TWC-u-Soon

We’re just three days away from the expected takeover of the local Adelphia and Comcast systems by Time Warner Cable, and the company’s unleashing a promotional blitz.

Customers are getting letters in the mail about the change, and the company’s launched a new website called “TWCusoon” to help explain the changes to those leaving the Adelphia and Comcast universe in Northeast Ohio (and in other areas where TWC is taking over the local Adelphia and/or Comcast systems). Putting in a local ZIP code takes you to the site aimed at new TWC customers in the Cleveland market.

There’s actually not a lot of information there…even under the “FAQs” section. That area hints of possible channel changes, which OMW is told are actually listed in a newspaper ad today we haven’t been able to see.

OMW reported earlier that it appears the NFL Network and some other Adelphia (and Comcast) channels could go away as soon as Tuesday, and that customers of the merged-in systems could also gain some channels that are not currently available. We’re still not sure of the timeline, or if it’ll happen as soon as next week.

We also don’t know if Adelphia and Comcast customers will see immediate changes in local programming, either with existing programming (i.e. Adelphia’s “More Sports and Les Levine”) or with TWC’s incoming programming (i.e. WKYC/3′s “Akron/Canton News”).

Other stuff doesn’t appear to change for now, including involving the future conversion of high-speed Internet subscribers to the TWC “Roadrunner” system, conversion of E-Mail addresses, and any billing changes…

Big News Soon Out of Canton

OMW is hearing that big radio news is about to break out of Canton.

Could there be changes afoot at one local radio operation there as soon as Monday, or maybe even before then?

At Your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we’re plugged in and will let you know as soon as we get more details. But you’ll want to be checking in frequently…

Ms. Serino’s Role at Action News

OMW has a little more information on what incoming “19 Action News” weekend anchor Danielle Serino, who’s inbound from Chicago, will do once she’s here.

In addition to sharing the anchor desk with new arrival Paul Joncich (late of KOVR/13 CBS Sacramento), Serino will do “investigative consumer reporting” for the WOIO/WUAB newscasts. That word comes to us from Chicago media beat writer guru Robert Feder’s Friday column in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Feder reports that Serino declined to sign a contract renewal with the Chicago FOX O&O, WFLD/32, last fall. She did similar work there, as we reported earlier this week.

There’s no word on if this means Serino will join “Action News” reporter Scott Taylor on the Dirty Dish Patrol…or if her arrival means it’s time for Taylor to – OK, say it with us, everyone! -”CLEAAAANN UPPPPP!!”. (We couldn’t resist.)

She’ll join the “19 Action News” team on August 16th…

Roger’s Friday Column

Our apologies for much of our absence today.

No, we don’t fly around town with a big red “OMW” on our chest, protecting the Northeast Ohio region against radio and TV crime. Sometimes, our life is as mundane as waiting for a tow truck at a local supermarket. But at any rate, we’re back and picking up today’s pieces, starting with Roger Brown…

Though the Cleveland Plain Dealer sports/media columnist has yet to report that FSN Ohio is signing up as the “Official Cable Home of the Browns” (seen here first, and exclusively, on Thursday), he’s hot on the trail of something we had not yet heard.

Roger reports that FSN Ohio is talking with the Cleveland Cavaliers about local TV exclusivity starting in the 2008-2009 season, in a proposed multi-year deal. Through the end of the 2007-2008 season, the NBA team’s rights are being shared between FSN and Raycom Media’s WUAB/43 “My 43″ (UPN -> My Network TV).

It’s the direction the Cleveland Indians went away from…dumping FSN Ohio’s exclusive contract this year in favor of starting the team’s own cable outlet SportsTime Ohio, which also airs games on NBC affiliate WKYC/3. STO has presumably also been interested in talking with the Cavaliers, as the new network is fighting with FSN Ohio for all the programming it can get.

Mr. Brown also quotes “local TV insiders” as predicting the sun is going to rise. Er, sorry, that the Cleveland Browns will buy their way out of the legal dispute with current-at-the-moment TV partner WOIO/19, the CBS sister station of WUAB.

We’ve gone on record as saying that 19′s basically stalling to keep the four 2006 pre-season games on the air, with that suit filed aimed at stopping the Browns from pulling the plug. The court process alone is likely to do that, as all four games air in August.

After that, pretty much anyone who looks at this thing with a brain cell believes that Randy Lerner and company will cut a check to buy the team’s way out of the contract beyond this year’s pre-season. WOIO would get its money, it would still be airing the regular season Browns games via its CBS affiliation anyway, and the team gets a clean break for 2007.

And we’re not even a “TV insider”, unless Roger’s reading our writings…

Roger also notes that the NFL Network is apparently going away on the lineups of local Adelphia and Comcast subscribers, when the two systems get folded into the Time Warner Northeast Ohio Empire next week. (Mr. Brown does not mention that the Browns/Steelers contest on NFL Network later this year WILL air locally on an over-air station yet to be named.)

OMW also hears that a couple of other networks go away at least for us soon-to-be-ex-Adelphians – like ESPNU, and ESPN2′s HD feed. But Adelphia folks will also gain some, including the HDTV/digital feed of WUAB/43, and TNT HD.

NFL Network is mounting an advertising blitz aimed at Time Warner and other systems which have not yet picked up the network…

WUAB Unveils "My 43" Branding

We don’t know how long they’ve been using it, but Raycom Media UPN affiliate WUAB/43 has started using the “My 43″ on-air branding, pictured here at the start of tonight’s 10 PM edition of “19 Action News”.

It’s not the first presence of “My 43″ at the sister station to CBS affiliate WOIO/19. OMW reported earlier this month that WUAB’s website has been replaced by a temporary placeholder for the upcoming “My43.net”.

It shows you how much we do not watch WUAB…OMW readers tell us the new branding’s been in place for a while now.

But the future Cleveland market affiliate of My Network TV is not alone in abandoning its current network identity in the move to a new one, in the wake of the end of The WB and UPN, and the upcoming start of My Network TV and The CW.

WUPV/65 Richmond VA, that market’s UPN affiliate, is now fully branding as “CW Richmond”…it picks up the CW network affiliation in that market. The WB programming in Richmond had been airing on NBC affiliate WWBT/12 in late nights.

One reason for these changes is apparent to those in the TV business – the July ratings book is now over.

As of this writing, Cleveland’s incoming CW affiliate, current WB outlet WBNX/55, is still sporting the “Cleveland’s WB” logo…

Browns Getting Cable Rights Partner – And Kosar As Analyst

The city’s most popular professional sports team can’t help but make news in media circles. This time, though, the battle’s on cable.

OMW hears that the NFL Cleveland Browns have already moved to shore up one part of their local TV rights package. Contingent upon the resolution of the legal dispute between the Browns and Raycom Media’s WOIO/19, FOX Sports Net Ohio is signing up with the team as the “Official Cable Home of the Browns”.

Since FSN Ohio can’t air any actual games – the NFL requires them to be available over-the-air locally – that means the cable outlet will handle a number of weekly team-related programs, headed up by staffers Michael Reghi and Jeff Phelps. Phelps has participated this week on FSN Ohio/WKNR’s “Cleveland Rants”, as the show has focused on Browns training camp.

Across the cable dial, SportsTime Ohio isn’t going away as far as Browns coverage goes, despite losing the “official” label to FSN Ohio. OMW hears that WKYC’s Jim Donovan, joined with Tony Grossi, Doug Dieken and former coach Sam Rutigliano, will mount a Browns preview show on STO this year. STO has had daily coverage of events at training camp.

The cable rights battle is not tied to the over-air rights to Browns pre-season games and material, but the FSN Ohio deal will go into effect after the Browns and WOIO wrap up their differences in the latter dispute.

And there’s even more big Browns TV news.

The actual pre-season games, whether they air on Channel 19 or somewhere else, will officially have a new analyst’s voice.

Medina Gazette/Elyria Chronicle-Telegram sportswriter Brian Dulik reports that as rumored, popular ex-Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar will indeed be in the pre-season TV booth this year as a regular color commentator. (Thank you to an alert OMW reader out west for pointing us to this item!)

Kosar declined to speculate on either the team’s home station controversy, or who will be joining him in that booth this year. Last year, the broadcast team settled on veteran play-by-play voice Sam Rosen to join former Browns players Bob Golic (WNIR/100.1) and Brian Brennan. Kosar appeared during one 2005 broadcast as a guest commentator…

BREAKING NEWS: It’s Mudd In Your WNCX Eye

OMW hears from inside the CBS Radio compound that classic rock WNCX/98.5 Cleveland will be muddying up its mornings, as rumored on various message boards for some time.

In specific, we hear that the incoming morning drive host will be “Mudd”…the one-time WWWM/”M105″ host also known as “J. Mudcliff”. (We’re not sure what form the name of his liquified dirt will take at WNCX.)

For now, we have no details on who will be paired with him in morning drive on WNCX. Mudd was among the parade of auditioners that 98.5 has aired in the slot once occupied by Howard Stern, which was vacated when CBS Radio cancelled Stern replacement David Lee Roth earlier this year.

Mudd’s audition was with Kathy Vogel, the former morning co-host at Canton top 40 outlet WZKL/92.5 “Q92″ – who’s also picked up part-time work at WNCX’s CBS Radio Cleveland sister hot AC outlet WQAL/104.1 “Q104″. Q also hired Vogel’s Canton co-host, Tim Richards, as their night personality.

But OMW hears Vogel may or may not be a part of the new morning show on WNCX…

KISS Nights

Clear Channel top 40 WAKS/96.5 programmer Bo Matthews is out looking for a replacement for “J-NIICE”, who recently booked from “KISS Cleveland” to join former WAKS program director Dan Mason at Miami’s Y100.

Matthews tells the folks at AllAccess his requirements for the open slot: “If all you can do is scream and count down the Top 8 At 8, save the postage and don’t waste the bandwidth. But, if you are a serious entertainer, this is your shot.”

He’s asking applicants to drop resume, materials and references to jobs in E-Mail ONLY to “jobs@kisscleveland.com“. We’ve helpfully provided you with a direct link.

While we’re on the KISS Night Slammer Search, OMW hears that “Rat Boy” and “Stay Puff” were heard on the WAKS airwaves this week. They reportedly hail from WIOQ “Q102″ in Philadelphia, the place where KISS Cleveland APD/MD/afternoon driver Kasper briefly worked…and no, we have no idea where their names came from, aside from a Marshmellow Man guess on the latter…

This Blog Post Brought To You By…No One

Not to be outdone by its talk radio sister station at Oak Tree, OMW hears that Clear Channel Cleveland’s WMJI/105.7 is also selling sponsorship to its broadcast facility.

The oldies station is now said to be broadcasting from “Your Northern Ohio Chrysler and Jeep Dealers studio”, which also nets the dealer group a line on the WMJI website.

OMW reported yesterday that sister talk WTAM/1100 is now airing a sponsor billboard for its newsroom, the bill footed by FirstEnergy’s The Illuminating Company and Ohio Edison.

(UPDATE 7/27/06 5:38 PM: We have also just heard a non-news “studios” liner – with the same sponsorship – on WTAM…)

It’s not new, as we’ve also reported. In addition to the bank sponsorship of Clear Channel newsrooms in Milwaukee and Madison WI, the company’s talk WLW/700 “The Big One” in Cincinnati broadcasts from “The John Morrell sponsored 700 WLW studios”. John Morrell and Company is a meat products firm based in Cincinnati.

And Premiere/Clear Channel-operated FOX Sports Radio’s studio in Los Angeles has been sponsored for a long time, by auto-parts chain AutoZone…

Random Thoughts

Nothing particularly significant:

THAT SLIMMED DOWN BROWNS COVERAGE: We’ve had several notes about our report on changes in coverage of the Cleveland Browns’ training camp, which we mentioned were inspired by current team local rightsholder WOIO/19 running amok during last year’s Browns camp.

The restrictions we mentioned – which include the prohibition on sets and props, and pre-approval of live shots – were clearly visible on “19 Action News” at 5 PM on Wednesday, the training camp’s opening day. So…were the tense relations between the local CBS affiliate and the region’s NFL team.

Instead of a live show broadcast and an opening from the camp, “Action News” buried the Browns training camp below a rather mundane “usual stuff” lineup of local news.

When they finally got to reporter/weekend sports anchor David Pingalore’s live shot, it was out in the middle of a practice field with no background…and had minor audio difficulty to boot. Pingalore’s taped piece featured what looked to mostly consist of “gang interviews” with Browns players, who were surrounded by a sea of cameras, talking into a host of microphones, and being interviewed by what would appear to be every other sports reporter in the city.

This may be a sample of what life will be like for WOIO at Berea now, even if they manage to hang onto the Browns local TV rights contract. The team is not exactly going to bend over backwards to give them access to players, coaches and the like…

GREATER SWAP: OMW hears people are still talking about the Great Frequency Swap of 2001 in Northeast Ohio, which sent a boatload of stations to different owners and formats.

We hear the swap could have been even “greater”, with a proposal five years ago for Clear Channel to buy Dix Communications country WQKT/104.5 Wooster and move it to the Akron market… likely coming into the market via a new license community of Barberton or similar.

Clear Channel then would have bought then-smooth jazz WBZW/107.7 Loudonville, already serving Wooster at that time, and given it to Dix to replace WQKT.

Dix suits reportedly declined to go through with the 2001 deal. One reason may have been negative feedback over the 107.7 signal – which covers Wooster and even much of Holmes County fine, but gets a little weaker the farther you go up Ohio 585.

And since Dix is based in Wooster, they may have worried about being too close to local fallout from the move in places like Smithville and Doylestown. Dix also owns the Wooster Daily Record, and a number of suburban papers around Akron.

Still, at the time there was, at the time, the prospect that WKDD would have flipped from 96.5 to…104.5.

And ironically, Clear Channel did eventually buy 107.7 in Loudonville. But instead a Wooster replacement for WQKT, 107.7 turned into the northern half of the “Kiss FM” simulcast out of the company’s Ashland/Mansfield Mid-Ohio cluster.

Today, the Loudonville-based signal is WXXF, a third of the “Fox Rock Network” trimulcast.

And of course, WQKT continues at 104.5 serving up country music, local news and sports out of Wooster…under the moniker “SportsCountry”. It’s not moving – today. But back in 2001, it could have…

METRO CUTS?: AllAccess tips this afternoon that “substantial layoffs” are in the works for the Westwood One and Metro Networks/Shadow Broadcast Services organizations nationwide. This comes in the wake of a reported 115 jobs being cut at WW1/Metro/Shadow sister operations at CBS Radio.

If the job cuts take the same form as the CBS layoffs, expect middle managers and sales managers to take the brunt.

UPDATE 7/27/06 5:50 PM: AllAccess reports 72 employees were laid off nationwide among the group, and reprints a memo from Westwood One president/CEO Peter Kosan. Sifting through the corporate speak, it appears that the Metro Networks cuts are aimed at trimming operating costs in markets below the top 60.

Cleveland is currently the 25th largest market, Cincinnati is 28th largest, and Columbus the 38th largest market in the country…

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