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Pumped for TV

While the act of watching television is in itself sedentary, some programming aims to inspire viewers to cast their converters aside. Channel Health is the U.K.'s first digital channel dedicated solely to health and well- being lifestyle programming. The channel's catch...
March 1, 2001

While the act of watching television is in itself sedentary, some programming aims to inspire viewers to cast their converters aside. Channel Health is the U.K.’s first digital channel dedicated solely to health and well- being lifestyle programming. The channel’s catch phrase sums it up – ‘TV That’s Good For You!’ Joanne Sawicki, founder and chief executive of Channel Health, says, ‘Our aim is to produce and transmit health programming that inspires viewers to lead a healthier life.’

The channel launched as a free-to-air service on Sky Digital in June 2000 and was relaunched in October 2000 with a fresh look and extended schedule – 9a.m. to 9p.m., seven days a week. Although the channel’s mandate is specific, its holistic approach to health makes for a diverse range of lifestyle programming – from physical to mental to spiritual health. Highly Alternative is a US$95,000 13 x 30-minute series on alternative therapies. In this program, presenter Hazel Courteney focuses on the role of diet and exercise in leading a healthy life. On Change Your Life TV, a $66,000, 9 x 26-minute series, Dr. Chuck Spezzano conducts sessions on subjects like parenting, sex and stress to help viewers solve personal issues. The Nature of Healing, with Dr. Serene Lim looks at the origins of healing processes such as acupuncture and meditation. This 6 x 30-minute series was acquired from Beyond International in Australia.

Says Sawicki, ‘When someone pitches a series or idea to us, we ask – Will it make people feel better? We don’t want to preach or make viewers feel depressed. Does it look bright? Does it involve real-life stories? Does it give you the tools to change your life?’ The channel produces about 25% of its programming in-house. The remaining is mainly derived from acquisitions (usually from Canada, Australia and the U.S.). Channel Health pays about US$1,000 per hour for acquisitions, and expects to hold exclusive rights in the U.K. and non-exclusive rights for other zones. The channel does the odd copro, prefers the 30-minute format, and is less keen on one-offs. Says Sawicki, ‘The problem with one-offs is that they are hard to schedule and promote. They must be differentiated with a slot to be effective. As a result, we prefer series… viewers get into watching them consistently.’

Channel Health is intent on selling coproduced and in-house material to other broadcasters, so involvement in copros is determined by the program’s sales potential to terrestrial channels. The channel is currently seeking programs via sponsorship, whereby series and strands are developed in conjunction with Channel Health in exchange for advertising, including association of the client with the show.

Channel Health’s series are supplemented by three to five-minute interstitials – mini programs consisting of health, fitness and beauty tips – that air during ad breaks. Explains Sawicki, ‘Interstitials are bright, breezy and quick. They’re also cost-effective, and popular with audiences. They add a local voice by supplementing the programming with little tips – in a digital television framework, the local voice is very important.’

Channelhealth.tv – the channel’s interactive website – offers information on topics covered on the television shows, as well as tips, advice and articles from the channel’s presenters. The Channel Health shop features many of the items used on the shows, as well as a variety of health products. Visitors to the site can also contact some of the presenters to ask their expert advice. Says Sawicki, ‘Our ambition is to create the leading multi-platform health and lifestyle content, services and product brands.’

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at mkashty@brunico.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty

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