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.