SBD/June 22, 2012/Media

CBS Launches Sports Talk Radio, 24/7 Network Set To Debut Jan. '13

CBS Sports is launching a 24/7 national sports talk radio network called CBS Sports Radio that is set to debut Jan. 2, 2013. CBS is using Cumulus Media as its distribution and sales partner. As part of the deal, Cumulus will make CBS Sports Radio programming available on 67 of its stations. At launch, CBS Sports Radio will be in nine of the top 10 markets. Starting Sept. 4, it will make CBS Sports updates available to network affiliate stations. Earlier this month, NBC Sports partnered with distributor Dial Global for a sports talk radio network that is expected to launch in September with two three-hour weekday shows (John Ourand, SportsBusiness Journal). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand asks, "Why is CBS ... jumping into sports yak now?” CBS Radio President & CEO Dan Mason said that it is "because Cumulus Media’s deal with ESPN Radio is expiring -- making Cumulus available to bring its 67 stations into a partnership with CBS." Mason: “This is something we’ve wanted [to] do for three years. But to do this, you have to have the affiliates.” He added that the radio network will “try to capitalize on CBS Sports’ existing TV announcers.” Mason: “We look at this sector as unchallenged -- beyond ESPN” (USA TODAY, 6/22).

SPORTS TALK SHOWDOWN: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s William Launder wrote CBS’ radio network is “highlighting broadcasters' latest efforts to monetize lucrative sports content.” A source said that Cumulus “will end its existing ad sales and distribution arrangement with ESPN, and won't renew syndication deals with ESPN at its own radio stations.” The source added that ESPN's relationship with its affiliates "won't be affected” (WSJ.com, 6/21). MARKETWATCH’s David Wilkerson noted CBS is "encouraged by its success in the sports-talk format in recent years.” The move “sets up a showdown with ESPN’s radio unit, which also is established in the largest metropolitan areas, and has made good use of the popular TV network’s on-air personalities.” Mason said, “In the past three or four years, we’ve been launching a lot of live, local sports radio stations. The question we had was, Now that we have these great entities on the air, where can we take them? What’s the next level?” (MARKETWATCH.com, 6/21).

L.A. STORY: In L.A., Meg James notes CBS' radio network will “launch early next year in most major markets -- although not immediately in Los Angeles.” The company currently “has 17 all-sports radio stations and, in August, plans to add another in Tampa.” The company “has not identified a station in L.A., although it would eventually like to add a station in the market here to its sports lineup.” CBS currently “does not have play-by-play rights for individual games" (LATIMES.com, 6/21).

TEXAS TWO-STEP: In Houston, David Barron notes the network will air in the city “on the daytime-only KIKK, which will become Houston's fifth all-sports station.” CBS will “no doubt work over the next few months to pry away new affiliates from ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio and David Gow's Yahoo! Sports Radio.” However, the local impact “will be slight.” KILT-AM's local programming “will remain in place, augmented by CBS Radio Sports overnight shows to replace the current overnight programs from Sports Byline USA” (CHRON.com, 6/21).

QUEEN CITY: In Charlotte, Mark Washburn reports the city "will get a third sports radio station next year" when CBS launches its sports radio network. CBS Sports Radio will "take over the signal of WBCN-AM." CBS Radio owns both WBCN and WFNZ-AM, which is currently an all-sports station. WFNZ will "continue to carry locally focused sports shows, but it will be picking up some ingredients offered by the network." WZGV-AM, owned by HRN Broadcasting, also "serves Charlotte with sports programming" as an ESPN Radio affiliate (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/22).

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