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.