Rush Limbaugh, who boasts some 600 affiliates on his self-styled “Excellence in Broadcasting [EIB] Network,” and an estimated 13 million listeners per week, is easily the most-listened to talk radio program in the country.
And yet, there are signs that all is not well in the Limbaugh radio empire. Because even as his influence is sky high and his dominance at the top of talk radio remains unchallenged, as a business proposition, Limbaugh’s show is on shaky ground, writes Ethan Epstein in Politico.
In recent years, Limbaugh has been dropped by several of his long-time affiliates, including some very powerful ones: He’s gone from WABC in New York, WRKO in Boston and KFI in Los Angeles, for example, and has in many cases been moved onto smaller stations with much weaker signals that cover smaller areas.
Limbaugh’s extremely lucrative eight-year contract—estimated to be worth roughly $38 million a year—is up this summer. What will happen to “America’s Anchorman,” as Limbaugh quasi-ironically refers to himself, once the contract is up, is anybody’s guess. Because as he is learning, political power does not necessarily a stellar business make.
Limbaugh’s show has been a harder sell since 2012—even if he does still impishly refer to commercial time-outs as “obscene profit timeouts.” If you had to pinpoint a moment when Limbaugh’s business model began to turn, you’d have to look to the Sandra Fluke incident, when he referred to the Georgetown law student who spoke in front of Congress in favor of the Obamacare contraception mandate as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It was a self-inflicted error that Limbaugh has never recovered from.
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