Citadel Drops ‘ABC Radio Networks’ Brand Name

Marking the end of an era in network radio, Citadel Broadcasting, owner of ABC Radio Networks, has dropped the heritage network radio name and renamed the network Citadel Media.

The name change, announced Thursday (April 2) was inevitable when Citadel Broadcasting acquired ABC Radio’s portfolio of stations and ABC Radio Networks in 2007. And with the passing of the legendary Paul Harvey, who has been associated with the ABC Radio Networks brand for decades, there were probably fewer reasons to keep the name.

While it may be giving up brand recognition, Citadel Media, with 4,400 affiliates reaching 110 million weekly listeners, still represents some of the biggest programming brands in network radio, including ABC News Radio and ESPN Radio, via longterm contracts that were inked during the Citadel/ABC Radio deal.

Citadel Media also has a solid syndication lineup including Kidd Kraddick, Tom Joyner via a partnership with REACH Media, Sean Hannity, via a partnership with Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Networks. Recent syndication additions include Mike Huckabee, Perez Hilton, Joe Scarborough, Brian McKnight, Rick Dees and Tom Kent to the Citadel lineup.

“While we have certainly enjoyed the heritage of the ABC name, we must remember that evolution is a significant part of our legacy,” said Jim Robinson, president of Citadel Media. ABC Radio Networks got its start as the NBC’s Blue Network owned by the Radio Corp. of America. When the Blue Network split from NBC, the American Broadcasting Co. was created.

“Nothing has changed other than the name,” said Mike Connolly, senior vp of sales for Citadel Media. “It’s the same people and the same products. ABC was a great brand, but this is more aligned with our corporate name.”

Squeezed by the economy and a high debt load following the ABC acquisition, Citadel recently amended its senior credit and term facility to put off some covenants due in 2009.
But the company could have difficulty later in the year and in early 2010 when new covenants are due. Earlier this year, the company was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and now trades Over The Counter.

The network is likely one of the few bright spots in Citadel Broadcasting’s financial picture. With the ability to copy split down to the station level, network radio has made it easy for advertisers to obtain national reach with a single buy.

“When budgets are stressed, advertisers tend to turn in our direction,” Conolly said. “Copy splitting has opened up a new source of revenue for us.”