Despite the rocky start of his liberal Air America radio network, political humorist Al Franken surged past conservative nemesis Bill O'Reilly in the first quarterly ratings matchup between the two in New York City.
But conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh beat them both.
Arbitron reported Tuesday that "The Al Franken Show," airing weekdays on WLIB-AM, attracted more than double the number of 25-to-54-year-0ld listeners who tuned in to O'Reilly's "The Radio Factor" on WOR-AM during the hour when the two go head to head in New York.
O'Reilly did slightly better than Franken in the broader demographic of all listeners ages 12 and up.
"The Majority Report," the nightly Air America show co-hosted by actress-comedian Janeane Garofalo, was the top-rated AM radio program in New York during the 8-to-11 p.m. time slot.
Franken launched Air America amid much fanfare March 31 as a liberal radio alternative to a predominantly right-leaning talk show culture whose ranks include such personalities as Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and O'Reilly.
But the network ran into management and financial troubles, including unpaid debts for sales forces it hired in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but was forced to let go after backing out on plans to lease radio stations in those markets.
With a new group of executives in charge and investors committing more capital, network insiders have said the venture is bouncing back, recently adding stations in Miami and Northampton, Mass. Air America now claims 17 stations nationwide, plus a presence on the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks.