The impact of the pandemic may not have been entirely gone, but iHeartMedia said Thursday things are heading in the right direction. Nowhere was that more evident than in the company’s digital segment where revenue grew 53% during the fourth quarter compared to a year earlier powered by a 99.8% jump in podcast ad revenue. Podcast ad revenue totaled $41.96 million during the quarter, up from $21 million a year earlier.
For all of 2020, iHeart had total revenue of $2.9 billion. That was a 20% decline from 2019. But again, digital was the bright spot as iHeart’s overall digital revenue grew 26% last year led by a 91% gain in podcasting ad revenue.
“We are pleased that the company continues its steady recovery from the COVID-19 downturn –and it’s particularly rewarding to see the impressive performance from our areas of strategic investment, like podcasting, SmartAudio, digital, and ad tech,” said CEO Bob Pittman in a statement.
Fourth quarter total revenue totaled $936 million, which, although an 8.8% decline from a year earlier, was less than half the 22% drop reported during the third quarter. And a 47% decline in second quarter, when the biggest impact of the ad pullback was experienced across all radio groups.
President/COO/CFO Rich Bressler said the sequential improvement of revenue and other financial metrics during the past three quarters has “well positioned” iHeart for continued recovery into 2021.
Radio may still be the biggest revenue line on the iHeart balance sheet, but digital audio accounted for roughly 16% of the company’s revenue and 24% of its earnings in 2020. To highlight that growth, iHeartMedia has begun releasing new financial data to investors that it says will better align with certain leadership and organizational changes implemented, as well as providing improved visibility into the underlying performance of the various business segments.
Triton Completes iHeart’s Ad Tech Stack
Also during the company’s quarterly earnings call on Thursday, Pittman explained how the addition of Triton Digital fits into iHeart’s strategy. The latest in a string of ad tech acquisitions that also include Jelli, RadioJar, Unified and Voxnest, Triton is the last piece in a puzzle that makes iHeart a full-stack audio media company. The goal is to give advertisers one-stop cross-platform shopping that spans all of audio with data targeting and attribution services.
Adding Triton will make iHeart “the only company with a total audio advertising technology and data solution providing both supply side and demand side service for all forms of audio,” Pittman elaborated, including on demand, broadcast radio, digital streaming radio and podcasting. Triton will allow the company to “benefit from the continued shift of the broadcast and digital advertising marketplaces toward data-infused electronic platforms,” Pittman offered, “and ensures that we will be in control of the sales and yield of all our audio impressions.”
Triton also provides hosting, infrastructure, monetization and measurement tools and services to many of iHeart’s competitors and will continue to do so, Pittman said, “with the understanding that with iHeart as its owner, broadcast radio will remain a priority into the future.”
Triton also operates outside the U.S. and the acquisition gives iHeart the opportunity to open new growth markets internationally through ad tech.