Cincinnati Radio/TV Station Combo Reunites – In A Way

Long before Hearst Argyle owned Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT/5, and before Clear Channel ended up with talk WLW/700, both stations were co-owned in the Crosley era.

The ownership situation is not changing, but the stations are now teaming up for a news and weather sharing partnership…which isn’t really even the most interesting part of this story.

As Cincinnati Post radio/TV columnist Rick Bird notes, the new WLW/WLWT partnership – which puts the TV station’s weather forecasters on WLW – means WLW is dumping CBS affiliate WKRC/12 in that role.

You know…the only TV station in the market owned by WLW owner Clear Channel.

We’re scratching our head here…trying to remember when a corporate behemoth allowed such a move. In fact, we’ve even heard WLW midday mainstay Mike McConnell grumble on the air that corporate policy – presumably out of San Antonio – restricted him to mentioning only Channel 12 when it came to even talking about local TV news!

Not anymore…the hook is now with WLWT/5…as the agreement, according to Bird, covers not only weather…but news sharing, “personalities and marketing”. We’re wondering if McConnell will get now clipped for talking about Channel 12…

WKRC/12 will still, according to Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV columnist John Kiesewetter, provide weather forecasts for all the other Clear Channel radio outlets in the market. The deal only covers WLW.

For “The Big One”‘s part, program director Darryl Parks correctly notes that the company’s local clusters do have autonomy to make such decisions. And we’ve seen first-hand evidence of such in other Clear Channel markets. But you have to wonder…would many other Clear Channel news/talk stations be able to dump local TV sharing agreements with company-owned stations?

In CC’s home market, San Antonio, the company recently changed the name of its TV station to WOAI-TV…to match WOAI/1200, the “flagship” CC news/talker which started the entire chain back in the day, and even gave Clear Channel its name.

Up in our friend Scott Fybush’s home market of Rochester NY, the company did the same with its TV outlet (then WOKR), changing the name to WHAM-TV to match news/talk WHAM/1180. And a similar move was made just down the New York State Thruway in Syracuse, where Clear Channel’s former WIXT-TV was rechristened WSYR-TV, to match news/talk WSYR/570.

In all three markets, the moves coincided with heavy cross-promotion.

So we say – “only in Cincinnati”. That Mr. Parks and company were able to do this is not a huge surprise. The Cincinnati Clear Channel cluster has always enjoyed such autonomy, dating back to the days when Randy Michaels was running the CC national radio office out of nearby Covington.

And WLW itself has almost always been handled with a “hands off” policy out of San Antonio. Parks, as the Cincinnati cluster’s AM operations manager, has been able to exert a strong hand, even when the station has been embroiled in controversy. In effect, he’s been able to handle things locally.

The fact that this policy continues, long after Randy Michaels left Clear Channel, is attributed to one thing and one thing only in our minds – money.

We’ve noted here before that WLW is the ratings and revenue monster in the Cincinnati market. It is by far the most profitable radio station in Cincinnati, lapping even sister FM rocker WEBN/102.7 by some margin. Basically, when you’re the cash cow and one of the most profitable radio stations in the entire chain, Clear Channel doesn’t mess with you out of San Antonio…let alone upper management in Cincinnati.

Clear Channel is not without its “corporate mandates”, certainly. They do exist, and have been well documented in other situations. But if a local cluster or station shows a long track record of success, they CAN talk the company out of such mandates if it makes sense locally…as this proves…

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