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WealthTV Takes Unique Approach to Rich, Famous

BY YARA SOUZA

When Robert Herring Sr. talks about money, he takes an interesting approach to the bottom line.

“Wealth doesn’t really mean money,” said Herring, the founder and chief executive officer of the recently launched WealthTV network. “An abundance of good can be money, but it can also be health or friends.”

Herring, 64, founded WealthTV in December 2003, when the network moved into its current San Diego headquarters. The network, which isn’t accessible locally via cable but broadcasts from its own satellite uplink and master control to PanAmsat’s Galaxy 13, officially launched June 1, 2004.

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“It sounded like a great name for a TV station,” Herring said. “WealthTV focuses on the lifestyle of people who are upscale, (but that) doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rich.”

WealthTV broadcasts its shows in high-definition, using Sony equipment such as the 730HD camera, which costs some $750,000 apiece, to shoot in the field. The network integrates the entire production process within its 40,000 square-feet state-of-the-art facility on Morena Boulevard off Interstate 5.

The majority of WealthTV programming focuses on lifestyle, but the network, which is seen internationally and as close as Los Angeles, is unique in covering health, travel, etiquette, philanthropy and luxury items, such as cars, airplanes and yachts, said general manager and vice president Dean Harris.

The networks fills 24 hours of programming a day, with six to eight hours coming from new programming that repeats three to four times daily, Herring said.

“We want to produce exciting, interesting and compelling programming for our viewers and be able to reach as many viewers with this programming as possible,” Harris said. “That’s what we’re striving to do every day to be seen.

“That’s the great challenge , in a very crowded marketplace not only to get shelf space, but also get recognition,” he added.


Growing Viewership

WealthTV is an ad-free network sustained by private funding. It will continue to be this way for the next several years, Herring said, until the network has between 5 million and 10 million viewers. As of now, he said, it has about 1 million viewers, but expects more than 3 million by the end of 2006.

Harris, a 1985 economics graduate from San Diego State University, said the traditional media buyer looks for at least a sub-household number of 10 million viewers for ads.

He worked for 10 years as an executive in the entertainment business, including president of Heftel Entertainment and Heftel Post and Transfer, which Harris said was involved in the entertainment for Las Vegas’ Venetian Hotel Showroom.

Within the extensive broadcast marketplace, WealthTV is distinctive in that it’s the only cable TV network in the luxury segment that fulfills set parameters aimed at those on the high-end, Harris said. He said the network takes on more of an educational angle than competitor’s programs.

“We’re more informational and more in-depth,” Harris said. “There are channels like Fine Living with (luxury) shows here and there, but it’s not a focus of the whole environment like WealthTV is.”

Herring, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, said the family-friendly network maintains a broad demographic appeal across age, gender and income levels, particularly focusing on viewers 24 to 64 years old in the higher income bracket.

“The TV industry has changed,” Herring said. “Before, people used to have loyalty to a brand and would watch one channel for hours. In this day and age, however, people have a massive number of choices and shows.

“They don’t care for networks as a whole as much as (the) content or program.”


Now In Phoenix

WealthTV’s most recent launch was in the Phoenix area, according to Harris.

“We get a few requests a day (for the network) from people in San Diego, and quite a few more from around the country,” he said.

Herring said among WealthTV’s goals for this year include signing up additional companies for its video distribution, although the network already has 30 distributors.

The company plans to launch its network through communications giant SBC in the late 2006, and is working hard to move forward with Cox Communications and Time Warner, Herring said.

“We’ve already launched with Verizon service in different parts of the country,” he said.

Increasing the number of viewers and training and hiring new employees are also priorities for WealthTV, he said.


Adding Staff

According to Herring, the network has about 65 employees and hopes to boost that number to 600 within two to three years. He said being so close to such a large media market as Los Angeles gives the network an advantage in recruitment. However, he said, the network primarily tries to bring in people from San Diego.

Herring launched his first business in San Diego in 1972. He has more than 30 years of electronics industry experience as founder and president of Herco Technology, which supplied printed circuit boards to such high-tech corporations as Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard Corp. and San Diego’s Qualcomm Inc. He sold the company in 2000 to publicly traded Teradyne Inc., an equipment and interconnection systems supplier out of Boston.

WealthTV inspires others to do better by giving a glimpse into successful people’s lives, Herring said.

“It’s about the whole lifestyle of giving back and how you spend your time and what you spend your energies and all of that goes into the equation of what makes you wealthy,” Harris said.


Yara Souza is an intern for the

San Diego Business Journal.

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