RURAL LIFESTYLE TV PROGRAM DEBUTS
With these four words, uttered on a warm and humid June afternoon in 2004, Successful Farming launched itself into the world of television with the Living the Country Life show.
"Living the Country Life magazine and now the TV show are further examples of how the staff at Successful Farming continues to identify needs and create unique solutions for our customers ... both advertisers as well as readers, and now viewers," says Publisher Tom Davis.
"Successful Farming was Meredith Corporation's founding publication," Editor-in-Chief Loren Kruse adds. "Our editors developed Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The Living the Country Life TV show is just another first for Successful Farming at Meredith Corporation."
The genesis of the show was Living the Country Life magazine, the three-year-old publication targets upscale acreage owners who live within commuting distance of a major urban area.
"The question," Davis says, was "How can we expand this product and lucrative, fast-growing market into areas other than print?"
Davis overheard a relative telling other family members about RFD-TV at a family reunion. "It was my uncle-in-law who farms over 1,000 acres in north central Iowa, and even though I'd never heard of RFD-TV, I thought if RFD-TV was getting his attention, maybe I should pay attention too.
"I met with RFD-TV President Patrick Gottsch about three years ago. We started exploring how we could combine our respective resources and work together. We discovered that among other things, the RFD-TV and Living the Country Life audiences were very similar."
"It was obvious to us that RFD-TV was starting to gain some real momentum and traction within rural America," Davis says. "Our own research proved that their awareness and audience was growing (RFD-TV currently reaches 28 million households). It was pretty much a mutual agreement that if we were going to get our feet wet in TV, it was going to be on RFD-TV and this was the time."
"Research told us our Living the Country Life audience wanted infor-mation about all things outside the home," Kruse says.
The biggest question then wasn't what the show was going to be about, but who would host it.
"We knew finding the right talent to host the show was critical," Davis says. "Fortunately a tradition at Meredith is to grow our projects and as much as possible, our talent, internally. It seemed natural to turn to Betsy."
Betsy Freese, Senior Livestock Editor for Successful Farming and also the editor of Living the Country Life magazine, was a little more apprehensive. "I'm a writer," Freese says. "I'd never done anything on TV before."
"Betsy was our first choice," Kruse notes. "Because she and her husband own an acreage, she lives the lifestyle. She's very passionate about country living, and she's an extremely gifted journalist."
"Betsy is very believable," Davis says. "We felt confident in her from the beginning. But there's no question that her very assured and natural on-air presence has been a pleasant surprise. I mean, when Betsy's on the screen, it just works."
That first season, sponsored by John Deere, consisted of 13 three-minute segments with production provided by Screenscape Studios located in West Des Moines. They also produce the new half hour program.
"The show and Betsy Freese that first year proved to be very popular," says Gottsch. "So popular, in fact, that the number one request in an extensive viewer survey we conducted this summer was for additional shows for country homeowners."
"At the same time, great sponsor support of the show has been tremendously gratifying," says Davis. "John Deere, Morton Buildings and Mantis have made it possible to successfully launch and deliver this exciting new program."
The season premiered November 5 and runs through April 2006. Davis notes that all 13 half hour programs feature segments on outdoor living, gardening, animals, humor, tools and machinery and airs four times a week: Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12:30 p.m. (CST).
"We see some great opportunities to work with RFD-TV and commercial sponsors to develop unique and targeted programs," says Davis. "This is just the beginning."
RFD-TV can be found on DISH channel 9409, DirecTV channel 379, Mediacom, NCTC and other cable systems (check your local listings).