Clear Channel Media + Entertainment is a thing of the past.
The company was founded as San Antonio Broadcasting Company in 1972 by Lowry Mays and Red McCombs with the purchase of a San Antonio station that today is Country “KJ97” KAJA. Following the purchase of 1200 WOAI in 1975 the company took the name of the term for the 50kW AM stations without any other signals allowed to broadcast enabling coverage over wide areas at night. After using the deregulation of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to gradually swallow up competitors such as Jacor and AMFM, Clear Channel had established itself as the largest operator of radio stations by a wide margin.
It wasn’t until 2008 when the company launched the iHeartRadio streaming platform and app. That led to multiple concerts and award shows utilizing the iHeartRadio brand nationally. And just six years later the streaming platform has become so important to the future of the company that it is becoming the primary name and function of the newly minted iHeartMedia, Inc.
With over $20 billion in debt IHearMedia needs to deliver a new story to investors. Out with the old stodgy radio name, in with the new hip digital media name. Look at how the name change is being spun:
- CNET: Clear Channel’s revamp to iHeartMedia puts digital center stage
- Gawker: America’s Largest Radio Company Gets Hip New Name for the Kidz
- Tech Crunch: Reflecting Its Digital Shift, Clear Channel Becomes iHeartMedia
- VentureBeat: Radio giant Clear Channel rebrands as iHeartMedia amid digital land grab
- Mediapost: Heart Attack: Clear Channel Uses Meme To Rebrand All Media
Even CEO Bob Pittman said as much, telling the Los Angeles Times, “We have a company that’s doing progressive stuff, and yet we’re named after AM radio stations.”
But what happens to the 800+ radio stations IHeartMedia operates? While some of them could be used to help pair down the very high debt the company owes, the company has shown no rush to do so. Instead of selling off WALK AM/FM out of the Aloha Stations Trust, the company opted to trade them for 29 additional stations.
The radio stations and Premiere Radio Networks will continue to serve their purpose producing local and national content for distribution. No matter how much reach the company cites as having, it requires the radio side for the bulk of it. Plus all those HD subchannels serve a great purpose allowing iHeartMedia from having to pay internet royalty rates for their programmed streams.