This company leaves few open channels on the radio dial. Clear Channel Communications is the #1 radio company in the US, with about 860 stations that reach more than 239 million people. Its Premier Radio Networks produces syndicated radio content for more than 5,000 stations. Clear Channel also sells spot advertising for about 4,000 radio stations and 600 TV stations through Katz Media. (Meanwhile, sister company Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings is one of the world's largest outdoor advertising companies with about 840,000 display locations worldwide.) Clear Channel Communications a part of CC Media Holdings, which is in turn owned by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital.
Clear Channel's vast holding of radio stations accounts for almost 50% of sales and is is largely organized into clusters, with multiple stations serving individual markets. The strategy allows it to centralize certain back office functions such as finance, marketing, and human resources within a market so that its stations can operate with fewer expenses. Market clusters also allow Clear Channel to sell air time to advertisers across multiple stations within that market. The company holds a dominant position in many of its local markets; its chief competition comes from other major radio broadcasters such as Citadel Broadcasting and CBS Radio (part of CBS Corporation).
While the recession and advertising slump posed a serious challenge for Clear Channel, the radio business in general is struggling as listeners turn to newer technologies for news and entertainment. The company has been investing heavily in high-definition digital radio (HD Radio) to woo listeners away from mobile MP3 players and digital satellite radio services SIRIUS and XM Radio (both owned by SIRIUS XM Radio). In addition to offering higher fidelity sound, the new technology makes it possible for stations to broadcast more channels using the available bandwidth. Clear Channel has also made sizable investments in online broadcasting technologies to attract listeners who might not otherwise tune into traditional radio services. Its Internet streaming efforts compete against a growing number of online music services from AOL and Yahoo!, as well as Pandora Media.
Clear Channel's syndicated programming business, meanwhile, has evolved into an industry leader itself. Premiere Radio distributes a roster of programs that includes such high-profile personalities as Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and Ryan Seacrest. It competes against other syndicators such as Westwood One and Citadel Media and generates revenue through syndication fees and selling commercial air time. To maintain its position, the company must invest heavily to retain and sign new talent. Premiere's contract with Rush Limbaugh, for example, made him one of the highest-paid radio personalities: The eight-year deal signed in 2008 was reportedly worth $400 million.
As part of its 2008 going private transaction, Clear Channel sold several hundred radio stations, many serving smaller markets. (At its height, the radio behemoth owned or managed more than 1,200 stations.) Clear Channel also sold its portfolio of some 55 TV stations to private investment firm Providence Equity Partners for $1 billion in 2008. – less