Rogers Advising American Media

Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

They may not have the allure of cable news or niche video magazines, but Tom Rogers is betting American Media’s Star, National Enquirer and other lively grocery checkout publications have just the right cachet for targeted cable and local broadcast TV audiences to become big multimedia franchises.
Serving as a nonexclusive adviser to the New York-based publisher and its high-profile executive VP and chief editorial director, Bonnie Fuller, on how to extend their most popular print brands into television is just the latest in a string of new ventures for Mr. Rogers, the former Primedia chairman and NBC Cable chief.
At the heart of all the ventures is a way for Mr. Rogers, 49, to follow his entrepreneurial spirit and knack for developing niche channels and launching new businesses under the broad umbrella of his new portfolio company, TRget Media LLC.
American Media and Mr. Rogers said the new products could take the form of original series that can be syndicated to local TV stations and networks, feature inserts for local newscasts during ratings sweeps, regular feature reports for existing network news shows, streaming media reports for the Internet or DVRs or home DVD and video products.
Due to the high cost and difficulty of securing space, the company is not likely to pursue the creation of a cable channel at this time, sources said.
Content most likely will draw on the lively celebrity-oriented and health-related stories that drive the headlines of flagship magazines such as the National Enquirer, Star, Men’s Fitness, Shape and Natural Health.
Although Mr. Rogers and American Media declined to comment on ideas, saying it is too early in the process, industry executives suggested that producers of programming that is drawn from the company’s magazines could be challenged by having to approach celebrities, entertainment companies, publicists and even lawyers with whom the publications have tangled over the years due to the magazines’ signature flashy coverage.
However, sources close to the situation say David Pecker, American Media’s chairman, CEO and president, has been working closely with Ms. Fuller and others to elevate the editorial products that often celebrate the celebrated.
“We’re going to look at all the possibilities,” Mr. Rogers said. “These titles can have a lot of cachet in the digital video world.”
“The smartest people in the magazine business are realizing that future growth will be highly dependent on driving magazine brands beyond only the print world,” he said.
Mr. Rogers gave up that effort at Primedia last year when he resigned over differences with the board on the sale of assets and future growth strategies. His four-year tenure was devoted to transforming the holding company into an operating company and extending Primedia’s stable of targeted magazines into television and the Internet.
As the chairman and chief executive of New York-based TRget Media, Mr. Rogers has co-founded a wireless content company, which he declined to discuss, and is working to acquire other media-related businesses.
Though Mr. Rogers will not discuss his pending deals, sources said he is working closely with Cerberus Capital Management, a $12 billion investment fund that wants to do more in media and entertainment circles. He also is working with Apax Capital Management, another private equity firm, to identify and acquire media-related concerns. Mr. Rogers, who also sits on the TiVo board, has been one of two mediators trying to help settle the license fee dispute between Cablevision Systems and the Yankees’ YES Network.