Rush Limbaugh used CBS' decision to hire comedian Stephen Colbert as the new host of The Late Show as evidence that ratings are irrelevant following reports that the talk radio firebrands' own ratings have collapsed.
On the May 1 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh declared that CBS' decision to replace David Letterman with Colbert is proof that “ratings don't matter in a lot of television.” Limbaugh latched onto recent comments by CBS president Les Moonves to repeatedly gloat that he was right when he claimed that “it's not about ratings anymore” but rather about coolness. In fact, during the entire first segment of his show, Limbaugh repeated the phrase “ratings don't matter” a total of nine times:
LIMBAUGH: I want to start off with a giant “See, I told you so.” A two-minute sound bite of me on this program back on February 19th. That was when NBC said they're gonna replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon. I made the point that I was talking to a friend the night before, February 18th, and we were chatting about the landscape changes in television. He'd said something to me about all these replacements, are they gonna maintain ratings. And I said, “It's not about ratings anymore. Ratings don't matter to TV executives anymore.” And he thought after a while, as many people do in conversation with me, that that was brilliant. It is true. And it stuns me, but in a lot of television, ratings don't matter.
LIMBAUGH: If the ratings are not how you are going to pitch advertisers, what are you going to pitch? You are going to pitch cool, you are going to pitch hip. And how are you going to do that? You are going to go to other media and you are going to massage them and you are going to have PR campaigns and there are going to be countless, endless stories about your talent, your host and what a cool, hip in-demand guy he is. And then you are going to make sure your host is as visible as possible in cool hip places. Letterman of course doesn't fit that because he is a recluse. He doesn't go to hip places and do cool things.
Limbaugh's observation curiously coincides with new reports that Limbaugh's own show has run into ratings trouble. Three months after a much-hyped switch to a Clear Channel-owned station in Los Angeles bearing the call letters of Limbaugh's own “Excellence in Broadcasting” motto, The Rush Limbaugh Show has suffered significant drops in ratings. Limbaugh's show was a top-rated show in Los Angeles before moving to KEIB; in March, his show was ranked 37th, according to Nielsen ratings. By contrast, Limbaugh's former Los Angeles station remains a top-10 station with an audience six times larger than his current outlet. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the ratings of Limbaugh's new station there have remained flat despite his addition.
Limbaugh's drop in the ratings are not limited to the Los Angeles market. In New York, the nation's largest radio market, Limbaugh's program dropped to 22nd after moving to another Clear Channel-owned station.