Outdoor Television Expands as Hunter/Angler Numbers Fall

Hunting and fishing shows continue to grow even as the number of people who actually hunt and fish continues to dwindle. Or are those numbers dwindling as much as we think? That's the question posed by this story in the trade magazine Multichannel News.
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By the latest count of the federal government, fewer people have been fishing and hunting in the U.S. over the past decade for a variety of factors, including an aging demographic and habitat loss. So why are there more hunting, shooting and fishing shows on TV than ever? Not just more shows, but more channels, online content and personalities? The particular reasons for the increased attention are as diverse as the demographic of the audience: fears that President Obama will push for stricter gun-control laws, a down economy and, perhaps, "kill shots." And while the fin-and- fur genre on TV is decidedly small, it shows how even in the maturing business of cable TV, some niches are still growing -- and are still worth pursuing.

__...Five percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older -- 12.5 million people -- hunted in 2006, according to the U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Service. From 1991 to 2006, the number of all hunters (16-plus) declined by 11%, while spending on hunting supplies increased 24%. From 1991 to 2006, the number of all anglers (16-plus) declined 16% to 30 million, and expenditures increased 18%. But the networks and groups that cater to the rod and gun enthusiasts say there's reason to believe that the federal government's statistics may be dated now, and there are signs that more people are shooting, hunting and fishing. "The genre remains healthy -- there's still eager demand for this content," said Willy Burkhardt, president of seven-year-old Sportsman Channel, which reaches more than 25 million subscribers, a fraction of what fully distributed networks reach. "It just hasn't been served all that well. Quality of service has gone up."

And the audience has the potential to be big game. "The size and intensity of the outdoor genre, including hunting and fishing, represent a huge cross section of the male population. They're passionately engaged and committed -- in that lies a significant opportunity for growth," said Outdoor Channel CEO Roger Werner, former CEO of Speed Channel and Outdoor Life Network, which was rebranded as Versus in 2006. "You take all the golfers and all the tennis players, combined, and they still don't total as many as the people who fish in North America," said Mark Rubenstein, CEO of the four-year- old World Fishing Network, which now reaches nearly 4 million subscribers. "This is a pure play."_

Your thoughts? Are we an endangered species or just misrepresented by the numbers?