Family-targeted UPtv is celebrating Easter with a lineup of original and acquired programming that includes two primetime, faith-based movie premieres this Sunday.
The original movies, Faith, Hope & Love, which follows a divorced dance studio owner’s journey of faith, and Small Group – in which a faith-doubting documentarian infiltrates a church congregation – are part of the network’s “Easter Lives Here” week-long programming stunt which launched on April 10 and has included such acquired films as The Passion of the Christ and The Ten Commandments. Also on Easter Sunday the network will debut a gospel music special, Stellar Music of Hope.
With UPtv’s annual Easter and Christmas programming stunts – along with digital expansion through the network’s $5.99 per month SVOD service UP Faith and Family and FAST channels Aspire TV Life and Spanish language-based Cine Romántico – the network over the past two years has delivered its best revenue numbers ever, according to UPtv founder and CEO Charley Humbard.
Humbard spoke to Multichannel News about the network’s Easter programming focus as well as the growing appeal of the network’s faith and family-based offerings. An edited version of the interview appears below.
MCN: What is driving UPtv’s viewership and audience appeal?
Charley Humbard: I think our programming was well situated for the unfortunate circumstances we all dealt with going through COVID. We came off our two best years for the business, and a lot of that does speak to the stress of the world around us today and looking for that safe haven to go where people celebrate family and faith. Our programming helps affirm your beliefs in family, relationships and faith, so it has a unique appeal. We're well suited to program to these holidays that really celebrate that like Easter and Christmas.
MCN: Why doesn’t Easter doesn’t generate a lot of original programming from other networks?
CH: I find it interesting that they haven’t, but Easter is something we’ve celebrated for years. We were the first cable network to air the Passion of the Christ in 2014 and it remains the highest rated content we’ve ever had. There’s an audience there for this time of the year that celebrates the family and faith aspect of this holiday. Easter for us is like Christmas, and we bring the faith aspect to Easter that maybe others tend to stay away from. But Easter is about faith, renewal and forgiveness, and the story of Easter can be adapted into contemporary themes. Our [Easter weekend] movies have a faith piece to them, but they are also relationship stories that have much broader appeal.
MCN: What role has the network’s UP Faith and Family streaming service played in the network’s recent business success?
CH: Our subscription service is now crossing one million subscribers, and we have a really strong programming offering there with both faith and family-friendly content. I like to say it's Netflix without the dark stuff – it's programming for every generation. That has really helped our business grow. ■
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.