Google is said to be considering a major deal to either partner with Clear Channel's radio stations or buy the stations outright, according to RBC Capital Markets (as reported by Jeffrey Yorke in Radio & Records, a radio trade pub). Clear Channel's stock has been depressed and it has been putting out feelers to potential buyers for some or all of its assets.
A Clear Channel deal with the Google Audio division, also known as dMarc, might prove attractive for both companies since Google would be in a position to fill the stations' local inventory. During the past 60 days, it has hired about 100 local radio station salespeople in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and possibly other markets, says RBC.
Clear Channel “has been the most consistently willing to implement both dramatically novel (and disruptive) sales strategies such as 'Less Is More,' and dramatic innovations on the technology side,” said RBC, per Yorke. “Given its current exploration of strategic alternatives we could see this playing out potentially through Google making a modest investment in Clear Channel (either in a Leveraged Buy Out, or simply in Clear Channel's current incarnation) to help secure access to inventory.”
RBC's analysis is certainly plausible. It may not even go far enough. Clear Channel also has major interests in Outdoor advertising (i.e., billboards) that could be similarly synergistic. At the same time, however, Google has stumbled in its initial efforts to sell cross-media advertising in magazines.
Before making such a major investment, it may want to hold off to perfect non-Internet operations. It also isn't clear that Google would want to pay a premium for Clear Channel's airwaves, given the rapid development of Internet radio. An interim “lease deal” would probably be more attractive.
Rumors about Google's cross-media intentions, of course, have been rampant. Last year, the rumor was that Google was set to buy Yellow Book.