Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Browns to WOIO: Get Lost

We apologize for not being able to weigh in on this bombshell today, but it's all anyone's been talking about in local media.

The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi started it all in this morning's paper, with word that the Cleveland Browns have dumped Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 as the local team rightsholder. Along with other official partnerships, the move takes the team's pre-season games away from Channel 19 just a month before the first game was set to air.

Any regular follower of This Space, or any regular watcher of "19 Action News", isn't surprised about what happened. The station's aggressive reporting style rubbed the team the wrong way once too often.

"19 Action News", as reported here last year, came in with a swagger in the first year of the three year Browns contract...acting like they basically owned the Browns' training camp in Berea, right down to swiping the team's bottled water. And after a WOIO interview of Braylon Edwards last year, the team wasn't happy.

But the final straw was the station's decision to air some portions of the 911 emergency call tape concerning Browns owner Randy Lerner's 6 year-old niece, who drowned in a tragic accident. That event apparently caused Lerner to unlaterally decide to dump the local "tabloid TV" outlet entirely...in the second year of a three year agreement reportedly costing Raycom Media some $2 million a year.

OMW hears that the team made a request to local media outlets for respect of the privacy of the Lerner family, including sister Nancy Fisher...who made the 911 call that aired on Channel 19. WOIO apparently aired parts of the call that other stations would not air.

It's hard not to call this incident a case of TV karma coming back to bite Reserve Square in the... umm...television posterior. Channel 19 pushed the envelope a little too hard, and suddenly, they're no longer "The Official Television Home of the Browns".

The Browns' decision means there'll be a mad scramble for the local TV rights, including those lucrative pre-season games.

OMW would go to the betting window for ABC affiliate WEWS/5 to take over, for many reasons:

* NBC affiliate WKYC/3 is tied up with the Cleveland Indians and SportsTime Ohio, and likely couldn't even consider doing anything.

* We haven't heard any suggestion that FOX's WJW/8 is interested, though they did reportedly showed an interest in the Indians' over-air rights before WKYC came in.

* WEWS has already run two stories on the loss of the Browns' over-air rights by competitor WOIO, including interviews with Browns ticket buyers who said they'd contact the team about getting a new preseason outlet, and quick.

The station would certainly appear to be making a play for that contract on the air, and appears to be setting itself up as the "knight in shining armor" here.

Not only that, Channel 5 is losing "Monday Night Football" this year to ESPN, with the over-air "Sunday Night Football" replacement over on WKYC with NBC. This would give them a huge jump back into the NFL.

WOIO is not out in the cold entirely, but there's nothing the Browns can do about that. As the market's CBS affiliate, Channel 19 will carry the vast majority of the team's regular season games...since CBS is the network that covers the AFC, the NFL division containing the Browns.

But you can bet the folks in Berea will give the coldest of shoulders to the folks from Reserve Square this year...


Anonymous said...

I really donot feel bad for WOIO, because this s$%t they do has gone too far. If you look at last season's production of the various programs you can see my point. I don't think ch 19 HAS EVER produced or been associated with the browns or cavs withoyut screwing it up. Hell at least when they were Fox nineteen WOIO and they had both the cavs and the browns they tried not to make it look like a three ring circus ( execpt for the latenite Saturady show peppers place but that is another story. I quess someone finally stood up to them and told them who's boss. Way to go browns. BTW does this mean there is a shot that the games will be in HD since the browns produce the games? And come to think of it how will this effect Columbus, Youngstown, and Erie in airing the preseason games?

Anonymous said...

HA HA you finally get what a piece of your own medicine. I mean don't you think that airing a 911 call of the owners sister isn't going to piss off the owner. You of all stations coin every news piece as "breaking news" and mis-report the stories in addition to dummying your newscasts. If only CBS had another choice in 1994, then ch 19 could of just faded away so we would not have to deal with all of this.

Anonymous said...

It's been more than 10 years since the big "net switch" when Fox bought 8 and forced 19 to join CBS who, in turn, forced 19 to create a full-bore news sked. In spite of all the many incarnations of 19 news, their ratings have stayed pretty much the same...a solid 4th. They get a small victory here and there, but it's the same story today as in 1996.

By this time you would think they would save all that money and have Gary Short read wire copy on camera like he did on the old 43. I bet the ratings would be just the same!

Anonymous said...

a question. If the browns play in Monday nite football who carries the game? In the old Sunday nite deal ch 3 did? I think until Setember NBC might not care about preemptions so it might work. In any event doesn't NBC own less than 10% of ch 3. I read when they had bulit the new studio it was up to both Ganett and NBC. As for Fox 8, it might work since FOX owns both ch 8 and FOX sports OHIO. Ch 8 carries the games, and FSO carries everything else. It is a win win for eveyone and it saves FSO. Because if WKNR drops sports, then there goes Cleveland rants.

Anonymous said...

Actually ch 19 just blew up and destroyed ch 43's ten o'clock news at the request of CBS. CBS was the one who to Malrite they had to have news on the station and taking over canell 43 was the quickest way to get the news they wanted. Now if ch 23 was not owned by valuevision at the time, could they have taken CBS? I thought that ch 19 at the time was going to be the WB and since CBS had no choice, they went with 19 and the wb for 2 years went to the new sister station CH 43. CH 23 or 61 CBS, Ch 67 PAX, Ch 19 THE WB, CH 43 UPN and CH 55 a independent. That would have been much better and would of given this town more choices.

Anonymous said...

The old WAKC would not have been part of that equation back in 1994, still being a true Akron/Canton station back then. Though, had it been a possibility for CBS, their local news department of that time certainly would've been better than the new WOIO news was and still is . . .

I never quite understood why CBS insisted on WOIO developing a news department. The CBS affiliate in the Saginaw/Flint/Bay City/Midland, MI market at the time (WEYI) did not air any local news, so while a rarity, it would not have been the only CBS affiliate without local news. Of course, that is a considerably smaller market, and CBS might've insisted for the larger market (and WEYI, now an NBC affiliate, does have a news department).

Ohio Media Watch said...

CBS generally insists on its top 25 market stations having news operations.

The notable exception? CBS O&O WWJ/62 Detroit, which backed away from trying to do news (once produced by sister UPN outlet WKBD/50 based on their 10 PM show). As far as we know, WWJ hasn't returned to the air with a newscast. And for that matter, WKBD's own 10 PM show is now produced by ABC affiliate WXYZ/7!

This is basically because any attempt they do is massively expensive and is watched by almost no one...


Anonymous said...

Correction, OMW: the WXYZ produced newscast for WKBD ended almost a year ago. Sitcom reruns are now running in the 10pm slot.

Ohio Media Watch said...

You are correct, last commenter - the WKBD TitanTV schedule on their website lists "The King of Queens" in that slot.

It seemed like not long ago that they announced that agreement!

Maybe CBS is happy with WWJ/950 being their only news outlet in the entire market...


Anonymous said...

In the motor city there is no news on cw 50. It was dropped about 2 years ago due to low ratings. As for Flint, ch 5 WEYI has a news cast now, in fact they produce one for sinclair owned fox 66 at 10 pm.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry both WEYI ch 25(NBC) and ch 5 both have newscasts.

Anonymous said...

Heh, heh. It's a real banner-year for Bill Applegate! First he destroys ch. 43, and now screws his other station, 19. Give this guy a "Leader of the Century" award. Let's hope the Browns look long and hard at every option they have locally, because there's a better choice than the one's speculated about.

Ohio Media Watch said...

"Better choice" than 5, 8 or even 3?

Hmm. Would Rev. Ernest ramp up a sports department on the brand new "Cleveland's CW"?



Anonymous said...

Interesting thought.

The unexpected and unprecedented unheaval in the local television market over the past decade+ shows that anything is within the realm of possibility.

Has anyone heard how the Browns departure from 19 is being handled on Action News? Any reference at all, or are all tails firmly between their legs?

Ben said...

the browns can do this because they are so powerful. doesnt seem fair.

Ohio Media Watch said...

We haven't had much viewing of WOIO/WUAB here in the OMW World Headquarters today, but we understand it hasn't been mentioned. (And for good reason - if you just got your tail handed to you like that, would YOU mention it?)

We do note that both the Browns and WOIO have excised each others' logos from their respective websites.

As far as changes, about 12 years ago...WBNX was a small independent station with a weird mix of programming and a Brecksville tower location. WOIO was scrappy Malrite-owned "fox nineteen". And WJW was the long-dominant CBS affiliate!

(Give or take a year or two on all that, we don't have the timeline handy...)


Ohio Media Watch said...

Ben, we checked out your blog, so it doesn't appear you work at Reserve Square. (We gave you the benefit of the doubt. :) )

WOIO brought this on themselves. Period. The newsroom is geared up to "go over the top", but on that day, no one thought to say, "wait, won't Randy Lerner really be ticked at this?". The airing of the tape segment in question - if it's as bad as made out to be - was totally unnecessary to the story. No other station in town ran that part, and no other station in town WOULD run that part, no matter what the involvement of the Browns would be.

There's not much sympathy for them in this corner.


Anonymous said...

First and foremost----Don't believe what you read. That article in the PD is not quite accurate. The 911 call was played on other outlets as well. Randy Lerner with another knee jerk reaction just like the so called firing of Phil Savage. Never let the facts get in the way of a story. The Browns PR people obviously have no Idea how to handle a thing of negativity. This market is notorious for playing 911 calls. All stations do it. It is a common practice. It seems the Lerner family thinks they own this City and they can control what is said and heard. It was a tragic story that should of never happened with the little girl. It would of been one thing for 19 to bash the mother for allowing such a young girl drive a go cart. They didn't. They reported the story factually and a snippet of the 911 call. Just like they always do. It seems the Browns need to get a handle on things concerning this matter and quit pouting about it.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Give me a break. You don't embarass a business-partner the way WOIO did. Lerner may even fear that his sister could be charged with a crime (as most agree a 6-year-old should not be on a go-cart to begin with, let alone unsupervised and near water!).

But someone please tell me WHAT PURPOSE it serves the viewers to listen to frantic, emotion-ridden 9-1-1 calls?? I immediately mute the television, no matter what station is doing it. The same with all these news stories about animal-cruelty (are you listening, FOX 8??). This is tragic, sensationalistic crap, and we don't need to be bombarded with it.

Channel 19 was WRONG to air this audio, and it's remarkable that no one in that "news" division foresaw a potential problem with it.

Way to go, Mr. Lerner. It's time someone stood up to that pitiful, arrogant "action news team."

Anonymous said...

one other thing. This a great site. But what does this mean on the Browns site------- interesting on where the pre-season games will be seen. Seems to be more to this story- Doesn't it?


Ohio Media Watch said...

Nice to have visits from the overnight master control operator and one of the news folks still in Reserve Square!

First of all, our apology for missing the link given above. It also appears the "Home of the Browns" link rotates on the WOIO front page even now...it was not there last time we looked.

All that means is your webmaster is slow. The Browns have removed WOIO's logo from the front page of their own site.

About the PD story "not being accurate" - it reflects what we've also heard around the market today from sports media sources.

We don't know what portion of the call they played that others did not, but we've heard the same thing from those who would be in a position to know if Mr. Grossi's article was correct or not.

Sorry, we can't go into any details. We will continue to ask around for more input, but we're comfortable that the information was accurate, based on what we were hearing earlier today (Tuesday).

As to who we are...you'd like to know, wouldn't you?

Generally, media outlets occupied by hostile, paranoid people have no idea who we are. They only want to know our identity because it gives them power to "shout us down".

Media outlets with more friendly, non-paranoid people know who we are, and we've even visited some of them. At at least one or two local clusters, we're very well-regarded from top management on down, and we don't always say things they like. (They recognize our ability to have, umm, our own viewpoint.)

And we do not work for any local radio station or TV station. If you found out who was behind OMW, you probably would go "who?".

'Nuff said. We're hitting the sack.


Anonymous said...

Nah, the Browns just haven't updated that schedule grid yet. The "WOIO" references will be removed as soon as someone notices it, trust me.

Think 19 will have the guts to dare refer to themselves as "home of the browns" anymore? Some "home," huh.

Also, if anyone in the pro sports world has the money and clout to push for the removal of Browns telecasts from a local affiliate, it's Randy Lerner. You don't mess with a billionaire who's suddenly got a big-time grudge against you.

On another note, did someone say that ch. 43's newscast is dead? (I mean, literally; not just figuratively, as we've all known for years.)

Ohio Media Watch said...

Well, not yet. It appears the "19 Action News" logo only got pulled from the front page, and still exists on the Media Coverage page (along with a link to Mr. Grossi's story!).

And WOIO is still listed as the pre-season outlet, as someone alluded to above.

We assume it is just a matter of time before both change.

Now, we're gone!


Anonymous said...

To the question of who would carry a Browns game if they played on Monday night, the answer is ESPN, since they now own the rights to that game. But, the TV contract rules say that the game must also air on an over-the-air channel in the markets of the two teams playing. In that respect, the local stations would bid on it, and the winning bid would air the game in addition to ESPN, with the over-the-air channel simply rebroadcasting ESPN's feed.

Same goes for the pre-season games. Any over-the-air channel (not a cable channel like FSN Ohio or SportsTime Ohio) can bid to air the pre-season games, and they would then in turn set up deals to also air the game in other markets, like Toledo, Youngstown, Erie, etc. There could then also be a separate deal (with another channel, if the team so desired) to air other programming. But the games themselves, according to Tony Grossi's article, must air on an over-the-air channel.

Anonymous said...

We get to see Channel 19 "news" in our little corner of Ohio, because our cable system carries Channel 43. I've had friends here tell me how appalled they are over it (some have watched it much like a passerby would gaze at an auto accident -- just to see what it is). It almost makes me ashamed to be known as a native Greater Clevelander.

While 911 replays have become "nature of the beast" in the media (our own hometown paper will even have links on its Web site), there really should be SOME sensitivity -- no matter WHO it involves.

WOIO just got a Major League does of "what goes around, comes around." I hope the other stations are paying close attention.

Anonymous said...

In some places like Youngstown, WOIO is on the cable thanks them being a former FOX station. But you have to look at it like this, Cleveland is lucky to have 4 different newsrooms. Places like Detroit and St. Louis have either a CBS WWJ/Detroit or ABC KDNL/St. Louis doesn't have any local news. Granted they are new world cities like Cleveland, but it looks like Ne Ohio got off pretty luck on this. Now I am not suggesting that WOIO/WUAB's news or for even that matter programming is very good or hell for that matter watchable, but at least its something some places would love to have all 6 major networks on their own channel carried in pattern (Cincinatti,Colunbus) so i quess you could look at it that way. As for WBNX adding sports, if they will not add a newscast then it is doubtful they will add sports even if they would not have to produce it. I thought that ch 55 recieved the CW because they carried the whole entire line up in pattern 100% in tact with no changes enventough the owner has conficts with what the WB airs. But if anyone would like to have them it would be ch 5 but if WKYC could snag them then it would be quite intereesting. If they did get the games, they could in theory buy air time on ch 23 since they do in Flordia http://www.ionline.tv/sports/ .

Anonymous said...

here is a ch 19 update http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/sports/1153298393167000.xml?s1bro&coll=2

Anonymous said...

WOIO pondering options following Browns' departure
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Roger Brown
Plain Dealer Columnist
The Browns may view their local TV contract with WOIO Chan nel 19 as history -- after abruptly terminating it days ago -- but Channel 19 apparently won't let the team walk away without a fight.

WOIO General Manager Bill Applegate said Tuesday that WOIO has "turned the matter of the Browns contract over to our attorneys" to examine. "There will be no further comment by our station," Applegate said. Channel 19 is represented by Weston Hurd, a Cleveland-based law firm. We exchanged messages with a Weston Hurd lawyer Tuesday, but were unable to reach him for comment.

The Browns swiftly cut their ties after WOIO aired tape of a 911 call by Nancy Fisher, sister of Browns owner Randy Lerner. Fisher had contacted authorities after discovering her 6-year-old daughter had drowned on the family's Mantua property. The Browns and WOIO were in the second season of a three-year deal to televise preseason games and other team programming. The Browns are now actively looking for a new TV partner -- or maybe two -- to take over the TV package. But that could all be moot if Channel 19 has the legal juice to block the Browns from signing a new deal elsewhere. Browns officials couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to an informed source, WOIO paid the Browns $1 million for local TV rights in 2005. The station was scheduled to increase that amount by 5 percent this season -- with another 5 percent hike in 2007.