WOIO, virtual channel 19 (VHF digital channel 10), is a commercial television station licensed to Shaker Heights, Ohio, serving Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. Owned by Raycom Media as part of a local duopoly with WUAB, WOIO broadcasts over two digital subchannels: 19.1 is available in both high definition and standard definition and serves as the Cleveland affiliate for CBS; 19.2 is available exclusively in standard definition, and serves as the Cleveland affiliate for MeTV. The WOIO studios are located in Downtown Cleveland, while the station transmitter resides in the Cleveland suburb of Parma.
The channel 19 allocation in the Cleveland television market dates back to the 1950s, when a construction permit for a television sister to WHK radio was issued to The Plain Dealer. When WHK was sold to Metropolitan Broadcasting (later Metromedia) in 1958, the television station's construction permit went with the radio station. However, what was to have been WHK-TV never made it to the air. The construction permit was eventually deleted at some point in the mid-1960s, but the allocation remained.
On May 22, 1968, a new construction permit was issued to Community Telecasters of Cleveland Inc. for a new station with the call letters WCTF-TV. The limited programming available and the rising cost of building WCTF kept delaying plans and the sign on date for the station. In August 1972, an agreement was made to sell the construction permit to Joseph T. Zingale. Zingale backed out of the agreement in February 1974 due to a price dispute. On January 1975, United Artists Broadcasting tried to buy the permit and move WUAB to channel 19, but Zingale filed a protest claiming that Community Telecasters still held the construction permit. In May 1976, The FCC took the WCTF-TV permit away from Community Telecasters during a review board. Zingale then tried to acquire the license for WCTF, but the dispute eventually caused the construction permit to be deleted by the FCC.
Hubert B. Payne, the former local sales manager at WKYC-TV (channel 3) won a construction permit for a new channel 19 in 1983. Payne had been the first African-American local sales manager at a local network affiliate He signed it on for the first time on May 19, 1985 as WOIO. (the present-day channel 19 is a new construction permit, dating back to 1983). The call letters stand for Wonderful OhIO. Prior to that time, the WOIO call letters were assigned to a radio station on 1060 AM (now WILB) in Canton. Later in 1985, Payne sold channel 19 to Malrite Communications Group (then owner of WHK radio, as well as Cincinnati's WXIX-TV) later that year. WOIO aired a typical independent lineup of off-network sitcoms, classic movies, off-network drama series and religious programs. That fall, WOIO added cartoons in the morning and the late afternoon. By the end of 1985, channel 19 had surpassed WCLQ (channel 61, now WQHS-DT) as the market's second highest-rated independent station, behind only WUAB.
On October 9, 1986, WOIO became the market's Fox affiliate, after WUAB turned down an offer to join the network. It branded itself as "Fox nineteen" or "WOIO nineteen" with the "nineteen" rendered in script font. Soon afterward, it became the over-the-air flagship of the Cleveland Cavaliers – a relationship that continued for six years – and also carried Cleveland Browns preseason games (and other team-produced programming, notably the weekly show Browns Insider), Cleveland Force MISL indoor soccer and Cleveland State Vikings college basketball. It also appeared on cable providers in the Youngstown market, which did not have a Fox affiliate of its own until WYFX-LP signed on in 1998; WOIO continues to be carried on cable in that market to this day.
In 1994, Malrite entered into a local marketing agreement with WUAB's owner, Cannell Communications and as a result, WOIO began to be jointly operated alongside WUAB. Both stations moved to facilities located at downtown Cleveland's Reserve Square apartment/hotel complex. WUAB also became the new over-the-air flagship of the Cavaliers, which it continues in this capacity today.
WOIO's news studios were once a movie theater for the Reserve Square Apartments when they first opened originally as the Park Centre Apartments in 1973. In 1978, due to a loss of theater ownership, the Park Theater closed. When WOIO-WUAB started news operations, they gutted the movie theater and used the space for their news set.
In May 1994, WJW-TV (channel 8) announced it would end its affiliation with CBS after 40 years and join Fox as part of a group affiliation deal with that station's owner, New World Communications. After the deal was announced, CBS briefly wooed ABC affiliate WEWS-TV (channel 5) to switch to the network, but WEWS' owner, the E.W. Scripps Company, used the threat of moving WEWS (along with WXYZ-TV in Detroit) to sign a long-term deal with ABC. CBS then quickly cut an affiliation agreement with WOIO. After the switch became official on September 3, channel 19 moved its sitcoms, animated series not carried by Fox Kids (which moved to WBNX-TV, as WJW declined carriage of the block) and Cavaliers games to WUAB.
On April 6, 1998, Raycom Media announced that it would acquire Malrite Communications, including the LMA with WUAB. In 1999, WOIO and WUAB respectively rebranded as "Hometeam 19" and "Hometeam 43". The stations tried to put an emphasis on local coverage and play on the fact that at the time they carried all three of Cleveland's major professional sports teams – Indians and Cavaliers games were carried on WUAB, with Browns games airing on WOIO by way of CBS' NFL coverage. In late 2001, Raycom hired controversial station manager Bill Applegate as WOIO and WUAB's general manager. Raycom chose to rebrand WOIO's newscasts 19 Action News, while identifying as "Cleveland's CBS 19" for general promotional purposes.
WOIO and the Cleveland Browns entered into a television partnership in April 2005 – in effect, resuming an agreement that ended with the original team's 1995 relocation to Baltimore. Replacing former longtime television partner WKYC-TV, WOIO acquired the rights to air all preseason games as well as a preseason draft show, exclusive training camp reports and a Monday night coaches' show.
On July 18, 2006, the Browns announced that the team was ending its partnership with WOIO, the result of a controversy over the station's coverage of the drowning of team owner Randy Lerner's six-year-old niece. On its newscasts, WOIO aired a 9-1-1 recording of Nancy Fisher, Lerner's sister, calling for assistance. Although WOIO was within its legal bounds to air the tape, the Browns thought that it was an unnecessary invasion of the family's privacy. WOIO subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Browns on July 26, 2006, alleging breach of contract and seeking to retain the broadcast rights to Browns games as the agreement had one year left to run. The Browns' contract with WOIO ended on August 1, 2006; two days later.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|19.1||1080i||16:9||WOIO-DT||Main WOIO programming / CBS|
On August 1, 2011, WOIO became the Cleveland affiliate of the classic TV network MeTV, which is carried on digital subchannel 19.2; that subchannel had previously operated as "Weather Now", consisting of a 24-hour loop of weather forecasts and local radar imagery. 19.2 is also carried on some northeast Ohio cable providers.
WOIO shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 19, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 10. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 19.
WOIO operates a digital fill-in translator station in Akron on UHF channel 24, which began operating on August 12, 2011. The translator serves the south-central portion of the Cleveland market where viewers lost WOIO's signal after the June 2009 digital transition.
The channel 10 digital signal causes co-channel interference with CTV Two owned-and-operated station CFPL-DT (channel 10) in London, Ontario during temperature inversion and tropo skip events. WOIO may be forced to relocate as CFPL launched its digital signal on VHF 10 on August 31, 2011, following the digital transition for Canadian television stations. On October 22, 2009, WOIO boosted its effective radiated power to 9.5 kW to allow its signal to penetrate the Akron area until it could move to a more stable UHF signal.
WOIO currently carries the entire CBS network programming lineup; although, it is one of several CBS affiliates that airs Face the Nation in separate half-hour blocks, with the second half-hour of the program airing on Sunday late nights; it also splits the network's CBS Dream Team children's program block on Saturday mornings, with the first two hours (which airs two hours earlier than most CBS stations) airing before and the final hour airing immediately after CBS This Morning Saturday. Syndicated programs broadcast on WOIO include Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
WOIO presently broadcasts 34 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with six hours on weekdays, one hour on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays). In addition, it also presently produces an additional 14½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week for WUAB (consisting of 2½ hours on weekdays, and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). Combined across both stations, WOIO produces a total of 48½ hours of newscasts each week. Unlike most CBS affiliated stations in large and mid-sized markets, the station does not produce a local newscast on Saturday mornings (but they do on Sunday mornings).
WOIO originally had no intention to start a news department; however, CBS informed WOIO that it "preferred" that the station air newscasts. With just months before WJW was due to switch to Fox, there was little time to form a news division from scratch. Instead, WOIO had LMA partner WUAB (which had been producing a 10:00 p.m. newscast since 1988) produce its newscasts. WOIO began airing newsbriefs during CBS This Morning with Julie Hanahan, WOIO's first news employee, and Betty Haliburton. Early additions to the news staff were Emmett Miller, Denise Dufala (former longtime anchor at WJW); weeknight meteorologist Dave Sweeney; weeknight sports anchor Jeff Phelps; weekend co-anchors Gretchen Carlson and Dave Barker; weekend sports anchor Ronnie Duncan; and weekend meteorologist Julie Hanahan.
WOIO started airing newscasts at 6:00, 6:30, and 11:00 p.m. in February 1995. The now-shared news operation of WOIO and WUAB became collectively known as Cleveland Television News. Romona Robinson and Jack Marschall remained as anchors for WUAB, maintaining their long history of ratings success at 10:00 p.m.; however, WUAB's ratings success with its prime time newscast did not yet translate to WOIO's newly-created 11:00 p.m. newscast. One of the first big stories aired on WOIO featured the "glasses cam", which Dave Barker used to show how he could just walk into a school without being stopped. In 1996, WOIO and WUAB dropped the Cleveland Television News moniker; WOIO began identifying as CBS 19 and titled its newscasts CBS 19 News. WJW had been one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the country, and WOIO hoped that viewers would associate the network with a high-quality local newscast. Emmett Miller left and Gretchen Carlson joined Denise Dufala, creating a two-woman anchor team for its weeknight newscasts. This had rarely been tried in other markets around the nation and had never been tried in Cleveland at the time. It failed to catch on, and Carlson left WOIO, finding success later at the Fox News Channel. Later that year, WOIO added a weekday morning newscast at 6:00 a.m. and pre-empted most of the first hour of CBS This Morning with local news; the station also added a noon newscast around the same time. Still, WOIO failed to win viewers.
Also in 1997, WOIO tried to operate its news studio at street level so pedestrians could see the newscasts being taped (similar to what CHUM Limited tried out with its "NewNet" stations in the Canadian province of Ontario). The street-level studio concept did not last long in Cleveland, but today this concept is being used by Good Morning America and Today, as well as several television stations in larger markets.
After Carlson's departure, Kevin Cokely joined Denise Dufala at the anchor desk for the 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. newscasts. This lasted until 1999, when Jack Marschall was brought in to replace Cokely, while still continuing to anchor the 10:00 p.m. news on WUAB with Cynthia Tinsley. Several months later in February 2000, WOIO's newscasts were rebranded as Hometeam 19 News and introduced a new look that coincided with Raycom's takeover of WOIO and WUAB. After WUAB lost the broadcast rights to the Cleveland Indians in 2001, the Hometeam branding was dropped and WOIO's newscasts were simply known as 19 News. Because of the continued low ratings, Bill Applegate was brought in as general manager, who would make sweeping changes at WOIO and WUAB over the next several months.
19 Action News
In May 2002, WOIO and WUAB's newscasts were uniformly re-branded as 19 Action News. A popular press format was put into place, using Shelly Palmer's Palmer News Package, a theme based on the musical signature used and adapted by fellow CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago (a station that Applegate managed in the 1980s; incidentally enough, WBBM never used that specific theme). The pacing, the look, the style and the language of each newscast took on a dramatically different look and feel. Soon after, the newscasts on both WOIO and WUAB would officially be retitled to 19 Action News. Ratings improved almost immediately, especially at 11:00 p.m., where that newscast became the only late news program to gain viewers four years in a row, as WKYC, WEWS and WJW's late newscasts either remained flat or lost viewers. The station added an hour-long newscast at 5:00 p.m. in 2002, joining WEWS and WJW's late afternoon newscasts for a three-way competition for second place in the time slot at the time (as WKYC's airing of Dr. Phil at 5:00 p.m. had long been in first place until recently). In June 2004, WOIO debuted Cleveland's first 4:00 p.m. newscast. It premiered in last place, but began to grow steadily and eventually fought for second place with WJW's Judge Judy (which that station bumped in favor of its own 4:00 p.m. newscast in July 2013), but still trailed WEWS' The Oprah Winfrey Show at that hour (Winfrey's program ended in 2011).
WOIO's 11:00 p.m. newscast mounted a serious challenge to WKYC that began in 2004 and had success in marginally overtaking WKYC once in 2008. In recent years the 11:00 p.m. news race in the Cleveland area has been highly competitive, with WOIO taking part in this spirited competition; often, no more than one ratings share point separates first place from third place among the three newscasts which air in that time slot (to the point where all three stations have claimed victory in different demographics at various points within the past year). However, WOIO's newscasts frequently finish at a distant third or in fourth place in most other dayparts (though it has won the noon time slot in recent ratings periods due to the lead in of The Price Is Right hosted by Cleveland native Drew Carey).
The theme music used for the newscasts beginning in 2005 was from "The CBS Enforcer Music Collection", a package by Gari Music created for the CBS owned-and-operated station group which also has its roots with WBBM-TV's signature tune, based on an old folk song, "I Love Chicago, Chicago My Home."
After 2002 when the 19 Action News branding was implemented, WOIO developed a reputation in the Cleveland market for having a "tabloid" news format, viewed at times as going to extremes in order to cover news and generate publicity. Examples include:
- In early 2004, Spencer Tunick, a photographer known for taking pictures of large groups of naked people, came to Cleveland. Then-WOIO anchor Sharon Reed (regarded by many viewers as very attractive) was asked by news director Steve Doerr to participate in the project for a first hand account of the experience. The idea for the story was the brainchild of general manager Bill Applegate. Several other media outlets participated in the same way, including The Plain Dealer and Cleveland Magazine. The market's other news stations also covered the event. WOIO shot video of "News Babe" Reed getting up in the morning, going to the event, getting undressed and finally nude shots of her from behind. The story called "Body of Art" aired in the November sweeps period after being promoted heavily with promos that contained a "viewer discretion advisory". WOIO insisted that the story was supposed to make viewers question whether Tunick's body of work is art or "something else". On the night the story aired, WOIO received its highest ratings ever. The story also gave Reed and WOIO national attention as she was invited to defend the piece on Fox News and on the Late Show with David Letterman.
- In May 2005, WOIO made somewhat of a controversial move by hiring anchor/reporter Catherine Bosley, who had just recently resigned from her previous job at WKBN-TV in Youngstown, Ohio after making national news by nude pictures of her from a wet T-shirt contest she had participated in while on vacation in Key West leaking online. This had been preceded by an interview done in February 2005 with Sharon Reed recalling the incident. The hire had been derided by some as the station merely bringing Bosley in to cash in on the notoriety from her nude pictures, a claim denied by station management.
- In the winter of 2012, the "circus like atmosphere" and explicit testimony at the Cuyahoga County corruption trial inspired the staff of the station to recreate word-for-word testimony using puppets. This was due to the fact that as a federal case, cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. The use of puppets on the nightly newscasts quickly gained national attention.
- On December 30, 2013, at the press conference with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner discussing the firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski after only one season, WOIO news reporter Dan DeRoos had read aloud several posts from Browns fans on the station's Facebook page questioning Browns management on the firing. DeRoos then asked the question (quoting from one of the posts), "How do you convince Browns fans that the Three Stooges aren't running this organization?" This caused an audible murmur in the interview room, and was highlighted in national stories about the firing.
WOIO began to broadcast its newscasts in high definition on October 21, 2007 with the station's 6:30 p.m. newscast, making the Cleveland market the first in the nation to have all of its Big Four affiliates broadcasting news in the format. The 10:00 p.m. newscast on WUAB also broadcasts in HD; that newscast airs in 720p as MyNetworkTV displays its HD programming in that resolution format, while Action News programs on WOIO air in CBS' 1080i format.
Cleveland 19 News
Although elements of the tabloid-style news format remained, in 2012, WOIO began shifting towards a more traditional newscast format. Under vice president/general manager Dominic Mancuso and news director Fred D'Ambrosi (who was hired by the station in March 2015), the station decided to completely overhaul the tone of its newscasts. On August 14, 2015, WOIO announced the hiring of WMJI (105.7 FM) radio host Mark Nolan as co-anchor of the 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts (reuniting him with former WKYC colleague Romona Robinson). Additional changes to its anchor staff were announced on August 19: Denise Dufala (who would be displaced as Robinson's 6:00 p.m. co-anchor) was shifted to the 5:00 p.m. program with Dan DeRoos, while continuing to anchor at 11:00 p.m. (alongside Robinson); Tia Ewing (previously with KTXL in Sacramento) and Q McCray (previously with KABC-TV in Los Angeles, who would co-anchor the 4:30 a.m. and noon newscasts with Laura DeMaria) joined the station as weekday morning anchors, with reporter Brian Duffy being promoted to co-anchor of the 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. block.
On August 19, 2015, WOIO announced that it would rebrand its newscasts as Cleveland 19 News. In describing the change to a more conventional format for its newscasts, Mancuso cited that while the Action News format was "attention-getting" albeit "more about the brand and the presentation," the change toward a traditional news format would place more of an emphasis "about the stories, with less of the hyperbole," although it would retain an emphasis on investigative journalism that was expanded upon by the news department during the Action News era. The rebranding and format change officially debuted on August 24, 2015, beginning with WOIO's noon newscast; the station also implemented a standardized graphics package for the Raycom stations that originated on Wilmington sister station WECT in December 2014, and adopted "This is the Place" by Stephen Arnold Music as the theme for its newscasts.
Coverage in Canada
The station is available over-the-air in Kingsville, Leamington and Pelee Island in southern Essex County, Ontario and was once listed in the TV Guide edition for those communities (and Windsor, Ontario until 2000 though the station's signal was not strong enough to reach Windsor and Detroit). Unlike WKYC, WEWS and WJW, it was not one of the Cleveland stations carried on local cable providers in those three locations. WOIO is available on cable in St. Thomas and was briefly available on the digital tier in London in early 2005.