Few people know the outdoors industry’s subtle nuances as well as Merrill Sport, co-founder of Pursuit Channel and currently president of Hunt Channel. With over 30 years of experience overseeing trade shows and dealing with manufacturers, Merrill is able to leverage his connections into creating a television mecca for hunters and anglers. Hunt Channel aims to provide a glimpse of everyday sportsmen in real-life scenarios, and to expose first-time or veteran producers alike to prime time television. We got the chance to sit down with Merrill recently and talk about the inner workings of the Hunt Channel.
You can see a trailer for Hunt Channel here:
OutdoorHub: How did the Hunt Channel come about?
Merrill: I had just recently sold out of my last interest in the Pursuit channel in December of 2012. That’s when I met up with SkyAngel and because of that, we founded the Hunt Channel, which offers prime time hunting blocks. My thought process was that it was small enough for me and a few of my friends to personally finance this thing. I brought along a few of the people I worked with on the Pursuit Channel and we got to work. Also, the concept behind the prime time hunting blocks is that I’ll treat it as a business. My background is outdoor business. Buy and sell products. Well what we’re trying to buy or sell now is airtime.
How does your industry experience help you now?
Everything starts with a checkbook and everything start with integrity, trust, and character. When you have worked with over 300 manufacturers, whether you worked for wholesale companies or selling product, you become in contact with 300 of the most influential manufacturers in the business. I still go to trade shows and meet the people at the roots. These are people on the ground floor. For over 12 years I worked with Hicks–in fact I produced their first trade show. Not only have I worked in the warehouse and been involved in the business for 30 years, I’ve worked with the dealers, promoters, salesmen and women, and accounting–every level of the business. In this industry, you’re selling yourself and displaying your integrity. I have a lot of friends that help me. I think a lot of them and I hope they think a lot of me. The right connections to shows or advertisers, that makes all the difference.
Social media and online video sharing is now larger than ever, what is your take on this?
It’s coming. It’s the wave of the future. We’re certainly excited to be a part of it and trying not to be surprised by it. It is a market that we see ourselves strongly in. Our partners are strongly connected in this field. The secret to the internet is as soon as you can create something, people should be able to see it. The internet right now has lots of great content. But the internet is so big that without direction people can find it hard to find what they’re looking for. Now we’re trying brand that network, and gather all that content for the people for action-packed webisodes.
A teaser for Above the Game can be viewed below:
What upcoming shows on Hunt Channel are you looking forward to?
We’re real excited to be booking new shows. We feel like it’s just a matter of time that we put an edge to the brand and this YouTube channel. Probably one of our unsung heroes, one of our sleepers is Southern Boyz Outdoors. He’s kind of a cross breed between the swamp people and duck commanders.
A clip of Southern Boyz can be seen below:
What do you personally like to do outdoors?
Hunt deer, but I’ve been personally too busy hunting inside the industry, through conference calls. Now I don’t get the chance to go in the woods very often. When I was young I bagged a pretty good-sized whitetail early so I knew the chance of getting in a similar situation would be rare. One thing I do tell myself is that I should bowhunt more. I do all kind of fishing, bass fishing mainly. Next year I got a place set up for all that. I’m still the same guy I always was and it shows in the Hunt Channel’s programming. This are about regular, weekend warriors with families and jobs. We try to promote real life adventures over larger shows with high-end features. Not a lot of people can participate in those kind of hunts, it doesn’t relate to us. We try to roll with things that everybody can relate to.
We’d like to thank Merrill for giving us the time to interview him and you can find more of Hunt Channel’s videos on YouTube or watch on Angel Two and Dish Network Channel 266.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of a series with OutdoorHub’s featured video partners. Click here to read our interview with survival expert Dave Canterbury, and click here to read our interview with outdoor living expert Michael Barton.
Image courtesy Merrill Sport