Huckabee uncertain about future of radio show, never stood a chance against Limbaugh

Mike Huckabee

On Thursday, Cumulus Media’s syndicated host Mike Huckabee celebrates the one year anniversary of his radio show. By this time next month, he may have already decided to quit.

Huckabee tells Arkansas Business he’s unsure whether he wants to continue doing his radio show, expressing concern about the amount of work required each day versus the potential for long-term profitability. Huckabee said he will decide in the next 30 days whether he wants to continue or not.

This certainly can’t be news Cumulus is pleased to hear, considering the amount of time and money invested in him. As I wrote yesterday, Huckabee has been reportedly penciled in to replace Premiere Radio’s syndicated host Rush Limbaugh on many of their news/talk stations throughout the country, including WLS-AM 890 in Chicago.  When anyone with a considerable amount of money and reach that Cumulus has hires someone with the intention of competing against Limbaugh, that requires a significant investment.  As tensions rise between Limbaugh and Cumulus, further hinting that Huckabee’s show is likely to gain many of Limbaugh’s remaining Cumulus affiliates — in markets that also include New York and Dallas — the timing of Huckabee’s limbo couldn’t be worse.

Stick a fork in him… he’s done. You don’t go on record of being non-commital towards such a project that is so incumbent on advertiser support, unless you already know that you are walking away. At this point, why would any news/talk station not owned by Cumulus ever consider adding his show to their lineup, especially when there are other alternatives out there?

Now, I doubt Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey is waking up this morning and finding out for the first time that his star radio host is non-committal. While I have grown to despise Dickey and his company, I don’t think they are that stupid. If they don’t already have a Huckabee backup plan in place, they are in the process of creating one at this moment.

In retrospect, I thought the hiring of Huckabee in that spot was an odd choice to begin with. At the time, Cumulus promoted him as being an alternative, less polarized choice for conservative talk radio. While I like the idea, Huckabee was a bad choice due to his bland personality. While he may barely cut it as a weekend cable television personality, the art of long-form talk radio quickly exposes that weakness.

From the get-go I wondered how much Hucakbee truly appreciated such an opportunity. While it’s not unheard of for someone in a completely different profession to embrace a career in talk radio, it certainly isn’t a given. Still, too many media companies fail to learn that more times than not, giving a radio show to a non-radio guy eventually backfires.

You can’t prepare and perform at the high level necessary for a sucessful talk radio show day after day without absolutely loving it — which is why so many college graduates take any opportunity they can while working for peanuts. And while Huckabee talks about the hope long-term profitability (again… support of the advertisers and increasing affiliates), it’s not like Cumulus wasn’t already paying him a pretty penny.

If the idea is to compete against Limbaugh, less partisan isn’t a bad idea, but you’ll still  need a larger than life personality.  If Bill O’Reilly couldn’t do it, Huckabee never stood a chance.

Media Bits & Bytes (5/6/13)


Limbaugh and Cumulus anything but cloud nine… News made way over the weekend that Rush Limbaugh’s show may end its affiliate agreement with Cumulus Media, the second largest radio ownership in the U.S. Limbaugh’s camp is reportedly upset at Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey blaming his program for advertising losses following his controversial remarks on Sandra Fluke.

Speculation has been rampant for months that Limbaugh and Cumulus are at some point likely to part ways, but not at the choice of Limbaugh. While Cumulus is the second largest radio owner in the country, Clear Channel is number one, and it is Clear Channel that owns Premiere Radio, the company Limbaugh is contracted to.

While Cumulus has been buying up more and more news/talk stations in recent years, they’ve also been launching their own line of syndicated conservative shows, with Mike Huckabee, Geraldo Rivera and Michael Savage. Huckabee’s show runs  head-to-head against Limbaugh. While Limbaugh’s show airs on many Cumulus-owned stations, including WLS-AM 890 in Chicago and WABC-AM 770 in New York, it’s seems to be a matter of when, as opposed to if, Cumulus will eventually decide to syndicate drop all Premiere programs from their stations, presumably as soon as existing contracts expire. Al Peterson of NTS MediaOnline has compiled the top ten markets that would likely be affected in the event of a parting ways with added speculation on potential alternative stations Limbaugh could land at.

While I’m not going out of my way to defend Limbaugh, blaming him for the problems at Cumulus is a bit unfair. Dickey has himself to blame since he and his company are one of the largest culprits (along with Clear Channel) in the consolidation of radio — something that many argue has already ruined the industry. Cumulus is notorious for cutting staff and forcing individual stations to do more with less. And Dickey wonders why his stations continue to drop in ratings. Memo to Dickey… stop placing the blame on your sales staff!

As for Limbaugh, I’m not holding out any sympathy for him. While in some markets he will be left without a station, many more markets have duplicate news/talk stations that air primarily conservative syndicated shows. Limbaugh will still have plenty of stations to blow smoke at.

Dickey defends consolidation of radio… Speaking of Cumulus Media, company Co-COO John Dickey had some choice comments at Friday’s World Wide Radio Summit. Following those in attendance via Twitter, including Perry Michael Simon and Fred Jacobs, Dickey defended the consolidation of radio, that it will only continue and that radio can’t return to 1975.

Sure Dickey, go right ahead. When your company destroys stations, such as WLS-FM 94.7 in Chicago, those stations just might be better (aka, more cost effective) to adapt a one-size fits all template that shares the same playlist and voice tracked personalities as other classic hit stations around the country. Meanwhile, the rest of planet earth will eventually catch up and get their music fix, if not from their iPods or Pandora,  from possibly other viable outlets such as AccuRadio or Sky.FM. further recaps statements by Dickey and other radio industry folks from Friday’s event, which in all honestly, sounds more like corporate jargon than anything with real meaning.

Twitter’s Head of News and Journalism... Many eyebrows were raised last week when Twitter announced it was seeking someone to occupy their new “Head of News and Journalism” position. From the job description, I get the sense Twitter will still be a clearing house and not an actual originator of news content.

The area of the description that has perplexes me is where it states the person occupying the role will have “an essential part of the operations and strategy of news organizations and TV news networks.” I wonder if Twitter may start a separate dedicated timeline of tweets posted by only the most qualified news organizations or reporters, while this news head at Twitter acts as a liaison of sorts.

Regardless of what it turns out to be, the Guardian’s Michael Wolff outlines how monumentally historic this position can potentially be.

Kurtz feeling the heat… Howard Kurtz has taken several beatings for mistakes he made last week while covering the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins. Radio veteran Paul Harris did an excellent job at putting the entire situation into perspective, while also . Harris also summarizing what took place among Kurtz and other media critics on yesterday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN.

Automobile manufacturers thinking about the future… Though the article title “Automakers tuning out traditional in-car radios” is a bit misleading, I still think the Detroit News’ story on the future of car radios and how drivers will eventually consume their media is a fascinating read. The article omits any mention of the potential for cars eventually driving themselves, leaving “drivers” more free to consume media.

Rocky Wirtz wanted Susannah Collins out… News surfaced later on Friday that it was Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz who initiated the  firing of sideline reporter Susannah Collins from Comcast SportsNet Chicago. In a letter to CSN Chicago, Wirtz said that the organization was disturbed at the videos of Collins as co-host of the web show “Sports Nutz.” Wirtz stated had he been previously aware of them, objections would have been raised at the time of her hiring. As noted Friday by Larz of Chicagoland Radio & Media, CSN Chicago was aware of Collin’s role on “Sports Nutz.”  There’s also been rampant speculation that the Blackhawks may have already had grievances towards her, while a separate source of mine strongly indicated on Friday she was already on her way out prior to last week’s slip of the tongue.

Who knows how much more lies beneath the surface. If it was a simple case of Rocky Wirtz demanding her removal because of those videos, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s unfair that Collins was let go for something that her employer was fully aware of when hiring her.

Wirtz has fully demonstrated that he is indeed his late father’s son.

[At the time of originally posting this, I accidentally referenced John Dickey as CEO of Cumulus when describing his defense of radio’s consolidation. John is the Co-COO while his brother Lew is CEO. That has since been corrected. I apologize for the mistake.]

For Art Bell fans hoping for a return to radio, it’s been a long and bumpy ride

Art BellThe bumper music for “Coast to Coast AM” often asks the question “Wanna take a ride?” Art Bell’s fans have been on a ride for some time now, with many anxiously holding out hope that the former “Coast to Coast AM” host will one day return to radio.

Yesterday, many of those fans were disappointed when Bell posted the following message on Facebook:

I guess it is time to end any further speculation that I will return to the air anytime soon. I have given (2) very solid offers a lot of thought and have turned them down. My reasons are many, though I am profoundly sad at the current state of the show, both offers would have been direct competition with Coast and anger is the wrong reason to proceed. Also I really do not want to destroy what I built despite it’s current state. Asia will be in first grade in the Fall and getting up very early, I would be up late and sleeping late, I would not see much of her or Airyn. Life is short and I want to spend what I have left with my Family. I hope my friends understand…

This is the second time this year Bell announced he has turned down an offer(s) after previously hinting at the chance of a return. On both occasions, Bell stated it would not be right for him to take such offers with anger towards “Coast to Coast AM” as his main motivation.

Bell, known for his repeated retirements and returns has surprisingly been consistent since his last “Coast to Coast AM” broadcast on Oct. 31, 2010. He hasn’t been on the air.

There never was an official announcement by Bell or the program. When fan’s later questioned why Bell wasn’t filling in during any of the winter holiday shows that year, regular host George Noory made quick mention to the fact that Art was wanting to spend more time with his family and that he has probably retired for good.

Things got interesting after Bell joined Facebook in 2011. At first, Bell was mostly coy, insisting that even though he was now retired, to never rule anything out. It was last summer when Bell finally began to air his grievances against the show.

The first surprise post was Bell declaring “I wish my name was no longer associated with what Coast has become!”

Bell later clarified his wish for Premiere Radio (the Clear Channel owned syndicator of “Coast to Coast AM”) to no longer air the classic “Art Bell – Somewhere in Time” programs. Bell hinted that he would soon exercise his right to free speech if Premiere didn’t cease airing those shows. Since then, those programs continue to air and despite Bell talking about no longer being under contract with Premiere and some talk about turning down other offers, he hasn’t really exercised that free speech.

At best, I was more or less a casual fan of Bell as a young teen, listening to “Coast” when up late on summer vacation or when listening to his Sunday evening “Dreamland” shows. At that age, I had a sense that most of the callers and guests were likely making it all up, but it still made excellent “theater” — something that is completely lost when when listening to Noory’s modern day “Coast” shows.

With each time Bell announces that he has turned down an offer, one would have to think the chances of a return become less likely. It’s been interesting to observe Bell’s fans on either the Coast Gab forum or the People who Miss Art Bell Facebook group. Many of his fans have slowly realized the day he returns to the air will never come. Some have speculated that Bell is deliberately steering his fans in a roundabout direction simply to generate buzz. Many, however, still hold out hope for a return, in any capacity — full-time or part-time; terrestrial, satellite or podcast.

While Bell has always been somewhat of an odd individual, I tend to doubt he is deliberately steering his fans towards a dead end. If anything, I would guess he would love to return to the air full time, at age 40, as opposed to near 70.

Intentional or not, Bell is steering his fans on a ride all right. And for those holding out hope, there’s no end in sight.

Knee-jerk reaction from Comcast SportsNet Chicago puts Susannah Collins out of a job

Susannah CollinsOn Tuesday night, Comcast SportsNet sideline reporter Susannah Collins was likely willing to laugh at her slip of the tongue statement in which she said on air that the Chicago Blackhawks had enjoyed a tremendous amount of sex. Just 48 hours later, any such laughing would come to an end.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Comcast SportsNet and Collins parted ways last night, due to increased attention focused on videos of when she co-hosted the more raunchier sports show “Sports Nutz.” According to the Tribune piece, the decision was made out of concern of journalism integrity. As Scott King at ChicagoNow wrote, her performance on “Sports Nutz” is what likely lead to her breaking out in the first place. King has further harsh criticism for the CSN Chicago decision, as does  Dead Spin which rightfully notes that the gig didn’t prevent the network from hiring her last summer.

670 The Score/WSCR-AM midday host Dan McNeil made mention on his show yesterday that Collins was scheduled to come on, but that the appearance was cancelled. It was speculated that CSN Chicago did not want continued focus on her Tuesday night gaffe.

So did CSN Chicago not thoroughly research their employee before hiring her? And how does that gig compromise the network’s journalism integrity? She was a beautiful sideline reporter, hired because of her sex appeal! I don’t see how her performance on “Sports Nutz” would compromise her ability to maintain integrity as a sideline reporter or as a fill-in anchor.

Should the NHL permanently move the start of its regular season to January?

Chicago Blackhawks

Putting any hard feelings from the NHL lockout aside, I have to admit that the late start of this year’s regular season and subsequent late start for the playoffs has been kind of nice.

Think back to the Chicago Blackhawks 24 game streak and the amount of positive press both the team and the league got. Would they have gotten the same amount of buzz if the regular season had begun in early October instead of early January?

In October, you have the on-going NFL regular season, the entire MLB post-season which is soon followed by the start of the NBA regular season. This year’s NHL start happened in the midst of college basketball, a two month old NBA season and weekend NFL playoff games. Still, that seems like a lot less clutter then in October.

What if it was like this each year? You start the NHL season on New Year’s Day with the Winter Classic. The playoffs begin in mid-June, just after the conclusion of the NBA Finals.

By summer, baseball is on the verge of becoming boring to many people. Also, the week of the MLB All-Star Game, which is typically deemed the most boring sports week of the year, is now occupied by the added excitement of post-season hockey (except on that Tuesday)!

If this worked as well as I suggest, television ratings increase, league attendance increases and the NHL becomes healthier. Again, all this assuming that people are willing to watch hockey when its 95 degrees outside. I would like to think that if the hockey is that good, then the people will watch.

Does any of this seem plausible or am I just absolutely crazy and should never blog about hockey again?

Odds & Ends

– Speaking of hockey, the entire NHL post-season is covered television wise thanks to the NBC Sports Group. The first round of the NHL playoffs will air on the NBC Sports Network, CNBC and the NHL Network.

The caveat… NBC apparently has decided to do this on the cheap. Awful Announcing recaps how last night’s Sharks and Canucks game on NBCSN (NBC Sports Network) was not a true national broadcast. Instead, NBCSN aired the local CSN Bay Area broadcast, meaning the national audience got to hear the Sharks’ home team announcers.

At this very moment, I have CNBC on which is televising the Senators and Canadiens game courtesy of CBC (a television network out of Canada).

NBC and parent company Comcast are far from poor. There is no excuse for NBC to not have put 100% effort into their post-season games, even if it only is the first round. This is rather disappointing on the part of NBC.

– The local SportsCenter anchors on WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 in Chicago are now opening their updates by saying “Live from the ESPN Chicago newsroom,” before introducing themselves. The new scripted opening sounds awkward and is unnecessary. It doesn’t make the update or the station seem anymore more impressive. While the opening script won’t do anything to further damage the station, it just is one more odd decision coming from ESPN 1000 management.

– While on the topic of sports update openings, WSCR-AM/670 The Score has been beginning their Scoreboard Updates with the anchor saying “From the Chicago Wolves update studio,” before introducing his or herself, followed by a brief snippet about Wolves tickets being affordable. The Wolves have been sponsoring those openings for a long time now — well over a year.

I’ve always wondered how this is working for them. Usually once the sponsored reading is over, there’s no further mention of the Wolves in the update — never a score or injury news. I suppose if they continue to pay for this sponsorship, they must be getting something out of it. If you would have asked me a year ago though, I would have predicted “waste of money.”