Learning The Ropes | Church Media Programming Types

by Mark Dreistadt | Jun 7, 2012 | Digital, Media

As you launch into your program, it is vital to know how the world of Christian television programming works.  Before you get to media buying and media placement you need to look at what types of programming there are and how they fit into your vision.  To boil it all down, it comes down to the types of airtime a station uses to fill its programming schedule:

  • Paid Programming — This represents the bulk of Christian programming and infomercials. In paid programming, the program producer purchases time from a television station, meaning that the program is then considered by the station to be an infomercial or paid TV time, regardless of the content. In this case, you are buying a 28-minute and 30-second “commercial” during which you can share your message in any way possible and acceptable to the station.
  • Barter Programming — This is when the station airs a certain amount of commercial spots within your program and you, as the programmer, also air a certain amount of commercial spots. These programs are usually for organizations that are very product driven and have a high production value. The only interest a station will have in a barter program is if they can draw an additional audience and thereby sell the commercial time.
  • Cash Programming — This is programming that the station actually buys from the producer. These programs have a very high production value and are typically more entertainment oriented. Movies, dramatic series, comedies, and family shows are more likely to qualify to be purchased by a television station. They are very difficult and expensive to produce. You also need a distribution network in place to make these cost effective. This is also often called program syndication.
  • Free Program (Sustaining Program) — These programs are difficult to place but there are several in existence. Usually, these programs have a high level of media production and no commercial appeal. The programmer makes no appeal for funds or products but simply offers content, whether that content is information or entertainment. These are the programs that would be considered free or sustaining programs.


While it’s clear that not all of these programming types might fit the specific needs of your media ministry, it is important to understand how station programmers think when they are selling airtime.

This is all part of a bigger strategy that includes media placement and measuring media response.  For more information on the total package Download Your Free Guide To Successful Media Outreach!

Mark Dreistadt

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