Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Dove Channel flies. We’re coming up on two years since Cinedigm teamed with the Dove Foundation to launch the faith and family-friendly streaming service Dove Channel.

In May of this year, Dove Channel spun off Dove KIDS, a new 24/7 ad-free channel featuring children’s movies, television series, animation, and educational programming aimed specifically at kids 5-12 years of age.  Like Dove Channel, Cinedigm is distributing through the web, as well as various over-the-top cable bundlers and platforms, including Apple’s iOS, Android, AppleTV, and Roku devices.

The launch of Dove KIDS followed last year’s successful launch of Dove NOW which delivers Dove programming via a traditional linear format. Dove NOW has become the most-watched programming selection on the Dove platform.

Dove Channel currently has a library of almost 1,400 pieces of content, including nearly 500 films and 900 television episodes approved by the Dove Foundation and ranks as the largest library of faith-based & family-friendly content in the OTT marketplace.

Dove NOW offers an a linear option for those folks who simply want to relax and watch TV without scrolling through programming menus. It airs kids programming blocks in the morning and early afternoon, and blocks containing more adult fare from fringe to prime time.

“With more than 80% of Facebook’s 1.2 billion audience now watching Facebook Live, and nearly 300 billion minutes streamed on Amazon’s Twitch platform last year, there is a massive consumer demand for live and linear programming in the OTT environment,” says Erick Opeka, Executive Vice President of Digital Networks for Cinedigm. “Adding linear channels improves content discovery, leads to longer watch times and engagement, reduces churn, and provides a great new source of revenue as we syndicate them to major partners.”

Cinedigm is also planning a significant expansion of linear offerings in the coming months, including channels developed for fandom and pop culture network CONtv and factual network Docurama, along with additional offerings leveraging Cinedigm’s vast library of horror, anime, and western content.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Cinedigm Entertainment Group President about what he foresees in Cinedigm’s future.

JWK: We’re coming up on two years since the launch of Dove Channel. How are things going in terms of where you thought you’d be at this time?

BILL SONDHEIM:  We are extremely pleased with our progress over the last 18 months. We have secured close to 100,000 active subscribers and have downloaded over 500,000 consumers that have accessed the site for content viewing and guidance in determining the appropriate content they wish to consume. We have been pleasantly surprised by the volume of customers we have acquired and the brand recognition we have built during this preliminary launch phase. We are equally enthused at the new digital services that are being launched and will carry OTT channels with Dove Channel being prominently promoted.

JWK: What kind of feedback have you been receiving from consumers?

BILL SONDHEIM: The consumers like the ease of navigating our Channel. The interface is very similar to Netflix and they are comfortable with its easy to use features. They also like the content and have commented on how many gems they have discovered as we tend to focus on titles below the Mega Studio Box Office hits. We will continue to gradually increase the title selection with higher profile “hits” but this audience is more interested in quality movies with strong values and meaningful storylines and seems less concerned with star power.

JWK:  You recently launched Dove NOW which is a linear version of Dove Channel that will also operate as an OTT channel. Does that indicate that, even in a streaming world, sometimes people just like to kick back and watch what happens to be on?

BILL SONDHEIM: You are totally right. We created the Dove Now as a pre-programmed feed for consumers that might have a hard time making a decision. It turns out that the Dove Now option is quickly becoming one of the most popular and frequently accessed content selections. This just reinforces that while many consumers like a wide selection and freedom of choice, many still are more comfortable following the lead of others. With Dove Channel you can have the way you like it!

JWK: You’ll soon be launching another linear spinoff called Dove KIDS. How will that differ from the mother ship?

BILL SONDHEIM: It will be very similar in concept to Dove Now. This will be a linear pre-programmed feed of content from the Dove Channel that focuses exclusively on kids themed content. Once again consumers can go and search the Dove Channel and find hundreds of hours of value driven kids content or now they can click on the Dove Kids icon and watch a pre-programmed stream of those shows and never have to make a single decision. It’s like an Autopilot so to speak.

JWK: Where do you see the Cinedigm universe of OTT channels. which also ConTV (aimed at Comic Con fanboys and fangirls) and Docurama (featuring a wide array of documentaries) being in five years?

BILL SONDHEIM: We believe in 5 years we will operate 10+ channels that all occupy a similar philosophy to our existing channels. They will focus on “niche content categories. Topic maters that have passionate fans and larger but definable audiences. We believe that audiences will of course subscribe to the big mega digital channels like Netflix but we also see each consumer has unique passions that will continue to drive the niche categories we hope to tap into.

John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Coming attractions:

And God made Pluto. Struck Films, Purdie Distribution and Motive Entertainment has announce the upcoming release of The Stray, a family film written and directed by Mitch Davis (The Other Side of Heaven) based on a screenplay by Parker Davis with Ken Brailsford executive producing. Set for release in select markets in the United States on October 6, 2017, the family drama tells the true story of how a stray dog dubbed Pluto impacts a struggling family. The Stray has received the Dove Family Approved seal for its portrayal of positive values and is a film you can take your entire family to see.

“It’s really not a stretch to say that Pluto gave me my life back,” said Mitch Davis. “He saved me and my family in more ways than one. And although The Stray reflects my personal story, I know there countless families across America who could say the same thing about a pet that greatly impacted them with its unconditional love – which is why I hope families will see this film together.”

Multi-award winning artist and songwriter Jeremy Camp’s latest single debuts today. Word Of Life can be found at all digital formats by clicking here. The song is the first single from Camp’s upcoming album slated for release this fall. 

Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald Interviewed by Msgr. Kieran Harrington, "In the Arena," to Air July 2A true love story. Monsignor Kieran Harrington, host of NET TV’s In the Arena, invited Patti Ann McDonald, Mayor of Malverne, NY and winner of the 2017 Christopher Leadership Award, to speak about her award and life with NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who died earlier this year. The program–that the Monsignor called the Independence Day show–will air on WOR 710 radio at 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 2, 2017. Mrs. McDonald is a living witness to the Christopher ideal that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”…I do some booking work for ITA and would like to thank Mayor McDonald for agreeing to do the wonderful interview and  Jeanne Byington of JM Byington & Associates for getting out the word.  More here. In the Arena, hosted by Diocese of Brooklyn Vicar for Communications, Kieran Harrington airs Sundays in NYC on WOR 710AM at 8 AM (ET), Relevant Radio 1430AM at 1 PM, and NET TV at 8 PM ET and Catholic TV in at 10:30 PM ET!

What’s UP with Emmy? Charley Humbard, UP TV’s Founder and CEO, was honored Saturday night with the 2017 southeast Emmy Governors’ Award, a special honor recognizing exceptional achievement. The Board of Governors Awards are for truly outstanding and unique accomplishments or for achievements of some duration and durability. The award can be given to an individual, a company or an organization for outstanding achievement in the arts, sciences or management of television, which is either of a cumulative nature or so extraordinary and universal in nature as to be beyond the realm of the awards presented in the categories of achievement.

Speaking of radio: Friend of this blog, Alexis Walkenstein interviews Catholic mystic Frank Kelly this weekend on her Mary’s Touch program.  List of radio stations carrying Mary’s Touch here.

The Case for Christ hits Blu-ray/DVD market. One of the best-reviewed faith-based films of 2017, is coming to home entertainment on  Aug. 15, 2017, from Pure Flix Entertainment. The film will be released into the general consumer market by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film is based on the true story Lee Strobel (who I worked for as a segment producer on his Faith Under Fire PAX-TV series) who in the 1980s was a hard-driving journalist and atheist who decided to use his investigative skills to disprove Christianity. To say the least, the results were not what he anticipated.

The Case for Christ is rated PG and directed by Jon Gunn (Do You Believe?) from a script by Brian Bird (Captive, Touched by an Angel). The film is produced by Michael Scott, David A.R. White, Russell Wolfe, Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis, Brittany Lefebvre, Karl Horstmann and Alysoun Wolfe.

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What’s UP with EMMY? Charley Humbard, UP TV’s Founder and CEO, was honored Saturday night with the 2017 southeast Emmy Governors’ Award, a special honor recognizing exceptional achievement. The Board of Governors Awards are for truly outstanding and unique accomplishments or for achievements of some duration and durability. This award can be given to an individual, a company or an organization for outstanding achievement in the arts, sciences or management of television, which is either of a cumulative nature or so extraordinary and universal in nature as to be beyond the realm of the awards presented in the categories of achievement.

UP TV, which began life in 2004 as the Gospel Music Channel before rebranding as UP TV in 2013 , focuses on uplifting programming aimed at  families of all shapes, sizes and complexities.” The network has seen tremendous ratings growth this past year as its slogan “We Get Family” resonated with viewers.  The network also operates the streaming service UP Faith & Family, available through Amazon Prime, Comcast Xfinity, Dish or

Prior to founding UP Entertainment, Humbard served as a senior executive at Discovery Networks, responsible for the development and launch of seven digital cable network brands. Additionally, Charley was a founding member of Discovery International Networks charged with launching the Discovery Channel Networks in 140 countries and creating operations facilities on three continents. Son of the country’s first television minister, Humbard began his career writing and recording music and performing on television for the Rex Humbard Worldwide Ministries.

BTW, this weekend being Father’s Day and all, you might want to checkout Date My Dad ((9:00 PM ET), UP’s new scripted dramedy series starring Barry Watson as a widowed father of three daughters and Raquel Welch as has his late wife’s mom and grandmother of the kids. It’s a kindhearted, enjoyable family show that is all too missed on broadcast network television (particularly, since the unfortunate cancellations of ABC’s Last Man Standing despite strong ratings). It seems cable is becoming the place to go for family-friendly scripted fare.
(Above photo from Marcel Williams/UP TV).

Prayers for dad. As Father’s Day nears, Abide, the Christian meditation and prayer app, conducted a survey among its four million users shows the most common prayers for Dad. Results of the online survey revealed physical well-being, protection and salvation are the most common prayers offered for fathers. Nearly 70 percent of users surveyed shared their concern for their dad’s health, including battles with dementia and heart disease. Approximately 50 percent said safety is their most important prayer request, and 41 percent pray for their dad to come to know and follow Jesus.   “These Father’s Day survey results show that just as our parents never stop caring or worrying about us, we also do the same for them,” said Neil Ahlsten, co-founder of Abide. “We want our dads to be around for as long as possible, see them succeed, and spend eternity with them. These are all fears and hopes we, as children, can relate to; they connect us as people.”

God is calling you forward – no matter how much you messed up. I will heal their waywardness and love them freely. – Hosea 14:4 – This was in my inbox this morning from the National Association of Christian Recovery.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
John W. Kennedy is a writer and entertainment media consultant.

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Remi Adeleke, a former Navy Seal now co-starring with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, John Goodman, Stanley Tucci and Josh Duhamel in Transformers: The Last Knight, tell his story to I Am Second,  an organization/website that features people from all walks of life talking about their faith journeys.  Adeleke’s story drops June 16, 2017, just a few days before the release of the big budget Transformers flick on June 21.

Remi’s relationship with the I Am Second organization started when he began watching their films during an overseas deployment.  That led to a friendship with the I Am Second team  and eventually to becoming a spokesperson for the brand.  Much has happened in the six years since. He left  the military, got married, became a father and discovered a new career as an actor in Hollywood . He has experienced times of great trial, stress, and temptations. He recalls struggling to trust God and others by trying to control everything himself. His I Am Second testimony takes viewers through his life’s journey, beginning on the streets of New York City, his time as a Navy Seal and, most recently,  as part of the aforementioned Transformers movie.  His hope is to use his increasing public platform to reveal his true identity as a sincere Christian.  In addition to his role in the new Transformers movie and the release of his I Am Second film, Remi is also a model in Jockey’s new brand campaign launching in mid-June.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11


Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

alexisA Conversation with Alexis Walkenstein, new host of Mary’s Touch. I’ve worked with Alexis on getting out the word on many faith-related media projects she’s had a hand in promoting, most recently the hit film The Shack. Now, she’s going a bit more public about her own faith, as the new host of Mary’s Touch, a long-running weekly radio program focusing on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the personal stories of people who have taken her into their hearts. I recently asked her about her new role.


ALEXIS WALKENSTEIN:  Mary’s Touch is a weekly syndicated Catholic radio show that is broadcast on over 100 stations worldwide. Mary’s Touch was founded by a beautifully holy and innovative woman named Cheri Lomonte who hosted the show for a decade with her co-host Fr. Jim Evans. The show is dedicated to Our Lady, the Mother of God and aims to lead the audience closer to Jesus through Mary. This year, Mary’s Touch was named best National Radio Program by the Catholic Academy for Communications and we will accept a Gabriel Award later this month in Quebec. This is the third Gabriel Award for Mary’s Touch and is a testimony to the legacy of evangelization built by Cheri! The half hour show features interesting Catholics from around the world – people who are living the faith and have unique stories of conversion, personal witness. The guests share in the many ways they are called to live their Catholic faith with special emphasis on Marian devotion. The show is produced in Austin, TX. Any radio station or diocese that wants to broadcast on radio or position the show online, Mary’s Touch will provide the programs at no cost. 

AW: Several years ago I met Cheri through my public relations work when I was promoting her apostolate, the Frontline Faith Project. Cheri was always a powerful influence in my life, a generous woman of God who I admired in the way she inspired such anointed ministry. She continually and generously supported all my latest endeavors with prayer. Cheri is a true spiritual mother and we stayed in contact through the years. This year, Susana Garza, the executive director for Mary’s Touch, Inc. approached me and asked me to consider taking on the role of show host when Cheri retired. It was the most fun surprise of this year! I recently finished a 54 day Rosary novena to Our Lady and one of my prayers was that the Lord establish a new platform for evangelization where I could help others encounter the truth of our faith in today’s culture and this came directly out of God’s hand with Our Lady behind all of it. Cheri is still involved and very active with Frontline Faith so it’s a blessing to continue to have her friendship and support. 

AW: No! Just a wild adventure! I recently moved to Los Angeles – my move to Los Angeles in 2015 and the addition of Mary’s Touch in 2017 have been two of the greatest blessings of my life! God has just blessed me with a holy community of women and men who are on fire for Christ and with a platform for modern evangelization. So God has given me this incredible new spiritual family on top of all the blessings here in Los Angeles, and because it’s ultimately His work, I am leaning on Mother Mary to send me the guests and topics that the Lord wants to feature. It’s incredible to see Heaven’s response to this prayer. I’m recording at a new studio in the heart of LA in conjunction with the Block House in Austin, TX where the show is produced and it’s a fun adventure to bring this witness of faith to the heart of the media culture and arts community in Hollywood. What is success to our Lord? It’s being faithful to His call. So, I just want to be faithful in my response to this invitation and do a little, and a little, and a little to lead others to the heart of God. 
AW: Well, she was a real human being and because of Christ, Mary is the mother of us all, so I think in that simple way, she’s our common denominator. People forget that we are all brothers and sisters in one family under God. For some who may not have had a good or healthy relationship with their mother, it might be a leap to consider that we have this Mother in heaven that we can trust and to let all our hopes, dreams, struggles and desires, pass through her heart to Christ and serve as an intermediary for us . Mary is a real person, and she was given to the Church at the foot of the Cross when Jesus said to his beloved disciple John, “Behold your mother!” We all receive Mary to the level that we want to receive her. When we invite her into our lives, she truly helps us live in the Divine Will of her Son so that we can be joyful, holy and find our way to Heaven no matter what the obstacles. This is the goal for all of us. 

AW: We have had some fantastic guests on the show and audiences are really responding. We recently spoke with Colin Nykaza who has a beautiful devotion to Our Lady and works to evangelize young adults in New York under Cardinal Dolan.
(Colin’s story is here.)

As a communicator, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen is near and dear to me – so this past week we featured Rosemarie Holliger Costello, cousin of Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, the New York Emmy Award Winning Bishop on track for sainthood. Pretty cool to have the family of Bishop Sheen on the show! Rose shared about a little known gift that Sheen had (and has as an intercessor) – the gift of matchmaking!

(Listen to Rose’s personal testimony about her cousin Bishop Sheen here.)

Sean O’Hare, an entrepreneur in Manhattan came on the show to talk about his work with Tim Tebow and the Night To Shine special needs prom. Sean is a man who is building a culture of life in the Big Apple. He also shares about a powerful experience that he had at Lourdes, France.(Listen to Sean here.)

This weekend we will air our show with Danielle Bean, a wife and mom working to help other women know their worth and next we feature a man named Frank Kelly from Boston, MA. Frank was electrocuted with a lethal dose of electricity and left for dead  – he not only lived but he had a supernatural experience with Saint Padre Pio and Jesus that transformed his life. Frank now shares his faith and gift of healing around the world. Upcoming I will feature guests who are living the faith in Hollywood and doing huge things in the industry while living a bold witness as Christians. I will also feature real men and women living a powerful witness of faith in the every day life. I want this show to appeal to both women and the men. So we are doing to do a show on true masculinity and how to live out those God given traits. I think the ladies will be interested in that show too!


AW: This is a beautiful title for Our Lady as she is the “new” Eve. What Eve tied up in knots in disobedience in the Garden of Eden, Mary comes to untie that knot with her obedience and Fiat to our Lord. The Annunciation passage in scripture is my favorite because it’s the point where we encounter Mary and how God invited her to collaborate with Him in the work of Salvation. He invites her to participate and that invitation requires a response. Her “yes” and collaboration with God’s grace sets us free. There is a beautiful novena to Our Lady of Undoer of Knots that the Holy Father is promoting and it’s very powerful. I feel like this is a devotion for our time. If there are any knots of confusion, sin or brokenness in your life, when you entrust these areas of your life to her, she will undo the “ribbon” of your life and enable you to say “yes” to the things of heaven and “no” to the things that are ultimately not of God.  Mary’s “yes” is the model for how we are all to live in radical trust and ready response to God’s call on our life. 
AW: I never saw myself in Hollywood! I never saw myself hosting a national radio show! So I think the key is to take it one day at a time and be open to God’s plans for how he wants to use any one of us. Two years ago I was in Boston and in the suddenness of God, I am catapulted back into the film industry by day and have this new arm of evangelization through radio that God is opening up. In my life I have just learned when it comes to His plan, you keep moving as he prompts one day at a time! It’s all for Him and there is no time table with Him.

AW:I would say this: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and God condescended to the earth and became manifest as a baby using Mary as the instrument of this Salvation history! God uses Mary as a vehicle of transport. He could have come in power or majesty but he comes as a small baby, as the least and most dependent. He passes through woman, and not just any woman. Mary is highly favored and conceived without sin. It’s just so symbolic of how God invites us now to let our very selves also pass through Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Mary leads us always to Jesus. As she held Jesus in her arms. She holds us in her arms. She was united to him in His coming and united to Him in His dying on the Cross. She helps us to understand the mystery of His incarnation and what it means for our life. . our suffering, how to live and grow in holiness, in saying yes to the things God is asking of us – she is our example in all of our life’s journey.  
As a former journalist and as a PR pro, storytelling is really at the heart of all of this work. The story of our lives as mingled with Christ and heaven –  the adversity, the overcoming, the miracles, the losses, the restoration, the redemption – all the drama that is the tension of living a life for Christ in a modern society become some of the greatest stories that the world could ever know! These stories of faith and witness are like new “acts” of the apostles and can become the impetus for others to encounter Jesus through Mary. These stories must be told. And like any good PR gal… if you have one, please let me know!

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11