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Pittman Named Radio's Most Powerful


Bob Pittman, as CEO of radio's largest company, holds steady at number one, for the fourth consecutive year. Clear Channel brings in over $2.6 billion in annual revenue, generated by more than 800 stations in 150 markets, and has thousands of employees all across the country. In January, following the departure of John Hogan, Clear Channel extended Pittman’s contract as CEO for an additional five years and Pittman (along with CFO Richard Bressler) took on some of Hogan's former responsibilities (along with CFO Richard Bressler) for the Media and Entertainment division.

While the future of Clear Channel's much-discussed $20 billion in debt is still unclear, in April the company was able to refinance $850 million of that, pushing payments back to 2018, albeit at double the interest rate (10 percent). Pittman, who made a $5 million investment in the company when he joined in 2010, recently told the Financial Times he's still confident his investment will pay off in the end: "If the company's not going to grow, I'll get no money back." He added that, because Clear Channel has so much leverage, it "supercharges" any upside, and his return, he said, will be "50:100 to one if it works."

Pittman has continued to focus on promoting the radio industry as a whole, hoping that big jumps in top-line revenue will be the result. His company has been very aggressive at paying for new studies that help show radio's return on investment to advertisers, including one with Marketing Evolution in May regarding Macaroni Grill and another in April with the University of Southern California that touts the special bond listeners have with their favorite radio personalities. Pittman has also spent a lot of time schmoozing advertisers both at his office in New York City and places like the Cannes Film Festival in the French Riviera. We reached out to Pittman to get an update from him directly about Clear Channel and the radio industry, for which he continues to be an enthusiastic cheerleader.

RI: Tell us about Clear Channel’s successes over the past 12 months.
Clear Channel has had successes over many areas. To name just a few: Our monthly reach is now 245 million radio listeners across our broadcast radio platform; our Clear Channel digital network platform has over 90 million monthly users; iHeartRadio passed 50 million registered users, faster than any other music service and even faster than Twitter and Facebook in reaching that milestone. We've expanded our portfolio of national events to include the incredibly well-received iHeart-Radio Music Awards and iHeartRadio Country Festival. With partners, we've televised 18 iHeartRadio shows, including iHeartRadio Album Release Parties, the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party, and the iHeartRadio Music Festival. And of course we have more on the way.

But our biggest successes are our people. Starting with our on-air talent -- Elvis Duran, The Breakfast Club, Ryan Seacrest, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Harvey, Delilah, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and our other top talent continued to extend their presence throughout the country. We've also had success with our people taking on new roles; Bobby Bones has emerged as one of Country's top personalities in just a year and was voted Personality of the Year by the Academy of Country Music -- and the ratings reflect that as well. Mario Lopez, JohnJay & Rich, and Nikki Sixx are all adding new syndication markets, and we've expanded the reach of Kane, Elliot, Rover, and Woody & Wilcox. And of course one of the most exciting new things we’re doing is developing new talent  throughout the company that will someday have the biggest stations and the biggest markets. Finally, we've added new talent to the company, like Angie Martinez in New York, and are providing access to hugely popular talent like El Mandril.

We're also excited by the growth of our teams and the individuals in our company who have risen to new heights this year. Our empowered market teams are innovating day in and day out in both programming and sales, delivering for both our listeners and our advertisers. Our national teams -- whether it be our programming, marketing, or sales-partnerships teams -- are blazing new trails, serving our advertisers in new and exciting ways. Because we've improved our capabilities to function as a true multiplatform company, we're able to use many vehicles woven together seamlessly by us to meet marketers' individual needs. And our digital team continues to lead the digital radio world -- the recent launch of iHeartRadio 5.0 is the embodiment of their creativity, and their dedication and commitment have enabled iHeartRadio to set record after record.

One of the most important successes this year -- not just for Clear Channel, but for the entire radio industry -- was the recent single-source measurement from Nielsen Audio, Media Monitors, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions that confirmed what we in the industry knew was true: the very real and very significant return on investment that radio offers its advertisers. Until now we've had to rely on multiple-source measurement, but this new study conclusively proved radio's powerful ROI; brands that advertised on radio averaged an ROI of more than $6 for every $1 spent. This should cause every brand, marketer, and agency to think about how they can make radio a meaningful part of their advertising budgets.

RI: Last year we asked the question "What is radio's story?" One year later, the question is, "Has radio done a good job at getting that story across to advertisers and advertising agencies, and do you believe it will lead to a measurable increase in revenue by the end of 2014 and beyond?"
I think radio is telling its story now better than it ever has. As we all know, change doesn't happen overnight. Our challenge is, and has been, to bring more money to the sector from other media budgets, including TV, newspaper, and digital, which obviously benefits us but also benefits our advertisers, since, based on a variety of studies and empirical data, radio gives advertisers a huge lift for the money spent. With new tools at our disposal, like the Nielsen study I mentioned above, radio evangelists are better equipped than in the past to make a strong case as to why radio should have a bigger share of overall advertising budgets allocated to it -- not just money assigned to the "radio sector." The key is for all of us to get out there and keep telling the story. The facts are absolutely in our favor, we just need to keep broadcasting them!

RI: Do you believe radio should pay artists for playing music?
Labels and artists are music radio's most important partners, and our goal has always been to work closely with them to bring their music to the hundreds of millions of fans who listen to radio. For 70 percent of all listeners -- whether they listen to radio, playlist creators like Pandora, or on-demand services like Spotify -- broadcast radio remains the number one source for discovering new music, by a large margin. We take our responsibility to both artists and listeners very seriously, because without radio, the opportunity for this kind of mass-market discovery of new music wouldn't exist.

We recognize that the music companies have a unique model. Instead of spending like a consumer packaged-goods company would, they use free radio airplay to "advertise" their music. In the grand scheme of things, we think it's a fair trade. However, as the new digital world emerges and we all wrestle with how to build a sustainable market for both digital music and radio, we have been open to putting everything on the table in a more defined relationship. And in the interest of building that digital market, we have been willing and open to putting broadcast radio revenue into the mix to make it happen. As with any new technology or opportunity, we have to be careful not to be too rigid about our past as we look to the future. We're committed -- and always have been -- to working with both artists and music companies to find the best way to align the interests of radio, music companies, artists, and music fans.

Radio Ink's 2014 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue is out now.
To subscribe to our digital edition, which includes the 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue, GO HERE

Our 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue launched in 1996, so this is our 18th year of creating a list that's become a historical document of the state of the radio industry over time. When the list debuted, Infinity Broadcasting CEO Mel Karmazin was the most powerful. It was the early stages of radio consolidation, and for the first eight years of this list, Karmazin was always in the top three, fiercely battling Lowry Mays for the top spot. Mays currently holds the record for number of consecutive years at number one: five years, 2000-2004. By 2005, the Karmazin/Mays era was over, Karmazin had moved on to Sirius (and was on the list one more time, in 2010), and Mays essentially handed the business off to his sons Mark and Randall -- who also soon occupied positions on the list, as did other Clear Channel executives like Randy Michaels and John Hogan.

(7/31/2014 10:02:05 AM)
PS Bob - You mention you're in sales and you admire Pittman's ability to "sell" himself. Don't emulate what he does because it always catches up to you. Pittman manipulates the system for his personal gain first, above what is really best for the company and its' clients/customers. This is always a recipe for disaster. His unceremonious exit is guaranteed to happen - it's just a matter of when and how much damage he has caused. And if he takes the company down with him. It will be ugly.

- PM Parsons
(7/31/2014 9:54:06 AM)
Regarding Bob's comment: That's the scariest/saddest this about Pittman and Clear Channel: He has sold himself and these idiots believe him and continue to do so! His performance merits that he be fired and possibly prosecuted, yet he thrives and is even recognized as the most powerful in radio. Madoff bamboozled many, as did people like Kim Jung-il, Nixon, etc. When do people look back and say, "Wow, do we feel stupid. Look at what happened right under our noses." Sad state for business.

- PM Parsons
(7/29/2014 11:46:41 PM)
Say what you want about Pittman (and I am NOT a Pittman fan - he has not made Clear Channel a dime- ) ...but Pittman obviously has done a great, great job "selling" himself into these positions. And I as a fellow salesman, have to admire Pittman's skill in self-SELLING himself to investors, stockholders, etc!- Nice selling!!!!

- Bob
(7/29/2014 6:39:17 PM)
Meanwhile, as Sal already knows, all it takes are a couple of strong rumors and some aggressive frontmen, and there before us is a genuine, bonafide demi-god.

- Ronald
(7/29/2014 11:46:09 AM)
When the opportunity was there, Mr Pittman responded with something along the lines of: "Tell the 'story' more often and sell harder."

Neither of those are worthwhile in the hierarchy of priorities. Rather, the industry would have been rattled to its core had he admonished the business to immediately and significantly improve Programming and commercial production.

Yet, Bob is That Guy. He still, however, needs to learn what radio really is, how it works, how to bring it out its dive and how to make it soar.

- Ronald

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