RFD-TV is the nation's first 24-hour television network dedicated to serving the needs of rural Americans. Currently available in 48 million homes, RFD-TV features programming focused on news, sports, agriculture, equine and the rural lifestyle, along with traditional country music and entertainment. On the heels of RFD-TV's recent move to new state-of-the-art studios on Music Row in Nashville, RFD-TV Founder and President Patrick Gottsch discusses the network's growth since its inception in 2000, the passionate audience that it serves and what's on the horizon for this fast-growing cable network.
Q: You've built a network for an audience that has traditionally been overlooked by general-market advertisers. What gave you the idea and how has it been a success?
Mr. Gottsch: Like so many other people, I grew up on a family farm—for me, it was in a small town near Omaha, Nebraska. In the '80s, I became involved with selling home satellite dishes. In following up after the install, many customers stated that they loved having movies, sports and kids programming but asked why there was no "rural" programming, agricultural news or channels devoted to equine and western sports. When The Nashville Network was sold and changed to Spike TV, there just seemed to be a void for traditional country music, plus all of the above, and the idea for RFD-TV was born.
Q: How did you come up with the name RFD-TV?
Mr. Gottsch: The channel's name is a reference to Rural Free Delivery, the name for the U.S. Postal Service's system of delivering mail directly to rural patrons. The name RFD-TV felt like the perfect choice for a cable network that delivers the content that rural viewers are looking for.
Q: As the MSOs (MPVDs) continue to consolidate, serving the needs of rural Americans seems to be a key issue in all mergers. Why is this so important and what does this mean for RFD-TV and mergers going forward?
Mr. Gottsch: As the industry evolves, consolidates and transforms, RFD-TV has grown at a rapid pace—a 13% increase in year-to-year distribution. Currently in nearly 48 million homes, we will blast through 50 million homes in short order—which is impressive as other channels struggle to hold on to distribution. That said, there cannot be a wall built between urban and rural America, and communication must be a two-way street. It's important that content flows both ways and represents the perspectives of both city and country.
Rural Americans understand that we must do a better job of connecting our issues with our neighbors in A and B counties in order to unite this great country again. If "rural" programming is blocked from distribution by consolidation, then everyone loses. There are a lot of rural senators and members of Congress who have been hearing from voters for the last year, and the "rural" issue will continue to be a "real" issue in all these mergers. It simply must be addressed.
Q: In RFD-TV's 15 years as a network, what has been most surprising about your audience?
Mr. Gottsch: How responsive and supportive they are to our channel and its sponsors. Over 57,000 people wrote individual letters to the FCC stating how important RFD-TV was to their home. This was 92% of all public comments made in regard to the mergers. It's been a humbling experience and motivates us to continue to be the only channel devoted to rural interests.
Q: What makes the RFD-TV audience so valuable to advertisers?
Mr. Gottsch: Other national media outlets do not speak to the rural viewer the way we do. The RFD-TV audience is engaged and has one of the highest time-spent-viewing numbers of any cable channel. They also have significant disposable income and buy the same products that other consumers are buying.
Q: You've made some significant investment in programming, new state-of-the-art studios in Nashville and a refreshed look-and-feel of the network. How do you see that impacting the network?
Mr. Gottsch: RFD-TV must continue to grow. We are just scratching the surface of the original programming that this network can produce. The new studios and high-profile location on Music Row in Nashville will help us toward the goal of reaching the full potential of RFD-TV and RURAL RADIO on SiriusXM Channel 80.
Q: What is the future of RFD-TV?
Mr. Gottsch: News will become a bigger priority. I firmly believe that devoting at least 25% of our programming time to covering the business of not only rural America, but of the rural world, is a worthwhile and important endeavor. There will be 9 billion people to feed by 2050. Urban-based news organizations simply are not covering this issue, and if it's not a drought, disaster or something bad happening in rural America, there is no coverage at all. RFD-TV will be here to represent agriculture—America and the world's largest and most important industry.
Q: What are RFD-TV's plans for the 2016 election season? What issues matter most to RFD-TV viewers?
Mr. Gottsch: RFD-TV will put everything we have behind covering the 2016 elections, starting with a series of "Rural Town Halls," where each and every presidential candidate will be invited to address rural and agricultural issues for one hour in prime time. These will all take place live prior to the Iowa Caucuses and will be hosted by legendary farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson. In addition, our full-time Washington news bureau will be providing daily coverage of the Hill from RFD-TV's new studios located at USDA headquarters, focusing on rural development, rural education and rural healthcare, as well as agricultural issues. RFD-TV viewers vote in large numbers, and rural America usually determines the outcome for many races. Only RFD-TV can provide such coverage.
What's been the greatest success of RFD-TV? What makes you most proud?
Mr. Gottsch: I am most proud of the fact that RFD-TV has turned into a family business. My daughters are actively engaged in the management of this company and are now adding so much value to the direction and evolution of our channel. It's an absolute joy now to get up in the morning, and I hate going to bed at night.
About the Sponsor
RFD-TV is owned by Rural Media Group. The Rural Media Group is a portfolio of media outlets, information and news services distributed across cable, satellite, radio, the Internet and wireless devices in nearly 100 million homes worldwide. Serving as the parent company for a family of brands, RMG owns and operates RFD-TV, RURAL RADIO on SiriusXM Channel 80, FamilyNet, RFD-TV The Magazine, RFD-TV The Theatre and THE AMERICAN, the world's richest one-day rodeo. RMG's flagship network, RFD-TV, is the only cable network dedicated to the rural and western lifestyles and is the No. 1 cable network for rural Americans, including boomers, farmers and ranchers.
RFD-TV is represented by Sony Pictures Television for national ad sales. To learn more about advertising on RFD-TV, contact Paul Brennan, senior VP-ad sales for Sony Pictures Television, at Paul_Brennan@spe.sony.com, or visit SonyPicturesTelevision.com.