Say what you want about John Hogan but at least credit him for the honesty he delivered amid all the swirl of misinformation and panic Clear Channel forced on its employees last week.
Come on. Admit it. Don’tcha just love it? Premium Choice.
Hogan named his “not local but still vocal” voice-tracking and syndication sector after a brand of cat litter.
It’s true that Hogan’s having a rough start launching some of the new Premium Choice shows. Cats keep covering them up.
Insert your own joke here.
In Greater Cleveland, where in some parts of the market three separate Clear Channel KISS branded stations can be heard – all were playing the same music and using the same voice-tracking.
How desperate is Clear Channel?
They’ll consider themselves lucky if not in bankruptcy by year’s end.
The New York Times, itself a victim of trustafarian inexperience and greed, said, “it’s too soon to say who will be the biggest loser among media companies in this recession. But Clear Channel Communications is vying for the title.”
The accolades are coming in. They’re been pegged as the Terri Schiavo of media.
This is the end result of a decade and a third of reckless spending to buy up radio stations, regardless of size, market, or price – just for the bragging rights of owning the most of them. Today, they’re in two categories: worth less or worthless.
Let’s take a gander at Ohio. The downturn in the economy has devastated that state. Clear Channel owns a total of 72 radio stations of all shapes and sizes there – and overpaid for every one of them. There’s that radio business plan again: Buy ‘em now and figure out what to do with ‘em later. One problem. Later is now.
They proved Bob Sillerman’s greater fool theory when they bought SFX Concerts, renamed it Clear Channel Concerts, which they later sold at a loss. You know of the greater fool theory, right? It’s knowing that someone will pay even more than you did for something you paid too much for.
This is the end result of a decade and a third of Clear Channel buying up radio publications, rep firms, and manufacturers.
I always wondered why Hogan, who likes to put names and labels on everything, didn’t try to come up with a new one for Prophet, the voice-tracking automation system Clear Channel bought from Prophet Systems of Ogallala, Nebraska.
See, I said they should’ve renamed it the Terminator – because that’s exactly what it did to most of Clear Channel’s live air talent.
Even after their original architect of doom, Randy Michaels, who was provided the blank checks to buy anything, buy everything, was unceremoniously removed from the premises for impersonating the expense account of a Mays family member, Clear Channel continued on with half-baked, unthought-out projects like bland social networks and format labs, which went nowhere fast.
Last week Clear Channel employees got to read one of two Orwellian statements.
For the 590 no longer under its employ, it was: “Clear Channel is reducing the number of people it employs due to economy and the strategic direction of the company. We have decided to end your
employment as of today.”
For those surviving the latest purge, it was a personal message from Napoleonic CEO Mark Mays, which read in part: “While we can’t predict the future, we now believe we have determined the right structure and staffing levels for the current economic environment,” which is a reworking of a previous personal message he released after the January purge, which claimed 1,850 jobs.
And the trades were sent a statement issued by Lisa Dollinger, the Minister of Propaganda for the San Antonio silver spoon brothers, which read: “Like all media companies, Clear Channel has to adjust its business to the realities of the current economy.”
Clear Channel doesn’t cut to the chase. They just cut.
Since current is defined as the “here and now” you can expect more herd thinning, most likely after July 30 when Clear Channel will no longer be under obligation to the Security and Exchange Commission to provide a specific severance package. That was a pact they were forced to make with the SEC in order to win their approval of the private equity firms of Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee’s privatization of Clear Channel, which will go down in history as both the biggest and dumbest leveraged buyout in the media business.
Warren Buffett was right when he put private equity firms front and center with mortgage issuers, accusing them of committing “a series of life-threatening problems within many of the world’s great financial institutions.”
Clear Channel also added that it would be suspending its 401(k) match for all employees for the rest of the year; adding that if the company hits 90 percent of the budget goals at year’s end, the matches will be retroactively restored. Can we agree that neither will occur considering that Clear Channel’s revenue plunged by 23 percent in Q1 and cash flow fell by 47 percent?
Buying time on radio is like the story of a man who approaches a woman and asks, “Would you spend the night with me for $1,000?”
She pauses, then tells him, “Yes.”
“How about $100?” he asks.
Incensed, she replies, “What the hell do you think I am?”
“We’ve already established what you are,” he says. “Now, we’re just negotiating your price.”
Why are people worried about the Swine Flu? I’m more concerned about the Clear Channel ethical cirrhosis that’ll spread to the other monkey-see, monkey-do chains.
And, no, I can’t tell you why those other chains haven’t figured out that following Clear Channel’s lead is akin to suicide.
And as Bain and Lee are learning the hard way, suicide’s not painless.