Lew Dickey: “There will be a handful of survivors”

lew dickey wideLew Dickey, CEO of the second-largest radio group in the U.S., Cumulus Media, positioned his company during an Associated Press interview that is getting buzz today. Dickey is quoted as skeptical of Pandora‘s audience metrics, and taking a long view of the digital side of radio.

Cumulus acquired a stake of interactive music service Rdio last October, in a business development trade that gives Rdio $75-million of on-air promotion, and gives Cumulus the exclusive right to sell Rdio’s ad inventory, plus an accumulated 20% of equity. Because the Cumulus/Rdio hybrid entity straddles broadcast and Internet, it makes some sense that Dickey sets his sights more on Clear Channel-owned iHeartRadio as a prime competitor, rather than Pandora.

“It’s Clear Channel,” Dickey told the AP. “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.”

Pandora, though, is the market-leader — both in audience size and brand recognition — in a field where many consumers are not aware of how services differ, or their industry alliances. What of Pandora’s increasing share of U.S. radio listening, which the company pegs at nine percent? Dickey is skeptical:

“Pandora self-measures. So they’re, in essence, quoting their own numbers and they’re using disparate data sources. They’ve been very clever in terms of the story they’ve told, but the actual numbers would tell a different story when held under close scrutiny.”

Dickey echoes common wisdom that says there are more music services than the market can bear in the long run: “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.”

Dickey calls 2014 a “setup year” for Rdio.

Brad Hill


  1. Cooked numbers, Lew?? This — coming from an establishment guy in a moribund segment of the audio entertainment industry that likes to crow about having Reach™ and stuff like it’s still 1988?

    Speaking of funny little numbers Lew, you’d think someone that holds license to a big bad 50,000 watt heritage flamethrower would air programming compelling enough to deliver better ratings than fellow mental midgets Mark Levin and Michael Savage…

  2. Lew should elaborate on the “disparate data” remark he’s made several times in different venues.

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