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RFD Mixes Rustic and Modern in Studio Redesign

NASHVILLE, TENN. – For as long as we can remember, the societal view of the future has been sleek, shiny, even aerodynamic. In recent years most broadcasters have focused on those ideals when dealing with studio redesigns, integrating touchscreens and augmented reality systems, for example. But Gary Kanofsky and RFD TV went the other way. Aiming to appeal more to its rural demographic, when it came time for RFD to redesign its studio, the network went with barn doors and trusses to provide a unique look.

That doesn’t mean the broadcaster is behind the times. While it went retro with the décor, RFD made sure that its infrastructure utilized state-of-the-art products to bring the highest quality to its viewers.

To accomplish this, RFD founder Patrick Gottsch hired Kanofsky last year as the new chief content officer and executive vice president of news, and more specifically, to help launch the redesign.

“Patrick Gottsch had wanted to upgrade the quality of what his product looked like on the air,” said Kanofsky. “Number one, he was frustrated by the limits of what he couldn’t do on TV and he wanted to be able to do more. And the second reason, he wanted to make the product more appealing so we could widen our net.”

Launched in December 2000, RFD-TV is owned by Rural Media Group with its studio based at Northstar studios in Nashville, Tenn. RFD rented out a small space in the studio that was limited to a chroma key and a couple of cameras; even though the space was HD capable, RFD did not have the tools to utilize it. Kanofsky described it as “The kind of thing you would expect to see at a college TV station or a really small market cable outlet.”

The first step in the redesign came when RFD picked up shop and moved its studio to the former home of Great American Country on Music Row in Nashville. From there, Kanofsky dug in and got to work.

“The highest priority was to make sure that in building the new studio the cosmetics and images, as well as the presentation, did not drift away from the core values of the network,” he said.

With that in mind, Kanofsky brought in Jim Fenhagen and Camille Connelly of Jack Morton Production Design Group. They focused on browns, woods, and imagery typically associated with rural lifestyle. “The fire place with the big, heavy, rich brown leather chairs, the rusted out tractor seat and wheels… you’re not going to see that anywhere on television except on RFD TV,” said Kanofsky.

Perhaps more important to the redesign, though, were the things that viewers can’t see. RFD’s new studio had one disadvantage over the networks’s previous home at Northstar: it was only SD. To make sure that it got the most out of the redesign, RFD was committed to becoming fully HD-capable. As a result, the studio’s infrastructure needed be completely overhauled from the ground up.

RFD tapped Grass Valley for its video system, including the K2 Summit, Ingest, Playout, and proxy and craft editing systems,and added ENPS MOS for automation. New lights, new video monitors, and even completely redesigned Orad graphics (utilizing real-time data) were added to the new and improved studio.

The first broadcast in the new studio took place on March 23; a mere six months after the company began the redesign process. The reaction thus far has been great according to Kanofsky.

“The producers absolutely love the control they have,” he said. “The graphics teams loves that they can focus on creativity and they don’t have to do all this manual garbage. The sales people are ecstatic with what we constructed. They bring clients down now to see the stage and there’s a real wow factor when you walk in.”

Kanofsky has worked in the industry for 36 years, holding positions with CNBC, Bloomberg and CBS, but he is particularly proud of what RFD was able to accomplish. “We created something that is every bit as sophisticated, as robust and as capable as anything I’ve ever worked with anywhere.”