This 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.
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?
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.
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.