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"THE HEALTH CHANNEL" CONSUMER-ORIENTED CABLE TELEVISION

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

"THE HEALTH CHANNEL" CONSUMER-ORIENTED CABLE TELEVISION, currently in the fund-raising stage, will feature a weekly, half- hour show entitled "The Medicine Cabinet" covering pharmaceutical regulatory, legislative and R&D news. A principal partner in The Health Channel is The Novus Group, an affiliate of the D.C. health law specialty firm Fox, Bennett and Turner. The Health Channel will be based in Washington, D.C. and is scheduled to begin broadcasting (24 hours daily) in mid-1994. Advisors in the formation of programming content include former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan and Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics founder and President Nancy Sander. The Medicine Cabinet will air at 10 a.m. Saturdays and repeat at 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Other "show concepts" identified by channel programmers in a preliminary description of the network include Health Investors Watch, a daily program; HealthLine, a "signature" daily one-hour news program; New Frontiers, covering new medical breakthroughs; House Calls, a call-in show hosted by three doctors; Washington CheckUp, discussion of health care policy and reform issues; Emergency: Code Blue!, similar in format to Cops and Rescue 911; Let's Talk About Sex; Health Matters, discussion focusing on a specific health issue; Love & Marriage; The Mommy Track; The Golden Years; Insuring Your Future, covering health insurance issues; For Women Only; Wake Up, America!, a morning news show; and Health Shopping TV. The cable channel will carry advertising and paid "infomercials" on health and wellness issues. Partners in the broadcasting venture also hope to syndicate programs for use by other TV and broadcast services, and to investigate other markets such as home video and database or interactive services. Novus said it is in preliminary discussions with potential advertisers, including pharmaceutical firms, and is also in discussions with a number of cable multiple system operators about carrying the channel. Agreements are expected to be formed and funding completed in the next two to three months, after which work will focus on operations and programming, Novus added. The Health Channel will be "devoted to producing shows about health, medicine and wellness that cable viewers will actually watch." Novus Group Chairman Allan Fox maintains that the demand by the general public for health information is strong: "Many Americans are starved for information about such complex issues as health care reform, AIDS, the resurgence of tuberculosis and the effects of environmental hazards on local communities." During the late 1970s, Fox was a key Senate aide helping to conduct the investigations into pharmaceutical promotion practices. In addition to Novus, partners in the venture include Sander, Professional Video Services (PVS) President Robert Grevemberg and PVS VP and General Manager Stephen Tello. PVS has two main production facilities, both located in Washington, D.C. The facilities house broadcasters including the British Broadcasting Company and NHK-Japanese TV. In addition, PVS provides services to groups including ABC, CBS and NBC News, CNN, Hewlett Packard, The Smithsonian Institution and The White House. In a separate endeavor, American Medical Television and NBC are exploring a 24-hour cable channel for AMT's medical programming, the networks said Aug. 26. "NBC intends to develop a greater presence for AMT with consumers and physicians through various means including potential distribution through Direct Broadcasting Satellite and a 24-hour cable channel," NBC said. NBC has upped its interest in AMT to 40% and is now the managing partner, the network said. The American Medical Association "continues as a programming resource and as a major partner in the venture," NBC added. AMT programming is currently broadcast on NBC's CNBC cable subsidiary on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. AMT also announced Aug. 26 that it has become a 50% partner in Pyramed Networks, the Physicians Interactive Network Pyramed was formed as a joint venture between Hearst/ABC Viacom's Lifetime Medical TV and Interactive Health Network; Lifetime was recently merged into the joint venture. Pyramed expects to begin installing its first interactive units in physicians offices in September for test-marketing. The company said it "has attracted funding support from several pharmaceutical companies; five companies have made commitments for six of the seven available advertiser spots." Pyramed plans both to adapt AMT programming to the interactive format and to produce TV programs for AMT.
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