PROClassicTV: Stephen Rodgers Discusses New Streaming Service
For more than forty years, the Peter Rodgers Organization has been a top name in film and TV distribution, and with the recent launch of PROClassicTV.com they’ve now given fans access to the classic television shows they love from the comfort of their own home.
Fans can now purchase individual episodes or get a monthly, unlimited membership that allows them to watch complete seasons of iconic series like “The Rifleman,” “I Spy,” “My Favorite Martian” and “The Saint” as well as the cartoon classic “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse”, the truck driving drama “Movin’ On” and the campy “Celebrity Bowling.” Every episode is uncut, commercial free and ready to take a new generation of TV fanatics and those who remember these shows fondly well into the 21st century.
I recently spoke with Stephen Rodgers, Chief Executive Officer of The Peter Rodgers Organization (PRO) about PROClassicTV.com and more in this exclusive new interview.
Can you give me a little background on the Peter Rodgers Organization?
My father [Peter Rodgers] was vice president of a company called National Telefilm Associates (NTA). They were the syndication arm for Republic Pictures and NBC. This was back in the day when studios like Republic had NTA and Columbia had Screen Gems. It was also a time when studios were being pressured a lot by theatrical companies. They shunned on selling features to television because back then, movie theaters thought they’d go out of business if films were available on TV. My father was there from 1957 until 1976 and left to go out on his own to start his own company, The Peter Rodgers Organization. That’s how the company started.
How did you become involved in the business?
I was working as an engineer for a heating and air conditioning company when my father passed away in 1988. So I’d go to work at my construction job and afterwards would go into his office for the estate. My father knew a lot of influential people in the business who welcomed me and took me under their wing. They encouraged me to stay in it and that’s what I ended up doing. I didn’t envision going into the business, but keeping this company going was (in a way) my way of making sure my dad was still around.
Where did the idea for PROClassicTV.com originate?
It was something that was created out of necessity after watching the decline of physical DVD’s and startup cable networks. Seeing those areas go dormant really pushed us into the online medium and PROClassicTV. Rather than chase existing models and suffer the consequences of their learning experience, we realized the strength was in keeping all the content together as a library. It gave us the ability to get more attention. ProclassicTV.com gives consumers a way to transactionally watch content without commercials. It was also an opportunity for us to digitize our content and present it directly to consumers. In the past, we had always dealt with network and traditional syndication platforms on a company by company level, so this is new for us. But it allows us to see what kind of climate is out there and what the next moves will be for the future.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
It’s always a learning experience. We’ve seen the evolution of a lot of things over the years: the VHS tape came in and went out, then we had the cable channel boom of the 1990’s. Now we’re in this online medium which is ever changing. As things evolve, you’re always second guessing yourself and making sure that you’re doing things that will be of mutual benefit. Representing producers is a challenge because many of them are no longer around. It’s typically the estates and families that have a video asset they don’t know what to do with. It’s my job to make sure that we maximize the benefits for them them but at the same time, making sure the broadcasters are happy with the deal that they have. Then we have to hope that there’s some happiness left over for us. Those are the challenges. Making sure the crystal ball is working the best that it can.
How do you acquire content?
We really don’t acquire things. It finds us. The content comes from families, estates and agencies and even some international companies that don’t have distribution domestically. We represent shows that are branded and sell themselves. Shows like “I-Spy,” “My Favorite Martian” and “The Rifleman” are brands that have been cultivated over decades and don’t require any promotion. People recognize them and tune just by virtue of them being on the schedule. Wherever these shows go a few million dedicated fans and followers who grew up or enjoyed watching them will gravitate towards that channel or network. That’s the criteria – looking for shows that already have an established brand and ones that have universal recognition.
I’ve already asked you what’s the most challenging part of your job. What’s the most satisfying?
The thing that satisfies me the most is making a deal that works. Whether it’s a deal with a TV station in Bangor, Maine or a deal like the one we have with AMC and “The Rifleman”. Being able to get all the parts together to make the broadcaster or exhibitor happy, makes the producer/owner happy and then any happiness left over for us. Those are three things that factor into every transaction we do.
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