The Cowboy Channel
|The Cowboy Channel|
|Owned by||Rural Media Group|
|Dish Network||232 (SD)|
|Verizon FiOS||246 (SD)|
|AT&T U-verse||566 (SD)|
|Sling TV||Internet Protocol television|
The Cowboy Channel (formerly FamilyNet) is an American cable television network in over 25 million cable and satellite homes, which carries Western and rodeo sports. The network was founded in 1979 as the National Christian Network, and took the name FamilyNet in 1988 under the ownership of Jerry Falwell. It is owned by Rural Media Group, which also owns RFD-TV.
The channel was acquired by InTouch Ministries in October 2007 from the Southern Baptist Convention. In December 2009, FamilyNet was acquired by Robert A. Schuller's ComStar Media Fund. In 2010, FamilyNet was spun out into its own company, with Robert A. Schuller as the chairman.
On October 24, 2012, Rural TV purchased FamilyNet, and the transaction took effect on January 1, 2013. At first the network was used to carry an all-trading day format of farm and market news, which eventually moved to a reduced timeslot on RFD-TV due to low interest and ratings. Rural Media, which had considered merging RFD-TV and FamilyNet together to gain over-the-air carriage, eventually decided to keep FamilyNet as a separate service, but with a refocus in programming towards classic television programming which was not picked up by competitors MeTV, Antenna TV and Cozi TV. Rural Media also decided not to renew over-the-air contracts with stations in a slow process in order to make it a cable-only network.
On September 2014, FamilyNet was refocused with classic television series and films from the Sony Pictures Television libraries, with Sony also assisting with advertising sales. Religious programming, which used to make up the vast majority of the schedule under SBC and Schuller's ownership, was limited to Sunday mornings, though Rural Media also maintained FamilyNet's paid programming overnights despite their executives' traditional disdain for depending on those programs for revenue (RFD-TV since also began to carry overnight paid programming).
As The Cowboy Channel
On June 19, 2017, Rural Media Group CEO Patrick Gottsch announced that on July 1, FamilyNet would be rebranded as The Cowboy Channel, featuring a focus on Western sports and rodeo events, which had proven to be a popular attraction on RFD-TV. Gottsch thanked Sony Pictures Television for bringing the network to a solid footing, but noted that overwhelming competition in the classic television space from networks such as MeTV, Antenna TV, Cozi TV, Heroes & Icons and several other networks and streaming options had made the space more competitive and crowded, while a Western sports network was seen as a unique opportunity to stand out in cable and satellite lineups. Among the network's first offerings will be encore events from RFD's The American Rodeo, the Calgary Stampede, and the Professional Bull Riders archives. Sony's archived programming thus moved to their own GetTV at the start of 2018.
With the network conversion, Rural Media used the opportunity to end their carriage agreements with over-the-air broadcasters, rendering the Cowboy Channel as a pay-TV only offering.
- "Religious Networks Change for Profits". Broadcasting & Cable. 114 (19): 51. May 9, 1988. ISSN 1068-6827.
- Noah, Mickey (October 29, 2007). "NAMB completes FamilyNet sale to In Touch". Baptist Press.
- "FamilyNet TV and Radio Network Sold to Robert A. Schuller's ComStar". Black Christian News. December 29, 2009. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- "Celebrated Televangelist Robert Schuller Named Chairman of FamilyNet TV". PR Newswire. March 23, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
- "So Long FamilyNet, Hello The Cowboy Channel!" (Press release). Rural Media Group. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
- "Introducing The Cowboy Channel – Launching July 1, 2017". RFD-TV. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
- "Rural Media Is Changing FamilyNet to Cowboy Channel". MultiChannel News. June 22, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2017.