The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

14 April 2008

Sean Hannity To Leave Citadel - ABC Radio


Fed-Up Hannity Exiting Troubled Citadel - ABC Radio

*** ALSO: On Limbaugh's Impact, Media Tries To Have It Both Ways ***

Apparently unhappy with the recently- merged company's political and business direction, talk radio syndication biggie Sean Hannity is exiting Citadel - ABC Radio (NYSE:CDL) for a yet- to- be- disclosed rival. The move could dramatically reshape programming lineups on a number of major stations.

According to a highly- placed source inside the company, Hannity is unhappy with Citadel - ABC for two reasons: its dismal financial performance and the liberal ideological leanings of CEO Farid Suleman and COO Judy Ellis, which are said to have interfered with good relations between the parties.

Rumors of the move were first reported yesterday by the New York Radio Message Board and independently confirmed with a key insider by your Radio Equalizer late Sunday evening. Rumblings of a Hannity exit from Citadel were first revealed in late 2006 by yours truly, but the situation has apparently deteriorated markedly since then.

For the struggling Citadel - ABC operation, this news couldn't come at a more inopportune moment: it has recently reported huge losses and shares have fallen by 88% over the past three years.

Syndicated in over 500 markets nationwide, Hannity's afternoon drive show is said to bring in $35m in annual revenue, which will now be lost as Sean jumps ship. The program is considered to be the second- biggest cash generator in ABC Radio's network lineup, with his compensation at a reported $5m per annum.

As for ratings, in New York City under the new Portable People Meter system, he pulled an impressive 5.4 12+ share for February. That was just shy of Rush Limbaugh's blockbuster 5.6. Nationally, Hannity's audience is second only to Limbaugh's.

The move comes on the heels of a recent round of massive layoffs at Citadel - ABC, which saw a number of talk hosts canned, while management ranks at some outlets remain bloated.

Beyond Citadel's sagging stock price, Hannity is said to be concerned with the leftist political bent of its corporate suits, which has created some awkward moments. In particular, COO Ellis has been reluctant to even be seen near the FOX News Channel host.

And since they took the reins of the merged company, Suleman and Ellis have made a number of peculiar decisions, including an emphasis on the 65+ audience rather than younger, more advertiser- friendly demographics. That has included a mega- deal with talk fossil Don Imus.

Also highly questionable were baffling decisions to remove Rush Limbaugh from WPRO-AM in Providence and fire nationally- known conservative morning talker Melanie Morgan from KSFO/ San Francisco.

The impact of Sean's departure will be significant for all parties involved: Citadel - ABC loses millions, while his show will be pulled from key ABC Radio stations in some major cities. At the same time, it will have to compete against his new program, most likely to be syndicated by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks, home to Rush Limbaugh.

Will Hannity's exit hasten the demise of this troubled company? How will buyout king Teddy Forstmann, whose firm owns 30% of CDL, respond to this latest setback? And what will be done to save some of the nation's biggest news- talkers from collapse?

UPDATE: Could this story change the outcome? We're hearing reaction has been intense within the radio industry and may have lit a firecracker or two over at Citadel's HQ. Will this rude awakening lead to a renewed interest in keeping Hannity in the fold? Is it about resources, ideological conflicts, or something else?

Either way, time is of the essence: Hannity is free to exit as of 12 June 2008.

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site. NEW: troubles at CBS may lead to sale of WBZ's building

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Technorati tags:


  • Will he still be heard on the
    the WABC stations if he leaves

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 April, 2008 04:09  

  • Well for Pawn Vannity, there's something he may be taking with him from his soon to be ex bosses at Citadel/ABC, something even the lamestream media won't let you know charges of plagiarism fropm conservative columnist Debbie Schlussel!

    I do not listen to Vanity's show anymore, taking my chances with Jerry Doyle (heard locally on WSTC/WNLK).

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 14 April, 2008 06:42  

  • I wonder how this affects ABCitadel's Mark Levin, who has ballooned his number of stations in the past four years from WABC to most of the nation. He, Hannity and Limbaugh are all friends and it was questioned at one point if ABC had required Hannity stations to carry Levin's show.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 April, 2008 08:40  

  • Brian: I notice that you did not give a time frame. Doesn't Hannity's current contract expire in 2010?

    Anyway, I hope this "exclusive" is more solid than your last big scoop: the imminent departure of Bill O'Reilly from radio.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 April, 2008 12:29  

  • I linked to this article and the NYC
    message board thread on Hannity's
    WABC board and got a permanent ban
    from the board for "rumor mongering"

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 14 April, 2008 12:50  

  • Banned??? That sounds like Seinfeld. Don't worry Rac, if you want to post on that board I'm sure you can find a surrogate poster...either that or a pseudonym. Meantime, no post for you!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 April, 2008 15:54  

  • Dear Brian,

    You wrote that Citadel's signing of Imus was an effort to acquire more 65+ listeners in a switch away from the younger demographic.

    From the prospect of examining Arbitron hourlies for over a ten year period Imus has overwhelmingly more success in the male 25-54 demo than Hannity or any of the WABC morning shows over a long time span.

    So I think you are in error when you theorize that Suleman's signing of Imus was a shift away from younger to older listeners.

    It was the opposite.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15 April, 2008 03:59  

  • And Mr.Diamond should know, he worked at WABC for many, many years and is a radio veteran and pro

    Brian, be happy, finally someone of importance graced your site

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 15 April, 2008 15:23  

  • I hope that Hannity does make the move. CEO Farid Suleman deserves a big slap up the head for his past decisions - especially the WPRO move to bring on the felon Cianci.

    By the way, Imus might have attracted a younger age group in the past, and Citadel might have hoped for a younger audience, but now... Imus is just so very, very old and feeble, I don't see how he could possibly maintain any audience.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 16 April, 2008 10:15  

  • Brian, be happy, finally someone of importance graced your site


    I had mistakenly thought that you were someone of importance. Sorry.

    By Blogger Chromium, at 16 April, 2008 11:01  

  • Heh. Jay Diamond just delivered the most gentlemanly smack upside the head I've witnessed in years.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 16 April, 2008 20:27  

  • Any updates? Will we be losing Mr. Hannity on Chicago's airwaves??

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 27 May, 2008 14:45  

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