35. iHeart Media
Revenues 2017: $ 6.170 billion (€ 5.460 billion)
iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel Communications) which sports 840 stations and more than 110 million listeners per week is the USA's biggest radio empire of today, but also active in the fields of public advertising and promotion, production and presentation of live-entertainment through its subsidiary Live Nation. Clear Channel stations operate in 45 countries and a total of 140 stations are sending from Australia and New Zealand.
200 East Basse Road, San Antonio, Texas 78209
Tel.: 001 210 822 2828
Fax: 001 210 822 2299
Branches: Radio Stations, Trading, Live Entertainment, Outdoor Advertising, Web Music Sales
Legal Form: Stock Corporation
Financial Year: 01/01 - 12/31
Founding Year: 1972 as San Antonio Broadcasting Company, since 1975 Clear Channel Communications
|Revenues ($ Mio.)||6,274||6,242||6,300||6,243||6,247||6,161||5,866||5,552||6,689||6,817||7,067|
|Profit (Loss) after tax ($ Mio.)||(240)||(755)||(794)||(584)||(411)||(268)||(479)||(4,034)||(4,005)||938.5||691.5|
|iHeart Media||American Outdoor||Int. Outdoor||Radio||Outdoor||Other|
Executives and Directors
- Bob Pittman, Chief Executive Officer
- Richard J. Bressler, Chief Operating Officer and Financial Officer
- Wendy Goldberg, Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer
- Robert H. Walls, Executive Vice President and General Counsel
- Gayle Troberman, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
- Scott Wells, Chief Executive Officer, Clear Channel Outdoors America
- William Eccleshare, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Clear Channel International
- John Sykes, President of Entertainment Enterprises
- Steve Mills, Global Chief Information Officer
Board of Directors:
- Bob Pittman, iHeartMedia
- Richard J. Bressler, iHeartMedia
- Laura A. Grattan, Thomas H. Lee Partners
- Frederic F. Brace, Beaucastel LLC
- Chuck H. Cremens, WMF Group
- Matthew J. Freeman, McCann Erickson, Bain Capital Partners LLC
- Jim C. Carlisle, Thomas H. Lee Partners
- Scott M. Sperling, Thomas H. Lee Partners
- Blair Edward Hendrix, Bain Capital Partners LLC
- Ian K. Loring, Bain Capital Partners LLC
- John P. Connaughton, Bain Capital Private Equity
Clear Channel, the biggest radio empire in the USA today, was born into this world in 1972, a matter of sheer coincidence. The investment banker L. Lowry Mays arranged a financing regarding the acquisition of a radio station for a group of investors. When the investors' interest wore off, Mays took over the station together with the local car salesman B.J. 'Red' McCombs and founded the San Antonio Broadcasting Company. In 1975, Mays quit the banking business and dedicated his time solely to the radio business. He bought his first nationwide station and named his company Clear Channel Communications (In the American radio market, 'Clear Channel' is the expression for a station that is available exclusively on one frequency across the USA). The high price level and the restrictive legal conditions tainted Mays early endeavours in the 1990s and his interest in the radio market diminished. He discovered television and acquired seven TV stations up until 1992. Between 1992 and 1996, the restrictions of concentration in the US radio market were gradually removed with the Telecommunications Act. In 1994, Clear Channel controlled 35 radio and nine TV stations. In 1997, the numbers rose as high as 175 for radio and 18 for television.
By the end of the 1990s, Mays finally managed to become a media tycoon. In 1990, Clear Channel became the second-largest radio provider in the USA as a result of an acquisition by Jacor Communications. The number 1, AMFM, was bought for 23,8 Billion $ in 2000. In the same year, Clear Channel took over SFX Entertainment, the largest provider of music and sports events in America. Today, Clear Channel owns more than 800 radio stations in the USA, holds shares of more than 240 radio stations in Australia, Mexico and New Zealand and operates 800.000 public advertising spaces in over 60 countries. The live-entertainment division Clear Channel Entertainment became an indexed company by the end of 2005, operating as a independent spin-off under the name "Live Nation" .
That step became inevitable due to the fact that the entertainment company's leeway of operation under the roof of the large company became increasingly smaller due to antitrust-requirements. Yet, both L.Lowry Mays and his son Randall T. Mays are members of Live Nation's board of directors.
On the 16th of November 2006, the company management announced that Clear Channel would be sold to an investor group coming out of the vicinity of investment companies Thomas H. Lee Partners (Known to insiders for their involvement in the ProSiebenSat1 acquisition through Haim Saban) and Bain Capital Partners. The family Mays was still in line to continue running the company under the new owners. When the annual business report was published in 2006, the major shareholders Fidelity Management & Research (9%) and Highfields Capital management (5%) refuse to agree with the transaction as they deemed the company had been undervalued and the take over offer was too low. Finally, more than 70% of the shareholders agreed to the merger on the 25th of September 2007. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the cartel office gave their permissions on the 8th of January and 14th of February respectively, the take over of Clear Channel Communications by CC Media Holdings, which had been founded for this purpose, commenced for the price of 24 Billion $.
L. Lowry Mays, who has been the CEO of Clear Channel Communications since it was founded, handed down the leadership of the company to his sons Mark P. Mays (CEO) and Randall T. Mays (President and CFO) in March 2005) and withdrew into the ranks of the supervisory board. This family-internal change of guard granted the learned oil-engineer, whose successes came down to a manic cost efficiency, a continuation of his big influence in the company. One of his innovations – 'Voice Tracking; - is still one of the most severe arguments used by the ever-growing horde of Clear Channel adversaries. By means of modern digital technologies, radio programs are partially (and even completely) pre-produced and broadcasted at any given time and place as alleged live transmissions. The radio hosts' voice contributions can be combined – automatically or manually – with up-to-date news reports, documentaries or weather forecasts. That makes it possible for example, to fine-tune content that has been produced at one and the same place to fit in with local and regional frameworks of reference.
Supporter of this 'Cyber Jocking' method – as it is also called – emphasise that due to the resulting cost efficiency, local stations that had been unprofitable prior to this innovation, could now be maintained and the working conditions of radio hosts (by recording morning and weekend show) could be improved on top of that. Also, the quality of the program can be improved by using professional and famous radio hosts, even though they are not locals. Critics point out the looming lack of diversity and the 'deception' of audiences by suggesting a form of immediacy and locality. Radio, which is traditional perceived as a live medium, is primarily identified through the personal interaction with the audience. The heavily decrease in numbers of radio hosts needed for operation of a station is another point of critic. Measures of this kind and mass dismissals after the take over earned the station the rather unflattering nickname 'Cheap Channel' in the late 1990s.
Mays found the ideal partner in Jacor boss Randy Michaels, who had joined the Clear Channel board of directors after the merger in 1998. Michaels, who began his radio career as extreme radio host in the 1970s („incredibly horny, wet and ready naked in-studio guests“), never tried to conceal his business philosophy:”We’re big. We’re bad. We’re rich“. Under the aegis of Michaels and Mays, the company's market power was put to full use. The interlacing with Clear Channel Entertainment resulted in a antitrust court case in 2001, in which Clear Channel was accused of removing singles from their playlist, should artists be touring in collaboration with competing companies. In July 2002, Michaels was removed from the line of fire and left the company. Another dubious practice was using independent promoters – so-called 'Indies – as middlemen, in order to make labels pay for the artist's inclusion in the playlist and Clear Channel earned its respective share of public criticism in April 2003.
Practices like this might have been an economic success but resulted in harst criticism, if nothing else by the listeners itself. Clear Channel stations wear nicknamed ' Radio Sweatshops' within the business and insiders would give the company such flattering names as 'Evil Empire'. In the light of these events, another accusations comes as no surprise. Clear Channel was accused of abusing its market position to support the Iraq war and George W. Bush's re-election. In May 2005, the company was forced to admit that it had operated a pirate station, which primarily reviled the own company, for marketing reasons. In December 2006, the 'Songwriters Guild of America' organised a series of Hearings at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the motto 'Big Radio is bad radio', in order to raise public awareness of the Top 40 monoculture on the US radio market, which had been caused by Clear Channel.
By now, a major part of the company communication consists of image cultivation, seeking to shed the image of a notoriously greedy super-company. Clear Channel introduced a 'less-is-More' strategy for advertising breaks and sports one of the lowest share of adverts during the program out of all commercial networks. At least in middle-range and large markets, local editors are still working at the stations and the voice tracking was reduced. The quota of younger, less known artists on Clear Channel playlists adheres to the business average and the Clear Channel Network did not take part in the boycott of artists opposing Bush (even though some conservative stations in the company removed the troublemakers from the program) and as such, Madonna and the Dixie Chicks were still being aired on CC-stations.
Even the sale of almost a third of all radio stations and all its TV stations in 2007 seems to be an attempt, to reduce the potential of critics, society and the judiciary.
Since 2000, Clear Channel has been the largest radio provider in the USA by a mile. Sporting more than 800 stations, the company reaches more than 110 Million listeners a week. In its target audience of 18-49 year olds, Clear Channel is received by a daily average of 45 % of the population. The company is active in about 300 US markets, including 89 of the 100 largest submarket in the USA. In total, Clear Channel operates approximately 9% of all American radio stations, with a share of turnover of about 18 % of the market total.
Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks, the marketing branch of in-house productions, licenses 90 programs for more than 5000 radio stations in the USA, of which the majority are programs by star radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Ryab Seacrest, Casey Kasam and Jim Rome. All in all, the radio division generates approximately 50 % of the company's total revenue. By the end of 2006. Clear Channel offered 448 radio stations and all TV stations for sale. The TV stations were bought by Newport Television (controlled by Providence Equity Partners) on the 20th of April 2007 for 1,2 Billion $. Only some of the radio stations that are up for sale have found a new owner so far. Due to the fact that all radio stations on offer operate outside the Top 100 market, the share of revenue of the radio providers and TV stations comes to a mere 10 % of the Clear Channel radio group's total revenue.
The control of radio stations was strategically flanked through the extension of public advertising with the acquisitions of the Eller Media Company, Universal Outdoor and More Group 1997/1998. By means of further take overs, Clear Channel became the biggest provider of advertising spaces in the world. From the exclusive marketing of advertising space in Carrefour supermarkets, alongside Finnish roads and up to 80 percent of all cab and bus stops in Singapore – the long arm of the company has a long reach indeed. Since the end of 2007, the company even launched a cooperation with the FBI, which utilises Clear Channel's widespread digital advertising spaces to published wanted posters and security advice. More than 800.000 advertising spaces in all over the world can be booked via Clear Channel. Clear Channel Outdoor 2008 contributed about 50% to Clear Channels total revenue.
The company's third leg had been Clear Channel entertainment until 2005. Clear Channel took over the market leader for all things promotion, production and presentation of live-entertainment with SFX Entertainment. In 2005, the 'Live Nation' company was separated from Clear Channel and nowadays operates as a formally independent provider of entertainment content, music shows and sports events. However, the Mays family still holds crucial positions in Live Nation's board of directors. The outsourcing had become a thing of inevitability due to massive protests against the market power of Clear Channel, especially in the music business. Because a Top 40 hit could not be achieved without the help of Clear Channel Radio, the labels were forced to choose Clear Channel Entertainment as broadcaster and event organiser and the fact that Clear Channel owns a large portion of the venues as well did not help. Following antitrust issues, artist boycotts and court cases, the easiest way to prevent further damage to the already stricken image and circumnavigate legal actions had been the spin-off. Hence, the powerful and extremely vulnerable combination of radio, public advertising and events is a thing of the past – on paper at least.
James Foust, Big Voices of the Air. The Battle over Clear Channel Radio, 2000
taz: US-Hörfunkunternehmen Clear Channel - Der Radio-Aktiv-Konzern (08/26/2008)
the Open Society Foundations' Media Program,
Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education,
the Rudolf Augstein Foundation,
the city of Cologne, Germany,
and the State of Thuringia, Department of Commerce.