Clear Channel to take Seacrest stake

Thomas H. Lee, Bain Capital add $300 mil war chest

Clear Channel announced plans Tuesday to acquire a minority stake in Ryan Seacrest Prods. as two private equity firms, Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital, have committed up to $300 million to an effort with Seacrest’s company to identify, acquire and develop media companies and content.

Seacrest will own the majority of the company as executive chairman, working with CEO Adam Sher and chief financial officer Jeff Refold. They will continue to develop and produce content for network and studio partners, including NBCUniversal. RSP will now collaborate with Clear Channel on the production and distribution of both scripted and unscripted television programming as well as other media and entertainment content, leveraging the promotional reach of Clear Channel auds from its 800-plus radio stations nationwide and its digital platforms.

Under CEO Bob Pittman, Clear Channel has been looking to transform itself into a full-fledged media company.

Discussing the Seacrest deal at the D:Dive into Media conference Tuesday in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Pittman characterized it as part of his drive to diversify Clear Channel beyond radio advertising. “More and more there are opportunities to use our franchises to create money and value for us in other ways,” he said. “We have these valuable franchises — let’s not limit ourselves to broadcast networks.”

Pittman envisioned using the scale of Clear Channel, which reaches 238 million per month across 150 cities, to promote programming produced by Seacrest’s shingle. Given the fragmentation of the TV business, he sees Clear Channel as the most effective promotional platform nationwide.

He had high praise for Seacrest’s dual talents as both an on-air personality and a businessman, which he believes will pay dividends for the “American Idol” host’s side gig. “If you look at what Ryan is good at, and where the money, it’s TV production,” Pittman said.

Seacrest produces “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” for E! and spinoffs “Kourtney and Kim Take New York,” “Khloe and Lamar” and “Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami.”

It also produced the ABC reality series “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Company is currently producing new reality series including “Melissa and Tye: A New Reality” for CMT and “Shahs of Sunset” for Bravo.

Seacrest and Clear Channel already work together. He hosts “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,” the syndicated morning drive-time show on Clear Channel Radio’s KIIS 102.7 FM in Los Angeles, as well as “American Top 40,” a weekly countdown show syndicated by Clear Channel’s Premiere Networks.