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The Sydney Morning Herald

Docos hold the faithful

Author: Jane Freeman
Date: 22/06/1997
Words: 521
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 13

Documentary channel

Channel 5 on Optus Vision, from July 1 (7am to 1am)

YEARS of watching slushy anthropomorphic Disney documentaries don't seem to have slaked Australia's thirst for the genre. The Discovery channel on Foxtel is rated by viewers as one of their most popular, and, from July 1, Optus Vision will also have its own doco channel.

Odyssey, which will screen on Channel 5 from 7am to 1am, will feature a panorama of subjects, from science and technology, to history, current affairs, culture, people and places, nature and even lifestyle. The general manager of the new channel, Jim Kosub, says research in the United States has shown that while people may not hook up to pay TV to watch documentaries, they are one of the things that keep viewers paying the monthly subscriber fees.

"Once people are hooked up, the documentary channel and the general entertainment channels will hold them when they have got over the glitter of the movie channel and the excitement of the sports channels," he says.

Kosub, a former Optus Vision production chief, says Odyssey aims to have a "little bit of everything for everyone" and 60 per cent material that has never been screened in Australia before. It has signed deals with documentary distributors here and around the world.

He is particularly pleased with the Australian distribution deals. From Beyond, Odyssey will pick up docos such as The Great Wall of Iran, Birds of Australia and The Last Circus. From Jennifer Conrish Media, there will be programs such as A Glorious Way to Die, a film about white-water rafters in Siberia, and Benny and the Dreamers, which reveals for the first time on film the Aboriginal version of white invasion.

Kosub says that beyond Australia, he is most delighted with British companies whose product, he says, is superior to that of other countries.

From British company Minotaur, there is the science and technology series Equinox and the biographical series Profiles. Odyssey has also signed with Channel 4 International, the respected British broadcaster, which will provide films such as Island of Dreams, four real-life "Shirley Valentines", and Into the Great Solitude, about a canoe journey to the Arctic.

Primetime Television Associates is Britain's largest independent distributor of TV programs, with a catalogue of more than 7,500 hours, including, for Odyssey, CIA, a behind-the-scenes look at the world of espionage.

From the United States, Odyssey has a deal with Unapix International, from which it has bought Future Quest, the futuristic science series hosted by Jeff Goldblum, and Sports Safari, which looks at adventure and sports holidays.

The American arts programming network Bravo has also been signed up to provide programs such as Inside the Actors Studio, a look at the acting school in New York.

Odyssey will also pick up lifestyle and infotainment docos from Home and Garden Television International, the US cable network.

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