Sunday, November 04, 2007

Imus' Return: the cost

I won't even pretend to speak of the contract price Citadel Broadcasting paid to bring J.D. Imus back to radio; CBS paid him in the area of $10M annually, so you can make your own guesstimate.

But what of the other costs?
  • Right off the bat, Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby take a hit; Curtis is one of the voices of NYC. He's always on local and cable news shows, so he's a known commodity. That 77/WABC reportedly reaches 38 states demonstrates how well known his voice is, since he's done nearly every broadcast shift (at least once), and is heard on dozens of radio commercials around the clock on WABC. It has been suggested Curtis will be teamed up with mid-day host John Gambling (of the Rambling with Gambling dynasty fame), but that's a slap in his face. That slot runs 2 hours (minus the 15 minutes to Paul Harvey's News and Commentary and he and Gambling aren't diametrically opposed on most issues. With Bob Grant in the PM, following the gang-busters rise of Mark Levin, there's nothing left even remotely prime time for Curtis.

    Ron Kuby was wise to get his goodbye out early. As he said on Oct. 15th, he's said his goodbye several times in the over 7 years on WABC, and sooner or later, he was going to be right. After the show last Thursday, he was asked not to return to WABC. On Friday, for at least the 2 hours I listened, no mention was made of his fate. The morning news reports did, of course, carry the story of Imus' return, but there was no discussion beyond it.

    Kuby feels an ironic twist in this whole affair. Newsday quotes Kuby:
    "While I condemned what Imus said, I also said I didn't think he should be fired," Kuby said. "It's hard to talk for 25 hours a week and not say something stupid."
    Kuby was one of the few broadcasters to stand up for Imus. Sadly for Kuby, I'm sure Citadel didn't give that any thought.

  • George Weber (the NewsGuy) is also hit hard. He, like Kuby, was absent on Friday. The morning news anchor will be displaced by the return of Charles McCord to airways. No room for two news anchors (ask any who remember what as MSNBC learned in the hey-day of Charles and one of their news-bunnies!). George was not the front-men on the program, but his contributions could not be ignored. Sadly, his displacement is not of his doing.

  • Local Drive Time: I read on Brian Maloney's RadioEqualizer some teeth nashing over local talent on the Citadel/ABC radio network being bumped by Imus' return, as if it was Imus' fault. Please. These personalities, if they've been in the business any length of time, know they can be hit at any minute. Besides, who complained when the local talent's competition in Mr. Imus had vanished back in April? In fact, Mr. Maloney cheered Imus' departure!

    If, as Mr. Maloney asserts, Imus won't carry ratings, time will tell soon enough. Besides, while Imus may not bring huge numbers in pure demos, he does bring a successful and upwardly mobile audience; he must have, else CBS was paying him those millions for no good reason all those years.

    And as for those other hosts? If their markets demand them, they'll be back on-air soon enough. They aren't being fired for anything they've said, nor purely ratings, so their contracts won't prohibit them returning to their home markets.

    Sadly, syndicated broadcasting hurts local markets; there's no question. The only solution is to create new programs that attract listeners, and the ratings will come.
Darwinism in business, especially radio broadcasting, is a good thing.

NOTE: Out of full disclosure, it should be noted I have referenced Mr. Maloney's otherwise fine website in my own in the past, I have long disagreed with his out-right dislike of all thing Imus (long before April '07). As such, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised my comments in defense of Imus in Maloney's referenced post (above) were deleted. It is his blog, and he's doing light-years more traffic than my humble blog does, so he's entitled to do what he wants.

Much like Citadel, when you think about it.



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