Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hello? CW, This Is WBQC in Cincinnati... Hello???

As reported earlier, the upcoming CW Network has firmed its situation here in Cleveland, locking up Winston Broadcasting's WBNX/55 to make the move from The WB to The CW. Though it hasn't been announced yet, UPN affiliate WWHO/53 in the Columbus market is pretty much the only place The CW can land in that market, since there is no primary WB affiliate there. (WWHO carries WB programming as a secondary affilate, out of pattern.)

The situation would now be theoretically be clear in Cincinnati, as Sinclair's WSTR/64 (WB) joined up with a number of its sister stations in signing up with FOX/NewsCorp's "My Network TV" this week. Or would it?

The WSTR move would appear to leave Cincinnati UPN affiliate WBQC-CA/38 free to pick The CW. But, one presumes they'd have to talk to WBQC owner Elliott Block first. Block tells the Cincinnati Enquirer that he has not even talked with the nascent "fifth network". "They haven't returned any calls," says the owner of the low-power station which once aired The WB...before WSTR picked it up and forced a switch to UPN.

There are no other full-power stations that could pick up The CW in Cincinnati. The only non-affiliated full-power commercial station in the market is WKOI/43 Richmond IN, a rimshot from the northwest...but it's owned by religious giant Trinity Broadcasting, and is not in the discussion.

If a new network is antsy to line up a market the size of Cincinnati and "isn't returning" Elliott Block's calls, his chances don't look good to us. Why is WBQC apparently getting snubbed, when it'd appear to be the only choice in town?

* WBQC is indeed a low-power station. While The CW has already affiliated with an LPTV (Class A) in South Bend IN - WMWB-CA - this is a different situation. South Bend is a much, much smaller market in both population and physical size. A decently-powered LPTV CAN pretty much cover the entire South Bend market.

* WBQC has no digital TV feed to deliver HDTV programming, which is said to be important for the new network. In that case in South Bend, WMWB owner Weigel Broadcasting has already mounted a cable-only HDTV feed for its sister ABC low-power affiliate, and could easily do so for WMWB. In addition, it will apply for companion digital channels when that window opens... an option the FCC only recently made available for low-power TV stations.

* And what may be the most important problem on Elliott Block's list - his long and very contentious relationship with Time Warner, the Cincinnati market's largest cable operator...and...surprise!... co-owner of The CW with CBS. The cable system has not carried WBQC on a dedicated, full-time channel. Block has railed at Time Warner for years, eventually pushing it to air just WBQC's evening schedule on a channel otherwise occupied by commercial access programming (at a fee to WBQC, we believe).

Some of this is expected, as Block certainly has to do whatever he can to get wide distribution for his channel. He's managed to get WBQC on most other local systems, including a TWC system up in Oxford, and it's on DirecTV. But in the process of lobbying Time Warner, he may not have been very friendly. He's called out TWC for "lying to customers" about WBQC's status and location. The entire "War" with Time Warner (WBQC's wording) is outlined on a section of the station's website.

Given the history between WBQC and Time Warner, one might assume that The CW is not exactly rushing to the phone to talk to Block.

We're not saying they may not eventually return his calls. But we're wondering if TWC will mount a local cable-only feed of The CW, complete with an HD feed, to bypass WBQC...

2 comments:

barooosk said...

I use to work for UPN and I am very familiar with the distribution issues in Cincinnati. I don't think that the new Fox Network would be happy with a stand-alone coverage deal on Time Warner Cable. Even though TW is the largest cable operator in the area it only accounts for about 25% of the TV homes in the DMA. Besides why would a TW cable system want to help a TV network that competes with the CW? I think that eventually Fox will return Mr. Block's calls. However, they are also going to take a look at the digital channel options in the area.

By the way. I enjoyed checking your blog. I didn't realize that your interest went so far beyond talk radio.

Ohio Media Watch said...

Thanks for the note!

However, we were talking about the CW here, not FOX's My Network TV... (it's understandable the confusion...this whole "fifth/sixth network" thing is confusing!)

TWC would be talking with itself re: CW distribution on cable. And if there was a such a deal, they'd presumably line up the market's other operators to carry it.

But you make a point...if TWC really does NOT want to deal with Elliott Block, or doesn't see the value in his little Class A station, CW might mount a digital subchannel on an existing OTA station and use THAT for cable distribution...using the existing branding power of the OTA station. WFMJ/Youngstown does it up here with "WBCB"

Off the top of my head, everyone except WXIX/19 would be likely be in play, no? Raycom may be the problem there, not the FOX affiliation.

Maybe Clear Channel's WKRC/12 (CBS) would be a natural choice to put CW on DT subchannel 2? Lots of cross promotion possibilities there, with the huge Clear Channel radio cluster in the market...

If none of this is appealing, CW will swallow their distaste for Mr. Block. They won't go without a station in Cincy.

Thanks for visiting!

-OA/OMW