Thursday, March 12, 2009

Folding It Together

UPDATE 11:56 AM 3/12/09: Something we forgot to put in here has been updated at the bottom of this item...


A diverse group of items makes up our Thursday morning update, and as it turns out, it's all about radio. We have a couple of TV items percolating for later...

JERRY, JERRY, RADIO: Someone batten down the radio hatches - former Air America Radio host Jerry Springer has cracked open a microphone again.

And though he's doing it in Chicago, there are a host of Cleveland connections.

While mostly dealing with Springer's battle to save staff jobs on his world-famous TV talk show - slated to move from Chicago to a new-tax-incentive laden studio in Connecticut - the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal also notes Springer's week-long substitute stint at Tribune talk WGN/720 in the Windy City.

Technically, Springer isn't subbing "for" anyone in an open slot, since former host John Williams moved to morning drive.

And the Cleveland connection? From Rosenthal's article:

The 1-4 p.m. weekday shift on Chicago Tribune parent Tribune Co.'s WGN-AM has remained open since December, but Springer went to pains to point out, both on the air and off it, that he's not looking to take anyone's job. He already has one gig (more if you count side projects like his scheduled summer run in London as lawyer Billy Flynn in the musical "Chicago"). But "it's fun to fill in," he said, and WGN program director Kevin Metheny is a friend from his Air America days.

Well, that's correct, though as far as we know...former Clear Channel Cleveland programming VP Metheny had no connection with Air America directly.

Metheny called himself Springer's "talent coach", and the TV host's radio show actually started as a Clear Channel internal syndication project from Springer's base at then-liberal talk WCKY/1530 in his other home base of Cincinnati. Air America came along later.

The internal Clear Channel syndication brought Springer to the mid-morning slot of definitely-not-liberal-talk WTAM/1100 in Cleveland...under Metheny's oversight.

The WTAM mid-morning slot is now occupied by Premiere's Glenn Beck (again), as now-evening local host Bob Frantz had the pretty-much-impossible task of climbing out of the giant, massive, festering ratings hole Springer's show left behind.

So, will our ears be subjected to Springer On The Radio, The Sequel, in Northeast Ohio or anywhere? The TV talk "ringmaster" reiterates in the Chicago Tribune piece:

"If (Metheny) needs someone, I'm right around the corner," Springer said. "So he just said, 'Why don't you fill in for a couple days?' It's nothing more than that. To be honest, one day I would consider doing something like that, but that's when everything else is done. Radio has to be your only job. You can't do it part-time."

It's no secret to OMW readers that we considered Springer's Air America/WCKY stint to be, well, awful. If the man's going to ever come back to talk radio, after his TV show ends, he's going to have to get much better, and we don't know if that's a job Metheny can complete despite his best efforts.

Then again, maybe separated from the often-activist world of "Liberal Talk Radio", he'll improve. And maybe if he didn't have to juggle a radio show with his TV sleazefest some day down the road...but as Springer repeats, he's just filling in.

If you'd like to find out what Springer sounds like on WGN, he'll continue to sub in the 1-4 PM time slot (2-5 PM Eastern) through Friday, and can be heard on WGN's web stream. The station has set up a web page for the Springer fill-in, with some videos already posted.

Oh, and there's a semi-interesting side note here.

Speaking of Springer's former national radio outlet, Air America has brought another name known for TV talk into Springer's former 9 AM-noon time slot.

Now former TV talker Montel Williams will take over in mid-mornings, moving AAR's "Lionel" to an as-of-yet unspecified role with the network...

PAY THE MAN, CRAIG: Is Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" "top man" Craig Karmazin willing to shell out some cash to keep those four magical letters going on his Cleveland radio stations?

And we're not talking just a few bucks about six figures?

The "Sports By Brooks" "sports gossip" website reports that the Worldwide Leader in Sports wants to become the Worldwide Leader in Radio Cash:

A source told me that ESPN is planning to charge some non-ESPN owned and operated sports radio stations fees to carry its radio network programming. For big markets (Top 30), the annual charge to stations is as high as $100,000.

That list of "some" stations would most assuredly include WKNR, and "little brother" station WWGK/1540 "KNR2". WKNR airs ESPN's "Mike & Mike" in morning drive, brands with the ESPN logo, and takes part in ESPN's new web audio package. "KNR2" runs ESPN's midday programming (Colin Cowherd, Mike Tirico, Scott Van Pelt).

"Sports by Brooks" is skeptical that stations will come on board in top 30 markets:

Most, if not all of those stations make their money on local sports talk shows and play-by-play ad sales. Revenue from ESPN’s national properties is usually negligible - as most of its shows have struggled in the ratings against large market, local shows. (I know, not in every case.) Perhaps local stations could make money on ESPN Radio’s play-by-play properties, but not enough to make up that $100K rights fee in any scenario.

Also, Fox Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio are available to those local stations for no rights fee.

"Sports by Brooks" is run by long-time Southern California sports radio personality and programmer Brooks Melchior, and we believe he's pretty well connected as far as the sports radio network world.

This article says Melchior once "co-hosted a radio show in Columbus", and our Swiss Cheese Memory puts him at Dispatch sports WBNS/1460 (now "97.1 The Fan") at some point in his radio past. news columnist Tom Taylor says in his own report this morning that he's hearing the ESPN fees could go even deep into smaller markets, with some small market stations paying as much as $30,000 to $50,000 for the ESPN programming.

OMW notes that ESPN has affiliates in the Canton market, tiny WTIG/990 Massillon, and in Youngstown, Cumulus sports WBBW/1240. Is the locally-owned WTIG willing to pony up five figures to stay being "ESPN 990"?

Is budget conscious Cumulus going to be pushed into the waiting arms of Sporting News Radio, which is free? Would shelling out $50K or so to ESPN, if WBBW decides to do so, mean the station would have to let go any local personalities it still has?

(We're not sure where Fox Sports Radio airs in Youngstown, if anywhere. SNR, of course, used to air on Beacon Media's WLOA/1470 Farrell PA, arguably a Youngstown rimshot.)

And as for Cleveland, we wonder if Good Karma boss Karmazin will work out some sort of a multi-station deal with ESPN involving WKNR/WWGK and his other ESPN Radio affiliates, including stations in Milwaukee (WAUK/540) and West Palm Beach FL (WEFL/760).

Karmazin has a lot invested in ESPN, and morning hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, and we find it hard to see him walking away from the Worldwide Leader...and frankly, we find it hard to see the folks in Bristol giving up Cleveland...

FOR NOW: At least some Northeast Ohio stations are still running the ABC Radio Networks features long-helmed by iconic commentator Paul Harvey, who passed away recently at the age of 90.

After a week of tributes to Mr. Harvey, ABC announced to current affiliates that the segments would be filled by offerings from long-time ABC News Radio staffers Gil Gross and Doug Limerick starting this past Monday.

We've heard Gross continuing on Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron, and Clear Channel standards WNIO/1390 Youngstown is also hanging in there with "Paul Harvey Without Paul Harvey" at least for the near term.

And, that's not a guess, because none other than Clear Channel Youngstown VP/market manager Bill Kelly tells us so directly:

We are in "wait and see" mode re: the late Mr. Harvey's replacements, whether temporary or permanent.

It is too soon to make a decision either way.

Now, your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is a big fan of Gil Gross, in particular.

We've met the man, and used to listen to his syndicated CBS Radio show when it aired locally in the 1990s...we seem to remember that "The Gil Gross Show" aired not only on Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 in late nights, but also on Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 (also in delayed clearance).

And he was widely considered to be one of Mr. Harvey's best substitutes.

But we find it hard to believe that "Paul Harvey News" (or "The Rest of the Story") will continue long-term without Paul Harvey.

ABC Radio Networks (owned by Citadel now) is putting out very clear signals to that effect.

Citadel has already bounced the 15 minute "Noon Visit", now hosted by Gross, from its big talkers in New York City and Detroit. WABC/770 in the Big Apple has extended the ABC Radio-syndicated "Joe Scarborough Show" to the full 9 AM-noon slot, and WJR/760 in Detroit has done the same with the local, late-morning show hosted by Frank Beckmann.

On the other end, Citadel's ABC Radio arm has added a third version of "The Huckabee Report", the five minute commentary hosted by former presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, in afternoon drive.

It seems clear that Citadel wants to move as many Harvey affiliates to Huckabee as possible...though as we noted, we expect that to be a tough sell to stations that aren't conservative talkers.

Add to that that both Gross and Limerick aren't giving up their primary jobs. Limerick continues as morning anchor on the ABC News Radio Information Network feed, and Gross will continue to host his afternoon talk show on Citadel talk powerhouse KGO in San Francisco.

It would appear from here that Gross and Limerick are in place to safely land the Paul Harvey plane into the Hall of Fame hangar, and gently transition the radio world to Life Without Harvey...and Citadel/ABC is hoping to make money off the Paul Harvey Machine as long as possible, until the whole thing naturally folds...

LANDED: Former Cumulus country WQXK/105.1 "K105" program director Dave Steele has landed.

About a month after being let go in Cumulus Youngstown's most recent round of budget cuts, Steele has taken a programming job in Fort Wayne IN. The item, from our friend and colleague Blaine Thompson's Indiana Radio Watch:

At Russ Oasis' Country/WBTU (93.3fm, Kendallville), PD Chris Sargent exits. He will be replaced by Dave Steele, last the PD and afternoon host at Cumulus' WQXK in Salem (Youngstown), Ohio. Steele is no stranger to the Hoosier state, having programmed Federated Media's Country/WBYT (100.7fm, Elkhart) in the 1990's.

Steele programmed and did afternoon drive on country powerhouse "K105", until the budget axe fell last month...

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