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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is WLW-AM For Sale?

Is WLW-AM, the city's No. 1 station, for sale? That's today's bombshell.

The U.S. Department of Justice today ordered Clear Channel to sell stations in Cincinnati, Houston, Las Vegas and San Francisco in order for a group of private equity investors led by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners to proceed with purchasing a controlling interest in Clear Channel.

Cincinnati and Houston are targeted because Bain and Lee Partners control a 50 percent interest in Cumulus Media Partners, which owns stations in those markets. Cumulus owns WRRM-FM (WARM98.5), WGRR-FM (103.5) and WFTK-FM (96.5 Rock). Clear Channel owns eight stations: talk stations WLW-AM (700) and WKRC-AM (550); rock stations WEBN-FM (102.7), WKFS-FM (KISS107.1), WOFX-FM (FOX92.5) and WNNF-FM (Radio94.1); and sports talks stations WCKY-AM (1530 Homer) and WSAI-AM (ESPN 1360).

The combined audience share for Clear Channel and Cumulus stations exceeds 59 percent in Cincinnati, the government said. So tghe divestitures were ordered so that the new owners would not have too much control over radio advertising rates here, the government said.

The government did not specify which stations must be sold here. But I'm told that Clear Channel managers here told employees Tuesday that the company could consider selling off WLW-AM and KISS107.1, or the tandem of FOX92.1 and Radio94.1 (the old MIX94.1).

Selling WLW-AM isn't that far-fetched. Yes, it has the biggest audience, and probably generates the most money. But with Willie, McConnell, Jim Scott and the news staff, it likely has the highest payroll. If CC wants to get this $19-billion deal done, it could dump the Big One and KISS and move on. What other properties would be more attractive?

Get braced for more radio changes in Cincinnati!

Which stations do you expect them to spin off? Would they sell WEBN? Which ones would benefit from a change in ownership? And how much would you bet that former WLW owner Randy Michaels could end up with his old station again?


at 2/13/2008 6:23 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it gets Darryl Parks out of town, it will be well worth it!

at 2/13/2008 6:30 PM Blogger SophiaZ123 said...

I have no idea what this means. but if they sold WLW, I would like it to stay local and get some better guys on the air.

Tracy Jones STINKS...I can't even listen to him for more than 10 minutes. Eddie might be ok with somebody else.

maybe if Clear Channel sells, they could talk Burbank OUT of retirement to at least do a couple days a week.
3 to 6 pm is a TOTAL waste of air time now.

I never dreamed D Parks would be around this long.

He even bragged that Eddie and Tracy would do as WELL as Burbank had. WTH?????????????

at 2/13/2008 6:53 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now introducing the new player in town: The Tribune Company.

And look for the corporate HQ moved from Chi-town to Cincy.

at 2/13/2008 7:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only in Cincinnati would so much excitement be generated over something as anachronistic as AM radio. WLW has bounced around so much over the past 30 or so years, through a succession of owners, and it barely has left a dent on anything it touched. Any new owner will adopt one of the five or so very tired format ideas out there, underpay whomever they hire, beat the snot out of the format, refusing to realize no one cares, and then sell again. The impact of a WLW these days is about the same as the impact of outdoor TV antennas, tire chains for driving in snow or arguing the merits of mimeograph versus Xerox. Their times have passed.

at 2/13/2008 8:56 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bonneville has told its employees in the past that they plan on expanding in Cincinnati. If they can get an AM, they'll take it. Especially one that big. And they'll pay dearly to own it.

at 2/13/2008 9:18 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is NO way they will sell WLW. Too much cash being generated by that station.

at 2/13/2008 9:38 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would be the best thing for WLW. Get some local ownership for WLW and maybe one of the FMs.

Bring back "local programming". Recruit and PAY for better talent. McConnel should be the only one that stays. The part time hosts (Jones,Doc,Sloan etc...are a bore)

Revamp the burned out news department. Hire real reporters who don't have to rip and tape newscasts for Lima, Lexington and many burgs in between. Many good news people were forced out by budget cuts over the last 10 years.

Replace the entire management team from Chuck Frederick on down.

This could be the last chance for a local station to survive.

When Sirrus and XM merge it's lights out for radio as we've known it.

at 2/13/2008 10:20 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really really dont think CC would sell off WLW and Kiss. WLW, Kiss and WEBN are CC's big 3 in cincy. my guess is fox and the former mix is goners. its not like they were the last 2 fm's into the CC Family in the mid 90's

at 2/13/2008 11:19 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

When does the contract run out between WLW and the Reds? Would new owners be happy about regular shows being cut into so often?

at 2/14/2008 1:55 AM Blogger Robert Scott said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

at 2/14/2008 7:58 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

If selling WLW does anything to get it back to being some semblence of what it once was, that is fine with me. While radio has changed drastically over the years, WLW has managed to become a bonbastic, banal, embarrassing proposition. I agree that news and information should be the driver, not hard right conservative drivel.

Once upon a time the news operation of WLW/WLWT was among the best in the country. It would be nice if we could move back in that direction. In fact, maybe they can do that again with WKRC-TV.

at 2/14/2008 8:56 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those guys at 700 lead charmed lives I tell you.

Just yesterday I heard the old Tracer have a frank and personal interview with Bob Eubanks about a new game show project in Las Vegas.

And I heard McConnell have a down to earth back and forth with Tanya Roberts on a project she's also working on in Vegas.

Those guys sure do rub shoulders with the celebs....

at 2/14/2008 11:35 AM Anonymous Art Vuolo said...

I am amazed at the mud-slinging going on by people over this news about 700 WLW Radio! As one who lives up in (as they say in Columbus)"that state up north," I say thank God for XM 173 so I can hear good radio. We have many fine stations in the Detroit area, but Darryl Parks has The Big One sounding better than just about any news-talker in the country. It always seems to locals that their radio stinks and every place else has better offerings. Trust me folks...I've been all over the country and you have it REAL good in the Queen City. Love it while you've got and pray that Randy Michaels gets it in the end (and don't misinterprate that line!)

at 2/14/2008 12:01 PM Blogger Robert Scott said...

You made a good point, Art Vuolo.


at 2/14/2008 1:14 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darryl Parks is the worst thing to ever happen to Cincinnati radio.

at 2/15/2008 12:04 PM Blogger bmurdock said...

Wow what a shocker! I just can't see Clear Channel selling off such a highly rated station. Even though WLW is a shell of what it used to be they still come out on top of the ratings. High ratings = higher advertising rates. And as much as we like to think they're out to serve us they're not they're out to make a buck, actually quite a few.

When it comes to what stations are expendable don't look at them based off their content and format - think wattage. As we've seen over the past year or so formats can be changed quite easily.

700 and 1530 are both 50,000 watt. I'm not a radio engineer but if I remember right 700 is uses "clear channel" signal (it's an industry term as well as a company name) which helps them cover more ground.
550 and 1360 are less as powerful - I think that order. I have no idea or how the FM's shake out as far as power and range.

I'd really like to know how radio stations are bought and sold... I imagine it is a lot like trading baseball players - protect your stars and dump they guys you can do without.

at 2/15/2008 1:53 PM Blogger Aaron said...

Art, I actually enjoy some WTVN programming. I don't know why you like WLW so much. Jim Scott is smarmy, McConnell and Cunningham are obnoxious, Eddie and Tracy stink. Paul Daugherty isn't bad. Scott Sloan is alright, and the midnight show is for truckers. If anyone wants to know how good radio is done on a 50,000 watt heritage station, look at WGN out of Chicago or WCCO out of Minneapolis. They are not as pissed-off white guy as WLW is. On WGN I've heard people carry on interesting roundtable discussions on all sorts of things, even on the state of talk radio.

at 2/16/2008 9:09 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pray that WLW stays with Clear Channel, we probably won't know how Tracy Jones' engagement and wedding will turn out if Bonneville were to buy the Big One.

Sorry I missed that interview with Tanya Roberts. Can some one post the number for those Vegas getaways so I can get out of Dodge?

at 2/17/2008 6:59 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please bring Kathy Lehr back in the mornings doing news. I always enjoyed listening to her in the morning delivering the news. They made a big mistake making her Jim Scott's co-host, it ruined her radio career.

Mike McConnell can leave, so many of his shows are pointless and his subject matter at times are just lame.

Keep Cunningham, no one makes more sense than him.

Get rid of the clowns doing afternoon drive, they sound too much alike and it is hard distiguishing who is talking. The show is a joke.

Move Sloan to afternoon drive.

Bring back Andy Fuhrman.

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