?Servicing iHeartMedia’s $20.8 billion debt is a drag on the company’s earnings — the company paid $558 million in interest in the quarter, with the total bill on that interest estimated at $1.8 billion for the year. The weight of these payments have led the company to raise much-needed cash by selling assets — its outdoor advertising division raised $600 million from the sale of nine “non-core” assets, and the company said during the earnings call that investors can expect it to be “proactive” and “opportunistic” in the sale of more assets in the future.
For the time being, iHeartMedia is making small improvements. In the first quarter, revenue rose 4.1 percent to $1.4 billion and OIBDAN (operating income before depreciation, amortization and non-cash compensation) jumped 11.8 percent, to $300 million. OIBDAN is iHeartMedia’s metric of choice for showing its operation performance.
The iHeartMedia radio division had revenue of $739 million, up 5.9 percent, and OIBDAN of $247 million, up 10.6 percent. The outdoor advertising division, Americas Outdoor, had slightly lower revenue and OIBDAN because of currency fluctuations and the sale of assets in nine markets. International Outdoor was flat when currency fluctuations were taken into account.
Digital radio is making gains. iHeartRadio had 84 million registered users (the number of users that have created an account since the service launched in 2008 and not the number of listeners), up 33 percent, and listening hours also grew 33 percent. (Registered users hit 85 million in April, the month after the end of the first quarter.) A measure of monthly activity tracked by Triton Digital shows iHeartRadio’s 436 million session starts is well below Pandora’s 2.6 billion and Spotify’s 1.2 billion.
“We expect this momentum to continue to build, as we keep investing in our employees and transforming iHeartMedia, Inc. into a multiplatform, 21st century media and entertainment company with groundbreaking programmatic, data-learning and research capabilities,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement.