At a time when few new cable channels are launching, a new one is sprouting in farmland.
Rural TV, an offshoot of Rural Media Group's RFD-TV, plans to launch on Jan. 3, 2012, and has secured carriage in Dish Network, which helped launch RFD in 2000 and now provides a good helping of RFD's current 40 million subscribers.
Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of RMG, said the new channel is being launched because of demand from viewers and distributors for more country content. RFD features four genres of programming: agricultural news, equine programming, and country-oriented music and entertainment programming and livestock auctions.
"We had four different audiences asking us for more but we were landlocked," Gottsch says. "We wanted to deliver and the only answer was a different channel."
Asked if he thinks the new channel will start out profitable, Gottsch said "the economics are there for us." Distributors like Dish will be paying a small, incremental fee for the new channel, and for the most part it will be using the infrastructure already in place for RFC. Rural TV does plan to hire about 30 people to increase the size of its news operation for the additional news programming.
Dish will be carrying the new network on the AT 250 tier and also on a new Heartland package of five channels.
Rural TV will start its day with a five-hour block of agricultural news called the Market Day Report.
"What CNBC does for stocks, we will be doing for commodities," Gottsch says.
Primetime will start at 7:30 p.m. with The Rural Evening News, featuring reports from bureaus in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Sao Paulo and the U.K. The broadcast will also get reports from two mobile production trucks that will visit events like the Onion Festival or the Pork Exposition.
In the evening, the network will feature programming from Nashville and Branson, Mo.
There will also be an increased number of livestock auctions, which have mostly featured cattle, and generated more than $2.5 billion in sales last year, according to Gottsch.
Gottsch said the RFD and Rural TV will counter program one another, to give viewers a better chance that if they want to see equine programming, they will have a place to go.