c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

In a deal that could heighten the competition in radio against Clear Channel Communications, long the industry’s dominant player, Cumulus Media has agreed to buy Dial Global, a syndicator of sports, talk and music programming to thousands of stations, for $260 million.

The deal, which was announced Friday and is subject to regulatory approval, would let Cumulus beef up its syndication business with programs from the National Football League, the Olympics and Nascar, as well as news and entertainment. And it represents talk shows like “Loveline ” for advertising. Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks division dominates the market with major talk hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

“These transactions give us the necessary scale to provide the marketing and enterprise solutions our advertising and affiliate partners require,” Lewis W. Dickey Jr., the chief executive of Cumulus, said in a statement. “Our goal is to be the leading producer of premium audio content distributed through multiple platforms while continuing to build our broadcast platform in the top 100 U.S. markets.”

The complex deal involves four radio companies. To finance its acquisition of Dial, Cumulus is selling 68 of its stations to Townsquare Media, a broadcaster that operates mostly in small markets. Townsquare will pay $238 million for 53 of those stations.

For the other 15, Townsquare will give Cumulus five stations in Fresno, Calif., that it is acquiring as part of an 11-station deal with yet another radio owner, Peak II Holding. (To comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations, Townsquare will place three of the stations from Cumulus in trust for a future sale.)

If all the transactions are approved, which the companies said they expect by the end of the year, Cumulus will be left with 460 stations in the United States, and Townsquare with 312. CBS Radio has 126 stations, but most are in larger markets and have greater revenue.

“Cumulus wants to raise its profile in larger markets to better compete with CBS and Clear Channel, and Townsquare gets a lot bigger out of this in smaller markets,” said Tom Taylor, who writes a newsletter on the radio industry.

Developing and branding content has become critical for radio broadcasters as they face competition from satellite and digital services like Pandora. Those services are starting to become common features in new cars, radio’s traditional stronghold.

This year Cumulus brought country music back to the New York market with Nash FM (WNSH, 94.7 FM). It plans to extend the Nash brand on the radio and on other platforms. Clear Channel, too, has been heavily marketing its iHeartRadio app, which streams its stations and also has a Pandora-like custom listening feature; Clear Channel will present its third annual iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas next month.

“Players like Pandora are pushing into the car, so having other content that’s differentiated from music is a good place for them to be,” said James M. Marsh, a media analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. in New York.