Outdoor Channel's New CEO Plans Upgrade, Possible Sale

Could the Outdoor Channel be put on the block? Certainly new CEO Roger Werner's track record suggests it.

Werner--who had a hand in selling OLN to Comcast, Speedvision to Fox Cable and a high-profile regional sports network to TCI--will assume the CEO role of parent Outdoor Channel Holdings on Nov. 10. Its main asset is the eponymous network in 28 million homes.

The public company saw its share price rise slightly (1.16 percent) to $12.24 on news that Werner had signed on.

Giving fuel to the suggestion that after Werner upgrades programming, branding and distribution the network could be sold is the growing reality that independent cable channels have an uphill climb in today's consolidated media world.

Besides Werner's success at dressing up niche cable channels for sale, he has experience in the Outdoor Channel's genre, having run OLN (once Outdoor Life Network and now rebranded as Versus) for six years until 2001. Outdoor Channel programming includes hunting, fishing, and some off-road motor sports, and extends to gold prospecting.



An Outdoor Channel representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company saw revenues increase 11 percent to $22.2 million in the first half of 2006 versus a year ago, and ad revenue jump 8 percent to $11.4 million.

The 56-year-old Werner helped launch ESPN in 1979, then served as COO from 1982 until 1988. He returned as President-CEO for two years starting in 1988.

Werner then helped develop several regional sports networks, including Prime Ticket in Southern California, which was sold to TCI in 1994 for a reported $220 million. It's now known as Fox Sports West.

Werner next worked with Cox, Comcast and MediaOne to launch Speedvision and Outdoor Life. He ran both channels until their 2001 sale.

Speedvision is now known as Speed Channel or just Speed.

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