For the first time since 1984, you might not be able to watch the WEBN-FM Riverfest fireworks on TV.
With the fireworks less than two months away, WXIX-TV (Channel 19) has ended its agreement with iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) to televise the annual “last blast of summer” and provide weather to WLW-AM (700).
“We have decided not to renew the deal,” said Debbie Bush, Channel 19 vice president and general manager. She took over the station in February from Bill Lanesey, who had obtained the fireworks and weather rights in 2010. “It didn’t make financial sense for us.”
On Thursday, WLW-AM newscasts started referring to forecasts from the “700 WLW weather center” instead of the Fox 19 Stormtracker center.
The 39th annual Western & Southern / WEBN Fireworks presented by Cincinnati Bell are set for 9:05 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati.
The tradition started in August 1977 to celebrate WEBN-FM’s 10th anniversary. They have been telecast every year since 1984 by WXIX-TV, WLWT-TV, WCPO-TV or WKRC-TV. It is always the highest-rated TV broadcast of the night here, and one of the biggest TV audiences for a local program each year.
The WEBN.com Fireworks F.A.Q. makes no mention of a TV partner this year.
Chuck Fredrick, iHeartMedia Cincinnati market manager; Justin Tabas, fireworks executive producer; and WLW-AM news director Jeff Henderson have not responded to email requests for information about a fireworks telecast this year or WLW's change in the weather.
Riverfest opens on both sides of the Ohio River at noon on Sept. 6.
Bush said the parting was “amicable. We’re still friends.”