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Les Moonves

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Autor:  anton  18 July 2011
Tags:  Moonves
Words: 666   |   Pages: 3
Views: 255

Les Moonves is known to be highly committed to the success of CBS and equally concerned about his own image. Moonves fired Imus, his critics say, not out of any sense of social justice but only after it became clear that Imus was becoming a liability to the network and a personal embarrassment to Moonves (Moonves’s detractors note that he only cut Imus loose after seeing his rival Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Universal, release Imus from his MSNBC simulcast). Firing Imus was supposed to be an unqualified win for Moonves and the network. Yes, there would be a short-term revenue hit, but top advertisers were already dropping out, and others were threatening to follow suit. By firing Imus, Moonves could prevent further damage to the network and come out looking like a man of principle.

Only it hasn’t quite worked out that way. After Imus was fired, the ground under Moonves began shifting. WFAN started losing money. A lot of it. “Imus used to sell spots for $1,500 that are now going for, like, $200,” one source says. While in the months before Imus’s firing his ratings weren’t where they used to be, the elite demographics of his audience meant he was still printing money for his bosses. “He was like a golf tournament toward the end,” says John Mainelli, a radio-industry consultant who until recently was the program director for a CBS-owned radio station. “He didn’t have big numbers, but he had so-called �quality’ numbers, politicians and high-income people.”

The station tried replacements for months, but none seemed to work. There were conspiracy theories that some of the folks at WFAN who had always disagreed with the decision to can Imus weren’t trying very hard to replace him. Fill-ins like Geraldo Rivera and John McEnroe didn’t generate much by way of excitement or ratings. In July, WFAN celebrated the station’s twentieth anniversary by running a “Best of Imus” clip show, during which Mike Francesa, the popular co-host of “Mike and the Mad Dog,” thanked Imus and said twice that he hoped that, come September, they will “be a complete team” again. In a Daily News online poll conducted in late June, 94 percent of respondents supported Imus’s reinstatement.

Perhaps more than anything, it was the lawsuit that changed things. No one at CBS will confirm it had an effect, but after it was filed, network executives began considering the unthinkable: bringing Imus back. Giving Imus his old job wouldn’t just help restore WFAN’s morning ratings—it would quite possibly cost less than having to go to court with Imus. What if, instead of fighting, CBS renegotiated to take Imus back at, say, half the $40 million? Or even a third? “They desperately need the revenue,” says Mainelli. “This is no secret. Les Moonves has said he loves the cash flow that radio provides, but it’s no secret he thinks there ought to be a lot more of it.”

What about the protesters? Wouldn’t the same tsunami of anti-Imus forces regather? Wouldn’t the advertisers boycott? Perhaps. But then Al Sharpton started telling reporters that he, at least, wasn’t necessarily against the idea of Imus’s coming back on the air. “The demand was he be fired from a job he routinely abused,” Sharpton told me in July. “There was never a sense that he be removed from making a living.” Where Sharpton goes, advertisers might follow: The door, it seemed, was cracked open.

Imus, his friends say, is burning to get back on the air. He wants to be a part of the conversation again, especially now. “He’d like to be around for the presidential race,” says Bob Sherman. He also feels pressure to sustain his charity work and to support Deirdre, who has benefited from Imus’s radio plugs for her line of ecoproducts and her own charitable causes. What a comeback is really all about for Imus, though, is not letting “nappy-headed hos” be his career epitaph. “He certainly doesn’t want to end on that note,” says a friend.

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