New Tech Shapes Networks’ Strategies


As much as multiplatform
initiatives have been key to reinvigorating
faith-based networks,
so have new technologies that allow
the channels to quantify viewer
habits and interests to better
shape their programming strategy.

In March 2009, Inspiration
Networks’ INSP became the first
network subscriber for Rentrak’s
TV Essentials services, making
the firm the exclusive ratings and
data source for the network’s media
measurement and advertising
sales. INSP gained access to second-
by-second census-level data
culled from set-top boxes across
37 markets, giving the network
an unprecedented opportunity to
view programming analytics, as
well as manage and track promotional
content and advertising.

The service provided INSP
with unique insight into viewers’
tastes and habits’, not just their
beliefs, Inspiration Networks senior
vice president of corporate
communications and research
John Roos said.

“Our programming strategy is no
longer a matter of polling viewers’
opinions,” he said. “Now we’re
watching what they actually do.
We’ve been [using new technology]
not just to stay in tune with
them, but to do the things that
are working and to stop doing the
things that aren’t working.”

It’s precisely this understanding
that prompted INSP’s Oct. 18
rebranding, aimed to reaching
socially conservative Baby Boomers
through less religious-focused

“From the [Rentrak] data, we
can look at what’s happening with
all the religious networks, not just
us.” Roos said. “We see what people
of faith are watching. They
spend a percentage of their time
watching a lot of things. They’re
interested in [religious] teachings
and church services, but they’re
also interested in practical things
like entertainment. They just don’t
like to see their values violated
while they’re watching it.

Christian Broadcasting Network
has also been able to learn
about its audiences through new
media, said CEO Gordon Robertson.
Expanding CBN’s online
presence with features such as interactive
Web series gives the programmer
more immediate and
detailed ratings feedback than
Nielsen numbers alone. Together,
both sets of data provide valuable
insight that has shaped the
company’s strategies with programs
such as The 700 Club.

“The webcast portion of [telecast]
viewing and webcast-only
[audience] is a far more immediate
measurement [than Nielsen
ratings],” Robertson said. “And
you also get the number of
[unique visitors] and how long
that unique is with you. And then
you’re able to tell from your cookies
how frequently [that person] is
a viewer. That’s data you can’t get
from Nielsen overnights.”

Such data also helps CBN better
understand how to handle —
and avoid — ratings dips, he said.

Roos said that research has
also helped Inspiration better understand
the challenges faced by
new types of programs — like reality
drama The Uprising, which
failed to draw a strong audience
— in the youth market.


“What we’ve seen through this
set-top-box technology is that
first of all, [the youth] weren’t
watching INSP. Second of all,
they weren’t watching any religious
network,” he said, adding
that younger viewers were more
focused on interactive, Webbased

As a result, Inspiration beefed
up its multiplatform approach and
dropped the solely religious programming
on its iLife TV channel
to launch Halogen, a more entertainment-
based service targeted
at 18-to-34-year-olds.