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CEO Q&A: Cumulus says Rdio stake a bet on future

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm •  Published: June 27, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cumulus Media Inc. CEO Lew Dickey Jr. straddles two worlds: traditional broadcast radio, where his company is the second-largest station owner in the U.S., and Internet radio, where it's just getting started.

Last year, Cumulus created a bridge to the future, taking a 15 percent stake in Internet music streaming service Rdio in exchange for providing $75 million worth of promotional airtime on its stations. Cumulus is to sell ads for Rdio's free mobile service under the deal starting next month.

That and other strategic investments make Cumulus' stock a "buy," according to Noble Financial analyst Michael Kupinski. In the first quarter, Cumulus' revenue ticked up an adjusted 1 percent to $267 million while it pared operating losses by two-thirds to around $9 million. The stock has settled at around $6 since closing at a 7-year high of $8 in January.

Dickey, the 52-year-old founder, recently spoke with The Associated Press. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Who do you view as your biggest competitor — top radio station owner Clear Channel or one of the Pandora-type services?

A: It's Clear Channel. It's not Pandora. The digital services —which is why we put our toe in the water and took a stake in Rdio — we believe the digital services are increasingly going to play a role in the business.

Q: How do you view your strategy with regard to Rdio?

A: This is a scale business. Rdio's in 51 countries. Janus Friis (who co-founded Skype) has spent close to $200 million on this business to build it. This is a business that will be a global scale business and I think there will be handful of survivors at the end of the day. I believe the digital music space today is very nascent. I liken it to the Myspace phase of social. I don't think it's clear who the winners are going to be.

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