Infinity Broadcasting Corporation was a radio company that existed from 1972 until 2005. It was founded by Michael A. Wiener and Gerald Carrus. It became associated with popular radio personalities like Howard Stern, Don Imus and Mike Francesa. Infinity would merge with CBS Corporation in 1997 and later withViacom in 2000, when CBS and Viacom merged. After the Viacom split in 2005, Infinity changed its name to CBS Radio, as part of CBS Corporation.
On February 3, 2009, CBS Radio bought back the Infinity branding as an Internet-only radio station exclusively through CBS Radio’s Play.it service.
Formation and pre-merger
Infinity was founded in 1972 by two former Metromedia executives Michael A. Wiener and Gerald Carrus, with the acquisition of KOME, an FM radio station that served the San Francisco Bay Area, and finally received its license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a year later. In 1979, Infinity acquiredWBCN in Boston.
In 1981, Mel Karmazin bought in as new president. Karmazin oversees the operation of New York’s WNEW-AM (now WBBR) and WNEW-FM (now WWFS) forMetromedia. Soon later, acquired fellow New York stations WNEW-FM, WKTU (now WXRK), WZRC, and WFAN the following years, followed by WYSP-FM inPhiladelphia. In 1983, Infinity absorbed KXYZ in Houston and WJMK-FM and WJJD in Chicago.
Infinity became a publicity-traded company in 1986. Within a year, he had purchased six more stations: KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, WJFK-FM in Washington, D.C., WQYK-AM/FM in Tampa, and KVIL-AM/FM inDallas.
The company reverted back to a private company in the late 1980s, but it became a public company again in 1992. It is also became a more powerful company for the popularity of WXRK’s Howard Stern. In 1993, Infinity was expanded to 22 radio stations.
Merged with CBS and Viacom
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed into law, giving Infinity acquired more than 75 stations.
In 1997, it was finally announced that Westinghouse Electric Corporation (which owns CBS) would acquire Infinity Broadcasting. Michael Jordan (not to be confused with the basketball player), CEO of Westinghouse Electric Corp., refused to sell the firm to Karmazin but instead agreed to buy Infinity. The $4.9 billion deal was completed on December 31, 1996. As a result of the Westinghouse purchase, Infinity was merged into the CBS Radio Group, with Karmazin as president. Karmazin soon became chairman and CEO of CBS Radio, and took the control of CBS’s television firm.
However, Westinghouse sold its non-broadcasting assets and renamed itself as CBS Corporation. In 1998, CBS decided to spun off a portion of its radio and outdoor advertising holdings as Infinity Broadcasting Corp., once again bringing the Infinity name back to the public. The stock offering was the largest in the media industry at the time and raised $2.87 billion.
The most significant move during 1999, however, was the deal struck with Viacom in September (Viacom was also previously owned several radio stations until it was sold to Chancellor Media in 1997). Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom, shot down Karmazin’s offer to buy Viacom. Karmazin then offered CBS to Redstone, who eventually made a $37 billion proposal to merge the two companies together. Viacom completed the CBS Corp. purchase in May 2000, but it may retained 80% ownership of Infinity. At that same year, Infinity acquired Outdoor Systems and renamed Infinity Outdoor.
Under the new ownership by Viacom, it acquired 18 radio stations from competitor Clear Channel Communications (after facing regulatory review following the merger of Clear Channel and AMFM Incorporated, successor to Chancellor). The company also purchased Giraudy SA, an outdoor advertising company based in France. In 2002, Viacom acquired the remaining shares of Infinity that it did not already own, taking the business private for the third time in its history; but Infinity Outdoor was separated from Infinity and renamed Viacom Outdoor.
Karmazin named Farid Suleman president and CEO of Infinity in 2001, however, Suleman resigned and replaced by John Sykes, a former executive of Viacom’s MTV Networks (Suleman is now the Chairman and CEO of Citadel Broadcasting) It is now owns over 185 radio stations, including flagship station WCBS-AM in New York City.
Departure of Mel Karmazin, Howard Stern and Epilogue
Karmazin was resigned on May 2004, due to many differences with Redstone. Karmazin later said he didn’t get along with Redstone and found it difficult to be “No. 2” at a company, but particularly under Redstone. The two executives continued to snipe at each other through the media even a year after Karmazin left Viacom.
On December 14, 2005, in anticipation of Viacom/CBS split, Infinity Broadcasting would reverted the branding back to CBS Radio, and joined with the CBS and UPN networks, Paramount’s television properties,Showtime Networks, Viacom Outdoor, Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Parks into a revived CBS Corporation. At that time, CBS Corp. spun off the “new” Viacom, which includes MTV Networks (MTV, VH1,Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, CMT, and Spike), BET, Paramount’s motion picture firms (Paramount Pictures), and, at the time, Famous Music (the music publishing company was later sold to Sony-ATV Music Publishing).
Revival of Infinity
With the CBS’s purchase of Last.fm in 2007, the launch of Play.it in November 2008, to power AOL Radio and Yahoo! Music Radio, and selling-off 50 radio stations in mid-sized markets to focus on larger markets; CBS Radio had been bought back the Infinity Broadcasting name as an Internet-only pop/oldies radio station under the name of “Infinity Radio”, having its launched on February 3, 2009.
|Industry||Radio Broadcasting, Outdoor advertising|
|Fate||Reverted back to CBS Radio|
|Founder(s)||Michael A. Wiener
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, USA|
|Area served||United States|
|Key people||Mel Karmazin|
|Owner(s)||CBS Corporation (1997-2000)
“Old” Viacom (now CBS Corporation) (2000-2005)