What are the two soft/mainstream AC's in Cleveland? ...
CBS Radio's WDOK/102.1 and CC's WMVX/106.5. Yes, WMVX is a gold-based AC - way too much 80s for my liking - but they still play 90s and currents.
WDOK's sister station WQAL/104.1 could also loosely be called an AC station, but they are of the "Adult Top 40" category so as not to cannibalize WDOK.
Also, Canton has CC's WHOF/101.7 and NextMedia's WHBC/94.1... plus WKDD/98.1 Munroe Falls still targets both Akron and Canton.
When comparing to the Columbus soft/mainstream AC duplication we can start by eliminating the Akron-Canton stations, since they are not really a factor in Arbitron's Cleveland market. Also -- as you explained -- WQAL is nowhere near the mainstream/soft realm, so we can eliminate that one too.
That leaves WDOK -- which certainly fits the soft/mainstream category, and CC's WMVX. If 93.3 here was more like WMVX, the local situation wouldn't be quite as "me-too" and frustrating. While I haven't heard it in awhile (and it's in Christmas mode now), it's hugely more uptempo than the local AC's. It plays songs that are far, far edgier than anything either 93.3 nor 94.7 would get near -- even though it's gold-heavy as they are. WVMX and WDOK are nothing alike...it's a very different situation than we have with 93.3 and 94.7
Again, the core issue is CC's continuing "forever" to use its 93.3 "big signal" for an approach that's so texturally similar to traditionally soft-leaning WSNY. If 93.3 would finally try a MUCH more uptempo version of AC (but still gold-based to avoid stealing from NCI -- and could still even be called "Soft Rock" since that's such a nebulous moniker), we wouldn't have *quite* as ridiculous a situation -- even though Classic Hits is such an ultra-obvious hole in this market and attractive to both Sunny's demo and workplace listeners...and even though Gen-X's obvious potential is being unnecessarily capped by the sometimes-iffy 106.7 signal (e.g., it was frustrating watching the stereo indicator fade in and out for 106.7 a few days ago as I was driving up 315 from downtown -- worst around Lane Ave, and not completely clean until north of Bethel...while the Christmas audio on 93.3 was pristine).
And getting back to Cleveland for a second, even to the extent any stations may "hug" each other formatically there, it's not as egregious a situation since Cleveland has plenty more city-grade signals than Columbus.