A CW/My Network TV Twist in Cincinnati

Anyone hoping to follow conventional wisdom (er, “CW”) in the race to sign up affiliates for the new CW Network and FOX’s “My Network TV” is getting dizzy about now.

Just a day after WBNX/55 became the Cleveland market’s outlet for The CW starting this fall, the expected outlet for that new network in Cincinnati turned left instead of right. Sinclair’s WSTR/64 (WB) will instead line up with the My Network TV folks, along with 16 other Sinclair stations in other markets.

Assuming that there won’t be a dual affiliation with The CW, which we’d consider unlikely, the move brings a giant sigh of relief to one Elliot Block, owner of Cincinnati low-power UPN affiliate WBQC-CA/38. If WSTR had signed up with CW, it could well have been a death warrant for the struggling WBQC…which managed to get on satellite (DirecTV) and most area cable systems.

The move, assuming WBQC does not somehow lose The CW, would likely assure the LPTVer full-time carriage on the local Time Warner Cable system…which has carried the station only in evenings on an otherwise used public access and information channel. Not only would they have the new network, but Time Warner is actually a co-owner of The CW with CBS Corporation.

We’re still trying to figure out what role reverse compensation played in Cleveland’s “sub-four network” competition, with aggressive locally-owned WBNX/55 swiping The CW from Raycom’s WUAB/43. Whether Raycom was mulling over the compensation issues or not, or whether it even got the chance to counter offer, WBNX would appear to have bowled over the CW folks…and the station’s high WB network ratings and network compliance would certainly help in that regard. In the end, WBNX fit what the CW folks were looking for…almost to a T.

But like Raycom, Sinclair is also another of those “cheap” broadcasters. In many markets, they either don’t have a full high-definition digital TV outlet, or are not on various cable systems in HDTV. In Sacramento, where Sinclair used to own CBS affiliate KOVR/13, the network bought the station…and immediately had to spend millions to upgrade the station to top-25 market standards.

You can almost hear Sinclair’s David Smith drooling in a statement in the above Broadcasting & Cable story: “Given the great success of Fox over the years and their demonstrated history of thinking outside the box, we believe that over time this new network model will become a standard in the industry.”

He all but said “this new network model” means it includes no station compensation to the network, what, with CBS and other major networks themselves actively talking about reverse compensation as being the new standard.

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