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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?

  4. My question is, are the Christian networks going to be ready to jump to internet programming when we all start watching tv over the net? Or, are they going to continue to lag behind? Why not overtake this market segment now? What better way to spread your message than the WWW? Hello?

  5. Christian TV seems composed exclusively of boring talk shows and staged-enthusiasm preachers, all of whom are focused on the heretical prosperity gospel.  Unless they change, the world would be better off if they did die out.  I cringe to think people judge Jesus and Christianity based on what they see there.

  6. Phil

    Love your books and thoughts, you are doing a great job.  

    Just so you know,LeSEA Broadcasting stations are not on the market and we are looking to expand domestically and internationally. Our Palau based shortwave radio station is one of the strongest shortwave international radio stations reaching China, the results are amazing.

    Pete 

  7. Phil I am a bit confused about your saying "it’s good to see that religious programmers are starting to see those changes and react in a positive way."

    I wonder where the quality programming is in most Christian broadcasts and what is it in purchasing or dumping properties is a positive other than lowering debt or spreading debt across a wider area?

  8. The secular comedian Tom Green has found success with his online Interent TV show. The church needs to wake up and take advantage of this New Media. Personally, I don’t think regular Christian TV is reaching the world but as someone else has said they are preaching to the choir. The Christian talk shows with the host behind a desk or on a couch, or preaching is not the way to reach people in my opinion. We should be talking to the audience not preaching at them. I don’t know what the best way to reach people but I do know that new media and social media is expanding and as contacts are made and friendships develop it opens up opportunities for conversation and trust with the secular world. Christian podcasting, audio and video, is not a replay of a church service. I’m a podcaster that happens to be a Christian but I don’t preach. I talk to my audience and they know I’m a Christian. I’ve built many strong friendships with non-Christians that listen to my show and sometimes my faith comes into the conversation. One friend is an atheist and is interested in my beliefs. If I could say one thing to pastors about their church podcast it would be this. "STOP IT" Get involved with your podcast audience on a personal level. Watch Ed Young’s video podcasts for some ideas. Take someone with you with a video camera when you travel, interview people on the street and make your podcast interesting. The world can get preaching any day of the week. I say reaching is the first step to preaching. Just have fun with your podcast and reach the world, not the choir.

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