Clear Channel Acquires Struggling Thumbplay Subscription Service

4:31 PM PST 03/01/2011 by Paul Bond

Bob Pittman tells THR he is interested in Thumbplay’s “technology platform, technology team and marketing people."

Clear Channel, where Bob Pittman has landed as chairman of media and entertainment platforms, has paid an undisclosed sum to acquire Thumbplay’s struggling subscription music business.

Pittman told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday that he’s not interested in the existing business he just purchased from Thumbplay; he wants “their technology platform, technology team and marketing people.”

The plan is to use all of that for the benefit of Clear Channel’s Internet radio initiatives.

“Digital listening is only 3 percent of all radio listening,” Pittman said. “We strategically want to get well ahead of it and lead the opportunities in digital as opposed to being late to the party.”

As a former executive at AOL during its heyday, being early to digital parties is one of Pittman’s strengths, much to the dismay of Time Warner investors who watched him and the rest of AOL’s management purchase their company for a pittance a dozen years ago.

Clear Channel is expected to absorb all 65 of Thumbplay’s music-service employees, and Pittman said the service will be integrated into IHeartRadio, Clear Channel’s service that boasts 750 online radio stations and 25 million monthly users.

Pittman wouldn’t comment on the acquisition price, though published reports suggest it was about $41 million. Pittman said he’s on the lookout for more acquisitions.

“We’re a traditional media company that is hopefully moving at the speed of a start-up,” he said. “We look at three ways to get what we need: make it, buy it or partner. We don’t look at what’s cheapest but what moves us ahead faster. Thumbplay moves us ahead, so it was a buy.”

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