Imus settles, heading to WABC?; Esiason, Carton to WFAN


The news came out virtually simultaneously yesterday: The Drudge Report said Don Imus has agreed to settle with CBS for 20 million, with a non disparaging clause. The move opens the possibility Imus will soon return to the airwaves "on WABC in New York!"

Minutes later, CBS Radio announced what had been rumored for weeks: "WFAN announced today that former NFL quarterback and veteran CBS Sports broadcaster Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, host of the nation’s most listened to afternoon FM talk radio program [WKXW New Jersey 101.5 "The Jersey Guys"], have been named as hosts of "Boomer and Carton in the Morning," to be broadcast weekday mornings beginning 9/4."
Esiason will continue to call games for Westwood One’s Monday Night Football and NFL playoff and Super Bowl radio broadcasts, a position he has held since 2000.  He will also host the "Boomer Esiason Show" on Madison Square Garden Network.

No confirmation yet that Imus will air on WABC, and Drudge later reported there was a strong denial it would happen. But if he does, he’d likely replace the "Curtis and Kuby Show" in morning drive (there are also rumors that have Imus going to Sirius to work for Mel Karmazin). Also we wonder if the old team will be back together: Charles McCord, Bernard McGuirk and the other characters. Given Citadel/ABC CEO Farid Suleman’s past experience at CBS, the WABC move makes sense-especially as a way to syndicate him via ABC Radio Networks to dozens of past affiliates and the big powerhouse AMs ABC/Citadel has in major markets.
| Ironically, Imus can still be found on Westwood One’s website |
CBS Radio agreed a settlement has been made with the I-Man, but tells RBR, "the dollar figure reported is grossly false." We wonder if the figure is too high or low, as Imus had threatened to file a 120 million lawsuit against CBS Corp., saying the company breached his five-year, 40 million contract in firing him over the Rutgers University women’s basketball team racist comments.

RBR observation: Imus was CBS Radio’s cash cow show after Stern left. As one recent story in New York Magazine said, "Imus used to sell spots for 1,500 that are now going for, like, 200." Imus will be worth more to WABC in audience and dollars than Boomer to WFAN – at least initially. Imus’ program was reportedly worth about 15 million in annual revenues to CBS Corp. through advertising on WFAN and syndication fees received from MSNBC and Westwood One.

As well, in the CBS Q2 Quarterly Report, radio operating income decreased 40.2 million, which was explained by "weakness in the radio advertising market." In the prior quarter with Imus still at CBS Radio, operating income decreased by 5.8 million with the same mention of ad weakness. CBS’s Radio division contributes 30% of operating profits to CBS Corp., so he was significant. Likewise, WFAN’s Arbitron ratings for Fall 2006 were 2.6. Their Winter 2007 ratings, including the period after he was fired, were 2.1. That’s a 20% drop for the station as a whole – very significant.