After a decade long break from the corporate world, Bob Pittman is back at it. Formerly the COO of America Online, Inc and Time Warner, he is now filling the role Chief Executive at Clear Channel Communications Inc. Pittman is on a mission to say the least. In an article published by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, October 14 and written by Merissa Marr, he says wants to reinvent one of the oldest forms of media, the radio. Many believe this will be no easy feat, considering many businesses have left the radio industry.
Despite that, some recent data is on his side. Most Americans still listen to radio in some form, whether digital or the traditional way. And according to Arbitron, in the past decade weekly listening has actually grown from 224 million people to 242 million. Arbitron also suggests that some of that growing listenership is the popular, but fickle, teen demographic.
What’s not working in Pittman’s favor is Clear Channel’s massive debt. The company renegotiated some of its short term debt, but is still in the red for $302 million. Pittman doesn’t see that as his greatest challenge though, his seeks to win back advertisers that left radio for other media. He’s been trying to do just that too. Touring the country Pittman has been promoting radio and talking to advertising execs at promotional parties he’s been throwing.
These tactics may be working too. Clear Channel recently captured American Express for a national advertising campaign in 150 markets that included custom advertisements. While there is progress, time may not be in his favor either. According to Standard & Poor’s, the company’s debt leverage and interest coverage need to improve if it wants to meet 2016 debt maturities.
Pittman is certainly optimistic about the situation though and says, “The worst thing to do is nothing. You have to take chances.”