CBS plans to sell or spin off its radio assets in the coming year, acknowledging that the business has become slow-growth and a drain on resources that can be better directed to content production and digital endeavors.
CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves confirmed the plan Tuesday during CBS’ Investor Day presentation in New York.
Moonves said CBS would explore a variety of alternatives for the group include a sale, swap or spinoff of the group, just as CBS spun off its outdoor advertising group in 2014. The goal, he said, is to “unlock value for our shareholders,” but he vowed to the crowd of Wall Streeters that “we will be prudent and judicious as we go, as we are in all such endeavors.”
The Eye owns 117 stations in 26 markets, including clusters in such top markets as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
In recent months Moonves has hinted that CBS was leaning toward selling some or all of its stations. CBS took a $484 million write-down on the value of its radio station group in the fourth quarter, citing “the sustained decline in industry projections for the radio advertising marketplace since 2014.”
Cumulus Media, the nation’s second-largest radio station owner behind IHeartMedia, has been mentioned as a potential buyer of the CBS group.
CBS Corp.’s roots in radio stretch back to the mid-1920s, when William S. Paley began his quest to turn a ragtag group of stations into the most powerful network in the country. In 1996 CBS’ holdings expanded dramatically with the acquisition of Mel Karmazin’s Infinity Broadcasting, which brought 44 major-market stations into the fold.
In recent years CBS has been paring down its station holdings in smaller markets and those markets where it does not own any TV stations.