Religion Makes an Appearance on Reality TV Landscape

Religion is becoming more prevalent on the smallscreen, and the trend seems to be gaining momentum, especially in the world of reality TV.

WE TV’s “Mary Mary,” A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” GSN’s “American Bible Challenge” and Lifetime’s “Preachers’ Daughters” are just a few of the programs spotlighting religion on TV and serving what execs recognize as an underrepresented aud.

“Up until the last couple of years, I think religion was scary to most people,” says Amy Introcaso-Davis, exec VP of programming and development at GSN. But networks are now pushing past previous apprehensions to propel faith-based programming to eager auds.

PURPOSE: Variety‘s Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Summit

Eli Lehrer, Lifetime’s senior VP of nonfiction programming, says the new wave of religion on TV is reminiscent of the increase in programming geared toward other demos, namely the African-American community.

“The African-American audience was underserved and underrepresented on TV, and as cable channels in particular have worked on producing for that audience, we’ve had great ratings success with that,” Lehrer says. “I feel like the faith-based audience could be a similar trajectory, where there are tens of millions of people out there who hold these beliefs, but they’re not particularly represented on TV these days.”

Going forward, GSN plans to complement its current offerings with the upcoming Christian dating reality series “It Takes a Church.” Lifetime will follow suit with the launch of unscripted skein “The Sisterhood,” centered on five young women deciding whether to become nuns.

“I think people are starting to see (Christianity) as normal thanks to all these shows,” says “Mary Mary” star Tina Campbell. “If we’re going to expose the world to every other aspect of life, why not expose it to Christian life when you’re not at church.”

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