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Faith Rules the Airwaves

Ratings Jump at Networks Airing Religious Programs

Faith-based programs abound this Easter season more than ever, and broadcasters across the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets report rating and market shares bumps as a result, especially among second or third-ranking networks.

In Brazil, TV Record saw its household share rise to 13.1% in March compared to 12.6% the month prior thanks to its original telenovela “Moses and the 10 Commandments,” which debuted March 23. “Moses” was shot in Rio de Janeiro, Israel, Egypt and Chile for $233,000 an episode, high by Brazilian standards.

NBCU’s U.S. Hispanic network Telemundo bowed the Spanish-language version of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Emmy-nominated docudrama “The Bible,” on March 25, reaching 3.2 million total viewers, per Nielsen, to become Telemundo’s highest-rated premiere at 8 p.m. among total viewers, and second-highest among adults 18-49. And this despite the fact that it first bowed in English two years ago on the History Channel, where it became a ratings juggernaut. Telemundo expects even higher ratings for the three-hour finale on Friday, April 3.

“For the past seven, eight years, we have been airing faith-based movies, especially on Good Friday, but this is the first time we have had more options on the table,” said Glenda Pacanins, VP of programming strategy integration for Telemundo. For the first time, Telemundo, which produces nearly 800 hours of Spanish-language original primetime content a year, has been pitched religious-themed projects. “We’re more than happy to either develop or acquire faith-based programs,” said Pacanins.

Market leaders Univision in the U.S. and Mexico’s Televisa are airing religious-themed movies and Easter Sunday masses.

Programming aimed at the underserved Christian market peaks on Friday where docu channels led by Discovery en Espanol bows “Secrets of the Crucifixion,” a one-hour special that explores the science behind the most potent symbol in Western civilization: the crucifixion. Co-produced by the Science Channel and Vision TV/Zoomer Media, “Secrets” examines forensic and archeological evidence to unlock the mystery of the crucifixion. Discovery en Espanol reaches 5 million U.S. Hispanic households via the Hispanic tiers of cable and satellite operators.

“Any entertainment channel, which claims to know its viewers, should air these kinds of programs,” said Bilai Joa Silar, VP of Content, Discovery U.S. Hispanic Networks.

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