Perhaps the heat from his Cannes debauchery got too hot?: Clear Channel was spending big, big bucks recently at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France—all while regular waves of layoffs now seem customary at the company. CEO Bob Pittman hosted a VIP party featuring Elton John at ritzy Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, and an after-party on a Clear Channel yacht. Pittman has taken some heat in the press for it—but he’s just trying to rebrand the company, right? Well, here’s a letter to employees Bob has just sent, perhaps an attempt to explain (from an RBR-TVBR source):
The last year has been a time of rapid change – both in the world, which has seen the emergence of a number of important new players in the media and technology space, and here at Clear Channel. Whether driven by emerging technologies, shifting consumer demand, or some other new business reality, change provides great opportunity to those who are quick to recognize its potential and smart enough to capitalize on it. And as a company with change as part of our DNA and a history of taking advantage of the opportunities that change engenders, we welcome it as a constant in our culture.
As you’ve seen, big changes are taking place at every level and in every division of Clear Channel. Working together, we are transforming our company to better meet the needs of our customers and partners in bold and innovative new ways, working hard to harness transformative technologies that will extend our industry-leading brands across even more platforms, and creating new businesses to make the company bigger, better and more profitable.
At Clear Channel, we are being proactive in taking our vision and turning it into an operating plan — and now our goal is to execute on that plan with more urgency than anyone else. Under the leadership of John Hogan at Clear Channel Media and Entertainment and William Eccleshare at Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, we’re geared to thinking and acting more and more like an innovative, creative, fast-moving entrepreneurial start-up in a media marketplace that’s becoming increasingly competitive every day. If we don’t seize the opportunities, somebody else will.
The New iHeartRadio is a perfect example of how we are enhancing and growing an existing business. iHeartRadio offers both our broadcast brands and a ‘custom stations’ feature in one fully integrated product. And in just eight months, iHeartRadio added 10 million registered users – reaching that milestone faster than all other popular Internet entertainment and social platforms, including Facebook, Pandora, Zynga, andSpotify. Today, terrestrial broadcast radio represents 98% of our total listening and digital radio only 2%, but that 2% represents incremental listening to Clear Channel stations — and we will continue to grow that digital incremental listening significantly over time.
At Outdoor, new technologies are also creating more opportunities for us. We continue to lead the industry in bringing exciting and captivating digital out of home advertising experiences to consumers and advertising partners around the world. We have nearly 1,000 digital billboards in the U.S. and 2,200 digital displays outside of the U.S. and continue to invest in them, and we’re aggressively pursuing opportunities in transit and street furniture internationally and airports domestically. We also are in a leadership role in developing completely new ideas for outdoor – like our wi-fi buses in Hong Kong.
But change is not just about technology – it also encompasses innovative ways of doing business. Here’s a great example: in an industry first, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment reached a breakthrough agreement in June with Big Machine Label Group, which includes Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw among its recording artists, to align our business interests and accelerate growth and innovation in digital radio. We think it’s critical to try to break the logjam of performance rights and develop a holistic approach to all rights that will allow radio to economically pursue aggressive digital growth and be an even more valuable partner to the music industry.
At Clear Channel, we have an unmatched ability to connect artists and hosts with their fans, and brands with their consumers, through the most culturally relevant brands and products in the world. We are actively pursuing integrated, multi-platform partnerships that leverage all of our powerful properties and talent to deliver exceptional results for our marketing partners.
It is worth keeping in mind that Clear Channel is unique as a national platform that can activate people locally. We have the largest reach of any radio or television outlet in America with 237 million monthly listeners to our broadcast radio alone; 50 million digital users; and almost 90 million downloads and upgrades of our mobile products. Our reach for Outdoor is equally as impressive: 141 million every month for Outdoor Americas and over 374 million for Outdoor International.
Importantly, we also have the solid financial foundation we need to keep driving change. Despite the slow economic recovery, we have been able to deliver solid revenue growth across our operations while stepping up our investments in digital platforms and new organizational expertise to drive future growth.
I want to close this note by speaking directly to the major competitive advantage that Clear Channel enjoys — the people who work for our company. Clear Channel has had a long history of success, and as I outlined in the preceding paragraphs, we continue to lean forward to positively impact the world around us. Our towers and transmitters, our digital platforms, our billboards and our street furniture are not the reason we have been successful – you are. The people of Clear Channel have worked very hard to help us get where we are today, and while I am relatively new to this company I have seen first-hand the contributions you make and the dedication you have to this company, our customers and each other.
Speaking on behalf of the senior management team, we deeply appreciate all you do to contribute to the continued success of our company.