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Suggestions For Cumulus’ National Platforms

Lance's Line RadioInsight Blog

Cumulus Westwood One Classic Hip-Hop 93.9 The Beat Adam Bomb Ralphie AversaThis is Part Two of a series of suggestions for how to turn around some of Cumulus’ most-struggling platforms. Part One can be read here.

Cumulus under the Dickey Brothers had a habit of launching a new content strategy and then quickly putting it on the back-burner after it failed to meet expectations. In the past few years we’ve seen Sweetjack, CBS Sports Radio, Nash, Rdio and Westwood One all have their turn in the spotlight. We checked on Nash last week and Sweetjack and the Daily Deals industry is more or less dead at this point. What about the others?

CBS Sports Radio

Thanks to the CBS and Cumulus owned stations that picked up the network, CBS Sports Radio at launch was established in the #3 slot of the five national 24/7 sports radio networks. ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio remain ahead of it, Yahoo! and NBC Sports trailing it. The national CBS Sports television network would rather clear WFAN’s Boomer & Carton in mornings rather than the national radio content.

Very little in the way of Cumulus personalities or station content has made their way to the network and the stations that have flipped to the network since its launch have seen little in the way of traction. At the time of the network’s launch in 2012, Cumulus abandoned most of its Sports stations longstanding relationships with ESPN or Fox Sports Radio, but has since made deals to bring ESPN programming to a few markets and take over operations of ESPN’s Dallas station.

While the goal to have national Sports content that they didn’t need to license from ESPN or Clear Channel, what has CBS Sports Radio done to break out in the marketplace? Jim Rome is the only marketable personality and nothing is being done to make him seem as important as he did when he was with Fox Sports Radio and ESPN TV. How can that change? Fix the web and distribution platforms as we’ll get to below.

Rdio

Other than placing their station’s streams on Rdio, Cumulus has done little to help the streaming service differentiate from their much larger competitors. Where are the custom playlists from Cumulus personalities that were to be added? What Cumulus personality has a national appeal that could be used to help launch such a feature? Last week former Sex Pistol Steve Jones relaunched his “Jonesy’s Jukebox” on KLOS Los Angeles. Why isn’t this being placed on Rdio? Why aren’t Nash Icon signed artists like Reba McIntyre or Martina McBride contributing?

Westwood One

Over the past several months many radio operators have gotten involved in the burgeoning podcast industry. CBS has Play.it, Hubbard bought a stake in PodcastOne from Westwood One founder Norm Pattiz, iHeart has added quite a few sponsored ones to their platform, and Scripps made the largest commercial play by purchasing Midroll. What does Westwood One have that many of these podcasting networks are building from scratch? National and local content AND advertsing sales teams. All spoken word content being produced for national syndication and local consumption could easily be packaged directly to consumers via podcasting (and music programming to Rdio). The infrastructure is in place just not being used to its full capabilities.

The Web

Every major radio group has built out a single template they use for all their stations regardless of format. Cumulus’ is one of the worst for flexibility and usually the worst when it comes to having a station’s site have compelling content. Very often there are noticeable errors or laziness. Why are WPLJ’s hosts listed on the on-air-now by their daypart? How is NashFM.com not used to link to ALL the Nash branded stations so listeners can find their local one as opposed to directing them straight to New York? These are simple fixes.

Even Mary Berner mentioned on today’s Investor Call that Cumulus has no digital strategy. Time to change that. There is so much that can be done on the web to tie in with the local and national shows and the unique content that Cumulus has the rights to. Why is Hubbard’s WTOP Washington running laps over every other station in the country when it comes to digital revenue? They have content and a reason for listeners to go to the station’s website. It’s not a hard concept, just needs to be done.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

11 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Eric Jon Magnuson


    Jonesy’s Jukebox is part of Spotify’s new “In Residence” program–although I don’t know how different it is from the KLOS version.

    Also, is it really a good idea for Westwood to still handle both CBS and NBC Sports Radio?

  2. Profile photo of coughitup


    I’ve got the idea for really improving the Cumulus juggernaut. Let’s bring back Monitor from the grave. We can air the show from early Saturday morning to late Sunday night or early Monday morning. We can present hourly news and breaking developments, analysis on major stories, interviews with newsmakers and celebrities and live remotes from around the world. Not to mention a wide variety of music from all genres. Monitor was on for 20,000 hours during its 20 year run and I’m sure that we can make new memories by bringing Monitor back.

    • Profile photo of Scott Fybush


      We have that, at least for some weekend hours – it’s called Weekend Edition and Weekend All Things Considered.

    • Profile photo of borderblaster


      That would be a huge expense. Monitor died in the 70s for a reason, not the least was an aging audience. If you remember Monitor even from your parents listening to it when you were a kid, you’re over 50 pushing 60. If you were the target audience back then, you’re at least 70. The sales demos have no recollection of anything called “Monitor” on the radio.

      I frankly think Cumulus should re-spin-off Westwood, as they really aren’t good at syndication

      • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


        Just the half-hour public affairs filler newsmagazine “America This Week.”

    • Profile photo of Bill Recto


      Wait don’t Jim Bohannon does something like Monitor?

      • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


        Jim Bohannon only hosts the half-hour public affairs filler newsmagazine “America This Week,” which is repurposed material from his talk show and “America In The Morning.” Nothing along the lines of “Montior.”

        (I meant to answer the question here; please delete my previous comment and edit this one to strip out this sentence…)

  3. Profile photo of Bill Recto


    Umm Cumulus in the Newsmagazine business is interesting? But how much is this is really forcing Cumulus to play the Monday Morning quarterback card. Well one idea is to shut down KGO, KABC, WABC for good. Also one good spot for Cumulus would be to make sure KNBR remains the top Sports talk station in the Bay Area and in other places where Cumulus has a good sports talk operation. Shut down Rdio app if they can’t find a better way to separate themselves from Tunein, Iheart and Live365 for streams and podcasts.

    • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


      I think Cumulus is secretly hoping for the FCC to rescind their ban of foreign investing in broadcast properties, which is the only way they can remove themselves of the dead-weight legacy ABC talkers. Simply shutting those stations down for good will represent a mammoth markdown that they cannot – and will not – afford to go through.

      • Profile photo of Bill Recto


        Well its been a year since ABC radio moved to skyview networks. I don’t even think Skyview would want KABC, WABC, KGO and WLS in their investments. Cumulus would have to figure out what to do with these stations on the AM band. Sell the old ABC radio affiliates to locuspoint? But also back to other cumulus properties I agree on all the others Lance has mentioned.

        • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


          If given the green light by the FCC through a relaxing of current regulations, Cumulus will be more than happy to sell off or lease said legacy ABC talkers to investors from outside of this country… because no American broadcaster in their own right will want to buy a 50,000 watt black hole with no ratings and no hope for the future.

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