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Faith & Family News: TV Execs Survey the Future

, | March 26, 2024 | By

After recent shutdowns and strikes, the entertainment industry is reeling. But, there are bright spots in the areas of faith- and family-friendly entertainment. Recently, I caught up with two execs at the forefront of that: The CW's Brad Schwartz, and Bill Abbott of Great American Media.

The Man Who Brought The Chosen to Broadcast TV

Brad Schwartz is currently the entertainment chief for The CW network, which came under new ownership in the fall of 2022.

Prior to that, Schwartz's consulting work on the recently launched faith-based entity The Wonder Project brought him into contact with Dallas Jenkins, the creator of the hit Gospels-based series The Chosen, and the two struck up a friendship.

This relationship resulted in a Christmas episode of The Chosen airing on The CW in December, 2022, and then the first three seasons of the show airing on Sunday nights from July to Christmas, 2023.

I sat down with Schwartz in February, and he said:

I was very aware of The Chosen. I had done a year’s worth of research on this company and how we were going to build it. When I got to The CW, I’m like, “The biggest hit show in this country that nobody knows about is that one.”

I knew how successful it was. I was very close with Dallas. I felt like that show could be brought to a more wide stream, a more wide audience. We did, and it worked.

I spent a year doing research on what now is The WONDER Project. There’s a massive audience out there, if you talk to them in this respectful and empathy way.

Dallas’s The Chosen isn’t unlike The Crown. It is done with impeccable storytelling, wonderful writing, wonderful acting, wonderful directing, and it’s done at a scale that tells the story.

In the wake of this, Schwartz has been thinking about finding other faith-based content to air on Sunday nights, but not necessarily something Bible-based like The Chosen.

It’s more Touched by an Angel, 7th Heaven. I think it’s something in that world. …

There is room for family-friendly. There’s an audience out there, specifically between the coasts, that is thirsty for family-friendly stories told with empathy and scale. Those work on broadcast TV.

Many in the faith audience are very distrustful of broadcast television (and not without cause), so I asked Schwartz why viewers should trust anything developed for The CW:

It’s working with people that have a track record in that space. Jon Erwin has a ton of respect and track record in that space, Dallas Jenkins has a ton of track record in that space, and the Robertson family.

There’s a lot of people out there that certainly mean something. They know that, when those stories get told, they’re told understanding the audience, they’re told with the right empathy for the audience, and they’re done with certain budgets to be able to do them well.

If you work with those people … I think if Dallas were to do a project on The CW, you would trust it. If Jon Erwin were to do a project for The CW, you would trust it.

It’s working with people that have a certain stature already, because we’re not going to get that on day one.

And a Bit of News on The Chosen Season 4

Legal issues with original distributor Angel Studios has kept season 4 of The Chosen off streaming. All the episodes earlier premiered in theaters. But, now they're returning for a three-night run on the big screen, starting Holy Thursday, March 28.

Click here for info and tickets.

I also recently did an interview with two of The Chosen stars, Abe Bueno-Jallad (Big James) and George Xanthis (John). Take a look:


The Former Hallmark Chief Now Creating a New Home for Clean Media

For many years, Hallmark Channel and its cable and streaming siblings owned a big chunk of an audience that many other TV providers didn’t seem to want: adults interested in clean, wholesome entertainment, romantic but not sexy, just fun and occasionally tugging at the heartstrings.

Even if most of Hallmark’s movies and TV shows weren’t geared for the whole family, they didn’t require kids to be hustled out of the room.

Then, in 2020, Bill Abbott, who was the longtime president and CEO of the Hallmark channels’ parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, departed.

Bill Abbott's New Venture

In 2021, Abbott cofounded Great American Media (GAM). He and his partners acquired and reshaped existing cable channels into what are now Great American Family, the recently rebranded Great American Faith & Living, Great American Adventures, and the direct-to-consumer app Great American Community.

The company also partnered with Sony Entertainment to rebrand its Pure Flix streaming service as Great American Pure Flix. It offers the same faith-focused programming it always has, plus much of Great American’s output.

Abbott has been running a playbook similar to the one that made Hallmark Channel dominant in its space. He’s also acquired several former Hallmark stars to create media that’s as wholesome as what Hallmark used to do, but sometimes leaning more into faith.

I recently did a video interview with Abbott. The whole thing is embedded below, but here are some highlights.

Why Hollywood Doesn't Want to Make Family-Friendly Content

Because it doesn’t win awards, family-friendly content or faith-based content, because it’s not considered sexy, because it’s not water-cooler quote, unquote, it gets overlooked, and isn’t the favorite thing for people to work on and produce.

So we feel quite blessed that we’re in a position where not a lot of competition really wants to play in the space.

How to Convince Creatives to Work in the Faith and Family Space

You don’t get your next job at Fox by working on family-friendly content. And so, certainly we have to be vigilant about hiring the right people, who really have a passion for it. And it’s more than just money, it’s a mission, and the same is true on the creative side.

Why Hallmark Only Touches Faith Occasionally, and What's Different at GAM

Well, so I think the Hallmark case was a little bit different. It was more of, Hallmark never wanted to be overtly in the faith space, and so that wasn’t a decision that necessarily we agreed with on the creative side. And so, on our side, now we are becoming much more overtly faith. ...

And so as we look at the space, we are going to be just absolutely going with the tide of supporting faith, family, and country, and doing it in a way that is focused on the positive sides of all of those elements and aspects of life. Where so much of the entertainment community will portray them in a negative light, we're going to be relentlessly positive, and are relentlessly positive around the content we produce supporting faith, and family, and country.

What Will Be on Great American Family Along With Family-Friendly Christmas Movies

It will hit one of those three, whether it's a military-themed movie that's supportive of military, and family, and country. Or a family-friendly movie, that your senses won't be assaulted if you watch. Or faith-based movie. We really want to grow the brand to represent the highest quality content in that regard.

If We Might See Catholic Content on the GAM Channels

It’s interesting that you say that. One of our fans, and he’s a personal advisor to me really, is Father Randy, who does our book club, and he’s made the same note. And it’s a good note.


Excerpted with permission from Kate O'Hare's Pax Culturati Blog

Image: (L) © 2023 The Chosen. All Rights Reserved/(R) Great American Family

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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