The Spectacle Blog

Hannity Radio Surges

By on 2.23.14 | 9:11PM

Last year there was a dustup over Sean Hannity’s radio contract and his decision to make some changes in his radio show arrangements.

Much discussed in the media (as here and in a column of my own here) at the time, there were the usual Hannity enemies who crowed that It Was All Over For Sean.

Well….wrong. As a matter of fact, laughably wrong.

The change-over of radio stations took effect in January and the results are in. Hannity's ratings are surging, while the numbers of his replacement (Michael Savage) in the major markets of New York (where he shifted to WOR from WABC) to Los Angeles and San Francisco, are plummeting.

But…hello? Over there at Politico and elsewhere there seems to be some… ahhhh… confusion . Whether this is the result of anti-Hannity sentiments (!) or a lack of understanding of how talk radio works, let’s get the actual facts out there. Let’s sort it out.

The Nielsen ratings are in, and lo and behold, Savage’s audience is melting away. Without getting too in-the-weeds here, the comparison that follows is between January of 2013 — last year — and the same period, January of this year, 2014. Nielsen measures ratings by “AQH” — Average Quarter Hour.

What does Nielsen report?

For example, in New York, where Hannity switched from WABC to WOR, the percent change in the WOR audience for Hannity’s time slot has been straight up. In, for example, the always sought after 25-54 demographic Hannity’s numbers have jumped by 22% — while over at WABC, where Savage has his old time slot, Savage has dropped 34.9% in the same demographic. This pattern is repeated in other cities where Savage has replaced Hannity. In Dallas, for example, Savage has dropped 40%, while Hannity is quadrupling his new station’s ratings. Hannity is beating his old stations — KABC in Los Angeles, and as mentioned, WABC in New York.

There’s more, but the essence is that when Sean leaves a station, the numbers show that the station’s numbers go down. When he is added to a station, the numbers for that station go through the roof. Talk radio being an exercise in capitalism it should be noted that Hannity has maintained the dollars coming in— and in fact that number is going up as well.

In fact, it takes time to build a radio audience and over his radio career Hannity has built a famously considerable — and conservative —audience. When he departed these stations, his replacement — that would be Michael Savage — inherited the audience. But there was an obvious question with, we suggested at the time, an obvious answer. Would the Hannity audience stay put — or follow Sean? We have made what seemed like the obvious case — the Hannity audience will follow Hannity.

So now the Nielsen numbers are in. And as predicted here, Hannity is romping home. And Savage is struggling to hold on to that Hannity audience, spending his time fuming about Hannity or Ronald Reagan, calling the founding fathers “slave-holding demagogues” and the rest. Is it any wonder Hannity’s audience is running from the exits of Savage conservatism? Meanwhile, Rome not being built in a day, Hannity is patiently building up his new stations.

It is a fact of life that there are all manner of people out there who wish Hannity would just go away, and so spend their time regularly predicting his demise. On radio or over at Fox. In truth, they play the same game with Rush. Whether the reasons are political or competitive, the hard fact here is that these people have proved themselves to be wrong with regularity. Not to wax Mark Twainish, but the reports of Sean Hannity's radio or TV demise have been, shall we say, greatly exaggerated.

The new Nielsens make the point all over again. Hannity’s brand of Reagan conservatism — up beat and people oriented — has a huge audience. Typically, he’s currently engaged in his own version of a jobs program, the Hannity Get America Back to Work campaign for his listeners struggling in the Obama economy. In which he connects his jobless and hurting listeners to companies hiring big time in the booming energy sector in places like North Dakota or Texas. Is there a wonder the Hannity audience is loyal?

When will Sean Hannity leave radio?

When Sean Hannity decides he wants to leave radio.

And not before.

The wishful thinking of his enemies to the contrary.

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