Cumulus Media’s flagship station, 77 WABC AM in New York, will replace Rush Limbaugh with Mike Huckabee as soon as the conservative radio icon’s contract is up at the station, claims a radio industry insider.
“I can guarantee you that the minute Cumulus’ contract with Rush expires in New York, they will replace him with Huckabee,” Joel Hollander, the former CEO of CBS Radio, told Reuters in a new interview.
As first reported by The Right Perspective on February 10, speculation that WABC would replace Limbaugh with Huckabee began circulating, once Huckabee’s new show was announced.
Cumulus pays for Limbaugh’s show on about three dozen of its own stations, including WABC in New York City. The conservative radio icon, who is syndicated through a division of Clear Channel, has been on the station from noon-to-3pm EDT for more than 20 years, starting off as a local host in the slot.
About 140 stations have already signed on to Huckabee’s new show, claims Cumulus co-Chief Operating Officer John Dickey, and that number is steadily growing. Dickey told Reuters that Cumulus has “no plans to drop Rush” from any of its stations at this time and will “honor its contracts.”
Dickey did say some stations have agreed to swap Huckabee with Limbaugh once their contracts with Limbaugh expire, but he declined to say which stations made the agreement.
One radio company executive who got an e-mail promoting Huckabee as “the conservative talk radio host of the future” claimed Cumulus is targeting Limbaugh’s affiliates. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the insider told Reuters, “They are positioning Huckabee as the safe, non-dangerous alternative to Rush and saying to station owners, ‘If you are looking for conservative content, we want you to consider our guy instead of theirs.’”
Limbaugh has been in a battle to maintain sponsors for his show after he blasted birth-control activist Sandra Fluke as a “slut” on his show February 29. Dozens of companies have dropped their sponsorship of the program, although Rush publicly maintains his bottom line has not been harmed.
The move may also be seen as a cost-cutting measure for Cumulus. The company recently announced Coast to Coast AM will be replaced by Red Eye Radio, a program it owns, on 22 of its stations. Earlier in March, Cumulus said it was dropping “The Billy Bush Show,” produced by Dial Global, for an upcoming show of its own.
Cumulus licenses Limbaugh’s show on about three dozen of its own stations, and many expect Limbaugh will be replaced by Huckabee once these contracts expire.
Clear Channel is the largest radio network in America with about 900 stations, followed by Cumulus at 580 stations. Limbaugh is heard on 600 radio stations across the country and gets more than 20 million listeners a week.
Cumulus ranks as the third-largest radio company by revenue, behind Clear Channel and CBS Radio.