Effective July 1, 2017, Rural Media Group, Inc. launched The Cowboy Channel -- replacing the FamilyNet cable television network. Programming shifted from airing the nostalgic and popular comedy sitcoms of the 70’s & 80’s to being anchored by western sports and everything that encompasses the popular western lifestyle.
“When RMG originally purchased FamilyNet in 2012, it was our intention to make it a western lifestyle channel to compliment the rural programming on RFD-TV,” stated Patrick Gottsch, Founder & President of Rural Media Group, Inc. “At that time we just didn’t pull the trigger as I was uncomfortable that there was enough original programming or interest to support such a full-time independent channel and decided that RFD-TV was able to handle the demand. However, over the past four years, we have been able to prove the viability for such a channel lead by the success of RFD-TV’s The American, which has developed a strong track record of Nielsen ratings and built tremendous sponsor/advertiser support for our yearly rodeo at AT&T Stadium. In addition, the popularity of western sports for both participants and audiences continues to grow as evidenced by our daily Western Sports Roundup on SiriusXM radio, and the Western Sports Wednesday prime-time programming now featured each week on RFD-TV. It’s definitely time for all things western to have its own channel, and who better to do it than us?”
The Cowboy Channel name was chosen because of the iconic image that the American cowboy enjoys not only in America but throughout the world (see Statement Of Purpose). Say the word “cowboy” and people already have a recognition and expectation on what would or should be on such a channel. It immediately conjures up so many different associations with different people for the western lifestyle – cowgirls, rodeo, ranching, music, horses, cattle, environmentalist, family, hard work, tradition – the list goes on and on. All will be featured on the network and provides an almost endless list of topics and programming to build upon.
RMG has now also built an overflowing library of original programming dedicated to the western world that will support The Cowboy Channel at launch. The initial weekday program schedule will feature strips of our most popular series airing each day at the same time including Gentle Giants, High School Rodeo, Cowboy Country TV, Best of America By Horseback, American Rancher, Red Stegall’s West of Wall Street, along with daily lessons by clinicians like Chris Cox and Craig Cameron. In addition, Superior Livestock Auction broadcasts will be given the opportunity to expand video auctions for both horses and cattle in the daytime schedule on The Cowboy Channel.
Prime time and weekend viewing on The Cowboy Channel will feature extensive coverage of rodeo, bull riding, and the wide variety of first-class cowboy/cowgirl competitions taking place throughout North America both on a “live” and recorded basis.
Programming from the vast libraries of the Calgary Stampede, Professional Bull Riders (PBR), western-themedHouston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and American Quarter Horse Association, will be included with even more to come. Team roping, barrel racing, reining, cutting, ranch rodeos, horse shows, and world class equine events will be heavily showcased on The Cowboy Channel as they happen through the new SLING STUDIO technology recently introduced by DISH Network.
“SLING Studio is a game changer for launching The Cowboy Channel as it provides a very economical way to cover so many of these remote events with three or four cameras without the need for an expensive production truck”, offered Gary Kanofsky, CTO for RMG. “Now, we can be on location anywhere in rural America at these popular competitions and be broadcasting “live” back to our studios or professionally producing recorded material that can then be used in our news or sports programming that simply was not possible or feasible prior to this point in time.”
Fort Worth Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyard Headquarters will serve as the base for daily operations while providing dedicated facilities that will be used to produce newWestern-themedprogramming for RFD-TV, The Cowboy Channel, and RURAL RADIO on SiriusXM. RMG is currently remodeling the historic auction barn with a versatile stage and 300 soft-seats to serve as a studio for production of news and western sports reports, providing yet another attraction for the steady stream of tourists that already populate the Stockyards on a daily basis. That location also deliver an excellent opportunity to work with Billy Bobs, the Fort Worth Coliseum, and Will Rogers Coliseum. Country music personalities and/or western sports athletes to stop by to perform or be interviewed with the “live” studio audience, generating even more original programming. RMG also plans on taking over the existing Visitor’s Center on Exchange Avenue in the Fort Worth Stockyards to serve as a company information and merchandising center. The new studios and center are projected to be completed and operational by 4Q/2017.
Equally important to serving those who already enjoy western sports and the western lifestyle is connecting with folks in urban America, creating new fans and interest in discovering and understanding western culture. Original programming is already in the works to help accomplish such a goal lead by Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Roundup (see related article in this issue). Each week Debbe will visit one of the unique dude ranches that are scattered throughout this great country in the hopes that by watching the show it creates an interest for that viewer and/or their family to experience a dude ranch for themselves. The Cowboy Channel does not believe that “reality” programming has to be negative or controversial to attract an audience, and like RFD-TV, will instead focus on producing and featuring positive and entertaining programs suitable for viewing by the whole family.
At launch, The Cowboy Channel will enjoy distribution into over 30 million homes on cable/satellite systems which carried FamilyNet, and will grow from that great foundation of being on DISH Network channel 232, AT&T U-Verse channel 566, Charter Spectrum channel 468, and selected Cox, Comcast, Mediacom, and many rural cable systems. In addition, The Cowboy Channel will have an aggressive Over-the-Top (OTT) strategy through its cable partners and offer the service on digital platforms including Amazon Fire Stick, Hulu, Roku, Apple TV and others which will allow viewing on mobile devices, ipads, computers, and wireless devices.
“It’s difficult to switch a channel’s format, and we don’t take such a decision lightly,” responded Jeremiah Davis, Program Director, to the question of why change now. “We carefully analyzed the FamilyNet schedule, and found that much of the programming was now being duplicated through other options that had grown more popular over the past few years, including digital local television channels like ME TV. Other factors that influenced our decision were that FamilyNet had no digital rights to the syndicated programming format which prevented any opportunity to offer or create Over-The-Top options for the viewer. The FamilyNet audience was clearly becoming more andmore fragmented.”
“Another factor for this decision is that we are simply more comfortable doing what we do best, and that is producing and airing unique, unduplicated rural content generally ignored by other media”, added Billy Frey, Chief Marketing Officer. “That is what has made RFD-TV so popular and successful so why not follow that strategy with The Cowboy Channel? By switching FamilyNet to The Cowboy Channel we now have two networks that can actually compliment and support each other, while offering even more opportunities to RMG’s core advertisers seeking to connect with this large, affluent, powerful, but hard-to-reach, audience.”
“Finally, and most importantly, in the end it all comes down to really one thing – demand”, concluded Patrick Gottsch. “I still read every viewer email, work with our programmers on a regular basis, meet with our advertisers and their agencies, and have direct contact with our cable/satellite partners and they were all basically saying the same thing – fix FamilyNet and/or we want more western lifestyle and western sports programming. With The Cowboy Channel we are able to do both at the same time. I could not be more confident that this is the right move for all concerned, and a win for everyone”.
The cowboy’s lifestyle has long been one of fanciful dreams. Wide open spaces, lifelong friendships and shared experiences along with the special code of ethics that have made the cowboy a symbol of our American heritage and the West.
The cowboy represents a special type of person; fiercely independent, self-reliant, adventuresome, trustworthy and one of the first true environmentalists. His/Her lifestyle embodies many of the attributes we again are striving for in both our personal and professional lives.
There is a growing attraction to this philosophy among a wide cross section of Americans: business professionals, blue collar workers, among all age groups who feel integrity and honesty in business, and our personal lives, have been misplaced.
The Cowboy Channel is designed to bring the spirit of the American Cowboy to cable, satellite, and over-the-top audiences through extensive coverage of all western sports, documentaries, events, comedy, music and entertainment.
The Cowboy Channel is targeting the heart of American’s cultural heritage and love affair with the cowboy and his/her special lifestyle. Its purpose is to capture the free-spirited attitude found these days with America’s living legend – the Cowboy.
ABOUT RURAL MEDIA GROUP:
Rural Media Group, Inc. is the world’s leading provider of multimedia content dedicated to the rural and Western lifestyle. With a mission of reconnecting “city with country,” RMG is the parent company of RFD-TV, RURAL RADIO, FamilyNet and RFD-TV The Magazine. RMG networks are distributed to more than 100 million homes worldwide by DBS, telco and cable systems including DISH Network, DIRECTV®, Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Mediacom, Charter Spectrum, Suddenlink, Cox, and more than 600 independent rural cable systems. Corporate headquarters and broadcast operations are in Nashville, Tennessee.
RFD-TV is the flagship network for Rural Media Group. Launched in December 2000, RFD-TV is the nation’s first 24-hour television network featuring programming focused on the agribusiness, equine and the rural lifestyle, along with traditional country music and entertainment. Top RFD-TV programming includes “MARKET DAY REPORT,” “RURAL EVENING NEWS,” “RURAL AMERICA LIVE,” “WESTERN SPORTS WEEKLY,” rodeo events such as “The American,” and award-winning entertainment such as “FarmHer,” “Small Town, Big Deal,” “The Dailey & Vincent Show,” “The Best of The Marty Stuart Show,” “Country’s Family Reunion,” “Larry’s Country Diner,” and “Hee Haw.”
ABOUT RURAL RADIO:
Found exclusively on SiriusXM channel 147, this is the agribusiness and Western-lifestyle channel for the U.S. and Canada. RURAL RADIO's program schedule revolves around original productions focused on agriculture, equine, hunting, fishing, Western sports, and living the country life in small towns around rural America. Broadcast operations for the station are located in Nashville, Tennessee. The channel airs multiple exclusive series including “MARKET DAY REPORT,” “RURAL EVENING NEWS,” “RURAL AMERICA LIVE,” and “WESTERN SPORTS ROUND-UP,” as well as “Outside the Barrel,” with Flint Rasmussen, “Commodity Wrap,” with Marlin Bohling, “AgPhD,” “RealAg Radio,” “AgDay,” “FFA Today,” and “Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.” RURAL RADIO also carries live broadcasts of Western sports competitions such as the PBR, PRCA rodeos, and WPCA Chuckwagon races.
RFD-TV The Magazine:
RFD-TV The Magazine is the print programming guide for the networks. It has attracted more than 180,000 paid subscribers.
Gatsby Gottsch joined Rural Media Group in May 2010 after studying international business at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas-ICADE in Madrid, Spain and earning her B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin McComb's School of Business.