The Rush Limbaugh advertiser boycott has cost Cumulus Media so much money that in order to keep Limbaugh they had to let go of Sean Hannity.
According to Radio Ink:
Industry sources very close to the negotiations confirmed to Radio Ink late last night that Rush Limbaugh will not be leaving Cumulus stations when his contract is up at the end of this year. The one exception will be in New York City where Limbaugh will switch from WABC to Clear Channel’s WOR-AM. A deal between Cumulus and Limbaugh, who is syndicated by Clear Channel owned Premiere Radio Networks, was struck when Premiere agreed to unbundle Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to sources.
In 2014 Cumulus will try to drive revenue with Michael Savage in Hannity’s slot. Hannity was just too expensive for Cumulus, according to sources, and when Premiere finally agreed to negotiate Hannity and Rush separately, Cumulus saw that as an opportunity to move Savage in. Cumulus syndicates Savage, who can be very hard-core to the right of most other syndicated talkers. How will advertisers accept Savage? Cumulus has most likely calculated that it can generate more profit from a show it distributes itself compared to paying a price it considered too high for the number two talker, Sean Hannity.
Before the advertiser boycott, Cumulus would have been able to resign Limbaugh and Hannity without blinking an eye. Thanks to the boycott Cumulus was forced to choose, and they chose Limbaugh. The fact that Premiere unbundled the two shows reveals a great deal about how far Sean Hannity’s star has really fallen. Hannity lost his slot on Fox News following Bill O’Reilly, and now his bundled slot with Limbaugh is gone.
Hannity will be moving to Clear Channel, where may have to directly compete with Limbaugh for listeners. It will be interesting to see how much drawing power Sean Hannity really has. Hannity’s career has been made by paired with the top rated shows in both talk radio and cable news. We are about see what Hannity can do on his own, but Cumulus’s confidence in replacing him with Michael Savage speaks volumes about Hannity’s perceived lack of solo drawing power.
I don’t know what makes Cumulus Media think that advertisers who have refused to have their ads played on Limbaugh and Hannity shows will be fine with having them air on Savage’s show. Michael Savage is banned in Britain for hate speech. It won’t take long for advertisers to turn their backs on Savage’s equally dangerous to their image brand of radio.
The Rush Limbaugh advertiser boycott is still changing the landscape of talk radio. Limbaugh survived this round, but if he keeps having to air shows that don’t contain ads from major sponsors his next contract will find him paired with local public access radio shows in after Cumulus decides that it needs to cut costs even more.
Conservative talk radio is dying off and being replaced by sports talk radio. Rush Limbaugh may be the biggest dinosaur, but he and his entire genre, are still facing extinction.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association