A decade ago, viewers of the electronic church primarily watched religious programming on television.
Television consumption of faith-based content has changed massively since then, especially in the last few years.
In our own household:
We almost never watch religious content on TV (except for our church’s new program or the occasional movie).
We watch a lot of Christian video content – a live stream or simulated live stream event or on demand material.
We keep up with news from a Christian perspective on the Internet, video clips and articles. We no longer use television as a source of news for Christians or for coverage of events relevant to the Church.
We can watch Christian video content on whatever screen is most convenient (laptop, phone, iPad, connected TV).
In our household, and perhaps many other households like ours, the user behavior that has supported traditional Christian TV – networks, and cable/satellite distributors – has changed.
We still consume Christian video content, but it is now mostly online and we are much more intentional about it.
Global TV replacement
The Global TV Replacement Study finds about 70% of people are now engaging with video content outside of the traditional television set. A recent ComScore report found that more than four out of five Internet users consume online video in a given month. The firm also reported that one in every 10 tablet users are viewing video almost daily on their device.
According to the NPD study consumers watch video on their smartphones too. It isn’t just YouTube—users are increasingly watching long-form video content as well.
So, what are the key points in this shift for pastors and churches that are sitting on the lions share of evangelical video content?
The model of a limited number of Christian TV networks and content producers is breaking down. It will be replaced by the digital network with near limitless channel capacity. We will see the rise of new networks – content aggregators, churches, groups of churches and denominations – using video systems constructed for mass distribution to consumers everywhere. Digital video content production and distribution has become exceedingly efficient. Content creation will explode and be custom created for specific niche groups from church goers to unchurched people to international audiences.
Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2
Producers will not have to pay for distribution of content and users will not have to pay to view it. Regional video distribution hubs will monetize their digital networks with digital video advertising. Ad spend continues to shift from more traditional channels to online video. More than 66% of U.S. advertisers recently surveyed plan to shift at least a portion of their budget from TV to online video in 2012. Additionally, approximately one third plan to shift between 20% to 40% of their display budget to online video this year. The new video networks will not charge viewers for the content or the content providers for distributing it.
The distinction between Christian TV and other forms of Christian streaming video networks will eventually disappear. It’s no revelation that some people have a negative view of religious TV. With digital video content spanning across four screens — those days are nearing an end. As people from around the world increasingly integrate multiple screens into their everyday lives, hundreds of leading pastors and churches will recognize the immense opportunity for scalable, cross-platform ministry. The new producers will be motivated by the unprecedented evangelistic reach with digital video anytime, anywhere. Users will benefit from unprecedented amounts of high-quality, biblically reliable content.
The potential for churches is enormous and it has all the earmarks of being divinely tailored.