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Woe For WOIO

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 1, 2006

Channel 19 had better hope that ''Jericho,'' ''Shark,'' ''Smith'' and other new CBS shows are hits. Because right now the company -- and its corporate companion, Channel 43 -- are getting another kind of hit.

The latest bad news for 19: the loss of its deal to carry Browns exhibition games. The official statement went like this:

''After evaluating the decision from the common pleas court, the Cleveland Browns and WOIO have mutually agreed to end their current contractual relationship and their official partnership.

''Both parties express their appreciation for the professional manner in which this difficult matter has been resolved, and they look forward to a professional relationship in the future.''

19  will still have the games that count -- during the regular season, as part of CBS's football package. But Browns fever is so high in these parts, even exhibition games could be counted on to provide a healthy rating. That's especially good for the dog days of August, when most networks are leaning on reruns and reality programming. It gave 19 a big promotional platform just before the new season began.

But the loss of Browns games is not the station's only worry. Channel 43 will have an uphill fight in prime time beginning in September, when it starts carrying two serialized dramas from the new MyNetworkTV. UPN, its current network, ceases to exist in September and its most successful programs have been cherry-picked by the new CW, a UPN-WB merger, which will be on Channel 55. And the Cavaliers appear ready to move to an all-cable deal with FSN Ohio, which would take another draw away from Channel 43.

The news is not all bad for 19. There's a good chance Katie Couric's move to CBS will bring new viewers to the network's evening news.

TV wisdom has it that people don't watch stations, or networks; they watch programs. CBS still has plenty of strong prime-time shows, and mainstay ''CSI'' is acting as if it's ready for a brawl with time-slot competitor ''Grey's Anatomy.

There's even reason for (carefully measured) sympathy for 19. I'm happy that, at least during the preseason, I can watch the Browns without seeing ''Action News'' promos. Nevertheless, I have mixed feelings about these recent events.

The Browns should have known what they were getting into when they made a deal with 19, because its news was there for everyone to see. It apparently did not bother the team when people outside the Browns family were the focus of 19's tabloid tactics. And I don't like any organization expecting favorable treatment from a news organization just because they have a business relationship.

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