Is Christian TV Really Reaching a Large Audience?

A new study has been released by the Sky Report Newsletter, called: MediaCensus Real Numbers: In Search of Godliness.  It’s an interesting look at 4 of the top religious TV networks by DMA penetration.  It indicates that because of the exploding number of competiting networks out there, most Christian networks are reaching nearly as many as they thought.  I’d love to know your thoughts. Here’s what they report:

“Independent networks charge across the media landscape with all the panache of the Julliard marching band wading into an NFL football scrum.  In short, they’re outnumbered, outweighed and they’ve got to move quickly lest they get smushed. 

That said, you might think that, in a nation where 80% to 90% of the citizens (depending on which polls you choose) profess a belief in God, the independent Christian channels (of which there are many) would do relatively well.

Using our MediaCensus tools, we decided to take a look.  We picked four of the top religious nets:  EWTN, The Inspiration Network, Daystar and THE WORD NETWORK.  The biggest of these (EWTN) has a potential reach of nearly 60M households via cable and telco TV operators.  The smallest (The Inspiration Network) has a potential terrestrial reach of approximately 35.5M households.  (DBS operators are not counted in this exercise because of their global reach.) 

For each DMA, we awarded one “Godly” point for each network with a potential reach of more than half of the DMA’s households.  Thus the most “Godly” of all USA DMAs would receive four points; the least, zero.

We hate to tell you this, but “0” wins the day for these four Christian nets.  Today, 137, or nearly two-thirds, of all US DMAs score a 0 on our Godly index.   At the other end of the spectrum, five DMAs get a perfect 4 as the most Godly in this measurement.  Those perfect 4s go to the Boston (Manchester), Cleveland-Akron (Canton), Dayton, San Antonio and Wichita- Hutchinson DMAs.”

That was the report.  What do you think?

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  1. Thanks for bringing this study to our attention, Phil. As I study it, a few points come to mind:

    • Where is TBN? Why didn’t they include TBN and its component parts in this study? That should at least have been an asterisk comment by the researchers. Any study on religious TV that ignores the impact of TBN must at the very least cause one to raise an eyebrow.
    • As I look at it, I’m starting to think this is more of a study on the cable penetration of independent television networks and not so much a study of religious television potential reach. I’d be surprised if the map wouldn’t look similar for any independent network. In fact, this is a great marketing strategy for MediaCensus: Create a series of these studies and simply rename them. Like this: “MediaCensus Real Numbers: In Search of Fishing” and it looks at national cable pentetration for the middle ranked fishing networks (of course, to make it work, they’d have to ignore the largest fishing network).

    It reminds me of a quote that has been variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall and Mark Twain: “There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” I’ve learned that you can take good research and have it prove almost anything you want. So, I’m not totally negating this study – it just won’t make me feel any better or worse or do anything differently about the show I’m producing today for Christian television.

      1. Especially with EWTN they have increased by close to 10 million TV homes. Some of these networks have to have a large following!

  2. It may be that TBN owns stations in large DMA’s and they are on cable due to must carry laws. If there were no “must carry” on would imagine their penetration would be less.

  3. A wise man once said, “If you choke a number long enough and hard enough, it’ll admit to anything.”

    Polling like this really says nothing about the real impact of Christian television.  When I see such things, I have to ask myself, “So WHAT?”  What difference does all this touted penetration (or lack thereof) really make in the lives of those who watch and, by extension, in their communities?

  4. Granted, stats aren’t always the perfect view of a subject, but I think it means a lot.  Penetration of our message matters.  What if the study indicated that we’ve only penetrated 5% of this country with Bibles?  Then you’d probably think it mattered, right?

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