NASHVILLE (ABP) — The cable TV industry, which didn't warm to the idea of a gospel music network a decade ago, will be asked to welcome two such channels this fall.
The Gospel Music Channel plans to offer music videos, concerts and biographies representing a broad range of Christian music — from gospel and soul to rock and rap, according to the Associated Press. Two veterans of the cable TV industry announced the proposed network recently, with a debut set for the fall.
The Gospel Music Channel will compete with the MP Network, a cable channel with an even narrower niche– — 18-to-34-year-old Christians. The MP network, based in Charlotte, N.C., also wants to launch in the fourth quarter of 2004.
An earlier gospel cable channel, started in the 1990s, failed to find enough local cable systems that would dedicate channel space to Christian music. But in the age of digital cable, when more channels are possible, industry observers say the new networks will have a better chance. “It's a huge category and an underserved market,” media analyst Larry Gerbrandt told Associated Press.
The Gospel Music Channel has the added advantage of notable expertise. Charles Humbard, former general manager of the Discovery Networks, and Brad Siegel, former president of Turner Entertainment Networks, are leading the enterprise, which will be based in Atlanta with production offices in Nashville. Singer Larry Gatlin is on the company's board.
An estimated 1,400 radio stations nationwide air gospel music, according to the Gospel Music Association. Sales of religious music accounted for 50 million units in 2003, which is 5.8 percent of the music sold in the United States. Yet there is no consistent outlet for Christian music on television.
“You can get any kind of music on television, pretty much, except for gospel music,” said John Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association. “It's very hard to find Christian music and programming, and clearly people are interested in this.”
Gospel Music Channel will differ from other music channels, including MP Network, by not targeting a specific age group or music style. The network plans to air music videos during the day and concerts and biographies during prime time.