Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ed Hardy's expertise led Great American Country to gains

Ed Hardy, president of the Great American Country TV Network, has done pretty well for himself for a longtime radio guy who jumped at the chance to run a TV operation.
Hardy has been at the helm of GAC, owned by publicly traded Scripps Networks Interactive, for five years. During that time, the feisty network has played catch-up with Nashville-based Country Music Television, its chief competitor in country music videos and related programming.

GAC has managed to double its number of cable subscribers to nearly 60 million viewers since Scripps assumed ownership, and its advertising revenues appear to be weathering the U.S. recession with some sales gains.

Operating from studios directly on Music Row at 49 Music Square W., GAC fittingly spent a six-figure sum turning a former music recording studio there into a modern TV studio and production facility. Hardy discussed the past five years and what's ahead with Tennessean Business Editor Randy McClain.

Your background was in radio before you joined GAC in 2004. What brought you to a TV job?

I had worked for Scripps in the radio business; they had radio stations for a number of years. And I was actually recruited by them to run a country music radio station in Portland, Ore., in 1984. I was with Scripps for almost 10 years, I guess.

Ken Lowe, who was head of the radio division at the time, is now the CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive. I had always kept in touch with him even after I had started my own radio group.

When they decided they were going to buy GAC, Great American Country TV, Ken and I talked. He said: "We don't have a lot of people with experience in the country music business … would you be interested coming in to help us in the transition?" I initially came on as a consultant, and then they offered me the job to become the president of the TV network.

It was a great fit for me because I was able to take all the experience that I had in country radio and put it to a new use.

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