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Westwood One's assumption of sales, marketing and affiliate relations responsibilities for CBS Radio Networks has agency media executives uneasy.

The agreement, disclosed last week, is said to have resulted in the dismissal of at least 15 CBS sales people. Radio buyers say the move-the first deal in recent years to affect network, rather than local, radio-sets up possibilities for cross-selling, increased prices and undesirable program-package combinations.

Farid Suleman, chief financial officer at Westwood and senior VP-chief financial officer at CBS, declined to explain what changes would come but did say packages would be available.

"Are we going to dump or force packages? No, we won't do that," said Mr. Suleman.

He added that although "we're always looking at price increases for our product, [we] will not necessarily raise [prices]."


"We're all concerned when these groups merge, but we still have many options," said Kay Durkin, director of national broadcast at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Chicago. "Many syndication groups have come into their own over the years."

In a statement, Mel Karmazin-president-CEO of Westwood One and chairman-CEO of CBS Radio-said the deal should be "very beneficial to advertisers, providing greater efficiency and ease of buying radio on a national level."

Westwood One and CBS have strengths in sports. CBS carries Major League Baseball, National Football League and NCAA games. Westwood has the National Hockey League, as well as a number of college football and basketball games.

Talk programs are another strength, with Howard Stern and Charles Osgood at CBS Radio and Don Imus and G. Gordon Liddy at Westwood.


"In terms of sports, it'll be huge," said Leslie Sturm, VP-associate director of broadcast at Media Edge, New York, who was more supportive of the arrangement.

"There are efficiencies for me to have one salesperson providing a menu of properties," she said.

"As an agency, we're not enthusiastic about it and have pricing concerns," said Ron Fredrick, director-national broadcast group,

J. Walter Thompson USA. "One-stop shopping is the other side of the coin-that's the good side. Let's hope that's the dominant fallout."

Though CBS is to remain independent, some media executives are hoping a possible reconfiguration of networks between the two groups will improve audience ratings. Four of six Westwood networks lost share in the most recent RADAR fall 1996 report and so did both CBS networks.

Mr. Suleman declined to offer any specifics about what will be done to stop the audience loss.

Last April, Westwood raised the industry's ire when it tried to sell its networks by bypassing RADAR and using Arbitron.

Arbitron negotiated with radio networks for months to offer a rival ratings system but failed to reach a workable agreement.

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