CBS, Cumulus Turn Off ESPN Radio

Cumulus officially announced that they are dropping ESPN Radio programming on about four dozen of its sports stations, in favor of affiliation with the new CBS Sports Radio Network, which is a joint venture between CBS and Cumulus. Lewis Dickey (pictured) is the chairman, CEO and President of Cumulus.

With the anticipated full launch of the CBS Sports Radio Network, and the circumstances involved, this news item should come as a shock to absolutely no one – but I’m reporting on it, anyway.

You will recall that when the initial press release from CBS went out touting the new radio network, of which Cumulus Media will be handling sales and distribution, several Cumulus-owned sports stations were listed, many of them carrying ESPN Radio programming.

Well, Cumulus has made it official, as they have announced they will be severing ties with ESPN Radio, effective New Year’s Day. CBSSRN’s 24/7 lineup, of which only Jim Rome, Doug Gottlieb and Scott Ferrall have been confirmed as network talent, bows on January 2.

Upon the network’s launch, CBS says that they will have “the most listened to sports radio network in the top fifty markets.” Note that only four out of the nearly four dozen Cumulus stations currently aligned with ESPN Radio are in major markets, such as Atlanta – a city where ESPN Radio claims they already have a new affiliate lined up.

“Don’t forget that CBS Radio owns most of the top ten sports stations in the United States,” said CBS Radio President Dan Mason. “And with Cumulus, that’s formidable.”

And when you look at that list of sports radio stations for 2011 in terms of revenue, CBS does own four (WFAN, WIP, WSCR and WBZ-FM) – yet two Cumulus-owned sports stations in San Francisco (KNBR) and Dallas (KTCK) round out the top five. So when you consider CBS and Cumulus combined had a majority of the top ten sports radio stations in the country before plans of them joining forces to launch a new network were even announced, “formidable” is the perfect word to describe it.

In fact, Mason is so high on the new venture and its roster of hosts, that he uses the F-word again.

“We’re the new entry and we think we put together formidable talent,” he proclaimed.

He also thinks that, big picture, Cumulus is better off tuning out ESPN. “ESPN [Radio] affiliates are in small markets,” he said. “Maybe you find that adds up to a lot of audience… ESPN has had the market much to themselves.”

With all respect to Mr. Mason, to be fair, Fox Sports Radio has been holding its own as a strong second sports network. And of course, there’s the former Sporting News Radio, Yahoo! Sports Radio, which has muddled through despite ESPN and Fox having more affiliates.

Plus, NBC Sports Radio launched last month, bearing about a hundred affiliates.

When CBS Sports Radio hits the ground running next year, it will also have a hundred stations.

Some of which will be parting ways with the Worldwide Leader after many years.

But that’s business.

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