That led to quick denials from Cumulus that such a move was in the works with EVP/Content John Dickey telling NTSMediaOnline.com, “Rush Limbaugh will be on WLS/Chicago until Rush tells us he doesn’t want to be on WLS!”
Cumulus has been in the process of rebuilding WLS’ lineup over the past few months. Steve Dahl joined the station for afternoons in October and was joined by new morning host Big John Howell in January. A new syndicated show hosted by Chicago based Johnathan Brandmeier will debut in the late morning slot later this month. The 50kw one-time Top 40 powerhouse is now hovering just above a 1 share overall with Feder reporting that 62% of Limbaugh’s audience was over 55, while 34% was over the age 65.
The attempts by Cumulus to rid themselves of Limbaugh date back to 2013 when the company broke off negotiations with Premiere Radio Networks to renew their carriage agreements for Rush and Sean Hannity. Cumulus later agreed on a three-year deal to retain Limbaugh in all markets it was carrying him except New York, while dropping Hannity. Cumulus is under contract with Premiere to air his program through the end of 2016. However…
In recent years we have seen three major market talkers make deals to transfer their syndicated talent to a crosstown competitor, all of which included Limbaugh. In 2012, Clear Channel made arrangements with Cox’ WSB Atlanta and WRKO Boston to take his program and last year had Cumulus acquire not just Rush, but also Hannity and Glenn Beck for KSFO San Francisco as they abandoned Conservative Talk in all three markets.
Is it just a coincidence that Limbaugh’s 11am-2pm time slot in Chicago is currently held by Dennis Miller on Salem’s “560 The Answer” WIND Chicago? Miller is exiting radio and his syndicated program will just happen to replaced nationally on Cumulus’ Westwood One by Jonathon Brandmeier. Salem already picked up Hannity for WIND when WLS dropped him. A deal to move Limbaugh to WIND would be a win for all three parties as it allows WLS to move on, WIND to gain a recognizable personality, and Limbaugh to remain in Chicago on the only station left focusing on Conservative politics. While John Dickey may say that Limbaugh will be on WLS until he doesn’t want to be on WLS, perhaps he has already made it clear that he doesn’t want to be on WLS? Now that the news is public, it will be in everyone’s best interests to come to a deal regardless of the public denials to save face in the near term.
Note: An earlier version of this post specified that WIND was currently without a morning show. Amy Jacobson remains in mornings following Howell’s move to WLS with a currently rotating group of co-hosts.