Report: Cumulus To Drop Limbaugh & Hannity

Cumulus Rush Limbaugh Sean Hannity Premiere Radio Networks Clear ChannelUpdate 8/16:On his program Thursday night, Michael Savage told his listeners that he is the heir apparent to Hannity’s timeslot on Cumulus’ stations and predicted he will move to afternoons by the end of the year.

Politico.com claims that while Cumulus is likely to drop Sean Hannity from its stations, it was likely to come to terms to continue airing Rush Limbaugh on “virtually” all of his current affiliates.

Update 7/29: Mediaite.com has followed up on the original Politico report stating that Premiere has “48 hours to stop Cumulus from dropping them.” There’s no word if the end of July drop-dead date for negotiations comes from Cumulus, Premiere, or both.

Limbaugh commented on the reports on his show today.

I want to get something out of the way here at the top. There was another Politico story that ran last night about this program and the radio stations that it is on, and is going to be on, in the future. And someday, someday I am looking so forward to being able to detail all of this for you, but suffice it to say nothing is gonna happen that you will notice. Nothing is going to change.

You are gonna be able to get this radio program on as many, if not more, radio stations down the road than it’s on now, and what you’re being treated to is just a public business negotiation. Negotiations have been taken public by one side of this. I thought it was done. I thought it was over with. And, folks, I would love… I mean, I love inside baseball stuff, and I would love to pass this on, but I must use proper business restraint here.

But I just want to assure you, everything’s cool, and, as always, what’s on the table for this program is growth.

While Rush is quick to note that nothing is going to change, its clear that he means on his end. And he’s correct in noting that his show is not going anywhere and Clear Channel will likely be able to find new affiliates for him in every market. By stating that the program will be on “as many, if not more” stations it shows that in some markets it may take a few smaller stations to replace the larger ones he’s on now. It’s all spin.

Original Report 7/28: Politico.com is reporting that Cumulus has decided not to renew its syndication contracts with Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity when they expire at the end of the year.

The decision comes after negotiations between Cumulus and Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows, broke down due to disagreements over the cost of the distribution rights, the source said. Cumulus is known to drive a hard bargain on costs, and Clear Channel is known to seek top dollar for big names.

As industry insiders caution, Cumulus and Clear Channel have come to the brink before during contract negotiations only to resume talks. But the source told POLITICO that Clear Channel was unlikely to reduce the cost for distribution rights to a level that would satisfy Cumulus.

This is a decision that has been expected for quite some time as both companies have made moves to prepare for this possible outcome. Cumulus began hiring possible replacement talent for its Conservative Talk stations in Geraldo Rivera, Mike Huckabee, and Michael Savage. Clear Channel purchased 710 WOR New York in order to have a possible affiliate for the hosts in market #1.

The move will affect about 40 stations across the country including major market affiliates such as 770 WABC New York, 890 WLS Chicago, 820/96.7 WBAP Dallas, 630/105.9 WMAL Washington, and 760 WJR Detroit that carry both shows and 790 KABC Los Angeles and 560 KSFO San Francisco that air Hannity.

Politico also reports that Cumulus has begun reaching out to agents and political insiders to begin filling the to-be vacated timeslots on the affected stations.

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