Lew Dickey is ready to make Cumulus a radio leader


Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey is restricted in what he can say under SEC rules while his company’s acquisition of Citadel is pending. Nevertheless, he did speak with RBR-TVBR about the opportunities ahead for Cumulus by expanding to a much larger platform.

As spelled out in the announcement Thursday (3/10), Cumulus Media will grow to 572 radio stations in some 120 markets once it combines its current stations with those of Cumulus Media Partners, which it is rolling into the public company, and the 225 of Citadel. Also, Cumulus Media will enter the network radio business via its coming ownership of Citadel Media, the former ABC Radio Networks. All that won’t make Cumulus as big as radio giant Clear Channel, but it will be able to play in the same league.

“It gives us a national platform,” Dickey said of the enlarged company. “You’ve got an O&O group of 570 stations, 120 markets, that’s a hell of an O&O group. And you now have a network that can distribute content across that platform and you can mine content from that platform, be it top talent, feature shows – we’ve talked about our technology platform that we can offer through that pipe, that distribution channel, to be able to offer our technology platform to clients on the network in exchange for inventory. So, there’s a lot that can be done there. The network, I think there’s a lot of upside there,” he said.

Do you see yourself as needing to play catch-up to Clear Channel in the digital arena, we asked?

“I would say this; I have a lot of respect for what Clear Channel has done. They clearly have scale. They’re making digital investments and that is absolutely what needs to be done to remain competitive and evolve the business model. I totally agree with that,” Dickey responded. “We have not to date been in a position to do that. So I don’t know whether I would view it as catch up. I think we’ll have our own ideas and our own designs about things that we’ll want to do. And I would say that, pro-forma this deal we now have the platform with enough scale in size and a balance sheet that’s going to enable us to make investments and scale across a much larger platform. We’ve got like 60 million uniques a week now. That puts us on the grid with some of the largest competitors in digital media,” he said.

“Clear Channel’s got a terrific platform. They are in a position to make investments and evolve their business model and I think they’re doing so – and I think that’s important. So is CBS, they’re doing the same thing. This becomes a game of scale to be able to compete,” Dickey concluded.