiliates in the 8-10 PM ET/PT time slot, and they're making pitches for other stations that not only won't be going with the CW Network programming...but to stations looking to avoid paying compensation for the CW offerings, or other otherwise independent outlets.

Among the offerings - two daily "telenovelas" called "Desire" and "Secrets". If you want an idea of what that'll be about, tune your TV to Univision O&O WQHS/61 Cleveland every weeknight... then mentally translate in your head to English.

Locally, this means that the station that does not affiliate with The CW will likely pick up "My Network TV". The sweepstakes involves Raycom's WUAB/43 (now UPN) and Winston Broadcasting's WBNX/55 (now WB).

The programming "My Network TV" promises to feature lots of young, good looking actors in steamy situations...which makes us wonder if WBNX would even be interested. It's been jarring enough to watch WB dramas about witches leading into televangelist/WBNX owner Rev. Ernest Angley's "90 and 9 Club" talk show weeknights. Would the Rev. stand for couples getting it on outside of marriage? Hmmm.

At least a half dozen of you are out there, thinking "Hey, Raycom will decline on spending the money, they'll be the My Network TV affiliate, and WBNX will pay for The CW"...well, perhaps. But it still depends on if Raycom works out some sort of a group deal for their current 6-station collection of UPN affiliates...for either new network.

Cavaliers HD Is Coming To Adelphia

FOX Sports Net Ohio's high-definition broadcasts of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers are coming to Adelphia Cable's systems in Northeast Ohio.

In an event that OMW reported exclusively would happen, Adelphia has officially added channel 798 to the service's high-definition tier. It's labeled "HDBON", and though it currently airs a blank screen...the Cavaliers' next two HD games are already in the program guide for that channel. It also shows up under that channel number and name on our QAM HDTV tuner.

There's no word yet if Cavaliers' over-air rights holder WUAB/43 will join in the HD fun, as has been rumored.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another Digital TV Station Fires Up

It's not a big deal unless you want to see every cut in a cubic zirconium ring, but it looks like Shop at Home O&O WOAC/67 Canton has brought its full power digital TV outlet online.

Here at the OMW World Headquarters in northwest Akron, WOAC-DT 47 is putting about an 80% signal into our digital receiver...with only an indoor antenna pointed at a wall (with no windows!) in the general direction of Brimfield. That's where both the WOAC analog and digital towers are located, at the I-76/Rt. 43 interchange - across the road from the tower carrying Media-Com's WNIR/100.1 Kent and WAOH-LP/29 Akron.

WOAC-DT has actually been on the air for a while, but it put out an anemic 17KW of power. That's barely enough to push it past the Portage County line without an outdoor antenna to receive the station. The recent power increase had to have happened within the past day or two, as we've never been able to receive the station this easily. WOAC still has some problems on its digital signal, as the "PSIP" (digital program information) scanned in for us as "47-3" a couple of days ago, and we can't get it to rescan - even with the much stronger signal.

WOAC's power increase means that WBNX/55 Akron (DT 30) and WVPX/23 (DT 59) Akron are the sole local full-power stations not operating a full-power signal. Neither station is even running a lower-powered temporary digital assignment at this point. Both have run into problems with their applications to the FCC, as they're having difficulty coordinating with Canadian stations on the same channel.

For its part, WBNX notes that it hopes to get on the air digitally by July 2006. They didn't just pull this date out of a hat, as it's the deadline for all large market full-power stations to go to full-power on their digital signals. The deadline for large market affiliates of the "Big Four" networks passed last year, but WB, UPN, PBS and independent stations have until this summer.

What happens if they don't get on by July? The penalty is loss of protection for their digital signal...and with a mandated conversion to digital TV now set in law in February 2009, that'll become very important. We'll assume WBNX lists that date because they believe the FCC will get off its duff and approve their application due to the upcoming deadline. Or something.

Of the above stations listed, only WBNX will broadcast high-definition programming as a WB affiliate. Of course, that could change by September...with the UPN/WB folding into "The CW". WVPX's "i" Network programming is in standard 480i definition, and it'll probably have other PAX-related subchannels. WOAC's Shop at Home programming is also 480i only...no, no one's doing high-definition home shopping as of yet...

UPDATE: 2/22/06 12:39 PM - WOAC's signal has started moderating again, and it's not as strong as it was. We figure they're still testing the 1000KW signal.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cox Fires Salvo At Indians Network

Since the soon-to-be-for-sale OMW World Headquarters is in Adelphia Cable territory, we haven't seen this on TV...so it took a mention in Plain Dealer sports media columnist Roger Brown's Monday offering for us to find out about it.

Having already taken their case to the public in an earlier Roger Brown column, Cox Cable's Cleveland operation is now taking their case to the Internet. Cox has set up a website called "MakeThemPlayFair.com", outlining their case for refusing the offer by the new Cleveland Indians-run cable network.

Much of it is what was reported earlier - a large fee increase for what will currently be lesser amounts of programming (20 less games than FSN Ohio ran last year, due to the over-air contract with WKYC/3). It also notes that the Indians-run "Fastball Sports Productions" apparently expects higher fees when more programming comes on board, or for high-definition games.

Though the website text frequently notes that "we're Indians fans, too!", it calls attention to a growing concern in the cable industry...high sports programming fees.

Note the headline at the top: "SPORTS PROGRAMMING IS DRIVING UP CABLE PRICES FOR EVERYONE", and a picture showing a presumably older woman, who appears not to be a sports fan, with a catcher's mask and a lost look on her face. Then there's that caption: "YOU are paying dearly for Sports TV - Like it or not".

The site includes an FAQ about the situation, and a pre-written letter that readers could presumably copy and send to Indians management types. It's typical cheesy MediaCompanySpeak: "I realize that the Indians’ network will provide the games but at what cost to me? As a supporter and fan of the Indians, I ask that you charge fair prices to the local cable companies so that we can continue to cheer on our local team!"

If the Fastball folks don't laugh out loud at that tortured wording, they don't have a sense of humor. OMW takes no editorial stance on this issue, by the way...we're just chuckling at this "here, sign this letter we've already written for you, which sounds like it was written by a cable company PR person!" thing.

What this website doesn't include is, as near as we can tell, any mention of the fact that Cox Cable owns it. Indeed, it refers to "cable companies" in the third person throughout the text. This is standard procedure for many cable companies in their programming cost battles with cable networks, by the way..."MakeThemPlayFair.com" is only the latest example.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Aaron Shea Strikes Back

You might remember the brief item from the Friday before Super Bowl XL...where "Dieter", of CBS alt-rock WXRK/92.3 Cleveland's "Rover's Morning Glory", impersonated Cleveland Browns tight end Aaron Shea along "Radio Row" in Detroit.

As you might expect by the kind of show it is, Dieter had some fun with the local radio hosts doing their shows live from the Super Bowl site, and made some pretty controversial comments while pretending to be the Browns player.

As you might also expect, Shea's not happy.

In a story that aired Sunday night on WJW FOX 8, Shea said he wants an apology from Dieter, Rover et al., or they should "pay the consequences". It seems Shea's worried that the comments not made by him could come back to haunt him if he has to test the free agency market. (Aaron, if you do run into any trouble in the future, feel free to point the team official in question to this entry. "IT WASN'T HIM!")

WJW's Dan Coughlin reported that Shea's also "filed a complaint with the county prosecutor", and that he got a lot of calls that Friday wondering what the heck he, er, didn't actually say. Shea wasn't even in Detroit...he was at home in suburban Cleveland.

Of course, if the Long Arm of the Law gets involved somehow, they'll have to dial up Chicago, where Rover, Dieter and the gang are now doing "Morning Glory" at CBS talk WCKG/105.9 "Free FM".

One oddity of tonight's story on FOX 8 - they had to go to the website of competitor WOIO/19, the slash-and-dash CBS affiliate which aired the story originally, to get audio of Dieter's Aaron Shea impression...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Two Short Weekend Takes

Just a couple of items and things on our mind(s):

Item 1: OMW's been writing a lot about WARF/1350 midday host Joe Finan, due to the debut of his show on liberal talk "Radio Free Ohio". But we also hear he'll make a TV appearance starting Sunday night.

Over the transom from our good friend Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch, via a mailing list - Finan will be one of many folks appearing in the documentary "Rock 'n Roll Invaders - The AM Radio DJs". It starts running on the Discovery Times cable/satellite channel on Sunday night at 8 PM, and repeats throughout the President's Day weekend. Check your digital cable guide for the channel...here on the Lost Adelphia system it's digital cable channel 104. Time Warner Northeast Ohio's lineup shows it at channel 137.

Among the reported highlights in this 1998 documentary: Finan remembers the raucous Miami DJ convention which helped launch the era of radio payola. Listeners who only know Finan from his talk radio career on WNIR/100.1 - and now WARF - may have only heard vague recollections of his disk jockey past, and his involvement in those scandals of radio's bygone era. And oddly enough, as folks like New York State attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer make waves about Radio Payola 2006, Joe's safely on the sidelines doing talk radio.

Item 2: Are we the only ones who care about the poor analog video quality of ABC network programming on Cleveland affiliate WEWS/5? Consider these two samples of screen shots taken today from WEWS-DT's digital feed (via Adelphia cable).

Our first example is game action. We dare you to tell us what ranking NC State is. Is it 15? 18? 16? We can't tell. (Click on the picture for a slightly larger version.)

The second example is from the stands. NC State is playing, we believe, "Virgiiniia Tech". Or at least, that's what the graphic looks like.

Last fall, during an ABC broadcast Ohio State football game on WEWS, the score graphic was so bad, we thought the Buckeyes were playing MIIIIII. (It was "MINN", or Minnesota.) The pictures we've posted here are actually the clearest that video signal can be...on a TV, it's much, much worse. Perhaps we need to break out a camera instead of a video card capture. Anyway, the artifacts are much more apparent if you click on each of the above photos for a larger version.

The lines do not show up during WEWS' "NewsChannel 5" or other local programming. And when a HDTV NBA game broke up and had to be forced into SD by the network a couple or three weeks ago, the non-retouched ABC SD feed looked pristine.

We're not sure what's causing it. Today, the analog picture (Adelphia 805) and the analog-converted digital simulcast picture (Adelphia 5) looked just as bad. Maybe ABC analog programming always looks that bad on WEWS, which we don't see because we watch the digital/HD channel whenever possible. Any insight on this would be appreciated, particularly if any readers happen to frequent 3001 Euclid Avenue...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Casey Coleman Benefit

WJW FOX 8 graphic and picture

About 500 people got together in a Westlake hotel ballroom Friday night to honor a man a lot of people have been thinking about in the past few months.

The event was all about Casey Coleman, the WTAM/1100 veteran sports voice and Browns Radio Network sideline reporter...who's unfortunately been sidelined himself due to pancreatic cancer. If you can tell a man by the number of friends he has, having 500 people spend a Friday night helping you out sure says a lot about Casey.

A WJW FOX 8 story on the event noted that those at the event were raising money for Casey's medical bills. While we're sure Casey likely has the standard medical coverage available through Clear Channel, who knows what insane deductibles or other costs are still involved for a horrific medical situation such as this? We're glad they got together.

And Casey, who often calls himself "The Luckiest Guy in the World" (see that "LGITW" license plate?), felt bad that he could not be there on Friday night. But...he had to stay away, for as if having to go through chemotherapy isn't enough, FOX 8 reports that a spot has been found on his liver, and Casey has to have surgery to remove it next week.

We got a glimpse of part of the letter Casey wrote to be read by his wife Mary, and here's the text we could catch:

"Dear Family and Friends,

Imagine me, at a loss for words.
I just don't know where to begin to try and thank everyone, from the amazing group of people who spent so much time and energy putting this event together to all the rest of you for being here. As it has been from the beginning, your kindness and generosity is overwhelming. I've long since stopped debating the reasons for this outpouring of love and support and decided to surrender and accept it.
It pains me greatly not to be here with you on this truly humbling evening, but the good Lord has added to the task that Mary and I and the girls face, so my first priority must be to keep myself free from exposure to anything that could potentially cause a delay in Wednesday's surgery.
Please know that I consider every day I wake up an opportunity to prove worthy of the love and support that you've all showered upon us, and I only hope that through this battle we've been able to help someone else along the way.
Please don't confuse my serenity with defeat. The intention remains the same - I intend to kick cancer's butt with a smile on my face."

Your face - by far - won't be the only one with a smile when you do that, Casey. And we'll be thinking of you, and praying for you.

Dino's At It Again

One quality a sports talk radio show host is well-advised to have is self-promotion. The hosts in the genre often make themselves look larger than life, and call attention to themselves with controversy...either real or blown up.

So it's no surprise that one Dino Costa is back in the news again, this time for an apparent confrontation with Denver Nuggets player Kenyon Martin in the team's locker room. Dino apparently wasn't alone in receiving foul language from Martin... the NBA fined the tempermental Nuggets star $15,000 for cursing at fans after another game.

While it'd appear that Costa isn't the instigator in this case, he's surely reveling in the publicity.

The altercation made it to the Associated Press, and was reported back here in Northeast Ohio in Roger Brown's Friday column, where we learned of the event. But by calling Costa's stint here a "Cleveland" appearance, Brown's being charitable. Costa hosted for about a cup of coffee on "SportsRadio 1560", otherwise known as Chardon-licensed daytimer WATJ. The station went silent a couple or three years ago. But even when it was on the air, WATJ could barely be heard in much of the Cleveland market...even on the East Side.

While we're looking at Roger's Friday column...he reports that some Northeast Ohio cable operators want to offer the new Indians network on a separate, a la carte basis, for subscribers to pay for separately. It'd appear this is a non-starter with the Tribe.

Buffalo's Crooke to WKYC as VP/News?

Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 Cleveland could be looking within the company for a replacement for VP/news Dick Moore, who is leaving the station to take a teaching position at the University of South Carolina.

Buffalo News media writer Alan Pergament reports that WGRZ/2 Buffalo news director Ellen Crooke "would appear to be a possible candidate" to replace Moore at WKYC. Pergament says Crooke has been at the helm during "ratings successes" at Channel 3's Gannett sister station. (Those are words that get the attention of general managers, so we're sure WKYC's Brooke Spectorsky is interested.)

It's apparently still early in the search, though...as Crooke's boss, WGRZ general manager Jim Toellner, says it "has not been decided who goes (to WKYC)". Moore is apparently going to remain at WKYC until the end of June.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More on "Fastball" and Indians TV

This time, it's Akron Beacon Journal TV writer R.D. Heldenfels weighing in on the issue of the Cleveland Indians' new in-house TV network, in an article to be published in Thursday's Beacon.

Rich sits down for a talk with Jim Liberatore, the veteran sports TV executive ("SpeedChannel") tasked with running the new venture...which will air its very first pre-season game less than a month from now.

There's not much new on the "where" part of the network's operation. Heldenfels notes the Time Warner deal, and the upcoming absorption of Adelphia by TWC...but like other items, gives no indication that "Fastball Sports Productions" intends on talking to Adelphia before that merger is completed.

As we've pointed out only a few dozen times here, there's no guarantee that Adelphia customers will become Time Warner customers before a number of Indians games have gone by. We're giving up at this point, frankly, and will rely on the dulcet tones of Tom Hamilton, Matt Underwood and Mike Hegan on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network...dependably available on WTAM/1100 Cleveland, WAKR/1590 Akron, WHBC/1480 Canton and WQKT/104.5 Wooster.

The games show up when they show up, and if Adelphia isn't all that interested, and the Indians are just going to wait out the merger whenever it happens, heck with them. We're not the ones not being proactive about airing the network on the system serving the bulk of Cleveland's cable households before the complex merger is completed. (Can you tell we're upset about this? Can you tell we have YET to get an answer about this from the Indians or Adelphia?) And of course, there are the 20 games to be seen over-air on broadcast partner WKYC/3.

Anyway, moving on from our own obsession, Liberatore tells the Beacon that the satellite TV penetration in the Cleveland market is a "huge presence". He says Fastball is talking to the Dish Network and DirecTV folks, but in a curious aside, says he believes the "fans will push the services" to carry Indians games. Could this be more "in the media negotiating", much like they hope fans will put pressure on suburban Cleveland cable provider Cox Cable?

But Heldenfels' article does provide some insight on what may eventually air on the new Indians channel. Liberatore points out that unlike previous rightsholder FOX Sports Net Ohio, the new network will have a studio at their disposal...in specific, the studio of WKYC, which is not only the team's broadcast partner, but also its production partner. He says the new network will go more in depth with detail about not only the Tribe, but its competition.

And he sees a multi-sport vision for the network. No, there's no mention about poaching the Cavaliers from FSN Ohio when that contract is up, but in addition to various sports-related programming heavy on Northeast Ohio content, such things as minor league baseball's Akron Aeros, and high school and college sports could be in the Indians-owned network's future sights.

For right now, though...they have to get their own games on the air, and get them to viewers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Blogging of Joe Finan

When you think of a new phenomenon such as blogging on the Internet, perhaps newly-minted WARF/1350 "Radio Free Ohio" midday host Joe Finan isn't the first name that pops into your head. Though Joe's had and used E-Mail for a while now, you don't expect him to direct his thoughts onto a blog.

But sure enough, Joe Finan has joined the blogosphere. And in true blogging tradition, we link you to his blog on the "Radio Free Ohio" website.

In it, Finan notes that Clear Channel Akron/Canton approached him in "mid-2005" about joining WARF, but he wasn't able to talk with them until the expiration of his contract with his long-time home, WNIR/100.1.

He also repeats what he's said on the air a few times in the past few days, lauding Clear Channel for its professionalism...compared to what he called on his first few shows "that tin can I used to work for": "After spending time with the professionals in all their departments, Programming, Sales, management and chatting with folks from other responsibilities. The whole group is young and talented, competitive and focused on winning. We will."

But that's not nearly as interesting as Finan's take on his former employer during the first hour of his Tuesday show. We've taken the liberty of transcribing it for you from our recording.

It's clear that Finan is no fan of WNIR station manager Bill Klaus, or his brother, sales manager Bob Klaus: "They're doofuses...and they have been very lucky. The two young men who run the station are very lucky they had a very nice father, and Dick was, and the parents are really great people...and how these two ying-yangs have been successful... they'd better thank God they had their father for a father...because they couldn't have done it by themselves."


However long Joe lasts at WARF, he is in a unique position...he's in his 70's, and unlike younger people without his storied radio history, he doesn't have to worry about burning bridges. Or in this case, bombing them...

Cox to Indians: Sorry, But...No

We almost missed this in Roger Brown's latest column in the Plain Dealer. Perhaps we're not used to actual NEWS being contained among Brown's musings and reports of Ronnie Duncan's real estate dealings, but, anyway...

Brown reports in Wednesday's column that the Cleveland Indians have been rebuffed in their attempt to sign up Cox Cable to carry the new team-run TV network. Brown quotes Cox's local general manager as saying the Indians want "200 percent more" than (presumably) what FOX Sports Net Ohio asks for, and claims that the increase would amount to "at least" a buck-fifty for every one of Cox's 70,000 local subscribers...for 20 fewer games than were carried on FSN Ohio last season.

For their part, new Fastball Sports chief Jim Liberatore says it's a "fair price", considering how popular the team is locally. For now, unless someone budges, local Cox subscribers may not be seeing any more than the 20 games that will air on over-air partner WKYC/3. We tend to think someone will budge, at some point, though it may not be before the season starts. Unlike Comcast and Adelphia locally, which will be absorbed into Time Warner Cable sometime this year, Cox will continue to be a separate entity.

The team reportedly plans a press conference on February 23rd, in which they could name an announcing team - it's widely expected that the team won't change the current TV voices.

And they could announce more carriage deals. But Cox's rejection could indicate less than smooth sailing for the new Indians network, as it attempts to sign up providers other than Time Warner...

The Race To The CW Begins

Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports that some 200 local TV stations have received first contact from "The CW Network", the newly-created network that'll be formed from the remains of UPN and The WB this fall. The letters mainly went to current WB and UPN affiliates, along with some pure independent stations.

B&C reports that CW officials expect to move quickly to sign up affiliates in markets that are not already set as far as the new 5th network goes. A deal between The CW and Tribune Broadcasting, and the ownership stake by CBS Corporation (along with Time Warner), means that many markets already know which station will carry CW programming in September...in the largest markets, either Tribune-owned stations or CBS/UPN-owned stations will have the honors.

In other large markets, like Cleveland, everything's up in the air. The two local general managers involved - WUAB/43's Bill Applegate and WBNX/55's Lou Spangler - will receive a video kit from "The CW" in the next week or so, presumably touting the new network's prospects.

But eventually, they'll receive some news that won't be so welcome. B&C and other industry sources say that the CW Network folks are going to ask for reverse compensation from would-be and future affiliates. Back in the day, networks paid stations to carry their programming...but in a growing trend, they've started asking local affiliates to pay for the rights to carry the network. (Such a move prompted the change of San Francisco's NBC affiliation from Chronicle's KRON, to Granite's KNTV...a station NBC eventually bought outright.) CW and CBS honcho Les Moonves has made it clear that he sees this as the future.

How does that affect Cleveland?

It probably depends on what kind of a deal group owner Raycom Media - parent of WUAB and sister CBS affiliate WOIO/19 - makes with the CW folks. As owner of potentially 6 CW affiliates, along with a number of CBS stations, Raycom could make a deal with CW, which is owned 50/50 by CBS and Time Warner.

If Raycom's not willing to play Reverse Compensation Ball, all bets are off, and the hungrier, scrappier WBNX could pull off an upset.

At the end of the day, though, we still believe WUAB/Raycom holds the cards..."The CW" is theirs to either lose, or refuse.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cavaliers in HD Tonight - ALMOST Everywhere

The NBA Cleveland Cavaliers and FOX Sports Net Ohio opened up their 9 game schedule of high-definition broadcasts tonight, as LeBron James and the Cavs easily beat the San Antonio Spurs.

The feed was "easily" available on all major local cable systems except one, Adelphia. OMW reported exclusively earlier today that the Cavaliers were working with Adelphia to air the game on cable channel 798 (for HD viewers) tonight. It appears, at least at OMW World Headquarters here in Northwest Akron, that cable boxes may need more time to "find" that currently unavailable channel.

However, we have the luxury of owning a tuner that picks up "QAM" cable signals. That's the underlying method cable companies use to send out digital cable signals to their boxes. A number of newer HDTV tuners have QAM capability, as do some newer computer tuning cards. They can pick out "in the clear" signals. That's what we used to produce the above screen shot. (Click on it to make it a little larger.)

We expect that the "channel 798 problem" will be resolved before the next HD Cavaliers contest, Wednesday, February 22nd at the Philadelphia 76ers...

Three Updates

Updates to previously posted items:

* Congratulations to Clear Channel Akron/Canton hot AC WKDD/98.1 for a very, very successful Children's Hospital Radiothon over the weekend. The final total for the weekend-long fundraiser - $842,098. That includes well over $200,000 of "change bandit" collections, which brought in loose change from collections all over the area. OMW couldn't help but notice that the WKDD/Children's Hospital figure was the largest in a group of fundraiser radio events from stations all over the country.

* While we're at Freedom Avenue - virtually, at least - we did catch Joe Finan's debut on liberal talk WARF/1350 "Radio Free Ohio". OK, so he still needs to get used to the place, not to mention the fact that his calls will be screened for name and city. (Remember, WNIR takes phone calls "cold", and always has.) A few shots over the bow at his former WNIR colleague, now competing host Howie Chizek, and Joe's typical smooth style with Akron/Canton's older women, and Joe's back.

But yes, WARF program director Jerry Mullins (who we heard in the background)...we know Joe's old. We get it. He's old enough to have sat around the fire with Jesus. He's broken bread with Teddy Roosevelt. He gave advice to George Washington. He...oh, you know...

* And what very well may be an OMW exclusive, TV wise. We hear that the Cleveland Cavaliers *are* working even as we write this, to air tonight's first high-definition Cavs contest (against San Antonio) on Adelphia cable. If all goes right, we're told that the game will be seen on Adelphia channel 798, a channel that does not exist at this writing for Adelphia Cleveland system subscribers who take the high-definition channels. Keep watching, though...we're told it's in the works...even if the channel shows up just before tonight's first game.

The games will also air on the following systems, according to a Cavaliers press release:

Comcast - Cleveland - 253
Cox - Cleveland - 707
Wild Open West (WOW) - Cleveland and Columbus - 220
Time Warner Cable - Northeast Ohio - 531
Time Warner Cable - Columbus - 716
Armstrong - Northeast Ohio plus Meadville PA - 178
Buckeye Cablesystem - Erie County - 632
Insight - Columbus - 767

Compare this to the Indians and their new TV network, where it appears they're content to just wait until Time Warner Cable takes over the local Adelphia system to air Indians contests on that system. Not like that makes us happy at all...

Joe Finan's Motivation

Later today, veteran radio host Joe Finan takes the microphone again...returning to the airwaves with a new show on Clear Channel liberal talk WARF/1350 Akron ("Radio Free Ohio"), 11 AM to 1 PM weekdays. Finan's new program comes a year and change after he retired, with much fanfare, after nearly 20 years at Media-Com Akron market talk WNIR/100.1.

Not many expected Joe to "cross the street" and get back behind the microphone, even after Clear Channel flipped sports WTOU to a liberal talk format. Joe's been in radio for well over 50 years, and would probably admit himself that he's no "spring chicken"...he's well into his 70's. In addition, Finan battled health issues, including multiple bypass heart surgery, in his last year working as WNIR's afternoon drive host.

So, why's he coming back? To us...it appears that he wants to go after his long-time nemesis, WNIR midday host Howie Chizek. With a vengeance. And for the first time ever, he'll be able to do it on Howie's time slot turf.

It's probably not stretching it to say that Finan and Chizek weren't exactly buddies when they both worked at Broadcast Park. Listeners frequently heard both men throw zingers at each other on each others' programs. When one of Joe's regular liberal callers showed up on Howie's show, you knew it, and Howie never let you forget. And the same happened in return, if a diehard conservative dared to broach the WNIR phone lines after 3 PM. Some of it could certainly be chalked up to "radio theatre", but you definitely got the idea Howie and Joe didn't like each other.

Some of it, it would appear, would fall to Howie's occasional boasts about his own ratings - no, Howie, we don't believe you have millions and millions of listeners in market #73 - and an occasional aside by Chizek that the afternoon show with Finan may not be quite as popular.

Fast forward to 2006, and a promo heard for Finan's new show on "Radio Free Ohio" a few days ago. Joe sounded like he's chomping at the bit to show up Howie...we don't remember the exact wording, but we're pretty sure we heard Joe make a "fat man" crack in the promo, referring to his former lead-in and future competitor.

A promo which has been running over the weekend jokes that Finan will finally get the duct tape taken off his mouth today at 11 AM, and finally get to have at it. It also jokingly calls its own new host an "old windbag" and promises that they'll use a cattle prod to keep him in line.

That's Joe Finan, the Last Angry Old Man of Liberal Talk Radio. No matter if the WARF promos are a bit over the top, you couldn't pry OMW away from the radio with a crowbar at 11:05 this morning. At very least, we're dying to hear what Joe's got to say about Howie when he's not in the same building with him...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Things Not Many Notice - Local Radio/TV Division

From OMW's "did you ever notice?" department:

* Did you ever notice...that Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 Cleveland never gives exact time checks? Oh, sure, there's "The 3:30 Report" or the "The 6 O'Clock Report"-type names for its news updates. But "The 6:30 Report" could air as early as 6:25 PM before Cavaliers or Indians games, and "The 3:30 Report" could air as late as 3:35 PM if a certain WTAM afternoon motormouth can't get to the news on time...but they'll still call it "The 3:30 Report".

We may be missing exact time checks during morning drive's "Wills and Coleman" morning show. But...we generally miss morning drive radio to begin with. Outside of that, the only exact time checks we ever get on WTAM are when sports anchor Mark Schwab pronounces that "it's 11:40 PM, and Michigan still sucks!"

* Did you ever notice...that Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS/5 has its entire weekday anchor team working on Sunday nights? We saw Ted Henry, Lee Jordan, Chris Miller and Mark Johnson working last Sunday night, but we thought that was due to the Super Bowl...which aired on "NewsChannel 5" that evening. No, they're on again tonight. We haven't looked close enough to see if they give the "A" anchor team another day off during the week, like perhaps Friday night.

We were a bit distracted flipping by WEWS' digital channel tonight, anyway...as ABC's high-definition programming looked like one of those bad dubbed Japanese movies. The audio was out of sync with the video by about a second and a half. Channel 5 must have noticed at some point, as they switched to upconverted analog on WEWS-DT the rest of the night.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Cincinnati Oldies Station

Listeners in the Cincinnati market report that former Salem talk WBOB/1160 Florence KY has flipped to oldies, playing "10,000 oldies" under the name "WDJO". The station was sold by Salem recently as part of a swap with Christian Broadcasting System, which picked up WBOB and WTSJ/1050 in the Cincinnati market in exchange for a Detroit AM station.

The new owners hinted at a change in that September article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, while saying WTSJ will keep the Christian talk format.

Cincinnati, of course, once had a blowtorch AM "real oldies" format on the Clear Channel-owned station now known as liberal talk WCKY/1530...one of two such powerful stations next to each other on the dial. The other, Entercom's WWKB/1520 Buffalo NY, dropped oldies for liberal talk this past week. Despite the fact that its pattern generally favors areas east of Buffalo, and with WCKY next door, WWKB is not a difficult nighttime catch much in Northeast Ohio.

And what is it about religious-leaning station owners and AM secular oldies stations? Paging a Mr. Harold Glunt, please come to the white courtesy phone...

WKDD Children's Hospital Radiothon

It's a landmark broadcast event in the Akron radio market. Clear Channel hot AC WKDD/98.1 is fronting its 7th annual radiothon to benefit Akron Children's Hospital. WKDD morning stars Matt Patrick and Angela Bellios are broadcasting live from the hospital through 9 PM on Sunday evening.

As of this writing on Saturday afternoon, the radiothon has raised over $400,000.

Though it's the 7th year for WKDD, the Children's Hospital Radiothon has roots even earlier than that. In the mid-1970's, news/talk WHLO/640 was its home. Somewhere round about 1977, your OMW Primary Editorial Voice volunteered to help during that year's event, which was being held at Summit Mall. Though it was not at the time, WHLO is now a sister station of WKDD in the Clear Channel Akron/Canton cluster. It's good to hear WKDD continuing to carry on that tradition.

You can donate online at the link above, or call (866) 543-0981, or (330) 543-0981. Remote locations to drop off donations are also linked from the WKDD site.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cavaliers To Air 9 High Definition Games

You read it here first a month ago, and now, it's official...the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers will air 9 remaining regular season games in high definition on local cable providers.

The first game will air Monday, February 13th (Cavaliers vs. San Antonio). Most local cable providers are on board, including Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox and WOW, an alternative provider in Cleveland...and wouldn't you know, Adelphia is absent from the list! (Our regular readers know that the palatial OMW World Headquarters building is in Adelphia's Summit County cable territory.)

A complete list of cable systems and channels is on the press release we've helpfully linked above. It appears that aside from smaller suppliers like Massillon Cable/Clear Picture of Wooster, Adelphia is the only missing system. Wouldn't it figure, eh?

The Cavaliers provide us with some hope, though. Quoting the release: "FSN Ohio is currently working with all of our cable and satellite partners with the hope of broadening the reach of Cavaliers games in HDTV to additional homes throughout the Ohio region." This would also lead us to believe that they're hoping to sign up DirecTV and Dish Network.

Unlike the Indians' new TV deal, this season's list of Cavaliers HD games is likely to end before Time Warner takes control of Adelphia's Cleveland area system.

WVPX/23 Loses Satellite Placement

The largest national satellite provider, DirecTV, is dropping the "i" (PAX) network from its service...along with a number of PAX stations across the country.

In a page on its website, DirecTV points out that after being programmed as a general entertainment outlet, the network has changed, and now "most of their programming consists of infomercials and other promotional shows. As a result, we have terminated our agreement to carry iTV and local PAX stations."

Among the list of stations to lose their place in DirecTV's local channel lineups - the Cleveland market's PAX owned and operated station, WVPX/23 Akron. It's almost a footnote now, as WVPX no longer carries any significant local programming. The station lost the WKYC/3-produced "PAX 23 News" newscast aimed at the Akron/Canton area last year as a result of the end of Gannett's LMA with WVPX. The newscast immediately moved to Time Warner Cable.

Fred Thompson...Good DAY?

Especially when he had to leave the air due to problems with his voice a few years back, radio folks started buzzing about the "replacement strategy" for veteran ABC News Radio commentator Paul Harvey...the iconic broadcaster who's heard on hundreds of stations nationwide, including WTAM/1100 Cleveland, WAKR/1590 Akron, WHBC/1480 Canton, WEOL/930 Elyria and others throughout the state of Ohio.

Word's coming out this morning that ABC Radio may be looking to former U.S. Senator and "Law and Order" star Fred Thompson to become Harvey's successor. According to an item in this morning's New York Post, ABC Radio suits confirm talking to Thompson...though they don't link the talks with replacing Harvey.

For his part, Harvey...at 87, still cherished and loved by listeners a fraction of his age... is in the middle of a 10 year contract valued at a reported $100 million. With his drawing power and stature, one would assume that an early exit from that contract would be only his call to make - barring future health concerns - even with the prospect of Citadel's recent bid to buy ABC Radio.

OMW's having trouble wrapping our mind around Fred Thompson as "the next Paul Harvey". While the Harvey Franchise is certainly lucrative, it's difficult for us to link it with anyone except Paul Harvey himself. While thought has been given to other possible replacements - including ABC's own Doug Limerick or Gil Gross - the Harvey format is an anachronism in today's fast moving world of radio. After all, what radio station will give up a 15 minute daily block at noon for anyone *except* Paul Harvey?

We've often wondered if ABC would be better off just ending Paul Harvey's segments when he finally does step away from the microphone. Anything else would seem a pale imitation for us.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ex-WTAM'er To LA PD Gig

We saw this yesterday on AllAccess, but didn't get a Round Tuit as far as posting:

Former WTAM/1100 Cleveland news anchor Craig Edwards has taken over as program director of Salem's Los Angeles-based talkers, KRLA/870 (Los Angeles) and KTIE/590 (Inland Empire).

Edwards, who's also worked in Denver and Buffalo, has been the VP/Regional Operations director of Metro Networks' Southern California office. He starts his new gig in March.

Oswald The Lucky Rabbit

This isn't really local, aside from how it affects Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3, but we can't stop laughing about it.

In a move expected by everyone who knows how to put the letters "N-B-C" and "N-F-L" together, long-time "Monday Night Football" play-by-play voice Al Michaels will indeed rejoin color commentator and Hall of Famer John Madden on NBC's new "Sunday Night Football" this coming season...getting out of his ABC/ESPN contract, and declining to do the new "MNF" on ESPN.

That's not the funny part.

To let Michaels out of his contract, the Disney folks - ABC/ESPN's parent company - extracted some concessions out of NBC Universal. Along with the ability to use more Olympic highlights, and the rights to air Friday "Ryder Cup" matches on ESPN, Disney gets back a piece of its history.

Somewhere along the line, rights to Walt Disney's silent cartoon character "Oswald The Lucky Rabbit" - circa 1927-1928 - ended up in the hands of Universal Studios, which merged into GE's NBC a ways back. Somewhere, somehow, a Disney suit realized that this would be the way to get a predecessor to "Mickey Mouse" back in the Mouse House.

One can almost imagine the talks: "OK, we'd like, let's see...we'd love to show Winter Olympic highlights...that golf thing would be a nice throw-in for Fridays on ESPN...oh, and hang on...this one's really been bugging us since 1928..."

While Walt Disney's accomplishments and history are well known, we're guessing most folks had to go Googling to find out more about "Oswald The Lucky Rabbit". And it struck us as funny that these rights ended up as a condition of the move of Al Michaels from ABC/ESPN to NBC...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sexy Clevelanders

It must be a side effect of winter in Northeast Ohio. For whatever reason, local media seems taken with noting which local notables are the "sexiest (whatever) in Cleveland".

We first spotted it in the current issue of Cleveland Magazine, where a cover story promises a look at 20 of the region's "Sexy Singles". Two prominent women in local media were among the notables in that story - WJW FOX 8 evening co-anchor Stacey Bell, and WQAL/104.1 "Q104" afternoon driver Jen Toohey. As far as we can remember, they were the only media personalities in the list of 20. We'd link to the story, but Cleveland Magazine doesn't make its content available online.

Then, this afternoon, WEWS/5 is promoting its own "Cleveland's Sexiest Man" poll, which is open for viewer votes on the station's website. Joining "Live on Five's" own Leon Bibb in the poll are pro athletes (LeBron James, Grady Sizemore, Braylon Edwards), Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson, and celebrity chef Michael Symon (owner of "Lola"), who's known nationally among foodies from his appearances on The Food Network.

Oh, and a name that made us laugh out loud when we heard it - WTAM/1100 afternoon motormouth Mike Trivisonno. TRIV? On a "sexiest men" poll?

Now, granted...we remind you that the Primary Editorial Voice (PEV) behind the Mighty Blog of Fun (MBoF) is a straight man. We don't really have a lot of input on how to judge men in this area, except to note that we're not about to make the list ourselves any time soon. But Triv? He's known for many things...talking before thinking, eating food while on the air, making inappropriate comments to his young "hot chick" sidekick...but "Cleveland's Sexiest Man"?

Maybe if we happen to have any readership from the other side of the gender divide...they can help us understand this one. We're sure not getting it from this viewpoint.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Four Quick Hits

Hit 1: A while back, we noted the sale by Xavier University of Cincinnati-based pubcaster WVXU/91.7, and its far flung "X-Star" network of repeaters, to Cincinnati Public Radio's WGUC/90.9. The move turned WVXU into a pretty standard NPR news/talk affiliate to complement WGUC's classical music format. But it also left questions in our mind...if the new WVXU owners would hold onto repeater stations far outside Cincinnati, in particular some up in rural Michigan.

That question's starting to be answered now, as WVXU is reportedly selling repeater WVXA/96.7 Rogers City MI and an associated translator at 95.3 in Mackinaw City MI, both far from the Queen City. The buyer is a company called WATZ Radio, Inc., and according to the AllAccess folks, it plans to convert 96.7 to a commercial station...while the translator's donated for non-comm use. The move leaves WVXU with two Michigan outlets: WVXH/92.1 Harrison MI and WVXM/97.7 Manistee MI.

Hit 2: It always struck us that Clear Channel talk WIMA/1150 Lima was pretty well staffed for a small market CC talker, and that's now changed. The station has dumped a local afternoon drive talk show hosted by Todd Walker, and says it's letting 8 other staff members go. Most of the job carnage appears related to the station's decision to stop regionally syndicating a number of weekend speciality shows. Walker remains with the CC/Lima cluster doing sports-related work. ABC talker Sean Hannity gets PM drive.

Hit 3: It's not really news per se, but a note that former WXRK/92.3-based morning driver Shane "Rover" French's show hasn't completely forgotten Cleveland after moving its base to CBS Radio's "Free FM" talker in Chicago. Show staffer Dieter apparently got the best of a number of "radio row" occupants at the Super Bowl site in Detroit last week...claiming to be Cleveland Browns tight end Aaron Shea. The ruse was bought hook, line and sinker by a number of stations, as "Shea" made a few controversial statements. There's no word what the real Aaron Shea thinks of all this...

Hit 4: Cincinnati-based webcaster WOXY.com, the Internet successor of legendary alt-rock WOXY/97.7 Oxford, is running into an Internet economics lesson. The station is moving to a subscription-based model, charging $9.95 a month for access to broadband-quality streams. For now, at least, they'll leave up a low-bandwidth feed for free. The WOXY folks note that they'd expect to be able to survive with advertising at some point... perhaps when Internet radio becomes more ubitquous on cell phones and in cars. But for now, the ad market is apparently not enough to support a fully free service.

As for WOXY's old home, the 97.7/Oxford frequency is due for a move closer to Cincinnati...current owner First Broadcasting has planted adult hits "Max FM" on the station, along with two other Cincinnati rimshots.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Random Musings

Just a couple of notes:

* It doesn't really affect Northeast Ohio at all, but that long-rumored Citadel deal with ABC Radio has been officially announced. The transaction basically merges ABC Radio into Citadel, with Disney shareholders retaining 52 percent ownership...and the new radio group will be managed and operated by Citadel.

Not included in the deal are the Radio Disney or ESPN Radio networks. That means nothing happens, at least for now, to ABC/Disney's only local media presence, Radio Disney O&O AM 1260 in Cleveland.

The only other effect we can come up with - the new "Citadel Communications" will include ABC's other radio network products, including syndicated hosts like Sean Hannity (WHLO/640, WEOL/930) and including ABC News Radio product. The new Citadel company has a 10 year agreement to distribute ABC News Radio to radio stations...Disney, oddly enough, retains non-radio distribution rights (Internet, etc.) to the news network.

Locally, a number of stations carry ABC's radio news product, including WAKR/1590, WNIR/100.1 and WARF/1350 in the Akron market.

* It was indeed the "Power of 5" for ABC affiliate WEWS/5 Cleveland last night, as that's the official name of their new fancy, high-tech, we've-got-better-toys-than-the-others doppler radar system.

The new system supposedly grabs real-time, updated radar (every 30 seconds) from 5 radar locations, including as far west as Fort Wayne IN. We're assuming the raw data is coming out of the National Weather Service for at least the out-of-town radars, since the southernmost radar shows up on the map at about the location of the NWS forecast office in Wilmington, northeast of Cincinnati. (We're also assuming WEWS isn't putting up their own radars outside of Cleveland.)

Unless we're forgetting it from another station, the new radar brings 3D weather imagery to the Cleveland TV market for the first time, though it's basically like the Google Maps "tilting" effect.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

WEWS/5's "Super Surprise"?

Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS/5 is promising to announce a "Super Surprise" during tonight's broadcast of Super Bowl XL (40, for us non-Romans).

What is it? Well, we figure they're already unveiling it a little during the pre-game show. The station's been occasionally running a brief graphic titled "Power of 5", which apparently refers to a new doppler radar system of some sort...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Short Takes, Weekend Edition

Take 1: When we tune our dial to Clear Channel's Cleveland talk powerhouse WTAM/1100, we expect one of three things: 1) A talk show of some sort, either local or a reasonably decent syndicated show. 2) A sports talk show. Or, 3) A sports play-by-play broadcast.

We don't expect a boring infomercial with a monotone voice droning on about mutual funds, but that's what WTAM listeners have been getting for a few weeks now in a reasonably prime weekend slot, 12-1 PM Saturdays. "The Mutual Fund Show" is hosted by a man named Adam Bold, who we suppose wouldn't be bad in small doses as a GUEST on an existing show. As it stands, we have to endure him struggling through the usual "non-radio-guy-hosting-a-show" routine.

Though we could be biased, because we're not really a fan of financial talk, we can't bear to listen for the hour. And that's what talk stations which air infomercials have to decide - is the money we get out of this show enough to endure driving away a large number of listeners for an hour? At 6 AM on Sunday, it's one thing...but in the middle of the day on Saturday afternoon, it's far another.

Saturday afternoons, we expect to hear either a game, or "Weekend Sportsline", or heck, even Premiere's Mike McConnell would be OK. Mutual Fund Radio = a normal "P1" listener to WTAM tuning elsewhere. And if they're lucky, we MIGHT be back at 1 PM to see what they have on...the only saving grace in this situation is the station's 24/7 news update rotation. WTAM may not be actually turning off their transmitter at 12:06 every Saturday afternoon, but for us, the effect is the same.

Take 2: We hear from numerous sources that WNIR's flirtation with modern technology the other night wasn't of their own voilition. The ISDN line used for the Kent State Golden Flashes men's basketball game apparently came from the university, and has been sitting mostly unused by men's basketball carrier WNIR for some time.

We'd hold out hope that WNIR would actually use this technology on their own - after all, they DO have the incoming ISDN line and equipment thanks to Kent State - but it's not to be.

Afternoon drive host Bob Golic is live from the Detroit area this Saturday afternoon, due to his personal commitments involving a Super Bowl-related charity event, and he's on that lovely unequalized phone line the station's Saturday listeners know well from Howie Chizek's remote broadcasts.

Though it's possible the KSU men's basketball game later this afternoon could come via the magic of ISDN, it's still unlikely that Golic would be on the air this afternoon via anything but a regular phone line even if the equipment and line weren't tied up with the game.

Oh, well...we guess you can't drag "The Talk of Akron" kicking and screaming into 2006...

Friday, February 03, 2006

RANT: "19 Tabloid News" Is At It Again

OMW's been sitting on this one since first seeing the story on WOIO/19's 11 PM edition of "19 Action News" on Thursday night, but we can no longer hold back.

In its typical, breathless style, the local CBS affiliate led its newscast with an "exclusive" story. Cue the live shot camera, and it's veteran reporter Paul Orlousky out front of...the South Marginal Road studios of competitor WJW "FOX 8".

As it turns out, the story involves allegations against a male now-former WJW newsroom employee by a teenage female intern, involving an alleged incident in a station conference room. The live shot by Orlousky on Thursday night looked almost secretive, as if he sprung out of the van moments before, across the street from the TV station.

We'll leave it to "19 Tabloid...er...Action News" to report the details we're not mentioning. And if what's alleged turns out to be true, we certainly have sympathy for the young woman involved. But...WOIO is using her like nobody's business.

Fast forward to today, and the "TV Intern" story still leads the "Action News" agenda. Today, the station uncovers new details about the ex-WJW employee's behavior after he was reportedly suspended and fired from his FOX 8 newsroom job...after the allegations came out.

WOIO has also made a big deal of their "exclusive" story, and has said more than once that it's a story you WON'T see, well, on FOX 8.

Let's stop and wonder for a bit. Would the story be leading every "19 Action News" cast for nearly a full day if the newsroom intern was, say, an employee of Raycom Media, owners of WOIO/WUAB? Would the station be breathlessly reporting every little detail if it was one of their OWN newsroom employees in legal hot water? Of course not. Would they mention it even as an aside? That, we don't know, but it would not dominate their newscasts like this story has...we'd bet our soon-to-be-on-the-market house on it.

At times, WOIO has almost acted like a stalker towards its FOX O&O competitor. We're reminded of the station's "breaking" the story of WJW veteran anchor Tim Taylor's retirement during a mention on the "Buzz" gossip segment. Then, in last night's story, they reenacted (!!!) the alleged incident, and showed the intern in shadow with the caption "Cleveland's Own Victim", a play on WJW's on-air slogan. WOIO is obviously a scrappy, competitive station, but their sights seem set primarily on FOX 8.

Again...it's not a pretty situation. If the allegations are true, untrue or otherwise, it's a sad story affecting a number of people's personal lives. But leave it to "19 Tabloid News"...to go slithering into the mud, belly first.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

PD on Duncan, Brokered Shows

Plain Dealer local radio/TV columnist Julie Washington weighs in on the first couple of days of the new morning show on Radio One urban talk WERE/1300 Cleveland, hosted by long-time local radio/TV name Ronnie Duncan.

Washington calls Duncan's opening on the former brokered talker "smooth, professional and lively". While OMW has no doubt Duncan is a talented and well-regarded host, and that he did fine in his WERE debut, we often wonder if Washington and Plain Dealer sports media columnist Roger Brown are angling to become his PR agents.

Almost literally, Duncan couldn't buy better newspaper coverage. With the former WKNR, WOIO and WUAB sports voice moving to general talk, it appears the baton has been passed from Brown to Washington. While he was still hoping to get a new full-time sports gig, Duncan got coverage of everything but his lunch schedule in Brown's column.

That said, we'll take a drive up into WERE's coverage area some morning in the next week or so, and give his new show a listen ourselves.

Washington also notes time changes for some of WERE's displaced brokered talk shows. While some of them are moving to new weekend slots on WERE itself, some are scrambling to other stations. The new radio homes include WELW/1330 Willoughby, WKTX/830 Cortland (near Warren) and Salem Cleveland talker WHK/1420.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

This Just In! WNIR Embraces Modern Technology!

OK, so maybe it's not QUITE a "hold the presses" moment.

But it sounds like WNIR/100.1, at least for tonight's broadcast of Kent State men's basketball, has discovered the wonders of modern technology. For the first time we've ever heard, a remote broadcast on the Akron market talk station hasn't sounded like it is being phoned in from a phone booth. And we mean "ever", as in, "the entire history of the radio station". Here at OMW World Headquarters, we had to keep checking our radio to be sure it was actually tuned to WNIR.

The near-studio quality of tonight's Kent State Golden Flashes game vs. Ohio University at Athens, to our ears, has to come from one of those modern, new-fangled devices that squeezes much better quality audio via a phone line. You know, it's one of those things called a "Vector" or a "Bluebox" or in its older incarnation, a "Hotline".

Or maybe WNIR blew past all that older technology, and picked up one of those new "Access" systems that promises to deliver wideband audio over an Internet connection?

Whatever it is...we barely recognize Golden Flashes play-by-play voice Bill Needle if he's not on a low-quality phone line. We suppose the test will be Saturday, when Howie Chizek is live from one of the Klaben dealerships...or maybe if Bob Golic is live from Detroit for his Saturday show. We're still not sure if Kent State hasn't forced this on WNIR...

Adelphia Sale On Road to Approval

The purchase of Adelphia's cable TV assets by Time Warner and Comcast has cleared a big hurdle, as the Federal Trade Commission has approved the move. The only step left on the federal level is at the Federal Communications Commission, which is widely expected to approve the transaction.

After that happens, and when all the local approvals are in order, the companies expect to finish it up by "late second quarter" this year...somewhere by June or so.

Locally, Adelphia's Cleveland-based system will land in the hands of Time Warner, which currently operates in much of Northeast Ohio south of Cleveland. The company will take control of not only that system, but the Comcast system in the Cleveland suburbs, and easily become the dominant cable provider in this area. TWC's primary local facility is now in Stark County's Jackson Township, though it has offices elsewhere.

And yes, there's still another unanswered question...the status of the new Cleveland Indians TV network, which will be seen on Time Warner and whatever other cable and satellite providers the team manages to sign up in the next month or so. (Remember, they plan to air Spring Training games!) Of course, games airing on WKYC/3 and its digital/HDTV channel will be available.

But, we still have no indication that the cable/satellite-only Indians games will air on Adelphia or Comcast before the merger is completed, which we believe is a crucial item to work out. A very simple short term agreement could be worked out, where Adelphia or Comcast could air the games on a local access channel until they no longer exist as separate entities.

Frankly, this should have been done at the same time as the network's announcement, and someone at Jacobs Field dropped the ball (high fly ball caught in the sun?) by not doing so. The Adelphia and Comcast systems make up the bulk of the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County cable base, and it'd be stupid for a technicality to deprive this viewer base because the systems are not yet run by Time Warner. Say you're going to do it, and work out the financials later, since neither system will be a separate entity past June or so.

We're aware that Time Warner agrees that this should be done, but they've told OMW they have no control over what Adelphia or Comcast does until the merger is complete. They're actually not allowed to have any control, due to numerous federal regulations.

And yes, OMW's World Headquarters are in Adelphia's territory in Summit County.