Monday, October 01, 2007

Monday Big Update

A lot has happened since our Friday night update, for whatever reason. So, let's try to start strong this week...

FROM THE BONDS OF CLEAR CHANNEL: Two weeks ago, Tom Embrescia's Sweet Home Ashtabula, LLC took control of the now-former Clear Channel cluster in Ashtabula, a group that once only consisted of talk WFUN/970 and AC WREO/97.1.

Since that era, the cluster added now-top 40 WZOO/102.5, classic rock WFXJ/107.5, and the most recent entry, country WYBL/98.3 - which means a total of five stations went under Mr. Embrescia's umbrella earlier this month.

The station group has now also severed itself from the Clear Channel web server farm, with new local websites completed for WREO and WYBL. (Sites for WFUN, WZOO and WFXJ are "up", but marked "coming soon").

And aside from what looks to be a quick reimage of the previous Clear Channel sites, we noticed one other thing.

This logo.

This, and other references on the site, indicate that the Sweet Home Ashtabula stations will operate under the same "Media One Group" name as James Embrescia's cluster that dominates the small city of Jamestown, NY.

And Tom's brother is a significant investor in the Ashtabula effort - it's basically half and half, if we're reading the FCC application info correctly, with the two Embrescia brothers, with Tom's son Matt in there somewhere as well.

So, the Media One Group era begins at the five Ashtabula stations.

And we noted from E-Mail "Contact Us" pages that former cluster GM Dana Schulte has indeed returned in the same role at the group he once managed - before Clear Channel gave oversight of Ashtabula to Youngstown market manager Bill Kelly.

Are there changes in store? OMW hears rumblings that one of the four FM outlets may see some changes down the road, if not sooner. But we haven't confirmed it as of yet...

SULLIVAN EXITS: OMW hears that Metro Networks/Cleveland afternoon traffic reporter Jamie Sullivan, who also does weekend shifts on CBS Radio hot AC WQAL/104.1 "Q104" and AC WDOK/102.1, is leaving town.

Jamie is headed for Indianapolis, where she's going to be an airborne traffic reporter for Emmis news/talk powerhouse WIBC/1070.

The youthful Jamie has been on the radio in some form or another in Cleveland for over three years.

She's been heard in afternoons on Metro client stations including CBS Radio alt-rock/talk WKRI/92.3 "K-Rock" and Radio One urban AC WZAK/93.1. Her shows include Q104's Saturday "Party Zone", and a Sunday shift on WDOK.

And we understand that Ms. Sullivan has been on the air one way or another locally since she was 18 years old.

Our congratulations to a young, and rising, local radio talent...

WOIO, NOT JUST CBS, DROPS THE BROWNS BALL: Honest, we didn't plan another missive aimed at Raycom Media's alleged local CBS affiliate, WOIO/19.

But judging from comments from many others, we're far from alone in this assessment - the Sunday NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens looked very, very, very bad on "Cleveland's CBS 19".

And for once, we're not talking about the local team's play.

We've said twice before that this game was not to be broadcast in HDTV, a decision that was made at the network level. (WOIO helpfully reminded viewers of that, with a frequent crawl blaiming the network for the lack of an HDTV broadcast.)

But the folks at Reserve Square can't pass THIS off to the gang in New York - the STANDARD DEFINITION quality of the game on 19 was below par, by a large amount.

We figured this out very easily. All you had to do was watch the HDTV broadcast of "The NFL Today" before the game.

When James Brown and company tossed it to a field report from a non-HDTV game site, the video was still at least reasonably clear, if not in HD.

When CBS ran its own network commercials that were not made in HD, the ghosting seen on WOIO's upconvert was not there. At all.

But 19's own local pre-pre-game show, "Tailgate 19", looked for all the world like it was converted from another video standard...if not transmitted from another country.

The local broadcast was so washed out and fuzzy, it was barely watchable...both from the convenient remote studio location at Scorcher's sports bar (just up the elevator from the Reserve Square basement), and from the Muni Lot.

This also effects advertisers. The "fine print" below many car ads was barely readable for viewers watching the WOIO-DT broadcast, and it looked just as bad on analog cable, for that matter.

It was the most embarrassing display of video quality we've ever seen from a local station, rivaled only by WEWS's problems a couple of years ago upconverting ABC college football games. The nature of the upconverting problem back then for "NewsChannel 5" was exactly the same.

Our guess: For local upconverting, WOIO has picked up equipment in the clearance bin at Radio Shack.

OK, so maybe that's a bit hard, but the picture quality was awful. And we are far from the only ones noticing. Complaints from HDTV set owners/Browns fans all over the area are filtering in by the hour.

We don't know why CBS's SD-only broadcasts of Browns games are so bad on Channel 19 - we're going to start calling them "SSD" (Sub-Standard Definition).

But OMW hears from some of our friends in the Youngstown/Warren market that their local CBS affiliate, WKBN/27, had no such picture quality problems. It's making us investigate getting the proper antenna to pick up WKBN's high-power digital broadcast, which is within reach of a large chunk of the Cleveland TV market.

We'd still be able to watch CBS programming in both HDTV and SDTV, and we wouldn't risk running into "19 Action News"...

CHANNEL GONE, CHANNEL COMING?: Speaking of Raycom, the digital side of the company's MyNetworkTV affiliate - WUAB/43 - has carried the 24/7 music video channel "The Tube Network" on a subchannel for some time.

Well, until now.

"The Tube" is going away, as of today. From the network's own website:

We regret to inform you of the fate that has befallen The Tube Music Network. October 1, 2007 The Tube ceased its national broadcast.

The notice cites "financial limitations" as contributing to the network's "incapacitated state". (You'd almost think the thing was a living organism by that description!)

The loss of a subchannel is almost always good news to HDTV fans. It takes away bandwidth that would otherwise be used to provide a better quality picture for the HD side of the operation.

But we don't even know if MyNetworkTV has any shows in HD, after the mini-network dumped its all-HD "novela" schedule a while back.

Could Raycom move the "WeatherNow" subchannel from 19.2 to 43.2, to free up bandwidth for the more extensive CBS HD schedule? We'd bet against it...heavily. See our rant just above.

The "Channel Coming?" part refers to a possible new addition to the Time Warner Cable lineup - the addition of the HD version of the TBS cable network.

While the prospect may not excite many, particularly with sister network TNT-HD's frequent practice of upconverting and stretching of programming, there's one big reason TBS-HD should be seen here before Thursday.

Your American League Central champion Cleveland Indians.

TBS has the exclusive rights this season to both the American League and National League Divisional Championship series. And of course, the Tribe plays the New York Yankees in the "A" series of the ALDS - starting Thursday night at Jacobs Field.

OMW hasn't heard anything about a potential addition of TBS-HD to the Time Warner Cable lineup in Northeast Ohio, but we wouldn't be surprised if it shows up sometime this week. For a number of reasons:

1) TBS is owned by TWC's parent company, of course. The rights issues would be trivial, and we've heard of other TWC systems already announcing the addition of the channel for this week.

2) TNT-HD, also owned by Time Warner, was added to the former Adelphia systems in Cleveland immediately after TWC took control of those systems.

3) The Indians' playoff games will NOT be seen on SportsTime Ohio, in either HD or SD, due to the rights being exclusively owned by Turner Broadcasting. There's nothing STO can do about's part of the national MLB TV contract.

One note: Any Division Series game that needs to be bumped from TBS, due to scheduling, will end up on TNT...which as mentioned, is already in HD on the Time Warner systems locally...

CALLING CINCINNATI: And finally, we make a brief electronic stop in the Queen City, where a big change debuts this morning on one Cincinnati radio station.

And it's no surprise, as it's been expected by just about anyone who keeps track of the Cincy radio scene: Local sports talkers "The Two Angry Guys" have joined former Clear Channel/WLW co-worker Andy Furman in the lineup of Cumulus talk WFTK/96.5 "SuperTalk FM".

Starting today, Richard Skinner and Tom Gamble take the FM talker's morning drive slot, airing weekdays from 6-10 AM. It's the same time slot they held for years on Clear Channel sports talk station "Homer", the station now otherwise known as WCKY/1530 (it was once on 1360, before the swap with the then-liberal talk format).

Exiting morning drive is Chicago-based TRN FM syndicated hot talk host Erich "Mancow" Muller.

Skinner and Gamble also shared the same frequency Furman was on, the flamethrowing "Big One" WLW/700, as they hosted a weekend show there in addition to their weekday morning show on "Homer".

And it was Furman's exit from WLW which actually prompted the breakup of the "Two Angry Guys", with Gamble called to take over the 6-9 PM weekday WLW shift solo after Furman's departure.

Skinner, by then doing the "Guys" shift solo himself on "1530 Homer", was eventually let go. Gamble left the "SportsTalk" gig on WLW after a few months - the time slot is now held by Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty.

And of course, Furman landed in "SuperTalk FM's" afternoon drive shift, which he continues to hold today.

And as such, the move puts a sports-heavy schedule on the Cumulus FM talker, at least locally.

WFTK retains Premiere's Glenn Beck and the self-syndicated Dave Ramsey money advice show in between the drive times, and Westwood One's Bill O'Reilly gets shuffled to late nights. But both drive-time slots will now be taken by well-known local sports talk hosts.

It's no surprise to anyone who watches Cumulus' "SuperTalk" stations in other markets.

But Cincinnati is very heavy with sports talk addition taking a decent chunk of WLW's evening and weekend attention, sports radio also airs on the aforementioned "1530 Homer", and its new "little brother" station, all-network "ESPN 1360"...


Phillip said...

Yes, WOIO's broadcast of the Browns game this week looked absolutely horrible. High School football games looked better on tv than this did. Unreal.

Al said...

WTRF-7 picture quality looks bad on New Philadelphia, Ohio Time-Warner Cable Line up (Former Adelphia)

By the Way, Local TV-2 (aka PCM TV-2) was hit by lightning last week. The electronics took a hit., and the local weather equipment took a direct hit. and has been on and off the air ever since.

Also, Cable Channels 57,58,59 look like they are being overpowered as the picture looks awful.. Almost a ghosting, bleed-through. Channel 58 C-Span is taking the brunt of it and it has been going on over 2 weeks now.

There have been test bars on a previously blank cable Channel 75.
My guess did TWC score a deal to add FOX Buisness Channel to the line-up???


Bob said...

Seems to me Cincinnati is becoming too saturated with sports talk stations. Perhaps there is a market need for it, but I have to think that with four stations carrying the format, all or in part, someone will have to bow out somewhere. I can't imagine that it's sustainable from a listernship or revenue standpoint.