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Audacy files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, hopes to slash debt to $350 million

The Audacy streaming radio app appears on a smartphone. (Photo by Focal Foto, Creative Commons; Graphic by The Desk)
The Audacy streaming radio app appears on a smartphone. (Photo by Focal Foto, Creative Commons; Graphic by The Desk)

For years, the radio industry’s biggest proponents have tried to paint a rosy picture of the medium, regularly publishing studies that claim more Americans consume traditional AM and FM radio programming compared to mediums like television and streaming video.

And, yet, radio broadcasters continue to struggle when it comes to finding ways to capitalize on that audience.

Over the weekend, the largest radio broadcaster in America, Audacy, formally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a move that will allow the company to ease some of its multi-million dollar debt burden.

As part of the filing, Audacy says it hopes to slash its total debt load by as much as 80 percent, bringing it from $1.9 billion to a more-manageable $350 million.

In a statement, Audacy CEO David Field praised Audacy for transforming itself into a “leading, scaled multi-platform audio content and entertainment company,” but said continuing weakness in the radio advertising market “have severely impacted our financial condition and necessitated our balance sheet restructuring.”

Last year, Audacy was kicked off the New York Stock Exchange after failing to bring its per-share price above $1 for several consecutive weeks. Audacy engaged in a reverse stock split, which temporarily lifted its stock price above the critical threshold, only for it to fall below $1 just a few weeks later.

Audacy owns more than 230 radio stations in nearly five dozen radio media markets across the country, including stations in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Denver and Boston. It also owns several podcast production firms, including Pineapple Street Media and Cadence13.

Formerly known as Entercom, Audacy’s debt load increased significantly after the company acquired the radio assets of CBS Corporation (now part of Paramount Global). The merger was seen as a way to stave off competition from premium audio experiences like Apple Music, Spotify and SiriusXM.

While many of those digital services are going through pains of their own, they pale in comparison to the traditional radio industry, which failed to fully realize the potential of digital and streaming platforms until it was too late.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).