Networking: How Burchett got those TV stations


Roger Burchett could argue he didn't know what he was getting into. The general manager of Charlottesville's three– count 'em, three– new television stations has never worked in TV before.

But jumping headfirst into a new industry and multiplying it 3X doesn't scare him a bit. He's already been there, done that.

The former sales and marketing exec with Pepsi-Cola laughs as he describes the view from his first corner office at Pepsi in Atlanta: it was the 22-story Coke tower. "I had to sit there and look at that," says Burchett. "My 70-year-old administrative assistant said, 'Welcome to Atlanta, hot shot.'"

The head of WCAV CBS 19, WVAW ABC 16– and soon to come Fox, in the form of WAHU– is pragmatic about starting up three TV stations: "You can hide under your desk, or you can go to work," he says.

After 22 years with Pepsi-Cola, Burchett took a job running a southeast division for Rawlings Sporting Goods.

The leap from sodas to sporting goods came courtesy of his buddy Bob Prather, who happens to be president of Gray Television, the Atlanta-based company that owns Charlottesville's newest affiliates.

After Prather became a major shareholder in Rawlings sporting goods, he asked Burchett to take over a new division of the company. Seven and a half years later, Prather asked Burchett to try something new again.

"Certain business principles are the same no matter what industry you're in," says Burchett.

But TV is different from soda or soccer balls, and some things– recruiting and getting new shows going– just take longer. Add to that "all the permitting processes and bureaucracy that go with the broadcast industry," he says.

Burchett is itching to be through with the set-up phase and get out into the community. "I'm not one for being behind a desk," he says, the sales guy showing through.

Nor is he fazed by current low ratings and skeptics who question whether profitability is in the picture for the new stations. "We have no concern that we'll get there," he says firmly.

As for his latest corner office, Burchett's ready to carve it up into workstations. He doesn't plan to be spending much time there.

Age: 50

Why here? My new job

What's worst about living here? The unbelievably high cost of real estate

Favorite hangout? Downtown Mall

Most overrated virtue? Patience

People would be surprised to know? I'm a Kentucky Colonel.

What would you change about yourself? I would be more concerned about my own physical fitness.

Proudest accomplishment? All of the years I spent coaching youth baseball and basketball and seeing some of those kids go as far as college baseball and even the pros. Equally gratifying is seeing so many others become good citizens and young fathers as well.

People find most annoying about you? I'm very impatient, relentless when I believe in something, and I'm no good at finishing second at anything, including a friendly game of tiddlywinks.

Whom do you admire? Our Founding Fathers

Favorite book? The Bible

Subject that causes you to rant? Steroids and other drugs in sports and whiny millionaire athletes in general

Biggest 21st century thrill? The Internet

Biggest 21st century creep-out? Cloning

What do you drive? 2001 Ford Taurus

In your car CD player right now? George Jones' Choices

Next journey? On this planet, it will be to Atlanta to see my sons. Off this planet, I really hope someday to be one of the civilians who get to ride one of the space shuttles.

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I'm not going into detail, but I will say this: I was very young and dumb and I was very, very broke and needed the cash. It involved a ball game with a very large crowd, a rain delay, a fig leaf, a head first slide into second base, a security guard, and a bail bondsman.

Regret: If guaranteed the proportionate amount of joy that two wonderful sons have given my wife and me, then I regret we didn't have 10 more children.

Favorite comfort food? Biscuits and gravy

Always in your refrigerator? Diet Dr. Pepper and biscuits

Must-see TV? Boston Legal

Favorite cartoon? Porky Pig

Describe a perfect day: I get up early on a beautiful sunny spring Sunday morning and have a plate of biscuits and gravy. I go to Sunday School and then get to the track for a killer race at the high banks at Bristol. The race is over, and the State Patrol makes all 200,000 people wait until I get in my car and get 20 miles down the road. I pull over on Afton Mountain and wade out into a beautiful stream to do some fly fishing for a couple of hours. I get back in my car and stop at the house for 15 minutes to have some more biscuits and gravy. I go to watch a UVA baseball game with a suite all to myself. Back home, I sit on the deck as the sun sets and read a great book with my wife and my dog beside me. I eat a plate of my wife's biscuits and gravy if any are left. I fall asleep in my deck lounger.

Walter Mitty fantasy: Through thick smoke and with the smell of gunpowder still in the air, I look over at the guy beside me and I say "Wyatt, we did a good thing here today."

Who'd play you in the movie? It would start with Ron Howard when he was Opie's age, and Elvis through my teens and twenties. Unfortunately, it would have to be George Jones in my 30s, but now I've lived long enough for Robert Duvall to take me on out.

Most embarrassing moment? Please refer to most trouble I ever got into.

Best advice you ever got? It must be "Don't ever do that again" because I've had hundreds of people share that one with me.

Favorite bumper sticker? "Georgia Baseball, 2001 SEC Champs"– my son played on that team.

Roger Burchett