Military Channel Gains Ground in Cable Battles: Features `Heroes, History and Hardware'
Harper, Jennifer, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
While broadcast and cable networks grapple for elusive viewers, a new cable channel may have scooped them all.
Patriotism is popular. Valor sells.
The 24-hour Military Channel, started quietly on the Fourth of July, salutes all things military, seven days a week.
"The stars here are heroes, history and hardware," said CEO Patrick Mulvey, who served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam.
"We want to inspire people," Mr. Mulvey said, "whether they are active duty, retired, family members, history buffs. We tell the story of the military from those who experienced it."
He estimates there are some 70 million in this eclectic audience, all looking for a little heft on TV for a change.
"Some time ago, I flipped through 80 cable channels," Mr. Mulvey said. "I just couldn't find anything worthwhile to watch. That inspired me to change things."
So what's on?
For starters, there's "PX" (home shopping), "Heroic Sports" (games from military academies) and "Firepower" (maneuvers and equipment.) It is a veritable feast of he-man fare. Subjects include Navy Seals, Lockheed-Martin, Patriot missiles, ejection seats, Igor Sikorsky, the French Foreign Legion, Jimmy Doolittle and Army football, among other things.
Things get very specific for insiders, indeed. Other shows include "First Infantry Division Vietnam," "Biggin Hill '96" and "USAFE: Wild Weasels."
In a cable marketplace rife with disposable sitcoms, game shows and cartoons, the Military Channel aspires to lofty ideals. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based channel, according to corporate literature, intends to "validate the community of active service personnel and veterans of all nations and services into a common community of mankind."
The focus on programming, Mr. Mulvey said, is on "the valor of combat engagement."
Their ideas have paid off.
Initially, the channel was available to 2 million viewers through satellite TV. On Wednesday, it announced it had signed on with Americable and the National Cable Television Cooperative, increasing its potential audience to 12 million in five months.
"With that figure, they have a decent start," said Peggy Conger of Cable Avails magazine, a trade publication. "It's a good win."
The next challenge, she said, is to snag the huge MSOs, or multiple-system operators, who distribute cable programming in up to 100 million homes. …