Monday, August 04, 2008

We're Back

And this time, it wasn't just our hectic behind-the-scenes life that kept us away.

Every so often, the Blogger computers automatically scan the service's blogs to make sure that automatically-posted unsolicited marketing blogs (think "canned luncheon meat by Hormel") aren't clogging up the system.

Late Friday, we were told that we were "flagged" by this process, which was clearly an error. (A human-posted news-oriented blog that's been around for over three years?) That "flag" - while keeping OMW alive for readers - meant we were unable to edit or add items, since it was "locked" behind the scenes.

We submitted for a review by human eyes, and they have now figured out that we're OK, your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is alive, and not a machine attempting to force unsolicited ads upon the Blogger universe.

So, here we are...with a lot to catch up on...and we mean a lot...

THIS ISN'T CLEVELAND CBS?: Perhaps the loudest noise in the local media world has been speculation over the future of the CBS Radio Cleveland cluster.

The noise comes from last week's announcement by CBS' Les Moonves that the company was moving to sell around 50 stations in "mid-sized" markets.

A number of folks did the math, and figured that basically all of the company's non-top-20 market stations could be on the block - remember, CBS Radio sold off a lot of its smaller markets before, including its clusters in Columbus and Cincinnati, and hung onto only Cleveland in Ohio.

We've found the most detail on this in a story on the Radio Business Report website. A key quote:

CBS Corporation announced this morning that it plans to divest another 50 or so radio stations in medium markets, but it has already been moving to get them sold. CEO Les Moonves said in his quarterly conference call that the company is already in talks with several strategic buyers. A deal or deals could be announced within 30 days and Moonves hopes to go to closing in Q1 or maybe Q2 of 2009.

Moonves and other CBS executives say there's no official list out there. And Radio and Records has this Moonves quote:

"By selling selected stations in these markets we can focus on the larger market stations, many of which are showing growth.”

We're not sure what "selected" means - but in today's word of Cluster Radio, do stations get peeled off to other operators, or does a CBS Radio exit the market entirely?

Pittsburgh would appear to be getting that latter word, according to an article by Kim Leonard in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

CBS Corp. may be putting KDKA-AM -- the nation's oldest radio station -- up for sale, along with three Pittsburgh FM stations.

Station officials told KDKA employees at 11 a.m. Thursday at their Downtown office that the station likely will be in play, as CBS moves to find buyers for 50 radio stations in midsize markets.

A similar meeting took place at noon with the staffs at KDKA sister stations Y108 (WDSY-FM), Star 100.7 (WZPT-FM) and 93.7 (WBZW-FM) based in Green Tree. Workers were told the process could take a long time, but to work under the assumption the stations will be sold.

We've had no such word out of CBS' Cleveland cluster about any such notification...if anyone would like to confirm that for us, we'd appreciate a tip.

Overall, it sounds like CBS Radio wants to concentrate on its largest markets, and Cleveland isn't one of them any more than Pittsburgh is.

There would appear to be no easy answers to the question of a potential buyer in Cleveland. It would presumably HAVE to be a new operator to Cleveland, since none of the existing operators either can buy stations or would be able to buy four decent FM signals.

But is that new operator an Entercom, or Emmis, or Bonneville? Do they have any interest in Cleveland?

Or is it one of the "up and coming" groups like Stephens Radio, which bought into upstate New York by taking over stations Entercom had to divest by buying CBS stations, among others? Does Wilks Broadcasting add to its Columbus CBS pickups?

Or does Cleveland's CBS cluster - generally thought to be successful and a moneymaker - somehow stick around with the company?

Given all the above, that seems unlikely. CBS seems to be chanting the "major market" mantra. And despite the fact it is very successful, FOX had no problem selling WJW/8 here...with much the same mantra about major markets going through its corporate thoughts.

But there are certainly more questions than answers...and on the above questions, we have no answers, or even rumors right now, and are frankly just throwing stuff against a wall to see if anything sticks...

BUT ON THE BLOCK, OFFICIALLY: While CBS seems to be willing to sell heritage, flame-throwing talker KDKA in Pittsburgh, the newly-privatized Clear Channel isn't dumping "The Big One" in Cincinnati, WLW/700.

The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Eckberg reports that Clear Channel will instead sell hot AC WNNF/94.1 "Radio 94.1" and classic rock WOFX/92.5 "The Fox" to comply with FCC ownership guidelines.

It was reported earlier that Clear Channel had to divest two stations in the Cincinnati market because its new private equity fund owners had a minority stake in competitor Cumulus, which competes with Clear Channel in the market.

And early rumblings from the Enquirer's John Kiesewetter - which we reprinted here - said that the other possible sale combination was top 40 outlet WKFS/107.1 "Kiss FM"...and the aforementioned WLW.

The gasps could be heard here, well over 200 miles from Kenwood, when that little tidbit was put up as being floated around the cluster.

So, now that Bain/Lee officially has the reins of Clear Channel, they've decided to cast two of the low-to-mid-range stations in the Cincinnati arsenal...and hang onto two of the bigger ones, including ratings-and-revenue market champion WLW.

The Eckberg piece quotes local media maven Robert Riggsbee as saying the stations may be swapped instead of sold. An unnamed Clear Channel spokesperson tells Eckberg that WNNF and WOFX won't be flipped to the "Aloha Trust", but will be put directly on the market...

STAYING PUT: At Akron country powerhouse WQMX/94.9, there's no question about who will join morning host Scott Wynn as a co-host on a permanent basis.

Former co-host Shannon Alexander left the station's morning drive show, saying she was looking forward to being a stay-at-home mom. That prompted WQMX program director Sue Wilson to temporarily fill the morning co-host position next to Wynn, while looking for Alexander's permanent replacement.

As it turns out...she'll be looking into a mirror to answer that "replacement" question, as Wilson sticks around with Wynn as the new regular co-host of the WQMX morning drive show.

She certainly wouldn't be the first radio programmer to pull double-duty as PD and morning host...and should have no problem adjusting with extensive on-air experience on her resume...

ABC OHIO VALLEY: We'd heard rumblings that Wheeling/Steubenville market CBS affiliate WTRF/7 had "soft launched" (beta tested?) its new digital subchannel ABC affiliate before its August 1st announced start date, and we actually managed to be in the market last week to confirm that.

Sure enough, "ABC Ohio Valley" was already running on WTRF-DT 7.3 on Thursday, assuming you are within about 5 miles of the low-powered digital signal on RF channel 32 just west of downtown Wheeling. (Our efforts to pick up the signal without a permanent base in the market were reminiscent of the old "FOX Viewing Position" gag from the show "Married With Children".)

And as expected, WTRF has adjusted its newscasts to simulcast them on the ABC side of the house, with newly-produced opens airing only on the new sister station - while channel 7 airs its regular open - and a "7" logo with an ABC next to it to cover the one with CBS next to it that is seen on the regular WTRF cast.

That is, when the control room operator remembers to superimpose it.

It was a little rough that day, last Thursday...but we'll attribute it to a "dress rehearsal" one day before the announced start of the new ABC affiliate.

WTRF's biggest problem isn't synchronizing and simulcasting the news on two different outlets.

It's the fact that only curious TV geeks like us, or those with a big antenna on the roof, or those basically in sight of the WTRF tower just over the Ohio side of the border, will be able to even watch the new "ABC Ohio Valley".

Though the West Virginia Media Holdings station did manage to get analog cable carriage for its other DT subchannel, "FOX Ohio Valley" from dominant provider Comcast (it bumped WPGH/53 out of Pittsburgh) isn't getting that low-analog-channel placement for the ABC subchannel.

WTRF-DT 7.3 is only seen on Comcast on digital channel 205, which puts it up there with various "WeatherPlus" subchannels.

Comcast continues to carry WTAE/4 out of Pittsburgh, -and- WYTV/33 Youngstown, on prime low analog channel slots.

We understand how WTAE was able to hang in. It has long-time, historic coverage as the substitute ABC affiliate for folks in the Wheeling/Steubenville market. But we're having a hard time understanding how WYTV escaped being bumped off analog cable channel 19.

It'll get better for WTRF, presumably, after the digital transition next February. It'll "maximize" on VHF 7 digitally...

AND IN THE OHIO VALLEY, RADIO-WISE: We took the long way back from the Wheeling/Steubenville market, and discovered a change we didn't believe anyone noted on the radio.

We reported here a few years ago when Keymarket's WOHI/1490 East Liverpool dumped standards - and local morning drive host Jim Martin - for ESPN Radio.

Somewhere between then and now, the company decided to change WOHI's format again.

We don't know when, but 1490 is now...oh, wait, guess! It won't be hard!

What music format does Keymarket run when it isn't doing the "Froggy" country format?

That's right, WOHI is now doing classic hits (er, oldies) as "The Pickle".

No, we're not making that up. Keymarket is as predictable as BAS Broadcasting when it comes to using Formats/Names In A Box. They're still running ESPN Radio, though, on Steubenville's WSTV/1340 and Wheeling simulcaster WOMP/1290 Bellaire OH.

The "Pickling" of WOHI would make sense, we suppose, since 1490 is sharing space in Beaver PA with FM "Pickle" outlet WKPL/92.1 Ellwood City PA, serving places like New Castle and Beaver Falls as the simulcaster of sister "Pickle" station WPKL/99.3 Uniontown PA.

WOHI, WPKL and WKPL are all running the ABC/Citadel satellite format "Classic Hits Radio" (nee' "Pure Gold", and known until recently as "Oldies Radio"). We heard a promo on 1490 for the WPKL/WKPL morning drive offering "The Real Dill Morning Show with Fish". (Do fish eat pickles, we wonder? Or, do frogs? How about eagles? Oh, wait, that's the other guys.)

But outside of that apparent morning simulcast, WOHI was running its own liners and spots over the ABC feed, identifying solely as "AM 1490, The Pickle". We weren't around early enough to see if any other local "Pickle" jocks, if there are any, were heard on 1490.

And we don't know if Jim Martin, who returned to the station doing a midday talk/public affairs show after the ESPN Radio format took hold, is still there...or if he's still reading OMW, for that matter.

We wouldn't mark this as a new format change. For one, we don't know when it started...they could have been doing this for months, or even not long after the ESPN format change. But since we're not in East Liverpool often...

AND SPEAKING OF RECENT FORMAT CHANGES: Over to the other end of the state, where Springfield oldies outlet WULM/1600 has found religion.

In particular, on the radio as the latest outlet of the Louisiana-based Radio Maria network.

We don't know the exact timing on this hitting the airwaves, either, but we believe it happened within the past couple of months. The Radio Maria folks still have the "welcome" up for Springfield/Dayton area listeners on their website, and the sale was filed back in February.

WULM is Radio Maria's second Ohio outlet, after WJHM/88.7 in the small western Ohio town of Anna, south of Lima.

And technically speaking, WULM had already "found religion" - as it was owned by local religious outfit Urban Light Ministries even when running oldies and other secular formats, like talk.

But Urban Light's Eli Williams told the Springfield News-Sun back in March that though the ministry bought the former WBLY to save it as a voice on the city's airwaves, WULM "never made money", and that he needs "to be focused more on the priorities of the ministry than radio station management"...

AND WHILE WE'RE TALKING RELIGIOUS RADIO: And Catholic radio, in specific...Canton's outlet specializing in that programming, WILB/1060, is preparing for a big upgrade.

The 5000 watt daytimer known as "Living Bread Radio" filed back in April for a new 15,000 watt upgrade, accomplished by a tower that will be added to the station's existing site at Hills and Dales Road.

The three-time signal boost is aimed at spreading the EWTN programming (and a local show or two) north into the Cleveland market. Of course, as now, it'll remain a dominant KYW/1060 Philadelphia owns the frequency at night all over Northeast Ohio.

The "Living Bread Radio" folks have already broken ground at the new tower, according to this item on their website:

GOD WILLING, by 2009, Catholic radio will have made its debut on Cuyahoga County airwaves.

For now, it's the FCC addition to the station's fundraising efforts...


Neil said...

(quote) >"... by 2009, Catholic radio will have made its debut on Cuyahoga County airwaves. " (end quote)

That would be a return rather than a debut, I think. IIRC, Catholic programming ran on 1260 for awhile before Mickey Mouse acquired it.

Jim said...

Religion does not get anyone to Heaven. What gets someone to Heaven is a person putting their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, for the forgiveness of their sins.

FilthyRich said...

We've had no such word out of CBS' Cleveland cluster about any such notification...if anyone would like to confirm that for us, we'd appreciate a tip.

HI! A friend of mine's daughter is a recent grad from the Ohio School of Broadcasting (or whatever it's called now). Anyway, she's trying to get a broadcast job in the Cleveland markey and has applied to several stations, including CBS-owned WDOK 102.1 FM. They told her they would get back to her at the end of July, so she made a follow-up call to HR.

They told her that the STATION WAS BEING SOLD and that all hiring decisions have been frozen. A number of my friends from my old WERE/WNCX days are still at WDOK (Nancy Alden and Jim McIntyre) so I'm wondering if they're wondering what's gonna happen to the format and staff. So it looks like WDOK is the first CBS sale in the Cleveland market. Can't find anything else on the web to corroborate, so you might want to do some more digging on this!

Interesting stuff!