WMEX Passes On Rush Limbaugh In Boston; Will Anybody Take Him?

Rush Limbaugh 680 WRKO Boston 1510 WMEX 93.1 WIBC Indianapolis Premiere Radio NetworksWith Rush Limbaugh soon to depart Entercom’s 680 WRKO Boston after the company and Premiere Radio Networks failed to reach agreeable terms, Daly XXL Communications has said that it too has passed on picking up the show for its Conservative Talk 1510 WMEX.

Daly XXL co-owner Mary Catherine Remmer, who is currently leasing WMEX from Blackstrap Broadcasting, tells the Boston Globe that “He’s been offered to us four times, and we’ve said no.” WMEX has been revamping its lineup with local hosts from 6am to 6pm including YouTuber Joe Ligotti in mornings and former 96.9 WTKK host Michelle McPhee in afternoons.

As editor Scott Fybush told the Globe, there are really no good options left in the Boston market for Limbaugh. None of the four large group owners have a logical fit in the market. Entercom is dumping Limbaugh, iHeartMedia has already failed with “Rush Radio 1200” WXKS, Greater Media exited Conservative Talk with the demise of 96.9 WTKK a few years ago, and CBS has no station that would pick him up. That eliminates all of the full market commercial FM’s and quality AM signals.

When afternoon host Howie Carr briefly exited WRKO for WMEX last November, he utilized a network of suburban stations to fill in coverage holes. Limbaugh may be stuck with a station like WCAP Lowell as his only carriage option in the market with little to no coverage in the city itself.

When Emmis’ 93.1 WIBC Indianapolis announced its plans to drop Limbaugh this coming July 3, Premiere Radio Networks issued a statement stating “We look forward to announcing a new home for ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show’ in Indianapolis soon.” Over six weeks have passed and there has been no word on where Limbaugh will land in Indianapolis.

Then what happens next year when Rush’s contract with Premiere Radio Networks expires? Limbaugh’s 8 year/$400 million contract with the iHeartMedia owned syndicator will come to an end next summer. If he exits iHeart, what incentive will any of their stations have to keep Limbaugh on the air? Will Rush’s ego allow him to take a paycut or loss of distribution? Who would even want someone whose audience is aging and is considered toxic to many advertisers?

Limbaugh still has brand value for a radio station or media company if used properly. It’s a very narrow tightrope for that company to walk, but for a startup Conservative web platform looking for someone to produce podcasts or commentaries there could still be some value to be in the Rush Limbaugh business.

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  1. Joseph_Gallant says

    I doubt anyone in Boston will take Rush as long as Premiere Networks charges stations to pick-up the show (which I believe is the only nationally-syndicated talk show to charge affiliates to carry it).

    But if Premiere were to change their terms on Rush to barter, then he’ll be back in Boston, perhaps even on WRKO-680.

    1. Nathan Obral says

      iHeartMedia is over $20B in debt. They are not going to waive those carriage fees and lose over $50M in the final year of an untenable contract. That is pure folly.

      And WRKO is done with Rush forever.

  2. Autodyne says

    Limbaugh could go to a subscription streaming-only model built on his long-established 24/7 paid-member archives platform. Like Howard Stern, he’d have to accept the loss of much of his casual audience and the associated cultural relevance. On the upside, no one at Media Matters could cough up the subscription fee until George Soros covered the investment. Unfavorable demographics and cowardly advertisers would also be non-issues. And motivated advertisers would have a verified listener base.

    1. radioperson says

      “On the upside, no one at Media Matters could cough up the subscription fee until George Soros covered the investment.”

      Oh, brother. Yes, liberals don’t have any money, are all on welfare, and need someone to pay for stuff for them. Uh huh. Sure.

      “Unfavorable demographics and cowardly advertisers would also be non-issues. And motivated advertisers would have a verified listener base”.

      The demos WILL matter because when your audience is primarily over 65 and listeners of AM radio, chances are a large percentage are hardly streaming-savvy, much less computer literate.

      Read More At:

      1. Autodyne says

        “Yes, liberals don’t have any money, are all on welfare, and need someone to pay for stuff for them. Uh huh.”

        -That’s just an assessment of those who would be part of an organization with the integrity of Media Matters, not all liberals.

        “The demos WILL matter because when your audience is primarily over 65 and listeners of AM radio, chances are a large percentage are hardly streaming-savvy, much less computer literate.”

        “Chances are?” Source? My then-84-year old father listened to Rush and others online for years, my 88-year old mother listens to her favorite easy listening stations on a web radio and several other relatives of the same generation do both. They listen to AM because of 1) the content and 2) unlike the kids, they know it’s there. They also “figured out” how to listen to FM, satellite radio and computer files. And ancient technology: CDs. They’re tech savvy when they want to be.

        1. radioperson says

          God bless you if you have an 84-year old and an 88-year old who listen to streams and files.

          According to “Computer and Internet Use in the United States” from the US census, less that 20% of individuals over 65 own a computer.

  3. Brammy says

    I have a radio section on the retail forum I moderate and a couple people there were wondering if Salem would pick up the show. I told them probably not. Usually Salem runs their own in-house programming if they do a talk format.

    1. Nathan Obral says

      Salem tried their hand at conservative talk in Boston about a decade ago (then-WTTT 1150). It failed miserably.

      1. raccoonradio says

        You knew things weren’t going well for WTTT when their website showed a great skyline picture…
        of Baltimore. Nice going…true about Salem going in house though 1250 The Answer Pitt. does have 2 hrs of Rose Tennant, ex Quinn and Rose

        1. Autodyne says

          “1250 The Answer Pitt. does have 2 hrs of Rose Tennant, ex Quinn and Rose”

          And Rose’s former cohost Jim Quinn has adopted the aforementioned subscription-audiocast model 6-9A with a terrestrial affiliate (WYSL). Q&R didn’t make the move with Premiere’s stable from WPGB to WJAS despite an offer. Apparently the money wasn’t there without subscription streaming and iHeart wouldn’t exempt them from the the iHeart free access ad-supported stream. He isn’t carried on WYSL’s stream.

          1. Autodyne says

            Apparently Quinn now has two terrestrial affiliates – also WCNS Latrobe 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

    2. Eric Jon Magnuson says

      Most of Salem’s Talk stations aren’t completely “in-house”; some even picked up Hannity after the local Cumulus-owned affiliates dropped the show. Despite dropping the format in Boston, though, I could see Salem trying again–if it ends up buying 1260 AM (which Radio Disney is still trying to unload). However, since there’s been no announced buyer so far, I think that there’s been little interest in the station itself.

      In terms of Rush specifically, Salem does run that show in Riverside/San Bernardino–but only because of iHeart’s move in L.A. (since KFI easily makes it into the Inland Empire, but what’s now KEIB doesn’t). That said, it looks like Premiere/iHeart is more dependent on the show’s rights fees than I thought; therefore, I don’t know if Salem would want to pay that much to carry the show, especially in a larger market.

  4. Destructor says

    He’s just a talk show host, and there are probably ways to listen online if you wanted to.

  5. raccoonradio says

    WCAP Lowell dropping Howie in June for prog. Jeff Santos.
    Wonder if RKO put a big stink up about CAP carrying Howie in part of their territory.Station was added to make up for MEX weaker signal.Or maybe Howie had been buying time on CAP. Stations like CAP, WBSM and WFEA were added to make up for MEX signal deficiencies.

    1. raccoonradio says

      CAP may have found RKO getting the show back hurt them as some advertisers would rather go with bigger stations/signals like 680

      1. Nathan Obral says

        WCAP was clearly a superfluous affiliate for Howie once he came back to WRKO.

        And I wouldn’t even consider WCAP as an option for Rush… they have a local show in that timeslot (that I assume does decently enough) and probably wouldn’t want to pay the same punitive fees that caused WRKO to drop the show.

  6. johndavis says

    If you haven’t read Darryl Parks’ take on this, he spells it out pretty explicitly:

    1. The Limbaugh show is fairly immune to advertiser boycotts because Premiere makes most of its money on affiliate fees.
    2. The advertiser boycotts do collateral damage to other networks because you can’t run their barter during Rush. Parks says this led to the demise of the Wall Street Journal radio network because Limbaugh’s comments on Sandra Fluke caused enough collateral damage to take out 40% of that network’s revenue.
    3. IHM stations pretty much have to carry the show and pay the same fees to Premiere as non-IHM stations. This gives Premiere a decent revenue base, even if it’s just taking money out of one pants pocket and putting it in another.

    With the audience aging, if you’re not owned by IHeart and you have a choice, why would you agree to the cash and barter terms today? If you put a decent local show in its place, you keep all the inventory to yourself. Even if the ratings slip a bit, not having to pay cash + inventory for the show means you’ll still make money. If you are owned by iHeart, then you’ll probably consider shuffling the program off to one of your garbage AMs and again going local and skewing younger on your big stick.

    Anyone who can see the demos can see why: more men 25-54 listen to sports talk and classic rock than they do to Rush. Their fathers listen to Rush. Selling to their fathers doesn’t help your local billing.

    Ultimately, the past shows us the way forward. Beautiful music morphed into soft AC and then into hot AC. Oldies morphs into Classic Hits. The corpse of talk radio remains with a bunch of angry old men telling other angry old men that those kids need to get off their lawn. Meanwhile, today’s 45 year old man is dialed into one of several sports talk stations talking about NFL training camp and the NBA finals. Will tomorrow’s talk station emulate sports or the FreeFMs of days gone by? Will it be more like a podcast? Whatever it is, it’s going to sound different, because every generation is a little different. Circle of life, y’all.

    1. Joseph_Gallant says

      I wouldn’t say talk radio is dead; but it does need an infusion of fresh faces both nationally and in some local markets to broaden the format’s appeal.

      In theory, talk radio, especially politically-oriented talk radio, should be on the upswing the next eighteen months given that we’re a year and a half away from a Presidential election where we will elect a new Commander-In-Chief (since President Obama can’t run again). The campaign could provide lots of fodder for talk radio.

      1. Nathan Obral says

        I strongly disagree. The midterms last year SHOULD have provided a bump for conservatalkers, instead, many stations flatlined. Some ever saw record lows.

        Most conservative talk hosts found themselves discredited Brian Williams-style after the 2012 election, where they predicted a win for Romney that was, in retrospect, never going to happen. After being exposed as frauds to that degree, they turned into the “cranky old man with the shotgun” yelling at the kids to get off their lawn (by calling the entire millennial generation “low-information voters”). I’d like to know who would employ that same level of trust with those pundits again, or who would find that type of aural torture to be the least bit entertaining.

        Hillary Clinton is, for all intents and purposes, the heavy favorite to win the election next year. While I am now heavily opposed to political dynasties, I really don’t want to hear the same conservatalkers pulling their cranky old man act on a President Hillary like they have been for the past few months, because Benghazi.

        Political talk radio is not only dead, it’s deader than dead.

        1. johndavis says

          I would posit that the powers that be are well aware that the format is dead. However, it’s cheaper for them to wring the last dollars out of these stations while they still can than it is to develop new talent. As long as they can get by with a local morning show and the rest of the day on the bird for mostly barter, they’ll keep on keepin’ on.

          Because really, if the coming generation truly doesn’t care about AM radio, why bother catering to them?

        2. radioperson says

          “After being exposed as frauds to that degree, they turned into the “cranky old man with the shotgun” yelling at the kids to get off their lawn (by calling the entire millennial generation “low-information voters”).

          Totally correct. “Low information voters, eh? Ironic statement from a group of pundits who often promoted that Obama was a Muslim, a Communist, spend 200 Billion (or something) to go to India on a trip, and had a fake birth certificate!

          Actually young people constitute the highest percentage of Independent voters of any age group. Meaning that they don’t blindly align themselves with one party, nor do they buy into the usual talk show narrative that every problem that we have in this country is caused by only ONE party.

          Quite the contrary. They sound like “high information voters” if you ask me.

  7. Beachguy says

    There was a time I found Rush to be entertaining, but that was long ago, and his act seems to have lost its lustre. I always thought his humor was “nerdy” humor, but at times he was funny.

    When I listen now, he seems to have no energy. His act is stale and he doesn’t seem to have creativity any more. I agree that there needs to be fresh blood in the genre- and perhaps not as much anger in the genre. Both conservative and liberal hosts seem to be more about anger and destruction than anything else. It would be great to find someone who simply presents the situation(s) honestly and commented with their perspectives without having to kick the other side of the fence in the groin. It gets old.

    1. Theater of My Mind says

      Bingo. Rush started off as an entertainer and could be quite creative. Now he’s just negative like everyone else in the format. Talk radio needs more entertainers. Who wants to listen to all that negativity?

  8. raccoonradio says

    Premiere is now pretty much shut out in Boston other than WRKO with Coast to Coast overnight and Bill Cunningham (I believe) Sun nights. WRKO dropping Rush and WMEX dropping Beck and Hannity. WMEX will have Joe Ligotti 6a, Herald Radio at 10, Bill Keeler at noon, Michele McPhee 3p, Capitol Hill Show with Tim Constantine 6p, Savage at 9 and overnights will have Cluster F Radio, Bob Levy and Holeshot Radio

  9. StogieGuy says

    I think that BeachGuy is on the right track here. I’ve listened to Limbaugh (on and off) for the past 20 years and he sounds very tired. At one time, he was fresh and very entertaining. Yes, I admit to being a conservative (ooooooh!), so I do not find the programming material to be “angry” or “yelling”. But it takes more than a short sample to bring context to what you’re hearing. All that said, Rush started going downhill when he lost his hearing and amazingly fought through what would be a career-ending condition for most broadcasters. And I think he’s worn out now. Compared with his shows from 10 or 15 years ago, he’s flat. And, I haven’t gotten a laugh from any of his shows in quite a while. It’s all catching up with him. And I say that as someone who respects him and all he has accomplished.

    Furthermore, the world has changed since 1993. There are a lot more alternative outlets for conservative thought and discussion out there and the alternatives expand every day. People don’t have to sit for 3 hours to listen to a talk show, nor do many of them have time to anymore. And there’s no spark in Rush’s shows to attract younger, newer, listeners – a large percentage of whom wouldn’t listen to AM, even if they knew what it was. Fact is, Rush should probably retire and enjoy life after next year.

    As for the format, it’s still viable. The 2014 election demonstrates that the lefty dogma that conservatives are old and dying is simply not true. For one thing, the circle of life (mentioned in a post above) also means that young liberals often become middle-aged conservatives, refreshing the pool. But, they also want to be entertained and the talk format is lacking in fresh talent right now. So they are going elsewhere. Also, from a conservative political viewpoint, most of what’s coming from Washington these days is damn depressing and listening to a recitation of it on a daily basis is enough to send you to your therapist. I’m convinced that many are just tuning out because of that.

    As 2016 approaches, there will be somewhat of a resurgence in the talk format. But, in the long run, new talent and new ways of entertaining while informing the audience are needed. The format is viable, but it’s also in a rut right now. It needs fresh blood badly.

    One last note: in one of the comments above, the poster basically told us that Hillary Clinton is the next president and we might as well plan the inauguration now. Not so fast. For one thing, she brings a ton of baggage that she will have to deal with. Secondly, she’s a pretty old lady at this point and hardly the leftist rock star that Obama was in 2008. It all depends on whether the Republicans choose wisely among the stadium full of announced candidates. Either way, it’ll be close as this nation is split 50-50 ideologically. Which provides radio programmers with a great opportunity for talk radio – if they start thinking outside the proverbial box.

  10. raccoonradio says

    WMEX hasn’t launched the new Bill Keeler show yet–there’s still Beck running in that slot. Who knows, maybe they can work out something with iHeart to get Rush on, maybe not. Meanwhile Salem is buying WMKI 1260 and since they already have 3 different religious-oriented (as far as I know) stations (one is in Spanish), maybe this will be conservative talk. If so, probably the reg. Salem lineup but maybe they can get Hannity, Beck, or even Rush somehow…the first two may be easy while Rush will be expen$ive…

  11. raccoonradio says

    >>young liberals often become middle-aged conservatives

    Or perhaps libertarians…social liberals on issues like gay marriage, but fiscal conservatives etc. Some libertarians call themselves “classical liberals” after the old definition of liberal (small but efficient
    government, personal liberty etc)

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