RFD-TV: Charter Will Expand Distribution

Adds channel to entire footprint, including major urban markets

According to RFD-TV, Charter TV has struck a deal to expand carriage of the rural-targeted program network in the remainder of the company's footprint where RFD-TV is not carried, which includes such major urban markets as Los Angeles, Atlanta, St. Louis and Sacramento.

The rollout kicks in next month.

“We've crossed into some uncharted territory as a network, and this incremental growth with Charter enables millions more potential viewers to come along with us," said RFD-TV owner Rural Media Group President Patrick Gottsch. “I am extremely grateful to the executive team at Charter. They took the time to hear us out and agreed that our service added value to their entire footprint..."

Charter is currently trying to get its merger with Time Warner Cable approved by regulators, so expanding its carriage deal with a rural-targeted independent programmer couldn't hurt. And could actually help.

AT&T struck a deal with RFD-TV while it was trying to get its DirecTV deal approved, and after RFD-TV and its fans pushed the FCC to make carriage of the channel a condition of the merger. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/att-carry-rfd-tv/133758).

RFD channel got some high-profile attention in Hill hearings on the AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast/Time Warner Cable deals from legislators concerned about large media companies' carriage of rural-themed programming. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/att-carry-rfd-tv/133758).

Gottsch said that the deal does not extend to Time Warner Cable systems if the merger is approved, but points out that with the Charter rollout, the network is approaching 50 million subs, a long-time goal.

He told B&C he is hopeful that Charter may entertain expanding the network onto TWC systems--he laments that only about 3% of those now carry it--and for that reason hopes the deal is approved.  "If that Charter merger is approved, maybe we could get that situation straightened out," he says.