The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

23 June 2012

Huckabee Radio Talk Show Off To Extremely Slow Start


Palin Snub Symbolizes Poor Start


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.


  • I didn't even know Huck had a show here in Dallas. Not that I'd want to listen to the RINO anyway.....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 08:04  

  • Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I couldn't be more thrilled for the delusional Huckster and his delusional syndicator.

    Going up against Maharushie was a fool's errand, and they certainly found the right man(atee) for the job!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 10:11  

  • I never liked huck and knew he was on the left as he always had a spin on things obama or michelle did wrong.

    Then when he had that fake caller call in on his first day on the radio, I knew it was a joke of a show. Never have listened to him nor will I ever listen to him.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 11:39  

  • No liberal has ever, or will ever, pose a threat to Rush Limbaugh. Give up on talk radio you progressives. You don't get it, and you can't do it. All you have is TV and no one watches you.

    By Blogger grayjohn, at 24 June, 2012 11:51  

  • I never cared for Huckabee and he does not speak for me. His show will die on the vine in due course.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 12:31  

  • Huckabee is a sanctimonious RINO. My fear is that he will be picked to be Romney's VP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 12:31  


    Just another liberal fantasy going down in flames..


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 12:42  

  • We have enough Progressives doing damage all ove in the Democrat Meda Complex. Why do we need one more to pile their crap on us good Conservatives?
    Most of us know that he is a fake Conservative. Statist hiding out in Republican cloths. I'm sticking with Rush.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 12:47  

  • Huckabee is a phony and barely a Republican. I listened to his show during one of Rush's commercial breaks once....and that was all it took from me to confirm that his show, like his political career, is a fraud and garbage.

    The guy is a RINO hack who comes off as preachy and clueless.

    I predicted his show would last 6 months and i may have overshot it.

    Most talk radio listeners are thoughtful and intelligent, Huckabee is neither.

    Also, liberals never do well in the format and im sorry, but in the one segment i listened to, he took a position of a big government progressive.

    What a tool.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 June, 2012 14:01  

  • Rush's 20 year, 20 million loyal listeners don't think Rush is "uncivil" and aren't looking for a "civil" alternative.

    Only clueless radio executives think this way.

    By Anonymous MPCpiano, at 24 June, 2012 14:13  

  • Stunning that anyone actually believed this guy could take out Rush. Rush is one of the most savy commentators on the air, a consummate entertainer and a conservative. Huckabee is a populist and rather lackluster in his commentary skills.

    By Blogger Charm, at 24 June, 2012 22:14  

  • I'm in Kansas City, where Huck goes against Rush. I don't have anything against Huck, but he's no conservative, so why would I turn to him over Rush?

    Rush is wrong on Rubio (he's INELIGIBLE!!!!!!!), but if I want to capture a conservative point of view, @ the time-frame, Rush is it.

    The only positive of Huck forcing a line-up change @ Cumulus is that I've been pleasantly surprised by Mark Levin. I like his perspective, I just don't like his 'get off the phone, you big jerk' delivery, & thankfully, he hasn't acted in this manner when I've caught his show.

    The elites of the Gutless Opposition Party and the Deceptivecrats keep trying to force feed us pseudo-conservatives & we aren't chewing! I'm registered as an Independent except for primaries because neither party represents me.

    By Blogger celtic tiger, at 24 June, 2012 23:00  

  • It's good that there are people willing to try to be what Rush is. Rush won't be able to keep doing this forever, and when that time comes we will need a replacement. There is NOBODY I've heard who could do the job. Not Hannity, not Beck, not Ingram, certainly not pretend coservatives like O'Reilly and Huckabee.

    By Anonymous Idahoser, at 25 June, 2012 10:45  

  • I've heard Huck on KSFO a few times, thinking he was subbing for Rush - no such luck.

    While I appreciate his general good manners, he is both boring and trivial, a fatal combination.

    Levin can be fascinating but his screaming and yelling and insults are just too much to take most of the time.

    As Idahoser noted, we do need to develop and keep a bench. Trouble is, Huckabee will never make the team.

    By Anonymous Whitehall, at 25 June, 2012 14:05  

  • It's sad what Cumulus is doing to WBAP. Citadel was bad, but these guys are worse. I've listened to WBAP for 19 years but the last 3 have been hard. The Mark Davis debacle was a real eye opener for how Cumulus operates. If Rush goes, I'll finally have to leave them for someone else. Not even Levin could keep me listening to them any more...

    By Blogger Gadgetfreak, at 25 June, 2012 17:09  

  • Here's what sucks about Huck being on KUFO in Portland: They pushed Laura Ingraham out of that slot to bring him in! Come on, KUFO, full reverse. Now!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 26 June, 2012 23:20  

  • I love Governor Huckabee and would love to listen to his radio show but, unfortunately it is not played in my area. However, Im not disappointed if it does poorly because Huckabee needs to be back where he belongs running for President. I hope to see Huck in the White House in 2016. (I have already given up on Republicans winning this time around).

    By Blogger nrobyar, at 19 July, 2012 22:54  

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