Long known as a ‘preach and teach’ channel, the television network INSP is taking steps to reinvent itself as a family-friendly network with the intent of creating ‘lunge free’ viewing using a mixture of acquired and original content.
INSP, formerly known as The Inspiration Network, began in 1990 as a not-for-profit ministry focused network. In October 2010, the network was launched as a commercial supported family entertainment network.
Under the banner of the motto “Welcome Home,” INSP currently features classic dramas such as “The Waltons,” “Matlock,” “JAG,” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” among other acquired programming.
John Roos, Senior Vice President of Communications and Research at INSP, explains the thought process behind the comprehensive shift in the channel’s on-air content, saying, “Our research supports the theory that viewers want a safe place, a refuge, a place on the dial morning, noon and night, that they can go to, a place where they’re not insulted with poor quality shows and questionable material in commercials.”
Chief Executive Officer of INSP, Dale Ardizzone, further clarifies the notion, breaking it down a bit into simpler, yet very defined, terms, saying, “We live by the theory that you should never have to lunge for the remote, during either a program or a commercial, and we strictly adhere to that as there are other networks that may have family-friendly programming but then the commercial comes on and you’re not comfortable watching it with your kids. We didn’t coin the phrase ‘lunge free’ from out of nowhere, it developed naturally as we had discussions about the direction that we wanted to take. Now that’s we strive to be at all times.”
The adoption of this shift in their overall presentation has yielded positive results for the network thus far.
“The response to everything we’re doing has been very positive,” confirms Roos. “We’ve had huge growth in tune-in and the number of minutes that people stay with the network. All of that reaffirms for us that we’re onto something.”
The next major step for INSP is expanding their programming schedule.
As a first foray into original content, the network created a short form series called “Moments.”
“These are content pieces, two to three minutes long, that feature inspiration stories,” explains Melissa Prince, Director of Communications at INSP. “In our transition to an entertainment network from the more religious-based network that we’ve been in the past, we didn’t want to abandon that ‘inspiration factor’ that people are still looking for, so we’re using these as sort of a bridge from what we were to what we’re becoming. These pieces are interspersed throughout our programming using time that we could sell to advertisers but that we chosen to use this way instead because we feel these pieces are an important part of the message that we want to convey about our network.”
There are over 100 of the interstitials that, in addition to airing on the network, are also available on the website Moments.org.
Building on the success of “Moments,” Roos says that there’s plenty more programming in the works at INSP. “We’ve been developing original content for a bit now and we’re getting ready to announce our first wave of new material very soon. This will include some shorter form documentary-type shows and some scripted pieces as well.”
But, as with all expansion, there may be some growing pains along the way and this fact isn’t lost on the leaders at INSP as they’re well aware that any changes have the potential to upset viewers who’ve already become attached to the network’s current fare.
“One of the downsides is that many people in our existing audience have a sense of ownership,” Roos explains, “They have this passion for certain things. The degree to which they love us is fantastic, but they love us so much that they don’t want us to change, so when we add a program or move something we get phone calls and emails with people saying, ‘what’re you doing to my network? I want my show when I want it. I build my day around it.’ So there’s a fine balance that we have to maintain with adding new things while still staying with the things that our viewers want to see. That’s a challenge at times, but one that we gladly welcome.”
Given this kind of commitment by viewers, Roos, Ardizzone and Prince are well aware that changing the mindset about a television network is not an easy or quick task and that moving the network in a new direction will take a significant amount of time.
“There are hundreds of ways to re-brand a channel, but at the end of the day, whether you’re changing your programming or changing your name, it’s turning a barge not turning a canoe,” says Ardizzone, “You have to commit to the process and you have to be patient. We’re clearly committed, we’re obviously moving forward and we’re definitely being patient.”
To this Prince adds, “It’s a crawling, then walking, then running type of thing in our development process. Right now, we’ve started with ‘Moments,’ we’re acquiring more content, and we’re actively working on original material, so we really feel like we’re progressing at a very good pace right now.”
Having said all of this about their work, Roos mostly wants viewers to know that, “The network is certainly not what it was ten years ago, it’s not even what it was just a few years ago and even though there are parts of the day where we have religious programming, the overall feel and flavor is very different now. We know we still have a lot of work to do but it helps to know that given what we’ve seen from the audience so far, we’re on the right path. So, if people are truly looking for a ‘lunge free’ environment, they should definitely give us a try. We promise that we’ll stick to that motto and provide programming, including ads, that the whole family can watch together.”
Announcements about new programming on INSP will be made here as they become available.
INSP is available on most cable and satellite systems. Check your local listings for specific channel information.