RFD-TV founder Patrick Gottsch on the importance of small communities, big communication and chasing the American dream.
Pictured: left to right: Raquel, Rose, Patrick, & Gatsby Gottsch – courtesy of the family
For as long as Patrick Gottsch can remember, he has loved the rural lifestyle. Born on a small farm outside of Omaha, Nebraska, Gottsch grew up raising corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs alongside his family. He recalls life growing up on the farm with fond memories, still cherishing the great family atmosphere that rural life provided. Although he initially attended college after high school at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, the urge to farm was magnetic, and Gottsch soon returned home. It was a decision that would have a far-reaching impact.
“My dad set me up on a farm next to his,” Gottsch shared. “Then we had three of the worst drought years in Nebraska history. It was 100 degrees nearly all summer long. We had 22% interest and $2 corn. My dad told me, ‘There’s no future in farming—you need to go to town and get a job.’”
Gottsch took his father’s advice, landing a job selling satellite dishes to consumers residing in both rural and urban areas. It didn’t take him long to realize that people in both locations were complaining about the same thing—there was a significant lack of quality agricultural programming. Commodity reports aired at four o’clock in the morning. The satellite programming offered 26 sports programs, but no rodeo or Western sports. There was a gap—a big gap—and Gottsch aimed to fill it.
“One night, I just wrote down on the back of an envelope, ‘RFD-TV—rural America’s most important network.’ I decided we should run commodity reports in the morning, equine programming in the afternoon, and Western sports and music at night. The rest, like they say, is history.”
What started 22 years ago as an idea haphazardly jotted down on the back of an envelope has expanded over the course of more than two decades to include the additions of Rural Radio on Sirius XM and The Cowboy Channel. In December, during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo month, The Cowboy Channel consistently ranks amongst the five most-viewed sports channels, beating out industry giants like NBC and CBS Sports—a true testament to the fact that the Western way of life is not going anywhere. At least, not anytime soon.
Gottsch says only recently has he begun to look back over the last 20 years and marvel at all that has been accomplished since his idea’s inception.
“Honestly, we look back now, shake our heads, and ask, ‘How the heck did we do that?’” Gottsch laughed. “But here we are. We are a family-owned company, which I’m very proud of. I tried to get outside investors, but everyone told me what a dumb idea it was, so ultimately, we ended up with all our stock still in the family. We have gotten every break in the world in the last 22 years. It’s like this was meant to be.”
For Gottsch, the success of RFD-TV and its programming is a tip of the hat to the quintessential American dream.
“America is full of these kinds of stories where someone had an idea, and they had the freedom to go out and pursue it,” Gottsch shared. “The ones who don’t give up usually find a way to get it done. That’s part of the beauty of America.”
Building a successful company that caters to the interests of agricultural communities and watching it not only sustain, but thrive, has shown Gottsch that no matter what mainstream media may have people believe, the heartbeat of rural America is alive and well.
“The rural way of life is not dead—not even a little bit,” Gottsch said. “A generation ago, almost everyone had a connection to farming or agriculture—you had a parent, grandparent or great grandparent who farmed or lived in the country. That’s not the case anymore, which makes communication more important now than it ever has been.”
For Gottsch, one of the greatest joys is showcasing rodeos across the country.
“For rural communities, the rodeo is often the biggest event of the year,” Gottsch explained. “The whole town—often the whole county—comes together to pull it off. Almost every rodeo includes a grand entry, with a prayer, the national anthem and a presenting of the colors. Rodeo embodies those traditional values, and we feel fortunate to have to opportunity to showcase it.”
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