Clear Channel Rebrands As IHeartMedia

Pittman: 'The Name We Had Doesn't Fit With What We Are'

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Clear Channel is rebranding yet again. Just two years after it stripped "radio" from its corporate title, the radio behemoth is taking on the name of its digital-radio platform. Clear Channel will now be called iHeartMedia after its iHeartRadio platform, the company said today.

While Chairman-CEO Bob Pittman said the core of the company is still its 840 radio stations, the new name will reflect the company's multiplatform presence and ability to embrace innovation and new technology.

The company's out-of-home advertising unit will retain the name Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings.

Mr. Pittman and his team decided to align itself more closely with iHeartRadio because it's what the company has been using as its consumer-facing brand for several years. "We haven't used Clear Channel with consumers in years," Mr. Pittman said. "We use iHeartRadio on air."

"When we say we work at Clear Channel people will say, 'What's that?' When we tell them we have iHeartRadio they understand," Mr. Pittman said.

The decision to change the company's name was made just six weeks ago. "The name we had doesn't fit with what we are," Mr. Pittman said. "We realized we are no longer Clear Channel."

iHeartRadio bowed just three years ago and now has more than 50 million registered users. iHeartRadio has a 70% brand awareness, Mr. Pittman added.

Bob Pittman
Bob Pittman

The company won't disclose how many registered users are active on the service each month, but said it has more than 97 million monthly digital uniques.

In comparison, Pandora has more than 75 million monthly active users and Spotify boasts more than 40 million active users, 10 million of which pay for the service. And competition continues to escalate, with both Apple and Amazon introducing their own digital-radio platforms.

The Clear Channel rebrand comes just days before the iHeartRadio Music Festival, one of the companies largest annual events.

This is the latest attempt by the company to distance itself from its radio roots and add some sexiness to what has been considered stodgy media. In January 2012, Clear Channel removed "radio" from its name, becoming Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, to reflect its growth in areas beyond terrestrial radio.

It's been a challenge for Clear Channel to convince advertisers to pay more to reach listeners, even though radio can generate a sales gain of $6 for every dollar spent, according to the company. The company has been adopting new ad models, like programmatic, to allow advertisers to better target listeners, Mr. Pittman said.

Clear Channel went through a round of layoffs in the spring to reduce overlap and align its sales organizations.

The company continues to be burdened with more than $20 billion in debt following its 2008 leveraged buyout.