Apple in Talks to Buy Stake in U.S. Radio Group iHeartMedia
Apple has held talks with iHeartMedia to buy a stake in the U.S. radio company, according to a new Financial Times report citing people familiar with the matter.
iHeartMedia is currently $20 billion in debt, with audiences gradually turning away from radio in favor of digital music services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. The radio group filed for bankruptcy in March, and has been in contact with several potential investors ahead of a deadline later this month to file a reorganization plan with the bankruptcy court.
iHeartMedia is hoping Apple will take an equity stake worth millions of dollars, according to FT sources, although discussions between the two companies are still in the early stages and no deal has been agreed. Apple declined to comment, while iHeartMedia did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The report suggests Apple is angling for a deal in order to gain a platform for wider distribution of its Beats 1 radio station and increase awareness of Apple Music:
A partnership could see Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio station, which is only available through its apps, make its debut on broadcast radio. Extra distribution would give Beats 1 and Apple Music greater awareness among older audiences who are later adopters of streaming services. A deal would also put the Apple station into more cars or kitchens.
Despite being billions of dollars in debt, iHeartMedia remains the largest radio broadcaster in the United States, with more than 850 stations operating across the country. One music industry executive who spoke to FT described the potential deal as a "power move" by Apple, as it aims to persuade more artists and labels to strike exclusive or early releases for its streaming service instead of its biggest rival, Spotify.
Apple Music surpassed 50 million subscribers and free trial users earlier this year, giving it a bigger share of listeners in the U.S. than Spotify, although Spotify is still the global leader with more than 80 million paying users around the world. Earlier this year, Apple acquired music recognition app Shazam for $400 million in order to improve Apple Music's listening recommendations.