Lew Dickey, the embattled and polarizing CEO of Cumulus is out, and his replacement has been named as Mary G. Berner, a seasoned media business operator who joined the Cumulus board in May. Lew Dickey founded Cumulus Media in 1997, and has served as the company’s CEO for 16 years. Dickey will stay on at the company, but in a downgraded role as a Vice Chairman.
Cumulus Media’s NASH concept wants to become the one stop shop for corporate country consumers, and the country industry is more than willing to play ball as long as the company spreads its capital around to launch grandiose ventures and continues to play its artists on the radio. But there’s a problem. A big one.
Cumulus Media officially launched their “NASH Icon” brand to radio on Friday (8-15), changing two Georgia radio stations over to the new format that favors country music released from a 25-year “classic” period. Atlanta’s Oldies 98.9 W255CJ has changed over to NASH Icon 98.9, and Sports Radio 102.1 in Savannah will now be known as NASH Icon 102.1.
So we now know who the big winner was for the Garth sweepstakes. But who was the biggest loser? That is certainly what you could call Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records in the situation. Why? Because they had the biggest stake in the Garth sweepstakes, because of Big Machine’s joint venture with the radio world’s Cumulus Media called NASH Icons.
When the news broke last week that there would be yet another new country music awards show squeezing its way into the already-crowded TV event space, it stimulated a collective rolling of the eyes from many over-saturated music fans and industry types. Really, how many of these things do we need? Buried in the details however was the insight that the Awards wasn’t just the latest ploy….
If Cumulus Media and its CEO Lew Dickey have their way, in the coming years that big ‘N’ will be one of the most recognized brands in North America, especially if you’re a country music fan. The plans that Lew Dickey has for that big brown ‘N’ are ambitious to say the least, and look to permeate just about every segment of the consumer culture of the United States.
Alan Jackson, Big Machine Records, Bobby Bones, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Jerry Del Colliano, Lew Dickey, NASH, Nash Icons, Rush Limbaugh, Scott Borchetta, Sean Hannity, Shania Twain
During a recent conversation with Billboard Magazine’s Rich Appel, Dickey says Scott Borchetta is aggressively looking to sign many of the artists that fall between NASH Icons’ 25-year artist window, including but not limited to Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. “I would look for Scott to make an announcement in the next 30 days,” Lew says.
Though country has been lucrative for the radio business in some respects, and this is the reason media is betting big on country for its future, it may be too little, too late, as debt mounts, credit ratings get slashed, and radio faces increasing competition from new technologies. And then there is the radio industry’s biggest problem: Conservative talk radio.