His movie channel brings back oldies
By Tom Sowa
Home movies are Gerry Daugherty’s business, but his are not the kind your neighbors love to sleep through.
Daugherty is a savior of sorts to area cable TV fans who love old movies. As a result of Daugherty’s cinema expertise, Spokane now has its own old-movie channel – Channel 25 – broadcasting seven old films per day without commercial interruption.
The station went on the air the first week of July without fanfare or publicity.
Daugherty simply went ahead and aired his first batch of older films in association with Cox Cable of Spokane, the city cable operator, and hoped people here would like what they saw.
Without much money for advertising, all he could hope for then was word-of-mouth to publicize his venture.
Daugherty’s low-budget video operation is similar to efforts he’s coordinated in two previous places of business, Tulsa, Okla. and Jackson Hole, Wyo. In both instances, Daugherty followed the same tactic he’s trying here: He discovered it was profitable to offer a channel of older movies to cable TV subscribers.
He doesn’t do it for love, of course. Where he comes out ahead is advertising revenue. Before and after each film he presents up to four advertising spots. The advertising is produced locally in most instances, often being aimed specifically at the cable audience.
The irony is that Daugherty is now trying to repeat those earlier successes in his own hometown.
It’s also ironic that when he came back to Spokane recently after several years of video work in the Midwest and West, it was to work for satellite pay-TV, one of cable TV’s main video competitors.
His business, Daedalus Company, was started originally to sell satellite pay-television – brought to individual home TV sets not by cable but by microwave – to area hotels, motels and apartment buildings.
He discovered in short order that just as many Spokane viewers are hungry for movies made in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s as for recently made feature films.
Every poll taken of local TV viewers, he says, always shows that the top preference, far ahead of sports programs, is older movies.
Whether or not Channel 25 can get as many viewers as first-run, pay-cable channels like HBO or Showtime remains to be seen. But Channel 25 – also know as TVSP – already has earned itself a place of distinction in Spokane history.
It is the first instance of full-time locally originated cable programming in Spokane. In contrast to most of Cox Cable’s piped-in programming, Channel 25 is the one cable channel that’s planned, scheduled and supervised right here.
(There are several cable channels that now air locally produced programs, but none do so on a full-time basis. One – Channel 12 – provides programs on medical and health information, five others at different points in the day provide educational programming, another, Channel 5, airs live City Council coverage, while Channel 29 provides real estate information.)
The arrangement Daugherty has with Cox works his way: He gets to use Channel 25, which before he took over was used as a wire-service message text for local and state news.
During the day he broadcasts seven older films, the first starting at 7 a.m., the last at 11 p.m.
Daugherty pays for the station’s operating costs but then keeps the advertising revenue.
Cox, in turn, provides Channel 25 to its area subscribers without additional charge. Says Derek White, general manager for Cox Cable of Spokane, “For us the bottom line is to provide the most diverse and entertaining programming that we can. We feel that what Gerry’s offering fits right into that plan.”
The films (actually ¾-inch video tape) come from a syndicated service with a library of more than 3,000 video tapes. One new film is added every day to the day’s offerings. On Friday nights, the 11 p.m. movie will be a double feature.
Finding out what’s on is probably the major viewer annoyance with the new channel. Periodically over Channel 25 and over the Cox TV directory channel, one can find out what’s being presented that day. But information on films two or three days ahead is unavailable at the moment.
Although several TV listings services – including The Spokesman-Review’s – hope to offer the channel’s schedule in the near future, the growing number of new channels has made it difficult to keep listings up to date.
The selections, necessarily, won’t be star-studded moments of cinema history. But, Daugherty notes, even some of the most mediocre B-films shown on 25 will have a name actor or actress. “Many times we’ll have a film that an actor made before he became a big success. That’s the case often, the star’s more important than the film.”
Among the cheapies and the occasionally inane selections, Daugherty’s acquired some very worthwhile entertainment. In August, for example, he’ll run back-to-back screenings of the first two film versions of “The Front Page,” a witty satire of American metropolitan journalism first written for the stage by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.
The two films will be the 1931 version starring Pat O’Brien and Adolphe Menjou. The second, interestingly, changed the two male characters to a man and woman. The film was titled “His Girl Friday,” and starred Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant.
Other respectable films planned by Channel 25 in August include: “Blood and Sand,” “Catharine the Great,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “Drum Beat,” and the early American silent film, “Intolerance,” made by D.W. Griffith.
Sunday, August 2, 1981