Cumulus Media stock was up some 12.3% in midday trading Friday, as investors reacted positively to two key announcements made internally at the audio media company led by CEO Mary Berner.
First, Westwood One News, which brags on its website that it is the winner “of more industry awards in 2019 and 2020 than any other radio network” and is known for offering reports that can be branded for each affiliate radio station, is closing its doors.
Second, as reported early Friday by Streamline Publishing’s Radio Ink, 3% of the Cumulus workforce will see their jobs permanently erased.
On low volume of just under 50,000 shares, CMLS was up 53 cents to $4.19 as of 11:16am Eastern. Upward momentum for Cumulus shares came just four minutes after the Opening Bell, ceasing a momentary dip in value.
At the Closing Bell on Friday, CMLS finished at an even $4, a 9.3% improvement from Thursday that puts shares back where they were prior to the July 4 holiday weekend.
This indicates that inventors likely seek a leaner, more efficient operation at Cumulus. And, this involves trimming the payroll — even if it means the outright elimination of an organization that in 2019 and 2020 is the winner of The National Headliner Award for Breaking News Coverage. New York Festivals also awarded Westwood One News with gold, silver and bronze medals.
Unlike CBS News Radio or ABC News Radio, Westwood One News distinguishes itself by offering fully customizable locally branded news updates at the top and bottom of each hour, day and night, seven days a week.
Among the 962 affiliates impacted by the closure of Westwood One News, scheduled for August 30, are Cumulus Media’s WLS-AM in Chicago, KGO-AM in San Francisco, KABC-AM in Los Angeles, and WJR-AM in Detroit. Affiliates also include Hubbard Radio’s WTOP-FM in Washington, D.C., and Entercom-owned KYW-AM in Philadelphia. Bloomberg Radio also utilizes Westwood One News, according to the WWO website.
These stations and all affiliate were notified Thursday afternoon that “due to extraordinary circumstances” WWO News would cease operations at the end of Sunday, August 30, following the 11:30pm ET news update.
The letter serves as official notification of the cancellation of the service.
Westwood One President Suzanne Grimes said in the letter, “As you can imagine, this was an extraordinarily difficult decision not only given the strength and quality of our award-winning news product, but also the depth and experience of the impeccable Westwood One News team.”
Westwood One News EVP Bart Tessler thanked the 962 stations airing WWO content and the Affiliate Sales team. “It has been a pleasure leading this division of great broadcast journalists,” Tessler said. Westwood One News was created 5 1/2 years ago.
While Westwood One News is ceasing operations, the closure does not impact its host of News/Talk syndicated shows, hosted by such air personalities as Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, Jim Bohannon, Michael Savage, Dan Bongino, and Dave Rubin. Also continuing is the morning drive Red Eye Radio.
The affiliate letter came concurrent to a video call conducted Thursday afternoon for all Cumulus employees by CEO Berner, during which she noted the 3% employee roster reduction.
Who will be impacted is not publicly known, but the closure of WWO News does likely mean the exit of its editors and reporters.
Westwood One’s reporters include Steve Kastenbaum, Bob Costantini, Jim Roope, Clayton Neville and Linda Kenyon. Eight anchors are also tied to the service: Ann Cates, Christopher Cruise, Elliott Francis, Evan Haning, Barbara Kusak, Mike Moss, Michael Toscano and John Trout.
While these individuals will likely be departing, aside from Neville, Berner did note that all temporary furloughs and pay cuts fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic wrath will come to an end on July 31 for parent company Cumulus.