Commentary on media in Michigan by Mike Austerman
Today's hottest rumor, and one that seems extremely likely to turn into reality, is that Cumulus Media will be walking away from its deal with Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks at the end of the year, dropping from their stations two of the biggest names in talk radio, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
The biggest impact of such a move in Michigan would be in the Detroit market where Limbaugh and Hannity currently air on Cumulus' WJR AM 760 from noon - 5 p.m. Cumulus' WBCK-FM 95.3 Battle Creek, WKMI AM 1360 Kalamazoo and WJIM AM 1240 Lansing also carry the Limbaugh/Hannity combo. The company's WWCK AM 1570 Flint carries Limbaugh only.
If (when) this happens, there will be a 5 hour gap on WJR that would need to be filled. Would Cumulus simply use its own syndicated talkers such as adding Mike Huckabee and changing the schedule for Mark Levin and Michael Savage? Or could WJR think about going back to more local programming under the direction of recently hired program director Kevin Metheny? His resume includes time at was then WNBC AM in New York, managing a guy named Howard Stern. Wouldn't it be interesting if WJR entered in the bidding for the services of Drew Lane (and perhaps Mike Clark?) and took the opportunity to rebuild the image of WJR back into being a spot on the dial where local talk dominated the lineup from dawn 'til dusk?
Rumors of Greater Media's WMGC-FM 105.1 switching from Adult Contemporary to some kind of Talk format have been around since even before former morning man Jim Harper announced his retirement in 2011. Thanks to DetroitSportsRag.com, among others, that chatter has picked up serious momentum of late with media prognosticators seeing Sports Talk landing on 105.1 as soon as August with a lineup that would be anchored by Drew Lane in afternoons along with ESPN Radio. Thus far Greater Media's response to questions about this have been the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Perhaps they are holding their cards close to the vest in case they plan to make a play for Limbaugh and Hannity and shift to mainstream talk instead of going sports?
The most likely scenario for Limbaugh and Hannity though is Clear Channel deciding to put their shows on one of their own stations in Detroit. The most obvious landing spot would be on the company's WDFN AM 1130. That station, currently formatted with Sports Talk with the exception of a 4-hour block from 7 - 11 pm weekdays, boasts a 50,000 watt signal in the daytime that covers the market well. But many radio watchers will also point to current Classic Rock station WDTW-FM 106.7 'The D' - a station that has never managed to regain the prominence it enjoyed as Country WWWW-FM in the 1990s under previous owner Shamrock Broadcasting. Limbaugh and Hannity alone though don't make a successful radio station. Clearly a big investment in morning drive would have to be made to make either 1130 or 106.7 a successful talker.
The possibility of change is always interesting to think about. All these rumors could result in something as minor as the syndicated shows from Limbaugh and Hannity moving from 760 to 1130 AM, essentially just replacing what is currently other syndicated shows. WJR would then plug in more syndicated programs to fill the spots left open by Limbaugh and Hannity. Or, there could be a major shakup on the horizon that would include a new over-the-air home for Lane and crew and possible format changes on the FM dial.
The truth will probably be somewhere in between.