Wednesday, April 05, 2006

OPINION: The Little Big One

It's no secret to those who know a little about radio that Clear Channel Cleveland talker WTAM/1100's nickname - "The Big One" - was imported from Cincinnati's WLW/700. The original "Big One" was so named by the one and only Randy Michaels, who rose to prominence with Jacor in Cincinnati...and when Jacor picked up WTAM, the company copied the WLW nickname up here.

It also copied other parts of the WLW formula for success.

WTAM eventually snagged "all the balls" as the radio flagship of all three major Cleveland professional sports teams. It created a clone of WLW's morning news and information block, and even swiped then-WLW host Bill Wills to host it here in Northeast Ohio. It created a "larger than life" afternoon drive show based mainly on comedic riffs on sports and news, though there's not many in radio who would compare WTAM afternoon motormouth Mike Trivisonno with WLW's Gary Burbank and not break out laughing.

But there were certain things WTAM did not copy. Unlike WLW, which never had to pick up Rush Limbaugh due to its high ratings, WTAM had few local talk programs. For 10 years, it devoted a solid six-hour block in the middle of the broadcast day to syndicated programming.

That, of course, changed a little recently...with the addition of local mid-morning host Bob Frantz.

We bring this up because it's important to note: the "man in charge" at the top of Clear Channel Cincinnati for some 11 years, Mike Kenney, left there late last year to take the same role at Cleveland's Clear Channel cluster.

And while a Cincinnati Business Courier article from December notes Kenney's role in making the Cincinnati cluster wildly successful financially, how he DID that could be more important to our discussion.

Local programming.

A MediaWeek profile of the Cincinnati market, just out recently, tells the tale. WLW is by far the biggest billing station for not only Clear Channel Cincinnati, but for the market as a whole. Number two, with roughly half of WLW's billing? A sister FM, popular rocker WEBN. WLW is so successful for the cluster that it bills a respectable number compared even to Clear Channel's CBS TV outlet in the Queen City, WKRC/12! (We'd link to it here, but it apparently has disappeared behind the magazine's subscriber wall.)

WLW, as noted here before, programs locally nearly 24/7. Its overnight show, "America's Trucking Network", originates from the station. It runs Premiere's "Weekend with Mike McConnell", but the host, of course, is its own mid-morning star (9-noon weekdays). And it is a ratings and revenue monster in the market. It's nearly embarrassing to the other stations in Cincinnati.

Keep all this in mind when you look at the recent move to "go local" in WTAM's mid-morning slot. Keep it in mind when you hear WMMS/100.7 afternoon driver Maxwell doing local talk on weekend nights...and wonder, perhaps, if WTAM will open up a weekday late night local show after the Indians/Cavs/Sportsline slot at some point...maybe 10 PM-1 AM or 11 PM-1 AM.

(With our previous record of accuracy, we must point out that we're speculating here, and that the last musing is not based on anything we're hearing out of Oak Tree or beyond. It's just an Educated Guess.)

Just a thought...


Anonymous said...

I can't stand the news block on WTAM from 1130 to 12. If your going to the trouble to have a midday talk show that is live and local, why not make it the full 3 hrs.? Back in the late 90's the news block was a full hour and it pre-empted Rush till 1pm, I can't figure out why a station would do that, what could the ratings be? As for the latenight talk show on WTAM, I remember a show from 10-2am being on in the mid 90's, live and local. Since then nothing. It would be nice to hear something better than a two hour repeat of George Noorey.

Respond to

Anonymous said...

Over the past 20 years, I've listened to WLW and WWWE/WTAM and am relieved to finally hear someone from a Cleveland market perspective point out that WLW is a superior radio station, and that Trivisonno, while inexplicably popular locally, couldn't hold Gary Burbank's microphone.

Anonymous said...

A bit of a local approach going on at WSPD in Toledo as well, with the Columbus based news operation going away for local, at least at afternoon and morning drive. Going local is all about quality, and I gotta say the station is much more listenable since the dead horse beating Bob Frantz is back in Cleveland where he belongs. I don't think he ever really moved to Toledo since he never talked about his own neighborhood. Now if we can only replace the infomercial blocks on the weekends.

And I too agree...Burbank is WAAAAAAY more talented than the hack in Cleveland who has voice tracked onto Toledo a couple times