Sources: WLS ready to drop Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh, who’s been a fixture on WLS AM 890 for more than 25 years, is about to get the bum’s rush from the Cumulus Media news/talk station, sources said Wednesday.

If all goes as planned, Limbaugh’s syndicated talk show, which airs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, will be dropped by the end of March, according to insiders at WLS.

A Cumulus Media spokeswoman declined immediate comment. But a source familiar with the decision said it was based on the show’s diminished ratings and failure to generate advertising revenue for the station, adding: “It’s impossible to sell.”

Thursday morning update: A Cumulus Media spokeswoman is denying plans to drop Limbaugh from WLS. “This is not at all accurate," she said. "Any report to the contrary is false.”

Jonathon Brandmeier

Jonathon Brandmeier

Limbaugh’s departure would continue the overhaul of WLS’s lineup, which began in November when Steve Dahl replaced Roe Conn and Richard Roeper in afternoons. In January, Big John Howell replaced Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft in mornings. And late last month Jonathon Brandmeier was signed to host a syndicated show that will replace John Kass and Lauren Cohn from 9 to 11 a.m. Once Limbaugh is dropped, Brandmeier’s show is expected to air for its full three hours — from 9 a.m. to noon.

A 27.5 percent decline in revenue at WLS — from $13 million in 2013 to less than $9.5 million in 2014 — was a contributing factor in a change in top management last week. Peter Bowen was named to replace Donna Baker as vice president and Chicago market manager. Overall the market was down 10 percent last year.

It is not known what WLS will air from noon to 2 p.m. Nor is it known whether Limbaugh will turn up on another Chicago station. When Cumulus Media dropped Sean Hannity from its stations last year in favor of Michael Savage, Hannity’s show moved to Salem Media news/talk WIND AM 560.

Limbaugh has been on WLS since the station launched its news/talk format in August of 1989. For many years the conservative radio icon was among the top-rated stars in middays.

The latest Nielsen Audio survey shows WLS ranked 24th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays with a 1.5 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 121,300. Among listeners between 25 and 54 — the group most sought by advertisers — WLS tied for 31st with a 0.8 share and 47,300 weekly cume. For the full year 2014, 62 percent of Limbaugh’s audience was over 55, and 34 percent was over 65, according to Nielsen Audio.

In December 2013 Cumulus Media dropped Limbaugh’s show from WABC, its news/talk flagship in New York. Along with Sean Hannity’s show, Limbaugh moved to rival WOR, owned by iHeart Media. At that time, Cumulus Media signed Limbaugh to a three-year extension through the end of 2016 on its other large-market stations, including WLS.