Our pile of news is large this Monday, so we might as well get it posted and out of the way...
TV MADE EASY: That's the catchphrase used by Time Warner for its latest digital/HD cable channel changes, which are taking effect starting today.
We've already heard from one OMW reader in TWC's Wadsworth system, who tells us that the flip of the HD channels has already taken place there - from the 400s to the 1000s on the cable lineup. (We'll need reader help here, as we won't be able to track the changes systemwide.)
That moves not only various cable HD channels, it moves the HD feed of the local broadcast channels.
For whatever reason, TWC is sticking to its exising analog numbering system for the broadcast channels, which means - for example, as Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 points out on its website - TWC viewers in Akron will see Fox 8 HD on cable channel 1009 (analog is on 9), and in Cleveland, it'll be on Channel 1008 (analog is on 8).
The "off channel placement" of local broadcast outlets in Akron dates back to the earliest days of Akron Cablevision, trying to avoid ghosting caused by "ingress" of the powerful over-air signals into the cable line. By the time the Cleveland area system was built in the 1980's, presumably, the company (North Coast Cable, Cablevision) was OK with on-channel placement...we presume due to better filtering technology in the newer system.
From a TWC press release on the move:
“Time Warner Cable is committed to delivering a robust offering of high definition channels to our customers,” said Vin Zachariah, Time Warner Cable Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania Regional Vice President of Operations. “We now offer over 100 HD channels, and as a result, we’ve virtually outgrown the 400-block in our lineup. So, by moving them to the 1000s, we enable ourselves to continue adding HD channels and make them easier to find for our customers.”
The channel shuffle will put HD channels on the 1000-equivalent of their digital cable channels: i.e. CNN at 350 will be paired with CNN HD at 1350, and so on. But for those who are still used to tuning in the analog version of CNN on cable channel 24 (which still exists, even on digital or HD boxes), there is no such easy math.
TWC says the process will take place through the end of March.
WHILE WE'RE AT IT: We have word from an OMW reader who is a subscriber to TWC's former Adelphia system not in northeast Ohio, but central Ohio.
This page shows that mid-Ohio is also going through the HD channel realignment, and that the ex-Adelphia systems are coming along for the ride.
Like the ex-Adelphia systems in the Cleveland area, those customers are also being fed the new "Navigator" program guide this month...
FORMAT CHANGE: Like its Beacon Broadcasting sister stations in the Mahoning and Shenango Valley areas, WRTK/1540 Niles is up for sale...which we reported last week.
While it waits for a buyer, WRTK has changed format.
The daytime station was heard over the weekend running a simulcast of Beacon sister sports WANR/1570, with a legal ID calling it "Fox Sports 1540" along with WANR's "Fox Sports 1570".
Until this change, WRTK had been running a Christian contemporary format. It was initially called "Freq 1540", but dropped the handle some time after sister Christian/eclectic/talk WEXC/107.1 Greenville PA changed from "Freq 107" to "Indie 107.1".
The rest of the Beacon Empire remains unchanged.
WEXC continues with its unusual mix of Christian and secular rock music along with syndicated conservative talk (Premiere's Glenn Beck and Jason Lewis). And WLOA/1470 Farrell PA and WGRP/940 Greenville PA continue with their satellite/computer fed classic country format...
CHUCK'S BACK: We're not entirely sure if SportsTime Ohio was created as part of a Full Employment Act for Cleveland TV Sportscasters, but it's provided Chuck Galeti with a landing place.
STO will debut "Chuck's Last Call", a call-in show that will air after Cleveland Indians telecasts, on April 7th.
From an STO release:
“I’ve been in radio and television for 23 years and to finally have my own show that puts the fans first is great. I’m thrilled to be on SportsTime Ohio and the fact that they are giving me this opportunity is fantastic,” said Chuck Gateti.
Galeti, of course, was most recently a sports anchor at Raycom Media's CBS/MyNetwork TV combo WOIO/19-WUAB/43's "19 Action News", and in addition to past work for Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3, has also done radio sports talk at Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100. He started his TV career at Youngstown's WFMJ/21, the Vindicator-owned NBC affiliate.
About that "Full Employment Act" line - STO has been a landing place for many displaced over-air Cleveland TV sportscasters.
Former Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 sports anchor/reporter Sue Ann Robak is among many who have done work for STO (in addition to filling Galeti's vacancy at WOIO on a freelance basis, until the hiring of WTAM's Mark Schwab).
And former WKYC'er Mike Cairns is still in the building at 13th and Lakeside doing work for STO. He'll fill-in today on the network's "All Bets Are Off" show normally hosted by Bruce Drennan, who is jetting back with producer Gene Winters from Cleveland Indians spring training in Goodyear AZ.
(Also in outer-suburban Phoenix watching the Tribe this week: Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron morning host Ray Horner and VP/information media/OMW reader Ed Esposito, and Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting talk WEOL/930 Elyria staffer Tim Alcorn.)
SPEAKING OF THE VINDICATOR: We got some questions from Youngstown-area readers about the commercial teases airing on WFMJ/21 during the Winter Olympics - touting a "new newspaper" for the Mahoning Valley.
Was the Vindicator about to get some (more) competition? (Remember, the Youngstown newspaper also competes in much of the Valley with the Warren Tribune-Chronicle.)
It didn't take long for some of our smarter readers to piece the story together.
For one, WFMJ is owned by the Vindicator. Would the station even accept an ad from a would-be competitor to the print side of its operation?
For another, spots during the Winter Olympics would be prohibitively expensive for a startup operation.
And for a third, the Mahoning Valley economy continues to reel, even compared to the national economic downturn. And for a fourth point, the newspaper business is cutting back, back, back, even in areas with a better economy than Youngstown. Who starts a new newspaper in 2010?
The Winter Olympics spot should have been a clue, as it costs the Vindicator nothing to "advertise" on its co-owned TV station.
Sure enough, the "new newspaper" is actually a revamped Vindicator, made possible by the purchase of a new, er, used $6.8 million press from the Los Angeles Times.
The Vindicator took the opportunity for a redesign, which the paper freely admits will result in cost savings from a smaller form factor needing less costly newsprint.
You can read all about it here on the "Visual Editors" blog...or follow this link to the Vindicator's own stories on the changes...
TOLEDO CHANGES: It looks like religious operator CSN Radio (Calvary Satellite Network) is about to take over WTOD/1560 Toledo from Cumulus.
So says a page on CSN's website, with a message dated March 4th:
88.9 FM Pemberville, OH (W205BP) and 100.7 FM Toledo, OH (W264AK) will soon be replaced with the full-power signal of WTOD Toledo, OH on 1560 AM.
Our Northwest Ohio reader who tipped us to this confirms that the 100.7 translator is indeed off the air.
But what we don't know - what will Cumulus, which got W264AK in the trade with CSN, do with the translator?
There's been all sorts of speculation in the market, mostly speculating around Cumulus using an existing station's HD2 feed to power anything from a revamped WTOD talk format to alt-rock, once heard on now-former WRWK/106.5 Delta - now a simulcast of sports WLQR/1470 as WLQR-FM.
We're here to tell you that we don't have any handle on 100.7's future, other than the fact that it has a construction permit to move to 100.9 from a more central location in Toledo...the facility is apparently far enough from the North Central Ohio town of Clyde, which boasts full-power BAS Broadcasting country WMJK/100.9 "Coast Country"...
AND FINALLY: Radio-Info.com's always excellent columnist Tom Taylor ("Taylor on Radio-Info") picked up on our story last week about the end of the "translator threat" to Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 Kent "The Talk of Akron", by a moved-in translator permit on 100.3 in the far western Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville that has since been dismissed.
Tom added some details in his newsletter this morning...going through sale documents that we origially did not.
According to those documents, religious translator storehouse Edgewater Broadcasting agreed to sell W262BN to Radio One (subsidiary Blue Chip Broadcasting) for $100,000. Radio One put down a $5,000 deposit, which Taylor presumes they'll want back...and we make the same presumption, based on the language in the assignment agreement.
One clarification here: In going through FCC records, it appears that W262BN retains a valid license - under Edgewater's ownership - for a Lorain-based facility. The applications dismissed as a result of WNIR's actions were for a move to a Cleveland license city, with new facilities on a Verizon Wireless cell tower in North Ridgeville. (As we pointed out before, FM translators to not need to show coverage standards for license cities.)
Whether anything happens to that original license, which as far as we know has not regularly been on the air, remains to be seen...