Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Positively different (Part 2). As previewed here yesterday, family viewing is getting a bit safer and easier to navigate with today’s debut of Dove Channel.  The new direct-to-consumer over-the-top (OTT) digital streaming subscription service is a partnership between the well-regarded family entertainment review group known as The Dove Foundation and Cinedigm, a leading independent content distribution company

To put it simply Dove Channel is a family-friendly Netflix. The subscription service, available on mobile devices and smart TVs, offers a vast library of handpicked family, faith-based and kids’ programming that puts safety and quality control at the parent’s fingertips. All program content on Dove Channel is sortable and searchable utilizing the Dove rating system that ranks entertainment choices in six key criteria, including sexuality, language, violence, drug and alcohol use, nudity and other. The one-of-a-kind programming interface is made to be customized by parents to reflect the values and content they want to expose their families to.

At a pretty low cost of $4.99 a month, Dove programming can be viewed across a broad spectrum of connected mechanisms including Roku Players/TVs,  Android and Mac iOS devices, Samsung Smart TVs, the web, and mobile and tablet devices.  The channel can also be viewed on multiple devices within each family. For those who don’t want to shell out five bucks a month, a free commercially-supported version of Dove Channel is also being made available — though some content will be withheld for subscribers only.

The channel features acquired programming from a vast menu of family and faith-friendly content from the Cinedigm library.  As time goes on the channel also plans to offer more and more original programming. The first exclusive offering on Dove Channel is Austentatious, a TV series that will be available on the digital platform exclusively for the month of September. The show is described “a totally modern take on the beloved works of Jane Austen (with) themes of family, friendship, love and career (to be) explored in ten fun-filled episodes.

The channel plans to offer all genres of movie and television programming including comedy, sci-fi, dramas, mysteries, action-adventures, musicals, documentaries, foreign films,  health/wellness specials and faith and Bible-based stories. Classic and vintage TV series offerings include Highway To Heaven, Swiss Family Robinson and The Adventures of Black Beauty. Kid-centric content includes VeggieTales,  Fraggle Rock and Davey and Goliath. 

Cinedigm Entertainment Group President Bill Sondheim calls Dove Channel “the new jewel in the crown of Cinedigm’s prestige digital subscription services.” He adds that “Families are more concerned than ever about quality control in their entertainment choices, and our extensive programming and Dove’s rigorous ratings system combine to deliver our promise that Dove Channel will always be the safest place for families to be in the online space.”

The nonprofit Dove Foundation has been curating family and faith content since the early 199o’s and has since grown to become a major force for  encouraging the entertainment industry to create, produce and distribute more quality movies and television shows that are appropriate for family viewing.   Each month, hundreds of thousands of visitors reportedly check in on The Dove Foundation site for up-to-date reviews of movies, TV shows, DVDs and books.

Dove Foundation Co-founder and CEO Dick Rolfe believes Dove Channel is a natural expansion of the organization’s commitment to making family and faith-friendly fare more accessible to those who want it — while also helping to filter out the other stuff (which is plentiful and all too easy to find).

“For a long time,” he says, “we’ve known the missing link in online family entertainment has been the safety issue, and Dove Channel offers a wide array of family and faith-friendly viewing choices for kids, parents, grandparents and everyone in between…We know that our content is in demand – our research has shown that Dove-approved films are three times more profitable than non-endorsed films.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rolfe about his goals for Dove Channel

JWK: How did the Dove Channel come to be and what is its mission?

DICK ROLFE: As you know, The Dove Foundation has been around since 1991. That makes us almost 25 years old. For that time, we have been an advocate on behalf of the family, encouraging Hollywood to make movies that families can enjoy together. We began by awarding those films that we felt comfortable with with the Dove Family-Approved Seal. We never saw ourselves as an adversary to Hollywood but merely as an advocate for the family. We were not in favor of pickets, boycotts or protests. We were in the business of encouraging and promoting the good stuff. Over time, the studios and the entertainment industry in general found it more appealing to have a movie with a Dove Seal. We became a value-added for those films that were looking for a family audience.

So, for 25 years we’ve been pointing people to movies that are family friendly or faith friendly — but now, finally, we’re going to be able to provide access to hundreds of those movies through technology which we are very grateful for. Because, with digital technology, we are now able to provide a library of Dove-approved movies — over 700 titles totaling over a thousand hours of programming that families can enjoy together.

This is an Over-the-Top or OTT channel, similar to Netflix or Hulu. It’s a channel that can be accessed on the internet. It can also be accessed through an app for iOS devices or Android devices. It will also be available on Roku. Eventually, most everywhere you can find Netflix or Hulu you’ll be able to find Dove Channel.

JWK: So, this is another option for cord-cutters and people who feel that bundled cable hasn’t been providing people what they want.

DR: Exactly. For years the consumer has wanted some kind of a cafeteria plan from the cable operator so that they can select specific channels that they want in order to make up a menu of listings that suit their particular interests. Some people may be very big into sports, so they want ESPN and all of the sports channels. Other people, like my family, are interested in the old movies so we’re looking more at the classic kind of films and the family-friendly stuff. The cable industry was never able to do that and make it work. This new technology with digital streaming allows families to be able to select a group of specific channel services they want to make up their own package.

JWK: I’m personally tired of edgy television and prefer TV series that are kinder and with a bit more heart than what you typically find on the networks today.  Will we find those kinds of shows on Dove Channel?

DR: We’re very excited about having some television programming and series which are really nice because, unlike the video-on-demand channels, where you have to pay for each movie that you watch, Dove Channel will be available on kind of an all-you-can-eat for $4.99 a month. So, binge watching becomes a really big thing with consumers when they have these types of channels. So, we’re able to provide six seasons of Highway to Heaven starring Michael Landon. We’re also providing Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye which was a very popular series on PAX TV.

JWK: And movies?

DR: There’s a wide variety of types of movies. There are feature films, animated films for kids, documentaries, comedies (and) dramas.

There’s one film starring Clint Eastwood’s son (Scott Eastwood) called The Perfect Wave which is a relatively new film that is quite exciting. It’s a biography based on a true case. It’s about a surfer who travels the world looking for the perfect wave.

JWK: Will there be much original content or will the channel consist mostly of acquired material?

DR: Initially, we’ll be mostly acquiring licensing to content however we do have some (programming) that we’ll announce shortly with will be exclusive to Dove Channel. There’s some new content that has been produced that we’re going to be able to license for Dove Channel but we can’t make those announcements quite yet.

JWK: Describing Dove Channel as a family and faith-friendly HBO is pretty passe at this point. You’re really a Netflix or Hulu for families.

DR: That’s a very good way to put it…The nice thing about it is that not only are all of the movies in the platform Dove approved but there’s even an option for families to further segment the titles based on the age of their children and based on their interests. So, if they (the parents) want more faith content they can select that. And if they want movies for all ages or movies for 12 plus they can make those selections and then put a password that automatically limits selections to the criteria that they’ve established. So, it really is very customizable. It’s ideal for moms and dads especially who have kids that may have tablets or other devices and want to watch movies on their own without mom and dad looking over their shoulder all the time. Once the parents establish the criteria then the kids are free to watch whatever they want to in that category.

JWK: What I think is great about this is that it not only gives parents and consumers in general the choice of supporting uplifting content but it also gives them the ability to avoid content that demeans people and the culture. With bundled cable, there may be a few good channels but they’re often lost in a sea of crap.

DR: Exactly. That’s true even with some of the services like Hulu and Netflix. I talked to people before that said they wish that Netflix would provide Dove-approved movies. Well, somewhere in the Netflix array of titles are Dove-approved films but you can’t find them and you have to wade through all of the garbage to get there. So, what we’ve done is pulled all of that out and created a walled garden of family-friendly content.

JWK: Besides movies and TV shows, will you have concerts and things of that nature?

DR: We’re talking to some other organizations about providing live simulcasts of concerts and other types of (events). We haven’t signed any agreements yet.

JWK: Would you ever have any interest in doing a traditional linear channel with programs scheduled throughout the day?

DR: Not at this point. We feel there are a great many limitations to a linear 24/7 channel. The tendency now is for consumers to want what they want when they want it. That’s just not available to them on a linear channel.

JWK: Where do you see Dove Channel in five years? Netflix began pretty much a distributor of acquired content but now is a major provider of original production. Do you see Dove Channel heading in that direction?

DR: Yes. In future phases of the development of the channel, we have it on our schedule to begin offering co-productions and to provide original content. As I say, we’re already negotiating with some content providers to do exclusive deals for new content.

JWK: So, it’s been a long way getting to this point but the Dove brand has come a long way.

DR: If people recognize the history and the value of The Dove Foundation and all the work we’ve done for the last 25 years in keeping families pointed toward safe entertainment, they will appreciate Dove Channel all the more because this is now a chance for us to provide not only information but direct access to family movies (and series).

IMHO: As regular readers of this blog probably know, I personally think the pent up market demand for a programming service like Dove Channel is very strong. It’s an idea whose time has truly come. For more information (and to subscribe) you can go to DoveChannel.com.

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

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