Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sports And Digital

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is "on the road" for much of this week, and our updates will be a little more sporadic than usual.

But, we did manage to put some "breaking news" up here before it happened on Monday, didn't we? And as usual, our physical exit from Ohio prompted a major change...sorry, Columbus, we should have warned you!

THE SPORTS HIT THE FM FAN: And as reported here Monday, Dispatch hot AC WBNS-FM/97.1 Columbus "Mix 97.1" faded into oblivion as scheduled at 4 PM on Monday.

Those who were listening to the FM side (or its streaming audio) told us that the "Mix" format went out without any live air personalities...as we'd mentioned, we're hearing the entire FM-side staff was let go earlier that morning.

OMW readers tell us a medley of Ohio State University Buckeyes-related music, fight songs, etc. led into the new "Sports Radio 97.1 The Fan" at 4 PM - a full simulcast of the long-running "1460 The Fan" on WBNS' AM side.

Given the station's Ohio State sports contract, you could say the new two-headed "Fan" is "Powered by the Buckeyes"...an obsession in Ohio's capital city like no other.

Speaking of "power", and for that matter, former Buckeyes, "The Fan's" afternoon drive team members - including Chris Spielman and Kirk Herbstreit - gushed about the wide availability of the station on its new FM signal, and looked forward to the end of complaints from areas even relatively close to Columbus which are cut off from the tightly directional 1460 AM night pattern.

Not gushing at all were fans of the music format blown off the FM dial in the latest move of an AM sports station to a big FM signal.

Station officials issued a statement on the former "Mix 97.1" website:

Anytime there is a dramatic change in direction for a business, there will be those that are happy, and those that are disappointed. We do not make changes of this magnitude without weighing both sides of the equation.

In the end, making this format change to Mix 97.1 was about providing central Ohio with what central Ohio has continued to ask for, a "sports" radio station on the FM dial. We realize there will be disappointed music listeners, as well as many very happy sports fans that are finally getting what they want.

The site even contains a helpful feedback dialog - just in case you're a former "Mix" listener who wants to try to spit into the wind and return the old format.

With the primary branding now on the FM side for WBNS' "Fan" format, we're among those wondering if 1460 will go off in a different direction. Right now, we have no indication that will happen.

Sports radio on FM has become a Big Deal in the past few months. CBS Radio started the latest fire by flipping another 97.1 FM, Detroit's FM talker WKRK, to sports as WXYT "97.1 The Ticket", a move from its old 1270 AM home (which like 1460 now with its new 97.1 home, still simulcasts its FM side today).

That station has been so successful on FM that Clear Channel's recent "restructuring" restructured a long time sports format competitor, WDFN/1130, right out of the local sports talk radio business.

CBS Radio quickly followed by flipping another FM talker to sports in Baltimore (WJZ-FM), then one in Dallas (KRLD-FM). The troubled broadcasting giant reportedly acted quickly after seeing positive PPM (Portable People Meter) returns out of Detroit's FM "Ticket".

Long-time readers know that we've been watching traditional AM spoken word formats (news/talk/sports) and their success on FM.

Just down the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes from OMW World Headquarters, Clear Channel has reaped quite a reward pairing a popular conservative talk local morning show with a fairly traditional Clear Channel AM talk lineup on Pittsburgh's WPGB/104.7, taking a lot of wind out of the sails of CBS Radio's legendary talk KDKA/1020...particularly in younger still-talk-friendly demos.

And the march continues.

Meanwhile, we don't know if it was prompted by "The Fan"'s move to FM, but Clear Channel flipped talk WYTS/1230 to sports on Monday afternoon, featuring the Fox Sports Radio lineup - and presumably, Premiere mainstay Jim Rome sticks around to anchor the new sports format.

WYTS had been running mostly a second-tier lineup of syndicated conservative hosts...the name hosts over on big brother talker WTVN/610. WYTS had just started the new year with additions of United Stations' Lou Dobbs, and Dial Global's Neal Boortz and Clark Howard to the schedule.

The WYTS website now shows the new "Fox Sports Radio 1230" logo...and nothing else, yet...

ONE MORE TO GO: That rumbling in Congress to move the digital TV transition date now has one important vote behind it, and could well end up on President Obama's desk soon.

The U.S. Senate has weighed in, voting "unanimously" to move the digital transition deadline from February 17th to June 12th.

The issue still has to be considered in the House, which has been kicking around its own DTV-related bills, but, according to the Associated Press:

...Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has vowed to work with House leaders to bring (Senate Commerce Committee chair Sen. Jay) Rockefeller's bill up for a floor vote on Tuesday.

If the DTV delay bill passes in the House, President Obama is expected to sign it.

As we pointed out last time this proposal was mentioned here:

(Sen.) Rockefeller managed to ease some of these concerns by allowing broadcast stations to make the switch from analog to digital signals sooner than the June deadline if they choose...

The concerns come from places like PBS, where the AP quotes president/CEO Paula Kerger that a delay to June 12th could cost public broadcasters some $22 million in extra costs.

The upshot is that right now, it does appear that television stations can abandon analog for good on their own under the new plan, and those watching the moves say that hundreds of stations have already made it clear to the FCC that they are going to shut down analog on February 17th or sooner...like WNEO/45 Alliance and WMFD/68 Mansfield have done already in Northeast Ohio.

But, what about the complicated situations? What about Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, which has been trying to put up the tower holding its digital antenna set for RF channel 17 (we haven't checked on its progress as of late) for some time?

Is TBN O&O WDLI/17 Canton signing off its analog side on the night of February 17th, or will they wait until June?

We won't know that answer probably until after the date change bill is signed into law by President Obama, but if they hang around after the 17th of next month, WKYC won't be able to budge from its anemic temporary digital home on interference-plagued DT 2 until WDLI's analog 17 is gone... though it does have the authority to operate on the pre-transition DT 2 past February 17th in an STA...

"THIS" IS IT FOR WUAB-DT2: One of the folks keeping track of the digital TV application status is Virginia resident Trip Ericson, proprietor of the RabbitEars site with various TV station facilities listings.

Trip also lets us know that Raycom Media Cleveland market MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43 has found new programming for its long-abandoned digital subchannel 43.2.

After the continual months-long run of a digital slide telling viewers that no, WUAB didn't kill "The Tube" music video channel, WUAB parent Raycom has signed a deal to air MGM's "This TV" service on 43.2 - and 14 other stations. TVNewsday reports the deals with Raycom, Tribune and two smaller groups give the so-called "diginet" over 60% national clearance.

"This TV" airs a number of movies and reruns, mainly from the MGM vaults. Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, which runs a local rerun subchannel called "Me-TV" in Chicago and Milwaukee, is also involved in the new channel.

"Me-TV" carries more sitcoms and hour-long classic TV dramas than "This". Many of the programs it carries are seen on the Retro Television Network (RTN), which is aired subchannels of Toledo Barrington NBC affiliate WNWO-DT', and of Steubenville Cox NBC affiliate WSTV-DT.

Despite that similarity, MGM/Weigel's "This TV" and RTN are competitors.

We don't know when "This TV" will start on WUAB. It may already be up, but we're out of range of Cleveland local over-air digital signals at this writing...


andrew727 said...

Well its about time Raycom's WUAB TV 43 DT.2 removed 'The Tube' slide. I mean how long does it take to inform an audience that 'The Tube' is history? Even the most stoned dead head would have come to that realization awhile ago, and I'm sure most were watching MTV anyway!-) Looking forward to see what the MGM vault has in store, but I'm also looking forward to an RTV subchannel to be offered in the Cleveland market.
-Andrew. MALL727.net-

Matt said...

Just an FYI, here in Columbus WCMH 4 replaced the vacating Weather Plus digital channel with RTN