Best known as “The Father of MTV,” Bob Pittman is returning to his radio roots as Chairman of Media and Entertainment Platforms for Clear Channel Communications and its parent company, CC Media Holdings. His mission is to “leverage the company’s unique collection of media assets and spearhead the further development of a comprehensive, integrated digital strategy for Clear Channel in the radio business.”
Pittman has never actually left his radio roots. His personal investment company, Pilot Group, is the financial backer of Double O Radio. It is also in television as the equity backer of Barrington Broadcasting Group. He will continue in his position as founding member of Pilot Group, but also make an unspecified investment in CC Media Holdings.
Not only was Pittman CEO of MTV Networks, but his resume also includes time as CEO of AOL Networks and as COO of America Online and AOL Time Warner.
In his new role at Clear Channel, Pittman will oversee the company’s core radio business and its other media assets. Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan will report to the Operating Committee of the Board through Pittman. Pittman’s addition, though, does not end the search for a new CEO for Clear Channel Communications/CC Media Holdings to succeed Mark Mays, who plans to step down at the end of next month.
Although he was active in the development of AOL when the Internet was new and has subsequently launched and/or invested in numerous “new media” ventures, Pittman has always insisted that radio and TV are valuable vehicles which will not be replaced by competition from new platforms. In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with RBR-TVBR in April 2009 Pittman spoke of why radio and TV are still needed for branding and how he sees them integrating with new platforms, such as online and mobile.
Mays had praise for Pittman in the company announcement of his hiring: “With his background in music, radio and entertainment and track record of success in both traditional and digital media, Bob Pittman will be a terrific ally and contributor to Clear Channel in this new role,” said Mays. “His experience and understanding of the broad spectrum of media, Internet and mobile will be a real asset to our executive team in continuing to build Clear Channel’s core business. Bob will partner with John Hogan both to help set strategic direction for radio and drive the effort to expand our opportunities in the digital arena as well as amplify our outreach to major advertising and marketing partners. This development underscores and is expected to accelerate the transformation of our radio business into an integrated media and entertainment enterprise that leverages all of Clear Channel’s powerful properties,” the CEO added.
For Pittman, who has never ceased being a radio guy, the new assignment is exciting. “Both as a former operating executive and an investor, this is a dream addition to my portfolio. The Clear Channel radio stations, with 97 million weekly listeners and high quality programming, provide an ideal foundation for growing the core radio business, and expanding those brands and that audience into new services and onto new devices. With a platform this broad and this deep, we have the ability to experiment in ways other companies can’t,” he said.
“Clear Channel’s unique combination of national audience and powerful local execution enables us to promote new products and features to our audience quickly and on a mass level. This offers a real opportunity to enhance the experience for consumers, provide powerful marketing opportunities for advertising partners, and develop new, high growth digital businesses for the Company that build on the 12 million unique monthly visitors we already reach online today. I’m looking forward to working closely with the Board and John Hogan and the entire leadership team to help maximize the potential of the outstanding businesses they have built and grown,” Pittman said in a statement.
He was also welcomed by the private equity companies who bought out most of the public stockholders of Clear Channel Communications for $26.7 billion in 2006.
“We are pleased to welcome Bob as a strategic contributor and investor who shares our belief in the strength and future promise of Clear Channel,” said John Connaughton, Managing Director of Bain Capital, and Scott Sperling, Co-President of THL Partners, in a joint statement. “A remarkable transformation in radio programming quality and sales effectiveness has been achieved under the leadership of John Hogan and the radio executive leadership team. Like the rest of the Clear Channel team, Bob is passionate about the power of radio as ‘America’s companion.’ We are excited to work together to enhance Clear Channel’s capabilities in creating value for advertisers, partners and shareholders.”
Although Pittman had not previously worked for Clear Channel, he and partner Bob Sherman sold their Roberts Radio group to Clear Channel in 2000 for $65.9 million. The small market group had stations in New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona and New York.
Pittman’s radio career began at age 15 when he became a DJ in his native Mississippi. He went on to program successful radio stations in Pittsburgh, Chicago and finally at WNBC-AM, the NBC Radio flagship station, in New York City. He was then the programmer who led the team that created MTV.
RBR-TVBR observation: We have been big fans of Bob Pittman for many years. He simply “gets it.” We have heard him speak at forums where all of the other speakers had nothing but contempt for radio and TV as dying mediums, but Pittman stood his ground and explained why broadcasting can do things that new platforms can’t – and how they should be used to complement each other, rather than view the world as a battle for “new media” to replace “old media.” And he’s put his money where his mouth is. Pittman is a serious investor in both new and old media – and one of the smartest people around for building either type of business.