Religious Nets Bring Festivity, Meaning to Holidays

Jewish-heritage channel Shalom TV celebrates holy days for viewers, while Christian stations gear up for the end of 2012

Why This Matters

NRB Convention To Continue New Media Push

Among the hottest topics during last year’s annual National Religious Broadcasters convention was how best to leverage new media technologies to reach the widest possible audience.

The early lineup for next year’s convention appears to be raising the ante on that trend in a big way.

One of the main keynote sessions at the annual confab, scheduled for March 2-5 in Nashville, will feature executives from Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who leads social innovation for Twitter; Katie Harbath, manager for policy, Facebook; and Rob Saliterman, senior account executive for Google; will take part in the March 4 keynote. According to the NRB, the presentation will show religious broadcasters how to use social media to “leverage the reach of a traditional broadcast network.”

Of the 33 Education Sessions announced, 11 will focus on new media or future technologies. Matt Robertson and Jeff Bethke, creators of the viral video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” (which at presstime had more 22 million YouTube hits), will lead a session on using Internet videos to help reach a wider (and younger) audience.

There will also be a two-part session on TV Everywhere led by Jason DeMeo, president & CEO, Omniverse One World Television; Steve Burzynski, president & founder, IMAVEX; and Q Saeed, managing director of Media Exchange. —TB

As the calendar turns to
October, with an eye toward
the year’s end, religious and
faith-based networks are already busy
planning and executing on programming
meant to keep viewers mindful of the
meaning and celebrations of big holidays.

With the Jewish New Year already under
way, Jewish-heritage network Shalom
TV is in the midst of its own special
coverage. “Anytime there is a Jewish
holiday, there is a whole bunch of programming
we do, speci! cally geared to
that holiday,” says Rabbi Mark S. Golub,
president & CEO, Shalom TV.

Toward that end, some of Shalom
TV’s regular programs, such as children’s
shows Mr. Bookstein’s Store and
Story Time, have been featuring holidayspecific programming designed to teach
kids about the significance of those holy
days. With Jewish viewers currently in
the midst of the Sukkot holiday that ends
Oct. 7, Story Time is featuring episodes
such as “Tamar’s Sukkah,” “Sammy’s
Sukkot” and “Sukkah Time.”

Golub points out that adult programs,
such as the talk show L’Chaim, have also
been including holiday-specific programming,
with the “Talmud” series Dimensions
of the Daf
specifically handling
looks at celebrating the holiday both in
the U.S. and in Israel.

That has been standard operating procedure for the network, but it’s commitment
to evolving its reach among viewers
hit a High Holidays high point last
week with the first-time airing of a live
telecast of High Holiday services.

“It’s amazing that for the first time
ever on American television, people
were able to tune in and watch live services,”
Golub says of the network’s feed
from the prestigious Central Synagogue
of New York City.

In the past, Shalom TV ran services
on the onDemand platform, but the network
wanted to ensure that Jewish people
who would otherwise not be able to
attend those services wouldn’t miss out.
“There are many [Jewish people] who
simply cannot get to a synagogue on the
High Holidays,” Golub says, adding that
it’s also key exposure for the network’s
roughly 30% non-Jewish audience.

And in a great bit of timing that Golub
labeled “coincidental,” RCN debuted
Shalom TV on Sept. 26, the night of
Yom Kippur.

Looking ahead, Golub says Chanukah
programming in December will highlight
the lighter aspect of the eight-day holiday.
“We have all kinds of very cute videos that
are produced in Israel, having to do with
the fun of the [festivities],” he says.

Meanwhile, Christian broadcasters are
steeped in preparations for holiday programming
that is geared mainly around
the last two weeks of December. “We’ll
have two weeks of holiday programming,
going into January,” says Bob Higley,
VP, af! liate relations, TBN.

Higley says the majority of TBN’s
holiday programming consists of “movies
that tell the Christmas story, diving
into the history of the holiday and how it
started.” Some of the films include Jesus
of Nazareth
, VeggieTales: A Little Drummer
, an animated version of Ben-Hur and
The Christmas Carol: A Christian Musical.
“We really rise to the occasion for Christmas
programming, especially the traditional
Christian Christmas,” says Higley.

Fellow Christian station Christian
Broadcasting Network will air its Superbook
cartoon series, which will showcase
animated stories of the Bible, throughout
the last two weeks of December on
ABC Family in the mornings. “That’s the
major thrust, to get Bible stories out to
kids, because we know they’ll be home
from school,” says Gordon Robertson,

On Christmas Day, CBN will air
shows about the birth of Jesus as well as
Christmas-themed versions of the network’s
regular programs, including The
700 Club
, which will feature a reading of
“The Christmas Story.”

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