Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are set to be dropped from the second-biggest radio network in the country, Politico reported Sunday night.
Cumulus, which runs about 40 stations across the country, is prepared to part ways with the broadcasters over the high cost of distributing their shows, the report said. Limbaugh and Hannity--who are the top two most highly-rated talk show hosts in America--are syndicated by Premiere, which is owned by Cumulus rival Clear Channel. If the plan comes to fruition, it would mark the culmination of a series of escalating skirmishes between the company and the broadcasters--especially Limbaugh.
In May, the New York Daily News reported that Limbaugh was set to leave Cumulus himself, after CEO Lew Dickey repeatedly accused him of contributing to the company's financial losses due to his incendiary remarks about Sandra Fluke. Dickey stuck to this line in an earnings call days later, saying that the "facts [were] indisputable." A Cumulus executive told the Radio Ink website that the vast majority of the country's top network advertisers had orders to exclude Limbaugh and Hannity from their ad buys. (Premiere heatedly disputed this.) Taken together, a portrait emerges of a company signalling that it fears no major financial impact if it were to cut its ties with the two men.
It's possible that Limbaugh and Hannity would be immediately picked up by Clear Channel stations in the markets where they were dropped. But Deadline noted that Dickey has already seemingly prepared his response to that move, telling Bloomberg TV in May that "we have the premier talk distribution platform in the business and if you want to be on a big stage in this game, you need to be on our stations in the largest markets. They're the biggest signals, the heritage brands and everybody knows that."