Odyssey Channel, which plans to pay cash incentives in
order to boost its distribution, unveiled the new program lineup last week for its
"soft" relaunch April 4, as it slowly evolves from a religious format to a
Odyssey president and CEO Margaret Loesch stressed that the
network is just starting its transition of melding Odyssey's faith-and-values fare
with library and original content from its new owners, Hallmark Entertainment and The Jim
She added that by the fall, Odyssey's schedule will be
fully developed, with a big dose of new original programming. Unlike Fox Family Channel,
which relaunched with a totally new schedule last August, Odyssey's changes will be
"I'm not couching [April 4] as a relaunch,"
Loesch said. "Internally, we're calling it a soft launch. We haven't had
time to create new programming yet, so we didn't want to overpromise."
For the fall, Odyssey will have two new original series: a
spinoff of a show that the network acquired from PBS to air on its lineup in April, Donna's
Day with Donna Erickson, as well as a 26-episode Henson series.
Odyssey at that time will also have one or two original
movies from Hallmark, and it plans to eventually air a new one each month, Loesch said.
Odyssey, which is now in 29 million homes, will ante up and
pay cash launch fees of $2 to $8 per subscriber in order to increase its distribution,
aiming for 50 million subscribers in five years, she said.
"I think that we'll have to pay for all of the
new subs that we get," she added.
Odyssey will kick off its spring schedule at 6 p.m. April 4
by airing both parts of the four-hour Hallmark-Henson miniseries Gulliver's
Odyssey has also acquired off-network series Alf and
Lonesome Dove to debut in April. In primetime, Odyssey will air two movies
back-to-back at 7 p.m.
"We're trying to create a network that's
relevant to today's family," Loesch said.
The network will air faith-and-values programming on
weekday mornings, late night and Sundays, Loesch said, although it is now creating a
schedule to "transition" viewers in and out of the religious fare.
Weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., the network will air
children's shows from Henson and Hallmark, with a morning movie aimed at mothers from
10 a.m. to noon.
Odyssey has also signed up film historian Leonard Maltin to
host Leonard Maltin Presents, which will feature classic comedies from the Hal
Roach library, including Laurel and Hardy. It will air weekdays from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
and midnight to 1:30 a.m.
Brian Henson, son of the late Jim Henson and CEO of The Jim
Henson Co., will host interstitials to introduce classic series The Muppets,whichwill air weeknights at 6 p.m.
Odyssey has a multimillion-dollar budget to spend in April
and the fall to promote its new lineup, Loesch said.
Hallmark and Henson acquired a stake in Odyssey late last
year. The network's other owners include Liberty Media Group and the National
Interfaith Cable Coalition, a consortium of religious groups.