Entercom Communications Corp. CEO David Field says the radio giant's retooling is over and now revenues are projected to grow for the first time since the CBS Radio deal closed in late 2017.
"We have accomplished essentially everything we set out to accomplish and we are extremely happy with what we have been able to do to date," Field said in a recent interview with the Inquirer and Daily News.
Field, 55, declined to comment on what he called the "worst-kept secret" in the region — Entercom's plans to relocate its headquarters and broadcast studios to one location in Philadelphia. Entercom, which owns 235 radio stations nationwide, is based in Bala Cynwyd, and its local CBS Radio studios are scattered throughout the city and the suburbs.
"We are big believers in the city and we want to be part of it," Field added.
People should "stay tuned," he said.
Controlled by the Field family for decades, Entercom has gone largely unnoticed in the local media and the Philadelphia business community because of a portfolio of radio stations in mid-sized and smaller cities. But CBS Radio catapulted Field and Entercom into big-time radio, adding Philly stations KYW, WIP, WOGL, WPHT, and WTDY, in addition to CBS Radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, to its holdings. (Entercom also bought the independently owned WBEB in Philadelphia this year.)
Dressed in a green-striped shirt and blue khakis, Field was bullish on radio and Entercom/CBS Radio, even as he made dramatic changes while Wall Street punished the company's stock. Entercom stock is down 30 percent this year. Shares closed down 5 cents, at $7.65 on Friday.
Seeking to energize the company, Entercom replaced 17 of the 48 Entercom/CBS Radio market managers around the United States, reformatted seven stations to boost ratings, and launched both a new app and the Entercom Audio Network, with Proctor & Gamble, Walgreens, and Indeed.com as advertisers.
It was "the proverbial 'the bus is going 100 miles an hour and you are changing the tires,' " Field said.
In addition, Entercom reached deals to sell surplus property in Los Angeles and Chicago, and is preparing to close on the sale of eight radio stations to the Mormon Church-controlled Bonneville International Corp. The divestiture was required by antitrust attorneys at the U.S. Justice Department as part of the approval for Entercom to acquire CBS Radio.
The property and Bonneville deals are expected to generate $200 million in after-tax cash for debt reduction. Entercom says that it expects to easily comply with loan covenants on almost $1.9 billion in debt.
The real headache for Field and Entercom from CBS Radio this year was with Malvern-based United States Traffic Network. USTN sold advertising around traffic alerts for CBS Radio stations. USTN then funneled some of its revenue back to CBS Radio — later Entercom.
But USTN stopped paying its share of the traffic-related advertising in late 2017 because of problems with its own business. Entercom ended the contract with USTN this summer and has said it will do its is own traffic updates and sell the traffic-related advertising, which means it doesn't have to share it with another company. USTN recently disclosed it was shutting down its radio-traffic new business, leading to more than 100 job losses in Chester County.
"We just got dealt a couple bad cards and I think we played it pretty well," Field said of USTN.
Field evangelized about the potential for local news and sports radio stations, with personalities such as Angelo Cataldi connecting with local audiences.
"We just think that radio is at its best when it's local. Here's a perfect example. Tonight. If I am driving to the game tonight I don't care if I am listening to music. I want somebody to talk about how it is so damn humid and when is this going to change? And oh, by the way, how fired up are you about the Eagles game tonight?"
Field added, "I don't want to hear someone from, you know, Wisconsin, talking about something generic."