This afternoon (June 21), on more than 400 stations across the country, a new era in conservative talk radio begins as Premiere Networks launches “The Clay Travis And Buck Sexton Show.” Already successful as solo talk show hosts, Travis and Sexton assume the 12-3pm timeslot held for more than three decades by Rush Limbaugh as the network aims to attract a younger audience while carrying on the tradition of the late conservative talk radio trailblazer. Inside Radio caught up with the newly-paired duo, who offer their thoughts about taking on the coveted daypart and how their show will differ from the conservative talk radio icon’s program.
What were your first thoughts and emotions when you were initially approached about taking over the noon – 3p slot?
Clay Travis: When [Premiere President] Julie Talbott first approached me, it was both overwhelming and an honor to be considered for this job at all. Rush is an absolute legend and he's the best to ever do radio. No one will ever replace him, but I knew what an honor it was to even be considered as someone who might be able to help fill his timeslot. So, it was exciting, but also a bit overwhelming, particularly because I already loved the radio show I was doing.
Buck Sexton: It was incredibly exciting and humbling at the same time. The 12-3pm time on radio – the Rush slot – is more than just a media platform, it’s an essential institution of conservative politics. Rush built his radio show into a juggernaut of news and information that changed the national conversation over the course of decades. Clay and I now seek to serve Rush’s audience and carry on the fight for this country. We will entertain and inform, but we also know the noon time slot on talk radio comes with real responsibility. This is not just a radio show, it’s a mission.
What are your plans for introducing yourselves to the audience and what channels will you use to interact with them and make them feel like they’re part of the conversation?
CT: I’m internet native. I started writing online in 2004 and my writing led to radio and TV. So, I’ve always integrated the internet, streaming and social media with radio from the moment I started my career. I think one thing Buck and I will bring is a great deal of comfort with how the internet and radio interact. And certainly, the website I run, Outkick.com, will be a big part of helping to get the word out about the new show as well. What I’ve always found is there are a ton of people who want to interact with a radio show and aren’t able to call, but I think most people can find a way to interact on social with us and with the show. We want to give as many people as possible a voice in our show and I think we will be able to do that.
BS: I’ve always been highly accessible to my audience. Before I had ever hosted a terrestrial radio show, I was doing a streaming online program and podcast at TheBlaze.com. This was back in 2012, mind you, when there were far fewer podcasters on the scene. Because I couldn’t take live calls at that time, I began to live Tweet my show. Then I asked for people to write in on Facebook too. I would respond to them in real time – often during commercial breaks – and I always got a kick out of the thousands of “Is this really you writing back?” messages over the years.
Now, Clay and I will be doing a radio show with a full spectrum digital approach. That means using social media, streaming video and of course some live telephone calls, so the audience knows that they are very much a part of the program and their feedback is constantly guiding us.
How will you deal with longtime Rush listeners that compare your show to his?
CT: We aren’t replacing Rush. We are doing a new show inspired by Rush. That’s a big difference. We’re going to continue to fight the battles that Rush fought, but no one will ever be Rush – now or ever. So, I don’t really worry about the comparisons. We will do the best show we can possibly do and I think it will be a pretty damn good show. And I hope the long-time Rush listeners will come to enjoy us as they enjoyed him as well.
BS: Anyone who listens to us will know that we have enormous respect for Rush, and we don’t think we’re “filling his shoes” or “replacing him.” Clay and I will both feel deeply honored just to be on the EIB every day. We also hope that Rush’s most devoted listeners will give us a shot before they come to any conclusions. I think some of them will be surprised by how much they enjoy and learn from the content Clay and I will provide.
Does being part of a two-person show lighten the pressure at all of following – but not replacing – the guy that invented conservative talk radio?
CT: The goal is the same no matter how many people have access to the mic – do the best show possible. I’ve done shows with three guys on the mic before and for the past six years, I’ve done solo radio. Those shows have different dynamics, but the same goal – do the best radio show possible. I think the pressure, candidly, would be the same no matter how many people were on the mic.
BS: Our focus is to create the best show possible and attract the largest audience in talk radio. Clay and I have both had success building followings on radio, and speaking for myself at least, starting from very humble beginnings in the business. The format of two hosts doesn’t change the essentials. Do we create value for the audience every day? Does our passion for this medium translate into a satisfied and growing listenership? One host or two, that’s all that matters.
How will you balance the show to appeal to longtime Rush listeners as well as the audiences that come over from each of your respective shows?
CT: Every day I try to focus on four goals whether it’s for writing, TV, or radio: be smart, be original, be funny and be authentic. I’ve found if you can manage to provide that to an audience, no matter their age and no matter whether they are on radio, TV, or the internet, it works. So, I’ll have the same goal I always have, deliver on those four targets every day.
BS: Many Rush listeners will be familiar with my voice, as I became a regular fill-in for him starting back in 2014. They understand the level of preparation and dedication I bring to every radio show. As for the audience, from the five years of my syndicated 6-9pm show, many of them were also Rush listeners earlier in the day. So, there’s a lot of crossover already, and a comfort level.
Any elements you’ll carry over from your previous shows?
CT: We will be talking about the biggest stories in America. Sometimes those will be sports stories. Not always, not even every week, but sometimes I will still be diving into sports like I’ve done on my show the past six years.
BS: I care about depth and like to emphasize political philosophy and history. I want people who listen to me to feel like they’ve learned something new – and useful – every time they tune in. When there’s a chance to go deep on a topic, I’ll make sure that everyone listening will get more from me and Clay than they would from an hour-long cable news program that touches the same topic in one segment.
What should we expect in terms of entertainment value and topic mix?
CT: Our goal is pretty straightforward; we want to have the smartest and most entertaining show in radio. That’s a high bar, but that’s the goal. So, you should expect to hear a show that sounds like what Americans are discussing every day, be it politics, pop culture, sports or current events. Whatever the biggest topics are, we’ll be there every day. Given that Buck and I are both relatively young, we expect to connect with a large group. We are squarely in the middle of the 25-54 demo. I'm a dad of three young kids, so I'm talking to a lot of people with lifestyles similar to mine no matter where they might live.
BS: The serious ex-CIA guy will surprise folks. There are some “characters” – impressions of Dr. Fauci, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and others – who will likely be making regular appearances (but don’t tell Clay, I want it to be a surprise for him and the audience). I do a lot of serious political analysis on air, so I find it really refreshing to mix it up with some humor and good fun. We might even bring back “Action Movie Quote Fridays.”
The competition for the noon to 3p slot has certainly heated up. What do you guys bring to the conversation that will make your show unique?
CT: I don’t really worry about anyone else because we can’t control what they do. From an audience perspective, I want as much good radio out there as possible because it’s good for the industry. But all we can do is put out the best show we can every day. And if we do that, which I think we will, I believe we’ll have one of the biggest, if not the biggest, audiences in all of media.
BS: Clay and I are focused on doing the best show possible. We have a lawyer, successful entrepreneur, and extremely talented sports radio host teaming up with a former spy who loves mimicry, goes on long rants about 16th century naval warfare and is more at home behind a radio mic than pretty much anywhere else on earth. Trust me when I tell you, it’s never going to be boring.
How will “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” break the formula and change the sound of talk radio?
CT: That’s a long-term answer for a show that starts Monday. I’ve found that if you focus on long range goals sometimes you miss the daily objective, which is to do better each day at your job than you did the day before. And I’m confident we’re going to do that. When you string a lot of good days together, you start to make a real difference in the world. I saw us do that with Outkick both on the internet and in sports radio and I’m confident we’ll do the same with the new radio show starting Monday. Come hang and judge for yourself how we’re changing the radio game.
BS: We plan on being the most impactful duo to have ever taken the mic on talk radio. But let’s revisit that in 10 years. Right now, Clay and I just want everyone who can to tune in and see what the noise is about. It’s going to be fun.