There’s “Excitement” Over Limbaugh’s New Stations

excited

I’m so “excited” I think I made poopie.

A number of people seem to be “excited” about Rush Limbaugh’s new radio homes in Indianapolis and Boston.  I just don’t believe Rush is.

In Indianapolis, the heritage news/talk radio station is WIBC.  Most radio geeks, me included, remember the bigger than life top-of-the-hour ID voiced by Chuck Riley.

“Radio Indiana. (sfx) W-I-B-C Indianapolis.”  

When you heard that, you knew it was an important radio station.

In Boston, WRKO has been around since the early 1920’s.  Its call letters back then were WNAC and it was one of the 16 original charter stations of the CBS Radio Network.  After changing its call letters to WRKO in 1967, the station today is remembered as a 50,000 watt New England Top 40 powerhouse. It’s been in the news/talk format since 1981.

kevin_bacon_all_is_well

“Remain calm. All is well.  Be ‘excited’ like us.”

Weeks ago, each station told Rush Limbaugh he was no longer wanted on their stations.  Predictably, Limbaugh’s syndicator, attempting to save face, sent out corporate approved narrative to the radio industry press.  It was their best Kevin Bacon impression to date.  Everything is great with Rush’s show and “exciting” news about Rush’s new stations is on the way.  The word “exciting” was used.

Premiere Networks then sat back with “excited” anticipation waiting for the telephone to ring.  And they waited.  And then waited some more.  How could stations in Boston and Indianapolis not be as “excited” as they were?

Being pro-active – after all, they’re on the hook to Limbaugh for a $400 million contract – Premiere Networks started calling around, asking stations to pick up his show.  Boston and Indianapolis are big markets and you can bet Limbaugh’s lucrative contract has a “market clearance clause” guaranteeing radio stations in those markets.  Having no stations in markets #10 and #39 is not a option.

But, it appears no one wanted “America’s Anchorman.”  In Boston, Mary Catherine Remmer, the co-owner of Daly XXL Communications, the soon to be new owners of WMEX-AM, the station many predicted would take his show, said in the Boston Globe“He’s been offered to us four times, and we’ve said no.”

WMEX-AM, a station with 50,000 watts at 1510khz, is Nielsen PPM ranked somewhere around 38th place in certain demos and it seems even they’re not desperate enough to yell “Mega Dittos,” due to the program’s high costs in rights fees, required barter commercial inventory, poor ratings performance and advertisers who deem Rush’s show “toxic.”  I explained this in a previous blog.

Luckily for El-Rushbo, his syndicator is owned by a company that owns a lot of radio stations too. Some with good signals and some with bad signals.  Surely, two stations with good signals could be found so Rush’s brand of outdated conservative talk could be heard by his shrinking group of Ditto-Heads.

But, none were found.

So two company stations got the call and were told to “take one for the team.”  Smart local management, of course, doesn’t want to deal with the show’s expense, low ratings and demographically mismatched talk programming on their stations.  “Suck it up,” Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media senior management said from their lair in lower Manhattan.  Anyone with a radio clue knows cramming Rush Limbaugh’s show and sports programming on the same station is a horrible idea, but if get that call in a local market you simply smile and facilitate the “exciting” news.

W248AW coverage

The only circle that matters is the red one.

In Indianapolis, part of the “exciting” news is Rush is going to be put on an FM translator.  W248AW.  I can hear the top-of-the-hour ID now.  “Radio Broad Ripple.  W-2-4-8-A-W.  Fishers.”  This low power translator on 97.5 FM is to simulcast WNDE-AM, another station with a dubious signal broadcasting mostly Fox Sports Radio programming.  This sports network caters to a 18-44 year old guy and is not very successful at it either since in the last Nielsen PPM WNDE-AM has a 0.5 share (6+) and a weekly cume of only 34,100 people.  Rush will be heard between Dan Patrick talking sports and local guys Query and Schultz talking about how Brady and Belicheck are cheaters.  Judging from the latest ratings on his new station, Rush should be able to sit all his Indianapolis listeners in just a few sections of seats at Lucas Oil Field.

“Excited” iHeart Media Market President Rick Green said, “Rush continues to be national radio’s dominate (sic) talk personality. We’re ‘excited’ about the opportunity to have Rush join the iHeart Media team on 97.5FM and 1260AM.”

Rick was so “excited” he listed the weak signaled FM translator first and misspelled dominant!  Who can blame him for his “excitement?”

WKOX covergae

It’s the red line that matters.

In Boston, the “exciting” news is the Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media station licensed to suburban Everett, Massachusetts will be Rush’s new home.  Starting on June 29th, the current Spanish language “Mia 1430” and its 0.6 share (6+) will be called “Talk 1430.”

“Excited” iHeartMedia Boston Market President Alan Chartrand said, “We are ‘excited’ to bring this powerful lineup of talk show hosts to our cluster here in Boston.  We are confident that the biggest names in the talk radio format will serve our listeners and advertisers well.”

logos

As with Indianapolis, little strategic thought went into programming this station, since Rush and companion conserva-talk shows will fill part of the day and Fox Sports Radio will fill the rest.  Judging by the new “Talk 1430” logo, I’m guessing there wasn’t much thought given to that either.  Can you see the difference in the “Talk 1430” logo and the logo of the failed “Talk 1200?”

All “excited” joking aside, if you make your living as a news/talk program director or local talk host and wonder what the future holds, what does it say when arguably the talk format’s biggest star is being sent to “Radio Siberia” by his own company in another two markets?

Mr. Limbaugh, sir.  If we hang a long wire out the window may be we can hear the station.

“Mr. Limbaugh, sir.  I regret to inform you the signals of your new stations in Boston and Indianapolis suck.”

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  17 comments for “There’s “Excitement” Over Limbaugh’s New Stations

  1. June 17, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    I’m curious to know who at the radio station gets to write press releases. Their skill and talent in writing bullcrap and expecting people to believe them is just amazing.

  2. Totally not an iHeart Employee
    June 18, 2015 at 1:24 am

    I don’t know what it says about the future of talk so much as it demonstrates that iHeart is willing to doom a station to ratings obscurity as long as they get those vaunted Rush clears. A show that can be heard on the iHeart app from 300+ different stations at the same time no matter where you are. Is a stick with a 5 mile radius really that valuable?

    • June 18, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Since iHeart sold the towers sites of many stations, many have little to no value based on the business they do.

  3. Joel O'Brien
    June 18, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    According to the ‘red line’ on the Boston map, RL will have Beantown, Cambridge and the fish in Boston Harbor well covered.

    • June 18, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      Joel, “….and all the ships at sea.” Darryl

  4. Stuart McKinney
    June 18, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    I think the lesson here is that radio in general is a LOCAL medium. If you are willing to invest in local hosts, your ratings will go up. If you need to fill the air time and don’t want to program it yourself, a national product is available, although the ratings may take a hit. When Rush was new, novelty trumped local. Now he is a known (maybe stale) commodity, so local programming has a good chance of getting better ratings. I don’t know about Indianapolis, but I bet Rush and the other Premiere talkers will blanket Boston just fine at 1430. Sports programming will just be filling in the airtime at night when listenership in general, and the station’s power, will be down.

    • June 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Stuart, the signal of 1430 is not competitive. It does not cover the market. As I mentioned, look at the red line. 🙂 Be well. Darryl

      • Nathan Obral
        June 25, 2015 at 1:49 pm

        WKOX’s night pattern is even worse. Much, much worse. There was a reason why WKOX simulcast with WXKS 1200 for many, many years.

        Darryl, an interesting tidbit… WKOX is said to have stood for “We’re Kind Of EXcited.”

      • efgoldman
        July 5, 2015 at 5:24 am

        Stuart, the signal of 1430 is not competitive
        Aren’t they, or didn’t they used to be, a daytimer?
        Back in the dark ages, 740 was the simulcast AM side of an FM classical station, back before FM licenses became worth anything (yes, children, there was such a time!) WXHR? Anyway, they (both sides) became WJIB (easy listening) not long after WBCN was sold and switched from classical to what became cutting-edge hippie rock – and a gold mine.

  5. Hans von Balkovsky
    June 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    If only the legislation proposed what seems like long ago by ACTUAL (as opposed to phony) conservative Pat Buchanan had gone into effect. Buchanan himself was a Mutual political talk host at the time. It would have prevented
    Clear Channel consolidation, requiring local ownership. But Homel got his way. Then came the wars and Neoconservatism. Which Clear Channel required its talk hosts to cheerlead.
    ISIS and Iran and Israel and Randy Michaels thank and thanked you.
    The antiwar conservative Buchanan lost his Mutual show by the way.
    Tragic.

    • Nathan Obral
      June 25, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      And Mutual was lost 16 years ago, having long ago been absorbed into Westwood One (and the remnants are now part of the Cumulus Industrial Complex).

    • July 6, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      This is a key point. Rush, who claims to have been proven right 97.9% of the time, has actually been wrong a big chunk of the time. Wrong about Republicans, wrong about gasoline prices (the CEO of Marathon said it was an overheated futures market), wrong about the electricity crisis in California (fraud, not the EPA), wrong about Romney, wrong about the war …

      You could overlook that when he had Ted Kennedy to bash because he was funny. Now, stale.

    • July 6, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      This is a key point. Rush, who claims to have been proven right 97.9% of the time, has actually been wrong a big chunk of the time. Wrong about Republicans, wrong about gasoline prices (the CEO of Marathon said it was an overheated futures market), wrong about the electricity crisis in California (fraud, not the EPA), wrong about Romney, wrong about the war …

      You could overlook that when he had Ted Kennedy to bash because he was funny. Now, stale.

  6. jeff howlett
    June 26, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Your blog on Rush and his new location on the dial brought back memories of our meetings in Boston several years ago…along with Ken and others. WBZ owns news, WRKO owns talk (but is never as dominant as it should be!), BZ’s FM and WEEI fight it out over sports…and only the scraps are left. On stations with very marginal signals. On frequencies that no one has visited in years. Kinda reminds me of when you guys asked me to “pop open the trunk” of my 1992 Volvo 240 to get your stuff. You can’t just “pop open the trunk” of a car that’s almost a quarter century old. You need the key 🙂

    • June 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Hey. At least we got a trip to Boston! Didn’t want to hear what we said, but they paid for the airline tickets! LOL. Jeff, I hope you’re doing well. Darryl

  7. July 4, 2015 at 10:22 am

    “Radio Siberia” is putting it mildly. I’d rather hear a sketchy signal on 97.5 from Louisville, Champaign or Union City. OH than a 150-watt translator acquired for this programming move. The daytime coverage area for 1260 AM WNDE, already, encompasses the entire Indy market. You can bet your last stick of beef jerky that my DXing friends in central Indiana aren’t happy about this, either.

    I’m not dumping on Mr. Limbaugh, but his numbers don’t carry the weight they used to. Math doesn’t lie. Look at Los Angeles, for example: then-CCM&E shipped Rush from AM 640 KFI to co-owned AM 1150 KTLK (now KEIB). The station has, yet, to break a 1.0 rating. Yes, we don’t, really, pay attention to 6+ numbers for “niche formats” – but the drop-off in cume, TSL & AQH from Rush’s KFI days cannot be ignored. Could iHeart just be “playing out the string”? His current deal expires in 2016.

  8. July 12, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    I think this is less about Rush specifically and more about the changing dynamic of what people want from Talk Radio. Clearly WIBC did the research and determined that they want something and someone more relevant to Indianapolis listeners and that it had the strength to pull it off. For example the WABC WOR switch in New York has produced some notable changes to the cume and share for both stations as a result of Rush’s strength. WOR had been very weak for a long time and the combined efforts of designing a relevant lineup helped it while Rush clearly was carrying a bit of the WABC load. Bottom line: A talk station MUST BE BIGGER THAN A SINGLE HOST which means it has to have several talents doing several things very well or it will be subject to eventual failure. Talk is very strong when the station is strong with several strong talents.

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