Rush Limbaugh wants you to know he's not worried about the rumors that he's losing airtime on over 40 Cumulus stations: "What you're being treated to is just a public business negotiation," Limbaugh said on Monday. And he could be, in part, right: Politico reported on Tuesday that Hannity and Limbaugh were suddenly back on the table for Cumulus, but without a clear sense of how the contract disputes could be resolved. Clear Channel, who controls the distribution rights for the two hosts, had previously asked for more money than Cumulus was willing to dish out for their shows.
Limbaugh, who declined to get into the specifics of the Cumulus negotiations, added, "You are gonna be able to get this radio program on as many, if not more, radio stations down the road than it's on now." His Monday remarks weren't very specific, but Limbaugh will have more time to address the rumors tonight: the radio host will get an hour-long interview on Fox News, just one day before the contract deadline with Cumulus.
While Limbaugh's sense that things are only going up for his show seems overblown, Politico's Tuesday report seemed to at least a medium-sized "calm down" sign for those who are already celebrating the rumored blow to Limbaugh and Hannity. Limbaugh, for whom "polarizing" isn't really a strong enough word, is either the savoir of talk radio, or the millstone around its neck, depending on who you read. But even for those cheering the rumors, the threat of a Cumulus loss doesn't seem to mean that much for Limbaugh's reach: while Buzzfeed's Peter Lauria noted that it leaves the hosts with gaps in five major media markets — a huge problem for the shows, and for Clear Channel, it also explains that both Cumulus and Clear Channel have been anticipating (and even, possibly, expecting) at least a partial parting of ways over syndication of the shows for nearly a year:
Instead of paying Clear Channel to license shows from Limbaugh and Hannity, Cumulus is now able to use its own homegrown conservative hosts — such as Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage — on its stations, allowing it to reap more financial upside.
And as Politico notes, the dispute quite possibly has something to do already existing plan by Clear Channel to get Limbaugh on their stations instead in some Cumulus markets:
Earlier this year, Clear Channel told Cumulus they could no longer have the righs to Limbaugh and Hannity in the New York market. Insread, Clear Channel would carry the hosts on their own station, WOR. Clear Channel gave Cumulus terms for other markets, with back-up plans for distribution should Cumulus decide not to renew the contracts.
On Sunday, in case you missed it, Politico reported that Cumulus would drop Limbaugh and Sean Hannity's talk shows at the end the year. While that dispute was chalked up to a disagreement over the cost of the distribution rights, there's another clear factor waiting in the wings. For months, Cumulus has complained publicly about lost advertising dollars from Limbaugh's remarks on-air about Sandra Fluke in 2012, and it doesn't look like Limbaugh has much love for the company, either. The Fluke comments — Limbaugh called her a 'slut' and a 'prostitute' — inspired a still-existing boycott of Limbaugh's ad space: almost all of the top 50 advertisers have a no Hannity/Limbaugh rule.