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Religious Nets Bring Festivity, Meaning to Holidays - Broadcasting & Cable

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
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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 Boy, 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, CEO of CBN.

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.”

E-mail comments to tim.baysinger@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @tim_bays

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