Rogers Returns to Cable, With American Media

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Former NBC Cable president and Primedia Inc. chairman Tom Rogers is back on the prowl for cable deals, looking to develop cable shows and networks for American Media Inc., which publishes Star, the National Enquirer and magazines such as Men's Fitness and Shape.

AMI signed Rogers as a senior advisor last week, noting that the celebrity news contained in publications such as Star would be a good fit for programs that it could develop for networks like E! Entertainment Television and VH1.

Rogers, who launched CNBC and MSNBC when he was at NBC Cable, said he would look for opportunities to create on-demand programming from American Media content, in addition to possible new channels and individual shows that could be sold to other cable networks.

"Certainly the magazines lend themselves to individual shows. I think some of the magazines lend themselves to some type of broader programming offering that that," Rogers said. "And recognizing fully the issues that exist in starting a 24/7 channel, there are many gradations along the way in terms of how to put these together, and I think we'll look separately at how each magazine might fit."

Last week, Rogers said that he hadn't yet talked to any cable MSOs about distributing networks that may be developed from AMI publications.

Rogers has experience turning print publications into cable programming. At Primedia, he launched an on-demand service called Video Magazine Rack, which is distributed by Comcast in Philadelphia. The VOD programming is based on content from Primedia publications such as Motor Trend, Specialty Cars and Parenting Basics.

If AMI develops programming or channels based on its Men's Fitness, Shape or Natural Health publications, it could compete with Discovery Communications Inc.'s FitTV and Discovery Health Channel.

Rogers said he doesn't believe the health niche is too crowded in cable, and he also suggested there might be opportunities for AMI to partner with existing health channels.

"I think in many respects cable is underrepresented in that [health] category," Rogers said. "Not that there aren't other outlets out there that deal with it, but some of those outlets provide an interesting opportunity for conversation."

Rogers also emphasized that the end result of his work may not be new cable networks. "There are a lot of opportunities for how things might be packaged or offered up in some kind of arrangement beyond a single television show that don't necessarily involve a 24/7 startup channel," Rogers said.