from a just published column at http://www.fybush.com/nerw.html
*The latest talk-radio battle in eastern MASSACHUSETTS began very quietly last week, as Clear Channel began running “Coast to Coast AM” in the overnight hours on WKOX (1200 Newton). WKOX continues to run Clear Channel’s “Rumba” Spanish tropical format during the day for now, but April 1 still appears to be the target date for WKOX to swap calls with sister station WXKS (1430 Everett) and flip to full-time talk.
When it does, it will have Entercom’s venerable WRKO (680 Boston) squarely in its sights - and it’s all but certain that “Coast to Coast AM” won’t be the only show to move from WRKO up the dial to 1200. Whether or not the registration of “RushRadio1200.com” was anything more than an attempt to get the message boards buzzing, there’s little doubt that Clear Channel intends to bring the flagship talk show from its Premiere Radio Networks lineup into the WXKS 1200 fold sooner or later, to go along with a Premiere-dominated schedule that will include Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, who are currently without clearances in Boston.
What happens now at WRKO? In the short term, Entercom was plugging reruns of Howie Carr’s afternoon show into the overnight slot abruptly vacated by the Coast to Coast move, but in the longer term, overnights will go to Doug McIntyre’s new Citadel-syndicated “Red Eye Radio” out of KABC in Los Angeles.
As for the rest of WRKO’s programming, there’s plenty of buzz out there in the usual places about a visit later this week by Entercom’s top brass for an all-staff meeting in Boston. For all the noise, it seems unlikely that Entercom will do anything really dramatic (an all-out format change, for instance) at WRKO, which still enjoys a considerable signal advantage over 1200, not to mention a quarter-century-plus head start in the format. And in a city that loves to talk local politics, Carr - and even morning host Tom Finneran, if his contract is renewed - remain formidable opponents against the new WXKS, which has yet to announce any local talent for its morning slot.
(Indeed, the real talk competition is likely to continue to be the rivalry between Entercom and Greater Media’s nearly-all-local WTKK 96.9; while short-term revenue concerns mean there’s almost zero chance that Entercom would take the risk of moving WRKO to one of its three FM facilities in the market, such a hypothetical move would create a WRKO-WTKK FM-FM rivalry that would probably all but doom WXKS on 1200 from day one.)
This appears to be a key element in Clear Channel’s long-term strategic planning. They tried this in New Orleans a couple of years ago, taking Rush away from market leader WWL-AM (another Entercom property) and shifting him to a new FM talker, owned by (you guessed it), Clear Channel. In only a year, the FM station was nipping at the heels of WWL, the first time that anyone has seriously challenged that market icon.
Then, about a month ago, Clear Channel took Rush away from Curtis Media stations in Greensboro and Raleigh, North Carolina, moving him to their own outlets in those markets. Clear Channel also did the same thing in Pittsburgh. If I’m not mistaken, Rush was on KDKA for a while before moving to WPGB, which also airs Quinn and Rose. You can probably guess the name of the company that owns Rush’s Pittsburgh affiliate.
The handwriting on the wall is clear; if you’re a Rush affiliate in a market that also has at least one under-performing Clear Channel station, then your days airing Limbaugh are probably numbered. And you really can’t blame Clear Channel. Rush is ratings dynamite. Why simply settle for earning syndication fees in a market when you can make even more money through ad revenue.