Westwood One Sports

Dial Global becomes Westwood One Sports

Since the 1970's, Westwood One has been a huge brand in radio. At first, it syndicated music programs to rock radio station like On the Record with Mary Turner and the Dr. Demento Show. In the 1980's, it began to flex its financial muscle by first buying Mutual Radio and then the NBC Radio Network. It also syndicated talk programming such as Sally Jesse Raphael, Bruce Williams and others. 

But thanks to its purchase of Mutual, it began getting into sports programming such as the NFL and Notre Dame Football. In the 1990's through sales to Mel Karmazin's Infinity Broadcasting and eventually to CBS Radio, Westwood One became a huge player in radio sports gaining rights to MLB, the NCAA Tournament, the NFL, the NHL and the Olympics and distributing them to stations nationwide. It was a powerful player in sports until ESPN Radio began buying up rights. 

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It lost MLB in 1997, Notre Dame Football to IMG in the last decade and stopped airing NHL games in 2008.

CBS Radio eventually sold its interests in Westwood One, but allowed WWOne to continue syndicating its network. After running into some financial difficulty, it was sold in 2008 to the Gores family and in 2011, merged with Dial Global Radio. In 2011, the Westwood One brand on Dial Global began to wear away and finally, all mention of Westwood One on Dial Global ceased during the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs. It seemed that Westwood One was going to be just going to be memory.

Over the last year, Dial Global began to expand its sports portfolio by partnering with NBC to create NBC Sports Radio and last month, purchased the U.S. radio rights to the English Premier League.

But with the recent news that Dial Global was going to merge with former competitor Cumulus Media (which by the way, syndicates and powers CBS Sports Radio), the company announced today that the Westwood One brand was coming back. Starting immediately, Dial Global Sports will be known as Westwood One Sports. As Forbes' Jeff Bercovici writes, Dial Global realized that the Westwood One brand is widely recognized by listeners and the radio industry and there was no need to change it two years ago. So when you listen to Sunday Night or Monday Night Football starting this week, the Westwood One moniker will return. 

Sometimes, companies have to realize that staying the course with the brand or formula works best and change for change's sake isn't the best idea. All Dial Global had to do was look at what happened to Coca-Cola when tried to change its formula and bring in New Coke. Have you seen a can of New Coke at a vending machine? Of course, you haven't. And while Dial Global's removal of Westwood One isn't as big a marketing disaster as New Coke, the return of the old brand is proof postive that listeners weren't responding to the new one. 

[Forbes/Westwood One]

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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