The decision by Westwood One to shutter its Westwood One News operation at the end of August marks a rare reset for radio news networks. Suddenly, nearly 1,000 stations have a chance to reconsider their network affiliations. The closure arrives during a monumental year for news, with a global pandemic, widespread demonstrations and unrest following the death of George Floyd under police custody and what’s shaping up to be a presidential election unlike any other.
The bombshell news, which Inside Radio reported in a Breaking News bulletin Thursday evening, came five and one-half years after Westwood One launched its own network news product. In announcing the shutdown to affiliates Thursday afternoon, the network cited the “extraordinary circumstances in the current marketplace.”
The sudden closure affects 962 Westwood One News affiliate stations and is effective Sunday, Aug. 30, following the 11:30pm ET newscast.
“As you can imagine, this was an extraordinarily difficult decision not only given the strength and quality of our award-winning news product, but also the depth and experience of the impeccable Westwood One News team,” Suzanne Grimes, President, of Westwood One, said in an email to affiliates Thursday afternoon.
Since parting ways with ABC News in December 2014 and launching its own news network with CNN, Westwood One News has received Edward R. Murrow, Sigma Del Chi, National Headliner, New York Radio Festival and Golden Mike awards.
“We are very proud of the coverage and programming we provided, as well as your support and participation in our success,” Bart Tessler, Executive VP of Westwood One News, said in the notice to affiliates.
Hundreds Of Affiliates Up For Grabs
The email from Senior VP of Affiliate Sales Stuart Greenblatt is an official notification of cancellation of service. Westwood One, which has an existing relationship with the Associated Press, is offering access to AP Radio News as a replacement offering to its news affiliates.
ABC News, CBS News Radio, iHeartMedia’s 24/7 News Network, Salem Radio Network, Fox News Radio and other are likely courting the nearly 1,000 Westwood One News affiliates that are suddenly up for grabs.
In its notice of cancellation, Westwood One didn’t tell affiliates it is assigning their contract to AP and that they will be transitioned from a Westwood One News station to an AP station at the end of August. Instead, WWO sent an official notification of cancellation based on a closure of service. The affiliates essentially have seven weeks to pick up the AP replacement product or affiliate with another network.
News networks are expensive operations and Westwood One parent Cumulus Media may have decided it no longer sees a strong margin in the space during an extremely challenging year for all ad-supported media.
“Given the current necessity to make critical decisions about the deployment of resources, we made the decision to cease WWO news operations on August 30,” a Westwood One spokesperson said in an email to Inside Radio. “We extend our heartfelt thanks to the entire WWO News Team for all that they have accomplished and acknowledge the exceptional leadership of Bart Tessler, who has commanded our admiration and respect throughout his 45-year news career.
“We remain heavily committed to our personality driven News/Talk programming with megabrands including Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire, Jim Bohannon, Michael Savage, Dan Bongino, Dave Rubin, and Red Eye Radio.”