Radio Has Better Balance Sheets. Now What?


We’ve been hearing it for several years, “radio’s two big companies need to clean up their balance sheets before anything significant happens in the industry.” With Cumulus well past the finish line and iHeart finishing up its reorganization paperwork, things are looking a lot better on the balance sheet front.

Over the next several days, Radio Ink will be checking in with brokers, analysts, and other executives to get their fresh take on what’s ahead for radio. Up first Managing Director for Media Services Group Eddie Esserman.

Radio Ink: How does 2019 look to you in terms of possible dealmaking now that Cumulus has restructured and iHeart is nearing the completion of its restructure?
Esserman: After just a few big deals in 2018 and the government back in business, I think there’s a lot of conversation going on right now. It’s yet to be determined what the deals may be; but I can say that I’m sure involved in a lot of conversations right now.

Radio Ink: We’ve heard a lot of chatter that the restructures needed to happen before we saw any new investment. Is that your read?
Esserman: Well, I think having those two large companies in bankruptcy sure made people considering getting into radio, and those already in, a little hesitant to new deals. But now that Cumulus is out and iHeart is on the way out of bankruptcy, it should make people feel more comfortable about the sector.

Radio Ink: Do you expect Cumulus or iHeart to sell off any stations in 2019?
Esserman: No, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.

Radio Ink: Any chance of a blockbuster deal in 2019?
Esserman: There is always the hope and chance of that. If you look back over the last several years there has always been one or two huge ones and I don’t know what it would be or who it would be, but history and statistics would indicate that one or more are likely.

Radio Ink: What are you hearing on the deregulation front?
Esserman: There’s a lot of fog there and I hope by the NAB that some of that fog lifts and we will have some clarity. There are a lot of opinions and probably more than just a little emotion involved in this preceding. I think it will hopefully be played out this year so if anything is done, it will be done before we head into 2020 and the election.

Radio Ink: Look into your crystal ball. Who will be a much bigger company in 2020 than they are in 2019?
Esserman: You know I think Midwest, Summit, Hubbard, Bonneville are all good candidates to keep an eye on for growth in 2019.

Reach out to Eddie Esserman by phone at 912.634.6575 or e-mail [email protected]


  1. When a couple of the biggies demonstrate some success at gaming the system, other, normally more astute observers are still getting down with their version of “The Yahoo Boogie”. Is that it?
    Dodging a bullet is an (understandable) cause for celebration, but the hoopla of the party tends to take the considerations of what comes next right out of the agenda.
    Radio is still more concerned (again, understandably) with its own survival and the continuation of executive compensation.
    At no time, has anybody with authority AND credibility been able to articulate how radio’s basic services will be improved – certainly not to the degree where it can crawl out of the basement position it holds because of the ongoing deliverance of shoddy on-air and local, creative services.
    Radio’s ownership groups can reasonably be described as also having positions of: “Let ’em eat cake”.


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