• Scott Wells on the benefits of independence, a new board and next year’s priorities.

    On this week’s Billboard Insider Podcast Clear Channel Outdoor Americas CEO Scott Wells talks about Clear Channel Outdoor’s spinoff from iHeart, the benefits of independence, the new board and priorities for next year.  Clear Channel Outdoor Americas consists of the United States and the Caribbean with revenues of $1.2 billion and nearly $600 million in cashflow (ebidta).

    Explain the recent Clear Channel Outdoor spinoff from iHeart.

    This is something that people in the industry have been expecting for a long time…as iHeart went through its restructuring the creditors viewed iHeart as a key asset and wanted to have it separated…We were publicly traded before but we were known as a control company where iHeart had 90% of the equity and therefore had control status and therefore had us have somewhat different reporting requirements than a typical free-floating company which is what we are now.

    How will an independent Clear Channel Outdoor be different from Clear Channel Outdoor as part of iHeart?

    What’s really different know is that as a separate entity…we’re going to be able to be setting the priorities based on where we are able to create the most value for our investors and our stakeholders.  So we’re very excited about that.  There’s a lot of great things we can build on.  Things like our global digitization strategy our Radar programmatic sales strategy, our enhanced selling models…

    It must be a huge plus to be part of an independent company which doesn’t have to compete with other divisions for capital.

    That’s for sure.  We do have debt and we do have creditors so we’re going to be keeping a close eye on cashflow.  It’s not like we come out with unlimited ability to invest.  But it will be great for us to focus…

    Talk about the new Clear Channel Outdoor board.  What thought went into selecting the board. 

    The board was assembled by the new investors.  It was done in concert with management input but the investors were the ones really driving it.  And I think they did a great job.  They were looking for great executives in a variety of areas that would be relevant for our future…We have significant media expertise on that board, we have lots of data and analytics expertise…we’ve got tremendous finance expertise, we’ve got real estate expertise…

    Women hold are 42% of your board seats.  The average is only 11% for the Fortune 500 and 30% for the US public out of home companies.

    They’re a great group and we’re excited to have them on board.

    Clear Channel Outdoor Americas had a strong first quarter with revenue up 6.6%.  What accounted for the increase?

    It’s a number of things…First off, we’re seeing some large advertisers…shift their spend into out of home…Second, we’re in the middle of a bunch of major tech product and company announcements from companies that prefer out of home…Third, we’re seeing traction on initiatives…things like our direct client outreach, our Radar initiative, our programmatic work.  And finally…the local and regional markets have continued to be very strong…

    What’s hindered the deployment of wireless antennas on billboards.

    That is something we’re doing…but it’s small.  A lot of our assets aren’t necessarily in the places that 5G rollout is most packed.  The issue is you need density in the inner part of a city…There’s a little bit of a mismatch between where the assets are and where the gaps in the networks are…It’s an opportunity for us still but I think it’s something people overhyped a few years back.

    What are Clear Channel Outdoor’s top priorities for the next year?

    There’s a lot of work to do to actually physically separate from iHeart.  We’ve financially separated but we’ve got to get all of our systems and our tools separate…From a US perspective we are looking to continue to innovate.  We will be evolving Radar from being one overarching brand into four distinct product lines…and we’ll be communicating those broadly over the coming months…We’re also growing our base of SSP and DSP partners so that we have broader reach.  We’re growing the team that focuses on new client development…

    You use multiple vendors for programmatic?

    We have three different SSP’s that we’re working with right now and more than 20 DSP’s.

    How does the US out of home industry to get a bigger share of the ad spend?

    I think you see us in the industry taking the steps we need.  We need to be accountable for delivering ROI.  Every CMO is being told by their CEO that they have to show that return…We have to be flexible on how we sell.  We can’t just sell it one way…we’ve got to be in multiple channels, we’ve got to have creative ways of marketing our inventory and we need to be visible with planners and strategists that shape the campaign spending.  That’s something different from this business a decade ago when it was a little bit more of an if you build it they’ll come kind of dynamic…Finally I think that the new Geopath currency is going to be an important part in helping to further enable this trend because it will give us a more robust currency…

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