More than just a niche

New net JTV aims to capture Eminem-type crossover
September 1, 2004

Don’t jump to any conclusions when you hear the name Jewish Television. Founder and CEO John Odoner doesn’t want people to assume his new digital cable channel solely focuses on Jewish culture.

Offering everything from news and sports to comedy and reality programming, there will be a unique Jewish flavor to New York-based JTV, but Odoner expects only 60% to 70% of its viewers will be Jewish. He’s even been meeting with Christian evangelical groups curious about the channel because ‘the holy land is of interest to them,’ says Odoner.

Set to launch early next year, jtv is hoping to succeed by appealing to viewers across the 18 to 49 demographic spectrum – just as rapper Eminem has, Odoner says. A real estate lawyer-turned-TV creator, he says the channel will have ‘a real downtown, let-your-hair-down, urban feel.

‘We’re going to be a broad-based network, which is an interesting circle to square. We’re more than news, more than Jews,’ he further explains. ‘The connecting rubric is Jewish and, in our opinion, Jews are news – but they’re also entertainment and a whole lot of other things.’

One of the programming concepts that excites Odoner most is reality. ‘If you look at MTV, they’re not that much music video anymore – they’re a heck of a lot of reality,’ he notes, adding that two or three hours of JTV ‘s 18-hour day will be devoted to such programming. Sal Anthony – known for his work on Telemundo’s sister network, MUN2 – is onboard to help with jtv ‘s reality themes. ‘It’s water cooler conversation-type stuff,’ says Odoner, though he’s tight-lipped about details.

Odoner plans to air documentary programming each day. He currently has an agreement to purchase projects from an Israeli documentary collector, but doesn’t want to air programs he calls ‘egghead and boring.’

After working to build the station for almost three years, Odoner is now backed by a team of five principals and several advisors from media and philanthropic communities (many of whom, he points out, are not Jewish). His startup has been privately funded thus far, but Odoner says advertising, a home shopping component and license fees (which are waived for the first year) will bring in more bucks once the network gets rolling.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.