The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 October 2007

Don Imus Return Rumors, WABC Radio


It's About Ratings, Not Race


For the last few days, the mainstream media has been back into one of its periodic "Don Imus is returning to radio" rumor modes. And no I-Man coverage is complete without rehashing the now- tiresome debate over whether he has paid a sufficient price for his earlier misdeeds.

From today's New York Times, here's one such example:

The chief executive of the media company that is believed to be on the brink of returning Don Imus to broadcast radio said today that Mr. Imus’s firing by CBS Radio and MSNBC last spring was sufficient punishment for his derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team and that he deserved another chance.

“He did something wrong,” Farid Suleman, the chief executive of Citadel Broadcasting, said in a telephone interview. “He didn’t break the law. He’s more than paid the price for what he did. I think he should be evaluated by what he does going forward.”

Mr. Suleman would not comment on widespread reports in recent weeks that his company was working toward an agreement with Mr. Imus. But three other people apprised directly on the status of the negotiations characterized the two sides as having reached an understanding for Mr. Imus to take over the 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. slot on WABC, its flagship AM station in New York City. Still, no contracts have been signed, which means that whatever agreement exists between the two sides could unravel.

If the negotiations proceed on course, though, Mr. Imus would return to radio in the New York City region on or around Dec. 1, said the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations are continuing. Mr. Imus would replace the morning talk team of Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby, whose next assignment — whether at WABC or elsewhere — has not been determined.

And from today's Washington Post:

Citadel Broadcasting, which owns 243 radio stations, including ABC Radio Networks, plans to put the I-Man in the morning slot on the powerhouse New York station WABC, the source said. The program would be offered in syndication to other stations around the country.

Imus is also seeking a television outlet to simulcast the show, but that is less definite. Imus has discussed the possibility that Fox Business Network, a new channel that Fox News is launching next week, would carry the radio show. The informal talks with Imus came at a lunch with Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, according to a Fox executive, but there have been no serious negotiations.

Imus was fired in April by CBS Radio and MSNBC, which simulcast his show, after remarks that sparked a national debate about crude language and racial humor on the airwaves. He called the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," and apologized repeatedly after the comment was widely publicized. Members of the team later accepted his apology.

Here, it emerged that Imus is not likely to return to cable television at all and most certainly not at FOX.

What radio executives and the mainstream media are missing is the fact that Don's original comments and subsequent penance are completely irrelevant to whether he should return to the airwaves.

Instead, there are two key considerations completely left out here: ratings and revenue. Can Imus generate either one going forward? The easy answer is NO.

Before his high- profile termination earlier this year, the I-Man had slowly been fading in New York City's ratings for over two decades.

In syndication, he was almost a non- factor, primarily heard on a string of small stations in the Northeast. On the West Coast, he had never been a talk radio player.

As for revenue, he was generating good money for NBC via his MSNBC simulcast. But even if he is "forgiven" for past offenses, it seems unlikely advertisers will return to the show.

Keep in mind, many are afraid to sponsor political and issues- related talk radio as it is. Add the I-Man's baggage and finding advertisers becomes a futile effort.

It boils down to this: can a crusty voice of the past find a way to entertain today's 25-54 audience, or has WABC decided to compete with WOR for the 65 and older demographic?

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  • Hopefully Imus's presence will at least dislodge Sliwa from his affirmative-action-for-mentally-challenged
    position and thoroughly vex his knuckle-dragging audience of Rudy-philes.

    Who knows? Maybe they might be able to buckle down to work in the morning for once.

    Ratings (ha!) may matter, but can Sliwa beat Imus at how much "moolah-schmoolah" he can bring in?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 08 October, 2007 01:38  

  • Brain
    or has WABC decided to compete with WOR for the 65 and older demographic?

    only problem WABC leads the pack with the 65+ listenership, that is most of the rabid foaming at the mouth RNC radio audience. I dislike Imus, but this is a step in the right direction for WABC, now may each radical Anti-American Bush over country host be dropped, Sliwa first, Gambling next........

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 08 October, 2007 09:12  

  • finally, he's back. we can't wait for some entertaining, informative, intelligent, however human....morning talk. lets get him on tv & satelite as well - the wait and the boredom is over!!!!

    By Blogger lspearnak, at 08 October, 2007 12:45  

  • Imus will return, and follow the script of Bob Grant, who was axed at the same age 12 years ago. After initial success, the I-man will continue his slow decline into irrelevance in the marketplace. Meanwhile, WFAN will have made themselves better by developing new talent. WABC did with Sean Hannity. Ironic that they get saddled with Imus

    By Blogger StevJohn2000, at 08 October, 2007 13:23  

  • Brian,

    I have posted in response to your dislike for Imus long before April '07. You don't like Imus? Fine.

    You point to declining ratings over 20 years, yet prior to his lynching, he was commanding quite a nice price for ad-time, especially for those that he read.

    Have you compared the MSNBC ratings of Imus vs. Morning Joe? Last I saw, Joe's ratings were dismal; over the life of IITM, they can't find any better.

    Now given the 8-9 month lapse, and the continued assaults from the true racists (Rev. Sharpton, et al), Imus' return may not have high ratings for long.

    It's an easy guess Imus will get a lot of the pol's who have missed their chance to get their message out. I think he'll do well at least through the 2008 elections.

    And if his ratings drop, if he decides to retire, so be it.

    But please, Brian, try to not let you preference completely overtake your reporting. My 2 hour commute has been sad since April: there's just no one on the dial who delivered like Imus, and I am looking forward to his return.

    By Blogger Charlie on the PA Turnpike, at 09 October, 2007 07:46  

  • Get your "I Love Imus" shirts at .

    Show your support for the I-Man!!!!

    By Blogger The Radio Newshound, at 09 October, 2007 11:31  

  • Drudge reports that WABC/Citadel
    has inked an 8 figure multi-year
    deal to do mornings (Curtis Sliwa
    to be paired with Gambling afterwards?) and that Hillary
    could be a frequent target.
    Quack quack.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 15 October, 2007 09:54  

  • I wish all the experts on who listen to Imus would get there facts straight. I am 45 and alot of people my age were getting tuned into Imus. We are sick and tired of all the same bull being thrown down our throats. I have one question for all you experts how come every time Imus had an author on their book went to the top?It must have been all the people that weren`t listening that bought them!!!!!

    By Blogger Ernie, at 29 October, 2007 19:02  

  • YES !!!!!!!
    I so look forward to his return not only to radio(I hope I can get it here)but also to TV ---- I'm an educated white female, I don't drag my knuckles,and I'm not any more racist than -- oh - 95% of people -
    I LOVED the IMUS show.

    I also learned a great deal about a variety of charities and most importantly to big business ---
    I bought products endorsed on the show and guess what --- Imus told the truth about whatever the product was.

    I make a living determining things about other human beings - if I'm wrong they can die. I am not wrong about Don Imus - he and his crew are good folk !!!

    What smart TV station will pick him up and get my undivided attention??
    MSNBC has not been viewed in my home since they removed his show.

    By Anonymous Rhonda, at 08 November, 2007 05:10  

  • If wabc radio gave that bigot don imus a job,then it is time to stop listening to wabc radio.In my opinion imus has no talent.why would wabc give him a job? I guess they must want there ratings to drop lower than they already are.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15 November, 2007 14:19  

  • I have missed Don Imus since he left MSNBC and have not had my TV on that station. I recorded it every morning from 3-6 in Southern California and watched it when I got up.

    Alice from California

    By Anonymous Aliemay, at 24 November, 2007 19:04  

  • bnqbhchkGreat News that Imus is coming back on radio, and even greater news is that Dish Network will carry him on RFD-TV which is channel 231..hopefully, he will be bringing back the old cast, Bernie, Lou and Larry and the old time favorite..lapse of memory here, but we all know who the cast is composed of...Imus really got screwed over by the likes of Sharpston and Jackson..and believe me they are not too far away to cause another major stink. Whatever they want or need...

    By Blogger Larryt39, at 26 November, 2007 10:35  

  • Well now that he's on radio I won't have to watch him fall asleep at the mic while they patch in old dialog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 26 November, 2007 15:29  

  • I too am VERY glad to have Imus back as are many of my 45 and over friends. I just hope he is able to pull in the great guests he had in the past. I'll be tuned in Monday!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 01 December, 2007 21:12  

  • ABC your decision is Pathetic! An interesting, enlightening, stimulating radio show with intelligent individuals murdered! I listened to the mumbling of Imus this morning and was so disturbed turned the dial to WOR. You a great show and you flushed it! For what? Imus brings nothing to your listeners! And you just lost me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 December, 2007 08:10  

  • We should be careful not to hurt others. We can't step on someone else's face for our own gains. Imus did say something hurtful, but he did not break the law, and he has apologized. We all deserve a second chance. I am glad to see that he is getting a second chance.

    By Anonymous Tennessee Honey, at 06 December, 2007 16:51  

  • Imus is the man...far better than anyone else in that time-slot...certainly more intelligent and entertaining than Brian Maloney who is mostly baloney...

    By Anonymous wyzard, at 07 February, 2008 14:41  

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