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Smithsonian to open its 'Vault' on TV series

January 30, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Actor Tom Cavanagh's newest gig is taking him behind the scenes at the Smithsonian's museums.

Best known as the star of television's "Ed," Cavanagh will host a series of 30-minute shows for the Smithsonian Institution's joint TV unit with Showtime Networks Inc., slated to launch in April.

The new company, Smithsonian Networks, announced Monday some of its initial 60 programs, including a co- production deal with the BBC's flagship "Timewatch" history series and documentaries focusing on the Smithsonian's treasured artifacts.

David Royle, executive vice president for programming and production at Smithsonian Networks, said the goal was to do more than "merely museum television," with programs that are "entertaining, informative and fun."

No carriers have signed on, but negotiations are underway, Royle said.

Cavanagh will host the six-part series "Stories From the Vaults," from the back rooms of the world's largest museum and research complex, which houses millions of items from art, history, technology and science.

Smithsonian Networks, which was announced last March, plans to spend at least $10 million for more than 130 hours of programming each year.

The programming is being offered to cable and satellite TV providers as an on-demand channel, meaning viewers who get digital channel packages would be able to watch the program of their choice whenever they want. Royle said a regular, scheduled channel, in high definition, is expected in the fall.

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