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FamilyNet Merger Will Deliver Rural TV Into the Big Cities

RFD-TV — its name signifying “rural free delivery” mail and country life in general — has escalated to Plan B in owner Patrick Gottsch’s quest for big-city viewers.

Plan A was the 2007 pickup of Don Imus’s morning radio-show simulcast after he was dropped by MSNBC. Adding Imus in the Morning (which eventually moved on to Fox Business Network) helped add some urban homes, including Comcast customes in Nashville, Tenn., and Denver, but not in the biggest media markets.

That has now changed. Gottsch’s Rural Media Group said last week it has purchased FamilyNet and its 14.8 million- home subscriber base. It will merge into startup network Rural TV, which expands to 25 million homes, in cities including New York; Philadelphia; Chicago; Atlanta; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.; Houston; Dallas; and Los Angeles.

“To be able to go into the big cities now with our rural, family-oriented programming, it’s quite exciting to us,” Gottsch told The Wire after the acquisition, from Interactive Televisionand Gaming Networks (formerly Comstar Media), was announced.

He wouldn’t disclose the price, but said it was in “eight figures.” A source in the programming business estimated it was less than $3 per subscriber (under $44 million).

Gottsch said FamilyNet distribution deals have already been affirmed and in most cases extended by two to three years.

FamilyNet doesn’t charge a license fee, and RFD-TV affiliates can add Rural TV for no charge, he said. RFD-TV’s license fee is about 1 cent per subscriber, SNL Kagan estimated in 2011.

Rural TV will maintain a morning news focus on commodities markets and other rural business. FamilyNet’s mix of older drama series (The Saint) and sitcoms (Mary Tyler Moore) will air in the afternoon and primetime.

On the weekends, more music and entertainment shows will come in, and the network plans to cover live events such as livestock shows and rodeos. An evening rural newscast is in the works, too, he said.

The channels will merge on Jan. 1, 2013, airing “previews” of each other’s programming before then.

“This is a perfect buy for us, and it’s the biggest purchase we’ve ever made,” he said. “We’re really enthused.”

Inventor to Cable: Smarter Kids Are Key to Your Future

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dean Kamen, best known as the inventor of the Segway motorized scooter, proselytized to the cable industry on a big idea close to his heart for more than two decades: getting kids jazzed about science and engineering.

Kamen, interviewed at the SCTE’s Cable- Tec Expo by Time Warner Cable CTO Mike LaJoie here Oct. 17, joked that he was making a “thinly veiled attempt to grovel and beg your industry” to support his not-for-profit For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology organization. FIRST has sponsored robotics-design competitions involving more than 250,000 kids ages 6 to 18 since its founding in 1989.

“We have to get their attention by making science and engineering every bit as exciting as bouncing a ball,” he said. “We have a culture that’s gone anti-technology for so many reasons … Twenty years ago, I said America is going to lose its innovation edge.”

LaJoie, for one, has joined the cause. SCTE — to which he was re-elected chairman for the 2012-13 term — has signed a memorandum of understanding with FIRST to stage a robotics competition at the 2013 Cable-Tec Expo, set to run Sept. 18-20 in New Orleans.

Kamen is on the advisory board of Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds” science, technology, engineering and math initiative. LaJoie called the entrepreneur “one of the most exciting, stimulating guys I’ve ever talked to. His intellect is ranging and expansive and seems to know no limits.”

By the way, Orlando’s convention center staff members were zipping around on Kamen’s Segways all week. The Wire literally ached with envy.

— Todd Spangler

Kent Gibbons
Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.