Forrie Smith fell off a horse in front of his mom and step dad when he was 6 and proclaimed that he was going to […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
“I’ve always felt confident that there was an audience in America for rural progarming that was being ignored by urban broadcasters,” said Patrick Gottsch, the man behind RFD-TV and the new Cowboy Channel, both owned by Rural Media Group. Born and raised on a farm outside of Elkhorn, Nebraska, Patrick knows firsthand the role rural America plays in the lives of all Americans. His father, Pat, was a farmer. He grew corn and raised cattle and had a feedlot as well as two other farms. “The cowboy values are important and main stream media doesn’t cover it. The best memory a kid has is of the county fair and now RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel bring viewers the county fair 365 days a year.”
Patrick went to college at Sam Houston State University for two and a half years. “I wanted to go back and farm with my dad; which I did for three years; the three worst drought years in Nebraska. My dad encouraged me to find a job in town.” He moved to Chicago in 1977 and worked as a commodity broker for the next two years. “I wanted to come back home to Nebraska – I didn’t want to live in downtown Chicago, so I was a commodity broker in Omaha. The Carter Grain embargo in 1980 wiped out a lot of people and I went broke.
“My daughter was born Dec 13 1984 and I came down the hill from the hospital and there was a guy trying to put a dish together. I pulled in and was interested in buying a satellite dish – he asked me if I had any tools, and I ended up helping him. It took us six hours and we were turning the dish and all of a sudden HBO came on and I was hooked.” He got a job that day installing dishes for him and started E.T. Installations, a company that sold and installed C-band home satellites. “I always followed up after installing one, and everyone loved them.” As Patrick traveled through rural America, he heard customers wondering why there was a lack of rural programming as well as old westerns like Gunsmoke, which seemed to be taken over by shows about urban cops or suburban housewives. There wasn’t anything directed at rural folks.
He launched RFD-TV (Rural Free Delivery Television) in 1988 and the company had the right idea but the timing was off. In March 1991, Patrick moved to Fort Worth, Texas and served as the Director of Sales for Superior Livestock Auction from 1992 to 1996. Superior Livestock Auction was the first to introduce satellite video marketing, which was carried on RFD-TV, to the livestock industry and has since grown to become the largest livestock auction enterprise in the United States. He was putting programming on RFD-TV, but he was still trying to fill programming. “We got our break in December of 2000, when DISH network agreed to launch it. It was a one man and two daughter network, we’d put all the programming on a hard drive a week at a time.”
Today, RFD-TV is available in more than 52 million homes nationwide. Rural Media Group, Inc. has since expanded to include RFD-TV The Magazine (2003), RFD HD (2008), RURAL TV (2009), RURAL RADIO (2013) on SiriusXM channel 147, and most recently the Cowboy Channel, launched in July of 2017.
“I am always amazed that when Patrick has a vision, he has the ability and tenacity to see it through to fruition,” said Pam Minick, who has known Patrick since before he launched RFD-TV. “When he came to work here (in Ft. Worth) for Superior, you could find his daughters sleeping in his office.” Pam has recognized his passion for rural America for years. She has been part of American Rancher, one of the first shows that aired on RFD-TV as well as Gentle Giants. “A lot of things he does, he does with the intention of making rural America look good. I applaud him for that.”
The latest venture, the Cowboy Channel, has been a dream of Patrick’s since 2013 when Randy Bernard came along with the AMERICAN. “I’ve always thought there was a void with the other sports channels, why not a rodeo channel? If there was one thing missing in our sport in regard to linear TV, it was a TV devoted to rodeo – and everything that has to do with western sports.”
The partnership between the Cowboy Channel and the PRCA was announced the first of September “We tried five years ago to get PRCA and didn’t get it –quite frankly I was upset at the time, but it’s been a blessing in disguise,” admits Patrick. “We’ve really worked hard the last four years to build the Cowboy Channel up and tried to prove ourselves. The goal was always to have the Cowboy Channel the premier rodeo channel.
“We’ve got content now, and media is changing at a rapid pace. We will be distributing content through any means possible. We want the younger audience – we haven’t made any announcements yet on that but be assured we are looking to stream any way possible to create more fans.” Although he’s not home much, Patrick lives in his hometown of Elkhorn where his brother continues to raise corn and soybeans. Patrick has three daughters—Raquel, Gatsby and Rose. Raquel currently serves as the CEO of the Cowboy Channel, based in Ft. Worth. Raquel and Gatsby currently serve on the Company’s Board of Directors. Patrick jumps out of bed in the morning and spends his time promoting the Cowboy Channel and the western industry. “Helping spread Western culture and the rural values back into the cities – that’s my fun and it’s a real challenge. There’s a wall being built between urban and rural and we have to work at it.
“Our goal is to serve the needs and interest of rural America,” he concludes. “We want to reconnect city and country – it’s a fight and a struggle – but we have found that we have as much interest in the urban area.” The Cowboy Channel has seen an increase in homes from 12 million to 40 million in the last two years. “We are doing everything we can with our own company to expand the fan base.” One thing the company is doing is hosting the first rodeo in New York since 1984. Madison Square Gardens began in 1922, Tex Austin produced it. Madison Square Gardens continued as an annual rodeo until 1959. In 1925, there was no rodeo as a new facility was being built. “We are inviting a lot of the folks that competed there to make it a celebration,” he said. “All the major distributors for cable are in New York – we are going right where they are and somehow we will get them to come to the event.” The other opportunity he sees in New York is the expanded opportunities for advertising. “90% of advertising comes out of New York and we are hoping to get a lot of them to come and attend, and maybe get main stream advertising.” For now, Patrick is crisscrossing the country promoting the Cowboy Channel and Rodeo New York. “We are just going to keep doing what we’re doing. I’m proud of what RFD-TV has done over the past 31 years.”