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Television Musical Chairs

December 21, 2012

Future broadcast history is being made today in the form of some significant changes in the Greater Cincinnati television business. Recently national media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting purchased WKRC television, also known as “Local 12.” This purchase is significant because the station becomes the largest and most influential station in the Sinclair portfolio. Meanwhile, WKRC, one of Cincinnati’s legacy television stations, could potentially see some changes as it transitions from current owner, Newport Television, into the new ownership. It is not a stretch to say that Sinclair, at the very least, has a reputation of being among the more frugal, financially lean companies. How this will play at Local 12, with its longtime veteran personalities remains to be seen.

What is likely is that the move will have a potential domino effect on the rest of the Cincinnati television market. For starters, Sinclair currently operates WSTR, “Star64.” Broadcasting from the tallest broadcast tower in the area, Channel 64 has always been on the “fringe” of local media, particularly in the analog era, when it survived on the far end of the UHF dial. However, now that the digital age has leveled the playing field in terms of dial location, 64 has become more desirable. Enter Fox Television. Since Sinclair is close to ending its relationship with 64, that station will soon be fair game for another company. Fox owns an option to buy 64 and could very well exercise it, which would make 64 an “O and O”—a network “owned and operated”—station. Historically, O & O’s are happy workplaces because employees know there is a closer attachment to a parent company, much more money is spent on infrastructure, and a deeper level of involvement is in place to insure its success.

If the pin falls and Fox takes over 64, then changes would have to come to Fox’s current local partner-WXIX 19. “Fox 19″has been a successful brand here in Greater Cincinnati for several years now and income from the affiliation has gone towards expanding the local news offerings and increasing the station’s presence locally. Recently, 19 acquired “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” and the station has long been active in landing the best and most popular syndicated shows. A potential loss of Fox would be very painful for 19’s bottom line.

Could the other stations capitalize? WCPO 9 is undergoing a series of cutbacks as parent Scripps Broadcasting downsizes and WLWT 5 continues to undergo its musical chairs in terms of local news and weather talent.

So the future is uncertain and very interesting for the next year of Cincinnati television and could provide the fodder for future historical analysis among scholars visiting the Media Heritage archives.

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