The new multicast network launches today with the former America’s Most Wanted host as on-air spokesman and part owner. Gannett stations are among those on board, covering 40% of U.S. households. The lineup will include a range of criminal justice programming, with viewer involvement solicited.
For almost 25 years, John Walsh hosted America’s Most Wanted.
Starting tonight, he becomes the on-air spokesperson for multicast digital network Justice Network, which debuts at 6 p.m. in 40% of television homes on Gannett stations and other outlets. The network will air repeats of documentary series like Locked Up Abroad and Alaska State Troopers that have recently run on cable TV, but also original 90-second public service announcements each hour, which Walsh will host.
“I will introduce fugitives and missing child cases on these interstitials,” Walsh says. “I will also provide some input into the interstitials and programming, as well as reaching out to the station groups.”
Each PSA will include 30 seconds about a missing fugitive, 30 seconds about a missing child and 30 seconds highlighting ways viewers can keep themselves safe.
“It’s me speaking into the camera,” says Walsh, part owner of the Justice Network. “I ask viewers to look at pictures of missing kids, then ask them to make the call. The one thing I learned from 25 years of America’s Most Wanted is, if you look straight into the camera, ask viewers to do something, then give them a way to do it, they will do the right thing. On Justice Network, I ask viewers to pick up the phone if they’ve seen these missing kids.”
Walsh began hosting AMW on Fox in 1988, a few years after his six-year-old son Adam was murdered. He now hosts CNN’s The Hunt, which begins its second season in March.
Walsh is a founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which, along with Crime Stoppers USA and law enforcement agencies, is a partner with Justice Network.
“We have partnered with Crime Stoppers and law enforcement in markets where we have stations,” Walsh says. “We’ll show pictures of missing kids and, hopefully, we’ll help find one or more kids. That would be wonderful.”
Justice Network counts among its executive team Bounce TV founder Lonnie Cooper, former NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution executive Barry Wallach, former Discovery Channel president John Ford and former National Geographic Channels president Steve Schiffman, who is CEO of Justice Network.
Justice Network is likely to announce more station clearances over the coming months.
“The reaction from station groups is extremely positive because the Justice Network, with John Walsh and the channel doing something good for society, is something different in the multicast space,” Wallach says. “It is resonating really well with the broadcast community. And, on the cable TV side, we are on cable almost across the board with our partners.”
The Justice Network has been promoting the network and its debut tonight largely on Gannett stations.
“[Gannett has] a marketing director in each of their markets,” Schiffman says. “They are promoting Justice Network on their stations and they’re using digital media and social media applications with creative that we’ve furnished to them.”