Churches Should Produce Non Traditional Religious Programming

MY showI used to work for a church that has been on the air with a traditional TV program for over 5 decades. In the Orlando metroplex, they reach about 100,000 viewers per week with their Christian program. It consists of a song or two from the service, and the message from the pastor. It is a fairly traditional church television program. When I was on staff a few years ago and had access to the data, I saw that we were reaching a predominately older crowd (75% of viewers were over age 55.) It was, and still is, a good work and it ministers to a lot of people in central Florida.

And because of the nature of non profit educational license religious channels and networks, there will always be a need for preaching/teaching shows in Christian TV. But those shows will continue to reach older, religious audiences. And will continue to not reach younger ones.

What if you took the money used to produce the program and buy airtime, and used it to produce programming that appeals to younger audiences? The churches I’ve worked for with TV programs spent between $30,000 and $250,000 on airtime purchases every year. Plus they had one or more staff people who were primarily focused on producing the content for the program every week. Conservatively estimating salary, taxes, insurance, etc… let’s say $50,000 annually.  That’s quite a bit of money in the indie production world.

What if you invested that money into creating video content that reflected a biblical world view, but wasn’t a traditional worship service/preaching program? What if it was something that told a story and, like a parable, taught truth at the same time?

Who would it be for?

People who don’t watch traditional religious programming. More specifically, find a target demographic in a group pf potential audiences members that don’t already consume traditional religious programming.

According to Pew Research, Older Americans watch more religious TV. Younger Americans are engaging in religious content online.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.07.55 AM 1

Young audiences watch a lot of video content. 18-24 year olds still watch over 16 hours of TV per week, but that number is declining. The TV that they do watch is not traditional Christian TV programming. And they are increasingly watching video online. The older the demographic is, the more broadcast TV they watch.

We don’t need shows that target the 65 year old Christian, we already have those. We need churches to develop programs targeted at younger audiences that do not already watch religious programming.

How much would it cost?

The cost depends on what sort of show you are making. I’m most familiar with narrative programming. But you could do other sorts of shows that are not preaching/teaching/worship based.

If you do narrative, obviously, your church probably won’t be paying scale for actors and crew. Most of the people involved will be doing it as a ministry project. But unless you have no money at all, you should try to pay people something. I’ve done a show for no money before. It can be done, but it’s not sustainable long-term.

What if you could come up with $100 per day for the main cast and crew? That’s not scale, and there would be taxes taken out, etc… but $100. I have generally been able to shoot an episode in 4 days or less. If you have 4 main actors, and a crew with director, camera, audio and PA, you are looking at $800 per day. $3200 per episode. Plus any gear, additional actors, insurance, food, etc… $5000-5500 per episode. That may seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to what network programming costs per episode.

At $5500, a 6 episode run would cost $33,000. 13 episodes would cost $71,500. This is assuming someone on your church’s staff is writing and producing the program, filling in the show running duties. And someone on staff would be doing the post work as well. One person cannot do it all, so you will need some help. Filmmaking and TV production is a team sport. Bare bones, on a shoe-string, you could make 6-13 episodes of a show for less than the cost of air time and a staff position in many markets. Other kinds of show may cost more or less depending on what all is involved in creating them.

How would people see it?

You just spent your airtime budget on production. How is anyone going to see it?

-Christian TV is begging for narrative content.

Literally begging because they can’t/won’t pay for it, but also begging because they want it badly.

It’s tempting to ignore broadcast television altogether. But even though the number is dropping, according to Accenture Digital Consumer survey, over half of TV shows and movies are still watched on TV. So it’s not a horrible place to be. And given the state of the religious TV market, you could have your show broadcast around the world for free. You might even get a little bit of money back to go toward the production of the program. One network my show was on was able to cover the cost of closed captioning. Traditional Christian programs have to purchase air time, but non traditional ones have a lot of effective, free options for broadcast.

Putting a Christian TV show on a Christian network is not way to reach the masses. The vast majority of viewers are Christians. I know that isn’t surprising, but I want to be clear that a program on Christian TV will be mostly seen by Christians. That’s OK, discipleship is something the church should be doing, and this is an avenue to disciple believers beyond the walls of your building.

You can produce programming that might appeal to non Christians, and broadcast it through non religious outlets, but it will cost more. Be sure to count the cost before you head down this road. There might be ways to mitigate those costs, but there will be costs.

-The internet is free.

It’s also very big. You cannot just throw a video on Youtube and expect it to reach thousands of people. If you have a video that has been seen by over 100 people, then you are in the top 30% of all Youtube videos. 300 hours of content is uploaded every minute! Youtube is massive. It’s the 2nd largest search engine, behind Google. So, most content is not seen by a lot of people. In order to be effective online you must have a marketing strategy. You need to develop an audience.

As a church you have a great foundation in your own congregation. Not only should you be mobilizing them to watch, but mobilize them to be encouraging their sphere of influence to watch as well. Last year my church did a campaign to get people to share their testimony through social media. It was not as successful as we had hoped. Still, I was able to locate over 80 videos that had been uploaded in the project, and I know that was just part of the ones uploaded over all. Those 80 videos had been seen over 200,000 times. Even if only a small portion of your congregation engages, you can still reach a lot of viewers.

Does your church have a ministry to help parents teach their kids about the Bible at home? How about developing a program that targets young mothers, and touches on subjects that they will have to face as they teach their own kids? Do a lot of mission trips? Send a video crew out with your teams, and produce a program that highlights the importance and impact of being in involved in missions.

Find something you are passionate about, that fits into the strategic vision of your church. Develop a program that targets younger audiences who would be interested in programming about that theme. Build a team, and make the show.




Micro Syndication: Is this the Solution for Indie Christian TV?

tv imageI have written about this before, but I wanted to talk about it again. Christian TV is upside down. Content creators buy time on educational licensed stations so they can then ask for money from viewers. I never paid for airtime with my show, Peculiar,  but most of the time we didn’t get money either. Only one network gave us anything, and that was just to help with paying for closed captioning.

In most cases on religious stations/networks the most you can hope for is free air time. Your program costs money to make, and you want to sell it to them. They can’t sell ads to cover the time, so they aren’t buying. There are a few networks that could afford to buy programming, but they don’t. That’s a problem for shows that don’t ask for donations, because it still costs money to make them.

So what can you do with your program?

Micro Syndication. This is an idea I want to try with my next series. It will be a lot of work, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work.

The goal is to buy time on a for-profit network locally, and sell advertising during your paid programming. I went as far as pricing the air time on this once before. There are stations that will let you do it.

First you need a program. You’re going to have to have at least the pilot, and likely a few more episodes done before you can implement this. The program needs to be 22:30 with 6:00 of breaks. That’s room for twelve :30 spots. Your program must have space for advertisers, or it won’t work. And your program has to be something people want to see, or it won’t work for long.

Second you need a media buying agency. You could do this yourself, but once you get beyond a couple markets, the relationships your agency has will serve you well, and they can find deals you will miss. They know when and where you can find time near shows that are similar to yours. And you want that.

Third you need a sales agent to find sponsors for your program. They will get a percentage of each ad they sell, but they should be local to the station you’re trying to get on.  Their first calls should be to people in the pages of any Christian Business Indexes for the area your trying to broadcast in. They aren’t just selling spots, their selling a vision. You’re delivering viewers during a program with content they want to support.

The Process:

In a target market have your media buyers shop for a good spot for your program. Find out what it will cost per week. See if they can work in some ads to promote your program.

Once you know how much your program will cost per week, figure out how much to sell spots for. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You could just do a flat rate for every spot. Or you could charge more for different locations in the show. For instance, if you have a strong program in front of your show, one :30 spot right up top could cost more since they will be getting viewers who have stayed from the previous program. For the purpose of this post, let’s say they are all priced the same.

Example (Smaller Market):

  • Weekly airtime cost = $400
  • 12 spots at $50 per spot = $600
  • 20% of $600 for sales agent= $120
  • $80 “profit” per week.

That’s not much. And not a lot of wiggle room if a sponsor drops out. But you could get things off the ground with this. The goal isn’t to generate enough revenue from one market, but to get lots of markets bringing in revenue so you can afford to make more programs. Replicate this in 10 markets and you’ve got $800 per week. $41,600 annually. 20 markets is $83,200. There are hundreds of markets in America. Every one will be different, and will be very hard to expand into any of them.

Example (Larger Market):

  • Weekly airtime cost = $750
  • 12 spots at $90 per spot = $1080
  • 20% of $900 for sales agent = $216
  • $114 “profit” per week

Finally, sell the spots and buy the time. Gather the spots, embed in the shows and deliver them to the stations.

Make no mistake, this is a huge amount of work. And you’re not bringing in the kind of revenue that allows a big staff. And while you are managing all this, you need to be creating more content. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

How can you make this work better? Reduce costs.

Can you get the airtime for less per week? In the smaller example, at $300 for airtime you’re bringing in $180. That’s $2340 for a 13 week run. $9360 annually. From one market. But this is a balance. The better the time, the more expensive the time. Your buyer needs to be aggressive.

Can you charge more for ads? Your media buyers should be able to tell you what ads in your time slot would go for. Christian who are business owners may be willing to give a little more to support the kind of programming you are creating. $60 per spot? $75? With a discount for multiple spots in a program? I once paid $3500 for a :30 spot in the bottom half of the hour during a season finale on a major network. If you have the audience, people will buy the spots for more.

Work out a trade with a station. They give you the time, you provide the audience, and you split the ads spots. In the smaller market, you’d be looking at $300 per week in revenue. This becomes tricky with the media buyers, because you still need to pay for their services for that market. They will want, and you should be willing to pay for, their cut for buying the time. You should still clear more revenue per market, per week. But you need to show the station that you have an audience in their market.

This is going to be a lot of work.

Issues to Overcome:

Selling spots. You have to keep the spots sold, or you will sink. That’s it.

Placement. You have to have the program in the best time slot. Cheap enough to allow you to sell spots. Good enough that people will watch your show. 3:00 AM will be cheap, but no one will watch. Without viewers, it’s a waste.

Why not use a network? The key, at least initially, is local advertisers. It’s definitely possible to go to a cable network and buy time regionally and nationally, but it’s a lot of money. (Even Christian networks can charge $5000 for a 30-minute slot.)  You’ve got potential advertisers on the local level. But, they won’t pay to advertise their business where they don’t sell products. Until you can prove your show can draw a good audience, the regional and national sponsors aren’t going to be an option. You might have dreams of going to an Interstate Batteries or Chic Fil A for sponsorship, but they are going to want some ratings and proof of audience before they spend any money. So start local.

Why bother with traditional broadcasting? We know that online viewing and streaming is on the rise. TV viewing is declining. But it’s not dead yet. People still watch 140+ hours of TV per month. How to generate revenue online is a huge topic, and we should be working toward a sustainable model there as well. But in the meantime there is still an audience for your program watching traditional broadcasts.

Recent Short Films and New Projects

sl media 16x9

Thanks for visiting Scott Link Media. Stay up to date with the latest news by subscribing to our email newsletter.

If you click on the header above you will end up on the main page, where you can see 3 different video sections, Short Films/TV, Church Media, and DIY. Each contain several videos for your viewing pleasure; including links to some episodes of the award winning series Peculiar.

Here’s the latest short film from SLM:

And another of my favorites from a while back:

Mean while I’m working on some more short projects.

The major projects I’ve got cooking include a feature length movie about small church politics called Flawed, and a screenplay that’s a biblical epic based on portions of the book of Acts with the working title One Centurion. And there’s a campy comedy about church camp. And lately I’ve been drawn back to the documentary idea Gay Church. Follow the links to find out more.


Pitch-a-Thon-a-go-go! (Seriously, you should go)

filmsummitlogosqrWhat would you do to have the chance to pitch your project to representatives from major studios, to producers and distributors? People who can help make it a reality?

Last year the new NRB Film Committee pulled together a pitch-a-thon with many of the major religious distributors. Participants had 5 minutes in front of up to 3 reps to pitch their project. The representatives gave honest feedback to every person who pitched. My project was well received, and if I had a finished film, I am reasonably sure those contacts would have paid off.

Even though I am serving on the NRB Film Committee this year, I hadn’t heard much about this year’s pitch event. When the registration opened up I was surprised to see some major additions to the panel. Representatives from 20th Century Fox and Paramount as well as some well known producers are going to be there. Later conversations with the guys setting things up hinted at a few more players that might attend.

So, the big reason to pitch at one of these things is to get practice at your pitch and hear feedback from actual professionals in the field.

Of course the dream is that one of the people hearing your pitch comes back around to find out more, and hopefully move forward. And this year many of the participants don’t require a finished project. They can take a script.

And if you’re going to do this, then you might as well swing for the fences. I asked to pitch to major studios and a producer. I’m pitching an idea that is bigger than my capability. I wouldn’t be able raise the production capital by myself, but the story will appeal to a broad audience. It’s something a larger studio could easily take on.

So I’m going to be pitching this project.

What’s you project? What are you pitching? You should sign up right now.

To participate you must register for the day or for the whole NRB Convention. If you register for the day you get a bunch of great sessions learning from people working in Hollywood.


I Refuse to Buy Air Time on Christian TV

Soap BoxPardon me while I step up on my soapbox and rant a bit about the Christian TV paid-time financial model.

Sure, it works great if you are a church putting your worship services on the air. You just make a line item in the budget and do your thing. Or if you are a non profit talk show, just spend 3-5 minutes selling your merchandise or asking for donations every show. No problem… in the short term. But long term this is a major problem. Audiences for this content are shrinking. Donations are drying up and donors are literally dying off.

Mean while, some of us are trying to create scripted content. Raising money outside the show. Trying to place it on stations and networks. Most see the need for this kind of thing. Almost none can (will?) pay for it. I sat with one of the big ones a few weeks ago. They would be happy to pay a licensing fee for a new show, provided it was good enough quality. But of course, the fee wouldn’t even come close to covering the production costs. Most are just happy to take the show for free.

But once in a while I run into one that likes the show, but wants me to pay them to air it. No. Never. I will give it away because we want people to see it, but I refuse to ever buy air time. It’s wrong headed, it’s upside down, and this practice has a very limited lifespan.

The other day I got an email from a foreign network. They were not asking for me to buy air time, but they wanted me to cover the cost of translating the program. I understand. It costs money to translate from English into another language. I declined. Partly because I didn’t have $3000 sitting around. Partly because my initial conversation with the president of the network had not included any mention of fees I would owe. Partly because in any other market (model?) they would be paying me for the content.

There is an audience for scripted and non traditional religious content. Our industry has to figure out how to get more of that created and on the air. Squeezing the producer for money to broadcast it isn’t the way. We had better figure it out soon. The clock is ticking.


eBook Available

I’ve been meaning to post the link, but have been slammed with prep for the 2014 NRB Convention.

My eBook is live in the Kindle store. Get it here: Peculiar Programming

PP Book Cover

“An award winning Christian sitcom produced and broadcast around the world for under $9000? Yes, it can be done. Find out how a former Media Pastor led a cast and crew of volunteers to create a non traditional religious program that was seen on multiple networks, stations and satellites. Learn what you need to know about the Christian TV market, writing and producing your own show, and then getting it on the air for FREE!

12 Chapters, 14,502 words.”

It’s actually been selling more than I expected. $3 isn’t much to ask, and I hope a lot of people will be interested in the subject. We need more non traditional religious TV shows!


First eBook Submitted for Publishing

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 10.08.26 AM
This morning I submitted my first eBook to Kindle for publishing!

14,502 words, 12 chapters, about how I took Peculiar from concept to worldwide broadcast. I cover everything from the Christian TV market, to writing and producing the show, to getting it on the air for free.

Find out more info at

The book is in review right now, but will be available on Kindle in the next couple of days.

PP Book Cover


Notes From an Extra

The other day I was an extra in a new Dave Christiano film called Power of the Air. The cast and crew of this film was great. You should definitely check it out when it releases the end of this year.

dave c
Picture: Dave Christiano speaks to the cast and crew.

I had never been an extra before. I had always been on the other side of the camera. Last time I acted in anything was high school.

Having never worked with the Christiano Brothers before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But people always say that the best way to learn the business is to spend time on the set. So I was happy to be an extra. I was warned before I showed up that it would be a long day of shooting. There were a couple of crucial scenes to capture, and I was going to be a part of them. My day lasted from an 11:15 call time to about 8:00 PM.

So, here are some things I learned as an extra:


Time is, well, not money exactly, but precious. Even the best planned shoots can have delays. On the production side of things, you do your best to minimize those, both for paid cast and crew and for volunteers. As an extra, expect to wait.

Picture right: Waiting area for extras. Picture below: Craft Services table.

craftInformation alleviates all concerns.
-Knowing where bathroom and craft services is. Two of the most important locations on any set.
-Knowing what is going on and what we are supposed to do. I knew what we were waiting for, where I could wait and generally everything I needed to know.
-A quick word about what’s happening, and how long the break will be. During shooting, sometimes there is time between takes. A quick word about the gear moves and how long we have lets people know if they should stay pt, or make a quick trip to craft services or the bathroom.

Bring something to do. There will be down time. Bring a small book, or tablet. Even needlepoint. Something small in size that can help you pass any time you have to wait, but can quickly be put away and out of sight.

No set is glamorous. Don’t expect a catered trailer. You will be finding a seat wherever you can. People will be moving quickly, and it may seem chaotic, but everyone has a job. It will likely be cramped, hot and sometimes noisy. This really isn’t something I learned yesterday, but it’ still true.

One thing I did learn… the Red Epic has loud fan. I had no idea how loud. The crew had to shut it off during takes, and then back on in between to keep the camera cool. Speaking of sound, faking words without saying anything can be hard.

In general, acting as an extra can be hard. You don’t have lines, or extremely specific blocking. But you do have to be in the moment every take. You are acting, trying to feel and react like you would in that situation. After several hours of the same scene, that can get pretty hard. And tiring. It’s definitely harder than I expected.

I think every person involved in production should spend a day as an extra. Just for the experience of seeing from that side of the set.

Picture above: Me with the cast of the “Power of the Air”


New Facebook Page Post Reach is Horrible- How Bad is It?

Recently an Ad Age article said Facebook has now admitted that the organic views of fan pages are dropping. Significantly. In fact, Facebook suggests that the best way to “maximize” delivery of your content is to pay them. Fan pages, to them, are not communities of people who like and want content from a brand. They are ways for businesses to advertise more cheaply and effectively through Facebook in a “social context” format.

For small businesses, non profits, and generally anyone who has a fan page that isn’t specifically about selling something, this is bad news. Previously you could assume that people who became a fan of your page had a decent shot at seeing the content they signed up for. Now, only a small percentage of people see the content.

The only way to bypass the Facebook imposed limitations is to post something that your fans engage with so much that their behavior through likes and shares and comments causes the post to propagate beyond the limitations. Of course, it will be seen through those networks, not by the people who have already signed up. So, while it’s great if you have a post that generates huge engagement, the people who do the engaging and see the post through those social feeds may not be your current fans.

I wanted to see just how bad it was. My largest fans page is for my show Peculiar. I currently have 697 fans. (Crossed 700 during this experiment) Before these changes, I would normally see 60-75% of fans through organic views. That is, I’d post something and 65% or so of my fans would see it in their timeline. How bad are the new algorithms?

My page is a fan page for a TV show, with 700 fans. Many of the posts are video links to the show’s Youtube page.

For the experiment I used an event I ran during the holidays. We had the #10daysofPeculiar event on Peculiar’s FB fan page, where we brought back episodes of the show, posting one per day. With other extras posted in the afternoons. Half the videos we posted are not normally available online. I was aware of the new post reach issues, and wanted to help make sure fans didn’t miss the chance to see the episodes. So I boosted a few posts. I only spent $5 per boost, but with under 700 fans, that more than covered them. I selected showing the post to people who like the show and are friends of people who like the show. Here are the results. Number of views per day across all posts:

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 11.08.36 AM

Guess which days got “boosted posts” and which days didn’t. You can see more detailed list of each post at the bottom of the post. I spent a total of $25 during the multi day event. Total organic views hit 956 over 12 days while views I paid for hit 7040, (over only 5 days of “boosted posts).

OK, I know, I did this over the holidays. I tried not to be too concerned with the views on Christmas Eve and Christmas. But the huge disparity between “boosted” posts and organic post is revealing. Even so, post engagement via likes and shares wasn’t that different. (That says more about my content than Facebook’s policies.)

The frustrating thing for many fan pages is that their fans have NO IDEA this is happening. Normally, once someone clicks like on your page, they don’t come back. They expect your content to show up in their new feed. If they see less, they just assume that your are posting less.

Then there is the issue of balance, where your are not supposed to post just ads. You need to engage your audience. Ask questions, give them value and content for free. So that when you do advertise or make an “ask” they will be engaged enough to respond. I am not the best at this. But these new algorithms mess that up badly. If you only “boost” posts that have advertisements in them, then the only posts that most fans see are the ones asking for money. Less than 25% see the other engagement posts. So you won’t see the same number of fans response when you sell something, or ask them to do something.

That stinks.

Facebook users probably don’t know, and if they did know… on the surface at least, they would likely think this was a great idea. Less ads, more content I want. They may not realize that this new system is set up to either pepper their feeds with sponsored posts, or reduce the content they want drastically. And Facebook? They are just trying to stay profitable. They have shareholders to think about now. Larger brands with big budgets won’t notice much.

In the mean time, people like me are looking for other ways to reach our fans on a consistent basis.

I am launching an email newsletter for Pup Tent Media, my production company. I will have the content for my various FB pages there (Peculiar, Flawed, and any new ventures…), send it out once a month. At least then, I know people who signed up for the content will see the email, even if they don’t open it. They at least have the chance.

To make sure you never miss the information about Pup Tent Media’s projects, sign up now!

Details of the #10DaysofPeculiar Posts:

Dec 20: Text post received 158 organic views, 6 page likes.

Dec 20: New Event, 19 organic views, 1 like, 11 people from those invited “attending”

Dec 21: New Cover Photo, 3 likes, 6 people saw it.

Dec 21: Video link, boosted post, $5 budget. 26 organic views, 760 paid. 6 likes

Dec 22: Video link, boosted post. $5 budget. 33 organic views, 1110 paid views. 3 likes

Dec 22: Video link, 37 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 23: Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 34 organic views, 1391 paid views, 7 likes

Dec 23: Video link, 37 organic views, 3 likes.

Dec 24; Video link, 46 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 24, Text post, 95 organic videos, 4 likes

Dec 24, Video link, 53 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 25, Text post, 83 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 25, Video link, 31 organic views, 2 likes

Dec 26, Video link, 61 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 27, Video link, 41 organic views, 2 likes

Dec 27, Text post, 50 organic views

dec 28, Video Link, 81 organic views, 5 likes

Dec 28, Video link, 114 organic views, 7 likes, 1 comment

Dec 29, Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 26 organic, 1935 paid views, 6 likes, 1 comment

Dec 29, Text post, 121 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 30, Video link, 54 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 30, Video link, 42 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 31, Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 20 organic views, 1844 paid views, 6 likes


Why We Shouldn’t Have Won the NRB Media Award for Best Creative TV Programming

NRB-Award-2013-410x410Last week National Religious Broadcasters announced that Peculiar would receive a 2014 NRB Media Award for Best Creative TV Programming. That’s a huge honor.

NRB has been around for 70 years. Every year they give out awards for various categories in the different media disciplines. Getting one is kind of a big deal in some circles. This isn’t some fly by night organization that just decided do some awards.

So, when I first heard we had won, I was surprised, pleased, proud of my team. What we did with a volunteer cast and crew on a micro budget is amazing by anyone’s standards.

But then I realized… We shouldn’t have won.

Not because we had done something wrong, or it didn’t meet the criteria, or anything like that. We shouldn’t have won because we shouldn’t have been the best program submitted.

I’m not blind. I can see the other winners in other categories. Any objective comparison of production quality will show that we are not in the same ballpark. Of course, they are using millions of dollars in equipment with a decent budget while we got by on borrowed gear and a dream. Nothing wrong with that, but we are not in the same league.

Now, I know creativity and story can overcome lack of production values. It doesn’t matter if the video is mind blowing if the story stinks. A bad story would still stink, no matter how good it looked. We can see that every year on major networks. They spend millions producing pilots that look amazing but don’t get picked up because they don’t work, aren’t good, etc…

But let me just be transparent. I am not the most creative guy alive. Sure, I can come up with a good idea. But for my first show out of the gate to win this award, well, color me shocked. I know I need to learn more about writing, directing, producing, and everything else. There are better producers, writers, directors, show runners out there. There are more creative people out there.

In Christian TV there aren’t a lot of shows like Peculiar. I can count on one hand the number of Christian sitcoms I have seen, and have fingers left. Same goes for Christian dramas. For whatever reason, there just aren’t many in production. But there should be.

I know that in Christian TV a lot of money changes hands. Some of the major networks, they take in millions and millions on the course of the year.

What if some of these networks or stations took just a portion of their budget, and hired producers to create creative programming? And took a bit more of the budget and earmarked it for production?

Imagine if a network set aside $1 million, and hired 5 show runners to produce 5 different series of shows (13 episodes each). Imagine if they set aside a one decent salary and a $100,000 budget for production.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done for that. I produced 10 episodes for under $9000 total. If some had handed me a $100,000 budget and paid me a salary, imagine what we could have done. Peculiar would be the same show, but 10 times better.

And don’t tell me they don’t have it. I know it would require retooling the budget, obviously. But there are networks that have it. And it could be focused on making new programming, creative programming. It’s a matter of priorities. Is it a priority to reach generations we are missing with our current content? (I am really trying to resist the urge to sermonize about this point…)

Of course, the question immediately follows: A network or station taking $100,000 earmarked for something else and investing in a new venture? What’s the return on investment? How do you recoup the money?

At first, you don’t.

The Christian TV market isn’t set up to do normal TV. As the station/network you can fill break slots with fundraising content and provoke some viewers to send in money. But that sort of thing is dying off. Younger viewers are not as likely to respond to that sort of request.

Maybe the key is selling digital copies? Maybe working with a distributor to get a DVD placed, and digital versions available for purchase on iTunes and the like.

Maybe it’s doing more “enhanced underwriting”. What’s enhanced underwriting?

Here’s an excerpt from an article on

“In 1984, the FCC granted stations more flexibility by adopting a policy of “enhanced underwriting,” which permitted noncommercial stations to broadcast donor and underwriter acknowledgements from for-profit entities. These acknowledgments can include logograms and slogans that identify, but do not promote, sponsoring businesses. They may include business location information, value-neutral descriptions of a product line or service, and brand and trade names along with product or service listings. That is why some underwriting messages resemble ads. Subjects that cannot be mentioned in underwriting announcements include price information, such as discounts, rebates, and interest rates; calls to action; inducements to buy, sell, rent, or lease; and any language that states or implies favor- able comparisons to other like businesses or competitors.”

A show that has viewers can attract sponsors. If the content is driving viewers to the station, then the underwriting becomes a good option for sponsors. This is a delicate balance. You don’t want to do something you shouldn’t or that’s not permitted on the non profit station, but you can do some sponsorships. Plus there is no limit to how you can advertise on the station’s website.

Obviously, an education license station can’t switch to all entertainment programming. There has to be a lot of teaching programs on the air or the station is in danger of losing its license. But creative programming can be done, and done for less money that you would expect. And that’s what younger audiences want to watch.

Being selected for this award is a huge honor. I am so grateful and humbled by it. I couldn’t be prouder of the work my team did on the show. But we shouldn’t have been the best show submitted. We shouldn’t have won because there should be better creative programming than ours on Christian TV.