Clear Channel president Brian Lakamp and Darren Davis are taking on newly expanded roles at the company in a pair of moves that on the surface are merely promotions. But in a bigger sense, CEO Bob Pittman says the new roles are clear evidence that digital has become integrated into every aspect of the business.
The most noteworthy change is president of digital Brian Lakamp’s handoff of iHeartRadio management to Darren Davis, president of the Clear Channel Networks Group where the streaming music service will now reside. The move allows Lakamp to take a broader, more futurist role at the company. As president of technology and digital ventures he will look for new ways to use technology across all Clear Channel divisions, as well as oversee the development of big data integration to bring programmatic buying into radio. Lakamp will also act as a liaison to Silicon Valley.
Pittman calls it “clear evidence” that Clear Channel is integrating digital into all aspects of the business and it’s happening at a faster pace than anyone had imagined it could. Company president/CFO Rich Bressler says that putting Lakamp at the most senior level of the company with a digital and tech mandate also reflects “the increasingly important role that technology is playing at Clear Channel.”
Now reporting to Lakamp will be EVP of engineering and system integration Jeff Littlejohn, CIO Pete Gerrald, RCS Worldwide president Philippe Generali, and EVP of strategic development Joe Robinson. Looking across the radio, digital and outdoor portfolio, Lakamp says he sees “massive opportunities” to use technology and business analytics in new ways.
The changes also represent a pivot point for iHeartRadio. The recently rolled out version 5.0 has more than 50 million registered users. It’s a noteworthy milestone. But at the same time as it moves under the Clear Channel Networks Group there’s also a shift for the streaming service. It’s no longer viewed as purely a technology but a piece of the programming and content delivery apparatus.
Pittman says iHeartRadio has been driven by on-air integrations, promotions, social media, and live events — many of which have been tied in with Clear Channel Outdoor, some internationally. It’s all part of what he tells staff is the “continuing transformation” of Clear Channel into a “technology-fueled 21st century media and entertainment company.”
Networks Group president Darren Davis is taking over managing the app, so iHeartRadio will sit alongside Premiere Networks, the Total Traffic and Weather Network, and the 24/7 News Network. Davis says he’s looking to use the “full promotional and creative power” of the various assets to continue growing iHeart.
Barclays media analyst Kannan Venkateshwar believes the media is in a “new phase of industry transformation” where the boundaries between distribution and content are being “blurred.” Venkateshwar says that’s a good thing for content owners because of new ways to monetize content, a fact he thinks most investors are missing. But while Venkateshwar says the media industry is either in a “golden age” or the early stage of a secular shift brought on by digital, he warns that disorder will likely rule the day. The music industry and newspapers fell prey first, but Venkateshwar says as more barriers break down it could bring about even more fragmentation in the coming five to seven years.