Megachurches Offer Growing HD Market

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Megachurches, which are the fastest growing religious institutions in the U.S., are offering an increasingly lucrative market for high-definition equipment and services.

“There are some 10,000 megachurches in U.S.,” said Pat Thompson, senior vice president of engineering operations for broadcast and audio visual systems integrator TV Magic. “Maybe one-tenth of them have done something to upgrade their equipment to high-definition. So you are looking at 9,000 more churches that still need to upgrade.”

These churches, which are typically defined as having at least 2,000 people regularly attending Sunday services, often incorporate large HD monitors and video into the service and many of the larger organization send video feeds to outside locations or have regular shows on broadcast or cable networks.

For example, TV Magic recently built a new HD-ready production center for Cottonwood Church, which is beginning worship services in a new 32-acre campus in early July.

Because of the cost, the church decided to postpone the acquisition of HD cameras, but the rest of the facility was designed to be HD ready so it can easily make the transition later, said design engineer Dwight Crumb, who worked on the project.

The new operation, which was designed and set up by TV Magic, includes such equipment at a Grass Valley Kayak switcher, Miranda multiviewer, Pixel Power CG, Avocent KVM switch, custom consoles and racks and two large HD monitors at the front of the church.

The standard-def signals are upconverted to HD and displayed on two large HD monitors in the front of the church.

The Cottonwood Church, which has about 6,000 members attending weekly services, also has a television ministry, which broadcasts Answers With Bayless Conley on the Trinity Broadcast Network and a number of other outlets all over the world. Those programs will continue to be broadcast in SD.

Thompson declined to discuss the budget for the Cottonwood project, but noted that budgets for religious organizations vary widely from smaller churches, who are upgrading to HD for under $500,000, to the megachurches, who maybe spending anywhere from $1 million to $4 million.

As a result of a concerted effort to tap into this growing market over the last three to four years, TV Magic now gets about 10 to 20% of its revenue from megachurches and the entire religious market now accounts for about 30% of its revenue, Thompson said.

Megachurches differ from many mainstream religious organizations in that many have closely integrated technology into their worship services, using everything from large display video monitors to mobile phones and streaming internet platforms.

A number of these megachurches also transmit video from their main location to other churches over a private network, via satellite or fiber. Video from the main church service is then displayed on large HD monitors on the satellite location and mixed into the congregation’s own service.

As the larger megachurches upgrade their production facilities, Thompson said falling prices for HD equipment are convincing many of them to at least lay the groundwork for full HD production.

“If you are building a new facility or upgrading from analog it makes sense to at least make your infrastructure HD ready,” Thompson said.

Religious broadcasters, which tend to be smaller and poorly capitalized, have been slower to embrace HD, but some of the larger organizations are now moving rapidly towards HD.

“TBN is making a big push to upgrade their production systems to HD,” Thompson said. “They have two production facilities online and two more will be online soon.”

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