Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday's Return

So, the ol' OMW Inbox has clogged up again over the weekend, and there are still some outstanding items...

WJW/FOX SALE?: Estimates are not always perfect, so we weren't 100% sure that we'd hear more by now on our story from last week - the pending sale of Cleveland FOX O&O WJW/8 and eight other FOX below-top 10 market stations, presumably to Oak Hill Capital Partners (Local TV, LLC).

The announcement made by a high-level FOX executive in two meetings a week ago today at South Marginal Road told staffers that there would be news on the identity of the buyer "by the end of (last) week".

So far, unless we're missing something, there hasn't been a peep about this outside of this report... though we have been featured twice in the popular industry web publication ShopTalk, and we also hear that the TV news gossip site NewsBlues has also reprinted us. That basically means every local TV news type on the planet has read our reports.

We'll read the tea leaves and listen for the rumblings as the new work week begins.

Oak Hill certainly seems well positioned to be the buyer.

From a November 23 article in the Dallas Business Journal:

Although large private-equity firms are having a rough year, that isn't stopping Oak Hill Capital Partners from pushing ahead with plans for a third fund that organizers hope can generate $4 billion, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The firm, which was formed by Fort Worth billionaire Robert M. Bass in 1999, already has received commitments for at least $1.4 billion for what is being called Oak Hill Capital Partners III LP, the Oct. 29 filing says.

This is similar to the earlier report from Reuters, echoed by columnist Tom Taylor - that the number of private equity funds that are able to swallow such big transactions has been dwindling with the economy's downturn.

In other words, for a deal that's somewhere roughly in that same dollar neighborhood, Oak Hill wouldn't appear to have a lot of competition for the smaller-market FOX O&Os...including "Cleveland's Own FOX 8".

We'll keep you posted...

TELE-WHAT?: More on the ongoing story out of the Columbus market, where you can actually keep track of "Television 106.7" from anywhere in the world.

Clear Channel's Columbus cluster has launched streaming audio for the current WMRN-FM Dublin, which moved from its long-time perch in Marion - and down one notch on the FM dial - last month.

The collection of TV themes is actually rather odd. We didn't recognize some of them in the half-hour long stretch we heard the other day.

But the name is even odder.

When CC Columbus decides to unveil a new format on the 106.7 signal - and we hear that could be later this week - could "Television 106.7" become "Radio 106.7"?

We can't claim credit for that one...we read it on a message board post, and like that post, we're just speculating. But it sure put some ideas into our Editorial Heads.

A stunt format named "Television 106.7" would certainly make sense for a station about to take that "Radio 106.7" positioner.

If that's the case, there's a model right down I-71 - Clear Channel's own "Radio 94.1" in Cincinnati, the station long known as AC "Mix 94.1".

Here's a description of the format as it launched in Cincinnati, courtesy of an article from September by contributor Robert Riggsbee in the "Business Courier":

The new "Radio 94.1," according to a Clear Channel source, will be a "guitar and pop" variety station targeting females ages 25-39. It is a new type of Adult Contemporary radio station that is being positioned as "Starbucks" style music. The DJs, to be named in the future, will be more laid-back and mellow, concentrating more on the song selection with less-intrusive bantering, according to the source.

Radio 94.1's core artists will include: Dave Matthews Band, Nora Jones, Jack Johnson, Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Tori Amos, Matchbox Twenty, Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Goo Goo Dolls, Bare Naked Ladies, and Sheryl Crow.

Clear Channel tends to cultivate these "next thing" formats, and if they work at all in one place, they get cloned rather quickly in other markets. (We don't know how Cincinnati's "Radio" is doing, though we suspect it would play into the company changing to such a format and positioner in a nearby market.)

But we warn you - this is all speculation on our part, with no internal evidence or even rumblings to support it.

We also remind you that half of the online Radio Observation World was convinced that Clear Channel was going to launch a "Bull" country station at 101.7/North Canton.

And outside Ohio, Clear Channel in the Milwaukee market stunted as if they were about to launch an FM liberal talk format to go along with successful Madison WI liberal talk outlet WXXM/92.1, complete with on air allusions to Air America Radio and its hosts.

We seem to remember that the Milwaukee FM in question ended up with a "Brew"-labeled rock format, which, to bring this full circle, has also already happened in Columbus.

Our motto? Again, don't believe the rumblings, or what even sounds plausible or obvious...

AND ONE MORE 106.7 STOP: Which, since we've gone on at length, needs a separate "stop".

Yes, Columbus Public Schools outlet WCBE/90.5 is aware that the new 106.7 full-power signal out of greater Columbus has wiped out their Newark translator on the same frequency.

The Newark Advocate newspaper heard from upset WCBE listeners, now hearing TV theme songs instead of public radio on 106.7 in that city.

And the answer from both Clear Channel Columbus and WCBE itself is as we outlined here when we started hearing from these folks: WCBE's translator has been displaced, legally, since translators are a secondary service subject to being knocked off by approved full-power stations, even new ones.

WCBE station manager Dan Mushalko didn't get back to us, but did tell the Advocate:

"I'd like to find another frequency that's clear, and switch frequencies, but we're probably crowded out of it," Mushalko said. "It's kind of crowded in Ohio. That's part of the problem."

Again, as we also alluded, there's a line seemingly a mile long to put new FM translators on in Newark, many of them dating back four years (!!) from the previously opened FM non-comm/educational filing window. (Coming up later this week - we'll walk through some of the more recent window's filings - though not many of them affect our primary coverage area.)

But Mushalko seems to want to find some way, telling the Advocate that based on donor numbers, there are around five thousand WCBE listeners in the Newark area:

"That's a lot of a community to not be serving," Mushalko said. "I've got to find a way to get this public radio service out to them."

PAUL HARVEY...GOODBYE!: Ending what must have been the oddest format pairing the veteran news commentator's program has ever had, OMW hears from multiple sources that Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting AAA outlet WLKR/95.3 Norwalk has said goodbye to ABC Radio Networks' icon Paul Harvey.

We haven't combed the affiliate list, but we'd have to believe WLKR, whose positioner in recent months has been "It's About The Music", was the only AAA format station in the nation carrying Mr. Harvey's newscasts and commentaries.

Outside of that, we hear WLKR has also moved along news-wise, and is the latest Ohio station to carry FOX News Radio - right down to, we hear from long-time Lorain County OMW reader/contributor Nathan Obral, using the FOX News Radio sounder for local newscasts...

AND YES, IT IS A CLEAR CHANNEL TV STATION: As it turns out, the nearly completed deal to buy Clear Channel's TV station doesn't just include the company's CBS affiliate in the Cincinnati market, WKRC/12 (and digital CW network affiliate subchannel "CinCW").

Though it is not listed in any of the press releases put out about this deal, Providence Equity Partners will also pick up - assuming the FCC paperwork is correct - tiny WDFM-LP/26 in the small Ohio town of Defiance.

Yes, you read that right.

WDFM-LP has operated by its sister FM powerhouse, WDFM/98.1 "Mix 98.1", since even before Clear Channel predecessor Jacor picked up the radio station in the late 1990's.

Today, "TV 26" is basically the LPTV-equivalent of a public access cable channel, with numerous public affairs shows geared at the listening/viewing area.

We'd assume that the station would remain in the hands of whoever owns WDFM's radio side.

But sure enough, an application filed in May by WDFM seeks to sell the station as part of the deal to the Providence Equity folks (aka "TV Acquisition, LLC"). There it is, right there in the FCC database.

We wonder - was this a mistake? Do the buyers know that along with a long list of network-affiliated stations markets large and small, they picked up an LPTV station in little Defiance, OH?

Or do they intend to flip WDFM-LP A) back to the radio folks - whoever ends up buying that radio station/cluster, or B) to someone else in the LPTV game? (Greg Phipps, you have a call on the white courtesy phone...)

Just guesses on our part, due to the unusual nature of WDFM-LP.

Speaking of "TV 26"'s radio mothership - we wonder who'll eventually end up with it, if Clear Channel is successful at selling off its supposedly unwanted small market radio stations.

We can't help but wonder if one of the numerous local group owners in nearby Fort Wayne IN will take a run at adding the full-B 98.1 FM signal to an existing group of stations. Remember, WDFM (FM) still has a license for the long-gone on-channel booster in that Indiana city...

1 comment:

Scott said...

Betcha WLKR is also the only AAA station anywhere with Fox News Radio...