The multiplatform approach has caught on with shows like The Uprising on The Inspiration Network. The show follows a group of professional skateboarders as they preach the Gospel in unlikely settings like skate parks, prisons and schools. â€œThat audience is very multitask-oriented,â€ says John Roos, the network’s senior VP of corporate communications and research. â€œWe’re trying to find a way to provide programming that [the youth] market is interested in. We’ve taken a multimedia approach.â€
Despite the embrace of 21st-century storytelling techniques and a desire even to push the envelope, programmers say the message to young people still comes first. â€œWe are trying to affect and change people’s lives,â€ says TBN Chief of Staff Paul Crouch Jr. â€œMTV says, ‘If you have 32 girlfriends or boyfriends and an Escalade, you’re going to be happy,’ and we’re saying, ‘No.’ Our programming reflects a more internal focus.â€
But younger people aren’t the only ones attracted to interactive programming. Robertson eschews the notion that older viewers aren’t multimedia-savvy. â€œI think you could have said our audience was less active [in interactive media] five years ago, but one of the fastest-growing audiences in terms of social media is women over 50.â€
Religious programmers, many of whom rely on charitable giving, admit to being hit hard by the recession. â€œWe definitely saw a dip in giving,â€ Crouch says. The network’s biannual telethons were down 20%, but Crouch is cautiously optimistic that giving will pick up. â€œWe’ve already seen things start to head north,â€ he says. â€œNot dramatically, but revenue [losses] have definitely bottomed out and things are starting to head back up.â€
â€œThe commercial stations have been hit the hardest, although everyone’s had to adjust,â€ says Craig Parshall, senior VP and general counsel for National Religious Broadcasters, an organization that represents 1,700 broadcasters on TV and radio.
According to Parshall, the recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose federal candidates could help boost ad revenues among religious broadcasters. The decision could reap a $300 million increase for commercial stations in the coming election year, he says. â€œIs it going to go to our folks?â€ Parshall asks. â€œWell, some of it will. There is a trickle-down effect. I think there’s going to be a lot of issue-advocacy adsâ€ that Parshall believes could be targeted at Christian or so-called â€œvaluesâ€ voters.
In the face of tough financial circumstances, TBN, like other religious networks, is working on ambitious high-definition studio conversions. The network has already gone HD in its production hubs of Los Angeles, Dallas, New York and Nashville, and Crouch says he still plans to get all 36 studios across the country HD-ready within the next five years.You can read the whole article here. Do YOU really think that half of the 700 Club audience is under 35?Â What’s your take?Â Do you ever watch religious television (other than just for laughs)?Â If so, what programs do you enjoy? Todd