CBS Radio to launch sports network
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- CBS, encouraged by its success in the sports-talk format in recent years, said Thursday it would launch a national network, in partnership with
The move sets up a showdown with ESPN's radio unit, which also is established in the largest metropolitan areas, and has made good use of the popular TV network's on-air personalities.
CBS Sports Radio's programming will begin airing in September with hourly updates of scores, headlines and breaking news.
In January, CBS (CBS) is set to debut the full lineup of the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week network, including original, live talk shows. Personalities seen on CBS Television's sports programs will be heard in various features and interviews, as well.
At launch, the network's programming will be heard on CBS sports-talk stations in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Washington and Detroit, among others, as well as on 67 Cumulus (CMLS) stations.
CBS has several all-sports stations that are already top-ranked in their markets, like WFAN-AM in New York, Chicago's WSCR-AM and WIP-FM in Philadelphia.
"In the past three or four years, we've been launching a lot of live, local sports radio stations," CBS Radio Chief Executive Dan Mason said in an interview. "The question we had was, Now that we have these great entities on the air, where can we take them? What's the next level?"
He said Cumulus, with a large number of stations in midsize media markets, made for a strong partner.
"When you put those stations together with our top-10-market stations, you come up with a brand-new product that can be taken to the marketplace and sold as a network," Mason said.
He said CBS Sports Radio will launch on 80 stations, covering 90% of the top 10 markets, along with other areas within the 100 biggest markets, including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Nashville and Colorado Springs.
"But we won't stop there," Mason said. "We anticipate that number will grow quickly, with other stations around the country wanting to be a part of this product. If you look at the other sports-talk stations across the country, their choices have been rather limited."
Current sports-talk networks include ESPN Radio, which is part of Walt Disney (DIS) , and Fox Sports Radio. Fox Sports Radio is a unit of Premiere Radio Networks (CCMO) and has a marketing agreement with
"While the sports-radio business is currently dominated by ESPN ... we believe that CBS's new network could garner a significant share of the market as early as 2013," Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker said. She estimated the sports-radio market at about $150 million.
"We're used to competition," said Traug Keller, ESPN's senior vice president of production, business divisions, in a statement.
Cumulus will handle CBS Sports Radio's syndication and ad sales through its Cumulus Media Networks arm. Stations can choose to take the full network or the hourly sports updates.
All-sports stations are among the best ways for advertisers to reach men 18 to 49 years old, as well as the 25-54 demographic group.
Speaking more broadly during the interview, Mason said CBS Radio is well-positioned to see strong political advertising sales in the third quarter, ahead of the U.S. presidential election. .
While industrywide radio ad sales have been "up and down" in the shaky economy, Mason added, the automotive category has remained solid during the current quarter and heading into the September period.