That’s what iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman told investors and analysts Thursday evening when the company reported Q4 and full year 2020 earnings. iHeart revenue was down 9% in the 4th quarter of 2020 with broadcast down 19%, network revenue off 16% and digital up 53%, including a 100% jump in podcasting revenue.
The 9% Q4 drop was an improvement over Q3, which was down 47% and Q2 which was off 26%.
Event revenue continued to take a major chunk of revenue out of the numbers for iHeart as the lingering pandemic prevented all major concerts, awards ceremonies and any other crowd gathering shows from happening. iHeart’s event business was down $37 million in Q4 (52%), slightly offset by moving some of those events, like The Jingle Ball, virtual.
Both Pittman and CFO Rich Bressler said trends are improving and as the vaccine gets distributed they expect advertisers to come back to radio. Pittman said while it’s difficult to predict he expects iHeart back to 2019 performance levels by the end of this year.
For the full year of 2020, with revenue of $2.95 billion, iHeart was down 20%
January of this year was down 15% (remember it was March when revenue started to fade from the pandemic). Podcasting revenue in January of this year was up 126%.
With employee reductions, pay cuts and other cost cutting moves in 2020 the company was able to slash $250 million in expenses, much of that will be permanent.
iHeart did generate $53 million in free cash flow in the 4th quarter of 2020 and $130 million for the year.