Skip to main content

Entertaining the Troops

The American Forces Network is beamed to military personnel worldwide. Some 800,000 soldiers and their families receive the TV service in 175 countries.

Now, Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios will benefit from that far-flung distribution. American Forces Radio and Television Services (AFRTS) has signed Allen's company to a five-year distribution deal, giving the AFRTS access to Entertainment Studios' library of 15 TV niche shows. Two of those shows,
and Recipe TV, are strips. The remainder—among them The American Athlete, Kickin' It with Byron Allen
and The Entertainers—are weeklies.

"Wherever they see fit, they have access to it. They can use our daily and weekly shows and our occasional specials," says Allen, chairman and CEO of one of syndication's few remaining independent producer/distributor companies.

Both Entertainment Studios and AFRTS are in expansion mode.

Entertainment Studios opened a Chicago office last year and hired a new president, Stu Stringfellow, King World's former president of domestic television sales. Allen also hired Tom Devlin, previously senior vice president of international distribution for Hearst-Argyle, to sell Entertainment Studios' programs globally.

AFRTS is adding two more channels to its existing seven: AFN Family Channel and AFN Movie Channel, giving it greater need of Allen's inventory. "The Entertainers, for example, will be heavily used for our new AFN Movie Channel and on AFN Prime," says Larry Marotta, chief of AFRTS' television division.

AFN has been operating since 1942, first on radio. By 1952, it was also offering TV channels to troops overseas. "We're probably dealing with just about everybody in the American TV industry," Marotta says. "It's a showcase of American television."

AFN Prime offers troops the best of American network TV, including the most popular shows on prime time. "Soap operas, Phil, Oprah, Judy, we've got them all," Marotta says.

Allen adds it's a privilege to serve the American armed forces. "I can't tell you how important it is to some of the celebrities on our shows to speak from their hearts to the troops," he says. "And it means a lot when troops come to me and say, 'I watched you when I was stationed overseas.' "