Clear Channel lays out future strategy


Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners yesterday began pitching investments in CC Media Holdings, the owner-to-be of Clear Channel Communications, to certain selected parties. The offering memorandum gives us some insights on how the new owners hope to grow Clear Channel, such as capitalizing on Less is More and developing new distribution platforms. It also hails the experience of the senior management team, with CEO Mark Mays having been with the company for over 19 years and his brother, President and CFO Randall Mays, for over 15 years. Along with their father, founder Lowry Mays, they will be rolling over $45 million of equity into the new company.

Here is the strategy CC Media Holdings plans for its radio division:

“Our radio broadcasting strategy centers on providing programming and services to the local communities in which we operate and being a contributing member of those communities. We believe that by serving the needs of local communities, we will be able to grow listenership and deliver target audiences to advertisers, thereby growing revenue and cash flow. Our radio broadcasting strategy also entails improving the ongoing operations of our stations through effective programming, promotion, marketing, sales and careful management of costs and expanded distribution of content.

Drive Local and National Advertising. We intend to drive growth in our radio business via a strong focus on yield management, increased sales force effectiveness and expansion of our sales channels. In late 2004, we implemented what we believe are industry-leading price and yield optimization systems and invested in new information systems, which provide station level inventory yield and pricing information previously unavailable in the industry. We shifted our sales force compensation plan from a straight ‘volume-based’ commission percentages system to a ‘value-based’ system to reward success in optimizing price and inventory. We believe that utilization of our unique systems throughout our distribution and sales platform will drive continued revenue growth in excess of market radio revenue growth. We also intend to focus on driving advertisers to our radio stations through new sales channels and partnerships. For example, we recently formed an alliance with Google whereby we have gained access to an entirely new group of advertisers within a new and complementary sales channel.

Continue to Capitalize on ‘Less is More.’ In late 2004, we launched the Less is More initiative to position the Company for long-term radio growth. The implementation of the Less is More initiative reduced advertising clutter, enhanced listener experience and improved radio’s attractiveness as a medium for advertisers. On average, we reduced ad inventory by 20% and promotion time by 50%, which has led to more time for listeners to enjoy our compelling content. In addition, we changed our available advertising spots from 60 second ads to a combination of 60, 30, 15 and five second ads in order to give advertisers more flexibility. As anticipated, our reduction in ad inventory led to a decline in Radio Broadcasting revenue in 2005. Revenue growth of 6% followed in 2006, outperforming an index of other radio broadcasters. We continued to outperform the radio industry in 2007. Our Less is More strategy has separated us from our competitors and we believe it positions us to continue to outperform the radio industry.

Continue to Enhance the Radio Listener Experience. We will continue to focus on enhancing the radio listener experience by offering a wide variety of compelling content. Our investments in radio programming over time have created a collection of leading on-air talent and our Premiere Radio Network offers over 70 syndicated radio programs and services for more than 5,000 radio stations across the United States. Our distribution platform allows us to attract top talent and more effectively utilize programming, sharing the best and most compelling content across many stations. Finally, we are continually expanding content choices for our listeners, including utilization of HD radio, Internet and other distribution channels with complementary formats. Ultimately, compelling content improves audience share which, in turn, drives revenue and cash flow generation.

Deliver Content via New Distribution Technologies. We intend to drive company and industry development through new distribution technologies. Some examples of such innovation are as follows:
• Alternative Devices. The FM radio feature is increasingly integrated into MP3 players and cell phones. This should expand FM listenership by “putting a radio in every pocket” with free music and local content and represents the first meaningful increase in the radio installed base in more than 25 years.
• HD Radio. HD radio enables crystal clear reception, interactive features, data services and new applications. For example, the interactive capabilities of HD radio will potentially permit us to participate in commercial download services. Further, HD radio allows for many more stations, providing greater variety of content which we believe will enable advertisers to target consumers more effectively. On December 6, 2005, we joined a consortium of radio operators in announcing plans to create the HD Digital Radio Alliance to lobby auto makers, radio manufacturers and retailers for the rollout of digital radios. We plan to continue to develop compelling HD content and applications and to support the alliance to foster industry conversion. We currently operate 804 HD stations, comprised of 454 HD and 350 HD2 signals.
• Internet. Clear Channel websites had over 10.5 million unique visitors in April 2008, making the collection of these websites one of the top five trafficked music websites. Streaming audio via the Internet provides increased listener reach and new listener applications as well as new advertising capabilities.
• Mobile. We have pioneered mobile applications which allow subscribers to use their cell phones to interact directly with the station, including finding titles or artists, requesting songs and downloading station wallpapers.”

For Clear Channel Outdoor, this is the strategy:

“We seek to capitalize on our global outdoor network and diversified product mix to maximize revenue and cash flow. In addition, by sharing best practices among our business segments, we believe we can quickly and effectively replicate our successes throughout the markets in which we operate. Our diversified product mix and long-standing presence in many of our existing markets provide us with the platform to launch new products and test new initiatives in a reliable and cost-effective manner.

Drive Outdoor Media Spending. Outdoor advertising only represented 2.4% of total dollars spent on advertising in the United States in 2007. Given the attractive industry fundamentals of outdoor media and our depth and breadth of relationships with both local and national advertisers, we believe we can drive outdoor advertising’s share of total media spending by highlighting the value of outdoor advertising relative to other media. We have made and continue to make significant investments in research tools that enable our clients to better understand how our displays can successfully reach their target audiences and promote their advertising campaigns. Also, we are working closely with clients, advertising agencies and other diversified media companies to develop more sophisticated systems that will provide improved demographic measurements of outdoor advertising. We believe that these measurement systems will further enhance the attractiveness of outdoor advertising for both existing clients and new advertisers and further foster outdoor media spending growth. According to the eMarketer industry forecast, outdoor advertising’s share of total advertising spending will grow by approximately 34% from 2007 to 2011.

Increase Our Share of Outdoor Media Spending. Domestically, we own and operate billboards on real estate in the highest trafficked areas of top markets — a compelling advertising opportunity for both local and national businesses. Internationally, we own and operate a variety of outdoor displays on real estate in large urban areas. We intend to continue to work toward ensuring that our customers have a superior experience by leveraging our unparalleled presence and our best-in-class sales force, and by increasing our focus on customer satisfaction and improved measurement systems. We believe our commitment to superior customer service, highlighted by our unique ‘Proof of Performance’ system, and our superior products led to over 12,000 new advertisers in 2007. We have generated growth in many categories, including telecom, automotive and retail.

Roll Out Digital Billboards. Advances in electronic displays, including flat screens, LCDs and LEDs, allow us to provide these technologies as complements to traditional methods of outdoor advertising. These electronic displays may be linked through centralized computer systems to instantaneously and simultaneously change static advertisements on a large number of displays. Digital outdoor advertising provides numerous advantages to advertisers, including the unprecedented flexibility to change messaging over the course of a day, the ability to quickly change messaging and the ability to enhance targeting by reaching different demographics at different times of day. Digital outdoor displays provide us with advantages, as they are operationally efficient and eliminate safety issues from manual copy changes. Additionally, digital outdoor displays have, at times, enhanced our relationship with regulators, as in certain circumstances we have offered emergency messaging services and public service announcements on our digital boards. We recently began converting a limited number of vinyl boards to networked digital boards. We have enjoyed significantly higher revenue per digital billboard than the revenue per vinyl billboard with relatively minimal capital costs. We believe that the costs of digital upgrades will decrease over time as technologies improve and more digital boards come to market.”

The shareholder vote on approving the buyout of Clear Channel’s current shareholders at $36 per share is set for July 24, with closing anticipated on July 30. Then CC Media Holdings will be able to move forward with its strategic plan.

RBR/TVBR observation:
Interesting that Less is More is still being hailed as a positive. In a recent commentary on a veteran Clear Channel manager, writing anonymously, called it “the biggest financial failure in Broadcast history.” Certainly, in terms of revenue, Clear Channel Radio has yet to get back to where it was before LIM was implemented.