Approaching his 20th anniversary as talk radio’s most dominant force, Rush Limbaugh has signed a lucrative new deal with Premiere Radio Networks that will keep him on the air until 2016.
Premiere wouldn’t disclose details on Wednesday, but Limbaugh told The New York Times in an article to be published Sunday that he would be getting a nine-figure signing bonus and would make about $38 million a year.
Limbaugh’s three-hour show, broadcast from his office in Florida, is heard on some 600 radio stations across the country. More than 14 million people listen to him at least once a week, according to Talkers magazine. Sean Hannity is second with more than 13 million listeners.
“This is exactly where I want to be, doing what I was born to do, with an amazing audience and phenomenal support from affiliate stations and sponsors,” Limbaugh said in a statement. “I’m having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have.”
He declined an interview request from The Associated Press.
Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” this year showed his continuing influence in political discourse. He urged his listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton to keep the Democratic nomination fight going in the hopes of hurting Barack Obama.
Limbaugh, however, is no big fan of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, even though he prefers him to Obama. Limbaugh, 57, said in January that if McCain were nominated “it’s going to destroy the Republican Party.”
Keeping Limbaugh in the fold is crucial if radio is going to be competitive with the Internet and satellite radio, said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers.
“It shows that there’s a strong commitment on the part of one of the leading companies in our industry to remain viable for the next decade,” he said. “If radio is going to continue and to survive it’s got to do what it takes to keep its biggest players happy and exclusive to radio.”
Premiere Radio Networks, which is owned by Clear Channel Radio, is also partners with Limbaugh in “The Limbaugh Letter,” a monthly newsletter, and the Web site RushLimbaugh.com. The company also syndicates “The Rush Limbaugh Morning Update,” a 90-second commentary that airs Monday through Friday.
Charlie Rahilly, Premiere president, said advertiser and affiliate demand for Limbaugh’s show is at an all-time high.
Despite the reported big price tag, Rahilly said: “It’s a really rational decision ... It’s great for Premiere and Clear Channel.”
He said there are new media opportunities that can make the deal more lucrative in the coming years. For example, the possibility of streaming Limbaugh material on demand on the computer, or making commentaries available on wireless devices, are potential future ways to raise revenue.