RFD-TV, BRAZILIAN TV NETWORK FORM JOINT VENTURE TO SHARE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAMMING
by Debbie Coakley
For the first time, farmers and ranchers in the United States and Brazil can each view agricultural news from the other's continent beamed directly to their home TV during prime time.
The sharing of programs is the result of a joint venture between RFD Communications, Omaha, Neb., and Grupo Bandeirantes de Comunicacao, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Each company operates a 24-hour rural television network, RFD-TV and Terraviva, respectively.
"Farmers and ranchers in both countries are hungry for information," says Patrick Gottsch, president of RFD, whose broadcast operations and uplinking are based in Nash-ville, Tenn. "They want to see what's going on in the other country. Agriculture is a global market, and Brazil influences the U.S. markets more than any other country."
Gottsch notes that the combined distribution of Terraviva and RFD-TV will reach more than 44 million homes through satellite delivery alone, with expanding cable distribution continually adding more viewers of both networks.
Johnny Saad, president of Bandeirantes, which started in 1937, calls the exchange of information unprecedented. "This agreement establishes an important communications bridge between the world's two most productive agricultural countries," he says.
Terraviva, which was launched in June 2005, has a daily program schedule including agricultural news and video cattle auctions, as well as equine, rodeo and rural features that can be viewed throughout much of South America. In October, RFD-TV began airing blocks of its most popular agricultural, bovine and equine shows to the 19 million-plus homes served by Terraviva's satellite- and cable-delivered channel.
In return, agricultural news from Brazil is to be featured weekly on RFD-TV. As part of the agreement, Gottsch says RFD-TV has established a full-time news bureau
in Sao Paulo, working closely with USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service and U.S. companies with a presence in Brazil, to secure stories of interest for the U.S. audience.
The anchor program from Brazil is a half-hour "This Week in Brazil," produced in English by Terraviva's news organization. Gottsch points out that each weekend 28 million RFD-TV homes across the country will be able to watch a recap of the top agricultural news, weather conditions, markets and other stories about South American agriculture. Each report will be uplinked via satellite from Sao Paulo to RFD-TV's Nashville studios for Saturday, Sunday and Monday airings of the show.
In addition, Gottsch reports that both networks will produce original programming specials from each country's major farm, stock and equine shows and conventions to update farmers and ranchers on the latest technology from each continent to air on both TV channels.
While Terraviva offers daily programs focusing on ag technology, business, markets and rural life, the broadcasting of live or virtual auctions takes up a large portion of its programming efforts, according to Saad. Auctions happen nightly Monday through Friday; on Saturdays they are aired in the evening and at night; and on Sundays they air in the afternoon. There are auctions offering cattle, goats, sheep or horses. "Most of our production financing comes from the auctioneers, who pay a fixed fee to air an auction," Saad says.
An hour before an auction begins, Terraviva airs a program that informs viewers about the sellers and their offerings to be auctioned. "Our reporters interview auction organizers, authorities, celebrities, buyers and guests, aligning the viewer to the event," Saad notes.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR MARKETERS
Gottsch notes that many U.S. agricultural companies have a presence in Brazil and that a number of U.S. farmers and ranchers have moved to Brazil or have operations there. "Through our joint venture, companies with an international interest have a unique opportunity to use the power of television to reach the U.S. and South American markets at the same time," Gottsch reports. "Joint buys of Terraviva and RFD-TV not only are economical, but also deliver the desired audience that has already been attracted by high-quality programming in prime time for ag, equine or rural lifestyle interests."
Debbie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Warrenville, Ill.