When Marc Fein took the helm as Outdoor Life Network’s SVP of programming and production, OLN had an unexciting reputation as the place where rather sedate, older viewers could crack a beer and watch trout-fishing. Then, in 2001, Comcast took over. Comcast’s top brass saw OLN as a diamond in the rough, and brought in Fein to add polish. ‘We wanted to create more of a value for our distributors and affiliates in ad sales,’ says Fein. ‘We wanted to grow the network and reach more people.’ All this without alienating the audience they already had.
Fein went about re-branding the net as Versus, which launches this fall and is designed to appeal to a broader and more youthful audience. Last year, he added shows like Survivor, Arena Football, and even a reality hunting show, Wanted: Ted or Alive, starring Ted Nugent, where the 57-year-old rock star challenges city slickers to live off the land. Footage of ‘the Nuge’ pulling a bloody liver from a freshly killed deer would appeal to the younger audience Fein was after, but what about the trout-fishing aficionados? The numbers speak for themselves: the hunting show became OLN’s most-watched show in 2005. And, just a year into Fein’s tenure, OLN’s total primetime viewers had increased by 26%, including a 24% jump in the 18 to 34 male demo.