WFN: World Fishing Network continues to reel in more distributors, landing a corporate deal with Comcast and reaching an agreement to launch on sports tiers offered by Knology this month.
The 24-hour lifestyle network hasn't hung up a "gone-fishing sign" when it comes to the marketing or programming fronts, either. The network recently unveiled a new tag line, replete with new logo and graphics, while its ramping up original production, tapping resources at regional production facilities and introducing themed fare on weeknights.
WFN president Mark Rubinstein said the network has been engaged over the past year with Comcast officials on the state and regional level, before finalizing a corporate agreement -- financial deal terms were not dislosed - with the top operator that was announced last week. As such, he anticipates one or two launches before year-end and significant rollouts in 2010, unless the operator encounters some technical difficulties as it reclaims bandwidth via its "Project Calvalry" initiative.
In the interim, overbuilder Knology has or will make the service available on its Sports Pak markets in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and South Dakota.
Rubinstein said WFN and WFN HD are available to 20 million households in Cananda, the U.S. (existing deals with Dish Network, Verizon FiOS TV, Charter and smaller distributors) and the Caribbean, where it recently launched.
Given the flexibility offered by its standard and high-definition (100% native HD) channels, Rubinstein is confident that WFN will announce a couple of more major distribution agreements before year's end.
"I'm hopeful that WFN will be available to TV viewers on the vast majority of cable, satellite, and telcos by the end of 2010," he said.
On Sept. 28, WFN launched a new branding campaign, Web site platform and tagline. Part of the lexicon of anglers, the new tagline," A Great Day for Fishing," aspires to capture the network's dedication to fishing and the fishing lifestyle. The tagline has become part of the network's new logo on all online and print promotions. Created by Tantrum Design & Effects, the fresh look can also be seen on rebranded station IDs, lower thirds, and on-air promotion graphics using fishing imagery and network's trademark colors of orange, yellow and black.
Additionally, WFN has dropped its line on a new promotional campaign tied to the tagline, featuring celebrity, professional and everyday anglers alike talking passionately about why everyday is a great day for fishing for them. To support the new tagline, WFN has also rolled out a consumer sweepstakes, "It's a Great Day for Fishing with Joe Mercurio," whereby viewers can submit an essay of 100 words or less describing their greatest day with the rod. The top 20 entries, as selected by a panel of WFN judges, will be posted online to be voted upon by WFN viewers. The winner will earn a trip to Boca Grande, Florida, for a two-day guided tarpon fishing expedition in the Boca Grande Pass with Pro Tarpon Tour Series host Mercurio. The winner's spoils also include the chance to announce the official countdown at a PTTS event and ride along with Mercurio as he shoots an episode of the show.
Things are also humming on the programming beat. Rubinstein said the network, which bowed in 2005, will present some 60 original series in the 2009-10 TV season, including nine produced by WFN, trebling last year's in-house output.
At this stage, WFN has unveiled half of its six new original series, with the balance to be introduced at a later juncture.
The network hopes to spin a different lure with viewers of The Lodge (scheduled to debut Dec. 4), a 13-episode reality show that will take viewers inside the workings of the Queen Charlotte Lodge on British Columbia's Northwest coast. There, 80 staffers serve the needs of to 160 anglers per week
Hosted by Emmanuel Belliveau, WFN Green, starting Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m., will examine environmental and conservation issues pertinent to recreational and commercial fishermen alike. The 13-episode series will tap the network's regional production facilities in Canada, the northeast, the Carolinas, Florida, Texas, the midwest and Denver.
Meanwhile, the weekly newsmagazine WFN News, which also will be stocked by local/regional information and stories from the production facilities,is set to bow Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., starting Oct. 6.
"We believe this is the first news show in the outdoor space to focus on all kinds of stories relevant to fishing and the fishing lifestyle," said Rubinstein. "Going forward, these regional facilities will become increasingly important in supplying resources to WFN News and other programming."
WFN is also returning the sophomore seasons of its original productions, with 13-episode campaigns scheduled.
Getting School'd with JP DeRose will unspool Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning on Oct. 7. as the host examines the latest fishing gear, from rods and reels, to lures and accessories.
Airing Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning Oct. 8, WFN's Reel Road Trip with Mark Melnyk is a destination-based show exploring the fishing world on and off the water. Melnyk and crew get engaged with local tourney pros, industry leaders and conservation officials.
For its part, Hookin' Up With Mariko Izumi follows the sexy angler as she travels the world to the hottest fishing spots and meets cool folks. Season two, scheduled for Mondays at 7:30 p.m., starting Jan. 11, includes an added touch of reality, as she will face a series of fishing-related challenges at stops in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
WFN's themed nights will manifest in two-hour weeknight blocks, starting at 8 p.m., with "Big Bass Mondays," "Fly Fishing Tuesdays," "Saltwater Wednesdays," "Monster Fish Thursdays" and "World Fishing Friday Nights."
"These have been key genres for the network since its launch," Rubinstein explained. "These blocks certainly won't be the only place viewers can find these shows, but it's an extra heavy dose where they know they can find programming that they're really passionate about."