Young Cable Outlet Preaches the Gospel

Apr 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

This upfront, Gospel Music Channel, primed with plans for a spate of new original programming, is offering marketers what it calls a “halo effect,” pointing to research that says its religion-oriented viewers also are devoted to products advertised on the network.

The 2?-year-old channel also will be touting a big increase in distribution, thanks to a new agreement with Time Warner Cable that could help raise its subscriber count from about 10 million currently to 20 million by the end of the year. The channel now has carriage agreements with all major cable operators except Cablevision Systems, and is in discussions with major satellite providers.

Gospel Music Channel has several new shows in the works, including “The Kitchen Sink,” a weekly combination of “Entertainment Tonight” and “TRL,” and daily daytime variety show “I Sing Praises!” featuring inspirational stories and performances.

The network also plans to launch its first scripted series, “Robert Townsend’s Gospel Music Theater,” in the fourth quarter.

Former Turner Broadcasting executive Brad Siegel, vice chairman of Gospel Music Channel, said the network has not yet turned profitable but is on track to break even by its fifth year, which is normal for a cable startup.

According to Kagan Research, Gospel Music Channel will have a negative cash flow of about $4.1 million in 2007. But its advertising revenue is increasing fast — from $2 million in 2006 to a projected $10.8 million in 2008 — and Kagan sees the network moving into the black in 2009.

Gospel Music Channel has attracted 28 blue-chip advertisers — including Wal-Mart, which signed up for the channel’s Black History Month programming and its Super Bowl Celebration — and is working to increase that.

Gospel music often flies under the radar of media buyers in New York, but gospel records and concerts are among the industry’s biggest sellers. So for the upfront, Gospel Music Channel has conducted research to show the channel’s passionate viewers are also influential consumers.

Research conducted by Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo compared Gospel Music Channel with direct competitors (music channels, multicultural channels, family-oriented channels) and with cable in general. It found Gospel Music Channel viewers are influential because they tend to be active in their communities and have large circles of friends. According to the study, 35 percent of Gospel viewers said they regard advertising on the channel “as a recommendation from a friend and I’m more likely to purchase,” versus 5 percent on competitive channels and 4 percent overall.

“Advertisers will look at this group and see Gospel Music Channel as the only way to reach this group effectively and efficiently on TV,” Mr. Siegel said. “This is an audience that can move a market.”