Rodgers Changes Channels

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TV One CEO Johnathan Rodgers announced his retirement last week after
a 45-year career in the media business, with roles ranging from staff
reporter for Sports Illustrated in 1967, to president of CBS Television
Station Group in the 1990s, to head of Discovery Networks U.S. in the
early 2000s. Rodgers reflected on his career and his tenure at TV One in
a conversation with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead. An edited
transcript follows.

MCN: Why do you feel
like this is the right time
to leave TV One and
retire?

Johnathan Rodgers:
One reason was I truly
believe that with the
creation of an enterprise
like a cable network,
you do need to change
the management every
fi ve to 10 years just to
get a fresh outlook and
new views, and I actually
stayed a year longer
than I thought I was going
to stay. Now is really
the time for TV One to
turn the page and keep
moving forward. This is
the third time I’m retiring
— when I left CBS in
late 1995 and Discovery
in 2003, I used the term
retire, so I don’t know
if I should use the term
retire here. I’m not seeking
any other opportunities
— I’m happy with my
life, but you just never say no to anything.

MCN: Are you satisfied with the development
of TV One?

JR: It’s further along than I thought
it would be at this time. I’m really impressed
with the fact that the operators
listened and then rewarded their subscribers
with TV One. More importantly,
I’m glad the advertisers on Madison
Avenue listened and understood that
the promise of cable is also the promise
of a marketer to be able to target products
you want to the audience you want
in the right type of environment. That’s
what TV One did for the African-American
audience.

MCN: How do you see the African-
American cable market developing over
the next few years?

JR: I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised
if BET and
TV One remain the
only major [African-
American] targeted
networks. What I do
foresee is a large number
of multicultural
networks where you
don’t know whether its
black, brown, green,
yellow or whatever,
but it has multicultural
sensibilities that
I think we, as a nation,
are headed towards.

MCN: Over your career,
what do you think are
your most memorable
moments?


JR: My most memorable
moments at TV One
will always be our coverage
of the Democratic
National Convention,
and especially our coverage
of election night.
To be in [Chicago’s]
Grant Park on election
night with CNN, ABC and CBS was special.
To have people like Eric Michael Dyson,
Tom Joyner and Joe Madison on our
air, and to see tears rolling down their face
after the election, not only meant something
to me, but to our on-air people and,
hopefully, to our viewers.

MCN: TV One’s co-owner Comcast has
pledged to launch several minorityowned
networks. Will their efforts be
a bellwether for the industry in the
development of network and content
targeted to multicultural viewers?

JR: First of all I think Comcast should be
complimented for this endeavor. I think
their efforts will be effective — it may take
a while, but because of Comcast there
will be two new Hispanic channels and
two new black channels in the foreseeable
future. It’ll be up to [the networks] to
make [themselves] successful.

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