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Christian TV Network Changes on the Horizon?

I’m predicting that over the next year – possibly within 6 months – we’ll be seeing some dramatic changes when it comes to the dominant religious TV networks.  Lesea Broadcasting, based in South Bend is putting stations up for sale – presumably to help lower their debt, but decreasing their size.  TBN has been expanding laterally – such as buying the Holyland Experience in Orlando.  At the same time,
Daystar has been buying up stations and expanding in a significant way both in the United States and internationally.   Marcus Lamb, co-founder of Daystar purchased 10 stations in little more than a week recently.  Daystar has also made huge strides in expanding their platform on the five largest cable systems in America.

INSP continues their infomercial blocks, and on a recent Sunday morning, they were airing mostly secular infomercials.   Between infomercials and programming featuring telethon staple Mike Murdock, some are wondering about their direction.

Overseas, the battle for viewers continues, with God-TV, Daystar, and TBN the largest Christian networks to note.  The unique feature of God-TV is their willingness to open up their schedule for special events, conferences, and specials.  While most Christian networks are pretty locked into their schedule, GOD-TV is far more fluid, probably reflecting the international sensibilities of their founders Rory and Wendy Alec.

If their current rate of growth continues, within the next 6 months to a year, perennial #2 network Daystar could overtake powerhouse TBN as the largest global Christian TV network.    As I note in my book “The Last TV Evangelist,” media is changing, and it’s good to see that religious programmers are starting to see those changes and react in a positive way.

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9 Comments

  1. I was referring to traditional broadcast networks here.  Sky Angel is IPTV only.  Plus, they’re aren’t a "network" but an aggregated platform for multiple networks.

  2. Great topic Phil- In the past I would have just said networks will survive based on how good their content is- but I don’t subscribe to that anymore.  Disney/ABC’s success is from strong marketing of mediocre programming and sales of merchendise online and other retail and entertainment venues. CBS/MTV/Viacom is no different. These corporations have adopted a cradle to grave brand loyalty and dependence on their programs and brands. Christian TV loves to sell things to create income, but we don’t do it like Disney. We need to get beyond the "I have a great idea for a new Christian TV show" and create a corporate strategy to build a show, online resources, and marketable products that all tie back to a mothership network that can create a national awareness like the word "Discovery". Of course this all means we (producers – pastors & networks) need to play well together and share the love. (Something we generally don’t do well at.) That is what will determine if there are Christian networks in 2 or 3 years from now or just some automated servers playing old PTL programs.

  3. Any discussion about religious programming has to someday come down to audience.  Who are they reaching?  Do they know?  Will they continue to preach to the choir while they claim they’re reaching the "world with the Gospel."  Most religious "network" affiliates don’t show up in nielsen or arbitron books.  TBN and the Hallmark channel continue to fight it out for dead last in cable ratings – the audience is and has always been marginal – a niche of a niche.  What is positive or proactive about buying more stations for programming that is substandard – watched by so few?

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