Cumulus pulls Billy Bush Show; but there’s more to it


CumulusCumulus Media’s decision pull Dial Global’s “Billy Bush Show” off its CHR stations for its own upcoming show may have started a little battle between the two networks/syndicators. The “retaliation,” claims Cumulus COO John Dickey, was Dial Global found five or six new, non-Cumulus sports stations to carry its NFL, NCAA and Olympics coverage (Entercom’s KGMZ San Francisco; Lincoln Financial Media’s WQXI Atlanta and Cromwell Group’s WPRT Nashville). Cumulus also announced last week “CMT Radio Live” was moving over from Dial Global, so things are getting a little heated.

John Dickey tells RBR-TVBR: “DG (WW1) and Cumulus were in a revenue share partnership with Billy Bush.  After we bought Citadel and DG merged with WW1, I tried to re-work the partnership (economics) to reflect the value we brought to the table (1/2 of all affiliates and more to add).  DG didn’t see it that way and refused to change the model; consequently, as our contract was expiring I decided to not continue with the show.  We will be announcing a new nighttime show for Top 40 in the next week to 10 days.  Our new night show and talent will prove to be more hip, relevant and more brand potent by a large factor than Billy.  With respect to NFL, etc. I’m still scratching my head on this one.  If you are a network representing content like the NFL your job is to clear that product on the best brands in each city.  Clearly DG is not living up to that and I would think their various partners (NFL, etc) would be very concerned about this development.”

Dial Global co-CEO David Landau informed us that in June, before Dial Global acquired Westwood One (in October), Cumulus sent Westwood One’s SVP/Affiliate Sales Dennis Green preemptive cancellations to WW1 regarding all Cumulus/Citadel stations cancelling Billy Bush. He says they never came to DG (to his knowledge) with revised packages, and DG did ask for them. In fact, DG presented their own plan. Dennis Green, who did the original deal with Billy Bush and Cumulus, then went over to Cumulus after those cancellations came in.

Cumulus’ all-under-one-roof strategy has had affected other companies as well as DG: its traffic deal with Radiate Media affected Metro Traffic with Clear Channel; even before the Rush debacle there were rumors on Cumulus ending affiliation deals with Clear Channel/Premiere’s talk properties (i.e. maybe Huckabee replacing them); there are rumors that the ESPN-Cumulus relationship may be coming to an end; and now Dial Global. “I’m sure that John and Lew Dickey have much higher SAT scores than me. Who am I to argue with their strategies?,” Landau tells us.

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Also, listen to the above audio of what Lew Dickey said in the Cumulus conference call when an analyst asked about the impact of the Rush Limbaugh controversy on Cumulus. He used it as an opportunity to make a pitch for the new Huckabee show. Talking later about the network business, Lew did not mention anything about Dial Global (or anyone else) but he did say that the intent is for cumulus to use its own content on its stations whenever possible.

RBR-TVBR observation: Cumulus, now that it has 570 stations and a radio network, is bound to launch more programs for those stations—just like Clear Channel did with Premiere. It’s the name of the game and as contracts run out with Premiere, DG and ESPN, in-house talent may be on the plate. These contracts with the various networks, from our sources, will have no material impact on their business. Time will tell if Cumulus’ strategy will work.