It's not often you'll witness us rant this much, so you might want to pull up a seat.
The rant started, in part, because we stumbled upon an infomercial on Raycom Media's WUAB/43 tonight, Cleveland's UPN (to become My Network TV) affiliate. Tonight...as in 9:30 PM. Prime-time.
We're pretty sure UPN doesn't program Saturday nights nationwide, so the slot was likely open. But to get extra revenue, unlike competing NBC affiliate WKYC/3 - which preempted NBC's rerun of the "Treasure Hunters" premiere to run a locally-aired "Matlock" movie - WUAB decided to sell prime-time to the highest infomercial bidder.
And we mean prime-time. ALL OF IT, all two hours of the normal UPN prime-time slot, and for that matter, another two hours before that. For four hours in a prime viewing time slot, WUAB/43 was running infomercials. Take a look at the station's 8-11 PM schedule tonight:
Remember the old WUAB jingle? You know, the one that just about any Northeast Ohio adult could still sing today..."Channel 43...plays FAVORITES!" Not anymore, they don't!
We've been watching TV in this market for a long time, give or take time out of the area...but we haven't seen this before, ever. We have often heard complaints of Raycom blocking out a lot of infomercial time during Saturday afternoons on channel 43, but this is the first time we've encountered it in prime-time.
Why bother watching WUAB? When you air an infomercial, the TV station is basically off the air in the eyes of 95% of your viewers. Only the bored or curious stick around.
Why bother airing the stuff? As a former co-worker of ours - once the interim program director at a large market talk radio station - is fond of saying..."infomercials are the crack cocaine of radio". (Or TV, in this case.) WUAB may be driving away large numbers of people in prime time, but they're sure smiling cashing those Guthy-Renker checks.
It's no wonder that the CW Network went with WBNX/55 as the new network's Cleveland market affiliate...leaving WUAB to take up with the My Network TV folks.
The second target of our rant is a familiar one...he's WTAM/1100 afternoon drive host Mike Trivisonno.
For much of an hour during a recent show, Triv extolled the virtues of health-related products from someone identified only as "Dr. Lamar" (presumably this guy, pictured from his website). And we do mean much of the hour...Triv held him over during the bottom of the hour news. Something about oxygen getting into the colon and cleansing out undigested food or the like...we really can't remember.
Triv dutifully gave the guy's phone number and website - we won't bother linking it here, because "Dr. Lamar" hasn't paid US - and asked detailed questions about the latest version of snake oil to be sold on a 50,000 watt radio station.
We welcome clarification from anyone inside Oak Tree, but we'd nearly bet the still-not-yet-for-sale OMW World Headquarters that the "Dr. Lamar" appearance was a paid one. If the actual "interview" with Triv wasn't directly paid - and we're pretty sure they'd have to say so - then it's a part of a deal that will likely land "Dr. Lamar"'s full infomercial in WTAM's off hours.
We find it VERY hard to believe that this was considered a legitimate topic of interest for a lengthy interview in the middle of WTAM's afternoon drive, but we'll gladly change our minds if we get solid evidence that it was not an adjunct to a paid program.
Where are we media-wise, in 2006, if prime radio and TV time on high-profile stations is being sold to the highest bidder? We have long since become numb to the spectre of infomercials during off-hours, like late nights or on weekend afternoons. But in TV's most important, and radio's second most important, daypart?
No wonder we're ranting.