Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm
The Sportsman Channel hopes to hit the mark
By the end of the year, outdoor sports enthusiasts in southeastern Wisconsin may finally get an opportunity to see original television programming that has been available to much of the rest of the country since April.
The Sportsman Channel was launched April 7 with a 24-hour, seven days a week lineup of shows devoted to hunting and fishing.
The television channel, which is based in Big Bend, is available in about 800 cities in 35 states, serving about 5 million homes throughout the nation.
The owners of the channel are in the final stages of negotiating a contract with TimeWarner Cable to broadcast its programming in southeastern Wisconsin, according to Todd Hansen, one of the co-owners of the new channel.
The company also is negotiating to place the channel on major satellite television services.
The Sportsman Channel, which started with only two employees, now employs 15 people with and is creating two new positions, as the channel recently added 14 new shows to its lineup.
"The Sportsman Channel has resonated through the cable industry and with the hunting and fishing enthusiasts," said Michael Cooley, president and chief executive officer.
Cooley had the vision for The Sportsman Channel in June 2002. He recognized the increasing obstacles facing producers of hunting and fishing programming. According to Cooley, those producers were finding it difficult to convince other cable channels to air their programs.
With infomercial companies buying more airtime and television networks changing their program content to variety programming, independent producers of hunting and fishing shows were frustrated, Cooley said.
Cooley, who produces two shows, decided he would try to organize a cooperative of producers to develop a channel that would appeal to the passionate sportsman. From June to November 2002, Cooley conducted research, developed a business plan and contacted producers.
Cooley said most cable channels average three years for the time between their conception and launch.
"We made the plunge in November and decided that we were going to do it," Cooley said. "We certainly envisioned the Sportsman Channel to be the premier destination of independent producers of hunting and fishing programming as well as the premier destination for hunting and fishing enthusiasts," said Cooley.
Cooley has ongoing negotiations with nine of the 10 largest multi-system cable operators in the nation, including TimeWarner.
When the channel was first started, Cooley approached producers to see if they would be interested in becoming a part of The Sportsman Channel. Now, they are approaching him.
Cooley credits the fast development to timing and demand.
"It was a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work," he said.
Of course, the passion of the audience also jump-started the channel, he said.
"He eats, sleeps and breathes it," Cooley said of the typical Sportsman Channel viewer.
While hunters and anglers tend to be stereotyped as males, Cooley said women and youth are the fastest growing demographic segments in the industry.
He wants The Sportsman Channel and magazine to reflect that.
Cooley describes the shows aired on The Sportsman Channel as being, "great quality programming content," as well as being fun and entertaining.
To help ensure that the programs fit that criteria, The Sportsman Channel is developing a board of advisors comprised of the producers that provide programming content to the channel.
The Sportsman Channel offers ongoing training and seminars for producers to help them produce shows of the best quality.
In addition to the channel, the company has launched The Sportsman Magazine, a companion to the television programming.
"It is a natural brand expansion," Cooley said.
The company’s Web site, www.thesportsmanchannel.com, airs shows in real-time for subscribers with high-speed Internet access. "Exactly what you see in television, you see in the Internet," said Cooley.
Dec. 12, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee