Werner to Lead Outdoor Channel

Former ESPN chief operating officer Roger Werner will return to the cable-TV sports arena as president and CEO of The Outdoor Channel, the network announced Tuesday.

Werner will replace current president and CEO Perry Massie, who will retire in November. Werner, along with Massie, will sit on the Outdoor Channel Holdings board of directors.

Unclear at press time was the status of longtime Outdoor Channel president Andy Dale. An Outdoor Channel spokesman would not comment on Dale’s future with the company.

Werner served as COO of ESPN for six years beginning in 1982 before joining up with cable pioneer Bill Daniels to create the Prime Sports regional networks in the early 1990s.

After the successful sale of the networks to News Corp., Werner -- in partnership with Cox Communications, Comcast and MediaOne Group -- served as president and CEO of national sports networks SpeedVision, currently known as Speed Channel, and Outdoor Life Network, recently rebranded as Versus, from 1995-2001.

Werner takes over a company that has struggled to gain distribution. The hunting- and fishing-oriented channel -- which features such shows as Turkey Call Television, American Rifleman Television and Bowhunter Magazine TV -- is currently in 27 million households.

In August, the company hired former Food Network senior vice president of affiliate sales Cathy Rasenberger and former Great American Country and Food president Jeff Wayne in an effort to examine the network’s positioning in the industry, but some analysts believe the move could lead to the sale of the network.

Werner said in a prepared statement that he understands the challenges the independently owned network faces, but he is “excited” to work with Outdoor Channel.

“I don’t underestimate the challenges The Outdoor Channel faces as an independent television network and fully intend to build on the company’s strengths by immediately focusing on product improvement and accelerated growth in the subscriber base,” he added.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.