So, you want to start reaching a larger audience with your church or ministry’s message. There is a progression, which if followed in logical steps, will allow you to grow at a manageable rate and reward your decision.
Of course, step one is prayer. Winning the war also includes wise counsel and a battle plan. Ask who, what, when, where, why and of course, how much.
Where do you want to be seen and heard – radio, TV, web, etc? Think long and hard about what you want to say and how you want it to look. Who else will be interested and why? What will differentiate you from the hundreds of others?
Research is cheap compared to the millions you could spend and the sinking feeling you are guaranteed to get when you determine that you weren’t ready to enter the world of broadcasting, not to mention a pack of ravenous elders, hungry for your resignation.
You might consider taking a survey in your church on what kind of programming they would like to see. Consider hiring a research organization to help pinpoint your audience and focus your effort on a strategy that makes sense.
Learn from other’s mistakes. Watch shows on all kinds of TV, both religious and secular and note what you like and don’t. Remember, the slicker it looks the more it will cost. You don’t get to the level of a Joel Osteen or a Robert Schuller overnight.
Talk to cutting-edge producers and branding experts like veteran producer, Phil Cooke (cookepictures.com). According to Phil, it could take six months to a year of broadcasting before your TV program begins to establish itself with your audience. That means it could be a year or more before you receive any prayer or financial support.
Even if you are not yet sure about pursuing a broadcast, you can start to cultivate a relationship with your local broadcast sales agent or systems integrator. They will be glad to get in on the ground floor with you and start a relationship. A reputable integrator will have a good list of clients to provide for you and they will only be interested in a long-term, win-win situation that makes sense for both of you.
According to SoCal area integrator, Stephen D. Rosen of TV Magic (www.tvmagic.tv), “(Ask) where you want to be in 5-7 years. Invest in the design of the system, if all the funds aren’t available, build in phases. It’s a matter of the cost of ownership, not the cost of acquisition.
You will need to develop a team of dedicated staff and volunteers to reach your vision. The production and post-production crew could be your greatest ongoing cost, but these artists can and should be developed as a great strength for your ministry.
Training your team is crucial and it tells them that you place a priority on their work and the arts. If you are not satisfied with a volunteer staff, then you might consider hiring a graduate from a university with a competent media program. According to Peggy Rupple, Special Projects Coordinator for Biola University (www.biola.edu), a recent grad student’s salary ranges from $28,000 – 40,000 a year. Selecting an energetic, young, technically and creatively savvy grad can provide the spark you need as well as instruct the staff and build the ministry.
An inexpensive, yet very effective mechanism for generating excitement in your creative team (and in your entire community) is to get them together and enter the 168 Hour Film Project (www.168project.com). “168” is a global competition, in which films are based on a Bible verse and created in one week to premiere at the 168 Film Festival.
NO TURNING BACK
You’ve made the decision to go for it. You have started recruiting your team of staff and volunteers. You have projections on your core audience and how you will grow it. And you have figures on the kind of distribution you will utilize.
Now it is time to start laying the groundwork for recording and editing the broadcast. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Rather, describe the show you want to put on the air and then identify a budget range. The cost depends on what you want.
A typical TV broadcast employs a minimum of three cameras. You need three so you can always have a wide shot to cut to and two other angles to provide variety and interest. This is how most shows are captured, especially those with a moderator. If you need more cameras for an intricate production, your system should be sufficiently flexible to allow you to expand.
Your first instinct will of course be to save money. However, you will want to spend enough to make sure your system will last. While you may not want to buy what NBC uses, you don’t want to buy old technology either. One thing to plan for is the multicasting, or the planned for, multiple uses of recorded content. With all the new ways people access media today, you will want to make sure you can “scale” your recordings to the appropriate media, web, CD, DVD, flash drive, or whatever tomorrow brings. Much of your multicasting conversions will be handled by your post-production system, but again, there are many ways to go.
To protect your investment, you should plan for an HD broadcast. The good news is that the “uncompressed HD Studio” bar has finally been lowered from seven figures to six by technology advances and competition. Cameras and other hardware necessities have come into the realm of affordability for medium and larger sized ministries. On the entry level side of a fully functional HD system, you can spend from $65,000 to $250,000 on your multi-camera system, using relatively inexpensive HD cameras.
I asked Chan Mahon, President of Burbank, CA integrator TV Pro Gear (TVProGear.com) what you can get for $65,000. “You will sacrifice flexibility at this level, but you will get a system that works well within limits.” This means no multicore, which means only one thick cable for cameras, intercom and other signals. You will lose B-Roll decks to roll in promos or video segments, and you will not have uncompressed HD, an Intercom system, or genlock. You will likely be using a Video Toaster vs. an uncompressed HD For-A HVS-500HS switcher or better. You will also use cheaper brands or models for all system components, smaller monitors, and DVCAM or HDV vs. uncompressed HD cameras. You will have limited CG capabilities, and your output will be component analog or firewire vs. HD-SDI. And you will not be mobile. That’s a lot to sacrifice. It’s like getting a Chevy instead of a Porsche, but it will get you there.
TV Pro Gear makes a mobile system-in-a-box called a Flypak. According to Mahon, the system is “camera agnostic,” meaning it can use any cameras. A $200,000 (ballpark) system would have all of the above luxuries, a plasma control screen with a quad-split display, and a Final Cut Pro System with storage. TV Pro Gear is planning a traveling seminar to address questions from future ministry broadcasters.
The web is a likely first step to getting your message out. It is the cheapest, fastest way to start building an audience. You likely already have a web presence. The next step is to try putting up some of your content and offering it to your congregation.
According to Brian Quandt, media consultant for Sony and the Studios, a congregation of 2000 people shouldn’t overstress a local church server. The next step would be to use a co-location facility to house your server, if you aren’t already doing so.
It is crucial to find a network engineer who understands networking and streaming. The costs to get started are minimal if you are already working on the web.
What does it take to get your program on the largest of the Christian Broadcasters? According to Paul Crouch Jr, Trinity Broadcasting Network VP of Administration, “Content and creative approach are key.” The day of the preaching head is gone because the audience demands more.
Around the globe, TBN claims to reach 100 Million, households on 62 Satellites, with 15,000 affiliates. They will soon offer special events in HD on the networks newly completed HD channel.
As you can imagine, establishing a broadcast ministry is a very, very expensive endeavor. The risks are huge, but so too are the rewards. Your team’s sense of appreciation will soar and they will rise to great things as a result of a well-planned strategy.