Cleveland Is Rocking and Rolling

Tracy McCool (l.) and Lou Maglio deliver the news at Cleveland market leader WJW.
Tracy McCool (l.) and Lou Maglio deliver the news at Cleveland market leader WJW. (Image credit: WJW)

Cleveland residents have long seen their city as bigger than others perceive it to be, and outsiders are finally seeing it on a bigger stage. The city hosted the NFL draft this past spring, and offers the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in October. 

Micki Byrnes, president and general manager of WKYC, calls Cleveland “a big city with a small-town heart.”

Cleveland-Akron, Ohio, is DMA No. 19. Nexstar has Fox affiliate WJW. Tegna holds NBC outlet WKYC. Scripps owns ABC station WEWS and Gray Television has CBS affiliate WOIO and The CW-aligned WUAB. Spectrum is the primary pay TV operator. 

With a “Cleveland’s Own” brand, WJW is a ratings beast. In April, the station took the 6-7 a.m. races in households and 25-54 easily, and won the tighter 5 p.m. contests too. WEWS won 6 p.m. in both categories. In late news, WJW won 25-54 easily, while WEWS posted a 3.83 in households, virtually level with WJW’s 3.80. WKYC had a 3.53 and WOIO a 2.31. 

More Local News: WKYC Offers Morning News on the ‘Go!’

“Our anchors and meteorologists have developed strong bonds with our viewers, almost like an extension of the family,” said Paul Perozeni, WJW VP/general manager. “We know this market because most of our staff, both on air and behind the scenes, were born and raised here.”

WJW’s rivals are upping their game. WEWS won three regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. Steve Weinstein, WEWS VP/general manager, said News 5 is focused on enterprise journalism. “We’ve made a really big push in this market, a huge journalism push with support from our company,” said Weinstein. 

WEWS is the Browns station. Residents talk about the football team all year round. “We were the partner when they were not doing so great,” said Weinstein. “Now we’re the partner when they are doing great.”

Jodie Heisner became WEWS news director last year after Sean McGarvy moved up to Scripps corporate. 

WKYC has covered the eventful past year-plus with signature programming such as The Turning Point, a monthly special on race with regular updates, and weekly public affairs show We the People.  

“Everyone has taken a deeper look at themselves and their organization in terms of how we were covering certain stories and dealing with certain issues,” Byrnes said. “It has allowed us as a station to dive a little deeper.”

WKYC added 5 p.m. news in January 2020. A “triad” oversees news: Adam Miller is director of content, John Adkins is director of broadcast news and Denise Polverine oversees digital news. 

WJW offers 12½ hours of local programming daily, including morning staple New Day Cleveland. “The show has developed a very strong connection with loyal viewers,” said Perozeni, “that value local content over national syndicated shows.”

WOIO-WUAB airs MyNetworkTV and Me TV on subchannels. WOIO added 3 p.m. newscasts and WUAB debuted an 11 a.m. edition. Reaching mobile users is a focus. “We definitely understand where the viewers are going,” said Erik Schrader, VP and general manager. “We’re focused on providing as much local content on our OTT station as possible.”

WOIO local shows include Cribbs in the CLE, hosted by former Browns player Josh Cribbs. 

The Cleveland economy is moving forward. Byrnes said it traditionally hits neither the high highs nor the low lows.  

General managers describe a lively foodie town full of diverse neighborhoods and upbeat people. “Cleveland is so completely underrated,” Schrader said. “There are lots of advantages of a really big city without the drawbacks.” 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.