Rush Limbaugh is over the Sandra Fluke affair, but his WABC radio station may not be. Sagging ad revenues and internal disputes are reportedly causing friction between the portly pundit and his longstanding distributor Cumulus Media.
Feeling unappreciated by Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey could be another cause of a looming shakeup, if Limbaugh decides to pack up.
According to the New York Daily News that would mean 40 Cumulus-owned radio outlets would lose access to The Rush Limbaugh Program, considered to be the most popular talk radio program in the nation.
At root Limabaugh refuses to be blamed from dramatically declining ad revenue at the network. Dickey has reportedly said that Limbaugh's controversial comments about Sandra Fluke, which helped shaped the debate over the presidential election and proved a winning theme for Obama, have diminished ad revenue for the past year. The ad slump that followed Limbaugh's widely reported remarks remains a 'residual hangover' for the station.
But a source close to Limbaugh denied that claim and told the Daily News: 'Lew needs someone to blame, so he’s pointing fingers instead of fixing his own sales problem.'
In February 2012 Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute on air after she requested Washington lawmakers mandate insurance coverage for birth control.
Progressive groups quickly called for advertisers to drop Limbaugh’s show and several hundred did, including Sears, Geico, John Deere, Netflix, Capitol One and the New York Lottery.
Limabuagh has downplayed the defections but Dickey told analysts that the Fluke controversy had cost Cumulus 'a couple of million' in the first quarter of 2012 and 'a couple of million' in the second quarter.
Overall, Cumulus was 'hit pretty hard by this,' he said, directly contradicting Limbaugh's sunnier claims. Company revenue for that period fell 3.5% and Dickey estimated 1% was due to Rush.
'It’s a very serious discussion, because Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems,' a source close to Limbaugh told the press. 'Dickey’s talk stations underperform talk stations owned by other operators in generating revenue by a substantial margin. It’s not a single show issue...it’s a failure of the entire station. And trying to blame Rush for that is not much of a business partnership.'