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SW Networks, the proposed radio syndication unit from Sony Corp. and Time Warner, will shake up the network radio marketplace if it successfully parlays the pair's formidable influence and resources in the already crowded $9.6 billion radio market.

The joint venture between Sony Software Corp. and Warner Music Group is expected to offer syndicated music, talk and entertainment programming this fall, going head-to-head with ABC Radio Networks, CBS Radio Networks and Westwood One Radio Networks.

"Right now we're still trying to finalize the financing," said Peter Newcomb, director of marketing and media for Sony Software.

Details about the programming, couldn't be discussed, he said, until the financing had been secured. Sony is said to be talking to Tele-Communications Inc., Denver; and BMG Music, New York, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann Inc.

Sony and Time Warner "are good marketers, well-respected, and if SW puts on a big, big push, they're going to get noticed," said J.T. Anderton, editor of Radio Business Report.

Despite their combined clout, recording artists and financial resources, success isn't assured even though the radio market last year grew 9.3%, its largest gain since 1985.

"Nobody is going to put advertising dollars behind it because of the Sony-Time Warner name. They're going to have to come up with some good programming to attract advertising dollars," said Leslie Sturm, associate director of network radio at N W Ayer, New York.

"The success of any venture like this comes down to whatever makes their programming unique," said Gordon Hastings, president of the Katz Radio Group, which represents stations in selling commercial time to agencies.

Robert Callahan Jr., president of ABC Radio Networks, said: "If they're coming in, I hope they're bringing in good people, good product and good pricing. Welcome to the jungle."

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