Clear Channel, the nation’s biggest radio station owner, is broadcasting a new signal to listeners and advertisers.
The San Antonio-based media company, owner of 840 radio stations, has changed its name to iHeartMedia, after its iHeartRadio online network that lets people listen to the likes of Ryan Seacrest and Rush Limbaugh over the Web.
The name “Clear Channel” is a true throwback to a different media era. It comes from a term for a particular type of AM radio station, an old-fashioned reference in the age of Internet music companies such as Pandora, Spotify and Beats Music.
Clear Channel, which was taken over by private equity companies Bain Capital LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP in 2008, has faced growing competition from streaming music rivals online, as well as satellite radio.
Chief Executive Bob Pittman said flipping the switch on the name reflects the progress the radio giant has made in its digital business, as well as the growth of its live events including the iHeartRadio Music Festival and the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party.
“It’s a recognition of who we really are today and the transformation this company has made,” Pittman said in an interview. “We have a company that’s doing progressive stuff, and yet we’re named after AM radio stations.”
Since its 2008 launch, iHeartRadio has amassed 50 million registered users. Pittman has long touted iHeart as the company’s main brand for listeners. Now the iHeart label has officially supplanted the name of the firm.
The name of the parent company has changed to iHeartMedia Inc. from CC Media Holdings Inc, and its stock now trades under the symbol IHRT, instead of CCMO. Its publicly traded billboard business Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings will keep its name and ticker symbol.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the new name of the parent company as iHeartRadio Inc. The correct name is iHeartMedia Inc.
Los Angeles has eight stations under the iHeartRadio banner, including top-rated music outlets KIIS-FM (102.7) with Ryan Seacrest and KBIG-FM (104.3), plus the live-and-local talker KFI-AM (640).
The company has carried a large debt load since its leveraged buyout six years ago, with long-term debt currently topping $20 billion, according to filings with the SEC.
The firm’s media and entertainment business, which includes the radio stations and the iHeartRadio platform, accounted for about half of its $6.243 billion in sales in 2013, which were roughly the same as in 2012. Most of the remaining revenue comes from the outdoor ad business.
Other businesses under the media and entertainment banner include its Premiere Networks brand and events such as its iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Concert Tour.
The company has posted annual net losses since its leveraged buyout. Last year, the company posted a loss of $606.9 million, compared with a loss of $424.5 million in 2012.
Subsidiary Clear Channel Communications Inc. last week sold $750 million of 9% notes due in 2022 to repay $741 million in loans that were set to mature in 2016.
Pittman, who has run the company since late 2011, said he’s optimistic about his firm’s prospects.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” Pittman said. “We have been substantially working on our debt structure. You’re always working on the capital structure with any company at any size.”
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