Showtime for Smithsonian On Demand

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Showtime Networks Inc. plans to give viewers on-demand access to the Smithsonian Institution in December.

The premium programmer formed a joint venture with the venerable museum, education and research group to develop video services, the first of which will be Smithsonian On Demand. The service will feature all-original fare, offering cable operators and other distributors 40 hours of content that will be refreshed monthly.

“It’s hard to find a great brand that has not been exploited on TV. The Smithsonian has a vast library and archives that deal with history, culture, Americana, music, art and aviation,” SNI chairman and CEO Matt Blank said. “Starting up, we think there is great opportunity for us with on-demand.”

Blank said the JV -- which has been under discussion for more than one year -- will also explore other platforms, including broadband and international distribution. He added that there are no plans to share programming with Showtime, but if the premium programmer aired an “appropriate documentary,” it conceptually wind up on the service.

Tom Hayden, who had been serving as executive vice president, direct-to-home for SNI, is the general manager. He said more definitive programming and distribution plans would be ready for discussion at next month’s National Show in Atlanta.

Although he wouldn’t specify what would be part of the first month’s lineup, Hayden said there were more than 100 programming concepts under development. The projects, he added, are being “guided by our culture heritage and what the future could be like.” He noted that programming could touch on “baseball’s proud past to jazz greats. There could be something on Indy and NASCAR [National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing] racing, and there’s likely something to be something on Mars exploration.”

Neither executive would discuss the programming budget.

Blank said the on-demand service will benefit from exposure within the network of museums and Smithsonian magazine.

“The expectation is not only to aggregate all of the content from the Smithsonian, but its promotional platforms, as well,” he added. “If there were an outstanding program on the on-demand service, it might lend itself to some editorial in the magazine, and vice-versa.”

The JV, of which SNI is the managing partner, will have operations in both New York and Washington, D.C.

In addition to Hayden, the JV has hired David Royle, an Emmy Award-winning producer whose resume includes a nine-year stint as executive VP, production at National Geographic Television and Film.

And Jeanny Kim, VP of media services for Smithsonian Business Ventures, has been appointed to manage Smithsonian’s content and to provide production assistance.

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