By RYAN NAKASHIMA
DANA POINT, Calif. — Radio broadcasting giant Clear Channel is breaking into the TV production business.
The company announced Tuesday that it is taking a minority stake in the production company of “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.
In a separate deal, Clear Channel is joining with its majority investors, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital, in committing $300 million to work with Seacrest’s company to identify, acquire and develop innovative media companies.
At an All Things D conference Tuesday, Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman said the new venture will aim to break into the TV production market and use Clear Channel’s massive radio network to help promote the shows.
He said the same formula helped launch the Fox network in the late 1980s.
“Their secret weapon was they used radio to promote their new shows,” Pittman said. “So today, why can’t we use our own advertising for Ryan’s shows and give them a lift?”
Seacrest will remain majority owner of his company, which will keep producing shows for network and studio partners such as Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal.
“We aim to build Ryan Seacrest Media into a leading multimedia company with diversified assets and interests,” Seacrest said in a statement. “The entertainment industry is thriving with innovation more than ever before.”
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The announcement is the latest move by Clear Channel to spread its reach into forms of distribution beyond its more than 850 radio stations and network of outdoor billboards.
Last year, Clear Channel Radio, a subsidiary of CC Media Holdings Inc., launched the online radio service iHeart Radio to compete with market leader Pandora Media Inc. In mid-January, Clear Channel Radio changed its corporate name to Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.
Pittman has said the company aims to reach audiences in all formats and devices.
Since joining Clear Channel with a personal $5 million investment in November 2010, Pittman has tried to expand the company’s reach beyond traditional radio. Pittman was named CEO of CC Media Holdings in October. Previously, he was CEO of MTV Networks and chief operating officer of what is now AOL Inc.,
The company was taken private in 2008 by Thomas H. Lee and Bain but has struggled under the debt load created by the acquisition. The company’s long-term debt reached about nearly $20 billion at the end of September.
All Things D, a website owned by News Corp.’s The Wall Street Journal, hosts several conferences a year. The latest version, “D: Dive Into Media,” focuses on the intersection between traditional media companies and technology.
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