Commercially viable faith-based programming. That is the goal of the newly named Odyssey Networks, a consortium of religious groups that has been doing business as Faith & Values Media and produced the successful made-for TV movie The Note last year.
That group has also produced other fare, like C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia, The American Creed, and Joan of Arc, and currently programs a two-hour block on Sundays for the Hallmark Channel, a media outlet in which the coalition also invests.
The success of The Note proved that the concept of commercial made-for-TV movies with a faith-based message can work, according to an interview in Multichannel News with Bob Thompson, Odyssey Network's chief operating officer.
The challenge will be for Odyssey to reach beyond its Hallmark Channel niche if it wants to be really successful. A look at the upcoming TV season reveals a dearth of values-oriented programming, which suggests that an American market is waiting to be tapped. The Culture and Media Institute frequently hears laments about the lack of quality programming with positive, faith- and values-affirming messages.
Faith-oriented programming can be very successful as shows like Touched by an Angel, Joan of Arcadia and 7th Heaven attest. Other programs like ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition, which focus on doing good in the community, also show the potential for success in the family-values market.
Will Odyssey Networks' programming be the answer to the current spate of sexualized teen soap operas (90210, Gossip Girl) or crime procedurals that dwell in violence and depravity (Criminal Minds, CSI, Law and Order SVU)? Time -- and programming executives at broadcast and cable networks -- will tell.