CBS Radio to be spun-off soon

cbs-radioThe spinoff of CBS’ Radio properties from CBS Corporation is coming soon – the end of July to be exact.

CBS Radio is aiming to make the move at the end of the month into its own separate company, through an IPO offering. The move, announced in March,  would mark an end of an era: CBS has been in the radio business since the 1920’s.

Up for sale since March, CBS was unable to find any takers for its 117-station radio group, given its high price tag and some of its competitors (notably iHeart Media and Cumulus) are struggling with debt. The spinoff of the company could help attract a buyer, or several.

It is not known if the new radio entity would keep the CBS name or change it. A possibility would the group would revert to the Infinity name, used when CBS was acquired by Viacom in 1999. Oddly, CBS spun-off Viacom into a separate company in 1971, after the FCC’s then-new fin-syn rules forced the big three television networks to divest themselves of their syndication businesses. Viacom grew not only to become one of TV’s top syndicators, but also owners of radio stations (including WLIT-FM locally), TV stations, CATV systems, and cable networks MTV, Showtime, and Nickeldeon.

Viacom split into two at the end of 2005, separating its cable networks and its broadcast radio and TV businesses, with the latter becoming CBS Corporation.

In Chicago, CBS Radio owns all-news WBBM-AM and WCFS-FM, sports talker WSCR-AM, Top 40 WBBM-FM (B96), Country outlet WUSN-FM (US 99) , Classic Hits WJMK-FM (K-Hits.) and Adult Album Alternative WXRT-FM. In the June PPM report, CBS Radio had a rough go of it, with WBBM-AM falling out of first place, and iHeart’s new country station WEBG-FM eroding the shares of onetime-powerhouse US 99. Meanwhile, Cumulus’ WLS-FM beat K-Hits in the same report, while B96 has fallen a full share point behind rival WKSC-FM (Kiss FM). It wasn’t long ago that B96 dominated its CHR rival.

On the upside, Cubs baseball has been a big boost for WSCR, which took over from WBBM-AM this season. Chicago Bears football returns to WBBM-AM this fall.

Once the spin-off is completed, look for CBS Radio’s properties to separate their digital operations from their TV counterparts, which means WSCR and WBBM-AM would no longer share a website with WBBM-TV under the “CBS Chicago” banner (CBS’ FM stations have their own, individual websites.)

In addition to Chicago, CBS owns radio stations in several top markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston.