Media Mailbag: Bongino-Rush; Fox News 7 PM; ESPN-NHL

Well, hello, mailbag readers. It has been a crazy past couple of months, and there was no better time to bring back the OutKick Media Mailbag. Thanks to all those who DMed me questions.

I picked three to dive into:

"Can anyone actually replace Rush? Isn't Bongino taking a career risk trying to?"

The first question is easy: no.

As for the second question: no, I do not see this as a major career risk for Dan Bongino at all. He's also not exactly "replacing" Rush. Bongino is moving to his time slot and will take over many of the Cumulus stations. He has little to lose.

No one single host will replace Rush, but a variety of different options will try to fill the void. Bongino is one of them. Dana Loesch, who just re-signed for three more years with Radio America, is another. Premiere Networks, Limbaugh's syndicator, says it plans to keep his voice on radio posthumously for now. Some stations will go local, and other radio syndicators could get involved.

Now, on the topic of Bongino moving to 12-3 on radio -- we reported all the details here -- I expect him to have success. As several sources told me while reporting on the story, he's an obvious choice for some Rush listeners to move to.

Rush's listeners are more familiar with Bongino than any other potential option not named Sean Hannity or Mark Levin (who did not want to move time slots). In a trickle-down effect, Rush listeners got to know Hannity and Levin, then Hannity and Levin's listeners got to know Bongino through their support.

Rush's audience is well aware of Hannity's Fox News program, a show Rush appeared on, talked about regularly, and encouraged his listeners to watch. Bongino is a frequent contributor on Hannity — which helps.

Bongino also isn't coming deep from the bench. He's the second-most listened to conservative podcaster, and with ownership in Rumble and Parler and a top-performing Facebook page, as influential on social media as anyone in news media. I'd be surprised if this doesn't go well for Westwood One and Bongino.

Finally, it is 2021, and success means more than just affiliates. This goes for Bongino and most other radio hosts. Look at what Colin Cowherd did in the sports space. He turned a radio show into a multi-media show, drawing numbers via radio, podcasting, TV, and online clips. Whether it's Bongino or another host, the "winner" of the post-Rush race may depend on several factors. Dana Loesch has 200 affiliates but also streams her show with The First TV. Charlie Kirk is live from 12-3, but is widely consumed on YouTube and from the show's podcast stream. Sources tell OutKick that Bongino can take a potential video version of his radio show to a streaming partner.

Keep this in mind: a news-talk radio host can have tremendous success and never sniff Rush Limbaugh's terrestrial radio resume.

"Love the scoops on FOX News at 7 pm. My mailbag question is: will the losing tryout hosts just go back to normal roles after they make a pick? What's your prediction, who gets it?

Good question. Obviously, so much is still up in the air, including the pick and timing.

Person-by-person, Trey Gowdy is the most interesting case. Should he NOT get the role, and he's making a strong case, he has opened enough eyes that it's plausible to think Fox News could look to use his momentum beyond his current role as a contributor and podcast host. Based on all metrics since the start, the viewers like Gowdy. His two weeks rank first and second, with his second stint beating his lead-in by averaging over 2 million viewers. If he's not the pick, he could be an easy sell for the 10 pm Saturday show, the one Greg Gutfeld is leaving, as we reported. It remains unclear what FNC will do with the Saturday night opening.

The others make sense as status-quo. Brian Kilmeade has Fox & Friends, his radio show, TV hits, and Fox Nation assignments. Maria Bartiromo, too, has a long list of roles. Mark Steyn, I'd expect much of the same, including his roles outside of FNC.

Fox News is high on Katie Pavlich. She has a bright future at the network and will elevate regardless of the decision. And Lawrence Jones and Rachel Campos-Duffy contribute across the channel.

To your second question: I try to stay away from predictions. Too many factors are still in play. But I'll continue to say what I've said: Trey Gowdy has impressed people.

Maybe I'll make a prediction at some point. 

"Will the NHL right deals elevate any talents?"

It is only one deal right now. The second network has not been announced.

ESPN getting the NHL is good for, well, the names everyone has named over and over again: Steve Levy, John Buccigross, Linda Cohn, and Barry Melrose. I'm not sure how much it "elevates" them, but it gives them added value and security. (Assuming ESPN uses them.)

Leah Hextall, who is featured on ESPN's college hockey coverage, could certainly grow if she were to call games for the network's coverage. Emily Kaplan isn't hurt by the move, either.

More than anything, the deal is best for someone not yet at ESPN. When ESPN acquires a sport, it tends to bolster its coverage of the sport. The network brought in Ariel Helwani upon receiving the UFC, and could try to do the same with the NHL. Though there's not a marquee name like Helwani for the NHL out there, as of now.

Follow Bobby Burack on Twitter.


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Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.