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Praying for a Hit

Nets Hope Faith-Based Shows Bring Positive Ratings 3/17/2013 8:00 PM Eastern

With Easter right around the corner, cable is looking for some heavenly ratings intervention for several Christian-themed shows.

Networks including GMC, History and Lifetime will showcase original programming featuring Christian themes over the next couple of weeks, seeking to capture an audience that is heavily grounded in faith. More than 75 million Americans describe themselves as active Christians, according to a recent Simmons Research study.

“I think the audience is getting tired of negative programming,” GMC president and CEO Charles Humbard said. “We have enough train wrecks on television today.”

GMC, which will rebrand itself as UP this September to better emphasize its “uplifting” entertainment programming, will debut on Easter weekend The Carpenter’s Miracle, an original movie about an average carpenter whose life changes when he brings a child who was thought to have drowned back to like with a simple touch.

Humbard said the network in 2012 posted a 34% year-to-year increase in its primetime audience with is mix of original, Christian-themed movies, specials and Gospel plays/movies.

Lifetime last Tuesday (March 12) tapped into the genre from a reality standpoint with the debut of Preachers’ Daughters, which focuses on the lives of three pastors’ off spring, according to Lifetime.

The series drew 1.5 million viewers in its debut, according to Nielsen. The series follows the January debut of TLC’s reality series The Sisterhood, which chronicles the lives of several wives of Atlanta-based pastors.

The most high-profile launch in the genre, of course, is History’s The Bible, which drew 13.1 million and 10.6 million viewers respectively over its first two episodes (it premiered March 3). The five-part series, produced by prolific reality series developer Mark Burnett, ends its run on Easter Sunday (March 31), and History hopes it will approach the record 14.3 million viewers set by the finale of History’s Hatfields & McCoys on May 30, two days after Memorial Day.

“The numbers validate that our belief that you can bring millions and millions of people to television with an event that they believe in,” A+E Networks president and CEO Abbe Raven said. “The Bible is unique, it’s fresh and it’s on people’s minds at this time.”

TAKEAWAY

Cable networks hope to build audience with programming designed to appeal to the U.S.’s 75 million practicing Christians.