Mark Burnett and Roma Downey may have misfired with their remake of “Ben-Hur”—due out on video Dec. 13—but that’s not stopping the husband and wife team from again taking on the world of television.
The new venture, called “Light TV,” will debut Dec. 15. Light TV makes its first appearance as a digital subchannel on 16 Fox-owned and -operated stations that cover 37 percent of the U.S. viewing public.
Light TV is being billed as a “faith and family broadcast entertainment network” and the programming announced appears to reflect that.
Although a 24-hour program schedule was not made available with the Nov. 16 announcement about the creation of Light TV, the channel will be dependent in large part on the film and TV library of MGM—which is a partner in the venture, as the Fox stations are, with Burnett and Ms. Downey.
The two TV dramas included in the announcement were Michael Landon’s “Highway to Heaven” and “Heartland,” a Canadian series about a multigenerational family trying to make it through in both good times and bad in the Canadian province of Alberta. Also getting a spot on the schedule are reruns of the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?” hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, for which Burnett is executive producer.
John Bryan, MGM president of domestic television distribution, said vintage TV shows like “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Bridges and “Green Acres” with Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor would be on the schedule.
Bryan, in a Dec. 1 telephone interview from Los Angeles with Catholic News Service, said Ms. Downey will host and introduce movies from the MGM library on weekends.
MGM films touted in the Light TV announcement included “Rocky,” “Hoosiers,” “Red River,” “Little Man Tate,” “The Nutcracker,” “Lilies of the Field,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “The Black Stallion,” “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” “Pink Panther,” “Fame” and “Mr. Mom.”
Bryan said there’s “no question, no question” that the series that made Ms. Downey a star, “Touched by an Angel,” would eventually appear on Light TV. The same is true of Burnett’s many reality series, although Bryan did not say whether “The Apprentice” (which starred President-elect Donald Trump) or “Shark Tank,” will be seen.
“That’s just premature,” he told CNS, before adding that ultimately the couple’s more recent projects, such as their miniseries “The Bible” and “A.D.: The Bible Continues” or their big-screen success “Son of God,” will be shown on Light TV.
Markets where Fox affiliates will carry Light TV are New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas; Houston; San Francisco; Washington; Atlanta; Phoenix; Detroit; Minneapolis; Orlando, Fla.; and Charlotte, N.C.
Bryan said when Light TV is up and running, efforts will be made to get the channel placed elsewhere. He added MGM’s experience with This TV, which generally features movies from the MGM vault made since the 1980s, is instructive.
“When we started with This TV, we had only eight stations,” he said. “It took a year to get up to 135 stations. So that’s what this (process) is like. Now it’s the number one movie channel in the multicast system out there, and I think the same is going to happen with Light TV.”
For viewers without the benefit of digital TV, Light TV will be shopped to satellite TV services as well.
Don’t look for a pithy slogan. “I think Light TV is really good” by itself, Bryan said. “I’m excited we got the name. It’s self-explanatory.”
As for advertisers, “we’ve just started the process” of sales, Bryan said, adding MGM is telling advertisers that Light TV is “a safe environment to be in. I think that’s a key word, safe. We’ve gotten a really good response.”
Light TV will air a Christmas special with Ms. Downey and Jordan Smith, who won the ninth cycle of “The Voice” last year—another reality series executive-produced by Burnett. The special, Bryan said, will air on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
Will there be have faith-specific programming on Light TV? Bryan answered, “We will (have it). And Roma and Mark are very involved in that process.”
Pattison is media editor for Catholic News Service.