Americana Tunes In For Sheltered Debut

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Americana Music Television LLC — which plans to launch as a 24-hour digital cable network next summer — will give its family fare a first showing via programming blocks on a low-power broadcast network.

The privately held AMT, led by CEO Stanley Hitchcock, has reached an agreement with America One Television Network to air a trio of two-hour blocks, beginning Nov. 1. America One, owned by Houston-based USFR Media Group Inc., has distribution agreements with 130 affiliate companies that control 165 low-power stations across the U.S.

The two-year deal calls for AMT to run two-hour blocks on America One at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. It marks the first distribution step toward Americana's launch as a 24-hour digital cable network next summer.

Americana will feature country, bluegrass, gospel and blues music, according to Don Whiteman, the former AT&T Broadband and Tele-Communications Inc. executive who joined the fledgling channel as president and COO last month.

Whiteman said AMT is close to completing two other carriage contracts, which he expects will be announced within the next 60 days.

The America One pact is a revenue-sharing arrangement with both parties selling commercial time, said Whiteman. AMT will also peddle videos during the blocks.

For America One, the deal, said executive vice president Matt Hutchings, is part of its gambit to reprogram the network into seven distinct areas: sports and outdoors, news, children's, variety and entertainment, western lifestyles, music and health, fitness and living.

Hutchings said America One, in looking to buttress its programming base, has its eye on developing several of these niches into stand-alone networks in the digital cable or broadcast spectrums. He said the AMT fare will reside within its Western area. Both AMT and America One will have on-air identifiers during the blocks.

Among the AMT shows that will air on America One: bluegrass series The Best of Reno's Old Time Music Festival, acoustic skein Heart to Heart Classics; Americana Backroads, showcasing festivals, documentaries and concerts from a wide variety of musical genres; and Across Americana, a magazine format program highlighting special moments from around the country.

Whiteman said the programming, some of which was part of the Americana Programming Library, has been digitally remastered, repackaged and features new graphics.