Driven in part by a slate of new podcasting ventures, iHeartMedia posted its best earnings since filing for bankruptcy in 2018 on Friday (Nov. 8), reporting total revenue of $948.3 million in the third quarter, ending Sept. 30. That’s up 3% year-over year, despite a steep drop in operating income related to its exit from bankruptcy earlier this year. Excluding the impact of political revenue, the total marks a 4.9% increase, with growth across all income streams.
Podcasts contributed to a 33.4% rise in digital revenue year-over-year, to $96.7 million, up from $72.4 million. iHeartMedia kicked off a push into podcasting with the acquisition of podcast network Stuff Media in September 2018 and, over the past few months, the company has announced podcast partnerships with Will Ferrell, Questlove, Shonda Rhimes and more. If that doesn’t speak for the company’s faith in the podcast industry’s potential, look no further than iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman‘s own podcast, announced in May.
Even so, broadcast radio remains iHeart’s biggest revenue driver, pulling in $573 million in Q3 — though that figure marks a 0.6% decline year-over-year. Network businesses, like Total Traffic & Weather, accounted for $160.1 million of the total pie (up 9.2%), while Audio and Media Services revenue drew in $59.9 million, a 14.3% decline.
In a statement, Pittman touted the company’s integrated, multi-platform approach to “meeting listeners where they are.”
“This quarter, we advanced our offerings of goal-oriented marketing solutions to advertisers, expanding our addressable pool beyond radio,” he said. “And we continued to strengthen our leadership position in our podcasting business, announcing multiple new partnerships and a slate of exciting new content. Looking ahead, iHeartMedia is well-positioned to continue to grow our leadership position in the audio space.”
That said, the company’s operating income slid 24.6% year-over-year to $140.8 million. Quarterly net income was $12.37 million, a sharp decline from $71.78 million in the same period a year ago. In May, iHeart completed a restructuring process to slash its debt from $16.1 billion to $5.75 billion, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2018.
Added iHeartMedia president, COO and CFO Rich Bressler: “When iHeartMedia returned to the public equity markets, we set clear goals to increase our share of radio advertising spend, tap into TV and digital advertising revenue pools, and extend our leadership in podcasting and drive sponsorship revenue. Our results demonstrate significant progress against these goals and we are pleased with the revenue growth we’ve seen across the board. We continue to work to build long-term shareholder value, and de-leveraging remains a key priority.
iHeart claims to be the No. 1 audio company in the U.S. based on consumer reach, with more than 850 live broadcast stations through iHeartRadio, which is available across more than 250 platforms. Its iHeartRadio app had 128 million registered users as of April, when iHeartMedia filed for an initial public offering.