A Handful of TV Items

Media news sometimes seems to come in waves, and this morning, it’s a TV-related wave:

STO UPDATE: We haven’t heard any confirmation, but an OMW reader tells us that a deal between SportsTime Ohio and Armstrong Cable was announced on a Youngstown radio show this morning. It has yet to be officially announced by STO. Armstrong serves the Youngstown suburb of Boardman, along with Medina, Orrville and Ashland.

While we’re in STO land, the cable channel’s deal with Massillon Cable and sister Clear Picture of Wooster is bringing out a few details about things behind the scenes.

Massillon Cable’s Bob Gessner was one of the more vocal cable executives about STO’s financial terms. But Gessner tells the Canton Repository that STO was “real creative in ways to solve some of the problems we were were encountering” in the ongoing negotiations…and calls the overall process “a good experience”. This, from a cable company which linked to Cox’s “Make Them Play Fair” website. Of course, Cox also ended up striking a deal with STO. Gessner says Massillon Cable – and presumably Clear Picture – are not planning a rate increase due to this deal – “for now”.

And a Multichannel News article on the deal lifts the curtain from in front of some of the financial terms the new RSN wanted from cable operators. The article says STO called for “zone pricing”… basically, asking for more money the closer the cable system is to Cleveland. Systems far from Jacobs Field were being asked for 94 cents per subscriber…and Cleveland-area systems were being asked for $1.83 per subscriber. There’s no word on what the RSN is asking from DirecTV and Dish Network.

Judging from Gessner’s comments, though, STO would appear to at least have had some flexibility. It’s what we suspected all along…Fastball/STO chief Jim Liberatore talked a very strong game, counting on the popularity of Indians baseball in the region to command high rates, but realizing that he’d have to have at least a little leeway as first pitch approached.

But…Liberatore can’t drop his rates TOO much. The Indians have already pointed to SportsTime Ohio as one reason they’ll be able to spend more money on players, including what team president Paul Dolan notes is “the financial flexibility” to lock in the team’s young core of talented players with long-term Indians deals. In a town where Indians fans constantly hammer the team for not spending money, Dolan’s frequently pointed to the new revenue from STO.

Just a thought on our part.

WNWO SOLD OFF: With the pickup of Toledo CBS affiliate WTOL/11, Raycom Media announced the sale of its incumbent station in the market, NBC outlet WNWO/24, along with stations in 11 other markets. The Toledo Blade reports that WNWO and the 11 other stations are being picked up by Illinois-based Barrington Broadcasting, a unit of a private equity firm.

TV duopoly rules permit Raycom to own two stations in a market the size of Cleveland, where the company owns the CBS/UPN combo of WOIO/19-WUAB/43. But most of Raycom’s stations are in much smaller markets than Cleveland, so the company had to sell 12 stations including WNWO when it agreed to acquire the Liberty Broadcasting chain. Liberty’s WTOL is a dominant station in the Toledo market, so it was a no brainer to hang onto it and dump “NBC 24”.

FREE AIRTIME: We hear that the E.W. Scripps TV chain, which owns ABC affiliates WEWS/5 Cleveland and WCPO/9 Cincinnati, is launching an initiative to give free airtime to candidates in the 2006 general election. “Democracy 2006” will set aside 5 minutes of free air time a night, between 5 PM and 11:35 PM, in the 30 days before the general election in November. The Scripps stations will also provide airtime before the primary election, which is May 2nd here in Ohio.

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