Almost clear vision

Channel delay clouds good news at Oz cabler

SYDNEY — In many areas, things are looking sunny for feevee cabler Optus Vision, but clouds are hanging over the future of its much-delayed Nature Study Channel.

The Disney Channel Australia celebrated one year on OV by commissioning its first local productions on Thursday; meanwhile, Ovation, Oz’s first arts service, prepares to bow Sunday on the pay cabler.

But there have been repeated postponements of the Nature Study Channel, originally skedded for a February 1996 bow. The channel was to have been produced by OV with space org NASA and various zoo and wildlife bodies. “It’s pretty sensitive at the moment. There’s no guarantee you’ll see the channel on our service,” OV sources told Daily Variety.

The belated admission comes just days after the cabler downsized its 3,000 strong workforce by 12% and finally confirmed persistent reports (Daily Variety, Jan. 16) that WBTV the Warner Channel has been canned — owing to Ted Turner’s desire to discontinue the Warner feevee brand after the Time Warner/Turner merger last year.

Meantime, Disney revealed its first local production: the Australian Children’s Television Foundation drama series “The Crash Zone,” which focuses on the lives of a group of teenagers who road-test computer games for a living. Due for delivery late 1997, the series has been jointly commissioned by Disney Oz, U.K., France and Taiwan with no coin from terrestrials.

Two more drama series are in development with Southern Star and Screentime, while projects with Artist Services and Village Roadshow are under discussion.

Disney managing director Bill McKenzie also unveiled an exclusive multiyear deal for popular pre-school band the Wiggles to host weekday show “Let’s Wiggle.”

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