Monday, January 05, 2009

Rolling Into 2009

And here it is...with the exception of our special "Breaking News" over the weekend - more on that later - our first regular update for 2009.

Since we've been mostly gone since just before Christmas, it'll be a long one...

SUNDAY NEWS: With TV groups looking to save money, the latest focus is on Sunday mornings.

As we hinted earlier, Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 in Cleveland has indeed scrapped its Sunday morning edition of "FOX 8 News", which had been airing from 8 to 9 AM.

We hear from our sources that meteorologist Sally Bernier has exited the station as a result, though we're wondering if she'll be asked by WJW to fill in for the remaining weather Bernier on the "FOX 8" staff - her husband, Andre'.

As far as we know, Sally Bernier was only present regularly on that now-dumped Sunday newscast. We haven't confirmed, but we believe anchor Kevin Freeman will continue as a reporter.

We're also told that Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 has dumped a Sunday morning edition of "19 Action News", though we didn't even recall that the folks at Reserve Square HAD news on Sunday mornings.

Infomercials will take up the slack. (Or as TV executives would say, "We don't have to pay someone AND the replacement programming makes us money? Where do we sign up?")

One oddity we noticed in this morning's TV schedules: though most infomercials aren't listed by name, the one that aired on WJW this morning had a title: "YOUR BABY CAN READ".

A quick look up the schedule found the very same infomercial, running at the very same time, on WOIO...

PUTTING THE BOOTS ON: OMW hears that a radio station in the Sandusky "Vacationland" area will be putting its cowboy boots on starting today.

We hear BAS Broadcasting's WMJK/100.9 Clyde (yes, there's a Northern Ohio town named "Clyde") is flipping from classic rock "100.9 The Coast" to a different kind of musical "Coast"... country, with the new on-air moniker "North Coast Country".

OMW readers tell us that the station ran a number of liners this past weekend announcing a "new sound" - beginning today at noon.

Like the classic rock format, the country music format on WMJK will be delivered via satellite...we're hearing that they'll hook up with Omaha NE-based Waitt Radio Networks.

"North Coast Country" will be dipping its toes into ultra-competitive waters in the country format in the region.

The immediate area has two very powerful, very successful country stations - Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting's WKFM/96.1 Huron ("K96"), and Clear Channel's WCKY-FM/103.7, Pemberville "103-7 CKY".

(As we reported here, WCKY-FM did recently adjust its city of license to that tiny eastern Wood County town, but the signal into the "Vacationland" region is as powerful as ever, since it hasn't physically moved.)

On the larger-market edges of "Vacationland", Cumulus Toledo's WKKO/99.9 "K100" and Clear Channel Cleveland's WGAR/99.5 have no problem picking up listeners in the region.

If BAS and WMJK are trying to "pick a few listeners off of" stations like those listed above...well, good luck to them. We can only see this as an offering for BAS to draw more cluster business overall. ("Wanna buy oldies on 92.1? We'll throw in country on 100.9!")

One on one, the stations above look like very, very tall mountains for WMJK to climb...

SPEAKING OF CLEAR CHANNEL: Which, last we checked, does still own WCKY-FM...

The rumors going around are almost deafening at this point, and if you're a Clear Channel employee, rather scary.

OMW can say with some confidence that we're aware of those now-infamous Clear Channel meetings between the company and local managers that are scheduled for this week. We hear they'll be held in Dallas.

At least in RumorLand, there appears to be consensus that the broadcast giant will talk about such things as (gulp!) local staffing levels, how clusters are run in general, even the structure of looks pretty big, and it would appear to be aimed at the company's smaller markets in particular.

Here at your Mighty Blog, we can only say with confidence that the meetings are taking place this week, and that they are supposed to be wide ranging. The above are just unconfirmed rumors at this point.

But, just about everyone believes there will be a large number of job cuts. Clear Channel is actually overdue for what are usually "year end" staffing cuts for the company, which have been going on around the end of the year each year for a long time.

And Clear Channel was rather quiet on the job loss front while one of its major competitors, CBS Radio, fired large numbers of staffers in the past few months, including many here in Northeast Ohio.

The latest high profile CBS Radio exit? News format mainstay WBZ/1030 Boston has released overnight host Steve LeVeille along with other cutbacks. KMOX St. Louis late nighter Jon Grayson is starting a new four-station CBS Radio overnight show out of St. Louis dubbed "Overnight America", which will also air on WBZ, on Pittsburgh's KDKA/1020, and WCCO in Minneapolis.

In case you're looking at the virtual radio dial, Grayson would be heard at night here at 1020, 1030 and 1120 AM, as all three of those stations can be heard regularly in Northeast Ohio.

Over at 'KD, Grayson would bump Westwood One-syndicated Pittsburgh native Dennis Miller...whose show replaced local host Gary Dickson last year, in the overnight slot that had a long history as a local time slot.

Anyway, back to Clear Channel. This national meeting is generating a lot of rumblings. We're keeping an eye on it, and the fallout...

GHOST OF WEATHER PLUS: OMW, and other sources of media news, have long reported that NBC Universal was shutting down "NBC Weather Plus", the weather network fed to various NBC affiliates' digital subchannels (including WKYC-DT's 3.2).

The broadcasting giant said it just couldn't keep "Weather Plus" going after 12/31/08.

So, why can you turn to WKYC-DT 3.2, or Time Warner Cable digital channel 372, and still watch "Weather Plus"?

Well, it's not really the same channel.

We jokingly call what's airing on WKYC's subchannel "The Ghost of Weather Plus". The station has kept the computer equipment that generated the Weather Plus "L-bar" (temperatures, forecasts), and the video portion is a continuous loop of radar screens and other maps. The Weather Plus logo has been replaced by a standard-issue Channel 3 logo with the word, well, 'WEATHER" next to it.

There are no more national or local meteorologist segments, and the only audio is a continuous loop of what presumably could be called the channel's "theme music" (typical TV news theme music).

If you're outside Northeast Ohio, or unable to get WKYC's digital signal (which is nearly everyone at this point) or Time Warner Cable's digital lineup, you can continue to watch the remains of Weather Plus at WKYC's website.

WKYC "Director's Cut" blogger Frank Macek gave the first heads up about this change in an item last week. We also hear, from elsewhere in the country, that this move is a company wide decision by WKYC owner Gannett.

It had been announced by Time Warner that "Weather Plus" was going away on December 31st, but the replacement weather feed is still being seen on the cable system's digital channel 372. We don't know if it'll gain a reprieve or not.

Frank also touches on the delays putting up WKYC's new tower that'll hold the new digital WKYC-DT antenna (17) and the new digital WVIZ-DT (26) antenna. We have some pictures we took on an excursion to Parma, which we'll share with you in a later update (this one's getting too big).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A LOCAL TV ICON: Mr. Macek's blog, in a different item, also reminds us that Cleveland TV legend Fred Griffith celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday.

The local Hall of Fame broadcaster has had various roles for WKYC/3 in the past few years, most recently as the co-host of midday service talk show "Good Company Today".

But his recent work for WKYC is but a small asterisk compared to the work which cemented his status in local TV - as the long-time co-host of Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5's iconic morning talk show, "The Morning Exchange".

And we don't throw around that "i" word lightly, here. "The Morning Exchange" is widely cited as the model the ABC network used to built its own morning talk franchise, "Good Morning America".

And it's been said that ABC chose David Hartman to be GMA's first co-host, based on seeing Fred's genial style in Cleveland.

Happy birthday, Mr. Griffith!

THE STREAM OF AKRON: We promised you an update on our weekend story about Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron"'s new website and streaming audio capabilities.

In addition to its regular schedule of local talk shows (5:30 AM-11 PM weekdays, 6 AM-7 PM weekends), WNIR also streams its other local programming, including the Sunday "Advice Line" block of locally-sponsored advice talk and other programs hosted by the station's "Mr. Sunday", Bob Lewis.

We weren't able to determine if Kent State University sports made it to the stream, though, since we were busy when the Golden Flashes men's basketball team played Saturday evening.

We'd guess not, because KSU has a special paid section ("K-Zone") offering up that audio to subscribers. It's the same reason Clear Channel sports WARF/1350 can't stream University of Akron sporting events.

But...why did it take so long?

We'd been hearing the rumors that it was "nearly ready to go" back into May 2008. We then heard, from our in-house sources at the Brady Lake Media Empire that they were aiming for September aim that missed.

WNIR afternoon drive talker Bob Golic cleared it up for us (and everyone else) on his Friday show.

Apparently, the station had been working with one company for months...and waiting through various delays. Golic says the station then opted to go to another web firm, which got the website you see now (and the streaming audio) up quickly.

As we mentioned, the audio actually sounds very's a 33kbps feed, according to Windows Media Player.

However, it can't change the fact that WNIR still used an unequalized phone line to air its Saturday afternoon remote from a local auto dealer. Yes, Golic was pitching cars and talking topics from that car dealer via phone, as per usual. (Of course, the web change wasn't even indirectly related with how WNIR feeds its programming in-house, but we had to mention it...)

The streaming audio has brought WNIR Akron-connected callers far afield from Ohio.

We heard an Akronite vacationing in London, who found the feed on his computer, on Golic's Friday show. Evening host Tom Erickson heard Friday from what sounded like half of his family in Florida. And we learned that WNIR's toll-free number does indeed work from "anywhere", at least in the United States.

But is the world ready for Howie Chizek, the WNIR midday fixture who comes back from vacation later today? We'll have to see.

We're not even sure Akron is ready for Howie Chizek, and he's been on the radio in Akron for about 35 years straight...

AND THAT'S IT FOR NOW: There will be more updates, scheduled for later today, on digital TV and on other topics - both in Northeast Ohio and beyond - that we may have missed while we were pushing the "capacity per item" envelope here.

Stay tuned.

We hope your New Year has been fine so far!


Anonymous said...

Concerning WNIR's streaming, your scheduling information is a bit flawed. There is no streaming of Sunday's programing. Access to the stream's player stops at 7 PM on Saturdays (the end of the Tom Erickson Show) and doesn't restart until 5:30 AM Mondays when the station's Morning Show begins.

At least for this past Saturday's programing, no provision was made for the Kent State basketball game which began around 4:30 PM. Access to the streaming player (and the KSU game) continued until 7 PM.

Ohio Media Watch said...

Hi, Wayne,

Well, whether they intended to do so or not, we definitely heard Mr. Lewis on the stream more than once on Sunday afternoon.

I wonder if part of that is that we were using the direct Windows Media link, as found on our first item about WNIR streaming...

--The Management

Ohio Media Watch said...

And for the record, we're hearing silence on the stream right now (8:15 PM Monday 1/5), presumably because the Kent State Golden Flashes are playing tonight.

--The Management

Mr. Clem said...

OK, I understand 3 losing the network weather feed but why eliminate the local forecast drop-ins? WOIO still has local forecasts interrupting their Simpsons/Family Guy promo channel (19.2) but while I've never had a problem pulling in channel 3, receiving 19 has always been iffy.

Anonymous said...

Re: Direct Windows Media Player link

You are correct that using the direct link circumvents the station's blocking of access to the stream through their player that is pre-programmed based on the station's schedule.

The pre-recorded announcement (voiced by Phil Ferguson) that runs on the stream in place of some of WNIR's OTA commercials
addresses the schedule not including the overnight or Sunday programing.

Re: KSU sports

I would not be surprised to find out that Saturday's streaming of the KSU basketball game was an accident. Don't forget, that was just the 2nd day of the stream being online.

More on WNIR streaming...

The station (or more specifically, their provider) had to open more seats and bandwidth on Monday morning as the station was already exceeding the initial expectations for simultaneous users.

Phil Thomas -- Don't You Know Me? said...

Too bad it doesn't work on a Mac!

Ohio Media Watch said...

re: WNIR - I presume the only reason to block programming on the stream is so the station doesn't stream the Westwood One and TRN talk programming it airs late night and on weekend evenings.

I don't know why they wouldn't stream Mr. Lewis' local segments, unless there's some sort of issue surrounding the various companies and businesses that sponsor those segments (or the taped infomercials that sometimes show up).

Anyway, for our Mac reader, try the link we put on the item just below this...if you can play Windows Media Player, it should work. I'm pretty sure there is some current WMP solution on the Mac platform (Flip4Mac?)...

-The Management