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Bad Boy Imus Readies Comeback

Posted by: David Kiley on November 16, 2007


On Dec. 3, exiled radio personality will make his return on New York radio station WABC. It remains too be seen how many other of Citadel Broadcasting’s affiliates will carry the show. But it will be simulcasted on…hold on to your Resistol…the RFD channel.

The RFD channel may not sound like much, especially to Imus’s fans in New York, Washington, Boston, etc. But it is available on Dish Tv and DirectTV. And Imus’s most important fan base—educated, high-earning males—also make up a huge percentage of subscribers to those Sat Tv services.

I’d be shocked if WJR-AM in Detroit, in my market, carried Imus’s morning show, or even carried it on delay later in the day. Detroit had dropped Imus years ago, and prefers local personalities talking about local issues. But I can always catch it on RFD via my DirectTV.

DirectTV surfers over the summer may have caught the docu-infomercial RFD did about Imus’s ranch, which hosts children suffering from serious diseases such as cancer. I wondered at the time if it was shot before Imus disgraced himself last Spring when he hurled a derogatory racial remark at the Rutgers Womens Basketball team. Indeed, it was shot after the events that cost Imus his radio and TV gigs. If Imus is nothing else, he is intensely loyal to people who support him.

RFD could make out well. Imus historically has earned much more ad revenue than show hosts with much bigger audiences like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Those hosts don’t earn as much because they attract a far lower income, lower educated audience. Advertisers are also skittish about being touted on a show that is apt to make fun of disabled celebrities (Michael J. Fox) or blather harsh, juvenile, awful vitriol against politicians like Hillary Clinton. The difference between Imus and Hannity has been that Hannity aims at anyone who he disagrees with, or any Democrat. he haas a political agenda that is usually simple-minded, and, as I said, juvenile. Imus, while juvenile at times, would reserve his harsh barbs for pols, who, for example, were behaving stupidly or hypocritically, or opposed an autism research bill he backed.

Will the advertisers respond? Citadel wouldn’t have struck a deal with Imus if they hadn’t first polled advertisers. At first, it will probably be a stream of bed, cough-drop and independent beverage companies. Then, as the show gets traction, the bigger advertisers will assess whether to jump in.

Judging from comments and e-mail I have received over the last several months, and what I have heard in my travels, the audience will return for Imus. The substitutes have been less than wonderful. I don’t think this is going to be like Dan Rather going to HDNet. Rather was already well on his way to being irrelevant before he left CBS. It’s not as if he was on top of the world, and all his fans were going to follow him to a mostly unknown channel.

Imus…December 3 on WABC-AM and other radio channels, and the RFD channel. Saddle up, but it could be a bumpy ride.

Reader Comments


November 26, 2007 3:42 PM

Wow, you don't expect to find someone who blogs about marketing taking shots at Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. Kiley, there are educated people who make a lot of money who listen to Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Hannity and don't prefer Mrs. Clinton and her ilk. And for that matter, if I wanted political or social commentary, I would have read a political blog, not a marketing blog.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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