Liberal watchdog Media Matters For America has long been railing against Conservative radio voices such as Rush Limbaugh, so it was not a surprise when their Senior Fellow Erik Boehlert wrote a blog entry about the lack of ratings for Limbaugh since moving to 1150 KEIB Los Angeles, 960 KNEW San Francisco, and 710 WOR New York at the beginning of this year.
It was a surprise though to see Limbaugh’s spokesman Brian Glicklich to publicly counter Boehlert’s post. Both entries are full of the usual rhetoric looking to skew the numbers towards the point they’re trying to make leaving the truth somewhere in the middle.
Boehlert’s article is built around the miniscule ratings Limbaugh’s new affiliates have registered since their relaunches in January. Noting their full station shares (as that’s all that’s made publicly availble) KEIB Los Angeles registered a 0.5 share in March, KNEW San Francisco a 0.7, and WOR New York a 1.5. Glicklich uses percentage gains to claim Limbaugh’s move to be a massive success. He states the Average Quarter Hour shares for KEIB are up 314%, while KNEW is up 969%, and WOR to be up more than 200%.
What neither state is how low each station was performing before the moves. 1150 KEIB as KTLK was running a local issues program called “Diverse LA” with the station overall at just a 0.1 share in the Holiday 2013 monthly. KNEW’s mix of various forms of Talk was at a 0.3 share with Clark Howard in the timeslot now held by Limbaugh. WOR held a 1.4 share with Joan Hamburg and Dave Ramsey in the spot Rush took over. So Rush has been an improvement over what each station was airing previously, but improving on small audience shares to small, but just not as small shares is not really the massive success Glicklich purports them to be either.
The question that truly needs to be answered to understand whether Limbaugh is still the impact performer
for Clear Channel is why his show was moved to these new stations in three of the four biggest markets? In New York we’ve known the move to WOR was coming from the day Clear Channel acquired the station in August 2011. Why the moves in San Francisco and Los Angeles where the show moved from one Clear Channel owned station to another? In Los Angeles, Rush was displaced from 640 KFI to allow the station to be all local from 5am to 10pm. 910 KKSF San Francisco features seven hours of local talk in its schedule, but carries a morning show originating at a sister station in Sacramento and the soon to end syndicated Randi Rhodes show in middays. So again why move Rush? They can’t sell his show on its own anymore.
In 2012, KFI had the fifth highest billing in the nation bringing in $46 million according to BIA/Kelsey, but that was down from its perch in third with $48 million in 2011. In 2013 KFI dropped out of the top 10 as it pulled in only $39.1 million in revenue. The StopRush campaign that has been targeting Limbaugh’s advertisers following his comments towards Sandra Fluke has hurt not only Limbaugh, but other shows carried by Limbaugh affiliates. Moving KFI (and KKSF to a lesser extent) away from Limbaugh should enable those stations to increase their advertising without having to worry about the red flags that come from being associated with him. KEIB and KNEW were utilized by Clear Channel as clearinghouses for overflow programming and to clear syndicated products in top 5 markets. Having Rush and a clear Conservative branding on them will increase their ratings as well just by having a more concise programming strategy to sell to advertisers.
Whether or not the move of Rush to the weaker affiliates was a success will ultimately not be found in the monthly PPM ratings releases, but rather when the year-end revenue comes in. Anything else is just political hyperbole.