The Health Network has big plans for its birth this week.
It will launch with a triple bang by simulcasting the
cesarean-section birth of triplets at a Phoenix hospital live on both the cable channel
and its Web site.
Also on hand for that event, from the network's studio in
Orlando, Fla., will be Sean, the baby whose birth was shown live on the Web by America's
AHN is being merged with Fit TV to create THN, which will
roll out to the two channels' combined 17 million subscribers. Fox/Liberty Networks is
managing the new service.
When AHN and Fox's Fit TV are merged and relaunched today
(July 19) as THN, Marc Krigsman, the network's vice president of programming, production
and content, said viewers of the old AHN and Fit TV "will see pretty much a brand-new
THN will have its own distinct on-air look and logo, and
its studio at Universal Studios, AHN's former facility, has been totally rebuilt. "It
will bring a new feel to the network -- not as doctor-officey," Krigsman said
But there will, in fact, be very little new
original-programming fare -- original to THN -- on-air at the actual launch date. The
program lineup of the merged channel will mainly combine revamped shows from both AHN and
Fit TV and offer new episodes of those series.
During the next few months, THN plans to ramp up its share
of new, original shows produced for it from the start.
THN's debut comes two weeks before Discovery Communications
Inc. premieres its new analog network, Discovery Health Channel. The two networks will
compete head-to-head, pitting two media giants against each other -- DCI and News Corp.
Earlier this year, privately held AHN and Fit TV owner News
Corp.'s Fox decided to merge their two networks, with Fox/Liberty managing the resulting
new health channel.
Discovery Health has already launched its Web site, and its
analog channel will debut Aug. 2. Unlike THN, Discovery Health officials claimed that
their programming will take viewers out of the studio and into the field and world of
medicine, much as Discovery Channel has done with nature.
"We understand that we can't be the Broccoli Channel,
waving our finger at people [to be good]," Discovery Health Media Inc. president John
Ford said. "The first thing that we want to do is engage, then inform."
Ford, who has seen THN's preliminary schedule, said he
wasn't surprised that it's mainly shows directly from AHN and Fit TV.
At this point, THN is mainly showcasing one show -- weekly
half-hour morning series Jenny's Fit in 15 -- as totally new. That program is a
diet-and-exercise program from weight-loss maven Jenny Craig featuring her daughter,
Denise Craig. Jenny's Fit in 15 will be part of a morning block of fitness programming
called "The Health Network Gym."
THN will also air interstitials, In Health News, which will
evolve into a daily hour-long news show later on, possibly by August. It will air four
times per day, and Krigsman described it as a combination of 20/20, The Today Show and The
During the next few months, THN will continue to premiere a
raft of new programming, including groups of shows targeted toward so-called communities.
One community will be introduced every month, starting with women's programming in August,
parenting in September and heart care in October.
"The schedule will change dramatically, but over
time," Krigsman said.
Some of the parenting-community shows will include
Generation Next, Baby Steps and 9 Months and Counting.
Apart from the community shows, some of the other new
programming slated to come onboard after THN's launch are a kids' exercise show, Bloopy's
Buddies, starring Jonathan Winters, and a new show from Fit TV founder Jake Steinfeld,
Healthy Lifestyle Solutions.
THN is positioning itself as "a total health channel
that will educate people as to how to live longer, healthier lives," Krigsman said.
On one level, the strategy is to give people the health guidance that they used to be able
to get from their family doctors, he added.
The network has totally scrapped some of the shows that
aired on AHN and Fit TV. For example, AHN had aired off-network series Rescue 911, which
won't make it to THN.
But shows such as Body Mind Spirit, the Ask the Family
Doctor series and O.R.: Behind the Myth will come to THN from AHN, while Yoga Zone, The
Method, Forever Young and Fit Resort & Spa will come from Fit TV.
Krigsman said the AHN and Fit TV shows have been revamped
for THN, including Ask the Family Doctor.
"They were formatted like a talk-radio format,"
Krigsman said. "It was a guest and the doctor host. We have opened that up. It will
still be an hour block, but half will be taped and half will be in the studio, with more
As for THN's kickoff event, the mother is Estrella Diaz,
who already has three children with her husband, George. According to the network, on the
day when his wife learned of her triple pregnancy, George had a vasectomy performed
earlier in the day.
Dr. Walt Larimore, host of Ask the Family Doctor, will host
the surgery. He also hosted Sean's live birth on AHN's Web site. The births will take
place at Good Samaritan Regional Hospital in Phoenix.
Referring to the triplets' birth, Mark Sonnenberg,
executive vice president of Fox Networks, who is heading up THN, said in a prepared
statement, "This event symbolizes our mission: providing educational programming in a
highly integrated fashion via television and the Internet."
Discovery Health hasn't announced any carriage deals yet,
but it expects to be in 15 million homes by the end of the year.
The network has already unveiled its program schedule,
which contains a number of originals, including primetime anthology show Lifeline at 9
p.m. That show will go to places where medicine is practiced, such as hospitals and
medical centers -- another series out of the studio, Ford said.
Ford asserted that AHN had a long-term lease for its space
at Universal Studios, which is why it is locked into doing programming from there.
Discovery Health's original lineup also includes a
baby-anthology show and a special series on dreams. "We want to do interesting
stories about interesting people shot in the field," he said.