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Les Moonves Again Hints At CBS Selling Stations

CBS Radio Les Moonves Selling Smaller MarketsUpdate 9/18: At a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference yesterday, CBS President/CEO Les Moonves once again discussed CBS trimming its radio portfolio.

Moonves stated that he would like to drop around 40 stations to somewhere in the “high 80s, low 80s over the next year or so”.

Original Report 9/11: In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, CBS President/CEO Les Moonves discussed the possibility of the company divesting some of its radio assets.

CNBC’s DAVID FABER: When I look at the portfolio, the one thing that maybe stands out is radio. And some say at some point is that potentially the last piece you might consider? Well Simon and Schuster also selling.

LES MOONVES You know what, we own 127 some odd radio stations. I think you might see us try to trim down radio in that some of our radio stations aren’t in major markets. We still believe in radio. It is a slow growth radio. Not as fast as some of our other businesses. We like it. But as I said, you might see a reduction in the number of radio stations that we have.

FABER: But not necessarily figuring out a way to either spin it to shareholders or sell it?

MOONVES: Highly doubtful, hightly doubtful. Once again it is still a content business. Unlike the outdoor business which is walls, you put advertising on walls that’s what it is. It’s a great business. Radio is a content business. We have developed our Sports Radio Network which works in concert with our other divisions: CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports and Showtime. Valuable Content.

Moonves clearly rules out CBS selling out of radio completely, but there are quite a few markets where the company could be willing to sell. Charlotte, Cleveland, Hartford, Las Vegas, Orlando, Palm Springs, Riverside and St. Louis are among the smaller markets where the company owns radio stations, but not television stations. Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Sacramento could also be considered if they aren’t that interested in radio/television cross-ownership in the markets. Of course smaller is in the eye of the beholder as outside of standalone stations in Palm Springs and Victor Valley, Hartford at market 52 is the smallest market the company operates in.

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.

9 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Nathan Obral


    The only thing missing from this is, who would be the buyer of any of these stations? The list is rather small (Townsquare and Cumulus -ick- are the only possible buyers), and unless CBS is asking for fire-sale prices, it’s highly unlikely that these clusters are, without a doubt, going to be sold off.

    Les basically said what amounts to a status update and a repeat of what was said back in 2008.

    And of course, contrary to popular belief, no group will be able to make a clean purchase of CBS Radio in its entirety. Certainly not Cumulus.

    • Profile photo of Jack Bayes


      townsquare and cumulus the only possible buyers? hardly.

      alpha.

      connoisseur.

      steel city.

      entercom has said they’re a buyer at the right price.

      emmis bought the inner city stations in new york…they could be looking at growth.

      maybe summit.

      and regardless of what happened with dean goodman’s clear channel deal (which cratered at a time when the multiples were much higher and money was harder to find), digity is a definite player.

      in fact, townsquare is likely not in the mix at all.

  2. Profile photo of charles57


    Baltimore, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and St. Louis could also be considered if they aren’t that interested in radio/television cross-ownership …

    Uhh, CBS sold its St. Louis TV station in the 1980s.

  3. Profile photo of only1moore


    CBS also had a TV/Radio cross ownership in Denver, only to spin-off the radio stations to Wilks. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Baltimore, Sacramento, or Minneapolis-St. Paul come into play with a deal that would involve a TV station in the mix.

    • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


      The Denver cluster was sold off in a panic move right as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns reared their ugly heads… for $19M. That is such a rare exception to the general rule of CBS asking for top dollar.

      Plus the Baltimore cluster is tricky, as not one, but two FMs in CBS’s portfolio (WNEW/99.1 and WLZL/107.9) are licensed to the Annapolis area and target both DC and Baltimore.

      Again, it’s all a big nothingburger offered up by Les Moonves just for the sake of cage rattling.

    • Profile photo of Eric Jon Magnuson


      Normally, I’d agree that the comments were a bunch of nothing. However, this time, they include a rough number of stations that could be sold. Plus, some folks (at the very least, Tom Taylor and RAMP) have made some rough calculations to determine that getting the overall station count down into the 80s could involve selling off pretty much all of the stations outside roughly the top 15 to 20 metros. Mr. Taylor takes it further, and says that the likeliest buyer in such a situation may be Digity.

      However, I’m not too sure about CBS swapping radio for in-market TV: In Sacramento, it already has a TV duopoly (KOVR and KMAX)–while I don’t think a true duopoly (i.e., without Sinclair-style maneuverings) is possible in Baltimore. (To add to what was said about Denver, I’m pretty sure that the former CBS cluster there was relatively weak and, therefore, expendable.)

      That said, I’m still surprised that CBS didn’t make a public move to buy back KMOV (the former KMOX-TV) when it came on the market recently–especially since Mr. Moonves’ comments at the conference (as reported by Inside Radio) also included a desire to buy more TV stations.

      • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


        The last time Dean Goodman tried to buy multiple clusters from a broadcast chain, it didn’t quite work out. Remember GoodRadio.TV’s purchase of hundreds of small market Clear Channel stations around the country? Exactly.

        I’d take the Digity rumors with the smallest grain of salt I can find.

      • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


        There is one station Tom Taylor failed to include in his Baltimore cluster… the cross-cluster WNEW/99.1, which is clearly targeting both DC and Baltimore (and is now tied in with WJZ/13 and WJZ-FM/105.7). Why break that up?

        And he also misidentified all-sports WKRK-FM Cleveland as a music station. If the goal is to wrench WOIO/19 and WUAB/43 from Raycom (highly unlikely to begin with) so they can maximize retrans fees in an AFC market, wouldn’t it make sense to pair the TV outlet with WKRK-FM, the radio co-flagship of the AFC Browns?

        All that this is doing is creating nothing but FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

  4. Profile photo of Derv


    Not sure you should so quickly discount Digity’s ability to get a deal done.

    They have (as Palm Beach Broadcasting) bought a cluster from CBS in 2012 and were able to close. They have completed group deals for Nextmedia and Three Eagles in the past year or so.

    There are other potential buyers of CBS spinoffs beyond the few already mentioned. Look at the companies that have been aggressive purchasers in the past year or two.

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