The ongoing dispute between Dan Bongino and Cumulus Media apparently has some stations nervous about the conservative talk host’s long-term prospects for radio. So much so that Salem Media Group says it has begun to hear from some broadcasters looking at other options for the timeslot where the late Rush Limbaugh once dominated.
“Changes in the marketplace are making some affiliates skittish about their choices, which is having them reach out to us,” said Salem President of Broadcast Media David Santrella. “The good news is that Salem is open for business, our network is open for business, our network hosts are happy with what we’re doing. And we’re happy to take on any new affiliates that are interested,” he told analysts last week during a conference call.
Bongino has repeatedly been critical of Cumulus Media’s vaccine mandate for its employees on his syndicated show, and that dispute led to it to pull the plug on his live shows for a week in a half, airing “best of” shows on the radio despite Bongino producing new episodes of his podcast. He returned to live radio shows last Wednesday. Cumulus CFO Frank Lopez-Balboa said last week that it will “continue to work through, but it's not going to have a meaningful impact in our results.”
But with more than 300 affiliates for Bongino, the opportunity for rival syndicators to peel off some stations has grown. For Salem, it would most likely be a boost for its syndicated Dennis Prager Show which runs in the same 12-3pm ET timeslot. It already has nearly 400 affiliates nationwide. It is also benefiting from Larry Elder’s October18 return to the airwaves following his unsuccessful bid to replace Democrat Gavin Newsom in the California Governor recall election. “We are seeing increased interest from affiliates in what we have to offer due to the fact that Larry Elder coming back from his gubernatorial race and has some increased popularity,” said Santrella.
Elder has been back in front of the mic at Salem Radio Networks since Oct. 18 after a three-month leave of absence during his political run. During that time Carl Jackson took over the reins. Jackson, who serves as a regular fill-in host for Prager, also hosts a Saturday evening program on Salem Media Group talk “950 The Answer” WORL Orlando.
“His replacement Carl Jackson did a terrific job filling in for Larry, we nonetheless had a slight decrease in revenue,” Santrella told analysts as he noted revenue in the network operations was up just 0.3% during the third quarter compared to a year earlier – significantly below the 9.3% increase for its broadcast business overall.
“We're disappointed Larry's not the Governor as we think he would have done a fantastic job, but we're glad he's back doing this radio show,” said Santrella. “We expect his run for governor will have a favorable impact on his listenership and future revenue potential.”