We still don't know Sean Hannity's television fate once Megyn Kelly moves into his Fox News prime time spot. But while it's safe to assume Hannity will be there somewhere, it's also safe to assume the changes are a smackdown of his television brand. Now, at the same time, comes what looks a lot like a radio smackdown, too.
Late last month, I wrote that broadcast giant Cumulus Media was planning to drop Hannity and Rush Limbaugh from its lineup. I also noted how radio veteran Alan Colmes argued that this was not the huge liberal victory that it seemed because the two were just going to change dial positions "and in many cases to better signals." Except that the sands have shifted again. Limbaugh has, in fact, re-upped with Cumulus, but not Hannity. And, although Hannity is arguing that he's the one to have dumped Cumulus, his argument is about as believable as his claim that birtherism was "never a big issue" for him.
In a Media Matters column called Sean Hannity Is Having A Really Bad August, Eric Boehlert writes;
On the Fox front, it appears that Hannity's aging viewers, made up largely of retirees, may be costing him his 9 p.m. position as the cable channel struggles to retain a younger audience. As for his messy radio breakup with Cumulus, Hannity sources now insist he wanted to get taken off hallmark talk stations like WLS in Chicago, WJR Detroit, and KSFO San Francisco. If he did, Hannity might be the first syndicated talk show host to ever wish to do so.
For Fox, the Kelly move likely came down to demographics and the fact that Hannity's audience is remarkably old didn't help his cause: 17 percent of the public is 65 and older, yet 42 percent of regular Hannity viewers are senior citizens, according to Pew Research. (Bill O'Reilly audience also skews older, but it's larger than Hannity's.)
As Boehlert noted, Hannity is arguing that he wanted to split with Cumulus and his right-wing pals are regurgitating his argument. An article that could have been dictated by Hannity's PR agent appeared on Mediaite late last week just one day before its author, Noah Rothman, happened to be included as a panelist on Fox News Watch. But there are reasons to doubt the spin. Boehlert says:
And it's Hannity who supposedly decided to walk away from Cumulus because the broadcasting group has fired too many people? Veterans inside the radio industry must still be chuckling at that one. The punch line stems from the fact that over the last ten years Hannity's bosses at Clear Channel have laid off thousands and thousands of employees. Clear Channel has pretty much defined itself by the ruthless way it has treated its employees and endless ways it's found to fire them; to strip down once-vibrant stations, run them on the cheap, and then often run them into the ground. There's a reason Clear Channel is known as the Evil Empire of commercial radio.
OK, I can't know for sure what has happened between Hannity and Cumulus and why. Maybe there's truth on both sides. But one thing I do know: Hannity has long played fast and loose with facts and there's no reason to think he isn't now. As for Rothman's unquestioning report that Hannity will probably replace the stations he'll lose, that he'll be competing against his likely replacement in those markets and the prediction that Cumulus' "routinely dour quarterly earnings calls are unlikely to take on a more sanguine tone in the coming weeks" as a consequence? Well, we'll see about that.
In the meanwhile, although it's possible Hannity's situation is not too bad, it's definitely not good.