Could Howie Leave WRKO Sooner Than Expected?

It’s no secret that Howie Carr’s career now depends on how fast he can successfully bolt WRKO’s sinking ship. With Rush Limbaugh now gone, Howie hosts the only remaining program of significance on the station, especially from a sales standpoint. When he departs, it’s officially over.

There are at least two scenarios (potentially more) that could have Carr out of WRKO sooner than anyone would expect:

— Contractual language that now allows him to leave: is Howie guaranteed a timeslot “adjacent to Rush Limbaugh”? That or any similar wording used as a safety measure to keep Entercom from banishing him to midnight could be key to a case for departure. This would be a good time to take a second look at the agreement (which I suspect he’s doing now).

— Entercom simply allows Howie to walk and folds up WRKO’s tent: it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Without Rush, revenue opportunities are limited and the station may now be operating at a loss. We already know the far-left Field family dislikes talk radio very much (they’ve already run almost all of their talk stations into the ground). So there’s certainly no passion for the format that would overcome the bottom line.

For the sake of his future, I don’t think Howie can afford to wait for WRKO and Entercom to sink. He’s got to find a way out now and it may be easier to escape than is commonly believed.

Carr image: Boston Herald

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Day One: What A Mess

Thoughts on Day One of the big Boston talk radio switcheroo:

— WRKO/Entercom blew it on a number of fronts, but these three stand out the most:

1) Rather than point the finger at Clear Channel/Premiere for yanking away WRKO’s marquee talent, Entercom used local media to make it appear it was their own idea, all in the name of going “local”. But that’s clearly backfired as longtime WRKO fans vent their anger at station management.

2) Of course, because it was “their idea”, they had to have a new local host in place in time for Rush’s removal from WRKO, so they rushed into hiring a rank amateur who will quickly be in way over his head with 15 hours of programming to fill every week. A clear tip-off: loading today’s show with big guests (as a crutch) instead of allowing the new guy to show his stuff.

A better plan: try out a number of people in the slot to see how they’d fare against the Talk Titan.

3) If it had any class, Entercom would have acknowledged Limbaugh’s role in BUILDING WRKO over the years and thanked him for his enormous contribution. But this is Entercom, a bottom-feeding outfit.

— The new station is baffling for several reasons as well:

1) There’s almost no outside promotion. How are listeners supposed to find where Rush has gone?

2) “Rush Radio” clearly wasn’t ready to go, even to the point where the schedule isn’t settled.

3) The new station’s weak signal locks out a lot of Rush’s former WRKO coverage area. Forget the South Shore, it’s now up to outlying stations such as WXTK 95 FM on the Cape to fill the gaps.

4) Rush himself has said little (nothing?) about the move and it was only mentioned at his site late today.

It’s one bizarre situation all around, with talk fans left scratching their heads. It can’t be fun for Howie Carr.

Rush Radio 1200: Winners And Losers

Here’s how I expect the Boston talk radio landscape to look from here forward:

— WRKO: watch as it limps along without Rush Limbaugh and is put to sleep when Howie somehow manages to exit the building for good. Until then, expect a slow and painful demise. Given the troubles at both WEEI and WRKO, I’d hate to be a Entercom salesperson right now.

Hope Rush’s “replacement” enjoys the futility of competing against him for the next six months or so, until the show is inevitably cancelled and replaced with fee-free syndicated programming.

— Rush Radio 1200: Limbaugh himself can prop up this otherwise-weak station to a point, but ultimately it will require major-market management and a real commitment to programming.

So far, it appears to be run from Providence (by the same people who have failed to make an impact with WHJJ and resent any intrusion from Boston radio types into their market) and will be burdened with some of Premiere Radio’s unsuccessful syndicated shows. That’s not a recipe for ratings or revenue.

Beyond Rush, syndication has never fared well in New England and I doubt that will change now.

— WTKK: with WRKO and the new station struggling in the ratings, WTKK might appear to “win” on occasion (by ranking higher than either one), but I’m still not sure how it can afford a live-and-local lineup without a viable programming focus or successful air talent.

The bottom line: we’re entering a new era where no one station really dominates the market (even WBZ ain’t what it used to be) and the audience is carved four ways or more.

KISS 108: Rush Switching Stations In A Month

Is Rush Limbaugh switching Boston stations much sooner than previously believed? During this morning’s Matty In The Morning Show on KISS 108 FM, host Matt Siegel (below image) indicated that Limbaugh would be moving to his sister station at 1200 AM in just a month.

Until now, it seemed shifting Limbaugh’s show away from his longtime home at WRKO would take some time as contractual issues needed to be resolved.

Click here for the audio, it’s about two minutes into the segment.