FitTV

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FitTV
FitTV.png
Launched 1993 (as Cable Health Club)
1996 (as America's Health Network)
September 12, 1999 (merged together)
Closed February 1, 2011
Owned by Discovery Communications, Inc.
Headquarters Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States
Formerly called Cable Health Club (1993-1996)
America's Health Network (1996-1999)
The Health Network (1999-2004)
Replaced by Discovery Fit & Health (after merger with Discovery Health Channel
Sister channel(s) Discovery Channel
TLC
Hub Network
Animal Planet
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
Science
Investigation Discovery
Military Channel
Destination America
Discovery Familia
Velocity
Discovery en Español

FitTV was an American digital cable and satellite channel, owned by Discovery Communications. The channel focused on fitness and exercise-related programming. FitTV offered programming with such fitness celebrities as Cathe Friedrich, Sharon Mann, Gilad Janklowicz, Marilu Henner, Tamilee Webb and others. The network's logo was also known for its alternating colors. On February 1, 2011, it merged with Discovery Health Channel to become Discovery Fit & Health.

History[edit]

FitTV[edit]

In 1993, FitTV was launched as Cable Health Club, part of Tim and Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment, which also then owned the Family Channel (now ABC Family). Jake Steinfeld, who had starred on the network's Big Brother Jake, was a constant presence on the channel in its early years.

The original formatting of an hour on Cable Health Club included a 20-minute aerobic conditioning workout at the top of the hour featuring Tamilee Webb; a segment on healthy living; a Body by Jake workout starting at the bottom of the hour; and "Fitness Plus", a home shopping segment for fitness items and equipment.

In 1994, Cable Health Club received new sponsors and minority partners, Reebok International (its first charter advertiser) and Liberty Media. By this time, the channel was received in one million homes and carried two hours a day on the Family Channel.[1]

America's Health Network[edit]

America's Health Network was in separate operation from FitTV from March 1996[2] until 1999. The channel was based in Orlando, Florida and had an $11 million production center with 16,500-square-foot (1,530 m2) soundstage built at Universal Studios there in late 1995.[3] The executives at the channel were Joe Maddox (a former Discovery Channel executive) and Webster "Web" Golinkin, who had spent two and a half years[4] planning, raising $75 million in capital, and building the channel. The majority owner was the Providence Journal Company. The channel also had a five-year agreement with Mayo Clinic and IVI Publishing, its electronic publisher, to provide medical information and illustrative graphics. Mayo and IVI were also minority owners of the channel, and other investors included venture capital firm Medical Innovation Partners, Inc.

15 minutes an hour on AHN was devoted to shopping. The "Health Mall" carried upscale, harder-to-find items for healthy living. AHN had a deal with Clearwater, Florida-based Home Shopping Network to provide orders and shipping infrastructure. For cable operators, carriage deals included a small percentage of advertising and shopping revenue.

Started with a cable audience of 200,000 subscribers, it had reached 700,000 by May 1996 and 6 million by the time of the sale of its first majority owners. However, cable carriage was a long-fighting concern for AHN and other cable outlets that launched in this time frame (Electronic Media, now TV Week magazine, described the environment many cable networks launched in 1996 faced as a "jungle"). Time Warner Cable, the incumbent cable provider in Orlando, did not carry AHN, and so many people in the channel's own hometown were unable to see its programs.

Providence Journal acquisition means trying times[edit]

In 1997, ProJo was bought by the A.H. Belo Corporation. It was that company's first venture into cable television; Belo, according to Golinkin, did not desire to gain any market share in cable.[5] The channel laid off 161 of its 200 employees[6] and ceased producing live programs. The 39 employees that remained were a skeleton crew to keep the channel running, including the entire management team. A sale of most of the Belo stake to Columbia/HCA Health Care Corp. for $50 million[7] was soon proposed. Columbia wanted to put AHN in its nearly 500 hospitals and surgery centers, plus many more outpatient clinics.[8] However, during this time period, federal investigations over its billing practices; government raids; charges of Columbia officials with conspiracy and fraud; and changes in management at Columbia/HCA "turned [the company] upside down", in the words of a senior official.[9] This turmoil spurred reviews of company strategies and the cancellation of some transactions, including the sale of the AHN stake. New York real estate tycoon Howard Milstein offered a bridge loan, which was accepted. Belo's stake eventually was bought back by AHN.[10] An investment group of former Columbia/HCA officials, including Richard Scott and David Vandewater, took control of the network in late 1997, and live series resumed.[11]

During this time, another minority investor in the channel was Access Health, a referral service.

1998-99: New milestones[edit]

On June 16, 1998, AHN presented the first human birth carried live over the Internet, from Orlando's Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. The birth brought AHN major national and worldwide media attention and was even the focus of an editorial cartoon two days later in USA Today. By this time, it reached 8 million cable homes, comparable to the CNN/SI cable network (which would fold in 2002) and the Game Show Network.[12]

By June 1999, Scott and Vandewater had reduced their stake in America's Health.[13]

Shows in the AHN era[edit]

  • Ask the Doctor was a program where medical professionals took viewer calls in two-hour time blocks. At launch, AHN had hired 16 doctors, seven of them from the Orlando area. Shows during Universal Studios theme park hours had studio audiences.[4] By the time AHN had to stop producing live series in 1997, it had some 7,000 hours of studio shows.

Merger and acquisition[edit]

On September 12, 1999, News Corp.'s Fox Cable Networks Group bought FitTV and merged it with America's Health Network, which Fox Cable already owned in a joint venture with Scott and Vandewater, naming the resulting network The Health Network. In December, it sold 50% of the channel to WebMD.

The cable carriage problem was no more. By the start of 2000, The Health Network reached 17.5 million homes. At the start of 2000, about half of its Orlando workforce, now supplemented by offices in New York and Nashville, as well as its new headquarters in Los Angeles, was laid off, leaving 40 people out of work. At the time, The Health Network said it was moving more of its production to New York and Los Angeles so it could feature more celebrities on its lineup.[14] In the fall of 2000, it very nearly relaunched as WebMD Television, with new programs and the removal of the AHN studio program library from its schedule;[15] that plan was put on hold, and Fox received the 50% of the channel it had sold back from WebMD, which had lost $2 billion in the year 2000.[16]

On September 1, 2001, Discovery Communications bought The Health Network for $255 million in cash and equity.[17] Shortly afterward (on January 1, 2004), Discovery reinstated the "FitTV" name, as Discovery already owned its own health channel, Discovery Health.

In March 2006, New York's Cablevision dropped the channel from its systems, resulting in the loss of some three million subscribers (down to 35 million).[18] By January 2011, however, the channel was now available in some 50 million homes, a significant increase.

Back to "Health"[edit]

Discovery Communications used the Discovery Health channel space to launch OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, a new network under the auspices of Oprah Winfrey, on January 1, 2011. Immediately, this channel's programming mix changed. The fitness programs moved to the mornings, and much of Discovery Health's archive content – and the former Discovery Health National Body Challenge – took up the remaining time.

On January 17, 2011, Discovery Communications announced, reflecting the changes to the network's schedule incorporating Discovery Health's programming, that FitTV would be rebranded as Discovery Fit & Health on February 1, 2011.[19][20][21] This marks the first time in nearly a decade (since the Health Network era) that the focus of the channel has included health programs.

Former programs[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cable Health Club takes new partners." Adweek Western Edition 2 May 1994: 12.
  2. ^ Health Care, Orlando Sentinel, May 23, 1996
  3. ^ Universal Studios Florida is Site of New America's Health Network Production Center, The Free Library, August 7, 1995
  4. ^ a b Hinman, Catherine. Network Set to Make House Calls, Orlando Sentinel, March 24, 1996
  5. ^ McConville, Jim. "1996 launches hunt subs: It's a jungle out there." Electronic Media 25 August 1997: 12-13.
  6. ^ Abbott, Jim, and Hagstrom, Suzy. Cable Network Cuts 161 Jobs, Orlando Sentinel, August 2, 1997.
  7. ^ Higgins, John M., "Belo scrubs America's Health." Broadcasting and Cable 11 August 1997: 71.
  8. ^ Columbia Tunes In to Health Network, Orlando Sentinel, May 15, 1997
  9. ^ Asplund, Jon. "Ex-Columbia exec spins Web for health care cable network." AHA News 11 May 1998: 4.
  10. ^ Abbott, Jim. Health Network Buys Controlling Stake; Orlando Sentinel, August 6, 1997.
  11. ^ Hall, Lee. "AHN finds pulse in '98". Electronic Media 30 March 1998: 8-9.
  12. ^ Channel Is Glowing, Orlando Sentinel, June 19, 1998
  13. ^ Kirchheimer, Barbara. "Scott, Vandewater tuning out network." Modern Healthcare 21 June 1999: 38.
  14. ^ Abbott, Jim. The Health Network Lays Off 40 Employees; Orlando Sentinel, January 21, 2000.
  15. ^ Donohue, Steve. "Health net may become WebMDTV." Multichannel News 14 February 2000: 3-4.
  16. ^ Moss, Linda. "News Corp. Gets All of Health Network." Multichannel News 8 January 2001: 18.
  17. ^ Discovery Finds That FitTV Was Best Fit After All, Multichannel News, October 12, 2003
  18. ^ R. Thomas Umstead. Cablevision Drops Fit TV, Multichannel News, April 3, 2006.
  19. ^ Discovery Announces New Fitness and Health Channel, AOL, January 17, 2011.
  20. ^ Discovery Communications to Unveil Discovery Fit & Health on February 1, 2011, TV By the Numbers, January 17, 2011
  21. ^ Discovery To Launch New Health, Fitness Channel, Associated Press, January 17, 2011