I’d been trying for months to meet Bob and Kelli Phillips, the hosts and owners of Texas Country Reporter, a television program beloved by Texans for nearly half a century. But they’re busy folks, constantly traveling the state’s blue highways in search of fascinating characters—everyone from barbecue pitmasters to makers of hand-tooled saddles. We finally got together last May over coffee in the Texas Monthly offices. We discussed the golden anniversary they’ve got coming up next October, and brainstormed about what sort of story TM might do to match the one Anne Dingus wrote for us about Texas Country Reporter two decades earlier. At one point, I asked “So, what’s next for y’all? Are you going to stay with the show for another fifty years?”
Bob glanced at Kelli, who nodded. He turned back to me and replied: “Could we talk confidentially?” He explained that he and Kelli had received offers from potential buyers with lots of money but little commitment to quality storytelling about Texas. “We’re looking for somebody to take good care of our baby,” he said, “and we think Texas Monthly would be great home for it, if you’re interested.”
I was definitely interested and so was my counterpart on the business side of TM, company president Scott Brown. That feeling grew over the next six months, as we got to know Bob and Kelli and their team and their business, and they got to know us.
Scott and I are delighted to announce today that we’ve reached an agreement for Texas Monthly to buy Phillips Productions, the company that creates and distributes Texas Country Reporter. And we’re especially pleased that Bob and Kelli have agreed to stay on as hosts and consultants for the next two years. “We’re so proud of what we and our talented team have built at Texas Country Reporter,” Bob said. “We’ve been looking for someone who could help us make sure it continues. And we’re confident that Texas Monthly will do that.”
Phillips Productions is based in Dallas and employs nine full-time and contract video photographers, editors, and producers. Each year, the company produces 26 half-hour episodes of Texas Country Reporter, which covers colorful people and places in every corner of the state. The episodes are broadcast on two dozen TV stations across Texas and are seen by 235,000 households weekly. The program also airs on the RFD-TV cable channel, where it is seen by another 1.1 million viewers across the country each week. Many episodes are posted on YouTube, where they attract about 1 million views a month. Texas Country Reporter is the longest-running independently produced television program in the nation and has been honored with more than thirty Emmy awards.
Texas Monthly is the premier magazine about the Lone Star State. We think of ourselves as The National Magazine of Texas. Founded in 1973, just four months after Texas Country Reporter, we’ve won fourteen National Magazine Awards, the Oscars of our industry. We produce a monthly magazine, a 24/7 website, books, live events, newsletters, podcasts, and videos. Based in Austin, we employ about one hundred staffers, half of them journalists, working from locations around the state. Thanks to investments from our owner, Randa Duncan Williams, we’re growing in audience, revenue, and staff.
Our mission is to deliver the best storytelling about Texas, as well as the best ways to enjoy all the state has to offer, from taco joints to swimming holes and museums. Our acquisition of Texas Country Reporter will help us better pursue that mission through video storytelling, which is growing more and more popular with our audience—and with a much larger potential audience.
We will work with Bob and Kelli and their team to maintain the high-quality standards of Texas Country Reporter and keep the program going strong for another fifty years. That’s job one. To that end, we hope to retain the program’s talented staff, along with its offices in downtown Dallas. During the transition period, Bob and Kelli and their team will help us identify a new host or hosts.
Job two is to invest in expanding the program’s reach, including by showing episodes on TexasMonthly.com after they’ve aired on broadcast TV and cable. We’ll introduce more of Texas Monthly’s readers to TCR and more of TCR’s viewers to Texas Monthly.
Job three is for the Texas Monthly staff to learn from TCR’s gifted videographers, writers, editors, and producers, and enlist their help in creating new kinds of video stories, in addition to the established and popular TCR show. We might, for example, produce shorter versions of TCR video stories for our website. We might produce videos to accompany our written stories on food, travel, and the outdoors; on Texas artists and artisans and entertainers; and on the subjects of our longform feature profiles and narratives.
The TCR team will report to me for editorial purposes, and to Scott on business matters. “We’re honored that Bob and Kelli chose Texas Monthly to continue their popular television program and are especially pleased that they’ve agreed to help us ensure a strong transition,” Scott said. “Our goal is to deliver compelling stories to fans of both Texas Monthly and Texas Country Reporter and to invite the audiences of each platform to experience the other.”
Here is a list of the TV stations around the state where you can view Texas Country Reporter, and the times when the program airs.
You can also check out edited versions of TCR video stories. If you haven’t seen the show, you’re in for a treat, and you’ll see why we’re so excited to join forces with its creators.