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In a Flyover State: Go Hunting for This Demo

2/06/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

I have written in these pages before about my annual
fishing trip to Alaska with my redneck brother-in-law.
Last year, I wrote a column saying someone should
start a Redneck Channel dedicated to, well, you know.

I was actually pretty serious, though quite a
few people thought I was making fun of rednecks
(a term I consider a compliment, and
probably secretly aspire to be referred to as),
and lambasted me for being everything from a
bra-burning liberal to a homophobe.

But since I like to get trashed equally by both
sides, I am now going to admit something that
many people from a different background will
probably be disgusted by: I have (legally) taken
animals with a firearm. It’s true: I have a freezer
in my garage full of meat that I did
not buy at Trader Joe’s.

I am not here to write about
what is right and wrong. I am not
here to write things like, how can
you ask a hunter how they could
kill a deer and then go have a nice
steak dinner yourself? I am also not
here to write about how someone
can defend to their death the right
to bear arms when kids are killing
kids every day with guns. You all
can argue about that until you are red or blue in
the face. What I will say is that while Hollywood
and a massive demo in our country don’t play
nice together in many respects, thumbing noses at
each other is a big waste of time and opportunity.

I recently put my crosshairs on this relationship
by attending a huge firearms show called
SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) in
Las Vegas. Not open to the public, the convention
drew 61,000 people to Sin City to check
out the latest in guns, ammo and everything
related. And no shock, you could find camo
everywhere—from baby clothes to the lingerie
a girl might wear to get her man in the mood to
make something to put in those baby clothes.

So what was I doing there? How did a Jew
who works in the TV business end up in a place
where Hollywood is a four-letter word to many,
and where, judging by what I heard, I wouldn’t
expect to see too many attendees planning to
join me in synagogue on the High Holidays? I
was there to study up on an incredibly powerful
demo that is incredibly overlooked by the TV industry…and having a damn good time doing it.

The first night, I attended a beautiful party
and awards show thrown by Sportsman Channel,
a network that just hit the 30-million-homes
mark, run by well-regarded industry veteran
Gavin Harvey. Harvey not only knows TV, but
walks the talk: he is a dedicated outdoorsman
himself. And while you probably don’t watch
the network, you ought to check it out—they
have programming that absolutely could run on
any network. Yes, they have plenty of what I call “hunting porn”: shows with little story line and
lots of fi nishing shots. But they also have shows
like Dropped: Project Alaska, a new series that
puts a pair of brothers in the middle of our largest
state for a month with no food and instructions
that they have to hunt and fish to survive.
The quality—both in story and production—is
outstanding, and it absolutely could run on any
network from Discovery to TruTV.

The second night, Outdoor Channel—now in
more than 36 million homes—had its awards
event, and it was majestic. In a massive theatre
at the Hard Rock, it featured a full concert from
the wonderful Zac Brown Band and appearances
from people like “Uncle Ted” Nugent (who as
usual told everyone to vote Republican and “get
these punks out of the White House”) and Joe
Mantegna, who hosts a show on the network as
well. Mantegna was funny onstage, but no funnier
than when he once told me while we were
golfing together that he is so thankful to Mandy
Patinkin for dropping out of the lead Criminal
role that he has a photo of Patinkin over his bed. I think he was kidding. Not sure.

But in my view, the best thing to see on Outdoor
Channel is an on-air couple named Lee
and Tiffany Lakosky. They are Minnesotans, so
I am biased, but they are TV stars, with a show
called The Crush. If I were ABC, I would seriously
be looking at Tiffany for Dancing With the
. She has a magnetic personality, would
bring in a whole new demo to the network, and
she is, um—sorry here, Lee—absolutely offthe-
charts smoking hot. I took a photo of my
redneck brother-in-law with her, and the youknow-
what-eating grin he had on must have
been as big as the one Bernie Madoff sported
the first time someone wrote him a check.

Perhaps the best part of the Outdoor
bash was that it was in the same
hotel as a popular porn convention.
The cross-section of rednecks and
porn actresses in the bar that night
had to have led to some great script
ideas, if not run-throughs.

Another highlight was Steven
Tyler coming to the SHOT show,
where he was presented with a
massive knife. Unfortunately, he
got it the morning that the dismal
Idol premiere ratings came out.
Made me a little nervous.

Throughout the weekend, I heard tons of
shots (as in barbs—not gunfire, thankfully)
taken at Hollywood people. It was similar to
the way I hear many Hollywood execs dismiss
hunters and the religious right, and the like.
What a huge mistake.

There is opportunity here. Outdoor and
Sportsman execs know it, and they are being
handed more market share as places such as
ESPN and NBC Sports Channel are increasingly
getting out of the outdoors game. Meanwhile,
other nets are trying to step in. Smart move.

Many of the folks who make television disagree
with some core beliefs of a whole mess
of people. And that’s fine. But if they can target
them—and I mean with programming—it’s a
great business idea. And ignoring the opportunity
to program to them is a huge miss.

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on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman