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Starting Sunday, American Forces Network will merge its main television programming in South Korea, Japan and Okinawa to one channel: AFN Prime Pacific.

AFN Prime Pacific remains unchanged for viewers in Japan and Okinawa. Only AFN Korea is being eliminated from the airwaves.

The change comes as AFN adds another channel to its lineup aimed at men ages 18-35: AFN Xtra, with sports programming, fitness shows and Olympic coverage.

Robert Matheson, AFN’s director of broadcasting, called the new channel “a different style of television.” Xtra is designed “especially for those who are attracted to action sports and high-tech.”

AFN Xtra’s official launch date isn’t until Feb. 27, but Winter Olympics coverage — both live and taped — begins Feb. 10 in most locations, said Dave Sutton, chief of logistics for AFN in the Pacific.

All affiliates are expected to receive the feed, he said. The switch will be automatic for off-base residents with AFN decoders. Inside the gates, it’s a matter of securing a spot on the dial.

“There’s a limited amount of free tier,” Sutton said. “Adding an extra channel means you’ve got to take another one off.”

On Navy facilities, AFN Xtra will replace the electronic program guide, he said. That’s the likely scenario for Yokota as well, officials said, but permission had not been granted as of Thursday afternoon.

Misawa and Iwakuni carry AFN Korea as part of their own cable systems, so the substitution will take place there. Sutton said he was uncertain of the route AFN Okinawa officials would take.

“All of our television receive- only sites are going to switch over eventually to AFN Xtra,” he added. “We’ll make sure every site we handle has this channel on it. … We’re working out ways that are beneficial for the base, cable providers and us.”

AFN Xtra will target slightly different audiences throughout the week, said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tim McGough, operations manager for AFN Tokyo at Yokota Air Base.

On weekends, AFN Xtra will augment the amount of live and same-day sports offerings seen on AFN Sports. On weekdays, it’ll air a variety of alternative sports, sports talk and consumer high- tech shows for people who normally watch little traditional television. Among highlights on tap: surfing, BMX, snowboarding, kayaking, skateboarding, triathlons, Ironman competitions, hiking, hunting and fishing.

It will also offer “leading edge entertainment shows,” including “The Daily Show,” “Family Guy,” “Fear Factor,” “The Simpsons” and “WWE Smackdown.”

Regular AFN Xtra programming occasionally will be pre-empted for bonus live sports coverage of high-profile events such as March Madness, officials said.

“It gives extra variety to our viewers,” McGough said. “Not every young kid is into traditional football, baseball, basketball and hockey. They’re surfers, skateboarders or hikers. That’s who it’ll cater to.”


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