Talk Radio Earthquake? Cumulus Planning to Dump Limbaugh and Hannity

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A major talk radio earthquake? Media giant Cumulus is planning to dump conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity when their contracts run out. This doe NOT mean their style of talk will be gone — but they’ll be minus some big outlets:

In a major shakeup for the radio industry, Cumulus Media, the second-biggest broadcaster in the country, is planning to drop both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations at the end of the year, an industry source told POLITICO on Sunday.

Cumulus has decided that it will not renew its contracts with either host, the source said, a move that would remove the two most highly rated conservative talk personalities from more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets.

The decision comes after negotiations between Cumulus and Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows, broke down due to disagreements over the cost of the distribution rights, the source said. Cumulus is known to drive a hard bargain on costs, and Clear Channel is known to seek top dollar for big names.

As industry insiders caution, Cumulus and Clear Channel have come to the brink before during contract negotiations only to resume talks. But the source told POLITICO that Clear Channel was unlikely to reduce the cost for distribution rights to a level that would satisfy Cumulus.

Cumulus declined to comment for this story: “Cumulus is not in a position to comment about negotiations with talent under contract, no matter what the rumor of the day might be,” a spokesperson told POLITICO.

Those who say this means Rush’s style of radio and the style of Hannity (who I’ve long called either “Rush Lite” or “Rush Limbaugh without Rush’s broadcasting talent,” because Limbaugh was a veteran broadcaster way before he hit it big nationally as a conservative talk show host) will not be accurately reflecting the impact of this apparent development:

But in recent weeks, Cumulus has been quietly reaching out to radio talent agents and political insiders about new local and regional station hosts to fill some of the airtime that will be left vacant by Limbaugh and Hannity, industry sources said. Cumulus is also expected to move some of its existing talent — which includes Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage — into one of the slots

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None of the three can be considered offering highly thoughtful talk radio. But this shake up would mean at several things:
1. It would change the pecking order of top conservative talkers.
2. It will make competition among conservative talkers for audience share even more intense — which is likely to mean MORE over the top comments and MORE hyperpartisanship as they battle to advance…or hold their old or new rankings.
3. More opportunities for regional talent, especially talkers who had filled in for Limbaugh.
4. Acceleration of the Limbaugh boycott by groups that have been chipping away at his advertisers because he will be seen as increasingly vulnerable.

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19 Comments

  1. Not sad to hear this one, there has not been a person in the the last 25 years that has brought more divisiveness to the U.S. than R.L.

  2. I am not going to celebrate prematurely.

    These two blowhards are at the top of their game and rankings because their kind of talk is exactly what conservatives love.

  3. Praise The Lord, these two are by far the most obnoxious and destructive of the right wing talkers. Perhaps this will tone down the whole right wing media complex which in recent years has become increasingly strident. Actual real and reasoned discourse would be welcomed by me and others. This is probably to much to hope for.

  4. I will postpone celebration as well until we hear it on Fox.
    Either way, too bad it doesn’t signal the end of these two. Somebody, somewhere will pick them up.

  5. Joe, insightful comments (1-4) on what a shakeup might mean.

    My first thought was that if Cumulus leaves the relationships, the vacuum could be filled by another aggressive company. Is that possible?

    If not, do you think radio personalities like Canadian Mark Steyn and ex San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock could/would fill the void?

    Makes me think of this excerpt from the poem “The Indispensable Man”:

    Take a bucket and fill it with water,
    Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
    Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
    Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.
    You can splash all you wish when you enter,
    You may stir up the water galore,
    But stop, and you’ll find that in no time,
    It looks quite the same as before.

  6. KP sad but true, perfect poem for this…

  7. I’m not holding my breath on this one. If it were true, industry sites (Inside Radio, All Access, etc.) would be covering it for sure. There’s been nothing as far as I’ve noticed.

    Sadly, the top story in our business right now is the death of longtime Dallas/syndicated morning host Kidd Kraddick. A generous, gracious, and genuinely funny man gone way too soon.

  8. I didn’t mention Roger Hedgecock because I didn’t want to speculate. I VOTED for Roger back in the days when he was a quite moderate politician and unlike many San Diegans really really liked him. I was sent out once to do a quick interview with him when I worked on the San Diego Union (as he was coming back from the airport) and he was a good interview subject. After a scandal that he eventually overcame, he got a local TV talk show. I actually attended a taping once. It was along the lines of the typical 1980s talks shows (NOT the Morton Downey Jr or Jerry Springer model). Once he got on the radio he turned much more to the right, which some think was a business decision. But the bottom line is he made a shift and filled in for Rush and is now known nationally by Rush fans. I’m sure he and others are thinking there could be some opportunities here.

  9. Thanks for the back story, Joe. Very bright guy and as you say, quite the moderate back in the day. I also voted for him.

  10. It initially seemed like great news until I realized that other far right hosts who are just as obnoxious will just jockey with each other to fill in the vacuum. Anybody here actually listen to Mark Levin???I also can’t think that both will not find an alternative, since they are in such high demand by a certain audience.

    But still………….. its a bad day to be a Dittohead!

  11. Clear Channel, the owner of Premiere Networks, is in serious financial problems because they were victims of a leveraged buyout by Bain Capitol, Mitt Romney’s company. Cumulus knows this and is just trying to get a better deal.

  12. Ron, please write an article on that re Bain and Clear. I really would like to know more, no doubt so would our readers. Romney interest sinks his own ambitions? Or?

  13. “These two blowhards are at the top of their game and rankings because their kind of talk is exactly what conservatives love.”

    LOL, The irony of this is when I see far left blowhards such as Think Progress & Little Green Football whacking Sean & Rush, while giving a pass to left wing radio hosts that are just as vulgar, or worse, than Rush & Sean. They just are just not as popular so we hardly hear about them. It’s called “Pot Calling Kettle Black”.

    Anywho, no one really know the business decisions driving this between Cumulus & Clear Channel. A lot of these decisions are driving by cost\benefit, margins, return on equity, etc. Sean Hannity was involved in the Fluke episode directly, so I doubt Rush’s attack on Fluke is driving this as the left wing blogs are suggesting. Fluke isa nobody in the overall scheme of things IMO.

  14. The Politico story makes it very clear what is happening. Those who claim it’s due to fallout due to Fluke have NO EVIDENCE of this and it’s typical of the tiresome wishful political thinking that we see on so many left and right blogs. You can almost predict now what many site will say on an event. The stories on this make it clear what’s happening and Ron’s analysis also sounds on the mark. YES Limbaugh HAS lost a lot of advertisers but that is not why this is happening. And until some credible report (not a left wing or right wing blog) surfaces where actual sources have been quoted, The Politico story is the explanation of what’s going on. This could change, of course.

  15. ” while giving a pass to left wing radio hosts that are just as vulgar, or worse, than Rush & Sean. They just are just not as popular so we hardly hear about them.”

    That’s kinda the point SJazz, that there is a lot less of a market for that kind of thing on the left. That on the right you have millions and millions of fans for the kind of extremist pandering and on the left there isn’t enough interest for it to really even make a splash says a lot about the different groups. Sure, the left has its crackpots, but they don’t get a lot of traction, unlike Sean and Rush who speak for tens of millions. The vulgar left actually is the fringe, whereas on the right its mainstream.

  16. Thanks for your patience to explain this, Slamfu.

  17. Great explanation, slamfu!

  18. Name any on the left with the power and scope of Hannity and Limpbaugh…

  19. Name any on the left with the power and scope of Hannity and Limpbaugh…

    There is not anyone.

    Why?

    The don’t need to.

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