After resigning from their 12-3pm show at Cumulus Media Sports “The Ticket” 1310 KTCK Dallas/96.7 KTCK-FM Flower Mound TX after failing to come to terms on a new contract last month, Dan McDowell & Jake Kemp launched a Patreon based podcast and then found themselves in a legal batter with their former employers.
Cumulus first filed a lawsuite against the duo on August 4 alleging that McDowell & Kemp’s new “Dumb Zone” subscription podcast violates the terms of their noncompete agreements, taking over digital assets previously belonging to the station’s “Hang Zone” brand for their show and repurposing them, and the show focuses on identical subject matter attracting the same audience as the station. Cumulus asked for a temporary restraining order and injuction to stop production of the show, but was denied as they did not serve the request to McDowell and Kemp.
The duo responded with complaints against Cumulus to the National Labor Relations Board and a response to the lawsuit stating their non-compete clauses were overly broad and not legally enforceable and that claims of disparagement and taking digital assets belonging to the company were “made up” in retaliation. Their lawyers argue that the new podcast is not in competition as it has no live audience, no set schedule, no callers, news breaking, advertisements and other live terrestrial radio activities and noting that many other KTCK hosts have their own podcasts and revenue-generating ancillary content such as Twitch streams that are not owned by the company.
TheHangZone.com, which Cumulus alleged was repurposed for the new podcast has never been owned by Cumulus, but instead states McDowell and former co-host Bob Sturm would pay to have sites built and operated out of their own pocket to maintain publicity for their content.
The suit also notes that their exit from Cumulus was due to wanting “to engage in other independent media pursuits” while working at The Ticket, in particular hosting a podcast independent of the station. The company offered a show on their podcast network with revenue sharing opportunities instead.
Cumulus released a statement to WFAA-TV that they were “very disappointed that the actions of Mr. McDowell and Mr. Kemp have necessitated litigation. Throughout their employment, we offered our unwavering support, engaged in good-faith negotiations for contract renewals, and reached a mutual agreement on salary matters while expressing our eagerness to collaborate on expanding their presence to new platforms. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to reach an agreement.”
McDowell told D Magazine, “When it came to the decision to start the podcast, we very deliberately decided to put it behind a paywall, and to not accept any advertising. And that’s because our intention was not to even have the slightest impression that we are trying to compete with The Ticket in any way, because we do have some kind of non-compete—a six-month non-compete. We wanted to honor that. Since we’ve started releasing shows, we’ve been approached by local businesses looking to sponsor us, and we’ve told them all, ‘We’ll get back to you, you know, next year sometime,’” and then adding, “We didn’t really anticipate this level of legal problems because we put it behind a paywall and we refuse to accept any advertising. We do not want to affect The Ticket’s ratings or revenue in any way. That’s the main goal.”