Wayne Renn, a fixture on central Minnesota's country music nightclub circuit, is taking his act to the small screen.
"The Wayne Renn Show" is expected to premier in early April on Charter Communications' cable systems in Brainerd and several other area towns, the musician said in an interview this week.
Renn has teamed up with James Erfurth of Northern Lights Video Productions of Brainerd to develop and produce the 30-minute variety show, featuring The Wayne Renn Band.
Their new company, IT-TV, was still negotiating the broadcast fees and pre-premier promotional strategy with Charter officials earlier this week, but both parties confirmed a deal likely will be worked out in time for an early April start.
Under the agreement, IT-TV will lease 30 minutes of weekly airtime for 13 weeks, according to Renn and Ken Schley, Charter's district advertising sales manager in Duluth.
If a deal is reached, the show will be carried on Charter's "home show" commercial channels in Brainerd, Duluth-Superior, St. Cloud and Buffalo, with a possibility of expanding to other Charter-owned cable systems in the future.
In Brainerd, "The Wayne Renn Show" will air on channel 19, the local system's "home show" channel used primarily for real estate advertisements. The deal would not involve the company's public access channels, reserved for commercial-free public affairs programming in each community.
IT-TV will sell advertising spots to underwrite the production costs and cable fees, Renn said.
"I'm not sure it's a good deal for us yet, but we'll see," he said with a chuckle. "I'm either the pioneer or the guinea pig."
But the opportunity to broadcast in multiple markets enhances the chances that the show will be financially viable, the musician said.
Renn said his primary purpose in developing the show is to showcase his band and its original brand of country music, adding that over the long term he hopes to land a program deal with a television network.
"We've (the band) been a pretty well-kept secret for a long time," said Renn, who founded his band nearly a decade ago after a dozen years with other local country groups.
"We are simmering to a boil now, and this television show is an excellent training ground for any national concept we may develop for the band," he said. "Its success will depend on our ability to sell the ads, and if we can't it'll be a quick 13 weeks."
In recent years, the father of a 10-year-old daughter has scaled back his "hectic touring schedule" in favor of family time, limiting the band's performance dates to venues within a two-hour drive of Brainerd, he said.
For years, The Wayne Renn Band toured nationally, including regular stops in Nashville and Branson, an era that produced "Maniac Needin' Love," Renn's 1996 hit single that reached No. 3 on the independent music charts.
"Doing this television show is one way to travel to many areas without leaving home," he said.
"The Wayne Renn Show" will be pre-recorded programs featuring the band's live performances at area nightclubs, as well as interviews with other area musicians, a "special guest" appearance each week, and an occasional skit by area comedic actors.
The audience at each venue also will get into the act with dance segments and on-camera appearances, Renn said.
The band includes Renn on fiddle, guitar and lead vocals, Kevin Wright on bass, brother Ernie Renn on steel guitar, and "Mocha" Mark Bradley on drums.
Trent Baumann, a Charter account executive in Brainerd who has worked closely with Renn and Erfurth in the cable negotiations, predicted the show would be a success in the local market.
"It will be a great show once it gets going," Baumann said. "Wayne is a talented man and a great performer."
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