OPINION: The Little Big One

It’s no secret to those who know a little about radio that Clear Channel Cleveland talker WTAM/1100’s nickname – “The Big One” – was imported from Cincinnati’s WLW/700. The original “Big One” was so named by the one and only Randy Michaels, who rose to prominence with Jacor in Cincinnati…and when Jacor picked up WTAM, the company copied the WLW nickname up here.

It also copied other parts of the WLW formula for success.

WTAM eventually snagged “all the balls” as the radio flagship of all three major Cleveland professional sports teams. It created a clone of WLW’s morning news and information block, and even swiped then-WLW host Bill Wills to host it here in Northeast Ohio. It created a “larger than life” afternoon drive show based mainly on comedic riffs on sports and news, though there’s not many in radio who would compare WTAM afternoon motormouth Mike Trivisonno with WLW’s Gary Burbank and not break out laughing.

But there were certain things WTAM did not copy. Unlike WLW, which never had to pick up Rush Limbaugh due to its high ratings, WTAM had few local talk programs. For 10 years, it devoted a solid six-hour block in the middle of the broadcast day to syndicated programming.

That, of course, changed a little recently…with the addition of local mid-morning host Bob Frantz.

We bring this up because it’s important to note: the “man in charge” at the top of Clear Channel Cincinnati for some 11 years, Mike Kenney, left there late last year to take the same role at Cleveland’s Clear Channel cluster.

And while a Cincinnati Business Courier article from December notes Kenney’s role in making the Cincinnati cluster wildly successful financially, how he DID that could be more important to our discussion.

Local programming.

A MediaWeek profile of the Cincinnati market, just out recently, tells the tale. WLW is by far the biggest billing station for not only Clear Channel Cincinnati, but for the market as a whole. Number two, with roughly half of WLW’s billing? A sister FM, popular rocker WEBN. WLW is so successful for the cluster that it bills a respectable number compared even to Clear Channel’s CBS TV outlet in the Queen City, WKRC/12! (We’d link to it here, but it apparently has disappeared behind the magazine’s subscriber wall.)

WLW, as noted here before, programs locally nearly 24/7. Its overnight show, “America’s Trucking Network”, originates from the station. It runs Premiere’s “Weekend with Mike McConnell”, but the host, of course, is its own mid-morning star (9-noon weekdays). And it is a ratings and revenue monster in the market. It’s nearly embarrassing to the other stations in Cincinnati.

Keep all this in mind when you look at the recent move to “go local” in WTAM’s mid-morning slot. Keep it in mind when you hear WMMS/100.7 afternoon driver Maxwell doing local talk on weekend nights…and wonder, perhaps, if WTAM will open up a weekday late night local show after the Indians/Cavs/Sportsline slot at some point…maybe 10 PM-1 AM or 11 PM-1 AM.

(With our previous record of accuracy, we must point out that we’re speculating here, and that the last musing is not based on anything we’re hearing out of Oak Tree or beyond. It’s just an Educated Guess.)

Just a thought…

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