Hannity vs Savage: Ratings Battle Swings Back To Hannity

This isn’t surprising at all for those of us in radio. Of course, it may change yet again, but for now Savage is eating his own words.  I’ll steer clear of the Cumulus talk in the article because it’s mostly hearsay anyway, and is purely speculative about Cumulus’s reasons for their decisions.  I personally know many markets where Cumulus is very supportive of their conservative talk format, and they have a solid foundation of conservative radio hosts.

In radio, when there is a big change involving popular hosts, will often go up in several markets for the new guy.  Their follows them, while the old is loyal to the old station and stays around to see if the new host is worth listening to. This gives a temporary bump in for the new host on the old station.  Making it look like the new host ( in this case) is much more popular than they really are (and IS popular, just not popular).  It is completely up to the new host to win over the old host’s () audience.   doesn’t appear to be doing that, and Hannity’s audience are now turning the dial back to Hannity.

MRC is reporting:

Savage Hemorrhages Hannity’s Audience: New York’s WABC Loses 50%, Chicago Down 59% | NewsBusters.

The latest numbers are out for Michael Savage’s radio show. Recall that Savage was a key player in the battle between Sean Hannity and Cumulus radio. A battle that had an exasperated Hannity finally firing Cumulus, as reported here in NewsBusters at the time.  But not before Savage, whom Cumulus had in the wings to replace Hannity in the latter’s Cumulus slots, took shots at Hannity, gloating at taking Hannity’s slot.

The Savage numbers tell a revealing tale of conservatism in the media. So let’s start with the brand new numbers themselves, numbers supplied by Nielsen Audio. They are the numbers for April – last month -, and cover 52 of America’s major radio markets. We will directly compare them here with Sean Hannity’s last numbers before being replaced on Cumulus stations  – which is to say Hannity’s numbers for December, 2013.  The percentages cited – again, these are from Nielsen Audio (formerly known as Arbitron) – are nothing if not startling.

New York – WABC – Savage numbers drop by 50%.

Chicago – WLS – Savage numbers drop by 59%

San Francisco – KSFO – Savage numbers drops by 26%

Dallas-Fort Worth – WBAP FM – Savage numbers drop by 13%

Houston-Galveston – KSEV – Savage numbers drop by 55%

Washington, DC – WMAL – Savage numbers drop by 17%

In my opinion, Savage blew it by peddling his disdain (some might say jealousy) for Rush and Hannity on his show on the new stations.  Keep in mind, he’s been trashing the host his new audience members have been loyal to for a long time.  They likely took offense to that.  Savage should have embraced them with open arms, and invited them to give him a chance.  Instead, it’s been non-stop blasting Hannity as a host and a person.

I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Savage’s success, but he’s never really competed with national personalities except for Mark Levin … who killed Savage in nearly every market they competed.  Savage wanted desperately to compete with someone other than Levin, and he viewed Hannity as the best option.  For a short time it looked ok for Savage, but now it may be swinging the other way.

Of course, bloviating about himself and how dominant he is is nothing new for Savage.  He’s been doing it for years much to the chagrin of many in the radio industry.  I competed directly with Savage in Las Vegas for many years, and usually beat him.  Yet I’d hear on his show about how he ‘owned’ the Las Vegas market.  That was news to my team considering I had double his ratings.

Both hosts are popular by doing very different things, and should be commended, but as someone who once fell into the trap of ultra-hostile competitiveness among hosts, I can honestly say it accomplishes nothing.  Both hosts would be suited to just do their thing the way they know how to do it.  The listeners will come if they just focus on their show, and not someone else’s.

There’s an old saying in radio: When you’re behind in ratings, attack the other host.  When you’re ahead, ignore the other host.

In this fight, who’s done the attacking, and who’s done the ignoring?  That may be more telling than any ratings book.