Wednesday, January 13, 2010

RFD-TV turns profit for first time, hopes to expand and might become a forum for rural policy issues

When Patrick Gottsch started RFD-TV, his 24-hour cable television network aimed specifically at rural Americans, in 2000 it was little more than reruns of the now defunct Nashville Network. But after a decade his strategy of bridging the rural divide between rural ranchers and farmers is finally starting to pay off. Gottsch blended agriculture, horses, rural living and country music to form the backbone of RFD-TV, which generated a Nielsen-rated audience of 13 million weekly viewers from small towns and farm communities across the U.S., Dirk Smillie of Forbes magazine reports.

Gottsch first pitched the channel to satellite providers, but now most major cable companies carry it too. He says RFD's $25 million in revenue finally nudged it into the black last year. "There are 27 million television homes outside urban areas in the U.S., most with no access to media coverage of agriculture issues or rural lifestyles," Gottsch told Smillie. RFD doesn't follow the urban news trend of viewing rural American through natural disasters; instead Gottsch focuses mostly on everyday agricultural issues.

RFD-TV could become a public forum on rural policy. Newt Gingrich's civic-involvement group, American Solutions, bought a series of 30-minute segments on RFD during the last presidential race, and Gottsch hopes his channel will become a go-to platform for red-state political campaigning in 2012. For now, Gottsch plans to launch a national prime-time rural news broadcast with news gathered from bureaus in Chicago and Washington, as well as overseas bureaus he plans to open in Sydney and London, Smillie reports.

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