Heading Into A Grab Bag

As we head into June, which has the potential to be a very busy month for us (both good and bad), let’s let out some more items.

We may be a bit scarce for a while, again, due to Life Intervening(tm), but we’ll be around from time to time…

WHAT COMES UP, EVENTUALLY COMES DOWN: We spent a lot of time with the digital TV transition back in 2009, both here and on our other blog, Ohio Digital TV.

One major change on the TV landscape in Northeast Ohio was the occupant of RF channel 17.

Channel 17 had long been occupied, analog style, by the Canton-licensed facility that ended up becoming religious outlet WDLI, owned and operated by religious broadcasting giant Trinity Broadcasting Network out of Santa Ana CA…and operating out of a large studio building along U.S. Route 62 in the eastern Canton suburb of Louisville.

But WDLI built its digital facility closer to the center of the market, in the Akron FM/TV antenna farm near Rolling Acres Mall. First, a pre-transition facility on RF channel 39, then taking over RF channel 49 when Western Reserve PBS’ WEAO/49 (just down the road) stayed on pre-transition 50 and took analog 49 dark.

Since the 2009 digital transition, that old WDLI analog tower has been sitting out there on U.S. 62…until recently.

OMW readers were there when the former WDLI tower met the ground in a controlled drop last week.

Friend of OMW Geoff Mears, afternoon news anchor at D.A. Peterson soft AC WDPN/1310 Alliance, sent along this picture, and tells us the former WDLI/WJAN studios next to the felled tower in Louisville are tabbed for a major remodel as an expanded audio/TV production house.

Those who grew up within range of the analog 17 signal remember it first as local independent station WJAN-TV aimed at Canton, before its time as a religious outlet under PTL’s Jim Bakker, David Livingstone (where the current calls come from), and the current ownership of TBN.

Digital TV being what it is, the station still appears on digital tuners as channel 17. The original RF channel 17 gave Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 in Cleveland an opening for a much more robust digital signal…and of course, digital tuners still show WKYC as channel 3, WEAO as channel 49, etc., but you know the drill if you read OMW at all…

STUDIO 0: We’ve been getting tips that it looks like Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8’s “Fox 8 News” has abandoned its “Studio 8” Akron bureau space in the food court of Fairlawn’s Summit Mall.

We don’t know why yet, but OMW hears that “Studio 8” is indeed being abandoned by the folks on Dick Goddard Way.

“Fox 8 News” will obviously continue to cover Akron/Canton news, but we don’t know yet if they’re looking for new space in the Akron area, or if they’ll do the I-77 Shuffle between Cleveland and Akron/Canton.

Of the four local news operations in the Cleveland TV market, only Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19-MyNet affiliate WUAB/43’s “19 Action News” doesn’t have Akron area space. WKYC/3 is based out of the United Building on the corner of Main and Market in Akron (former home of “Akron/Canton News”, now shared with Western Reserve PBS and Kent State University’s WKSU/89.7), and WEWS/5 has its Akron bureau in the Akron Beacon Journal building…

99X THOUGHTS: Radio listeners are discovering that if you’re far from Parma, especially to the east or west, picking up Clear Channel alt-rock “99X” on 250 watt translator W256BT/99.1 Cleveland is quite a challenge.

We surely expected complaints from folks in Westlake, Mentor and Fairlawn, where the signal disappeared for us in the heart of the Montrose commercial area. And one listener has trouble picking up “99X” in Strongsville.

To the west, especially, perhaps it’s tropospheric propagation (“trop”) carrying on-channel BAS Broadcasting AC WFRO/99.1 Fremont “Eagle 99” a bit further afield to the east.

But it looks like those 250 watts are also having some trouble getting into downtown Cleveland, perhaps due to those big buildings.

It reminds us of the signal problems Clear Channel sister hot AC WKDD had in the 2001 frequency swap, when it moved from its long-time home at 96.5/Akron to the former WTOF-FM/98.1 Canton stick in eastern Stark County.

At the time, WKDD promoted 98.1 as “the most powerful signal in Ohio!” or something like that.

But the former WTOF-FM’s reach was primarily due to its antenna height, not its base power, and anyone who knows FM signals will tell you that the signal for such a station is “a mile wide, but a foot deep”.

That prompted Clear Channel to quickly move 98.1 to Hartville – closer to Akron. It eventually landed at the former tower site of its original frequency, 96.5, in the former Northampton Township, after a city of license change to the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls.

For the record, long-time personal and professional friend Scott Fybush of NorthEast Radio Watch (go, subscribe, it’s worth every penny!) caught a recent Cleveland Indians game at Progressive Field, and reports that he had mixed “99X” reception results in section 555 with two radios – one, a CCrane “Witness”, showed no sign of picking up 99.1, and the other, an Insignia HD Radio portable, picked it up with a listenable signal. (Of course, that second receiver can also get the “99X” feed on WMMS/100.7’s HD2 sidechannel.)

It should be noted that section 555 is actually blocked from Parma by…the structure of Progressive Field.

It is no surprise that the signal “is what it is”, as a station rep has said on Facebook, and that the station heavily promotes 99X’s feed on iHeartRadio.

But smartphone-wise, at least in the Android version of iHeartRadio, “99X” is buried at the bottom of the listings, well under all of its on-air siblings, and all of the other “Featured” iHeartRadio feeds, including “The Alternative Project”…with an identical playlist to the local alt-rock outlet.

We assume it’s the same on the iOS/iPhone/etc. version of iHeartRadio, as we believe the platforms have feature parity now…

RATINGS TALK: Long-time OMW readers know that we basically don’t report either radio or TV ratings.

The reasons are many: among them, there are only certain numbers we can even report, and they may or may not reflect reality – like the Arbitron “beauty pageant” radio numbers of all listeners 6-plus (12-plus in diary markets).

Thanks to a change at the leading radio ratings service, even that “beauty pageant” is now missing some contestants.

Beginning with the most recent ratings released to the media and the public, Arbitron is only listing stations that subscribe to its service. The stations that aren’t subscribers? They’ve vanished from the reports like they were not even on the air.

Perhaps the best example of the vagaries of the new system comes with the recent Akron ratings. We’ll quote the excellent “Taylor on Radio-Info” E-mail newsletter put out by Radio-Info.com columnist Tom Taylor:

Of the two major local owners, Rubber City Radio is subscribing to the trends, and Media-Com’s not. Rubber City Radio’s country WQMX goes 8.3-7.7. Its rock WONE-FM dips 4.3-3.8. But we’re not able to see Media-Com’s talk WNIR, a 5.6 share in the Winter book. Clear Channel’s hot AC WKDD is a consistent 3.8-3.6. But we’re not seeing any of the normally high-scoring Clear Channel stations from Cleveland like classic hits WMJI (a 6.5 last Fall).

It could be worse…Taylor reports that the entire Knoxville market has no public ratings.

This makes figuring out ratings winners and losers, at least in the “beauty contest”, difficult. And yes, we’ve been given private numbers by various people in the industry, but won’t publish those.

We can’t afford the legal bill from Dewey, Cheatum and Howe, after all. Frankly, we’re not even sure we’re allowed to reprint the numbers we did here. And generally, sources will give us a slice of the numbers that make their own station or cluster look good.

We CAN determine something that is also evident – Arbiton’s “subscriber only” policy means that only stations that subscribe to THAT MARKET’S REPORT are listed.

For example, the stations based at Oak Tree, in Clear Channel’s big Cleveland cluster, have no need to separately subscribe to Arbitron’s Akron market report…since the numbers are already available within the company at Freedom Avenue’s Akron/Canton operation.

Ditto, if Freedom Avenue wants to see how their stations are doing in Cleveland.

But…the clusters generally only sell based on local numbers, anyway. Ask talk WTAM/1100 afternoon mouth Mike Trivisonno about “not getting credit” for his Akron market numbers…he’ll go on about it for an hour.

We also don’t know if some stations are subscribing only to certain Arbitron reports, or if they’ll show up in the reports where they subscribe.

We’re also not surprised to see that the thrifty Media-Com doesn’t subscribe in the Akron market.

TV-wise, at least one station has sent us an official release on improved ratings, but we’re not sure we’ll print it unless we get similar releases from the other three major local stations with news operations…

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One Response to Heading Into A Grab Bag

  1. Regarding the non-publication of the ARB ratings for non-subscribing stations, Arbitron is also not publishing the ratings of public stations, even if they subscribe through the CPB. Might be that some of the public stations are getting better ratings than some some of the major commercial stations, i.e. KQED in Frisco is the number one station, and the commerical stations may have been protesting the non-com inclusions to ARB. . . .

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