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The Cowboy Channel

The Cowboy Channel
CountryUnited States
HeadquartersNashville, Tennessee
Picture format1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)
OwnerRural Media Group
Sister channelsRFD-TV
Former namesNational Christian Network (1979–1986)
Liberty Broadcasting Network (1986–1988)
FamilyNet (1988–2017)
WebsiteOfficial website
Streaming media
Sling TVInternet Protocol television

The Cowboy Channel (formerly FamilyNet) is an American cable television network in over 42 million cable and satellite homes,[1] which carries Western and rodeo sports. The network was founded in 1979 as the National Christian Network, and took the name FamilyNet in 1988 under the ownership of Jerry Falwell.[2] It is operated under Rural Media Group, which also owns RFD-TV.


As FamilyNet

FamilyNet's logo from 2009 until 2017.

The channel was acquired by InTouch Ministries in October 2007 from the Southern Baptist Convention.[3] In December 2009, FamilyNet was acquired by Robert A. Schuller's ComStar Media Fund.[4] In 2010, FamilyNet was spun out into its own company, with Robert A. Schuller as the chairman.[5]

The organization also operated FamilyNet Radio 161, a full-time Christian talk channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, but was discontinued on November 30, 2010; FamilyTalk replaced it.

From 2011 to 2012, the channel showed sitcoms like The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, and Mr. Belvedere.

On October 24, 2012, Rural TV purchased FamilyNet, and the transaction took effect on January 1, 2013. At first the network was used to carry an all-trading day format of farm and market news, which eventually moved to a reduced timeslot on RFD-TV due to low interest and ratings. Rural Media, which had considered merging RFD-TV and FamilyNet together to gain over-the-air carriage, eventually decided to keep FamilyNet as a separate service, but with a refocus in programming towards classic television programming which was not picked up by competitors MeTV, Antenna TV and Cozi TV. Rural Media also decided not to renew over-the-air contracts with stations in a slow process in order to make it a cable-only network. A number of former FamilyNet affiliates (mainly religious stations) continue to carry programming recorded from the network's feed before the Rural TV sale, seemingly under a perpetual license.

In September 2014, FamilyNet was refocused with classic television series and films from the Sony Pictures Television libraries, with Sony also assisting with advertising sales. Religious programming, which used to make up the vast majority of the schedule under SBC and Schuller's ownership, was limited to Sunday mornings, though Rural Media also maintained FamilyNet's paid programming overnights despite their executives' traditional disdain for depending on those programs for revenue. (RFD-TV since also began to carry overnight paid programming.)

As The Cowboy Channel

On June 19, 2017, Rural Media Group CEO Patrick Gottsch announced that on July 1, FamilyNet would be rebranded as The Cowboy Channel, featuring a focus on Western sports and rodeo events, which had proven to be a popular attraction on RFD-TV.[6] Gottsch thanked Sony Pictures Television for bringing the network to a solid footing, but noted that overwhelming competition in the classic television space from networks such as MeTV, Antenna TV, Cozi TV, Heroes & Icons and several other networks and streaming options had made the space more competitive and crowded, while a Western sports network was seen as a unique opportunity to stand out in cable and satellite lineups.[7][8][9] Among the network's first offerings were encore events from RFD's The American Rodeo, the Calgary Stampede, and the Professional Bull Riders archives. Sony's archived programming thus moved to their own GetTV at the start of 2018.

The Cowboy Channel signed a multi-year agreement with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to televise and stream their major events, including the National Finals Rodeo, starting in 2020.[10]

With the network conversion, Rural Media used the opportunity to end their carriage agreements with over-the-air broadcasters, rendering the Cowboy Channel as a pay-TV only offering.

A Canadian version of the channel was launched on February 1, 2020, on Shaw Direct television systems through a partnership with Rural Media.

The Cowgirl Channel was launched on March 1, 2023. It specializes in programming about women in professional rodeo, western fashion, and rural lifestyles in general through the perspectives of women. Rodeos not televised on The Cowboy Channel are televised on The Cowgirl Channel.[11]

In 2023, The Cowboy Channel signed a multi-year agreement with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association to televise and stream their major events, including the Canadian Finals Rodeo through December 31, 2027. The Cowboy Channel Canada will also televise these events.[12]

Patrick Gottsch, the founder and president of Rural Media Group, died on May 18, 2024, at the age of 70.[13]


Much of the Cowboy Channel's non-sports programming is drawn from RFD-TV's program library, with an emphasis on ranching and rodeo programs (thus the Cowboy Channel does not carry RFD-TV's music, agribusiness or news programming). Like RFD-TV, the Cowboy Channel carries brokered televangelism programming on Sunday mornings.

Current programming

  • Best of America By Horseback
  • Better Horses
  • Bullseye with Jeff Medders
  • Chris Cox Horsemanship
  • Cinch High School Rodeo Tour
  • Cowboys of Thunder
  • CPRA Rodeo
  • Debbe Dunning's Dude Ranch Round-Up
  • Equestrian Nation
  • Gentle Giants
  • Hayden Outdoors Life on the Land
  • Hidden Heritage
  • Horse of the West
  • Hunt Warz
  • Legends
  • Little Britches Rodeo
  • PBR Now!
  • PRCA Rodeo
  • ProRodeo Tonight
  • Red Steagall is Somewhere West of Wall Street
  • Ride Smart with Craig Cameron
  • Road to the NFR
  • Rodeo Queens
  • Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse
  • Special Cowboy Moments
  • Steve Lantvit Horsemanship
  • The American Rancher
  • The Edge
  • Western Sports Round-Up
  • Wild Rides
  • Women's Pro Rodeo Today
  • Zero In


Former programming

FamilyNet (1988–2017)

Title Genre Original network
All in the Family Sitcom CBS (1971–1979)
Archie Bunker's Place Sitcom CBS (1979–1983)
Barney Miller Sitcom ABC (1975–1982)
Bewitched Fantasy sitcom ABC (1964–1972)
The Facts of Life Sitcom NBC (1979–1988)
Good Times Sitcom CBS (1974–1979)
Malcolm & Eddie Sitcom UPN (1996–2000)
Maude Sitcom CBS (1972–1978)
One Day at a Time Sitcom CBS (1975–1984)
Sanford and Son Sitcom NBC (1972–1977)
Silver Spoons Sitcom NBC (1982–1986)
Syndication (1986–1987)


  1. ^ Ammoland (March 6, 2019), Cowboy Channel Continues Commitment To Western Sports & Rodeo With Live Coverage, retrieved January 30, 2020
  2. ^ "Religious Networks Change for Profits". Broadcasting & Cable. 114 (19): 51. May 9, 1988. ISSN 1068-6827.
  3. ^ Noah, Mickey (October 29, 2007). "NAMB completes FamilyNet sale to In Touch". Baptist Press.
  4. ^ "FamilyNet TV and Radio Network Sold to Robert A. Schuller's ComStar". Black Christian News. December 29, 2009. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  5. ^ "Celebrated Televangelist Robert Schuller Named Chairman of FamilyNet TV". PR Newswire. March 23, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  6. ^ Snyder, Rachel (May 19, 2024). "Rural Media Group founder Patrick Gottsch dead at 70". WFAA. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  7. ^ "So Long FamilyNet, Hello The Cowboy Channel!" (Press release). Rural Media Group. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  8. ^ "Introducing The Cowboy Channel – Launching July 1, 2017". RFD-TV. June 22, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  9. ^ "Rural Media Is Changing FamilyNet to Cowboy Channel". MultiChannel News. June 22, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  10. ^ (September 17, 2019). "PRCA signs TV deal with The Cowboy Channel, RFD-TV". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved January 7, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "The Cowgirl Channel launches". The Cowboy Channel. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  12. ^ "Canadian pro rodeos added to The Cowboy Channel". The Cowboy Channel. April 21, 2023. Retrieved November 2, 2023.
  13. ^ "Rural Media Group president Patrick Gottsch passes away". The Cowboy Channel. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
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The Cowboy Channel
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