The past 18 months have accelerated long-simmering entertainment industry trends—specifically, how media consumers have migrated from cable TV to lower-cost streaming services.
As streamers like Disney+ target families with kids, a Christian-based service says its growing library of films and series has what faith-driven families really want.
“What Pure Flix offers is family entertainment with an emphasis on the best faith content,” said Michael Scott, president of Pure Flix, in a phone interview. “These other networks are just providing general entertainment to a general audience.”
Millions of Pure Flix subscribers aren’t the only ones who see its value. Late last year, global media conglomerate Sony acquired the streaming service for an undisclosed sum, under its faith-based Affirm Entertainment division.
Now Scott, who continues to head up the streamer for Sony, reveals their approach to faith entertainment, how the deal has expanded their library, and what’s ahead for Pure Flix. The interview has been lightly edited for length.
Entertainment Suitable for Families
What does Pure Flix offer that’s compelling to families?
Michael Scott: Pure Flix offers thousands of different movies and television shows to choose from, all with a positive message. If you’re just looking for a great family night, we have that. But if you’re looking for something that’s faith-centered and entertaining, we have that too.
When someone comes on the platform, they can know it’s going to be free of sex, violence, coarse language and other content that families probably are not looking for.
We’re super excited about many upcoming titles. Pure Flix just premiered a new season of Vindication, a crime drama that’s shaping up to be a hit. Our show Sons of Thunder, about a combat vet and his biker club who do good deeds, has season two out next month.
A basketball love story titled Nothing is Impossible just finished shooting in Tennessee and will be coming soon. We’ve also adapted the best-selling book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, which retells the biblical story of Hosea in 1850s California, during the Gold Rush. That film will hit theaters in January, then arrive on the streamer some months later.
Last year, Sony Pictures acquired Pure Flix streaming. How has that changed Pure Flix and its streaming library?
Scott: It’s created a much better offering for the consumer, while reinforcing the exact same brand promise that we started with in 2015.
Sony has some of the best faith films out there through their Affirm Entertainment brand, such as Heaven is for Real, Miracles from Heaven, Paul: Apostle of Christ, and the Kendrick Brothers movies, which will be gradually added.
When we came in under Sony, they had limited rights available for certain titles — some of them two months, some for much longer periods of time. Movies get licensed out to many different networks and streaming services. As those rights are freed up, we’ll be bringing them to Pure Flix on a long-term basis.
Sony and Affirm are also pouring money into original content that we can produce for this audience and increasing the budget to license more titles.
Our current members and people thinking about subscribing don’t have to worry about the content going a different direction, because we’re sticking to what got us this far.
Pure Flix has a unique mix of titles that may appeal to Catholics, Protestants, and people of faith broadly. Could you talk about navigating those divides?
Scott: We try to find titles with universal themes reflecting a biblical worldview. Whether you’re a Baptist, charismatic, or Catholic, themes like forgiveness and redemption resonate across the board.
We have a select number of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Sony has a deep library of classic faith-and-family titles that we’re bringing back into circulation.
Beyond that, sometimes one objectionable scene has kept great movies from working well on Pure Flix. The film has really positive messages, but one thing slipped in there.
We’ve gone to great lengths to try and work with filmmakers and rights owners to edit it, then bring that to the service. It enables Pure Flix to offer more variety while holding to our brand promise.
Standing Out Against Competitors
Scott: Most executives in Hollywood don’t know what to make of the faith-and-family market and don’t understand this audience. It’s an uncertain space for them.
On a few of these platforms, one or two shows can be really good. With Pure Flix, everything you consume on our platform is positive, uplifting, and ultimately a light in the darkness.
As to those few others in the faith space, I always hope we can work together. Where opportunities exist to pursue a common mission with talented partners, we will explore them. But I’m sure there will be competition in the future just as there is today. It makes us all better.
Sometimes we need multiple networks to be able to create great content for this audience.
Why do you believe it’s worth your time, talent, and treasure to produce films where faith is central?
My mission is to share the Gospel with the world, using the incredible God-given tools of media and the arts. For so long, the church saw these expressions as a negative thing. They backed away from media and decided not to use it or said it was evil.
Think of it like a P.A. system. If I go up and cuss and swear into the mic, it doesn’t make the system evil — only what I said was wrong.
We’ve been given an incredible tool. If we use it correctly, we can touch the world with the right message. Our hope is that, through families viewing, it’s going to ultimately draw you closer to God.
Learn more about Pure Flix, including a free trial offer, at its website.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Family Theater Productions' film THE DATING PROJECT currently streams on Pure Flix:
Image: Pure Flix Facebook
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.