Former OLN/Versus president Gavin Harvey ('86) has been named CEO of Sportsman Channel.
In his new role, Harvey will be charged with expanding the reach of the 7-year-old network, a niche offering dedicated to hunting, shooting and fishing. At present, Sportsman Channel is available in some 25.9 million U.S. households, via satellite operators DirecTV and DISH Network, cable giant Comcast and telco-TV providers Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse.
Harvey will split his time between New York and New Berlin, Wis., which has been home to the Sportsman Channel since it launched in spring 2003. He succeeds Willy Burkhardt, who will stay on with the network to help assist in the transition process.
Sportsman Channel is owned by Leo Hindery's private equity firm InterMedia Outdoor Holdings, which boasts a portfolio of consumer magazines and original TV programs. The magazine group publishes 15 enthusiast titles, including: Florida Sportsman, Game & Fish, North American Whitetail and Guns & Ammo.
InterMedia Outdoor Holdings bought Sportsman Channel in 2007.
Harvey joins Sportsman Channel after a brief stopover as executive vp and general manager of Rainbow Media's music net, Fuse. He first immersed himself in the outdoor category in 2004, when he joined Outdoor Life Network as president. In his four years at the helm, Harvey was an agent of significant change, transforming Outdoor Life from a field-and-stream channel to a competitive sports-oriented service. (After a brief incarnation as OLN, the net was renamed Versus in September 2006).
Most significantly, Harvey was instrumental in brokering Comcast's $200 million acquisition of the rights to carry NHL games, a deal the net has since renewed through 2011.
Harvey left Versus in summer 2008, when the Comcast-owned New York-based net completed its relocation to Philadelphia. He was replaced by Jamie Davis.
Prior to his stint with Comcast, Harvey served as executive vp and marketing & brand director at E! Networks. He also has held executive positions at In Demand and FX Networks.
While Harvey guided Versus toward more mainstream pursuits like pro hockey, he was happy to find himself back in the great outdoors. "I'm extremely excited to be back in outdoor television and to join a network with so much momentum," Harvey said. "With all the complementary media and content assets that exist in InterMedia Outdoors, Sportsman Channel is uniquely positioned to deliver unbeatable value to distributors, advertisers and outdoor enthusiasts."
Harvey added that it's a particularly apt time for him to book a return trip to the category. "Right now, this industry is enjoying a great vitality. There are a tremendous array of different types of producers and talent coming into the business," he said. "There are a million stories still to be told ... And it's a great time to make some great TV."
It may also be a perfect time to raise Sportsman Channel's profile. A week ago, ESPN announced it would dump its hunting and fishing programming by the end of this year.
Harvey will report to the InterMedia Outdoor Holdings board of directors and will be partnered with InterMedia Outdoors CEO Jeff Paro.
"Sportsman Channel is the last piece of the puzzle," Paro said. "With the addition of Gavin, who brings tremendous experience in cable and the outdoor space, we are extremely excited about further asserting our overall market and industry leadership."