As we reported before, one benefit of the growth of streaming services is that faith and family audiences can now screen out a lot of programming that contains inappropriate content — and screen in wholesome, uplifting entertainment — just by subscribing to a targeted service.
Cable network UP is home to reality shows like “Growing Up McGhee,” about a family with sextuplets; and “Bulloch Family Ranch,” about a family that takes in troubled teens; and scripted fare like “Heartland,” set on a family ranch in the foothills of the Rockies.
Now the cablenet has launched UP Faith & Family, described as:
UP Faith & Family is an exclusive subscription video on demand (SVOD) service offering the freshest and most exclusive family and faith-friendly entertainment with an ever-growing library of over 500 quality dramas, family comedies, exclusive UP original series, movies, animated features and more. With just one click, your family can enjoy the freedom to watch their all-time favorites instantly anytime and anywhere with fresh new titles added every month. Now any room can be your family room. UP Faith & Family subscribers get instant access to all of this great content on their TV, computer and mobile devices for just $4.99 per month with no contract or obligation. UP Faith & Family can be added through Amazon Prime, Comcast Xfinity, Dish or upfaithandfamily.com.
I fired off some email questions to Greg Madsen, the vice-president, content distribution and marketing for UP TV and ASPiRE, and managing director for UP Faith & Family. Have a look (lightly edited for grammar and AP style):
What was the inspiration for creating this new SVOD service?
Our linear network, UP, was launched over 12 years ago as Gospel Music Channel. As it became UP and evolved to be more of a broad network focused on stories about family targeted to adults, we knew there was still demand and a large audience for Christian content as well as family-friendly titles. At the same time, the video industry has evolved with customers consuming content on their schedule and across devices. Thus we launched UPFF as a streaming service to super-serve the faith and/or family focused consumer.
What are your parameters for considering content to be included in the service (such as language, sexual content, violence, etc.)?
Every piece of content offered by UPFF is screened internally to make sure it meets our strict guidelines regarding language, sexual content, and violence, and that the basic themes of each piece of content support our tenets of family- and faith-friendliness. Much of our content comes from producers who share this philosophy so it is already a perfect fit. Some content has very positive themes and fits our programming philosophy, but may have a little bit of language or violence etc., so we edit it accordingly.
How do you define “faith-friendly” — just content featuring people of faith or clergy, or content that addresses larger Christian themes?
Really all of the above and then some. Some of our content does in fact feature pastors or clergy, other titles do not feature clergy, but have overarching Christian themes. Some of our content is not overtly Christian or religious at all, but is positive, uplifting, family-friendly content. It is UP Faith & Family after all!
What sets your service apart from similar ones?
The main differentiator is our UP original content. Hit series like Bringing Up Bates, Growing up McGee, Bulloch Family Ranch and many, many feature films. They originally premiered on UP linear, and we made the decision not to license them to any other SVOD services for streaming, so UPFF is the only SVOD service to stream them. We also learned from our years of programing GMC/UP, that content can’t just be faith affirming or family-friendly, it needs to be entertaining and contemporary, too. Our content acquisition team has done a great job of curating content for UPFF that is very high quality and entertaining, the vast majority of which is less than 10 years old. UPFF is offered by Amazon, Comcast Xfinity, Dish, Google Fiber and directly at Upfaithandfamily.com. An UPFF subscription is just $4.99 per month or is included with some existing packages.
What do you think the future is for faith-friendly entertainment — will it be a niche or will mainstream producers and networks return to showcasing it?
I think the future is bright. In the last five or 10 years there have been a number of high-profile, big-budget feature films, and broadcast and cable films and series, from mainstream producers, that have performed very well. As these type of projects continue to deliver audiences and revenue the studios will continue to produce them. At the same time, there are new outlets for content every day (like UPFF!) which should also encourage more and more faith-friendly content to be produced.
The faith and family audience is huge, with immense power of the pocketbook — so why is so little content today friendly to Christianity or suitable for the whole family?
This is a tough one to answer. We agree, and our research shows there is a huge faith- and family-focused audience with immense buying power. I think part of it may be that some advertisers and large advertising agencies have not fully embraced the faith audience or are not sure how to market to this audience. I think there is also a misconception that family-friendly or faith-friendly is code for bland or boring programming. We know this is not the case, but we need to continue to produce and promote really entertaining, high-quality Christian and family content and promote it to help break this stereotype.
What is UP’s philosophy on what constitutes the family and faith-friendly content it produces and shows?
UP, the linear channel, is focused on family and producing terrific series like Bringing Up Bates, Growing Up McGhees, and the recently announced scripted family dramedy Date My Dad. As you’ll see from each of these series, UP’s philosophy is to build a truly entertaining show for adults that they actually want to share and enjoy with the entire family.
In the end, the audience always decides what gets made and what doesn’t. If this type of programming, and services like this, succeed, there’ll be more of them. If they don’t, there won’t be.
Viewers, the next move is yours.
Image: “Bringing Up McGhee,” Courtesy UP