For several months, we've seen the decline in fortunes of, if not Rush Limbaugh himself, those associated with him -- Clear Channel and their subsidiary Premiere Radio Networks, Limbaugh's syndicator. The late Richard Myers (RIP) did a yeoman's job reporting on the fading fortunes on these very pages.
Well, today Premiere took another major hit.
Follow me below the twisted Cheeto for details:
My spouse and I listen to a lot of radio, mainly sports talk. We're sports fans -- baseball, football, hockey (not that much into basketball but the early success of the Golden State Warriors has us mildly intrigued), and some other stuff. And it's something to have on in the background while getting stuff done around the apartment or working on the computers.
One of the big national names is Jim Rome. Some people love him, some hate him. He used to piss me off a lot in his early days, but he's mellowed just a bit -- or maybe I've become more radicalized when it comes to sports. And I've seen some changes -- he used to be really down on soccer, but now that his younger son is playing he's at least not insulting it on a daily basis. He's probably still one of the best interviewers in the business, able to talk Star Wars with R.A. Dickey, horse racing with chef Bobby Flay and World Series with Sergio Romo with equal ease.
Rome has been with Premiere Networks for 16 years -- an eternity in the radio industry.
But no more. Starting January 2nd, he will be part of the CBS Radio Network. He made the official announcement today, but there've been rumors on the Net for a couple of days. (Don't have a link for the official announcement -- he just talked about it on today's show, which is the last of the year; he typically takes off the last week or so since his show tends to get pre-empted by bowl games on many stations.)
This isn't really a surprise; Rome has been building his relationship with CBS for quite some time, first with moving his TV show from ESPN to the CBS Sports Network, then starting a weekly show on Showtime as part of the TV deal. (The initial Showtime run was for 6 weekly shows, which ends next Wednesday; in January the show will switch to monthly but will get a run of 12 shows, essentially more shows for less work.) It only makes sense to take the plunge with the fledgling radio network.
And Premiere wasn't caught flat-footed; for the time slot on the FOX Sports Radio affiliates, they've signed standup comic and frequent Rome guest host Jay Mohr to take the slot. Means no more (or Mohr) fill-in stints for Jay, but we were getting a bit tired of his schtick; too many times we'd listen and he was talking about anything but sports. (Rome's had to take quite a few days off with the Showtime gig, but he's been getting in some interesting new voices from other parts of the country, including one of my favorites here in SF, Damon Bruce.)
But this is going to be another huge hit on Premiere -- Jim Rome may have been the linchpin of the network, and it remains to be seen how many of Rome's "clones" will stick with "Slam Man" Jay Mohr or will follow Rome to his new radio home in those markets where he'll be changing stations. And it remains to be seen what this will do for Premiere's, and Clear Channel's, bottom line. If Limbaugh continues to hemorrhage sponsors, then eventually they'll have to make some serious decisions.