It's hard to keep a good cable executive down. Veteran cable programmer Rich Cronin — who unceremoniously left Fox Family Channel amid poor ratings last year — will take the reins of Game Show Network.
Cronin's hire was the first big management decision at GSN since Liberty Digital Inc. bought a 50 percent stake in the network from Sony Pictures Entertainment in February. Multichannel News
first reported the likelihood of Cronin's move to the channel in late January.
Cronin replaces Michael Fleming, the network's chief since its 1994 launch.
Despite a strong track record at start-ups Nick at Nite and TV Land, Cronin struggled to boost the former Family Channel's sagging ratings in the wake of a complete overhaul. He left Fox Family a year ago.
Cronin said last week that his struggle to reposition Fox Family for a younger demographic by completely revamping its format was a learning experience he would draw from in leading GSN.
Though it recently boosted its subscriber count to 35 million, GSN has faced trouble attracting younger viewers with its mix of classic game shows, such as Family Feud, Jeopardy!
and Match Game. But ratings are up: Its 0.5 primetime number for the first quarter was a 57 percent improvement over a year ago.
Along with a possible name change, Cronin said he wants to add new game shows and more interactive applications to attract young adults, while maximizing the appeal of older show titles. The success of shows like Survivor
and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? seems to indicate that the genre is on an upswing.
"I think that one of the key lessons of cable is that you need a combination of acquisitions and originals," Cronin said. "You can't do it on originals alone, and you have to have a strong off-network or off-syndication hits as platforms.
"I feel very fortunate here to have Wheel of Fortune, Match Game
or Jeopardy," Cronin continued. "I wouldn't get rid of those shows. Even though they skew older than the originals I'm developing, I would still use those as platforms for new programming."
After doing some consulting work and spending more time with his family, Cronin is ready to return to the fray.
"I like working, and I was too young to retire," he said.