In only his second year on our list, CBS Radio President Andre Fernandez moves up to the number two slot (from 5th) to take over as the second most powerful person in the entire radio industry. Here are the reasons why…
As we went to print with our Top 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue, CBS Corp. was beginning the process to spin off its radio division and take it public. The executive who leads and will continue to lead that division is Andre Fernandez, who 15 months ago succeeded longtime CBS Radio President/CEO Dan Mason.
Fernandez came over to CBS after seven years at Journal Communications, where he rose from CFO to president and eventually COO. He’s very familiar with the financial side of the business, having started his career on Wall Street, first as a banking associate with Brown Brothers Harriman and then as an assistant VP with Merrill Lynch. CBS Corp.
CEO Les Moonves never really went out of his way to tout the company’s radio assets, and it wasn’t too long after Fernandez was comfortably in place in the corner office that Moonves started pushing for a sale or spinoff of the division. CBS Radio has a long list of iconic brands, from WCBS and WFAN in New York, to WBBM in Chicago to KRTH and KCBS in Los Angeles. And not only do its great radio stations produce outstanding ratings, they are revenue-generating juggernauts. CBS Radio consistently produces four or five of the 10 top-billing radio stations in America.
In fact, year after year, CBS Radio is the number two revenue-generating radio group in the country. BIA/ Kelsey estimates CBS Radio produced over $1.25 billion in revenue from its 117 radio stations in 2015. Compare that to the number three biller, Cumulus Media, which took in $749 million from 450 radio stations. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates CBS Radio is worth about $2.9 billion. Fernandez, now with over a year of success under his belt and all that revenue to work with, moves up three spots on our list. He tells Radio Ink he’s most proud of the passion and dedication of his team at CBS Radio.
“They recognize the role they play in entertaining, educating, and informing their local communities,” he says. “I admire their dedication to their craft. Their love of the radio medium is infectious, and they see digital as providing new opportunities through which they can communicate and connect with an even broader audience. I am so proud of all that our people do to preserve and grow their local brands. They have a keen sense of what more they need to do for their brands to evolve. I simply need to create the conditions for these ideas to flourish. And Fernandez recognizes that there are folks within the ranks of CBS Radio who are ready to lead not only the company, but the industry. “Naturally, any leader needs to recognize that there are several generations represented in our workforce,” he notes. “Regarding the next generation of leaders now emerging within CBS Radio, I am most impressed with their versatility, their ability to adapt and to embrace new platforms, their range of interests including social causes, their desire to work in a stimulating work environment with interesting people, their positivity and technical savvy. Successful leaders and organizations have learned how to tap into their energy and creativity.
“In an era of increasingly greater numbers of life and career choices available to them, I’m impressed by their continued attraction to radio and, in particular, to all that we are doing digitally. I try to impart that leadership and greater responsibility often come with hard work, patience, thoroughness, dedication, and sacrifice. In addition, by broadening one’s knowledge and skill set, by taking the job or responsibility that no one wanted or possibly not on their terms, and by earning the right to lead rather than feeling entitled to lead, our next generation will have the understanding and expertise to succeed.”
Fernandez recognizes he’s come aboard at a company that has built great brands throughout the country — and that certainly helps an industry trying to stay relevant and fight into the future in a fragmenting media world.
“Radio still occupies such an important place in our local communities,” he observes.
“Some of our local brands at CBS Radio have been around for nearly a century and are part of the fabric locally. This brand legacy gives us a bit of a head start when competing with new market entrants, but does not make us immune from competition. Like any industry, radio needs to evolve to preserve its relevance and its place in these communities.
“Consumers and advertisers have an increasingly greater number of alternatives beyond radio. Legacy and trust, while critical, are not sufficient as we must innovate and adapt to the changing needs and habits of our communities. I’d like to see the radio industry have the courage to innovate in a much greater way than has been done historically, to solidify the deep local connections for the future.”
We asked the second most powerful person in radio for advice he could give the industry to make it stronger. “I am still amazed by how disconnected some businesses are from the audience and customers that each serves,” Fernandez replies. “As I think about the question, I suspect your readers are a diverse group from both within and beyond the radio industry. In my view, the onus is not upon the reader to do anything, but rather upon us to forge deeper and longer-lasting connections with the audience and customers. We must incorporate this continuous feedback loop into our research and product-development efforts so we can continue to prove our relevance and the sustainability of the industry. Successful businesses, no matter how long their legacy, are always needing to prove themselves. We are no different.”
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