ABC News radio deal with Cumulus to end, but there’s an upside

abc-news-radio-deal-cumulus-end-theres-upside
Diane Sawyer. (ABC)
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

Alex Weprin

Follow: feed

ABC News' content deal with broadcast radio giant Cumulus Media will end at the end of this year, and with it, ABC will be taking responsibility for its marketing, distribution and programming, as well as its affiliate relationships.

Cumulus struck its own deal with CNN late last month for news and information content, effectively replacing Diane Sawyer and David Muir with Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett.

While the loss of Cumulus as a distributor is a challenge, it does free up ABC to sell more content to stations it otherwise could not. ABC’s deal with Cumulus prohibited the distribution of some content to ABC’s more than 1,600 partner stations. Even without Cumulus, ABC is the largest radio news and information distributor, with around 50 million weekly listeners.

“This is really all about growth and good news, this is a chance for us to broaden what we create,” said Steve Jones, V.P. of ABC News Radio. “It is really taking all these programs that we are currently providing just to digital radio, and bringing them to broadcast radio.”

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

Those programs include shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Nashville” and “The View.” ABC breaks out Kimmel's monologue and makes it available to stations, and can take content from "Dancing With the Stars" and make it available as well, a proposition that may be appealing to music stations. Jones said that ABC will be adding new programs as well.

“If there is an audio component, we can tie that out,” Jones said. “If the people at Marvel wanted to have a radio component, we could do that.”

Still, it will require diligence on the business side. While ABC will remain the largest source of news and information to radio stations even without Cumulus, ABC will have to strike new deals. Jones says he expects many stations associated with or even owned by Cumulus to buy the content directly from ABC. In radio, unlike television, radio stations can have content from both CNN and ABC.

“As we move ahead we see tremendous opportunities and know that we will have to work even harder to ensure a bright future,” wrote ABC News president James Goldston, in a memo to staff Thursday. “We’re taking these important steps now to work more closely with our terrific, long-standing station partners and better position us for digital audio growth in the future.”

The company is working with a third party, Skyview Networks, to help on the distribution side and with national sales.

“They will be interfacing with Madison Ave on our behalf,” Jones says.

You can read Goldston's full note to staff, below.

Team,

Today we’re announcing the beginning of a new era at ABC Radio.

Starting in January we’re going to expand our operations to invest in new programming, take control of distributing and marketing our content and deepen our affiliate relationships. A new relationship with Skyview Networks will help us deliver our content and bolster our sales efforts as our distribution agreement with Cumulus Media comes to an end. These changes will help us invest in premium programming and continue to lead the industry in new ways to reach our loyal audience of over 50 million listeners a week.

As a powerhouse for news and information, it’s critical we’re superserving our audience everywhere and all the time. Stations count on our investigative reporting, exclusive interviews, unparalleled coverage of breaking news and entertainment and sports programming. Over many years ABC News Radio has built an unmatched track record for exceptional service and radio reports from around the world thanks to the outstanding work of everyone at ABC News. It’s one reason ABC News Radio was recently honored for journalistic excellence with two Edward R. Murrow awards, including its most prestigious award for overall excellence.

ABC News is, by far, the number one choice for radio news and information. We serve nearly 2000 stations nationwide and the most popular digital radio services, including iHeartRadio and Slacker Radio. As we move ahead we see tremendous opportunities and know that we will have to work even harder to ensure a bright future. We’re taking these important steps now to work more closely with our terrific, long-standing station partners and better position us for digital audio growth in the future.

I’m confident that with Steve Jones and his team leading the charge, there are exciting new opportunities and many more great days ahead at ABC Radio.

James