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WOIO, virtual channel 19 (VHF digital channel 10), is a CBS-affiliated television station serving Cleveland, Ohio, United States that is licensed to Shaker Heights. The station is owned by Gray Television, as part of a duopoly with Lorain-licensed CW affiliate WUAB (channel 43). The two stations share studios on the ground floor of the Reserve Square building (on East 13th Street and Chester Avenue) in Downtown Cleveland, and transmitter facilities in the West Creek Reservation (between West Ridgewood Drive and the Rustic Trail) in Parma.

HistoryEdit

Early history of UHF channel 19 in ClevelandEdit

The UHF channel 19 allocation in the Cleveland television market dates back to the 1950s, when The Plain Dealer was granted a construction permit to build and license to operate a new television station on UHF channel 19 for a television sister to local radio station WHK (1420 AM) was issued to. When WHK was sold to Metropolitan Broadcasting (later Metromedia) in 1958, the construction permit for what was to have been WHK-TV was surrendered to the FCC. However, the channel 19 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.

As an independent stationEdit

The history of WOIO traces to two groups that competed for approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a construction permit to build and license to operate a new television station on UHF channel 19. Cleveland Television Corp. (a group led by Aben E. Johnson Jr. and Clifford Beresh, who respectively served as president and majority stockholder, and sales manager at WXON [now WMYD-TV] in Detroit) filed the initial application on November 18, 1977. Later, in 1978, Diamond Broadcasting Inc. (a group led by Hubert B. Payne, a former local sales manager at NBC owned-and-operated station WKYC-TV (channel 3, now an NBC affiliate) who was the first African-American local sales manager at a local network affiliate, and William Derrick), and Metroplex Communications (owned by Robert Weiss and Norman Wein) filed competing applications. In early 1980, Cleveland-based Malrite Broadcasting Co. (owned by media executive Milton Maltz, and which owned local radio stations WHK and WMMS (100.7 FM) as well as Cincinnati's WXIX-TV) approached the Payne group about an offer in which Malrite would own non-controlling, non-voting preferred stock (with the voting interest being divided between the principals of the permit), under an FCC waiver for broadcasters that provider substantial financing for a minority-controlled station; Malrite's principal shareholders would also supply one-third of the capital equity in the station. The FCC awarded the permit and license for channel 19 to the Malrite/Diamond/Metroplex group (doing business as Channel 19 Inc.) in 1983.

WOIO – its call letters standing for the station's home state, "OhIO" – first signed on for the air on May 19, 1985. (Prior to that time, the WOIO call letters were assigned to a radio station on 1060 AM [now WILB] in Canton.) Originally operating as an independent station, the station maintained a programming lineup typical of an independent, consisting of off-network sitcoms, classic movies, off-network drama series and religious programs. The station identified as "WOIO nineteen" (often referred to as simply "nineteen" in station promotions), with the "nineteen" spelled out visually and rendered in script font. (The station revised its moniker to "Fox nineteen" by 1988, as that network began requiring affiliates to include the Fox name in their local branding.)

WOIO was the third independent station to operate in the Cleveland market. Its main competitors were WUAB (channel 43, now a primary CW and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate), which signed on the air on September 15, 1968, and WCLQ (channel 61, now Univision owned-and-operated station WQHS-DT), which signed on March 3, 1981; WOIO gained a fourth competitor when WBNX-TV (channel 55) signed on the air on December 1, 1985. That fall, WOIO began carrying animated series and cartoon showcases on Monday through Saturday mornings and on weekday late afternoons. By the end of 1985, channel 19 had surpassed WCLQ as the market's second highest-rated independent station, falling behind WUAB.

In early 1986, Malrite Communications Group purchased the 51% controlling stock interest in WOIO from the principals of Diamond Broadcasting and Metroplex Communications for $1.2 million. Malrite also retained ownership of WHK and WMMS under an exception to FCC rules prohibiting common ownership of television and radio stations under the agency's "one-to-a-market rule," which allowed such combinations that involved a UHF station.

Fox affiliationEdit

WOIO became a charter affiliate of the Fox when the fledgling network inaugurated programming on October 9, 1986; WUAB—despite its status as one of the strongest independent stations in the country—turned down an offer to become an affiliate because its status as a regional superstation made it unattractive for then-owner Gaylord Broadcasting to sign with the network, as most of the markets located within WUAB's cable television footprint had enough commercial stations for Fox to maintain a local affiliate. Though it was technically a network affiliate, Channel 19 continued to be programmed as a de facto independent station. Even after the network's programming expanded with the launch of a three-hour Sunday night lineup in April 1987, Fox offered prime time programs exclusively on weekends until September 1989, when it began a five-year expansion towards a nightly prime time schedule (Fox would not air prime time programs on all seven nights of the week until January 1993). WOIO continued to air a movie at 8:00 p.m. on nights when network programs did not air.

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 (along with 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.

CBS affiliationEdit

On May 23, 1994, Fox network parent News Corporation and New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation agreement in which thirteen television stations affiliated with either CBS, ABC or NBC (five that New World had already owned, and eight that the company was in the process of acquiring through separate deals with Great American Communications and Argyle Television Holdings) would switch to Fox. WJW-TV (channel 8) – which had served as Cleveland's CBS affiliate since March 1955 – was among the New World stations slated to join Fox as part of the group affiliation deal once individual contracts with each of the stations' existing affiliated networks expired. Fox wanted to upgrade affiliates in certain markets in response to its acquisition of the National Football Conference's broadcast television rights, which had been carried by CBS for the previous 38 years, starting with the 1994 NFL season.

With WJW's CBS network contract set to expire on or shortly after September 1, 1994, the Fox-New World deal gave CBS only a five-month window to find a replacement for WJW-TV as its Cleveland affiliate (by comparison, depending on the station, the affiliation contracts of other New World stations named to join Fox did not expire until between December 1994 and September 1996, depending on the term of their agreements with CBS, NBC or ABC). The agreement with New World concerned CBS executives, as New World planned to switch several stronger-performing CBS affiliates in other markets to Fox, which would force the network to sign with either a former Fox affiliate or a lower-profile independent station, as many of the Big Three stations and—with the exception of those in Dallas–Fort Worth and Phoenix—some higher-rated independents it approached rejected offers to join CBS due to its faltering ratings and the older-skewing programming slate it had at the time. To prevent such a situation from happening in Cleveland, CBS approached Scripps-Howard Broadcasting to lure ABC affiliate WEWS (channel 5) to switch to the network. The threat of Scripps-Howard moving WEWS (along with Detroit sister station WXYZ-TV, which it also courted to replace fellow outgoing CBS affiliate WJBK-TV) to sign a ten-year agreement with ABC on June 16, 1994, in which the group renewed its affiliation contracts with WEWS and WXYZ and agreed to switch three other stations to the network.

In June 1994, Malrite had entered into a local marketing agreement with then-WUAB owner Cannell Communications, under which WUAB assumed responsibility for providing production, advertising and promotional services and master control operations for channel 19. Both stations moved to facilities located at the first floor of the Reserve Square apartment/hotel complex on East 12th Street in downtown Cleveland. The area currently occupied by the WOIO/WUAB newsroom and the soundstage housing the stations' news set was once occupied by a movie theater for the Reserve Square Apartments, which began operation when the facility opened as the Park Centre Apartments in 1973 and was closed in 1978 after the Park Theater's ownership sold the leased space; the former theater was gutted and renovated in preparation for WOIO/WUAB's relocation into Reserve Square and the expansion of WUAB's news department to include newscasts for WOIO.

On July 8, CBS reached an agreement with Malrite Communications to move its programming to WOIO, originally slated to take effect August 29. The fact that the LMA with WUAB resulted in WOIO being tied to the only Cleveland station not affiliated with any of the "Big Three" networks that had a functioning news department played a factor in CBS's decision to sign an affiliation agreement with channel 19. WOIO became the Cleveland market's CBS affiliate on September 3, 1994; WJW-TV concurrently switched to Fox, ending its affiliation with CBS after 40 years and becoming the first New World station to switch to Fox under the group's agreement with that network. As a consequence of the affiliation swap, Channel 19 moved most of its recent off-network and first-run syndicated sitcoms and syndicated animated series to WUAB, which also assumed the local over-the-air television rights to the Cavaliers as WOIO's switch to CBS (which maintains a network-dominated program schedule) left channel 19 without enough room on its schedule to continue airing the NBA team's game broadcasts. The Fox Kids block moved instead to independent station WBNX-TV (channel 55) as WJW, like most of the New World stations affected by the Fox affiliation agreement, declined carriage of the block to focus on its news-intensive program schedule; WBNX also picked up the local rights to some of the older sitcoms then in WOIO's inventory that WUAB lacked room for on its schedule.

On April 6, 1998, Raycom Media announced that it would acquire Malrite Communications for an undisclosed price; the LMA with WUAB was included in the deal. The sale was finalized six months later on September 17. In September 1999, WOIO and WUAB underwent a unified rebranding, adopting the respective brands "Hometeam 19" and "Hometeam 43". The rebranding was intended to signify an emphasis on local news and sports coverage placed by both stations as well as 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 rights (channel 19 has held the role as the Browns' unofficial 'home station' since their reactivation in 1999). On March 2, 2000, six months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed its local ownership rules to allow common ownership of two commercially licensed television stations in the same media market, Raycom exercised an option to acquire the station outright from Cannell Communications; the sale was finalized two months later on May 10.

In January 2001, Raycom hired controversial station manager Bill Applegate as WOIO and WUAB's general manager; subsequently in February 2002, WOIO and WUAB ditched the uniform "Hometeam" branding, with the former replacing it in favor of identifying as ""Cleveland's CBS 19" for general promotional purposes and newscasts seen on both stations being reformatted as 19 Action News. On August 24, 2015, as part of a universal rebranding of WOIO and WUAB, channel 19 changed its branding to the uniform "Cleveland 19". (Concurrently, WUAB similarly rebranded as "CLE 43," with "C-L-E" spelled out audibly.)

Sale to Gray TelevisionEdit

On June 25, 2018, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced it had reached an agreement with Raycom to merge their respective broadcasting assets (consisting of Raycom's 63 existing owned-and/or-operated television stations, and Gray's 93 television stations) under Gray's corporate umbrella, in a cash-and-stock merger transaction valued at $3.6 billion. The sale was approved on December 20, and was completed on January 2, 2019. Upon completion of the deal, WOIO/WUAB became Gray's largest television stations by market size (as it was for Raycom), a title formerly held by the company's Knoxville, Tennessee duopoly of fellow CBS affiliate WVLT-TV and CW affiliate WBXX-TV as well as having a new sister station in the nearby Toledo market, ABC affiliate WTVG (while separating it from fellow CBS affiliate WTOL).


TV stations in Ohio
WOIO, Shaker Heights

WKBN, Youngstown
WHIO, Dayton
WAMS-LP/WOHL-CD2, Lima
WTOL, Toledo
WBNS, Columbus
WKRC, Cincinnati

TV stations in Ohio
WOIO-DT2, Shaker Heights

WRGT-DT2, Dayton
WLIO-DT2, Lima
WMNT-CD, Toledo
WSYX-DT2, Columbus
WSTR, Cincinnati

TV stations in Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland, Akron, and Canton
WKYC 3 (NBC)
WEWS 5 (ABC)
WJW 8 (Fox)
W16DO-D 16 (RTV)
WDLI 17 (Ion Life)
WOIO 19 (CBS)
WQDI-LD 20 (ESTRELLA)
WIVD-LD 22 (Ind)
WVPX 23 (Ion)
WVIZ 25 (PBS)
W27DG-D 27 (Ind)
WIVN-LD 29 (Ind)
WIVM-LD 39 (Ind)
WEKA-LD 41 (COZI)
WOHZ-CD 41 (Ind)
WUAB 43 (CW)
WRLM 47 (TCT)
WEAO 49 (PBS)
WIVX-LD 51 (Ind)
WGGN 52 (Rel)
WCDN-LD 53 (Daystar)
WBNX 55 (Ind)
WQHS 61 (UNI)
WMFD 68 (Ind)
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