For Now, Clear Channel Says Howard Stern Talk Is Just Rumor

News   For Now, Clear Channel Says Howard Stern Talk Is Just Rumor
Radio giant Clear Channel Communications says that talk of Howard Stern joining the broadcaster is just rumor.

Radio giant Clear Channel Communications says that talk of Howard Stern joining the broadcaster is just rumor.

The entertainment, outdoor advertising and radio company owns SFX Entertainment, which makes the possibility of a major talent acquisition like radio’s Howard Stern news. Stern is a controversial and highly successful radio personality whose contract with Viacom/CBS/Infinity expires in mid-December. Adding Stern to the Clear Channel mix would not seem out of place, given the company's drive to associate itself with youth culture icons, leading sports figures and live entertainment. As for the bottom line, a deal between Stern and Clear Channel would have a real impact on investors and theatre interests.

For now, a Clear Channel spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 17) that talk connecting Stern with the company is “just a rumor and we’re not commenting on rumor.”

With Stern agitating on the air about not having a contract, the New York Post suggested Clear Channel as a likely new home. Another possible outlet for Stern might be the imminent digital radio network Sirius. A call to Sirius was not returned by press time.

* As reported earlier, after acquiring radio broadcaster AMFM and SFX Entertainment, Clear Channel Communications has, in the past four months also acquired more than $1 billion in additional radio and billboard advertising assets. Clear Channel’s net revenues are up 98 percent for the third quarter and after tax cash flow is up 55 percent for the same period. The increased cash flow figures are noteworthy because the bulk of Clear Channel's business is advertising (entertainment, including the giant SFX Entertainment, accounts for just 12 percent of the corporation's business). With advertising revenues likely to be affected by tougher markets in the next few months, good third quarter results are welcome news at Clear Channel.

In an Oct. 25 report, Clear Channel said it had "the best quarter in its history with record net revenues of $1.6 billion, up 98 percent over the third quarter of 1999, and after-tax cash flow of $338.9 million, an increase of 55 percent from the third quarter of 1999. "

Clear Channel's net revenue less operating expenses and corporate expenses was "$493.2 million, a 66 percent increase over the same quarter last year. Net income was $448.9 million, compared with net income of $1.5 million in the third quarter of 1999."

In a prepared statement, Clear Channel chairman and chief executive officer Lowry Mays said, "We are quite pleased with our results for the quarter and continue to believe that we have a powerful operating platform that can generate strong growth well into the future. Our core businesses continue to perform at exceptional levels; a true reflection of the underlying strength of their business models coupled with strong operating teams."

In the same report, Clear Channel indicated that "the quarter was also highlighted by the completion of the mergers with AMFM and SFX Entertainment." Clear Channel president and chief operating officer Mark Mays said, "While we are thrilled to have finally concluded our mergers with both AMFM and SFX, we are most excited about the significant progress we have made in integrating the management and operations of these companies into Clear Channel. The addition of these two well positioned companies will further strengthen our national and local content as well as enhance our national and local distribution system. The marriage of these management teams with these assets points toward strong performance in 2001 and beyond."

For the first nine months of 2000, Clear Channel reports that its "after tax cash flow was $802.9 million, or $1.98 per share, a 60 percent increase (an increase of 29 percent per share) over the $500.4 million, or $1.54 per share, reported in last year's comparable period. All per share amounts presented above are based on diluted shares outstanding. Net revenue increased 86 percent to $3.3 billion versus $1.8 billion for the first nine months of 1999.

Clear Channel said its 1,120 U.S. radio stations, including announced transactions (see separate stories), in 262 markets, are estimated to have 110 million listeners on a weekly cumulative basis.

To give additional theatre perspective to the Clear Channel story, the company reported that "SFX Entertainment joined the Clear Channel family on August 1. Since the closing, we are happy to report that SFX has quickly made the transition from an `aggregating company' to an `operating company.' We have assembled the very best management team in the industry. They have started to focus on increasing revenue streams through our relationships with other Clear Channel properties by enhancing existing shows, creating new shows, and adding sponsorship dollars. In addition, the team has focused on operational savings, which should enable us to increase operating margins."

Clear Channel Communications describes itself as "a global leader in the out-of home advertising industry with radio and television stations, outdoor displays, and entertainment venues in 40 countries around the world. Including announced transactions, Clear Channel operates 1,120 radio and 19 television stations in the United States and has equity interests in over 240 radio stations internationally. Clear Channel also operates more than 750,000 outdoor advertising displays, including billboards, street furniture and transit panels across the world.

"SFX Entertainment, part of the Clear Channel family, is the world's largest diversified promoter, producer and presenter of live entertainment events and is a leading fully integrated sports marketing and management company."

-- By Murdoch McBride

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