Random Thoughts – Sunday Edition

Thought 1: Plain Dealer sports media columnist Roger Brown weighs in with an “very optimistic” outlook from SportsTime Ohio chief Jim Liberatore, regarding the Indians-owned channel signing up satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network before the first pitch of the regular season.

Liberatore tells Brown he feels “pretty confident” that the deals can be worked out before STO’s first regular season game on April 4th.

We’d write it off as talk, but what you don’t read in the Plain Dealer is what we reported earlier… Dish Network has already uplinked the SportsTime Ohio feed “behind the scenes”, meaning that mere mortals with regular Dish Network equipment can’t see it, but it’s up on the bird waiting to be released. As we also reported, this is not a definitive sign STO is going to show up on Dish, but could probably be considered a sign that the service feels negotiations are headed in the right direction.

As for DirecTV, we expect that deal to be done by April 4th. DirecTV is usually more pro-active about adding regional sports networks.

We note that the most recent RSN before SportsTime Ohio, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (Washington Nationals), has gone through even worse. MASN *still* hasn’t signed up the DC market’s largest cable provider, Comcast, and they’re heading into season two! To that end, a group of Nationals’ fans is holding a rally this afternoon, with some local politicos in tow, to appeal to Comcast executives.

Cox, which first balked at STO here before later signing up, joined up with MASN for this season.

Here, Time Warner Cable – which will be the dominant MSO whenever the Adelphia merger happens – was STO’s first signup and is their primary partner. And though both Adelphia and Comcast eventually joined up, they’ll be temporary affiliates due to the TWC deal. In DC, Comcast is not going away, and will actually pick up some of the Adelphia systems in that market in the joint deal with TWC.

(OMW notes that there’s something of a regulatory pause in the Adelphia dissolution, perhaps due to the status of the company’s bankruptcy case. But it’s still considered likely to be done by summer.)

Thought 2: As we listened to WMMS/100.7 afternoon driver Maxwell do his WTAM/1100 Saturday night talk show last night, we couldn’t help but wonder – is WTAM A) trying to build a local talk “bench”, to steal some baseball lingo, or B) is Clear Channel using Maxwell on WTAM to try out his talent with the goal of eventually building an FM talk station?

A future FM talk station run by one of the major groups with a Cleveland presence has been a nagging rumor for the past few months, and though it’s not much beyond the “visible smoke” stage right now, it’d make sense. If the effort would be mounted by Clear Channel, the station would have to be steered VERY carefully in light of the dominance of the aforementioned “Big One”.

We’re thinking back to Maxwell’s surprise swap with WTAM afternoon motormouth (we will check Ohio law one day on that) Mike Trivisonno.

While Triv is certainly not an intellectual host – oh, come on! Quit laughing! Stay with us, here! – Maxwell, to us, sounded like a typical “FM hot talk” host. Clear Channel has mounted those kinds of stations with some success in the past, most notably at Orlando’s WTKS/104.1 (“Real Radio”) for the past few years.

While it appears their other efforts to air talk on FM (Pittsburgh, Minneapolis) are more traditional AM-style stations that just happen to be on the FM band, that’d be pretty much impossible here…with WTAM’s presence as the news/talk powerhouse.

None of this may amount to anything. We’re not about to suggest that a Clear Channel FM station in the market is about to be converted, for any number of reasons. It’s just in the back of our OMW Head…

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