Here’s another reason to look forward to the Olympics this August.

When American Forces Network begins televising the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, it will activate two channels to provide additional coverage, according to American Forces Radio and Television Service officials.

“There is great expectation out there,” said Larry Sichter, chief of affiliate relations for the Defense Media Center, which is part of AFRTS.

He wasn’t talking only of AFN’s Olympic coverage, though interest will surely rise as the Aug. 13-29 extravaganza nears. (NBC and its sister networks — MSNBC, CNBC and Bravo — plan to offer more than 600 hours of Olympic television coverage.)

Instead, Sichter was broadly referring to the new channels: AFN-Movie and AFN-Family, which won’t fade from view when the Games’ flame is extinguished.

Conceived a few years ago, the channels were slated to debut last winter, but AFRTS hit the pause button over contracting and staffing delays.

With those issues resolved, the plan is to use the new channels to air more Olympic events during those 17 days in August, said Mel Russell, the director of AFRTS. The move not only allows for more coverage, but it’ll give AFN a chance to work out any start-up problems that may arise.

“We are really excited about carrying the Olympics,” Russell said in a telephone interview from his Washington office. “We will also use that time to promo what’s going to happen to those channels.”

Both channels evolved from the results of a survey in 2000. Respondents consistently said they wanted a channel devoted solely to family-oriented shows, Russell said. It also confirmed the desire for a movie channel.

Sichter, who is based at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., noted the survey “made it very clear as to what the goal is.”

Once the Olympics are over, AFN intends to treat movie aficionados to a steady stream of movies for years to come. The only breaks, aside from the ubiquitous public service announcements, will be Hollywood-related shows, such as “Entertainment Tonight,” Russell said.

The programming for AFN-Family will mature as the day goes on. Programs for toddlers would dominate the morning schedule, Russell said. The content of the afternoon and early evening shows will get progressively more sophisticated while holding true to the “family” theme.

“It will be a safe haven” for kids and teens, explained Sichter. “There will be no surprises.”

Some of the family-oriented programs destined for AFN-Family already are airing on AFN-Spectrum. Those programs would shift to the new channel, permitting AFN to air on Spectrum more educational shows, such as those seen on the History and Discovery channels. AFN also plans to show “Friends” and other popular re-runs on the revamped channel.

Asked if another AFN expansion was on the horizon, Russell said there were no immediate plans, at least not anytime soon. However, he noted that it’s a common topic of discussion around AFRTS.

“We could use more room for sports and news,” Russell said. “This is on the back burner, but we could make room to do that.”

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