It’s Deja Vu all over again, earnings season bringing another attempt by Cumulus Media to throw Rush Limbaugh under the Media Matters’ boycott bus.

For a bit of history on the Limbaugh boycott organized by and still pushed by Media Matters, see my prior posts from spring 2012:

For the Cumulus treachery, including trying to set up Mike Huckabee as a Rush alternative, see my post, The real threat to conservative talk radio is not what you think:

There is a strange confluence of interests here.

Moving in on Rush’s territory makes economic sense for Cumulus, which would rid its stations of high cost deals.  Replacing Rush with Huckabee, an in-house personality who presumably would allow Cumulus to keep more of the pie, may make economic sense given the financial pressure on Cumulus.

More worrisome for the future of conservative talk radio is that Cumulus is using Huckabee to advance a ”more conversation, less confrontation” conservative talk radio strategy.

Watered down conservate talk radio fits in perfectly with the Media Matters/Think Progress/Color of Change demand that confrontational conservative talk radio hosts like Rush be taken off the airwaves.  Not surprisingly, Media Matters was gleeful at Dickie’s talk about replacing Rush with Huckabee.

The Huckabee strategy didn’t work out for Cumulus from the start:

And it hasn’t gotten any better.  Limbaugh remains at the top of the Talkers magazine 2013 Heavy 100.  Huckabee is No. 46.

Which brings me to Cumulus’ whispering campaign trying to blame the Media Matters’ boycott for Cumulus’ earnings problems, via Talkers:

Limbaugh-Cumulus Talk Radio Sales Issue Plays Out in Consumer Press.  In a piece in the New York Daily News published over the weekend, the war of words over challenged sales of talk radio time at Cumulus Media properties (specifically WABC) became public as the paper quoted a “source close to Limbaugh” said, in effect, that Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey needs to stop blaming Rush Limbaugh for sales trouble at his news/talk stations.  Dickey has made public statements – at both investor conference calls and in media appearances – about the negative effect of Rush Limbaugh’s February 2012 Sandra Fluke “slut” controversy that he says is still dragging down sales at his major market news/talk stations.  As the Daily News story reports, Cumulus claimed that the high-profile controversy was responsible for lost millions in the first two quarters of 2012.  But the story quotes the Limbaugh source stating, “Dickey keeps complaining about falling revenue, but his stations have long lagged behind their competitors in sales by a substantial margin.  Rush Limbaugh’s ratings have outperformed every other program on WABC and many other Cumulus stations for years.”  The piece notes that Cumulus is not commenting on this latest salvo.  Limbaugh’s Premiere Networks contract with WABC, New York expires at the end of 2013 and with Clear Channel’s recent purchase of crosstown WOR, some industry watchers expect his program will move to WOR in 2014.

At an investor conference call this morning, Cumulus avoided blaming Limbaugh, Dickey Skates by The Rush Issue:


On the conference call Tuesday, when asked specifically about the network business and the impact of the talk segment, CEO Lew Dickey made a passing mention without naming names. “We’ve had a tough go of it this last year. The facts are indisputable over the last year.” In recent days, the Rush Limbaugh camp made it clear they were not happy with Dickey blaming any revenue shortfall on Rush. People close to Cumulus tell Radio Ink, “48 of the top 50 network advertisers have “exclude Rush and Hannity” orders. Every major national ad agency has same dictate.”

Cumulus has problems, not the least of all is that Limbaugh doesn’t need Cumulus.  My guess is that Cumulus is just preparing the analyst battleground for a year from now when Limbaugh leaves Cumulus, so Cumulus can say “no problem, we’re better off.”

Cumulus should own up to its performance problems, and stop trying to throw the No. 1 rated conservative talk show program under the Media Matters’ boycott bus.


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