Another round of employee cuts at iHeartMedia last week appears to include reductions in engineering departments at its broadcast operations.
Jerry Del Colliano in the online newsletter Inside Music Media put the number of iHeartMedia broadcast engineers cut at 39 as of Friday, with some of them expected to continue as contract help at stations.
Del Colliano reports that iHeartMedia will rely on a more regional approach to engineering staffing, in line with the company’s ongoing changes to its technology infrastructure and workflows. The company also is expected to outsource more of its engineering work as it continues to seek cost-cutting measures amid a weaker economic environment caused by the pandemic.
RadioInsight also reported on engineering cuts in a story Friday.
An iHeartMedia spokesperson declined to confirm the engineering staff cuts and offered no further comment to Radio World.
As we’ve reported before, the company has been building workflows around centralized content distribution centers that it calls AI-enabled Centers of Excellence. Its modernization initiative has resulted in layoffs in programming, sales and engineering, according to those familiar with the developments.
iHeartMedia was already sharing engineers between markets in many cases, sources have told Radio World. Following cuts in early 2020, the company created emergency response teams handle major technical crisis.
The company has never described the exact role of the regional hubs, but the technical overhaul of operations includes more remote voicetracking and a move of some broadcast operations into a cloud-based platform. It is consolidating some broadcast facilities and downsizing others, according to sources familiar with its plans.
The company has been downsizing headcount. According to its most recent 10K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as of Feb. 22, it had approximately 10,200 employees. A year ago, according to investor filings, it had approximately 11,400 employees.
Here’s how iHeartMedia described its modernization efforts to the SEC in a recent filing: “In January 2020, iHeartMedia announced key modernization initiatives designed to take advantage of the significant investments that the company has made in new technologies to build an improved operating infrastructure to upgrade products and deliver incremental cost efficiencies,” it stated.
“This modernization is a multi-pronged set of strategic initiatives that we believe positions the company for sustainable long-term growth, margin expansion, and value creation for shareholders. As targeted, our investments in modernization delivered approximately $50 million of in-year savings in 2020, and we remain on track to deliver annualized run-rate cost savings of approximately $100 million by mid-year 2021.”
Del Colliano, a skeptic of iHeartMedia’s recovery plan since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2019, was again critical. “This is an attempt by iHeart, always looking to assuage public opinion, that technology is the bad guy when in reality the actual savings are not coming from innovations in broadcast equipment or internet technology, but from sustained attempts to reduce their 10,000+ workforce by as much as possible as soon as possible,” he wrote.