The battle for news affiliates has just gotten more interesting


The spoken word news format just got more interesting. America’s Radio News Network (ARNN) CEO Mark Masters already has ARNN and America’s Morning News (AMN), now he has a second news network (“ARNN short-form”) competing with similar offerings from Fox Radio News, NPR, CBS Radio News, NBC News Radio and ABC Radio News. With CNN Radio leaving the radio news arena 4/1, ARNN and other networks are looking to gather up some of those estimated 800 to 1,100 affiliates.

Indeed, the competition for news has been heating up with Dial-Global’s recent announcement of its 24/7 NBC News Radio Network. We’re starting to see a battle going on for affiliates between Cumulus Media Networks’ ABC Radio News and Dial Global with CBS Radio News and NBC News Radio.

Fox News Radio is in the fray as well and is actively targeting those CNN Radio affiliates, along with ARNN Short Form. They’ve already launched a trade ad campaign addressing CNN dropping out of the radio news game that asks, “Does your Talk radio audience really want their news from NBC? We didn’t think so.”

The thinking here is that NBC News may be viewed as linked to the liberal MSNBC cable network. Not so, says Dial-Global Co-CEO David Landau: “This deal was done with [NBC News President] Steve Capus and [NBC News Executive Producer] Beth O’Connell at NBC Network Television. This is NBC Network News-branded news—no association with MSNBC. It includes all of the recognized talent from NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, etc. We’ve already converted 500 CNN stations over to NBC.”

We also don’t know what Cumulus has planned with ABC Radio News, if anything. But the trend over there from this week’s quarterly conference call with CEO Lew Dickey is to take any content that makes sense from Cumulus Media Networks and place it on its 570 stations–a la Clear Channel and Premiere. Lew Dickey and COO John Dickey honed their teeth as radio operators and now they are also charged with network radio and attracting outside affiliates.

Mark Masters, ARNN CEO, tells RBR-TVBR he’s already ahead of the game: “We had first-mover advantage, testing three years ago with long-form news. We have beat (Cumulus’) KGO-AM  3 to 1 25-54 in San Francisco from their sister station, which is only 1 tenth of the power. We’re closing on 300 affiliations now. Our dayparts out-perform major stations by 300%-400% 25-54. These are safe-buy environments. They pace it two or three times the speed of normal news broadcasts. So there are no news wars—everyone else is so far behind us in this that it’s already too late. We’re specifically designed from the ground up as long-form radio news, so the short form fits with this perfectly. The investment is massive, but it has paid off massively.”

FigMedia CEO Bill Figenshu says the real issue is the battle for the spoken word: “There are over 100 radio stations that make the PPM book in Los Angeles, San Francisco and NYC. They all can’t play the best mix of the 80’s and 90’s. So the battle for proprietary content (spoken word)–whether it’s personalities, Talk News, Sports—is on a band that’s distributed everywhere: FM. The move to FM is really the move towards broader distribution.”

Airing news content is more than just slapping a network on your station. Fig says having been through enough News-Talk stations in his life, whether you put on CNN or NBC, it’s what you surround it with. “It’s very difficult to build a news position just by slapping on a network,” he attests. “The question is are you willing to back it up with local talent or more of a local slant?”

In 4-5 years, he predicts there will be many spoken word formats on the radio. We’ve got Pandora and all of the other online products that are now playing music (and not 15 minutes of commercials an hour), so they will continue to erode music-intensive formats from the medium. It’s now a battle for the dashboard, the smartphone and the FM radio—it’s going to be manifested in who can put up the best spoke word content that ties into the community.

RBR-TVBR Exclusive:
Click here on this link for Quick facts about News Radio:

* Almost 36% of the News Radio core audience is in a management of professional position.

* Nearly 25% are in a household earning $100K or more annually.

* News fans tune into the radio during AM drive in numbers approaching 60%.

* Over 60% also seek News programming when watching TV.

* 30% plan to spend big on a vacation this year.

Source: “News Radio, Consumers and Retail”

RBR-TVBR observation: View the complete Consumer Data analysis at This exclusive data on is in our Media Information Bureau.

by Dave Seyler, Senior Editor, RBR-TVBR

Data from BIGinsight