Monday, May 18, 2020

D-C Radio: Conservative Talk WMAL Wins In Liberal Capital

The liberal Washington area has a new king of radio: conservative talk radio station WMAL 630 AM / 105.9 FM, home to Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, Larry O'Connor, and other popular voices.

For the first time in 34 years, the Cumulus Media station held the top spot in the ratings, taking down the other kings of the D.C. airwaves, WAMU and WTOP.

Radio host Mark Levin told Secrets at The Washington Examiner that the long-coming ratings win was due to a “tremendous combination of national and local hosts, compelling and consistent format from early morning to late at night, outstanding and knowledgeable station management led by Cumulus News/talk Vice President and Program Director Bill Hess, and most of all, deep respect for the intelligence and interests of our wonderful audience!”

Hess told Paul Beddard at The Examiner, “During times like these, listeners are looking for connections to the outside world, and talk radio is built on those connections. WMAL's personalities have a relationship with our listeners, and they turn to us for information and for perspective, commentary, and companionship. Most importantly, we give them a voice.”

And at a time when fewer people are commuting, he said, “The station's expansion on digital platforms has certainly helped to drive increased listenership in multiple locations, which is vitally important as commuting habits have changed.”

Here is WMAL’s lineup:
  • 12:00 a.m.  – John Batchelor
  • 1:00 a.m.    – Red Eye Radio
  • 5:00 a.m.    – Mornings on the Mall with Vince Coglianese and Mary Walter
  • 9:00 a.m.  . – Chris Plante
  • 12:00 p.m.. – Rush Limbaugh
  • 3:00 p.m.    – The Larry O’Connor Show
  • 6:00 p.m.    – Mark Levin
  • 9:00 p.m.    – Ben Shapiro
  • 11:00 p.m.  – John Batchelor
Industry experts credited the big names in the lineup and the station’s connection to the Trump administration for the increased listenership.

For example, it often has top White House officials and even President Trump on the interview line. It has also changed personalities over time, adding O’Connor, a popular host who also produces a daily podcast for the Washington Examiner.

Insiders also gave credit to Hess and Executive Producer Heather Hunter, who came to the station 10 years ago with the goal of making the station No. 1. “For some, this might seem like a sudden rise for WMAL, but this has been a work in progress for years,” said one insider.

The trade publication InsideRadio put the ratings win in perspective this way:

“WMAL’s ratings success comes from its ability to hold onto cume, relatively speaking, seeing only a 9% drop month-over-month, while many other stations, regardless of format, saw double-digit drops in the first two days of the April 2020 numbers. For instance, WAMU and WTOP-FM lost 30% and 36%, respectively, from March to April.”

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