5 Minutes With...Mitch Petrie

A veteran of outdoor TV programming explains creating compelling content is not about enjoying a hunt

Mitch Petrie
Mitch Petrie says that viewers tend to think producing an outdoor show is easy, but it’s really difficult.Outdoor Sportsman Group

As vice president of programming for Outdoor Sportsman Group networks (Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, and World Fishing Network), Mitch Petrie is at the forefront of the outdoor/entertainment industry. His love of the outdoors and a passion for country music have led to numerous interactions with country music stars. Those interactions have not only led to outdoor television programming, but their conversations about hunting and fishing brought about the creation of the Country Outdoors podcast that he co-hosts.

SHOT Daily recently had the opportunity to sit down with Petrie and discuss television programming, the outdoor lifestyle, and the new podcast.

SHOT Daily: How did you find your way to the outdoor lifestyle industry and Outdoor Sportsman Group?

Mitch Petrie: I was part owner of a small business that manufactured shooting-range products. I met a TV producer at SHOT Show in 2005, and ended up working with him on an Outdoor Channel series. I started my own production company and produced several series, including Wardens on Outdoor Channel. A few years later, the network hired me to oversee endemic programming.

SD: What elements make for an interesting, watchable television show?

MP: We program our networks for a wide variety of viewers, which makes it a challenge. A viewer who enjoys waterfowl hunting might not like deer programming. A bass angler might not like flyfishing. Regardless of the species or genre, I believe our viewers connect first and foremost with the host talent. If they like the talent and feel a connection to them, they tend to enjoy the show. For that reason, we are fortunate to be the home of the vast majority of the most popular TV talent in the outdoors industry.

SD: Explain how a television show finds its way to your networks.

MP: Our networks have a stable base of core series, but we are always on the lookout for new shows. We receive solicitations from producers via our website and frequently work with current producers on new series. We recommend producers create a pilot episode that we can review for talent, content, vision, and audience potential, and review that against our programming needs and availability. We try and look at the big picture with each new series and target producer partners with a strong business plan to maximize the potential for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

SD: What are you working on these days?

MP: It’s a blessing for me to be able to spend time hunting and fishing with our producers, who are all very skilled and accomplished hunters and anglers. As a passionate outdoorsman myself, it’s a great opportunity to watch them work and discuss the business of television while experiencing the outdoors. I’m also a fan of country music and recently launched the Country Outdoors podcast to talk about all things outdoors with some of the best talent in country music. It’s been a great experience to get back into the production world in addition to my core responsibility as a programming executive.

SD: What is the biggest misconception about outdoor lifestyle programming and how a show reaches air?

MP: Viewers tend to think producing an outdoor show is easy, but to produce 13 episodes of compelling content is a significant undertaking. If the success rate on a big-game hunt is generally 10 to 30 percent, those numbers go down when you have additional people in the field. You also have a finite amount of time in the fall, so schedules are aggressive and tiring. As great as it sounds to be the host of an outdoor lifestyle television series, it’s also a huge amount of work and pressure.

SD: What specific advice can you offer a wannabe television producer with an interesting idea for a television show or a young person dreaming of someday creating a show for one of the Outdoor Sportsman Group networks?

SD: Learn to walk before you run. We receive many submissions from aspiring TV talent and see a significant amount of rookie mistakes in the production. We know we can help the producer move beyond these mistakes, but it can be cause for concern for the long-term potential of the series. I would also suggest producers get outside input from professionals who are not in their circle of friends to get real critiques of their work.

Booth #13608. (outdoorsg.com)