For 29 years, Odyssey Networks has used cutting edge media to tell stories of faith in action. Odyssey was founded in 1987 as a groundbreaking cable channel that to brought diversity to faith media, giving America’s major denominations a platform to share their stories. Odyssey remains a service of the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, Inc.
As the world of news, information and entertainment moved increasingly to multiple platforms, Odyssey morphed into a multimedia organization. By distributing content everywhere: on the web, on mobile, on cable television, and at events and gatherings, Odyssey is able to connect people of all religious backgrounds.
Take a look back through this timeline of the many milestones in Odyssey Networks history:
- Transform Films, Inc. is created
- “The Reckoning” premieres on Hallmark Channel
- “Magic Stocking” premieres on Hallmark Channel
- Milwaukee53206.com website launches
- “The American Bible Challenge” is nominated for 2 Daytime Emmy Awards
- Season 3 of “The American Bible Challenge” airs on GSN
- “For Better or For Worse” airs on Hallmark Channel
- New OdysseyNetworks.org website launches
- OdysseyNetworks.tv website launches
- “Beverly Lewis’: The Confession” airs on Hallmark Channel.
- Season 2 of “The American Bible Challenge” returns to GSN with new musical co-host Kirk Franklin.
- Call On Faith launches a new responsive design website
- Odyssey hosts the “Faith And Media Conference,” bringing together hundreds of partners from the faith and media worlds
- “ON Scripture – The Bible” receives a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation
- Launch of “ON Scripture – The Torah,” in partnership with Hebrew College and The Huffington Post.
- “Notes From the Heart Healer,” the third installment of “The Note” trilogy, airs on Hallmark Channel.
- Production is completed on “The Confession,” based on the bestselling novel by Beverly Lewis.
- Season one of “The American Bible Challenge” premiers on GSN. The program is renewed for a second season.
- “Call On Faith” continues to expand with new channels and the beginnings of a new website.
- First Odyssey Networks documentary commissioned and aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) – “Serving Life”
- 5th feature film for Hallmark Channel commissioned.
- Launch of “ON Scripture -The Bible” video and text sermon resource in partnership with The Huffington Post.
- First major grant -$750,000 from Lilly Endowment to help fund “ON Scripture – The Bible” over three years.
- Launch of 4 more channels on “Call on Faith” taking it to 18 channels of faith and inspirational video content for smart-phones and tablet devices.
- Odyssey Networks expands its partners beyond the Abrahamic faiths to include all faith groups in the United States.
- A mobile platform/app called “Call on Faith” was launched on iPhone, Blackberry and Android smart-phones.
- Odyssey Networks creates its own in-house production capabilities helping members “Tell Their Stories of Faith in Action, Changing the World for the Better” -and starts to dismantle the For Profit sector companies to focus on the Mission and media from the Not For Profit sector.
- Board is restructured. Committees a bringing in working committees covering the major areas of Odyssey’s operations, made up of Trustees, staff, members and co-opted industry experts.
- Nick Stuart begins his tenure as President/CEO.
- Final two hours of Sunday programming on the Hallmark Channel ends on December 31st.
- Initial seven-year agreement with Crown Media Holdings expires and new two-year agreement is signed. Faith & Values Media retains a two-hour programming block on Hallmark Channel.
- New multi-platform distribution strategy encompassing television, film, and the Internet is announced.
- Odyssey Networks replaces Faith & Values Media as a name that better reflects the organization’s expanded mission and scope.
- After nine years of service, Ed Murray retires as CEO. Nick Stuart of the UK’s CTVC is chosen as his successor.
- Lightworks Enterprises acquires Emmy-winning documentary producer, KPI Productions.
- Lightworks Pictures is established to produce television and theatrical films.
- Faith & Values Media Association welcomes its first Muslim member, Inner-Attainment TV, Inc.
- Lightworks Enterprises, (LEI) is formed as a for profit subsidiary of VMC with three separate, interrelated lines of business:
- Lightworks New Media
- Lightworks Producing Group, Inc.
- Lightworks Program Distribution
- NICC enters into a new relationship with Crown Media Holdings, which reduces its amount of air time but increases funding significantly. The Odyssey Network is re-launched as Hallmark Channel.
- NICC dba Faith & Values Media continues to produce award-winning television programming for Hallmark Channel.
- Faith & Values Media launches faithandvalues.com through its for-profit subsidiary VMC. The site provides information and resources from Faith & Values Media’s members, provides updates on current news and topics in an environment suited to faith-related issues.
- Odyssey Productions, Ltd. is dissolved and its mission is assumed by the new Lightworks Producing Group, Inc., a non-profit, wholly owned subsidiary of Faith & Values Media.
- NICC’s interest in Odyssey is “rolled up” into a new company, Crown Media Holdings, Inc., which includes the Odyssey Channel, the Kermit Channel, and Hallmark Entertainment Television.
- NICC adopts Faith & Values Media as its service mark and “…light for the journey” as its tag line.New mission statement incorporating a mandate that encompasses use of the Internet and other new media as well as television is adopted by the Board of Trustees.
- NICC and Liberty enter into a partnership with Hallmark Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company, giving Hallmark and Henson 45 percent of the Odyssey Channel and the role of managing partners. NICC retains 22. 5 percent and Liberty 32.5. NICC and its member faith groups are guaranteed a minimum of 30 hours of air time per week for their mission-oriented programming.
- F&V L.L.C. is re-named Odyssey Holdings, L.L.C., dba The Odyssey Channel.
- A new name is adopted —the Odyssey Channel, along with a tagline “Exploring life’s journey.”
- Odyssey Productions Ltd. is formed for the purpose of producing original programming for the channel and assisting member faith groups with production.
- NICC enters into an agreement with Liberty Media Corporation, a subsidiary of TCI, to create a for-profit partnership, the F&V Channel LLC.
- NICC forms its own for-profit corporation VISN Management Corp (VMC), which owns 51 percent of the network and serves as managing partner, with Liberty holding 49 percent.
- A three-year agreement with ACTS is signed regarding programming hours (20.5 hours in year 1, 18 in year 2, and 15 in the final year)
- Recognizing the need for a name that better communicates its channel’s content, NICC establishes a new identity: The Faith & Values Channel.
- American Christian Television Services (ACTS), a network of the Southern Baptist Convention, begins programming eight hours per day on VISN. The channel’s name becomes VISN/ACTS.
- NICC launches Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN) to an estimated two million cable households.
- Leading communication executives from Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faith groups join to form the National Interfaith Cable Coalition (NICC). The catalyst for their alliance is a group of cable television industry leaders, who are concerned about widespread reports of financial mismanagement and personal misconduct on the part of several prominent television ministry personalities, and who recognize the need to make faith visible on television in a new way.
Two fundamental tenets are established:
- The new channel will represent a wide range of faith traditions fairly and equitably;
- On-air fundraising and proselytizing will be prohibited.
- Major startup funding is provided by Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI). Other multiple systems operators advance funds against subscriber fees. NICC is formally incorporated as a 501©(3) corporation in December.