In its first quarter earnings report this week, Cumulus Media framed a predictable Covid downturn as an upturn in progress. As CEO Mary Berner phrased it: “We finished the quarter with total revenues down less than 10% year-over-year despite the fact that we were pacing down about 20% at the time of our last earnings call.”
The company’s lead executive also notes that a fixed cost base has been reduced by $50-million, due to Covid-related reductions. In Q1 Cumulus saved $22-million, for a total of $300-million in the bank.
Some of the most interesting information in the relatively short call was related to podcasting. Berner told investors that podcast revenue was up 35% year-over-year, and claimed over one billion downloads in 2020.
Cumulus recently renamed its podcast unit, formerly Westwood One Podcast Network, to Cumulus Podcast Network (RAIN reporting HERE.) Berner put a spotlight on that, and described the purpose of that decision: “This isn’t just a word change. The rebranding marks the consolidation of Cumulus Media’s national and local podcasts into one entity in order to capture the full breadth and diversity of our owned and partnered portfolio and provide advertisers at all levels access to a comprehensive offering of podcast across the content spectrum.”
Cerner noted that podcast-to-radio syndication has been one of the company’s signature strategies and points of success. Most famously, Ben Shapiro’s podcast (which essentially launched the company’s podcast effort) is syndicated widely in the broadcast network. More recently, and following the Shapiro template, Dan Bongino’s podcast will fill the on-air slot previously occupied by Rush Limbaugh (starting May 24). The syndication footprint will cover more than 100 markets, and “at least eight of the top 10 markets,” Berner said.