Several radio groups have asked the FCC to regulate ownership limits, with the hopes of the new rules making the medium more competitive in the advertising market against tech giants.
In a joint statement from Connoisseur Media and Mid-West Family Broadcasting, the companies believe the FCC needs to “relax the current local radio ownership rules particularly for companies like theirs, that already provide significant local service, and would increase such service if allowed to own more stations in their markets,” according to PolicyBand.com.
The request from radio ownership groups coincides with similar questions from TV ownership groups, with the FCC being required to issue a decision by Wednesday, December 27th. Additionally, the NAB and its President and CEO, Curtis LeGeyt, have championed an update to the regulations, saying, “For broadcasters to continue our unique service to your constituents, television and radio stations must remain economically viable in a highly competitive marketplace.”
Currently, the FCC mandates that in a radio market with 14 or fewer radio stations, single groups can own up to five radio stations, as long as that group does not owner more than 50% of the stations in the market.
The radio owners argue that the current ownership caps are outdated since it was last updated in 1996. The proliferation of digital media — with the statement directly pointing to Google, Facebook, and Amazon — is the biggest driver of wanting the change.
“No radio station in any market has more than 1% of the local advertising market share – while Google, Facebook, and Amazon divide more than half of that local revenue and provide no local service,” the radio broadcasters said. “There are radio owners in many markets today who want to exit the market and cannot find a buyer for their stations. There is not a shortage of stations to buy, but a shortage of buyers willing to invest in stations that cannot achieve scale in their markets.”
Warner Bros. Discovery Halts Merger Talks with Paramount Global
Skydance Media continues to perform “due diligence” on a potential purchase of the company.
Warner Bros. Discovery has ended talks with Paramount Global about a potential acquisition after stock prices for both companies dropped to a 52-week low.
A report from CNBC claims WBD broke off talks after spending several months exploring a potential takeover of the company. The report added that Skydance Media continues to perform “due diligence” on a potential purchase of the company.
A previous CNBC report claimed WBD CEO David Zaslav and Paramount CEO Bob Bakish had discussions about a potential merger late last year. The talks then heated up in January, but have since cooled as Warner Bros. Discovery stock dropped 10% last week after it failed to reach targets for earnings and revenue. The company’s stock price has nearly been cut in half in the past year and is trading at 52-week lows.
Meanwhile, Paramount just implemented widespread job cuts, eliminating the roles of 800 inside the company as its stock price also has dropped. It will release its financial results on a Wednesday earnings call.
Cumulus Saw 11.4% Drop in Revenue in 2023
“We were able to offset some of the effects of the weak national advertising climate through strong execution in our key focus areas.”
Cumulus has announced its 2023 operating results, and while there were gains in some areas, overall, the company saw a decline in total revenue.
In 2023, the company saw $844.5 million in total revenue. That represents a decline of 11.4%, and a decline of 10% when you compare it to other non-politically dominant years.
However, the company did see a 2.9% year-over-year increase in digital revenue, with that sector rising to $146.4 million. Digital revenue accounted for 17% of the company’s total revenue. Cumulus directly attributed the uptick to an increase in audience growth from its relationship with the NFL and its primetime package with Westwood One.
In total, the company recorded a net loss of $117.9 million, compared to a $16.2 million net income in 2022.
“While 2023 was a tough year across the media landscape, we were able to offset some of the effects of the weak national advertising climate through strong execution in our key focus areas. Specifically, we grew our digital businesses, meaningfully reduced fixed costs, and improved our balance sheet,” said Cumulus President and CEO Mary Berner.
“Looking ahead, though national advertisers are expressing interest in increasing their radio buys, as of yet, ad demand remains choppy, reducing our visibility into the rest of 2024. That said, our industry-leading performance during similarly weak macro environments gives us significant confidence in our ability to navigate through this one and rebound strongly when the advertising market improves.”
Cumulus reported total debt of $675.8 million at the end of the calendar year, with a net debt of $595.1 million.
iHeartMedia Adds David Pigue and Sophia Gonzalez to Government Affairs Staff
Pigue had previously worked for Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on various policy issues. Gonzalez comes to the company after serving as the Assistant to the Chief of Staff for Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA).
iHeartMedia has added David Pigue as Senior Director of Policy Counsel and Sophia Gonzalez has been named Manager of Government Affairs.
Pigue had previously worked for Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on various policy issues. Meanwhile, Gonzalez comes to the company after serving as the Assistant to the Chief of Staff for Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA).
Additionally, the Washington D.C.-based division promoted Jessica Marventano (Executive Vice President) and Sara Morris (Vice President of Government Affairs) at the company, as well.
“David and Sophia together bring a wealth of experience in areas of key importance to iHeartMedia that will be of tremendous value to iHeart’s work in Washington on behalf of our more than 860 local radio stations as well as the company’s industry-leading digital and podcasting platforms,” Marventano said, according to Inside Radio.
“Our company is deeply appreciative of iHeartMedia’s Government Affairs team and their hard work on behalf of our company as well as on issues of critical importance to the broadcast radio industry,” added Chairman/CEO Bob Pittman. “I congratulate Jessica and Sara on their promotions, and welcome David and Sophia to the iHeart team.”