Tags: O'Reilly | Spins | Into | Limbaugh | Radioland | May

O'Reilly Spins Into Limbaugh Radioland May 8

Sunday, 05 May 2002 12:00 AM

Kicking off Wednesday, May 8, "The Radio Factor With Bill O'Reilly" will go nationwide, with affiliate stations in 44 of 50 top-ranked radio markets, according to Westwood One, a major radio programming company affiliated with Viacom, Inc.

Westwood says it expects as many as 15 million listeners to tune in weekly.

But experts in the radio industry tell NewsMax that number may be a very high estimate, and suggest O'Reilly will likely draw a healthy 2 to 4 million weekly listeners.

Limbaugh, who is heard in every major market and is the main talk show for those markets, draws 15 to 20 million weekly listeners.

Still, O'Reilly does have some strong backing. His new program is a joint venture with Westwood One and Fox News – which now beats CNN in the ratings, making Fox the cable news powerhouse.

"Bill O'Reilly is a star," says Westwood One president Joel Hollander. "He is host of the country's most-watched cable news program, a best-selling author, and is now bringing his winning style to radio."

Unlike Limbaugh's classic three-hour, one-man show, featuring the "Limbaugh Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies," the two-hour "Radio Factor" will have guests and a rotating female co-host.

"It's very important to have women on the show," says O'Reilly. "My first invitation has been to Hillary Clinton."

According to O'Reilly, his show, which will beam out to 200 stations, is independent in viewpoint rather than conservative and will zero in on social issues rather than politics. There will also be an advice call-in segment at the end of each show.

"It's not going to be a political show. We're going to take the hottest story from 'The O'Reilly Factor' and get everybody in the country and work to get in their views," O'Reilly says.

O'Reilly adds, "If Rush has any problems with this, let us know, because we respect him. We were told he likes the competition. He feels it's good for everyone. And if we're half as successful as he is, we will be very pleased."

But there is more than politics separating the competitors.

Limbaugh's audience is 54 percent male, while O'Reilly's tube audience is typically half female. O'Reilly also has a track record of attracting high-end advertisers.

The national slots on the Limbaugh program are consistently sold out, but not typically by the blue chip financial, automotive and pharmaceutical advertisers O'Reilly seeks to haul over from his TV enterprise.

Syndicated since 1988 and the most popular program on the air with about 20 million listeners on about 600 stations, Limbaugh has faced competition before.

"For the better part of 14 years, Rush has faced tough competition in every market," says Kraig T. Kitchin, president of Premiere Radio Networks, an arm of Clear Channel Communications, Inc., which airs Limbaugh. "Bill O'Reilly is one more entrant along that line."

But O'Reilly figures to be the toughest competition yet, making the transition to radio backed by "The Factor," which attracts 3 to 3.5 million viewers a day. Like Limbaugh, he has also penned best sellers.

Still, O'Reilly will have several obstacles to clear if he wants to challenge Limbaugh.

First, O'Reilly may have positioned himself well for TV as an independent. But talk radio is unabashedly conservative and Rush's credentials are rock solid on the "Reagan Index" – the key issues conservatives like to believe and advocate.

Also, O'Reilly's broadcast will not air live on New York's WOR, but will broadcast hours later on tape delay. Radio industry insiders say success in New York is usually required for a nationwide rollout, and that the tape delay on WOR will hinder his ability to compete.

A third difficulty facing O'Reilly is finding strong affiliates. Many of the top talk stations in major markets are owned by the same company that owns Rush's syndicator, Premiere.

O'Reilly's most significant affiliate outside New York is KABC in Los Angeles. Unlike New York, O'Reilly is set to go live against Rush in L.A.

L.A. may turn out to be the real battleground for the competition between Rush and O'Reilly. If O'Reilly can beat Rush in the ratings there, other talk stations around the nation may be swayed to take O'Reilly.

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Kicking off Wednesday, May 8, The Radio Factor With Bill O'Reilly will go nationwide, with affiliate stations in 44 of 50 top-ranked radio markets, according to Westwood One, a major radio programming company affiliated with Viacom, Inc. Westwood says it expects as many...
Sunday, 05 May 2002 12:00 AM
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