An Upward Quarter For iHeart


The company formerly known as Clear Channel Communications has excelled as a full-scale event marketer under its present incarnation, iHeartMedia.

While the Jingle Ball and Wango Tango are now significant contributions to the pop music world from the No. 1 owner of radio stations by AM and FM count in the U.S., on Wall Street — and among the radio industry’s leaders — the release of iHeart’s quarterly earnings has also become an event.

For some, the take is negative. One industry newsletter asked if iHeart would report its 28th straight quarterly loss today.

The answer: No. In fact, a company some consider to be one half of radio’s “dynamic debt bomb duo” had a solid quarter, and is perhaps in the earliest stages of a massive turnaround led by its iHeartRadio app — a smartphone entertainment platform that puts iHeart one step ahead of problematic Pandora Media.

Rich Bressler

“Overall, our business performed well in the year, owning to the transformation of a data-rich company,” President/COO and CFO Rich Bressler noted as he discussed iHeart — and subsidiary company Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings — in an pre-Opening Bell conference call with investors on Thursday.

But, iHeart still has a way to go to achieve significant growth as it achieved flat year-over-year consolidated revenue of $1.721 billion, up 0.2% from $1.718 billion. For iHM alone (minus Americas and International outdoor, minus other income), revenue grew to $939.14 million, from $898.95 million. Excluding political revenue of $28.28 million for iHM, revenue minus outdoor and other income improved 2.2%, to $910.87 million.

Direct operating expenses were lower — a good sign — and moved to $631.09 million, from $651.1 million.

While Operating Income was up to $531.87 million, from $376.96 million, the key for iHeart is its net loss (or net gain) attributable to the company. In Q4, iHeart swung to net income of $106 million, from a net loss of $93.3 million.

First quarter pacings for 2017, Bressler noted, were up 2% as of the end of last week (2/17). This includes political advertising, he said.

For iHeart, adjusted OIBDAN — a non-GAAP financial measure that the company defines as operating income (or loss) before certain unusual and/or non-cash charges, depreciation and amortization, loss (or gain) on sale of operating assets and non-cash compensation expense — is an important gauge to understanding how healthy the company is.

On this basis, iHeart is clearly in turnaround mode, and the engines are revving, as consolidated OIBDAN in Q4 improved to $560.03 million, from $553.5 million.

Political revenue came in at $49.78 million for Q4, iHeart reports.