New York -- Outgoing NBC Cable president Tom Rogers plans
to explore niche-cable opportunities for the magazines -- particularly the
"enthusiast" publications -- that are part of Primedia Inc., the print giant he
is joining as chairman.
In a surprise move announced last week, Rogers -- who
engineered NBC's aggressive expansion into cable and the Internet -- is leaving to head up
Primedia, where he'll spearhead the company's new-media efforts.
This will include looking at creating cable programming
based on Primedia's assets, which consist not only of magazines, but also of a variety of
specialty satellite services, such as Channel One.
"We'll have the ability to create what I'll call
micro-niche-type video opportunities out of some of these enthusiast and
business-to-business categories, which there haven't been enough channels around [to
accommodate] content like that," he said.
Rogers' pending departure from NBC, where he was also
executive vice president and chief strategist, immediately raised questions about who his
replacement will be.
Rogers, 45, who has been at NBC for 12-and-a-half years and
who has no experience in print media, said he will start his new job at Primedia
"very shortly." But he didn't give a specific date.
An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment on whether NBC will
look internally or externally for a replacement. "NBC will be making an announcement
within the next week as to the new leadership for business and new-media
development," she said.
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Primedia's majority
shareholder, began an effort to recruit Rogers about one month ago, he said.
Primedia, a $1.5 billion company, owns more than 200
magazines and video businesses, from consumer magazines such as New York and Modern
Bride,to trade publications like Cable World,to Channel One, a
news channel provided to 12,000 high schools.Primedia already has 200 Web sites
related to its publications.
Rogers said his mandate is to find broad new-media
applications -- not just the Internet, but also cable and electronic-commerce
opportunities -- for Primedia's large stable of consumer and enthusiast magazines.
"This is not just new media defined as Internet, but
also cable distribution with broadband development and distribution and digital
opportunities now beginning to take off," Rogers said
He said he was enthusiastic about the possibilities -- from
e-commerce to niche cable programming -- involving the targeted audiences that Primedia's
magazines serve. The publications span everything from surfing to boating to fly-fishing.
"There are endless numbers of these passions and
hobbies and pursuits that people have," Rogers said, adding that there "hasn't
been bandwidth for any of that" on cable, in terms of niche programming.
Now, through digital set-tops and broadband services,
capacity is opening up, and some operators believe these kinds of channels will help to
drive the penetration of digital boxes, according to Rogers.
He said he also got calls last week from people in the
cable industry about Channel One and extending its use to cable applications. "That's
a business that has all kinds of potential," Rogers added.
Primedia is also in the satellite-network business,
providing business-to-business informational programming for auto dealers, for example.
Those hundreds of hours of video content "are available for delivery on TV,"
particularly in a future digital environment, according to Rogers.
"Set-tops are capable of figuring out schemes for
being displayed," he said.
Rogers helped to expand traditional broadcast company NBC,
with a network and TV stations, into a major player in both cable and the Internet, as
well as internationally.
He founded CNBC, he was instrumental in establishing the
NBC-Microsoft Corp. partnership for MSNBC and, most recently, he put together NBC's
pending purchase of 32 percent of Paxson Communications Corp.
NBC also acquired stakes in A&E Network and The History
Channel, as well as Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.
While NBC's domestic cable operations flourished under
Rogers' watch, CNBC's international services in Asia and Europe were struggling
financially for some time.
Then in 1998, CNBC and Dow Jones & Co. struck a
partnership that merged their overseas operations for greater strength and created a
collaboration between Dow Jones publications and the domestic CNBC.
In addition, Rogers led NBC into its Internet expansion,
buying stakes in Web start-ups -- businesses that will soon trade as a public company,
NBCi (NBC Interactive).
Rogers said that during the past few years, he's had
"a number of opportunities and overtures" about him leaving NBC. And in the
spring of 1998, he was part of an investment group that made an unsuccessful attempt to
buy Courtroom Television Network.
Rogers -- who replaces William Reilly at Primedia -- will
reportedly get an equity stake in Primedia, in addition to being boss of his own
During a press call with reporters, Rogers denied that he
was leaving NBC because he realized he was not going to be picked as the successor to
president Bob Wright.