Ion Media has cut a deal to launch its second digital broadcast network, one focusing on health issues.
The new channel, tentatively called i-health, will air as a secondary channel on Ion's (aka Paxson Communications) 62 TV stations.
The network is structured as a partnership between Ion and medical-program suppliers, including Information Television Network (which produces shows for PBS and Discovery Health), Aquarius Health Care Media (which produces DVDs), and Breakthrough Entertainment (a reality TV producer).
The service is scheduled to launch in late 2006 on Ion’s O&O TV stations, with the company expecting to add more stations and content partners in 2007.
The network is less ambitious than Ion’s other digital broadcast network, a kids channel. That venture includes larger partners Ion shareholder NBC and children’s producer Nelvana. That service is set up as a joint venture that will handle all programming and ad sales.
But both channels are part of Ion CEO Brandon Burgess’ strategy to develop serious programming for his digital broadcast channels.
Ion is in difficult financial shape, and its main channel, I, is loaded with informercials and reruns.
But Ion has the biggest footprint of any single TV station group, covering more than 60% of the country, making its digital channels potentially lucrative.
Burgess has been reaching out to companies with program libraries, coaxing them into building digital networks by contributing programming in exchange for a slice of equity or ad revenues, or both.