Showtime, Smithsonian Partner for On-Demand

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Showtime is pairing with the Smithsonian Institution to launch Smithsonian-branded TV programming services. The first, Smithsonian On Demand, will launch in December 2006 with original documentaries and short-form content on scientific, cultural and historical events.

Up to 40 new hours of programming, culled from the Smithsonian Institution and its research centers as well as Smithsonian and Air & Space magazines, will be featured each month. Topics include content on space, science and nature, history, pop culture, art, sports, music and children’s topics.

Showtime Networks is the managing partner in the venture; the Smithsonian Institution will provide content and help with production. The service will be headquartered in both D.C. and New York.

Tom Hayden, currently executive VP, Direct to Home, Showtime Networks, will be Smithsonian On Demand’s general manager, based in New York. David Royal, a nine-year veteran of National Geographic Television and Film, will be executive VP, programming and production. Jeanny Kim, VP of media services for Smithsonian Business Ventures, will manage content and production from the Smithsonian end for the video-on-demand (VOD) venture.

The VOD channel is planned to be free to viewers and non ad-supported initially. The content will all be original, and the venture does not plan to draw upon any of the PBS shows the Smithsonian Institution has worked on in the past.

Although the Smithsonian might seem to be an odd match for Showtime, which has gained traction of late with racy series like The L Word, that’s not the case, says Showtime Networks Chairman and CEO Matt Blank. In addition to helping with content, he says, Showtime will also lend its muscle to distributing and marketing the new Smithsonian VOD network.

“I don’t think we want to be known for just racy content,” he said. “We’d rather be known as just a first-class production organization and a very talented and entrenched distributor and marketer of services in the multichannel video world.”

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