Entercom CEO on the state of radio during the pandemic

David Field, CEO of Entercom joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the State of Radio During the Pandemic.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: We want to stick with the media and this time, talk radio and what the pandemic has taught us about the radio's influence across the country. For that, we want to bring in the CEO of Entercom, David Field. And David, great to have you on the show. How is the pandemic changing the radio industry, or how has it changed the radio industry over the past 10 months?

DAVID FIELD: Thanks, Seana. Great to be here. Radio, of course, has been impacted, like every medium, but frankly, more and more in a good way. We start off by recognizing that radio is the number one reach medium in the United States, according to Nielsen, and while there was some disruption early in the pandemic in terms of our behaviors as a society, our work habits, our commuting, and so forth, Nielsen reports that radio is back to roughly 95%, 100% of where listening levels were at the time just pre-pandemic.

And what we see within that, though, are some interesting trends. So smart speaker usage, for instance, has essentially doubled, at least for our products and our content across the country. And so while people are consuming the content differently, to some extent, the aggregate levels of consumption have held up very, very strongly.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I am old enough to remember The Buggles and "Video Killed the Radio Star," and they never successfully killed radio. And what you just pointed out-- we listen to radio here on Sonos Speakers. So does that mean that because it's a digital universe, I could wind up getting my local radio station through the stream, not necessarily over the broadcast airwaves? So do we get a further evolution of radio, and it just becomes a streaming service?

DAVID FIELD: Well, Adam, I think it's a great question. And I think as a microcosm, you look at how our company has transformed. And so three years ago, Entercom was the third largest-- fourth largest company in the radio business. We acquired CBS Radio. It gave us scale and made us what we think is a broadcast group second to none in the country, with brands like WFAN in New York, KROQ in Los Angeles, 1010 WINS in New York, and so forth.

But think about how we've transformed as a company. And so as we continue to focus on providing great original content like that with local personalities, local sports, local news, but now we've augmented it by building one of the three largest podcast producers in the United States through acquisitions and organically.

We've launched Radio.com and made it the fastest growing digital audio platform in the United States. We've added other digital distribution and great partnerships with the Amazons and the Googles and the Apples of this world. And as a result, we're now distributing over many kinds of devices and essentially are agnostic in terms of how people consume our great product.

And so it's very much like other areas of the media. You produce great content, you provide in the ways that people are going to enjoy it, you enhance the product features to take advantage of technology, and you let the public consume it as they see fit.

SEANA SMITH: David, thinking about how you've transformed as a company, just being at home has given listeners, I think, just new habits. When you think about what the next three, five, 10 years are going to look like, do you expect these habits to stick once we get beyond the pandemic?

DAVID FIELD: Well, look, I don't think we ever roll backwards as a society. I think new technology continues to take hold and give us new opportunities to consume in different ways. And our-- our folks are very focused on how can we continue to enhance that listening experience in various and sundry ways. Because ultimately, it really is all about the listeners.

We do believe, again, these technologies are going to continue to evolve. But we also believe that it is about great content. And so, you know, if you're delivering the best sports, the best news, the best personalities. And you think about what makes radio distinctive. Why is it that radio, despite what some perceptions are, radio is, according to Edison Media, far and away the largest platform in audio?

And in fact, about 73% of all ad-supported audio is broadcast radio. How do we continue to think about that evolution going forward? And I think it goes again to that content-- having great personalities who engage with audiences, who are companions, and are just providing engaging content. And that's, again, where we think we're headed.

ADAM SHAPIRO: You know, people always overlook radio. "Working Girl," the movie, I mean, the classic example-- they overlook radio as the solution. So here's my question to you. 5G-- will radio be able to do specific listener ad targeting the way that TV-- they're talking in the "New York Times" about TVs are going to be able to target-- 100,000 of us could be watching the same show on our 5G phone with the app, but get a separate ad. Will radio be able to do that in the future with 5G?

DAVID FIELD: Well, I think the answer to that is yes. And right now, a significant portion of our distribution is already addressable. And then we're able, through our various data and analytics capabilities, we're able to find lookalike audiences that provide-- sort of synthetically enable that addressability to audience segments that customers are seeking.

Now beyond that, to your point, as the technology plays out, I think we continue to get more sophisticated in that regard, more addressable, and able to tap more explicitly into advertiser needs and take advantage of that technology.

SEANA SMITH: David, you talked about sports being a growth area that you've identified, podcast, some of the acquisitions that you've made in that space. Are you planning more acquisitions there, just in terms of broadening your reach in those two categories?

DAVID FIELD: Well, you know, you mentioned sports, and that's an area where we're particularly strong. Our footprint in audio sports is three times the next biggest player. And as a result, in the last few weeks, we've announced a couple of major deals. We announced a partnership with FanDuel, becoming their official sports book. We believe that is the largest single advertising deal in the history of the radio industry. We're excited to be partnered with such a great organization.

And we also announced the acquisition of the QL Gaming Group, which gives us a subscription-based end user solution so that we can take these tens of millions of sports fans who consume our sports stations, and introduce them to that great content, algorithmic-driven predictive analytics, to provide insights for sports gambling.

And so we see that as a really exciting burgeoning area for us. And we'll continue to look out for other acquisitions if they make sense in order to continue to augment our offerings to the public. But what's nice is with our scale and our strength in each of these areas, we're being opportunistic. We don't feel we need to make any moves at this point in time to be a major player, reaching roughly 200-- close to 200 million Americans each month with our various content offerings.

SEANA SMITH: Great. David Field, CEO of Entercom. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Radio certainly is far from dead. Have a great weekend.

DAVID FIELD: Thank you both so much. Take care.