Dan Bongino to take Rush Limbaugh's time slot as radio syndication giants battle for his listeners

Of course, nobody can replace Rush, but Westwood One, a syndicator whose parent also owns many of the biggest stations that carried the late talk show giant, is making a bid to grab his audience by moving Dan Bongino's talk show to Rush's time slot (noon to 3 P.M. Eastern) and replacing Rush in many of the top ten markets where its parent, Cumulus Media, owns the stations on which Rush appeared.

Rush's show, currently being guest-hosted, is syndicated by Premier Networks, a subsidiary of iHeartMedia, which owns more than 850 AM and FM radio stations across the nation.  Thus, the two giants of radio station ownership and syndication are about to enter a titanic battle for the biggest radio audience in modern history.


Dan Bongino on FNC 3/17/21 (YouTube screen grab, cropped).

Here is the "nut graf" of the P.R. release Westwood One put out:

CUMULUS MEDIA's Westwood One today announced The Dan Bongino Show, a new three-hour radio program airing Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET. The news and opinion show will launch May 24 in markets nationwide, including CUMULUS news stations in top-ten markets New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

And here is their description of Dan Bongino:

Dan Bongino is an American conservative radio show host, podcast host, frequent television political commentator, and New York Times-best-selling author whose books include "Life Inside the Bubble," about his career as a Secret Service agent, "The Fight: A Secret Service Agent's Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine," and "Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump." Bongino was formerly a Secret Service agent from 2006 to 2011, serving in the Obama and Bush administrations. He served as a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer from 1995 to 1999. Bongino provides expertise on international security and political strategy for outlets such as FOX News and others. Bongino holds an MBA from Penn State University, and master's and bachelor's degrees from the City University of New York.

For the moment, Premier has not added anything to its announcement a month ago about filling Rush's timeslot.  From the Wall Street Journal last February 18:

For Rush Limbaugh, the late conservative media magnate whose brash and unapologetic voice dominated talk radio for over three decades, the show will go on.

"The Rush Limbaugh Show" will continue, using archived segments and clips, primarily airing Mr. Limbaugh's voice "until his audience is prepared to say goodbye," Premiere Networks, which distributes the show, said in a memo to affiliates. It will continue to air in its regular noon to 3 p.m. time slot Monday through Friday (snip)

Mr. Limbaugh's 30 years of audio has been archived and cataloged by subject, topic and opinion, Premiere said in its memo. The show, from now on, will address the day's news using relevant clips. 

It appears to me that Westwood One saw an opportunity to grab its rival syndicator's largest audience with a smart, insightful, passionate, and very likable (at least to me) host, likely to strongly appeal to most of Rush's listeners.  As a former NYPD cop and Secret Service agent, he has a lot of experience and street cred that he brings to his commentary.

The pressure is now on Premier to come up with its own live broadcast replacement in Rush's timeslot.  Stay tuned.

Dan Bongino has made no secret of his recent bout with cancer.  Ten days ago, the Washington Examiner reported:

Conservative commentator Dan Bongino says a mass that was detected on his lungs is not a tumor just a month after completing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

After Fox News host Sean Hannity teased the good news on his show Monday evening, the 46-year-old Bongino told the Washington Examiner that he was "relieved" to hear the news.

"I had a mass in one of my lungs that was detected just weeks after completing treatment for my Hodgkin's lymphoma," he said. "After some imaging, it looks like some scarring and doesn't appear to be another tumor. I'm relieved."

The former Secret Service agent added: "I have some follow-up testing in early May to make sure there are no additional hot spots. Hoping for the best."

Bongino, who is a father and husband, has kept his large following up to speed on his health ever since announcing that a tumor was found on his neck in September. After successful surgery to remove the tumor, Bongino revealed on his radio show in October that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

In my opinion, Dan has a good chance to acquire Rush's historically unprecedented audience and keep conservatism dominant on the radio airwaves.  Congratulations to both Dan and Westwood One.  But I await Premier's livestream entry in the time slot.  Among the talk show personalities it syndicates, the obvious choice would be Sean Hannity, who gained national prominence as a Rush guest host, and whose broadcast currently streams to affiliates right after Rush, at 3 P.M. Eastern.  Will Premier move Sean up three hours and risk losing some of its key affiliates?

Stay tuned, as they say in the radio biz.  This is a cutthroat business, especially because podcasts have been eating into the broadcast radio audience for years.  If you believe that competition is healthy, then the emergence of Dan Bongino as a rival for the time slot will ultimately benefit conservatives.  Time will tell.