Local Cable News Channel Coming?

When the future expiration of the Gannett/PAX agreement became known, some of us kicked around the future status of the Akron/Canton newscast then known as PAX 23 News. (See below for details.)

There were really only three options:

Option 1: Gannett somehow works out a deal to keep the newscast on WVPX/23. The biggest fly in this proverbial ointment…the very shaky future of both the PAX TV network (now “i”), and the company itself. For a while, it appeared PAX would start running pretty much an entire schedule of infomercials, and that obviously wasn’t a very attractive place to put a newscast…even one which had already been established on the station.

One way or another, PAX could give Gannett no long term assurance that there’d be room for the newscast, or that they or a related entity would even own or control the station for the long term. Since the Akron/Canton newscast is a long-term strategy for Gannett/WKYC, this didn’t work, per published reports.

Option 2: Gannett works out a deal to move the newscast to the market’s other Akron-licensed commercial station, WBNX/55, the Cleveland market’s WB affiliate.

That sounds interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which is the presence on an affiliate of a more high-profile network than PAX TV. A 10 PM newscast on WBNX would have a larger lead-in than whatever PAX puts on in the 9 PM hour, if only by default.

But there are a number of problems with this scenario. For one, WBNX is owned and operated by Winston Broadcasting Network, which is owned by a certain long-time TV televangelist with a bad toupee and a penchant for putting elderly folks on the floor. (While doing televised faith healing, that is. We trust that everyone in the market gets the reference. Those who don’t, will have to consult comedian Robin Williams‘ excellent parody of the man.)

That introduces one very big problem…Rev. Ernest Angley is a TV host. And like the former owner of the then-Christian Broadcasting Network, Rev. Pat Robertson, he hosts a religious-oriented talk show at 10 PM weeknights on his own station. Rev. Angley reluctantly moved the “Ninety and Nine Club” from its original 9 PM slot to 10 PM when he agreed to have his station become the local WB affiliate. The schedule means that his show sometimes follows WB Network programming featuring witches and vampires, but who’s counting?

With the presence of the WB programming alone, that’d preclude the earlier 9 PM late “Akron/Canton News” time announced this week. And there’s no indication that despite its license city being Akron and its studios being in the old Cathedral of Tomorrow TV studios in Cuyahoga Falls, that WBNX has any desire to target only part of the market for any part of the day.

And we doubt that certain WBNX owner would move his show to 10:30 or 11…

So, that leaves us with…

Option 3: The option which happened, the move of the “PAX 23 News” operation lock, stock and barrel to Time Warner Cable, which is just months away from being the cable giant all throughout Northeast Ohio.

Why is that important? You read it here first.

Time Warner has started, operated or helped with a number of 24 hour local TV news networks in markets from Charlotte and Raleigh, to Austin, to Syracuse and Rochester…with a wave to our good friend Scott Fybush, an alumnus of TW’s “R News” in that latter market.

In the newspaper story about the move of “23 News” to TWC’s cable position 23, spokesman Bill Jasso noted that TWC had been interested in starting some sort of local or regional newscast on its Akron/Canton system for many years.

Could the move of “23 News” be the precursor for a region-wide 24 hour news channel on that cable channel (or another), after the Adelphia – and local Comcast – systems are added to the TWC NEO mix at around the end of the year? That move brings most of Cleveland’s cable homes under the TWC umbrella, give or take a few small operators, and some Cox operations in the market.

As we’re sure some will bring up, TWC has pulled back financially from some of its local cable news operations. It consolidated in North Carolina. It pulled out of at least some of the operations it shared with station group Belo.

But now that TWC’s Northeast Ohio systems are in a joint venture with Gannett’s WKYC, could a Northeast Ohio News Channel happen? They may not hire a separate local reporting staff and may run it cheaper, maybe closer to how Allbritton runs NewsChannel 8 in conjunction with their ABC affiliate WJLA/7 in the Washington, DC market.

The new channel could rerun Channel 3 casts and do a couple of news and sports talk shows to fill time, and otherwise utilize WKYC’s news and talent. For that matter, they’d have a built-in sports talk show when Adelphia’s Les Levine comes into the TWC fold with the merger! They could, for example, move or expand “Studio 3” from the broadcast channel, and have the WKYC newsroom do a 10 PM Cleveland-based newscast that they do not do now.

It could become for WKYC what MSNBC is to NBC, a place to showcase news talent, house live coverage and otherwise continue to build the Channel 3 News “brand”. And if filling the overnights proves tough, there’s the “NBC Weather Plus” feed.

This Space would not be shocked if it happens…and when TWC has the “critical mass” to put this thing into the bulk of area cable homes, it becomes somewhat more possible. (Please note that this entire message is speculation, and we’ve heard nothing about it in rumors, even away from the blog.)

And then, of course, the 6:30 and 9 PM “Akron/Canton News” would be just another news show on the station’s 24 hour schedule.

If it happens…you heard it here first.

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