By Doris Degner-Foster
Photos courtesy of Jeff Medders
Jeff Medders took the plunge and figuratively yelled Geronimo! when he started his own production company—appropriately named Geronimo Productions— in 2008, which led to even more opportunities.
Jeff knew he was ready to start his own production company after working for Winnercomm, a company which provides content across all media platforms, for over 10 years. His specialty was hosting television programs, such as the American Quarter Horse Association’s “America’s Horse” and Thoroughbred racing for ESPN. Jeff also did commentary for Cutting Horse and Reining competitions and rodeo events, including the National Finals Rodeo before he decided he was ready to strike out on his own.
“I wanted my future to be based on something more concrete that I owned and controlled rather than the whims of somebody wanting me to host programs for them,” Jeff said. “My wife and father-in-law kind of felt like I was taking a chance, but I looked at it like I was shoring up my future. They said, ‘You have a great job; why would you leave it?’ and I was like, sometimes you’ve just got to jump and yell Geronimo!”
Jeff did not want his production company to cover as broad a spectrum as Winnercomm, but to remain small enough to have four or five clients and focus on rodeo and horse-related programing. With that vision and talented employees, Geronimo Productions met its goal to cover the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“My company had done all of the production for the regular seasons on CBS and the National Finals Rodeo,” Jeff said. “I’m the executive producer, but I still hosted a lot of the stuff. And I’m also very involved behind the scenes. That kind of led me to what has happened in 2020 when I took over the Cowboy Channel as president and general manager.”
The Cowboy Channel
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which organizes the National Finals Rodeo—the premier championship rodeo event in the United States—was a client of Geronimo Productions before they signed a multi-year agreement with the Cowboy Channel to move coverage there in 2020. With that in mind, Jeff went into the coverage of the 2019 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas thinking that it would be his last one. He was already planning ahead to do other projects when he got a call last January from Patrick Gottsch, founder and CEO of Rural Media Group, the parent company of the Cowboy Channel.
“Patrick said, ‘Come down to Fort Worth and hang out with me, and let’s see how you fit in.’ It worked very well from the beginning, and I decided that it was like everything that I had done in my career was leading to this moment,” Jeff said, as he remembered being offered the job with the Cowboy Channel. “My AQHA experience, World Equestrian Games and rodeo coverage—the whole cowboy lifestyle—I had so many ideas about programing, what I wanted to do, and how I would do things. So it was like I’d been in training for the last 20-plus years to fill this role. I’m extremely excited about it, and I continue to bring that enthusiasm to the job every day.”
The Cowboy Channel is a cable television network which carries Western and rodeo sports to over 42 million cable and satellite homes . Already executive producer of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and owner of Geronimo Productions, as a 30-year veteran of the rodeo industry, Jeff was ideally suited for the job as president and CEO, which he began on March 1, 2020.
Jeff has made it a policy to hire talented people, building them up in a positive manner to encourage them to perform at their best. He is excited that he has been given the go-ahead to hire a few people that he has worked with at Geronimo Productions to assist him at the Cowboy Channel. Plans are underway to increase the studio shows and develop original content to grow and brand the network.
A Clear Path
Growing up in Talihina, Oklahoma, on a working cattle ranch, in high school Jeff did junior rodeo and was an All-State defensive back football player in 1981. Realistic about his abilities to play college football, he made other plans about his future.
“I’m in a weird percentile of people. I decided what I wanted to be as a junior in high school when sportscaster Chris Lincoln of KTUL, Tulsa’s Channel 8, spoke at the Talihina All Sports Banquet,” Jeff said. “I love sports, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a pro athlete. So I decided then and there that I was going to be a sportscaster and majored in it from day one in college at Oklahoma State University.”
After college, Jeff’s first television job was in Odessa, Texas, at an NBC station as a sportscaster before he came back to Tulsa in 1986 to begin working as a sportscaster at KJRH. It was then that he started freelancing with Winnercomm, when they first began to cover horse sports. In 1988, the American Quarter Horse Association had approached Winnercomm about doing a show focusing on the Quarter Horse called “America’s Horse.” A friend of Jeff’s was the producer, and he thought of Jeff right away.
“He knew I was a cowboy, and he asked me if I could host the program,” Jeff remembered. “I started out just hosting the Cutting and Reining for them, then later the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association came to Winnercomm to take over their rodeo. I was asked if I could cover that, which was what I was most comfortable with. I covered my first National Finals Rodeo in 1991, and I loved it. I worked for Winnercomm for about a decade, and in addition to hosting “America’s Horse” and the rodeo coverage, I started hosting all the Thoroughbred racing on ESPN for about three years before I migrated back to rodeo. Then I was ready to start my own production company.”
When Jeff began Geronimo Productions, he had another motive besides controlling his own future. He has a mission to expand the exposure for the rodeo cowboy—to help him individually to increase his income while growing the rodeo sport. Having covered the National Finals Rodeo for over 20 years at the time, Jeff knew a lot of competitors, along with those involved in rodeo in other ways, that had moved into leadership roles.
“Those people have trusted me; they took chances on me,” Jeff said. “A lot of good in that business has been based on the long, genuine relationships, and I feel a responsibility to accurately represent and do justice to the cowboy industry. That philosophy has served me well.”
Jeff’s outlook is in direct correlation with the Cowboy Channel’s statement of purpose on their website: to celebrate the Western way of life of wide open spaces and the special code of ethics that has made the cowboy a symbol of our American heritage and the West.