On 10/17 at Noon ET, Cumulus COO John Dickey and Dennis Green SVP/Affiliate Sales/Broadcast Ops, Cumulus Networks, opened the call to PDs and GMs with a glowing review and respect for Dr. Savage, who will be moving to 60 Cumulus stations and more than 200 affiliates of Cumulus Media Networks in January for his new 3p-6p ET timeslot. Said Dickey: “Talk radio, as all of us know, has gone through a lot of ups and downs in the last couple of years. Ultimately, what I think what is going to the lead the way back out of some of those low points is more compelling content. When you think of compelling content in talk radio, it tends to be the purview of people that are extremely smart, curious and intellectually adventurous…People that are not afraid to open up the aperture of their opinion and discussion and look at a lot of things that are right and wrong with our country and society, and be able to relate that in ways that are humorous, insightful, direct and thought provoking. That’s a hard set of criteria, to find someone who can carry that off in today’s day and age.”
“Michael Savage, as he has come into this business, really lines up well with all of that criteria. He’s an extremely well-read, smart person. There is a fine line between intellectual genius and craziness and Michael walks that line wonderfully—I say that with all due respect. He is one of the more thought-provoking people that I have ever had a conversation with and he is also one of the best raconteurs that I have ever had the privilege of spending time with. He’s a great storyteller. I think today in our medium of talk radio, we are in the business of theater of the mind, of getting people to engage and listen and spend more time with us by virtue of telling stories—and challenging people. Michael understands that as well as anybody…From my perspective, Dr. Savage brings an amazing curiosity, a passion, an ability to tell stories and an unending curiosity to explore and to challenge his listeners and bring that along in that journey. He wakes up every day, living and breathing this…his energy is commendable in his desire to compete and to move the needle in markets that he’s in—I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
When Green asked about how much politics the show will be addressing in the new daypart, vs. the current 9-Midnight ET daypart, Michael noted that he was on afternoon drive for 16-17 years before he joined Cumulus. “The time slot is my natural energy slot, this is when I come to life. The adjustment where I am now has been quite a challenge for me, but I’ve adjusted to it. So, it’s readjusting back to my normal cycle of time. I also have a home in Florida, where I will be doing the show, I think, on a regular basis–the natural hours of the ET drivetime. Having said that, the show isn’t going to change in a great way, because I can’t change myself at this stage of my life. But, we are in an election year and that’s very important for everyone in the business to remember. Although, I tend to mix politics with storytelling and I intend to keep doing it. If I talk too long on any political topic, I hear my brain shutting down. I have an inner voice that says, ‘Oh God, I can’t listen to this anymore.’ That’s when I’ll shift to something that is intriguing or interesting–it could be a meal I had at an Indian buffet or my dog Teddy, an old car I’m working on or my boat. The thing to remember, though, is that we are in in an election year as we all know coming up in November. We have the midterm elections, which are going to be very telling, given the dichotomy in America right now. The country is split right down the middle. People are at each others’ throats. Look what just went on in Congress. To not talk about politics would be foolish. It’s on everyone’s mind, but only for a certain amount of time. And there’s a frustration level with politics, because people are saying, ‘What good does it do me to listen to politics if I can’t do anything about it? Whoever I vote for, they are going to do what they want in the end anyway.’ That’s the attitude everyone has right now and they’re probably right–the parties are pretty much closed shops.”
He added, “I like to verbally caricature our politicians without promising that I can affect any change. This is the big difference I think between my approach and my attitude that’s matured over the years. I’m not out there marching on the Capitol steps. I’m not leading a party, I’m not leading a revolution. I don’t intend to run for office. I am simply an observer and a commentator. I think that’s what the audience themselves sees themselves as, and then they talk about it. So if I can articulate their hopes, fears and frustrations, fine–but I’m not promising I can do much about it. And at that point, I would say the show itself is the show itself. This show in drivetime will be the biggest shake-up in talk radio history. I think the real estate that I’m being offered by Cumulus will reveal to millions of new listeners what creative talk is all about. Unfortunately, for many people in the business today, many of them may as well be the NPR of the Republican Party. All day long, all we hear is Republican talking points. I think that a real talk show today has to be able to go in other directions.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Savage is right–people are very disillusioned right now with our political system in general. He will gain a very large audience in drivetime by being just what he is-–pragmatic, objective, humorous and a storyteller. People need something different than constant blame from both sides and talk shows with blinders on. This approach to talk will–and does–resonate not only with independents, moderates, Republicans and Democrats, but young and mature alike. Savage bashed George W. Bush and Mitt Romney as much as he does President Obama. He’s reflecting what many of us feel right now about politicians on both sides of the aisle–jaded and not very confident.