More on ‘The Odyssey Network’

Some time ago while posting the series “Favorite Music Videos” I mentioned a UHF-type overnight music video station broadcasting out of Cocoa Beach, Florida called “ODYSSEY” or “The Odyssey Network.” Before writing that post I had searched online for hours–unsuccessfully–looking for some information about the music service, both to give more insight about it and also to provide a link for more information.

I’ve had several readers since weigh in with their recollections of Odyssey. While I’ve enabled their comments here, I wanted to share the contents of a Billboard magazine article dated March 16, 1985 about the channel. (My thanks to “cj” for sending me a Comment with the link. I apologize for the delay in acknowledging it.)

Here is the article, reproduced in its entirety:

Odyssey Surviving Without Advertising
(New Music Video Service Claims Eight Million Viewers)

By Faye Zuckerman

LOS ANGELES With a viewership claimed at nearly eight million, the fledgling Odyssey Network 24-hour video music service still reports losses at $250,000 monthly, has incurred startup costs nearing $2.5 million, and has yet to secure any advertising revenue.

In fact, admits Tom Shaw, director of programming for the Cocoa Beach, Fla. based network, ‘We have received zero revenue from advertising.’ He adds. however, ‘When we went on the air Jan. 5, we had zero affiliates, and expected to pick up 400,000 viewers in 35 days.’

By Jan. 6, Odyssey had reached the 400,000 subscriber mark, airing on selected cable services and VHF and UHF tv stations. Three days later, Shaw says, the network saw its viewership jump to three million. ‘We projected reaching that figure in two years,’ he notes.

When will the supposedly advertising-supported music service break even, and can it stay afloat until then? Shaw contends the parent company, Nova Communications Network, is committed to keeping the channel alive for at least two years. ‘We have enough money to stay broadcasting for two years with selling a single ad,’ he claims.

Odyssey’s Shaw expresses confidence about securing advertising dollars for the two-month-old network, which he notes is just now approaching Madison Ave. with market research on its operations. Its programming primarily features urban contemporary music, with some pop mixed in, according to Shaw.

He admits that getting a foothold in the advertising arena might not be as easy as securing affiliates, especially when the programming is free. ‘It’s a step-by-step process. First we needed subscribers. Now it’s time to get the advertisers by making them aware of us and who we are reaching,’ Shaw observes.

‘We are the first national 24-hour music service on-line and broadcasting to areas not yet wired for cable. Many of our viewers are getting exposure to clips on a constant basis for the first time.’

Odyssey’s only other competitor to date is Discovery Music Network, which will go on-line June 1. A spokesperson for the channel says that company officials are not ready to say how many tv stations or cable services it has secured.

Odyssey Network currently boasts of having already signed broadcast contracts with 93 cable services and 24 television stations, nine of which are network affiliates. Participating stations include WRBV in Philadelphia, Tulsa’s WGTV, Salt Lake City’s KUTB and KTNV in Las Vegas.

The television stations generally air the channel six hours daily. Shaw says certain ABC and NBC affiliates broadcast the music channel as late night programming. ‘CBS provides after-hours tv shows for its stations, so they didn’t sign on with us,’ he explains.

Thus far, Odyssey’s programming hasn’t attempted to match the programming style of MTV, the premier 24-hour music video service. There are no VJs, no contests, few voiceovers and only one special segment, a top 12 video countdown.

Odyssey airs clips back-to-back, with designated unsold advertising spots. By early fall, Shaw plans to start featuring a VJ. ‘We have already started a nationwide search for one,’ he adds.

‘We are getting negative reactions to VJs,’ Shaw contends. ‘Only the record companies seem to like them because they promote their artists.’

As for MTV’s exclusivity pacts with several major record labels, Shaw asserts that Odyssey feels little if any impact. ‘Many of the artists we feature are not included in the agreements. We don’t care about waiting out a grace period. Most of our viewers are not cable households anyway.

‘Besides, maybe a 24-hour music service will come along and offer record companies a better price for videos.’ Meanwhile, Odyssey prides itself on airing a combination of urban and suburban video fare not generally shown on MTV or its sister service VH-1.”

While this article is certainly a big help in understanding how Odyssey began, it tells only part of the story. What happened to it? Did it merge with another service, or did it just fade away?

If anyone knows of, or has any more knowledge about the Odyssey Network, please send it along in the Comments section. Thanks in advance.


My Favorite Music Videos, Part Five: Nomo’s ‘Red Lipstick’

I first saw this video in 1985 on NBC’s “Friday Night Videos,” that network’s answer to MTV. Later on it was a regular fixture on the UHF Odyssey* music video channel, carried overnight from Cocoa Beach, FL on a UHF channel out of Johnstown, PA.

(Some background: when I was first able to tune in to that station–whose call letters and number I can’t recall–I was so impressed with its overnight music video content that I went to Radio Shack and bought a fairly large motorized UHF antenna, mounting it to a fireplace chimney on the roof. My childhood Western PA home didn’t get cable as yet in its rural setting, so MTV was not an option. That actually turned out to be a good thing, as I got to see things I would not have seen on MTV…like The Fat Boys, a hilarious and largely overlooked treat from the 80s. This is perhaps their best video.)

When I first saw Nomo I thought they were Japanese. Perhaps it was the name–“nomou” in Japanese, which, with hard masculine pronunciation, becomes “nomo,” which is “Let’s drink!.” Perhaps the video text said they were from Japan.

There is another band named Nomo…however, this video is from the band started by David Batteau, which produced one minor hit–the song in this video. And, as it turns out, they’re not from Japan.

What I particularly like about it is its Duran Duran-esque style. First, we start out in a landscape not unlike the Desert Southwest…then, a photo studio, and next, a motion picture set (with smoldering fires amongst carcasses of old airplane fuselages). Next, a swimming pool, followed by an impossibly blue room…then a black and white retro beach scene, and a construction site. The video closes with the band playing in a mock performance video on the roof of a high-rise in what looks like downtown Los Angeles.

Unlike most such performance videos, however, the camera moves in a counter-clockwise direction and doesn’t follow the lead singer (Batteau) as he moves about the set, performing the vocals. This feature alone is very different from most of these types of videos. He crosses in front of the camera several times as he is singing along with the vocal track.

It’s a catchy tune…from a pop perspective, there’s a great hook with the “Red red red lipstick” vocals. The video is very good as well; and while not up to the same well-defined qualities as most of the others found here, the concept and the cinematographic execution are well done. (Remember–this is 1985.) And, like a excellent pop song should, it ends on an upbeat and very positive note.

It’s a great and noteworthy video, and it has a place amongst my all-time favorites.

I could find little information on the Internet about the Odyssey video channel, despite more than an hour’s worth of searching. If you read the comments about the video on YouTube, others mention it as well. If you have any more information about this UHF channel, please leave comments. They are moderated and not made immediately public, so even if you have sketchy information there’s no need to feel hesitant about sharing it. It could be a great help.)

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Three: Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’

Most of the music videos on my favorites list aren’t the most popular. But there are a few that were both very good and very popular (for the time each was released), and it would be a shame to not include them just because they aren’t more obscure.

Duran Duran was one of several artists that used video so effectively at the genre’s onset that their videos and the styles of each helped shape the medium. (Others of note were ZZ Top, Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer, Adam and the Ants and PInk Floyd. These artists in particular were able early on to understand and grasp the great power of video images set to their music.)

The band started what I would call the “fashion music video,” where style and fashion–as well as exotic locations, in Duran Duran’s case–was as much of the part of the video (perhaps even more) than the song itself. (Others that used fashion well in their hit videos were Jackson, Madonna and David Bowie.)

“Hungry Like The Wolf” received huge amounts of airplay from MTV upon its release in 1982. According to Wikipedia:

Hungry Like the Wolf” is a song by the British New Wave band Duran Duran. Written by the band members, the song was produced by Colin Thurston for the group’s second studio album Rio (1982). The song was released in May 1982 as the band’s fifth single in the United Kingdom. It reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart, and received a silver certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

“Hungry Like the Wolf”‘s Russell Mulcahy-directed music video was filmed in the jungles of Sri Lanka, and evoked the atmosphere of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although the band initially failed to break into the U.S. market, MTV placed the “Hungry Like the Wolf” video into heavy rotation. Subsequently, the group gained much exposure; the song peaked at the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1983, and Duran Duran became an international sensation. The video won the first Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1984.

In 1983 Duran Duran released a collection of music videos, based on songs found both on Rio and their self-titled first release, which was reissued with new artwork and a new single, “Is There Something I Should Know?” A collection of music videos by one artist–one of which (“The Chauffeur”) did not even include any band members–was unheard of at the time.

My Favorite Music Videos, Part One: The Alan Parsons Project’s ‘Don’t Answer Me’

Since the birth of music video (not officially recognized until the birth of MTV in 1981) I’ve had a list of my favorites. Many of these fall within the first few years of the genre…it’s a diverse mix, and I’m presenting them in no particular order.

It’s been now just over 30 years since the debut of MTV. Still, it was hardly the only source of videos, as I recall NBC’s “Friday Night Videos,” “Night Tracks” on WTBS, and a station on UHF that broadcasted all night every night from Cocoa Beach,  Florida in the mid-80s. All of these videos came from one of those sources.

First up…the classic Alan Parsons Project video, “Don’t Answer Me.”

It might be trite in its plot line, but its substance is the way the music is melded to the video.