Charlie Cook On Air: Cumulus/Dial Global Strike A Good Deal

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

In the old days, the National Association of Broadcasters meeting was the start of the buying and selling season for radio. Owners and brokers would hole up in hotel suites for days on end, while the meetings were taking place at other hotels, and wheel and deal. A few blockbusters were sure to emerge from those meetings and the minions not invited to the conference would have new bosses in 90-120 days. It seemed like this was the way of the radio world.

Well the conference is in a couple of weeks but two of the biggest blockbusters did not wait for the trip to Orlando to raise their hands. Last week the syndication, radio and specifically Country landscape shifted dramatically. Cumulus, certainly the most aggressive buyer today, announced the purchase of Dial-Global. At the same time they involved themselves in a three-team transaction with Townsquare picking up scores of Cumulus stations and trading some for others in the deal.

There appears to be a direct line from Atlanta to Greenwich, Conn. This is not the first time Cumulus and Townsquare have swapped stations and apparently all parties are pleased with the former experience. It is kind of like the Detroit Tigers and the Florida Marlins. They find trading a profitable encounter. Like the old days when the New York Yankees kept going back and forth with the old Kansas City A’s. The baseball trades have resulted in Miquel Cabrera going to the Tigers and the A’s traded Roger Maris to the Yankees. Not a bad template for Cumulus and Townsquare.

The big deal here is the Dial-Global transfer. DG is a big Country music programming provider. Many countdown shows, prep services, short form airshifts, and of course the 24/7 formats. No one knows today how all of that is going to wash out. I am sure Lew and John Dickey have done their due diligence with the numbers but it may be months before they can get their hands around people issues and what shows to keep.

I have some insight on both of these companies, having worked at both (when a good portion of DG was Westwood One). I know both companies are stocked with good people who know the format and their job responsibilities. This is a great pick up for Cumulus because of the class of people they are inheriting and the first-class programming they get. This is a great deal for the DG people because Cumulus has shown the commitment to invest in radio programming and it is run by 100% radio people. The DG folks can feel secure they are in good radio hands going forward and there are not going to be rumors every six months of a buy out or closure.

This purchase will allow DG and the current Cumulus syndication to compete with Premiere as the two big players in the field. It also helps the smaller syndicators like United Stations Radio Network to provide more specialized programming and show how nimble they can be in providing things broadcasters desire.

There is concern with each consolidation that voices are eliminated as more influence is put in fewer hands. The offerings of Premiere and the new Cumulus are so wide-ranging that there remains hundreds of creative minds involved. And if everything becomes vanilla inside those companies, they stand to throw away their position as leaders.

As Kurt Johnson and Mike McVay program to individual markets inside Townsquare and Cumulus radio, the new syndication company will deliver different things. Remember there is no better world for Cumulus than to compete with its programs on any number of stations in a market. This way they are collecting spots from everyone.

A good world is to have Kix Brooks’ Countdown on one country station in town and Lon Helton’s on the other.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)


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