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Faith-based content companies pivot away from religion

Tim Baysinger
Mar 31, 2022
Illustration of a stained glass window stylized as an EXIT sign.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Religious media companies are beginning to pivot away from the faith-based content that has been their bedrock.

Why it matters: The shift lets broadcasters expand their brand offerings to attract more casual faith-based viewers. It's also led to a surprising new entrant in the deal-making space.

Driving the news: Cox Media Group announced Wednesday an agreement to sell a dozen TV stations to Imagicomm Communications, a broadcast affiliate of INSP.

  • This marks Imagicomm's first expansion into broadcast TV station ownership. Until now, Imagicomm had primarily focused on the distribution of Western-themed series and films including "County Line: All In" and "The Cowboy Way."
  • The 12 markets are in smaller cities like Idaho Falls, Idaho; Memphis, Tennessee; Spokane, Washington; and Syracuse, New York.

The big picture: Over the last few years, INSP has shifted away from faith-based programming to featuring Westerns and other family-friendly content. They're not the only ones.

  • The result has been good for INSP so far: Its ratings have increased over the last seven years, and it even outrates top cable channels like TBS and USA.
  • Earlier this month, Axios reported that Christian-themed broadcaster Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) added news with "Centerpoint," a nightly news program from Fox News alums.
  • Former President Trump will appear on Thursday's show, a source tells Axios' Sara Fischer.

What they're saying: "This acquisition is part of our broad corporate strategy to expand our media ownership across multiple entertainment platforms,” David Cerullo, chairman & CEO of INSP, said in a statement announcing the deal.

Catch up quick: INSP was originally founded in the 1970s by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, when it was known as PTL (Praise the Lord) Television Network.

  • It has since completely distanced itself from the Bakkers and, more recently, faith-based programming (though it still airs weekend church services).

The bottom line: America is much more secular these days compared to years past, and it seems like religious broadcasters are getting the memo.

Disclosure: Cox Enterprises is an investor in Axios.

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