Tad Walden didn’t have next door neighbors.
Growing up, he couldn’t just run down the block to his friend’s house and play catch. He lived away from his friends, on property in Elkview that his mom and stepdad owned.
But living in a remote location didn’t mean he was lonely. He always had someone to play with at home, someone to romp around his family’s 16 acres, someone to explore the woods with on a summer afternoon.
His playmates were his dogs. His family always had one, sometimes two.
“I would go out for the day and play with the dogs in the woods. That was, as a kid, how I entertained myself,” Walden said. “I’ve just always loved dogs.”
He owns three now — one wire fox terrier and two vizslas. He breeds, trains and shows his vizslas, a small pointer, retriever breed from Hungary.
Walden has spent the past five years channeling his passion for canines into a professional pursuit. He is the founder and CEO of FidoTV, an independent television channel solely focused on providing family-friendly, canine-related programming for dog lovers.
“It really is boiled down to: Life is better with a dog. And now TV is too,” Walden said.
The channel launched Oct. 14 on Channel 245 on DISH, the third largest television platform in the U.S. FidoTV is available to DISH’s nearly 14 million homes. Walden said negotiations are underway to make FidoTV available to an additional 26 to 30 million homes, although he couldn’t disclose the platforms or the timeline for FidoTV’s expansion.
The channel is partnering with the American Kennel Club. In addition to original programing, it will air AKC events. On Dec. 12 and 13, it will air the 2015 American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship evening events.
The channel’s original programs currently include “Pet Heroes,” “Pick a Puppy” and “Dogs with Jobs.”
Walden said the channel has 20 core programming categories — from rescue shows, to movies, to breed shows, to vet shows. He said many more shows are in the production phase and will air on the channel in the coming months.
MotionMasters, a Charleston-based video production company, is currently working to produce one of those shows, “Which Woof’s for Me?” for FidoTV, which will begin airing in early 2016. The show dives into different breeds, explaining how to care for each breed, as well as its history and specific traits.
Diana Sole Walko, president of MotionMasters, has been traveling across the country with her crew to film 12 different dog breeds for the show. Each episode of the show will focus on two breeds. The show’s whirlwind filming began in October.
They’ve filmed the fastest Boston terrier in Colorado Springs, Colorado; a Coton de Tulear breeder from Morgantown; bull dogs in Columbus, Ohio; and beagles in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia.
Although MotionMasters has produced educational videos that have been distributed nationwide, this is its first network production contract.
“It’s very exciting to be doing work that millions of people are going to be seeing,” Walko said. “Shows like this originate out of New York or L.A., now they originate out of Charleston, West Virginia.”
As a product of the Mountain State and a graduate of Marshall University, Walden said he’s pushing about “30 percent of production dollars into the state.”
“I’m doing my best to support West Virginia and West Virginia businesses.”
After Walden graduated from Marshall University, he worked in advertising and marketing in Detroit, but soon returned to his home. He worked at Charles Ryan Associates in Charleston for 10 years. It was there that he first began working with companies involved in television.
His ties in the industry grew when he moved to Dallas and began managing accounts for television companies, while working at an advertising, marketing and public relations firm. He made the switch from working at an agency to working for a client. He moved to Denver, Colorado, to work as the vice president of marketing of Primestar Satellite TV, a television platform that was eventually purchased by DIRECTV.
Before he formed FidoTV, he worked as chief marketing officer for OnCommand Video. There he managed all television programming contracts. He saw first-hand how much cable channels are charging television platforms to air their content.
He said channels or groups of channels would often go to television platforms with “guns drawn” demanding more money. If companies have to pay more for its channels — channels that they can’t afford to lose — then consumers have to pay more to watch those channels, he explained.
“When a channel looks at a distributor and says, ‘I want more money,’ distributors are caught in that game,” Walden said. “A lot is passed through to the consumer, but the consumer doesn’t really have a real choice in that business model.”
Walden said FidoTV is using a different approach. He said they are working to find a way for the distributor, consumer and advertisers to benefit.
He said FidoTV can be considered a “skinny package,” which means high quality for consumers at a low cost for television providers.
“We have an incredibly unique business model. It’s because I came from [the television provider’s] side of the desk. I know the problems they’re facing with channels.”
He said the channels that cost the most don’t necessarily mean that they’ll have the highest viewership rates.
He’s not worried about finding people interested in watching the FidoTV’s dog-focused content.
Close to 43.3 million households in the U.S. owned a pet dog in 2012, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Multiple reports estimate that the number has grown to close to 55 million homes today. More than $60 billion will be spent on pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association. Walden said even during the 2008 economic downturn, the pet industry grew rather than suffer.
He credits these high numbers and economic prosperity to the “humanization factor,” where pets, especially dogs, have become an extension of the family.
That’s a large number of advertisers and consumers for FidoTV to tap into.
“There’s never been one [channel] specifically designed for people with dogs,” Walden said.
Not to mention that paying acting royalties in the form of dog biscuits helps to save costs.
Walden warned if viewers aren’t already dog owners, they better be careful.
“Our employees as well as our production [crews] have already figured out there is a big hazard working with this channel.”
Walden said shortly into filming, he overheard crew members say, “Oh, I need a puppy” and “I got to get a dog.”
FidoTV can be found online at www.FidoTVChannel.com. Soon people will be able to download a free mobile app that offers shorter original content.
Reach Anna Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4881.