First Commandment: Good ContentFaith-based production companies reap networks’ multiplatform benefits 2/14/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
While a multiplatform approach
has raised the bar for religious
networks when it comes
to content quality, alternative platforms have
given faith-based producers more flexibility
in terms of distribution.
“Today, content starts on the Web. Then
you figure out where it goes after that,” says
Father Eric Andrews, president of Paulist
Productions, a Pacific Palisades, Calif., faithbased
content producer. Online platforms
allow producers to use the Internet as an incubator
or test market for content that is still
in development, enabling them to better craft
what eventually makes it to air, Andrews says.
If a project doesn’t get picked up, it can
still find life with online faith-based content
aggregators like SpiritClips and the Odyssey
Channel. But despite the increased demand
for faith-based content online, Andrews says
that there is little incentive to focus on producing
“Webisodes” without revenue return.
“Without a business model in place, it’s just
maybe [a series] gets lucky and maybe it
doesn’t,” he says.
But with the rise in production equipment
quality and declines in prices, the faith-based
television community has seen a notable increase
in companies that are willing to try
Harvey Lehrer, senior director for Bel Air,
Calif.-based JTN Productions, says the upsurge
of new content producers is a breath of
fresh air for Jewish programming. “Independent
producers and amateur video enthusiasts
are really at the forefront of producing
some of the best Jewish content currently
available, and this is exciting because it allows
us to identify new talent and hopefully
begin a working relationship,” Lehrer says.
Paulist’s Andrews is more skeptical: “I think
it’s great that there’s been a democratization of
the production process. But in the end, in my
experience, if you don’t have the trained eye
of a director or the writing that’s necessary, it’s
not going to go anywhere.”
For the faith-based networks that are hungry
for top-quality programming, this only
creates a wider selection of content and a
healthy competition among producers. In
the end, those who create the highest-quality
content rise to the top.
“We’re engaging dozens of production
companies. We’ve kicked open the doors and
allowed them to come to us with their ideas,”
says Paul Crouch Jr., chief of staff for Trinity
Broadcasting Network, who says that enhancing
content quality is the network’s top priority.
“It’s like diamond mining—unfortunately,
there’s a lot of dirt to dig through right now.
But you do get a diamond.”
Michael P. Warsaw, president and CEO of
Catholic network EWTN, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s the content that matters most,”
Warsaw says. “That’s true across all programming
genres, but especially so for religious
programmers. If you have more platforms to
deliver compelling content, then [producers]
will find you and engage with you. And that’s
a win for everyone.”