Rush Limbaugh was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in February 2020, but it wasn’t until the broadcasting giant died a year later that Premiere Networks had to finally act on the immeasurable void in the industry and, specifically, its midday slot.
Rush’s program continued on with “Best of” shows, but behind-the-scenes plans were taking hold for Limbaugh’s successor.
In May, Premiere announced Clay Travis and Buck Sexton would join forces to co-host the 12p-3p ET slot. Their program debuted on Monday June 21st.
“Nobody can fill Rush’s shoes,” Sexton told BNM. “But Clay took one shoe, and I took the other.”
“You’re stepping into the role of a legend,” added Travis during a separate interview with BNM. “Simultaneously, you can’t be held hostage by the past.”
Sexton was already entrenched in conservative media, filling in for Limbaugh many times during the last decade. Travis, though, was hosting morning drive on Fox Sports Radio, and growing his presence with OutKick, and FS1.
“It hasn’t been that hard for me because so much of sports became political,” Travis said. “There was a decent amount of political analysis over the past several years. The storylines [and] the issues have not changed.”
Having a built-in audience helped, but Clay and Buck exceeded their own expectations, tops in several markets including Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Memphis and Sacramento (Limbaugh’s former flagship KFBK).
“To be number one is pretty wild,” Travis admitted. “We set a new podcast record [and] one of the two or three biggest in all of iHeart.”
Although the hosts are bringing new blood to the show–Travis is 42, Sexton is 39–they have a strong work ethic and fresh approach to keeping the three-hour block entertaining and informative for listeners.
“I think it speaks to how important the issues that [Limbaugh] talked about were and how committed the audience is to Rush’s world view,” Travis said.
“In some level the pressure’s off, at least in our minds, because Rush was so widely renowned, not just the most talented in the format, but someone who really built the format in many ways,” Sexton added.
Despite being a Limbaugh relief host on numerous occasions, Sexton acknowledged he never met or spoke to Rush. The Limbaugh influence on Sexton came as millions of others listened to the radio titan.
No Training Wheels
While “Clay and Buck” may have their own take on the issues important to the majority of the audience, the Limbaugh lineage is present with his former staff staying behind to forge a future with Travis and Sexton.
“It’s an incredible honor to his legacy,” shared Travis.
It was Julie Talbott, president of Premiere Networks, who had the foresight to team Sexton and Travis on the 400+ stations.
“We had our own solo shows, so there were probably thousands of hours of us out there. Julie managed us and was both of our bosses,” Travis said. “There were no training wheels here.”
“Clay is a great talent, a true professional [and] a super smart guy,” Sexton said of his co-host. “We’re both sort of put in this position…We’re both going to make it happen.”
Both hosts are proud of the show’s performance over the opening six months.
“I think we’re doing one of the best radio shows that exists anywhere in the country,” Travis said.
While it was direct ascent to the coveted show for Sexton, Travis had to switch formats to make it work. However, regardless of the format or topic, once you are consciously aware of what you are trying to be, “I think that filters into your own authenticity,” said Travis.
The OutKick founder places Limbaugh and Howard Stern as the greatest of the generation, who “consistently educate and entertain their audience in a way that’s better than almost anybody out there.
While Sexton and Travis may have come from different avenues, each enjoying success as solo performers, it’s their connection as a team that’s made the difference.
“It certainly takes a bit of a change of pace,” said Sexton. “You have to get used to the rhythms of having a co-host.”
Since Sexton and Travis have found their best way to format the lunchtime show, listeners will be without the dramatics. There’s no fist-pounding or screaming for controversies.
“We’re both providing different insights, but also a more conversational and relaxed feel,” shared Sexton. “We really want everyone listening to the show to feel like they’re the third person sitting at the table.”
The tandem also has other projects keeping them busy. Travis remains heavily involved with OutKick, the brand he founded, which produces a mixture of sports, news, gambling, and pop culture content. Sexton meanwhile remains connected to television, hosting a daily one-hour show on The First, a conservative digital network.
“It’s good to keep those TV skills sharp and have that opportunity to reach additional audiences beyond the radio show,” Sexton said.
The duo has not shied away from topics that hit nerves and resonate with most, especially the pandemic and mask mandates. Sexton, a former CIA analyst who spent time as a consultant for CNN, was quick to criticize his former employer and its recent decision to fire Chris Cuomo.
“I do not believe CNN is running a journalistic enterprise. I think CNN is running a propaganda enterprise under the guise of journalism. That means that their ethics, such as they are, are highly dependent on situations that benefit them,” explained Sexton. “So they’re very ethically flexible, I think we could say. The fact that CNN didn’t take action against Cuomo earlier on isn’t surprising to me at all. Eventually, it just became too embarrassing for them.”
Some have suggested, given the sexual harassment allegations that, in part, led to Cuomo’s demise, the cable outlet should hire a woman for that prime-time hour.
“It’s not that they need a woman in that time slot; their problem is: What is CNN?” Sexton contends. “Is this an objective news network? Jake Tapper presents himself as an objective journalist. To anyone who knows his work and certainly how he also operates behind the scenes—that’s fraudulent. That’s just dishonest.”
To make the most effective radio, the hosts drill down on the issues together to find the most pressing area for focus. Sexton’s CIA background has provided great training for navigating the broadcasting business.
“Taking in a tremendous amount of information and figuring out what makes sense, what makes a difference, what matters, that in many ways is the quintessential prep skill for a radio host” said Sexton.
Travis on the other hand started practicing law, after graduating from Vanderbilt University. He then ventured into writing, and local radio before arriving on the national circuit.
Though they go out of their way to bring facts to the forefront and see many things in a similar light, Clay and Buck do share a few differences.
“We don’t agree on everything,” Sexton cautioned. “Clay is a converted Conservative. I’m a Conservative since I was probably 15 years old.”
Whether they agree on taking calls or not is a different issue. The show hasn’t done a lot of it, although they are in constant communication with the audience thru social media and make it a point to share messages on the show.
“We want Liberals to listen. We want Democrats to listen, people that disagree with us strongly, we’d rather they hear our version of why Conservatism is correct on a certain issue or why maybe we’re a little ambivalent or some things than what they might get elsewhere,” Sexton said.
The show itself is put together remotely. Sexton is based in Manhattan, Travis is in Nashville. Though that could create challenges for some, both say it hasn’t interfered with the on-air product.
“The technology is such that I don’t think anybody out there listening can even tell,” Travis added, although they are upfront with the audience about it. “Frankly, it’s basically the same, to me, seamlessness, whether we’re in the same studio [or not]. It doesn’t really seem to impact the flow of the show.”
“I think it actually adds to the show and creates a really interesting dynamic,” Sexton said. “I can see Clay in real time very clearly. We’re staring at each other’s faces on pretty large screens.”
Wherever they crack the mic, the duo in short order has built a good working relationship.
“I don’t know exactly what the phrase would be, but we talk for three hours every day, and the vast majority of it is public,” said Travis. “We’re constantly texting and sharing stories, interacting, basically all day, so, we have a great relationship.”
Sexton echoed a similar sentiment, pointing out that the two hosts share a strong work ethic.
“I will do the absolute maximum workload that I can to create the most successful shows and put out the best content I can,” Sexton said. “Clay Travis is an absolute machine as well. I’ve found that [he’s] one of the only people in the entire media industry that I’ve come across who puts in the hours, the effort and energy that I do.”
Biden, Harris Jan. 6 Speeches Deliver Viewers To All 3 Networks
“Fox News was first overall, drawing 1.44 million total viewers and 215,000 of the audience in the key 25-54 demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC was a close runner-up in total viewers with 1.31 million.”
Marking the start of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris, followed by President Joe Biden. Harris stated, “On Jan. 6, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful — the lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.” In Biden’s speech, he said “At this moment, we must decide what kind of nation are we going to be… Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth, but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth, to live by it.“
Both speeches occurred in the 9-10 a.m. Eastern hour on Jan. 6. The rankings according to viewer figures among the cable news networks were, once again, similar to those of recent news events. Fox News Channel was first overall, drawing 1.44 million total viewers and 215,000 of the audience in the key 25-54 demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC was a close runner-up in total viewers with 1.31 million.
The window for CNN’s coverage went from 8:45 a.m. to 10:28 a.m. ET; while more precise data for the speeches themselves were not made available, the time period offered was still enough to achieve cable news’ runner-up spot in adults 25-54. CNN drew 187,000 in the demo while MSNBC did 182,000.
CNN delivered their most-watched hours of their week (ending Jan. 9) in the hours following Biden’s speech. Within the time frame of 10:28 a.m. to noon Eastern, which included a 22-minute speech by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the network averaged 1.25 million total viewers and 238,000 adults 25-54. Still, Fox News Channel topped those figures; from 10 a.m. to noon, they averaged 1.74 million total viewers with 272,000 adults 25-54. For FNC, the week marked 21 consecutive weeks in which they outdrew CNN and MSNBC combined according to total day data.
The Weather Channel achieved its highest rated week since the week ending Sep. 5, 2021 (Hurricane Ida). Winter Storm Garrett swept from Colorado to Maine, helping bring more than 6 inches of snow to parts of the Tennessee Valley and the Northeast. Snow totals have ranged from 2 to 5 inches in the Washington, D.C. to Baltimore to Philadelphia corridor to close to 10 inches at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and in southern Connecticut; the five boroughs of New York City received snow levels in-between. Most of the channel’s top hours occurred between the 8-11 a.m. ET time period from Jan. 3-7.
Cable news averages for January 3-9, 2022:
Total Day (January 3-9 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.408 million viewers; 223,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.746 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.548 million viewers; 113,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.196 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.191 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.161 million viewers; 39,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.121 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.105 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (January 3-8 @ 8-11 p.m.; January 9 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.303 million viewers; 365,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.284 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.705 million viewers; 153,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.227 million viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.206 million viewers; 66,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.218 million viewers; 47,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.142 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.053 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.606 million viewers
2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.576 million viewers
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.515 million viewers
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.382 million viewers
5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.365 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.330 million viewers
7. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.311 million viewers
8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.279 million viewers
9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.125 million viewers
10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.953 million viewers
18. Rachel Maddow Show “Democracy In Peril 1/6 Anniversary” (MSNBC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.444 million viewers
133. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Thu. 1/6/2022 10:28 AM, 32 min.) 1.260 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.620 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.576 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.565 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.557 million adults 25-54
5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.502 million adults 25-54
6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.487 million adults 25-54
7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.486 million adults 25-54
8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54
10. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.472 million adults 25-54
22. Rachel Maddow Show “Democracy In Peril 1/6 Anniversary” (MSNBC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.359 million adults 25-54
65. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Fri. 1/7/2022 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.255 million adults 25-54
177. Forensic Files “Time Will Tell” (HLN, late Sat. 1/8/2022 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.155 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Dave Ramsey and Those Evil Millionaires
Ramsey spent some time discussing a recent New York Times article, which was pushing the moral need to “abolish millionaires.”
Readers got another strong shot of common sense for their dollars and cents last week from the radio host known for delivering it in daily doses over the years.
During last week’s launch week for his new book, Baby Steps Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth – and How You Can Too, author and radio host, Dave Ramsey, took to the airwaves to share the underlying philosophy of his newest hit.
“We launched this book in the middle of a society where a portion of the people are out there; I call them the hope stealers. Their job is to steal your hope,” Ramsey began. “Their job is to tell you that the society, the culture, the country that we live in is so broken that the little man can’t get ahead. You stand no chance unless you inherit it from a rich uncle. You can’t make it; we need socialism. We need wealth redistribution. Wealthy people are evil anyway, and so they should be punished.”
Ramsey spent some time discussing a recent New York Times article, which was pushing the moral need to “abolish millionaires.” To Ramsey, this is anathema. After all, the radio host has made a name for himself, as well as created thousands of jobs through his multi-million dollar business by becoming the financial voice for the “little man.” He began small, became a millionaire, lost it all through bankruptcy, and then prospered much more than before through the reliance on true, Biblical financial principles.
“A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes,” Ramsey quoted the story. “It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society. Billionaires should not exist. When American capitalism sends us its billionaires, it’s not sending us its best. It’s sending us people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing their problems with them. They’re bringing inequality.”
Ramsey pointed out the apparent case of jealousy and envy.
“Two evil character traits of anyone who is one with money. Money is evil; money is bad. If you get money, you are evil, and you are bad,” Ramsey said. “You should have it taken away from you and given to someone else….so that they are evil and bad, I guess. I never thought about that part. If we give it out, is it not a problem for the poor people that get it. I mean, if it’s bad, maybe we should just centralize it with a few people and destroy them instead of giving it to other people. That’s kind of illogical. The critical thinking breaks down on this, doesn’t it?”
And as usual, Ramsey didn’t hold back what he thought. As he has said countless times, he’s an “expert on his own opinion.”
“I’m old. When I was young, we called those communists,” he said. “This is straight-up Marxism.” He then referenced Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s policy adviser, who said “every billionaire we have is because of a policy failure” and that “a moral society needs guardrails against it.”
Co-host John Delony, questioning the logic of the extreme leftist logic Ramsey was referencing, asked a real-world question to test the integrity of the socialist theory.
“I’m just thinking of the first guy that popped into my head, everybody’s favorite target – Elon Musk comes up with a cool computer program and sells it for a lot of money. Helps a lot of people do a lot of things. Then he develops a car and a battery. What’s the inherent evil there? I’m perplexed by the argument,” Delony said.
“It’s not logical; it’s not critical thinking skills. Marxism never is,” Ramsey answered, cutting through the propaganda. “What ends up happening is that the whole thing is about vilifying wealth and the wealthy so that we can do a power grab and move the money around and get credit for it. It’s a power grab thing. That’s generally what’s at the core of Marxism or these kinds of things all along.”
As Ramsey has been saying for years, and studies support, the wealthy lead all income earners in consistent giving.
“In the real world, the most generous people on the planet are the wealthy,” Ramsey noted. “This is actual data, not theory, not political rhetoric that’s trying to beat a drum. But the actual data says that wealthy people feed more starving children than not-wealthy people.”
“88 percent gave to a charity in 2020,” Delony pointed out, referencing a survey of 1626 households with a net worth of at least a million dollars.
“Millionaires, there they are again!” Ramsey chimed.
The NFL Weathered the Storm, Fans Once Again Are Addicted
The NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever.
The NFL has us all wrapped around its finger.
Don’t take my word for it, just look at the numbers. As we get set for the NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, we are nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever.
The NFL’s regular season viewership rose 10%, which is a bounce-back from a 7% drop in 2020.
About 17.1 million viewers tuned in to regular season games on TV and online. It was the highest regular season audience for the NFL since 2015, according to a statement from the league. With the audience for traditional TV falling, NFL games continue to dominate the ratings, ranking as 91 of the top 100 telecasts this season, the league said.
So what happened?
Well first we need to look backwards: 2020 was a perfect storm. The NFL did go political to a degree, adding “social justice” phrases to the end zones and the backs of players’ helmets. It was not as in-your-face as what the NBA did, but it was noticeable. It bothered a portion of fans who may have temporarily stepped away from watching football in a boycott. Add to that an incredibly tense 2020 election season, along with being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was natural to expect to see a decrease in viewership.
Oh, and let’s be honest, the mostly empty stadiums were just ghoulish.
But the NFL weathered the storm. Because that’s what it does. It’s the best product on TV and it’s brought many back into the fold as things have gotten back to normal in 2021.
It’s also why I never boycotted the league. First off, I knew I wouldn’t last long. We all need outlets from the insanity of the news cycle. I knew myself too well. And if I was going to boycott, I was going to do it right. I never thought I could do an NFL boycott “right”.
Was that weak of me? I know I certainly took the backlash from some of my listeners. But based on the ratings numbers we are seeing this week, it seems like many who were tough talkers in 2020 have quietly come back to the league with their tail between their legs.
For the record, I’m OK with that. I won’t be admonishing anyone over it. The NFL puts on a first-class product. And let’s be honest, the NFL knew that they could toe the line of doing “enough” on the social justice front to appease those requesting it, while allowing time to heal wounds of those not wanting it, and not hemorage their audience in any significant way.
It turns out the NFL was right. Once again. We can’t get enough. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. And we’ll be tuned in starting with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday.
So as we get ready for another season of NFL Playoffs, there’s no conversation around politics infringing on the product and the league is dominating TV ratings in a way no other sport or show is coming close to duplicating.
The NFL weathered the storm, the stadiums are full, fans are back, and we’re all, once again, addicted.
It’s OK to admit it. I am. Will you?
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