Outside Television is ready to unveil the first phase of a significant programming push with a quintet of original shows.
The active lifestyle and adventure sports proponent, created in mid-2010 from Outside magazine and the former Resort Sports Network, will bow a new season of morning staple Outside Today and present news magazine Dispatches, featuring CBS News correspondent Serena Altschul. There’s also a surfing/travelogue entry centering on India, a second campaign with snowboarder Jeremy Jones and the best of the Reel Rock Film Tour.
“We’re entering a pretty aggressive programming phase,” said Rob Faris, senior vice president of programming and production for Outside Television. “This is the beginning of the development slate we’ve been working on. We want to forge an identity with viewers and online users and distributors to give them reasons to want Outside Television."
The investment in new programming, which generally targets the 18-to-54 set, comes as Outside is nearing the completion of its national rollout across Comcast systems. Positioned on Comcast’s Sports Entertainment Package, which typically retails for $7.95 per month, the independent since June has launched in 13 of 16 of the top distributor’s regions. It has not yet rolled out in Comcast’s home market of Philadelphia and neighboring New Jersey, in Baltimore-Washington D.C., or in western Massachusetts, according to Outside officials. Overall, Outside, which counted some 3 million legacy subscribers, is now in some 8 million homes.
Based on and working in conjunction with Outside Magazine, the half-hour newsmagazine Dispatches will weigh in with Faris calls “meaty pieces” on emerging green initiatives, technology, environment stewardship and personalities spearheading those efforts. CBS News’s Altshul, whom Faris calls “a network supporter, who knows what we’re looking to do,” will anchor reports and in-depth features, including upcoming stories on Purple Heart recipient and world record skydiver Lee Hunnicutt; a day in the life of twin Mount Everest guides Willie and Damien Benegas; and blind mountain biker Matt Gilman.
Faris said the seven-installment series, which is slated to air Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., beginning Nov. 14, will also feature a story on efforts to build a ski resort in Bamian, Afghanistan.
Morning show Outside Today returns with the first of seven installments on Nov. 5 featuring on-set guests including skydiver and daredevil Felix Baumgartner and America’s most-decorated male downhill skier, Daron Ralhves, two of several Red Bull-affiliated athletes. Other guests include acclaimed journalist and documentarian Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) and pro snowboarder, liver transplant survivor and Olympic medalist Chris Klug.
Ethan Zohn, winner of CBS Survivor: Africa, is also reconnecting with the network after leaving Outside Today in 2010, following a reoccurrence of his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“This is the first work Ethan’s done in 2012 and it’s great to have him back,” Faris said. “He’s going to be a contributor on all of the shows.”
Starting Nov. 16 at 9:30 p.m., the half-hour Surfing 28 States: India documents a three-month sojourn by Aussie surfers and filmmakers Jonno Durrant and Stefan Hunt across the 28 different states comprising modern-day India. Similar to their work in Telluride Film Festival and X-Dance-recognized Surfing 50 States: USA and Somewhere Near Tapachula, the pair’s adventures introduce viewers to the complexities of India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants, 1,652 languages and travels across the world’s worst back roads.
“It’s light-hearted and fun series that we think will appeal to a younger part of our demo, 18-to-34-year-olds,” said Faris.
Beginning in mid-December, Jeremy Jones Further from Teton Gravity Research is the second of three-part adventure snow series featuring the legendary snowboard conquering uncharted areas in the Austrian Alps, Arctic Circle and other ranges. Faris said the compelling Jones, who is capturing the attention of Congress with information about how global warming is impacting snow-related businesses, will also appear in the “Higher” version of the trilogy.
Reel Rock comes from Sender Films and Big Up Productions and Emmy-winning adventure filmmakers Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer. It marries spectacular locales, compelling characters and award-winning cinematography from mountain adventure and rock climbing sectors. It begins in January and will present nine-year-old Ashima Shiraishi, already one of America’s top climbers, and free soloist Alex Honnold who attempts to traverse more than 7,000 vertical feet of granite without any ropes or support, among others.
Looking ahead, Outside is revving more original fare. Faris kept his cards close about two series in development that will manifest in spring and fall of 2013, while noting that the network is currently in discussions about “projects to pursue,” potentially with Baumgartner and Ralhves, as part of its three-year programming alliance with Red Bull Media House.
Faris also said Outside will be active in the film acquisition market. “A lot of adventure films go straight to DVD or have limited runs at festivals,” he explained. “We’re focused on gaining U.S. exclusivity and working with both U.S. and international producers.”