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Agrimarketing : January-Febuary 2010
January/February 2010 Agri Marketing 27 However, it began building its audience. "As other programmers became familiar with RFD-TV, they began contacting us, seeking distribution," Gottsch says." BUILDING MOMENTUM Then another fortunate opportunity presented itself. "We secured the rights to broadcast Willie Nelson's library of legendary country music performers, which featured him and many other country stars," Gottsch says. Since then, RFD-TV has been in the business of providing entertainment with a rural bend. In March 2002, DIRECT TV added the network. Later that year Mediacom, Iowa's largest cable TV operator added the network. Along the way, the company also starting receiving requests from its viewers for a printed schedule of the network's upcoming programs. "That presented us with another opportunity," Gottsch reports. "We launched RFD-TV --- The Magazine which now has 165,000 paid subscribers. It provides the audience with a behind the scenes look at the network's performers and the upcoming programming schedules." "I'm especially proud of the partnerships we have formed with the ag communications companies such as Meredith Corp., Farm Journal Media and Farm Progress Companies," Gottsch says. "Plus our relationship with Orion and Max with their 'This Week in Agribusiness' program continues." It also added a new revenue stream: advertising and program sponsorships. "In addition to it, we also receive revenues from programmers who pay a fee to have their content aired, the magazine subscriptions, advertising and from cable sub- scribers," Gottsch says. "It's a nice balance so we are not exposed to a huge risk if any of them fall off." The network has also taken advantage of new technology and programming as it becomes avail- able. For example, Gottsch reports that 60% of its programming is being delivered in high definition. It also has 92 independent producers creating programming for the net- work in addition to what RFD-TV is producing itself. In March 2007, the network opened RFD-TV --- The Theatre in Branson, MO, which offers a contin- ual stream of live shows throughout the year featuring the stars on the network's programs. "The theatre gives us a 'face,' a place to interact with the people who watch us and believe in what we do," Gottsch explains. It has also pioneered new programming concepts, such as its "live" shows in which viewers can call in and ask questions of the presenters. The program runs each Monday for one-hour in which company representatives discuss a specific topic. Some of the regulars include John Deere, Monsanto, Purina Mills, Syngenta and SFP. "It has been so popular, we have sold out the entire 2010 schedule," Gottsch reports. "So, we have added Thursday to the broadcast schedule." The company recently purchased a mobile unit and will begin broad- casting on location at various events. LOOKING AHEAD Gottsch is enthusiastic about the net- work's future. "We have proven there is a large audience for ag and rural style content in the U.S. But that's true internationally, as well. We already have a channel going in Brazil and the U.K. We're also in talks with media companies in other parts of the world." Giving viewers that are inter- ested in ag, rural lifestyle and equine topics the ability to watch and learn from around the world will be the network's next wave of success, Gottsch predicts. Given its quick ramp up and suc- cesses so far, he most likely is right. AM RFD-TV sponsored a float in the 2010 Tournament of Roses parade saluting FFA. As part of its entry, the network hosted a representative from each of the nation's state FFA organizations who marched with the float in the parade. The network broadcasted a pre-parade program of the building of the float and the parade, itself. KEYSTONE EVENTS Dec. 2000: RFD-TV launched on DISH network. March 2002: DIRECT TV offered the network. Sept. 2002: First cable operator added the network. July 2003: RFD-TV --- The Magazine launched. April 2004: Broadcast operations moved to Nashville, TN. Sept. 2006: Surpassed 30 million homes reached. March 2007: Opened RFD-TV --- The Theatre. Oct. 2007: RFD HD channel launched. June 2008: Distribution agreement reached with Comcast and Time Warner. March 2009: RURAL TV, RFD-TV's international sister launched in the U.K. and Europe. Jan. 2010: Sponsored the FFA Float in Tournament of Roses Parade. AM
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