Huckabee Radio Talk Show Off To Extremely Slow Start
Palin Snub Symbolizes Poor Start
*** EQ EXCLUSIVE ***
*** RIEHL: 'HUCK NEVER MADE IT INTO THE RING' ***
*** TIM GRAHAM: 'FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS' ***
With mainstream media expectations so high, Mike Huckabee's new radio talk show was probably bound to disappoint. But newly-available hard data reveals a gaping donut hole where the audience should be.
It's an ominous sign for Cumulus Media (NASDAQ:CMLS), Huck syndicator and new owner of ABC Radio's largest AM legacy news-talk radio stations.
Widely touted as the "civil" answer to Rush Limbaugh's regime-threatening political effectiveness, the former Arkansas governor became an establishment darling earlier this year when the talk titan got caught up in the Sandra Fluke controversy.
In addition to hundreds of other media outlets, The Wall Street Journal played up his chances of tackling Limbaugh with this fawning coverage:
"Mike Huckabee will pose the most formidable challenge to Limbaugh that I can remember from a conservative hosting in the same time slot and being backed by a major company," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, a talk-radio trade journal.
But the strategy behind Huckabee's new positioning has been flawed from the start: though "civil", his delivery is generally regarded as stiff and dry. Weak performance has opened him up to ridicule from both left and right, including libtalker Randi Rhodes, as seen below:
Far more damning was last week's embarrassing Bristol Palin interview no-show. Triggering a Huck scolding, the former Alaska governor's daughter responded by saying she was unaware of the appearance and would rather spend her time appearing on Limbaugh's program anyway.
Equally important: Huck's conservative credentials have become increasingly suspect. If he's really destined to replace Limbaugh on WABC, WLS / Chicago, WBAP / Dallas and many others, how does defending Michelle Obama build that case?
In 2007, the late Robert Novak nailed Huck's real agenda here:
Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist advocate of big government and a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans.
Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses and might make more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem.
But enough with perceptions: let's look at the facts. According to newly-released Arbitron audience data, the Huckster is off to the kind of start that makes Air America Radio appear downright successful.
That's despite enjoying an avalanche of free publicity upon his debut.
And that's even before we compare him to Rush, as Huck doesn't stand on his own, either:
In New York City, where he currently airs evenings on WOR-AM, Huck ranked just 20th overall in the broadest audience demographic, listeners six and older.
Houston's KSEV registered a tiny 0.1 overall audience share during his timeslot, good for 43th place in what should be a friendly environment.
In Seattle, heard from 4-6pm local time, Mike drew a 0.2 on KCIS-AM, for a 36th place finish.
A similar story in Cincinnati: 0.2 overall and 31st place on WQRT-AM.
Hartford: 0.0 at WDRC-AM
Adding markets where Huckabee goes head-to-head with Limbaugh only underscores the futile nature of this battle:
In San Francisco, where Mike's heard on KSFO, Rush has a 143.4% larger overall audience.
In Dallas, where Cumulus seeks to remove Limbaugh from his longtime home at WBAP, El Rushbo is CRUSHING the Huckster with eleven listeners for every one fried squirrel fan. Mike ranks 40th in the Metroplex.
Portland Oregon: Rush's ratings are 1444% higher. Huck ranks 27th there, heard on KUFO-AM.
Salt Lake City: Rush beating Mike by 13900%. The latter ranks 40th at KKAT.
Providence / New Bedford / Fall River: Huck stuck in 44th, Rush with 766% higher ratings.
Jacksonville: Rush beats by 8500%, Huck takes 27th place.
We used 6+ data here, though advertisers usually favor Adults 25-54. But the picture isn't brighter there, either.
Moreover, in most of these metro regions, the trend is actually moving further against Huckabee.
We could only find one place where the former GOP presidential candidate fared relatively well: in Nashville, from noon-1pm at WWTN-FM, resulting in 12th place and a respectable 4.1 overall share. Perhaps he could become a local host there.
The bottom line: we know why the establishment media loves Huck, but we can't figure out why Cumulus would willingly undermine itself with this truly doomed effort, unless they're looking for a giant tax write-off.
Radio execs cannot force listeners to tune into a bad program, no matter how hard they try. It's a lesson they NEVER, ever seem to learn.