Our Big Catchup Post

Yes, we’ve been gone a while. (“Life Intervenes”, you know.)

As things settle down a little, we can come up for air and shovel out a lot of items. We’ll revisit some items both here and on our social media accounts, and put in some new items as well.

A warning…you’ll definitely need to bring a lunch for this one…

NFL NETWORK, TWC MAKE FRIENDS: Northeast Ohio’s Time Warner Cable subscribers didn’t have to wait until Thursday to get the long-awaited NFL Network.

TWC’s Travis Reynolds confirms to OMW that the NFL-owned cable channel is indeed now available systemwide, a process that happened at about 11 AM Saturday.

Who won the battle which lasted some 8 years?

The NFL got an important point they asked for…Time Warner is making the network available on its Digital Basic tier, not in the extra-cost ($5.99/mo.) Sports Pass tier. (The associated NFL RedZone, which features live look-ins during key Sunday NFL game plays, will be in that extra-cost tier.)

And no, putting the network in analog Extended Basic wasn’t likely…though that’s where it was years ago on the old Adelphia system locally until Time Warner bought Adelphia, and yanked the NFL Network.

As noted in our previous item, the deal does not affect over-air carriage of Thursday night’s epic NFL battle (cough, cough!) between the hometown alleged NFL team, the Cleveland Browns, and the hated former Browns, the Baltimore Ravens.

Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 bought the local over-air rights this time around, and will air Browns/Ravens as scheduled (and will air the NFL Network feed directly, if the promos with that creepy bearded NFL Network character are any indication).

The local over-air carriage is not tied to the cable/satellite network’s availability, but is an NFL rule to provide hometown, over-air coverage in the two markets involved in the game.

Of course, if the game is not sold out, it does not air in the home market…either on the over-air carrier or on the cable network involved (NFL Network, ESPN, etc.).

It’s one reason the rightsholder for one cable game, Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8, banded together with the team and a beer company to buy out a few thousand tickets to avoid a blackout.

The news is certainly welcome to Browns fans who are Time Warner subscribers outside the immediate Cleveland/Akron TV market. In markets like Youngstown and Columbus, the cable/satellite games do not air on a local over-air station…

92.3 THE INDIANS FLAGSHIP?: It hasn’t happened yet, but last week, there was quite a bit of speculation that CBS Radio was nearing a deal to move Cleveland Indians broadcasts to its sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan”.

Crain’s Cleveland Business got it started last Monday, noting that several sources were saying that CBS Radio was the “front runner” to take the local rights package from Clear Channel, which has aired the team on talk WTAM/1100 for years. (The article is behind Crain’s subscriber wall.)

The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried an item also confirming the negotiations, but both newspapers were clear that the deal (for either company) had not yet been signed.

Both articles say Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN Cleveland” dropped out of the talks early on.

But the Crain’s article quotes one source as saying they were “blown away” by CBS Radio’s offer to move the team’s games to just over one-year old “92.3 The Fan”…though there’s no word on any dollar value.

As we’ve long said, we expected CBS to “back up the Brinks truck” to bring major league play-by-play to “The Fan”, and that appears to be happening.

The company has certainly done so in other markets, and you only have to head about 100 miles to the southeast to find an example.

This season, 92.3’s sister station in Pittsburgh, KDKA-FM/93.7 “The Fan”, grabbed the Pittsburgh Pirates from…yes, Clear Channel talk WPGB/104.7.

One wild card in this is the relatively anemic signal of WKRK.

Though it’s enough to cover much of the immediate Cleveland area, there are holes in the 92.3 signal, to the west and to the south in particular.

The east-side based WKRK signal has to account for powerful 92.3 signals in Detroit and Columbus, and to the southeast, those outside the immediate Cleveland area have to pick it out from adjacent-channel interference from D.A. Peterson top 40 WDJQ/92.5 Alliance “Q92” in the Canton market.

There are some wondering if this will be the catalyst for CBS to move “The Fan” to the more powerful 98.5 signal, presumably scooting classic rock WNCX to 92.3. We have yet to hear any rumor, even, that would suggest such a move is happening.

If the Indians move to WKRK, and it doesn’t move from 92.3, of course, the team has an extensive radio network surrounding Cleveland, with long-time carriers such as WEOL/930 Elyria, WQKT/104.5 Wooster, WAKR/1590 Akron, WHBC/1480 Canton, WKBN/570 Youngstown and WFUN/970 Ashtabula.

But those stations would not be a perfect fit with 92.3, if we’re talking about Indians coverage in a post-WTAM world.

For one, nearly all of them are highly directional AM signals that miss some areas, especially at night. WQKT is the exception, being on FM, and it’s actually a rather good option into much of the area southwest of Cleveland.

But…as an OMW reader pointed out to us, these stations often preempt Indians broadcasts for such things as high school sports coverage. That particularly applies to WQKT, which either preempts the Tribe or moves the Indians coverage to sister oldies WKVX/960. WKVX’s 32 watt night signal goes away roughly at the Wooster city limits.

If WKRK doesn’t move to 98.5, and gets the games, we expect the team will helpfully direct those outside the 92.3 and affiliates signal reach to the league’s extra-cost “GameDay Audio” feeds, either from MLB.com, or from the “MLB At Bat” mobile app.

That’s what happened in St. Louis, where CBS Radio talk blowtorch KMOX/1120 lost the rights to KTRS/550, a heavily nighttime directional station that is still part-owned by the St. Louis Cardinals. (KMOX eventually nabbed the rights again.)

Even 98.5 wouldn’t be a perfect replacement for Cleveland’s own blowtorch, WTAM.

It’d cover the immediate Cleveland market very well, but can’t be heard in “38 states and half of Canada” at night at all, being a local FM station and not a 50,000 watt AM station.

“92.3 The Fan” is certainly likely to go after the other play-by-play contracts in the market. We believe Clear Channel’s deal with the Cleveland Browns (flagship WMMS/100.7 and AM flagship WTAM/1100) expires at the end of this NFL season…

87.7’S SOUND: Yes, as we noted here, Murray Hill Broadcasting AAA/alt-rock WLFM-LP 6/87.7 “Cleveland’s Sound” did finally debut on Sunday, September 9th.

Listeners tell us the station is running liners actually mentioning the two defunct stations it hopes to mine for lost listeners – CBS Radio former alt-rocker WKRK/92.3 “Radio 92.3” (now sports “The Fan”, see above), and former Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting AAA outlet WNWV/107.3 “V107.3” (now Rubber City Radio’s smooth AC “107.3 The Wave”).

Crain’s Cleveland Business has been following this new station since before day one, providing first details of what the station had planned.

And the business newspaper comes through again, with an article on the launch by writer Michelle Park. (Like the article about the Cleveland Indians radio rights, this one is behind a subscriber wall.)

WLFM’s Tom Wilson tells Crain’s that the station had to wait for a consulting engineer to be able to come from Chicago, and that WLFM invested “a few thousand dollars” to install a direct studio-transmitter link to overcome audio problems pointed out on the Internet (presumably including posts right here on your Mighty Blog of Fun[tm]).

The new station is mostly being praised online by those looking for such rock music, but we saw how far a passionate music core got those two now-defunct stations. (Though to be fair, there were other factors…CBS’ desire to start a sports station in Cleveland, and the ownership change at WNWV.)

To Crain’s, Wilson defended the choice of radio novice Archie Berwick for radio’s most important time slot, morning drive…telling the paper that “sometimes, the raw talent that’s never been on air, that doesn’t have the strict radio presentation, are the best.”

As previously noted here, Berwick, known as “Just Archie” at 87.7, has no previous on-air experience at all.

His sole contact with the industry before the WLFM gig was as a promotions assistant at the local CBS Radio cluster. Of course, former CBS Radio market manager Chris Maduri is involved with the new station.

Archie tells Crain’s that his listeners can “expect the unexpected”.

We haven’t tuned into “The Archie Morning Show” yet, and will give Mr. Berwick the same courtesy we gave once-syndicated CBS Radio morning man and “Van Halen” frontman David Lee Roth…we won’t review his show in its early days.

We actually never fully reviewed Mr. Roth, even though his show may have been the worst thing to ever hit major market FM radio airwaves.

A particularly bright spot and good move for “87.7 Cleveland’s Sound” was the hiring of someone with alternative rock radio chops…popular former 92.3 personality Rachel Steele is also the station’s music director along with her afternoon drive on-air duties.

And Marty Bender, known as Marty Sobol back in his Cleveland radio days, is the program director for “Cleveland’s Sound”. Bender ended up in Indianapolis before returning to Northeast Ohio, and was most recently executive producer for Premiere’s Indianapolis-based morning duo “Bob and Tom”. He was once program director for the old rock challenger to WMMS, WWWM/105.7 “M105” (today’s Clear Channel classic hits WMJI “Majic 105.7”). And of course, “Bob and Tom” had a short run at WMMS.

So, some good pieces are in place, and some moves have people scratching their heads at “Cleveland’s Sound”.

One thing is still clear: despite some newspaper articles and online attention (not just us and the message boards, but in social media), “Cleveland’s Sound” will have to promote the dickens out of itself.

After all, as we’ve told you many times, 87.7 is not a radio frequency. It’s the audio carrier of analog LPTV channel 6, and despite the fact that Murray Hill reportedly signed a five-year lease on its space at the Cleveland Agora, the FCC still plans to shut down analog LPTV in September of 2015…making “87.7 FM” go away.

(We presume that the Murray Hill folks would say that the station would seek a new home, but there are probably not a lot of folks betting that the radio entity known as “Cleveland’s Sound” will make it to 2015 in any form…)

DAN AND JACQUE TO LOUISIANA: Last Friday was Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8 News” anchor Dan Jovic’s last day in the building at South Marginal Road, or Dick Goddard Way if you prefer.

Jovic and his wife, former “Fox 8 News” staffer Jacque Smith, are heading to Shreveport LA. Dan will be morning anchor at the market’s NBC affiliate, KTAL/6, and Jacque will anchor in evenings, according to both the couple and the Arkansas TV News blog. (The Shreveport market contains a chunk of Arkansas, as part of the “ArkLaTex” region.)

Jovic was a web producer, member of the “Fox 8 News in the Morning” team as a technology reporter, and was also on another “team” at the station…the “Friday Night Touchdown” high-school football extravaganza that features what may be half the station’s staff.

(OK, so we’re exaggerating.)

Best wishes to both Dan and Jacque in Louisiana!

BARTHOLET RETIRES: A fixture in the local public broadcasting community is calling it a career.

Al Bartholet, general manager of Kent State University’s WKSU/89.7-and-its-many-simulcasters, is retiring in December.

Bartholet started at WKSU back in 1980, and was the station’s top leader for some 11 years. He was previously station manager, and spent nearly 20 years as director of development and operations coordinator…and was a student employee at the station before graduating in 1976.

How does one replace Al Bartholet?

Well, we presume the station/university will lead an extensive search. The station has retained Livingston Associates to find its next general manager, and you can see the job description here.

It notes a deadline of Saturday, September 29 for “full consideration”.

A big thanks to long-time Friend of OMW Ann VerWiebe, WKSU’s marketing guru, for the heads up.

And though we’re biased, WKSU’s incoming general manager would do very well to hang onto, and promote, Ann. She represents the station very well, and has always been professional and pleasant in her dealings with the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm)…

OK, now take a break, stretch your legs and come back. We’re not done yet…

WEST MARKET CHANGES: There’s a bit of on air shuffling at the AM side of the Akron Radio Center on West Market Street.

Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 has made a change in afternoon drive, with “Bobbi with an i” taking over for Brad Shupe. Shupe continues elsewhere in the building, including weekend on-air work on country WQMX/94.9 and rock WONE/97.5.

If “Bobbi”‘s voice sounds familiar to WAKR listeners, there’s a reason. She’s also the studio host of the station’s “At Your Service” block of Saturday morning talk shows, including various shows on money, gardening, home improvement and health. The block is repeated Sunday evenings on WAKR.

The news-heavy station has also found a replacement for morning news anchor Lindsay McCoy, who left to become a multimedia journalist at Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 Youngstown.

Now-former WHBC/1480 afternoon anchor Scott Jennings will be heard in that time slot later this year. Until he takes over morning drive news anchor duties on the “Ray Horner Morning Show”, Jennings will work elsewhere in the WAKR news anchor rotation.

He has also worked at Findlay’s WFIN/1330, where he reported on that city’s extensive flooding problems.

Until Jennings moves to mornings, Mark Williamson – the former Akron city spokesman and news director/anchor for the former WAKC/23’s “23 Newsday” – will continue to anchor morning news alongside veteran WAKR host Ray Horner and traffic reporter Amani Abraham.

Back at Market South in Canton, OMW hears that Michaela Madison heads north from WTUZ/99.9 Uhrichsville in the Dover/New Philadelphia area to replace Jennings at WHBC.

Also at WAKR – “The Hunting and Fishing Show” joins the Akron station’s Sunday evening lineup starting October 7th at 6 PM.

Quoting a release from the show:

The Hunting & Fishing show originally aired on Kent’s WNIR and WAOH LP channel 29 and has built a large following of faithful listeners. Show host Steve Jones of Portage County has long been an active member of the outdoor media community advocating for youth involvement in the sport. Co-Host Jack Kiser, who also hosts the statewide award winning fishing program “Buckeye Angler” which aired on the Ohio News Network and PBS affiliate 45/49 in Kent, and is the outdoor editor for Record Publishing family of newspapers, brings a mix of anecdotal and often humorous fishing tales to the mix. A television version of the live call-in format program can be seen on Armstrong cable systems that lie in the Medina, Ashland, Orrville, North Lima and Boardman areas.

Both the TV version and the radio version will be done live – the TV show at 4 PM Sundays at Armstrong’s Medina facility, and the radio show at 6 PM at the Akron Radio Center.

Google Maps tells us that it’s a 34 minute drive between the two studios, and we assume the TV version ends at 5 PM…

FOX LEAVES WHBC: NextMedia talk WHBC/1480 Canton morning co-host Matt Fox has left the station.

The Canton Repository has details:

Fox has taken a position outside radio, the specifics of which he is choosing not to divulge. “It’s a small company in Minerva owned by a friend of mine,” he said. “I’m going to be doing some marketing for them.”

Like countless other morning drive radio hosts before him, the Repository reports that the early alarm clock was a factor in Fox’s decision.

He’ll continue to co-host the public television home improvement show “Around the House with Matt and Shari,” which has apparently migrated from Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45-WEAO/49) to the national PBS “Create” channel, with numerous airings on Saturdays.

Locally, “Create” is seen on the 25.4 subchannel of Ideastream’s WVIZ/25 Cleveland, and is not carried among the Western Reserve PBS subchannels.

At least temporarily replacing Fox on the newly renamed “Canton’s Morning News” is someone who is no stranger to WHBC.

Repository sports columnist Todd Porter, a regular WHBC fill-in, is sitting alongside WHBC program/news director Pam Cook…

CAN YOU HEAR STAR?: Media One Group hot AC WREO-FM/97.1 “Star 97.1” Ashtabula is proud of the reach of its 50,000 watt transmitter.

Even on the “Star 97.1” website, it proclaims, “Mentor, Cleveland, Erie and you!”

Lately, that’d be more accurately put as “Jefferson, North Kingsville, Geneva, and you!”

We’ll let the station itself tell the story:

We are having some work done on our star 97.1 radio towers. We hope to have it done soon so that we can get back to providing you with the regional coverage and fun tunes you love from Cleveland to Erie. We have a very low signal going out to Ashtabula and Geneva right now. We miss you all as well.
Be back soon from your Star 97.1 family

OMW hears that the antenna took significant damage in a recent storm, and had to be replaced.

There’s good news for the folks missing “Star” in Mentor and Erie, as OMW hears a new antenna is in the house…and weather and tower crew availability permitting, it should be back up on the tower very soon…

QUICK HITS!

33RD: A tip of the hat to OMW reader and sports anchor John Telich, who just started his 33rd year at what’s now “Fox 8 News”. Of course, WJW-TV was Cleveland’s CBS affiliate when John started there, and we’re pretty sure it wasn’t even on South Marginal Road back then…

FRESH JAVA: Fans of Clear Channel top 40 WAKS/96.5 nighttime personality “Java Joel” Murphy should check out his interview with Chicago’s Margaret Larkin and her “Radiogirl” podcast.

Joel tells the story behind his return to Cleveland – from a voicetrack gig out of Chicago to a live Cleveland show (after losing his gig in Chicago, and being on the Radio Beach for a while). He also tells Margaret the origin of his on-air nickname, and that he never set out to be an air personality.

Joel is also music director of sister adult hits WHLK/106.5 “The Lake”, which he tells Margaret means he gets to pick out the variety station’s musical “curveballs”…

NOT OURS: We got one inquiry about the “strange” video ad which appeared on the bottom of one of our items.

Just a clarification here – for now, at least, any advertisements (video or otherwise) belong to WordPress, as part of the “cost of doing business” here on the free version of WordPress.com.

At this time, we have no connection to the ads, or input into which ads air. They don’t show up on all items…

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8 Responses to Our Big Catchup Post

  1. Tim says:

    If CBS wins the right to the Indians and WKRK moves to 98.5, I think they should drop the ailing classic rock format on 92.3 and go with “the Groove”. The “Groove” is a rhythmic AC format and would fill that void in the market. Many of the classic rock songs can be heard on WMJI and WHLK. Of course WONE 97.5 also has an album rock/classic rock format.

    • contour07 says:

      You know what will fill the void in the Cleveland market? Soft AC. Bring it back already WDOK! New 102 sounds to much like sister station Q104. Why do we need two stations together in the same building playing the same music???

      • Tim says:

        Another option would be a soft AC on 92.3, like Sunny FM, the current HD2 subchannel on WHLK, but that station is owned by Clear Channel. WDOK HD 2 has the Groove format now and the sound is different than WDOK HD 1 or any other channel for that matter. I agree soft AC is a hole and WNWV sounds more smooth jazz than smooth ac when I do listen to it.

  2. When is the 97.1 tower going to be done? I would like to hear it in Warrensville Hights, and sarrounding subs of Cleveland. Can it happen?

  3. Elvis says:

    Does anyone know when the tv half of WLFM will start broadcasting anything other than a station I.D.?

    • Probably not any time soon, Elvis. WLFM is a “radio station”, and they are operating it as such.

      Perhaps they’ll use the TV side one day to air music concerts and the like, or appearances by artists in the station’s format, but there are no plans…at least that we know of…to regularly program the video signal.

  4. JohnS says:

    I’d love to see Browns/Indians coverage moved to a sports-oriented station. WTAM has moved farther and farther away from any sort of sports talk until just prior and after any game. Put the games where the talk is.

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