CBS Plans to Sell Radio Station Group

CBS Radio
Courtesy of CBS Radio

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.”

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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.

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  1. Laura Mullen says:

    Too bad they ever got into radio. They destroyed every station they bought, if not radio itself.
    RIP WBCN The rock of Boston killed off by CBS

  2. Jay Rudko says:

    I live in an area where CBS owns two TV and three radio stations. Does that mean the CBS cluster will remain intact, or will one or more of the radio stations still be sold?

  3. will says:

    The most probable scenario is that CBS Radio is spun off as a separate, publicly-traded company. All the likely suitors (Cumulus/iHeart) are tapped out.

  4. Jerry Kenney says:

    CBS is part of a coalition that wants the FCC to change its rules (15-236) to allow them to dump their radio and TV outlets off to foreign corporations. America allowed near monopolies in broadcasting for years but now that broadcasting has become less lucrative, they want to thank us by selling out to countries like Communist China, Russia and Qatar. American airwaves should be for Americans.

    • will says:

      Other countries have allowed American countries to invest in their broadcast properties, and their republics haven’t fallen. The more international investment our industries receive, the better. Protectionism and nationalism/jingoism won’t improve the lot of American broadcasting.

  5. Jack says:

    Cumulus won’t be allowed to buy the CBS group without divesting most of it, because, unless the limits have changed, CBS is already at the limit in markets like Chicago, and Cumulus has its own stations

  6. Deb Ragosta says:

    Please don’t change the formats! I listen to NYC’s 1010WINS and Boston’s 1030WBZ and would hate to see them become run-of-the-mill AM stations.

  7. Bob Belcher says:

    Would CBS News continue to operate the radio news division for affiliates or do they plan on dumping that too?

    • will says:

      It will probably be like how ABC Radio News currently operates – ABC has creates the content but other functions are handled by third parties.

      • Rick says:

        @will actually that’s not the case anymore ABC took over everything effective January 1st of this year. Cumulus has nothing to do with ABC or the ABC branding anymore.

  8. L. Daffin says:

    How the hell can cumulus afford to buy anything with their 2.4 billion dollar debt??? Are they printing money in the transmitter building??

  9. Appearing Tonight says:

    Cool, radio! I hear all the folks down at the typewriter factory are looking for something to do on their lunch hour . . .

  10. Jeff Barge says:

    “CBS took a $484 million write-down on the value of its radio station group in the fourth quarter.” Does this mean they can use the stations as a write down and also write down the value of the radio network? Kind of like it is double-dipping.

  11. Mark says:

    Unless you can’t afford a smart phone or are listening to talk radio or NPR, why would anyone listen to this device called a “radio” for music?

    • BSmeterpegged says:

      98% of the 12+ population listens to terrestrial radio every week, so go on with your bad elite trendsetter self.

    • mary says:

      90% of Americans listen to radio each week. You must not own a car, or are in the 10% who don’t work and don’t commute

    • SportsGuy says:

      Convenience. It’s, after all, right there in the car with limited interaction needed. You turn on one switch on your home receiver to fire it up.

      • CB says:

        I’m with sports guy. The less distraction/complication drivers have with their information flow, the better. I’m sick of the distraction—several times I’ve had very close calls with people who seriously think their attention should be on their communications devices, and not the heavy machinery they are operating in a public space.

      • Bill Thomas says:

        I could give you several reasons but your comment indicates that you are unable to understand.

  12. Josh The Radio Dude says:

    Oh dear God, for the love of all that is good and right, Moonves, do NOT sell them to Cumulus. Those hacks don’t need any more stations to destroy, they’ve got their own corpses to dig deeper graves for, they don’t need your portfolio to help.

  13. Frank Ebbs says:

    So we’re going to see another version of the same Ponzi scheme enacted by Mel Karmazin lo those many years ago. Assuming Cumulus isn’t belly-up before I finish this comment, this is my prediction:

    1. Cumulus actually has a bank will to lend it money to buy the CBS stations.

    2. Night of the Long Knives where the bare bones operations already in place are cut further.

    3. Stock price takes a boost for a few quarters.

    4. Some of the stock holders cash out — the lucky ones.

    5. Stations stagnate or fall even further because you can’t create content after you’ve cut everyone who did it.

    6. Rince and repeat or maybe, finally, one of these poor excuses for media companies goes into bankruptcy once and for all under the weight of its mismanagement.

    The entire industry is run by people who think they are the next Karmazin. They’re not. Mel was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and take advantage of it — twice. Once with Westinghouse and then again with Sirius/XM.

  14. Occultology says:

    Everyone is their own network now.

  15. beattention says:

    Networks are getting weaker as the internet and other entertainment uses up viewers time.

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