Clear Channel’s Terrific New Name

Agita swept over the radio industry at the end of last week as Clear Channel announced that “Clear Channel Radio” is now “Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.”

This is something that should surprise no one.  I first noticed this “new” name in the email signatures of several Clear Channel execs over the past year. And if you believe a company’s category should be shaped by what it does and where it’s going rather than what it used to do and what it became famous for, then you might actually call this change long overdue.

To anyone who thinks that “what’s in a name” doesn’t matter, you’re wrong.  A name is a distillation of an aspiration and a strategic vision. It is with Clear Channel just as it was with the company that was once called “Apple Computer” and is now officially known as “Apple.”

To anyone who thinks that this name-change symbolizes bad news for radio, you too are wrong.

As any reader and viewer of this blog knows, I have long argued that the definition of “radio” can be as broad as our competitive advantages and leverage will allow.  This is why so many broadcasters have already made a name-change.  It’s less a curse on radio and more a recognition that radio is a much bigger box than we and (more importantly) our advertisers have historically believed.

As Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman correctly put it, the new branding “underscores that we are taking our brands and content wherever our listeners expect to find it..”

Radio, you see, is not a broadcast tower with a rate card.

Radio is an idea with an audience, where your job is to illustrate that idea with content and get that content to that audience wherever and however they want it.

Once you have an audience you have the freedom to create new ideas congruent with the appetites and expectations of that audience (hence the logic of “deals” and radio together, for example).

You are limited only by your aspirations, your resources, the talents at your disposal, your commitment, and your inherent vision for what’s possible – for new ways to link consumers and advertisers in the presence of your brands.

This is what Clear Channel Media and Entertainment is all about.

Congratulations, Clear Channel.

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  • Jim Kerr

    I’m torn on the change, basically because I’m just not sure what the Clear Channel brand stands for. On a certain level this is a good thing, as it is a conglomerate brand like CBS, but on the other hand I think it can lead to confusion.

    I think at the consumer level radio has become broadened in meaning in the same way that TV has–it is personal delivery of audio, as TV is personal delivery of video. In that world, abandoning “radio” is probably not wise for their streaming/broadcast division. Heck, their own app is entitled “IHeartRADIO.” So, as long as audio–in all its forms–is identified as “radio,” I’m not sure abandoning that word is the best course of action.

    Now they may see audio as an increasingly small piece of their pie, with concerts and video becoming increasingly important. In that scenario I would understand this change at the corporate level. But that requires a pretty significant investment outside of the audio space, and I don’t think we are remotely there yet. Do you see Clear Channel as a video and live concert company? 

    Ultimately, I think if I were to really put my chips down, I’d say this was a good move. At the Wall Street and Silicon Valley level, “radio” is not considered a healthy business; radio transitioning into a IP business is, however, so the new name is more indicative of a company with its digital act together and moving in a healthy direction. But, as I said, I think at the consumer level, radio=streaming audio, and staking a flag in that ground has real value. But it may be that Clear Channel sees the IHeartRadio brand as fulfilling that role. If that’s the case, then they have absolutely made the right move, coving both consumer expectation and Wall Street perception.

  • I think “media” or “media and entertainment” spells it out. And I’m making my assessment apart from what’s in or out of fashion on Wall Street. And I think its in radio’s interest to redefine the radio box as something larger, or consumers will always view it as something smaller.

    Who isn’t tired of 20-year-olds (tongue in cheek) asking them if anybody really listens to the radio anymore. Meanwhile they know all about the morning shows, listen to Pandora and maybe IHeartRadio, etc. Our audience is challenging us to broaden our definition, or they will hold us to the one that has been baked in for a hundred years.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jim!

  • Anonymous

    My belief is they changed the name because Wall Street understands that terrestrial radio is not considered a growth industry anymore, and Clear Channel probably wants to go public again next year

  • If that’s true (and I think it’s too easy an answer) then it’s an example of the right thing happening for the wrong reasons. Personally, I think CC is smarter than that.

  • Anonymous

    All the growth in the 90s that terrestrial radio had came from consolidation, not innovation. The industry was super hot on Wall Street. Infinity and Clear Channel even became the biggest US billboard companies by consolidating outdoor advertising companies with their high growth radio acquisitions.

    Consolidation is over. In my opinion the government environment is against these companies growing any larger in the targeted local areas.

    Satellite and internet is taking revenue away. 10 years ago Terrestrial was a 17or 18 billion dollar annual revenue business. Sat and internet radio revenue was non existent. Now Terrestrial is about 14 billion a year last I heard and satellite and internet radio together are about $4 billion.

    I would love to see terrestrial innovate its way back to growth.I just don’t see how it will. The industry has changed. Wall Street would get excited if there was a viable way to make it happen. Terrestrial would be exciting again. It almost seems like newspapers today.

    I know you are an innovator Mark. I hope you can lead these guys into innovative growth.

  • Anonymous

    First Radio Shack and now this.

  • And both strategically correct 🙂

  • That’s for sure. Thanks Chris!

  •  Meanwhile they know all about the morning shows, listen to Pandora and maybe IHeartRadio, etc. “

    Pandora still calls itself Pandora Radio. Go figure. 

  • Yes, because THEY are trying to broaden the category that THEY are in to include radio.
    The broadening goes in every direction.

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