Coming soon to a television near you…

April 22nd, 2014 by Jamie Beckett

In a land that counts television as the great communicator, is there room for a network devoted to aviation? Maybe, maybe not. The answer is probably largely up to you, the viewer. Or more accurately the combined viewership of that magical box that continues to grow wider, larger, thinner, and higher-resolution, even as the available programming becomes increasingly niche oriented.

Today we have a channel for everything, it seems. We’ve got channels about food. There are channels devoted to travel. We’ve got science fiction channels, game show channels, military channels, cartoon channels, and news channels to beat the band. Oh yes, we’ve got music channels, too. Kids channels, movie channels, religious channels, shopping channels, gay channels, independent programming channels, even C-SPAN, perhaps the most important and most snore inducing channel to ever come down the pike. But you know what we don’t have? We don’t have a dedicated aviation channel.

I’m not talking about the occasional aeronautically themed programming, like what we might catch on Speed, or the History Channel, or the Blowing Stuff Up During WWII channel. I mean a channel that’s all about aviation and aerospace. Can you imagine the potential? Can you imagine the challenges?

Whew, what a workload.

Television may look easy, but it’s not. Putting a program on the air is a Herculean task. Building an entire network designed to host programming that fits a specific niche in the market is even harder. There are people working on just those challenges, though. Good people. Smart, dedicated, highly-experienced people who have big dreams, mind-bogglingly extensive spreadsheets, and sizzle reels that make you scratch your head and say out loud, “Why isn’t this on my cable line-up right now?”

Allow me to introduce you to two very ambitious projects. One is an aviation themed television program in the development stage. The other is a fledgling aerospace network that’s looking for a home.

AirFare America came across my plate last year at SUN ‘n FUN. An enthusiastic woman who is the embodiment of effervescence took the time to settle down long enough to show me a clip, walk me through the concept, and thoroughly whet my appetite for a program about the edible delights we find at airports from one corner of the continent to the next. Better than the food are the people they discover. Andrea Vernot’s vision caught my eye, my imagination, and my heart. Who doesn’t love a $100 hamburger now and then? Especially if it comes with a great story on the side. Andrea and her partner got that same idea, built on it, shot some stellar video, and are now in the process of making things happen.

Check out a sample of what they’re trying to bring to your living room screen at: http://www.airfareamerica.net/

As if bringing a new program to the tube isn’t hard enough, Phillip Hurst, late of the Golf Channel, has banded together with a stellar group of aviation brainiacs, astronauts, aerobatic wizards, and filmmakers to launch a concept called Air & Space Television. Focusing on sport, adventure, and lifestyle, the men and women behind Air & Space Television hope to forge a new connection with the broader population. They’re not looking to simply entice pilots and hard-core enthusiasts to watch television on the drab days when the ceilings are too low to launch off on a fun flight. They’re working on a plan that will reach out and grab the casual observer, the daydreaming teenager, the bored housewife (or househusband), the adventure junkie looking for a new outlet, and the family that wants to experience something new and exciting vicariously through the lens of a photographer and crew who get up-close and personal with scenes that would scare the bejeezus out of a rational ground-pounder.

Catch up with the Air & Space Television plan at: http://www.airandspace.tv/

The challenges are many, as you can imagine. But it’s a good sign that they’re out there, Andrea and Phillip and their peers. As long as visionaries with imaginations and a talent from telling a story are among us, there is an excellent chance that aviation will thrive for another century, and then another after that. This activity of flight used to be introduced to little boys who lay in the grass watching clouds drift by. It’s expanded its reach now, accepted an ever more diversified body of participants, and still calls out for new converts – albeit in new and exciting ways that can reach each of us right there in our homes. If only all the pieces would fall together.

It gives me hope to know they’re out there, working toward the day when their dream comes to fruition. To a day when anyone in American can snap on their television and surf right up to a channel that will show everything from a Mercury capsule launching into space, an episode of Black Sheep Squadron, the latest happenings on the International Space Station, or maybe even a piece on how the restaurant at your favorite airport restaurant prepares their signature dish.

This could be a great way to spend a rainy, cold weekend in the future. If only…if only…I wish them all the success in the world.

Jamie Beckett

Jamie Beckett is a passionate promoter of all things aviation who focuses his attention on the positive more often than not. He is the former president of the Polk Aviation Alliance in central Florida. He is committed to working to build a growing pilot population as well as a greater appreciation for general aviation nationwide.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Avi8tor857

    I’m always looking from more good Aviation content. Here is the issue, more and more people are doing as I did and dropping cable — there is 0 things on cable that I can’t live without when and if you make the programming available on one of the streaming services (netflix, amazon, hulu etc) I will watch it. I’ve just been buying “The Aviators” seasons as they come out. It’s so much cheaper just to buy the content you want instead of a $70/mo package that I never watch. Unfortantly that also means its harder than ever to start a new channel or program especially one targeted to the more educated and discerning demographic as they are not blindly watching hours of TV.

  • Chris

    It is quite ambitious. Remember the “Wings” channel? Gone. I can’t even get “The Aviators” in my market, and “The Flightline” is gone, too, having left Fox Sports and gone to a network that isn’t in my market. Sure is a good thing I live close to Oshkosh. At least I can see a show once a year!

  • Phillip Hurst

    You’re both right. It’s an extreme challenge to make a successful TV programming service. I use that term because the value in the business is derived from building a media brand for the programming category, not the mechanics of how it reaches viewers. Look at Weather channel…on your mobile, or tablet, or on the TV in the FBO or even, *gasp*, your living room.

    Your comments underscore the demand for more aviation and space-themed entertainment – and for less mindless TV in general. Our mission as media veterans is using a newer model fitting today’s environment to best meet that demand, so you don’t have to search for it, or wait for AirVenture.

    Holding for clearance,
    Phillip

  • maycay

    It’ll happen. We’re due. We all know its about the perfect deep pocketed network folks showing up at the right time. Let’s hope the time is near. I have believed in Phillip’s vision for years- and Andrea’s refreshing spirit cannot possibly fall short. Only way an aviation network won’t launch and survive is to give up, and no way will that happen. From my mouth to God’s ear.