Clear Channel parent firm names Bob Pittman as CEO
An entertainment industry veteran best known as the co-founder of MTV has been named chief executive of the parent company of Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest radio station operator.
Bob Pittman, 57, joined the company in November as an investor and chairman of its media and entertainment platforms. He is the first head of Clear Channel — which has 850 radio stations across the nation — not from the founding Mays family.
The company was bought by private equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2008, and is laboring under close to $20 billion in long-term debt at a time when traditional radio faces intense competition from online and satellite operations.
Pittman’s appointment at CC Media Holdings Inc. in San Antonio is his most prominent corporate leadership role since he was chief operating officer at AOL Time Warner. He resigned there under pressure in 2002. He has also been chief executive of Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and Century 21 Real Estate.
Pittman said Sunday that he was not looking for another top job at this stage in his career.
“I was in search of an undervalued company where I could help out a little bit,” he said of his plans when he joined the radio giant. “About a month or so into it, my wife said, “You know, you’re not working part time.’ I said, ‘I know, but I’m having a good time.’”
Among the digital competition Clear Channel faces is from the Pandora Internet radio service that has more than 100 million registered users. Other digital rivals, such as Rdio, Spotify and MOG, are gathering momentum.
Since joining the company, Pittman has focused on Clear Channel’s digital strategy.
“All this new development in digital is a fantastic opportunity for radio,” Pittman said. “There are [still] plenty of people who think of radio as a broadcast tower and transmitter.”
Pittman has presided over the relaunch of the company’s major digital initiative, online service iHeart Radio, which makes Clear Channel stations such as KIIS-FM (102.7) in Los Angeles available online, on smartphones and on Apple Inc.'s iPad. In a manner similar to Pandora, iHeart Radio also enables listeners to create their own custom stations built around favorite artists or songs.
In an interview with The Times in May, Pittman brushed off suggestions that advertising revenue would remain constrained on the Internet.
“The problem is that advertising comes slowly to any new medium or product,” he said. “When I was at MTV, we projected $10 million in ad revenue for the first year. We did $500,000 and almost went out of business.
“That’s how slow advertisers are to warm up to new media. But over time, it will grow.”
Other Clear Channel stations in the Los Angeles area include KFI-AM (640), KOST-FM (103.5) and KYSR-FM (98.7).
In addition to the radio stations, the company also operates one of the largest outdoor advertising services with nearly 1 million displays in more than 40 countries. Clear Channel also has other media services, including the Total Traffic Network that provides real-time traffic data to car navigation systems and other venues.
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