A music TV gatekeeper driving Clear Channel deeper into live events and TV
He began at MTV in the early ’80s, and John Sykes is once again working at the intersection of music and TV. Paul McCartney and Elton John sharing the same stage as Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake brought the heat to the iHeartRadio Festival in September. Scaling the two-day Las Vegas concert is where Sykes came in, cutting carriage deals with the CW Network, Yahoo Music and PlayStation 3, in addition to Clear Channel airing the show on its own platform of 840 local radio stations.
Sykes is on the hunt for larger-than-life events that “stay true to the iHeartRadio brand of supporting new music,” as he puts it. “Not only can we create it but we have this giant company that reaches 240 million people a month to promote it.”
Under Sykes, look for Clear Channel to step that up a notch this year. To fill a springtime hole on its concert calendar, the company will stage its first country festival on March 29 in Austin with Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum and Florida Georgia Line among the headliners. It will be followed by a trio of growing benchmark events: summer’s Ultimate Pool Party in Miami, September’s mega-shebang in Vegas and December’s multiple-city Jingle Ball package tour. Clear Channel expects to produce 18 TV shows this year.
Sykes has been on a tear recently inking new partnerships: a live EDM event series and a weekly top 20 countdown broadcast with SFX Entertainment, a simulcast of Clear Channel’s syndicated “Breakfast Club” on Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Revolt TV and a partnership with CMT to develop programming across radio, TV and digital platforms.
Clear Channel’s strategy is to make iHeartRadio more than just a digital radio platform. “Every day you walk in the door, there’s another content opportunity that comes over a transmitter or comes up in a brainstorming session. We can use them to create once-in-a-lifetime events that will continue to make music larger than life in the eyes of the audience.”