Millions Lost: Rush Limbaugh Continues To Be Bad For Business

Cumulus CEO tells investors that Limbaugh ad troubles remain a “drag” on business

Yesterday, Cumulus Media, a major affiliate of Rush Limbaugh's show reported millions of dollars in losses attributable Limbaugh's advertiser troubles.

During a call with investors Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey acknowledged Limbaugh's “drag” on business while being careful not to mention Limbaugh by name: 

On Thursday, speaking to investors again, Dickey said that, though his profits were up in his latest quarter, his revenues were down thanks to ten out of the 570 stations he owns. These stations, he said, were mostly “news/talk” formats in major media markets.

Dickey chalked up the sluggish performance -- the top three stations cost him $5.5 million, he said -- in part to “some extraordinary issues,” such as “the boycott that we saw from some remarks in a talk radio show.” That, he said, had “impacted us.” (emphasis added)

Dickey made news when Cumulus last reported earnings in May when he said that the Limbaugh advertiser efforts lost his company millions of dollars in the first and second quarters, but indicated that things would be back to normal in June. Limbaugh's defenders heralded Dickey's projection as proof that the efforts to hold Rush Limbaugh accountable had failed. Back then, I analyzed the report and explained why Dickey's prediction would likely prove inaccurate.

As it turns out, my analysis was correct. Things did not return to normal in June. On yesterday's call, Dickey informed investors that he anticipated the drag on business to continue for at least another six months to a year.

Dickey has good reason to anticipate a continued drag.

First, Limbaugh's advertiser troubles are far from over.

  • Last week, Carbonite's CEO told shareholders that although dropping their major endorsement deal with Rush Limbaugh had a short term impact on revenue, he did not regret the decision. Notably, the CEO added that “things would have been worse” had Carbonite not dropped Limbaugh.
  • Advertisers continue to exclude their ads from running during Rush Limbaugh's show. Over the past few weeks, big name advertisers, like Sam's Club and eBay, as well as lesser known advertisers issued issued public statements confirming that that their ads will not run during Limbaugh's show. And, this doesn't account for the scores of local advertisers that refuse to advertise on Limbaugh's show.

Second, Limbaugh continues to engage in the same kinds of vitriol and reckless attacks that put his intersecting business interests and affiliates in this position in the first place, like his renewed attacks on Sandra Fluke or a recent statement that “feminism was established” so “unattractive women” could have “easier access to the mainstream.” This continued recklessness signals to advertisers that Limbaugh remains volatile. For many advertisers, this volatility is what keeps them away. They look at Limbaugh's long record of vitriol, they see the damange to businsess it can unpredictably create sometimes, they recognize that he continues to engage in similar conduct and they rightfully conclude that the risk just isn't worth it.

Bottom line: Rush Limbaugh continues to demonstrate that he's bad for business.

And, onward we go...