In the summer of 1995, Corey Stevens and Texas Flood were being pitched as an act to consider if you were a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughn. The A&R rep at Eureka Records pitching the group’s single? Joel Wertman.
Wertman spent the late 1990s and early 2000s as the Los Angeles-based label’s key promotions leader. The experience came following the 1980 opening of a Sunset Blvd.-based publishing and production company focused on country music; the 1985 release of a single he co-wrote by R&B act Mona Lisa Young; and the November 1992 promotion of recording act Acosta/Russell, which saw him pitching the act to then-WPXY in Rochester, N.Y. Program Director John Ivey.
Today, Wertman is far from Hollywood but very much involved in a media company with its hand in music and a focus on a visual future fueled by 5G just as much as ATSC 3.0.
Wertman is the President of Reach High Media Group, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company that is the successor to Luken Communications.
Wertman is the man in control of Reach High, and comes following his June 2017 arrival at Luken for similar duties.
“His successful background in both music label management and television production make him the obvious choice to lead us down a prosperous path as we grow our company’s footprint in the digital television landscape,” Luken co-founder Henry Luken said at the time.
Wertman believes his years on the front lines, as witness to the digital evolution of the music industry, make him an ideal leader for a digital multicast operation with growth opportunities yet to come — fueled by its own technological advancements.
With ATSC 3.0 and NEXTGEN TV, further exposure to Reach High’s digital multicast networks is poised for enhancement. As streaming apps grow, so will viewership to the five Reach High networks, Wertman reasons.
“The bottom line here is that it is all about the product, and the content,” he notes. He started on a children’s television series, and then “music for television — to just understand that it was a multiplatform business.”
Wertman recalls, “I did Dance Moms and really got the connection between music and television, and the power of the audience, and how the audience will react and make a huge connection if given the opportunity to do so. It really mirrored the music business in terms of the same emotional reactions.”
As broadcast television is well on its way to becoming a multi-platform business, being open to all of the content delivery changes — and challenges — is essential. “It is not a narrow business anymore, and anyone who treats it that way will not be around,” Wertman believes.
That’s where the conversation weaves back to the one commonality between success as a record industry A&R agent and a TV network leader: compelling content. “As long as the stuff was compelling, it worked,” says Wertman, who first found fame as a Mushroom Records A&R man working such Canadian rock hits as “Mama Let Him Play” by Doucette, a 1977 release still getting airplay in Canada today.
What can viewers expect to see from Retro TV, which is undergoing a rework of sorts? Don’t anticipate a clone of MeTV, Weigel Broadcasting’s successful second-run sitcom-focused network; or similarly programmed Antenna TV. “I believe in finding your own path and niche and going for that,” Wertman says. “I’m trying to do some original programming that feeds into that era — different ways of looking at the same kind of TV audience but giving them something different to hang on to.”
Then, there is Heartland, which is in the midst of growing its morning show.
Reach High is actively pursuing affiliates where it makes sense, Wertman notes. Streaming will help fill DMA gaps in key markets such as Miami and New York City.
It will all come down to the shows provided to viewers across five channels now wholly under Wertman’s leadership, ready for their next chapter as the TV industry prepares to enter a decade poised to bring big riches to the right players able to advance along with the technology bringing their content to the viewer — regardless of the platform.