Limbaugh takes shot at Cumulus


Rush LimbaughA NY Daily News article says El Rushbo, “fed up with bosses,” could leave for WABC-AM NY for Clear Channel’s crosstown WOR-AM when his contract expires at the end of the year. Limbaugh insists it’s not his fault that ad revenue has dropped at his flagship WABC radio station — and if his boss keeps saying it is, Rush just may pack up his megadittoes and leave, said the story. Maybe it’s just contract renegotiation tactics, as Limbaugh’s contract with WABC expires at the end of the year.

Lew Dickey, the CEO of WABC parent Cumulus, has said Limbaugh’s controversial comments have diminished ad revenue for the past year — and the slump remains a “residual hangover” for the station.

But the rift blew open over the weekend when a source close to Limbaugh told the Daily News: “Lew needs someone to blame, (so) he’s pointing fingers instead of fixing his own sales problem.”

The roots of this simmering dispute go back to February 2012, when Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” after she pressed Washington lawmakers to mandate insurance coverage of birth control. Media Matters and other progressive groups called for advertisers to drop Limbaugh’s show — and several hundred, including Sears, Geico, John Deere, Netflix, Capitol One and the New York Lottery, did, the group said.

Limbaugh has said the lost advertisers were replaced, and a source close to the show told the paper the revenue was “very minimally impacted in the short term.”

Dickey, however, told analysts that fallout from the Fluke controversy cost Cumulus “a couple of million” in Q1 2012 and “a couple of million” in Q2. Overall, Dickey reportedly said it cost his company up to $5.5 million in ad sales in total so far.

Overall, Cumulus was “hit pretty hard by this,” he said. Company revenue for that period fell 3.5% and Dickey estimated 1% was due to Rush.

Talk radio has suffered from a serious ad slump since the recession began in 2008. But WABC has opened a substantial lead in recent years over its primary news/talk rival in New York, WOR. In the latest Arbitron ratings, WABC averaged 2.8% of the audience to 1.2% for WOR.

See the NY Daily News article here

RBR-TVBR observation: Certainly, Cumulus is not the only company that has blamed Limbaugh’s Fluke folly for a major hit in ad revenue. Companies like Dial Global have also told us that news product at the top and bottom of the hour during Rush’s daily show had advertisers dropping as well, just to stay clear of him. We think Rush’s revenue is still down and he wants to get in front of Cumulus’ Q1 earnings announcement (5/7) to spin this fact as an excuse on Cumulus’  part. As for leaving at the end of his contract, he would be severely diminished if he left Cumulus’ distribution platform of big market stations. It’s probably not in his best interest to do so.