Electronic Media

Son Takes Over Where Dad Left Off

By William Mahoney
Los Angeles Bureau Chief
October 19, 1992

LOS ANGELES — Imagine being 25 years old and taking over your father’s business after his death, without any experience in the field and few organized records to follow.

Add to that a business climate that’s taken a particularly unfavorable turn for small companies.

That’s exactly what Stephen Rodgers, chief executive officer of independent distributor The Peter Rodgers Organization did four years ago.

His father, industry veteran Peter Rodgers, had been in the TV business since 1950, and had run his own company since 1976.

After he died in February 1988, a legal fight among family members ensued over the fate of the company, with some pushing to liquidate it.

But Stephen Rodgers won out and took over the business.

He soon found himself wading through paperwork left by his father, most of which wasn’t very useful, Mr. Rodgers said.

“My dad kept a lot of it in his head,” he said.

Mr. Rodgers’ only involvement in TV up to that point was helping his dad at National Association of Television Program Executives conventions.

He had been making his living engineering heating and air conditioning systems for high-rise buildings.

“I came in with no knowledge of sales, whatsoever,” he says.

Mr. Rodgers sifted through files and letters, trying to learn the business and the state of the company.

Eventually he sorted the papers out enough to get the distribution company active again.

“My father taught me this business,” he says now, “but he wasn’t alive when he taught me.”

After spending a few years mining the library product and supervising other ongoing sales activities, Mr. Rodgers went to last year’s NATPE with a new first-run series called “Only In Hollywood,” the company’s first all-barter new series.

He picked up rights to the show, 26 weekly half-hours looking at the untold stories in Hollywood, just before NATPE began, and he came out of the convention with five clearances.

Yet, over the next eight months, he managed to get the show cleared in 117 markets covering 73 percent of the country for launch this fall.

It’s now rolling out in various markets.

Though Mr. Rodgers says he’s “still learning,” he’s certainly accomplished something by entering the tough first-run barter arena, and he’s considering other new offerings.

The Peter Rodgers company is planning to roll out a barter movie package from features in the company’s library, which includes such series as “I Spy” and “The Shari Lewis Show.”

Mr. Rodgers is also considering some development opportunities for future weekly first-run series.

At NATPE next year, the company will double its usual amount of exhibition space at the convention, from 400 square feet to 800.