iHeartMedia Says 2024 Will Be a ‘Recovery Year’

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The radio business’ slog through a slow advertising market appears to be improving in 2024. “As we look to the year ahead, we see 2024 as a recovery year and we expect a return-to-growth mode,” iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said during the company’s Thursday (Feb. 29) earnings call for the fourth quarter of 2023.

iHeartMedia expects its first-quarter revenue will be flat to down 2% compared to the prior-year period. That would be an improvement from the 5.2% revenue decline, to $1.07 billion, in the fourth quarter. iHeartMedia actually beat its previous revenue guidance of a high single-digit decline. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $208 million was down 34% from the prior-year period but fell within the guidance range of $205 million to $215 million. 

Wall Street cheered the news. iHeartMedia shares rose as much as 33.9% to $3.04 Thursday morning before falling to a still-impressive $2.75, up 21.1%, in the early afternoon. 

Full-year revenue of $3.75 billion was down 4% year over year. Revenue for the multiplatform group — which includes broadcast radio stations, live and virtual events, and the company’s national sales organization — was down 6.2% to $2.44 billion.

Podcasts were bright spots in both the fourth-quarter and full-year results. In the fourth quarter, a 16.6% increase in podcast revenue more than offset a 1.1% decline in all other digital revenue, leading the digital audio group revenue up 5.5% to $317.7 million. For the full year, a 13.8% improvement in podcast revenue drove a 4.6% improvement in iHeartMedia’s digital audio group as other digital revenue was flat.

iHeartMedia had the top podcast audience in the U.S. in December with 29.8 million listeners, well above No. 2 Wondery’s 18.4 million and No. 3 NPR’s 18.2 million, according to Podtrac. COO and CFO Rich Bressler estimated iHeartMedia’s share of the podcast market at 20%. “In terms of profitability, we’re a lot more than that,” Bressler said during the earnings call. 

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