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RVtoday, the RV lifestyle television program produced by Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), will begin its third season Jan. 4.
The new batch of 26 shows, which will air on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), will be produced for the first time entirely in digital format, and post-production will be handled in AGI’s Ventura, Calif., headquarters in the company’s TL Enterprises Inc. division.
Previously, the production of RVtoday was outsourced and was not part of the daily in-house operations of AGI, where, by the way, RV Business magazine also is published.
The half-hour program, which airs five times a week, brings the expertise of the editors of TL’s MotorHome and Trailer Life consumer magazines and other lifestyle authorities to the small screen. And, more importantly, AGI officials say, the show’s magazine format brings the RV lifestyle to new “channel surfers” who may have never thought about taking up RVing before.
“We’re building the kind of audience that the industry wants, from youngsters to senior citizens,” said Bob Livingston, AGI vice president of RV content. The show, he notes, is developed to offer something for everyone, with features ranging from tech-oriented segments to travelogues to tests of new RV products.
And, for the 2003 season, RVtoday’s format has been expanded to feature a cooking segment hosted by JoAnna Lund, an RV cooking authority; a “How To” segment from “resident expert” Bill Gehr, owner of Bill’s RV Service in Ventura; and a commentary from Livingston.
“We’ve received a lot of input (over the past two years) from people who’ve logged on to our website (rvtoday.tv),” said Livingston. “We’ve created a versatile show.”
Viewers have been particularly vocal about the show and are looking for more tests, RV-friendly places to visit, how-to’s and new products.
“People want something accessible, so this year we are going to focus on our viewers’ requests,” said Stew Oleson, the program’s host/producer and a veteran of a number of morning television shows. Joining Oleson in front of the camera is Jeri Sager, a theatrical performer who became familiar with RVing through her husband, who drove a Prevost bus conversion on show tours.
Oleson and Sager, who are in the Baby Boomer age group and bring a strong dose of fun and humor to the program’s content, have been with the show since its inception in 2001 on cable television’s TNN.
When TNN changed its name and format from The Nashville Network to The National Network more than a year ago, RVtoday moved to OLN.
This past summer, RVtoday moved all of its production and post-production functions into AGI’s offices. In fact, the program is now completely shot on digital format and all editing is done with a Macintosh-driven editing suite. “The move saved us 50%,” explained Livingston. “This is state-of-the-art equipment that allows us to create a television show in a small space without sacrificing quality.”
And while production costs have gone down, viewership has gone up, according to John Martin, senior vice president, RVtoday. “We’ve seen a 22% increase for the second quarter of 2002 compared with the first quarter of the year,” stated Martin. He added that during the April-June period, the show enjoyed a viewership of 8.7 million adults in the 35-64 age range, the prime RV-ownership age bracket.
Much of this growth can be attributed to the expanded cable viewership of OLN, which, Martin added, has nearly doubled from 34 million to 60 million over the past year. This, Livingston and Martin are quick to point out, is a plus for advertisers such as Monaco Coach Corp., Blue Ox, Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., Protect All Inc., Winegard Co. and GMAC Insurance.
“TV is about brand building and more and more industry people are looking at TV to support their current and future ad campaigns,” Martin observed. “The sponsors find that they are reaching a new audience and large numbers of potential buyers.”
Toward that end, AGI’s possible future plans include producing “infomercials” for its products and those of independent clients. For now, though, the RVtoday team has been keeping busy, fulfilling a production schedule that entails traveling to locations ranging from Nevada to Maine. “We’re keeping it fun,” Livingston said.