Cumulus Launching Huckabee Radio Show Without Its Top Station -- For Now

When Cumulus Media launches its new Mike Huckabee radio show on April 9 it will not be broadcasting on the company's largest station in its largest market, WABC in New York City.

Instead, Huckabee will broadcast on competing WOR Radio in New York, and in a delayed format, according to Joe Bilotta, president and CEO of Buckley Radio, which owns WOR Radio.

Cumulus Media has billed Huckabee's show as a direct competitor to Rush Limbaugh's broadcast, and their ownership of more than 500 radio stations gives them a strong starting position.

But Limbaugh cannot be replaced on his flagship station until his contract with WABC expires. That will be sometime in 2013, according to Cumulus, which declined to reveal an exact date. Bilotta said he expects Huckabee to be broadcast on WOR at least until that contract runs its course.

“Nobody has contacted us about taking Rush Limbaugh [On WOR] at the end of the [WABC] term,” Bilotta said.

Speculation has arisen that Cumulus would remove Limbaugh and replace him with Huckabee as soon as his contract is up.

“You can bet WABC, New York, owned by Cumulus, will dump Limbaugh the moment they are able to clear their contract restrictions,” Jerry Del Colliano, a veteran radio industry expert, wrote in his daily subscription newsletter on March 22.

WABC and Cumulus declined to comment on the issue Monday.

Rather than run Huckabee live during its slated broadcast time of Noon to 3 p.m. EDT, WOR will offer it later at 8 p.m. on delay.

Buckley Radio, based in Greenwich, CT., owns five other news/talk stations and plans to run Huckabee on four them -- all in Connecticut -- with the same delayed format, preferring to keep local programming in Huckabee's scheduled slot.

“I have programing already in there,” Bilotta said about why Huckabee will not be placed on his stations live. “I'm sure [Cumulus] would be desirous of that, but we have [local] programming already embedded in those spots. It's not unusual for a syndicator to go into a top 50 market and be on a delayed broadcast if they can't clear live because live is already taken.”

Bilotta said he would rather run Huckabee in a delayed form at 8 p.m. because he currently repeats an earlier program at that time on WOR and on the Connecticut stations. The programming now running against Limbaugh in the Noon to 3 p.m. EDT time slot includes local hosts.

Buckley's sixth talk/news station, KNZR in Bakersfield, Ca., already broadcasts Limbaugh and will not replace him with Huckabee.

Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey told The New York Times today that 180 stations have lined up to launch Huckabee, with 40 of them owned by Cumulus. But he has yet to reveal more details about which stations are involved or how many currently broadcast Limbaugh.

Cumulus Radio, a division of Cumulus Media, owns 570 stations, with Limbaugh currently running on 40 of them. Limbaugh is on more than 600 stations nationwide, although two stations recently dropped him following the firestorm after the radio host referred to Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Buckley made news last year when it chose to remove Glenn Beck from all but one of its talk stations, stating his programming hurt ratings.