Clear Channel’s Pittman: iHeartRadio app is not about Pandora, kinda

When Pandora shares took a dive last week several people pointed out that its dip came soon after the number one U.S. radio company Clear Channel Inc launched a customized radio application announced with a press release which didn’t shy away from drawing comparisons with Pandora.

Of course those comparisons essentially said “look our service is waaay better  than Pandora” and Clear Channel’s chairman of media and entertainment platforms Bob Pittman, couldn’t help but damn Pandora with faint praise in our interview.

Here are highlights of our chat with Pittman, a well -known AOL and MTV alum. (By the way, Pandora shares were back up 5 percent on Tuesday morning to $10.38).

MediaFile: You already had streaming radio stations, wasn’t that enough?

Bob Pittman: We’ve seen an opportunity to create what Pandora has called ‘custom radio’ probably more accurate to call it a playlist creator because there’s no personalities, no services like radio. But since they described it as custom radio they gave us brand permission to come in and add it as a feature to our service.

Mediafile: Why is your custom radio any different or better than Pandora?

BP: We had the benefit of watching Pandora trying to build a business, certainly they built a nice feature whether it’s a business or not I’ll let everybody else debate. We thought what else can we do to the experience to make it fit better with radio, so we have a slide feature with a range of songs from familiar to discovery with ten times the number of songs Pandora has for example. We have ongoing music research, that we spend millions of dollars for every year, checking what’s hot, what’s moving on, what clusters together. And we’ve written our own algorithms in addition to using some outsourced algorithms.

CBS, Clear Channel do some radio dealing

In case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t exactly a great environment for wheeling and dealing. That only compounds the challenge CBS CEO Les Moonves faces in trying to reshape his radio division — it’s not like there was a thriving market for radio station M&A before this whole credit crisis.

But give CBS credit. Seems like they came up with an innovative way to swap a handful of their smaller stations for a couple of  larger stations in markets that CBS wants to be in. They struck the deal with Clear Channel, which needed to get something done to satisfy regulators looking at their buyout by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital.  

Here’s what the deal boils down to, courtesy of the press release:

In the trade, Clear Channel will obtain CBS RADIO’s KBKS-FM (Seattle), WQSR-FM (Baltimore), KXJM-FM and KLTH-FM (Portland, Ore.), and KQJK-FM (Sacramento, Calif.). In return, CBS RADIO will acquire two stations in Houston, the country’s 6th-largest radio market, KLOL-FM (Mega 101.1) and KHMX-FM (Mix 96.5).

Yahoo, Microsoft game of chicken continues

ballmerwait2.jpgDeal brinksmanship or genuine threat? You be the judge.

The Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported on Tuesday that Microsoft has no intention of raising its bid to buy Yahoo beyond its initial offer of $31 per share in late January. And why would they, given that no credible counter offer has materialized.

Despite Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang’s best efforts to court News Corp and AOL, and a road show with investors to talk up Yahoo’s future, most believe the deal remains Microsoft’s to lose.

Who are the winners in this long drawn out fight? Neither, Silicon Alley Insider’s Henry Blodget suggests. In this industry, the longer you wait, the further you trail.
(Reuters) (WSJ)

Clear Channel hears the writing on the wall

ccu.jpgClear Channel may be fighting its banks with guns blazing in a Texas court, but it’s singing a softer tune to Washington regulators.

The company told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that its pending $20 billion buyout by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners may not close, saying it wanted to caution the markets not to hope for an easy resolution.
The deal was supposed to close by March 31, but six banks who agreed to finance it have since balked as debt markets deteriorate. As far as Clear Channel is concerned, all the other closing conditions have been met.

Keep an eye on:

    Tom Cruise dined at a Beverly Hills hot spot with Viacom chief Sumner Redstone, who severed the actor’s long-running partnership with the company’s Paramount Pictures in 2006. Cruise is widely thought to want to renew the “Mission: Impossible” series, which Paramount has the rights to.
    (WSJ) WiMax could prove a bigger risk than its worth for top U.S. cable companies, especially as they plunk down cash in a tough economy for an unproven technology.
    (Reuters) David Marash, the most prominent American anchor on Al Jazeera English, has quit the 24-hour international news channel, citing an increased level of editorial control exercised by the channel’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

(Photo: Reuters)