Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/17/23

If you build it they will come. With the traditional values-focused Angel Studios, the media streaming service that distributes the worldwide faith-themed series phenomenon The Chosen, now daring to launch a theatrical division, it seems Woke Hollywood’s tight grasp on the entertainment industry infrastructure is starting to give way. Further evidence of that is echoed by the recent debut of Canyon Star TV. The free family-friendly streamer featuring a mix of original and acquired programming and available via various outlets and devices is the brainchild singer/songwriter Joey Canyon who’s realizing his audacious vision with the help of seasoned industry professional (and co-founder) Kelly Kantz.

JWK: Joey, your show previously aired on RFD TV where Kelly was an executive. Is that how the two of you met?

Joey Canyon: Yes, it is. Actually, way back in 2011 I was in Nashville to record an album. Prior to that I had talked to Kelly on the phone from Denver where I lived at the time and told her about my show idea and that I’d like to meet her. During my week recording (in Nashville) I went over to the studios where she was and met her – and that’s how we met. I told her my idea. She liked the idea and two or three years later we had a sizzle year and they liked it. I have to thank Kelly for getting my show on the air.

JWK: Kelly, what was your role at RFD?

Kelly Kantz: I think at that time I was senior vice president of programming. I think I came in 2008. I moved from Dallas to Nashville and had five employees at that time. It grew until we moved over to some new studios and we grew some more. Then I started working on programming most all the time.

JWK: What happened then?

KK: After that time, I left and went to work for some other companies. Then I started my own company and Joey and I continued to have conversations for years about his dream to have a network and I decided to help him. We are good friends and we’re very proud of what we put together.

JWK: How did this conversation begin? It’s no small undertaking to start a streaming service.

JC: I can answer that…When my show was on RFD, I started a second season (and) wanted to do an hour show. They agreed but I just didn’t agree with the air time fees that they wanted me to pay. It was right then and there that I decided, you know, I’m gonna start my own television network. I wanted to do a streaming platform – an OTT platform. So, I just delved into it. I just learned everything I could. I met with people, read books, just everything I could to at least get started on it. I had some very knowledgeable people in that arena that were kind enough to help me with their suggestions and their knowledge.

JWK: What year was this?

JC: That would have been 2017.

JWK: So, you pitched your idea to Kelly and you both were kinda on the same page about it?

JC: Well, I really didn’t need to pitch her. She knew I left RFD and I said “I’m gonna start my own network.” She was very supportive. She said “Well, just keep me in tune. Let me know what’s going on.” I told her then that I’d love to one day work together. So, we stayed in touch. I kept her up to date with what was going on with the network all the time. Then, as she saw (the idea) growing and growing she became more excited and so on. She (came) on board maybe two years ago, putting in a little time and so on. It was early last year – maybe be January – that she started helping a lot with content and so on. She saw what it could become with both of us working at it and utilizing other people in the industry that we needed. We both saw that it was getting more exciting every day (and) every week until here we are all launched and happening.

JWK: A lot of people would love to start a TV network or streaming service but they don’t actually go out and do it. What made you think you could do it?

KK: Because everything is possible. We’re jack-of-all-trades people. We both are positive. We found the right people. We know the right people. Connections have a lot to do with a lot of things.

JC: We didn’t think we couldn’t do it.

KK: That never crossed our mind at all.

JWK: Wow! That’s inspiring! So, basically, you started running with this idea maybe five or six years ago but it sounds like it really started gaining momentum over the last two years or so.

JC: I think that’s fair enough to say, yeah.

JWK: So, an idea is one thing but what were the nuts and bolts of really putting this together? I know you had some connections so that was a start. I was on your website and you have quite a bit of programming on there. How’d you pull it together?

JC: First of all, you have to get the systems together. That ranges from contracts (to other) legal things (like) registering a company. I mean all of the legal things that need to be done to make you to make you legitimate. Then, along the way, on my end, I had to bring in investors to help with the costs. I mean from logos to you name it. Kelly’s significant role was acquiring content and talking to people in the industry (and asking) “When we get rolling, would you like to be a part of the network?” Well, I’ll let her tell you that part.

KK: For me, I’ve been in TV for a long time. I have a lot of contacts…and people that I’ve done business with that have programming. I told them…”You won’t be making a lot of money in the beginning at all but this is what we’re doing.” I can tell you that everyone I know jumped on top of it (saying) “This is for me!” I think a lot of that has to do with reputation. We said what we’re gonna do and we’ve done what we’ve said and we’re still moving forward every day. We’re upfront about everything and how it works and what those roles are and they’re just feeding us new programming and every day we have new shows. I put on four new shows yesterday. The programmers are fantastic! They believe in what we’re doing.

JWK: Your distributors include the likes of Google, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV. How’d you land them?

JC: We would attribute that to our developer who helped design and create the network online…That company was the one that went and helped get us those particular apps that needed to be done. They were a tremendous help along with all the other things that they do and the design of the network. Getting on those apps was significant for us.

JWK: So, tell me about your programming. I know it’s family-friendly programming but there are others in that space as well. What, in your minds, really makes Canyon Star TV stand out?

JC: Well, we have original programming. Let me just kinda toot my own horn. (There’s) my television show The Joey Canyon Show. We have no less, John, than 25 original programming projects that we are beginning to start to do as our funding comes in…We are designing so much original content that that is what’s going to drive people…It’s the original content that people will be coming to the network for. They’re just really great shows that we’re producing.

JWK: Do you want to talk about a couple of them?

JC: Kelly, why don’t you tell him about some of our original productions?

KK: Absolutely love to do that!…One of the cool things we have is Live at Billy Bob’s…These are concerts at Billy Bob’s with amazing artists. I mean (there’s) Charlie Daniels, Asleep at the Wheel, Willie Nelson, Shooter Jennings (and others). I mean they have a lot of programming. It doesn’t air anywhere else except for Canyon Star TV. We also have Hidden Heritage which is a Native American show about a gentleman who found out that he was adopted as a child (and) raised up in the Midwest not knowing he was a Native American. It’s kind of the discovery of his life once he was full grown (and) finding out after his parents passed away that he had been adopted from a reservation. He found his family back at the reservation. It’s a must-see show for sure.

JWK: That’s a reality show, right?

KK: It is a real-life show. (It’s about Paul LaRoche). He has a Native American band called Brule. They did a concert in front of Mount Rushmore…Goodness, we have so many things. We have fitness, we have gardening, we have sports. Glory Days is a good example of amazing programming. The show is about sports figures who make a lot of money and how they survive once they’re not playing sports anymore. Did they blow their money? Did they save their money? How did they create more dollars off that money?

JWK: I hope Tom Brady can survive. On that point, I take it that this isn’t just a money thing for the two of you, that you’re motivated by more than the money.

KK: I think both Joey and I are the same in (believing) that TV sometimes becomes pretty outrageous. It would be nice to be able to go somewhere and watch things that you like. You know, if you want to binge shows we have great movies, we have great documentaries. There’s a lot of cooking shows if you like cooking. We’ve even got Justin Wilson‘s old cooking shows. We have Paula Deen. We have Firehouse Kitchen (with retired FDNY firefigher) Ray Cooney (who) goes around to the firehouses (and talks to) the guys who are cooking in the kitchen for all the other firemen…(We have) Cookin’ with Butter (which) is not airing anywhere else. Butter is a musician out of the Nashville area. He was in a band called Trailer Choir. He is just a great fun-loving guy. I talked to him a couple of years ago and I said “You should create a cooking show” – and he did!

JWK: One selection I saw on your site is a film called Wild Faith which is described as a “developing TV series” that “portrays life in 1800’s Michigan, focusing on a Civil War vet trying to make peace with his losses and start a new life despite the world resisting change around him.” That series sounds like a pretty ambitious project.

JC: It will be. We’re associated with a production company here in Nashville that has some of these (projects) that we like – and they like who we are – so we’re gonna collaborate and put that together.

JWK: And that’s a scripted show?

JC: It will be scripted, yeah.

KK: (We’re also working with) a gentleman (and historical filmmaker named) Robert Lee Hodge. He has books out. He’s super-smart. I know him personally. This guy can tell you anything about history so these are really great things to be able to put on. It’s nice to be able to give people an outlet that they otherwise would not have. You know what I mean? Giving them the opportunity to explore their ideas and create really good programming that has a place to go and people who are gonna wanna watch it.

JWK: Are you finding that content creators, who may be frustrated by the darker kind of programming often being sought out by networks and streamers these days, are coming to you because maybe you’re more on the same page as what they want to do?

JC: We are. We’re not hurting for people that have ideas. We have tons of them coming to us. The problem is they want us to pay for everything. We have to be very careful who we pick and choose in that regard.

KK: For instance, this week I got four new shows (but) we are not just going to add any show either. You know what I mean? It has to be a show that we feel like is with the values that we have.

JC: Kelly is exactly right. We created this, John, for us to be a safe haven for families to watch television without concern of violence, profanity, sex, horror and gore. That’s why this network was created – so the whole family could watch any show on our our network.

JWK: Why is that important to you?

JC: Why is it important? Have you been on TV lately? That’ll answer your question. There’s not a creative mind in Hollywood these days that are putting things out there that are family friendly. It’s our responsibility and our duty to put family-friendly programming out there because (TV these days) is void of that, okay? That’s how we feel. Now, we’re not chastising those that want to watch what they want to watch. We’re not saying “Don’t do that.” We’re just saying if you want family-friendly programming come to Canyon Star TV. If you want to watch something else then you know where to go. I mean there’s plenty of that.

JWK: I notice on the site that you also have Canyon Star Radio. How does that fit in with everything? Is it like radio programming?

KK: It is. Joey, you want to explain to him what we want to try to do with the radio?

JC: Sure. We have a number of people such as Devon O’Day, Marcia Cambell and others that are well known radio broadcasting personalities and they have some wonderful ideas for radio shows that we want on our network (and) that we will help create with them…These individuals have some great ideas for shows (such as) interview-type shows in places that you wouldn’t even think. Some of it doesn’t even have to do with country music or anything like that. It’s just very interesting. We like all of what we’re gonna do with them.

JWK: So where do you seen Canyon Star TV in five or ten years? Are you gonna be another Netflix or what?

JC: Well, I think Netflix has got that niche pretty much handled. We just want to make an impact. We feel that we’re gonna be one of the popular networks out there. Don’t you think, Kelly?

KK: I agree. Listen, we want this thing to be big and we want to have quality programming that’s gonna make people happy and smile…and, yes, we’re gonna try to get on every outlet we can get on. We want to grow and we’re gonna continue to grow.

JWK: Anything you’d like to say as we wrap up?

KK: I’d just like to tell people to try us out. Take a look. See what you like. Let us know if you think that we need to have something on the network that you don’t see. Tell us. Let us know. We’ll be happy to do everything we can to get the programming that people want to watch.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

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

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