BOSTON — If cable viewers let their local cable providers know that they desire another Catholic network, Boston’s CatholicTV could soon be airing across the country.
The network recently signed an affiliation agreement with cable giant Comcast and is signing a similar agreement with Charter Communications.
“We’ve been working with Comcast for two to three years,” said Bonnie Rodgers, director of marketing and programming at CatholicTV. “Now that the agreement has been hammered out, we’re reliant on Catholics to tell their local carriers that they want our programming.”
With the addition of CatholicTV, that brings Comcast’s Catholic content to two stations. Comcast already carries the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The agreement did not cost CatholicTV any money, but will allow the network to bring its content to more people nationally.
“Catholics make up 25% of the population,” said Rodgers. “We deserve more than one station, and probably more than two.”
CatholicTV has a long history. It began broadcasting on Jan. 1, 1955, originally airing the Mass for homebound Catholics. Later, it acquired a license and began broadcasting on its own channel. In 1983, the network began supplying television via cable. Currently, it is seen on cable systems in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, California and Louisiana.
“Everyday, CatholicTV hears from viewers around the country who are anxious to benefit from the programming our network provides,” said Father Robert Reed, director of CatholicTV. “We are honored to provide Comcast with uplifting entertainment and compelling family programming that reflects the diversity of our nation.”
One viewer who is delighted about the addition is librarian Mary Casey of Hanson, Mass.
“With all of the pain and challenges facing the Church, I view CatholicTV as a bright light for Boston and the Catholic Church as a whole,” said Casey. “They use every means of communication to bring the important Gospel message. I’m always looking for ways to deepen my Catholic faith and really feel like I’m part of their family.”
Casey said that she has been watching the network since she was a child. She said she frequently watched CatholicTV with her teenage sons, who are now 20 and 14.
In addition to watching it on TV, Casey said she appreciates the station’s outreach with new media.
“They’re using bold, innovative and creative means to evangelize and deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Casey. “They’re meeting the younger generation on Facebook and Twitter, with their on-demand programming on the website, and their iPhone application.”
In addition to offering streaming content and on-demand programming over the Internet, CatholicTV has created Carrier Faith, their iPhone application, and CatholicTVjr, a widget (online tool that can be added to a website; see this Register story) that’s offered free of charge to Catholic parishes, communities, organizations and dioceses.
The Diocese of Grand Rapids, Mich., and a diocese in India are currently utilizing the widget on their websites.
The network also publishes a monthly magazine that highlights the station’s programming, and it has experimented with 3-D on television and the Internet.
The network was recently awarded a Gabriel Award for “Religious Television Station of the Year” by the Catholic Academy for Communications Art Professionals.
The station offers news, talk, entertainment, international event coverage and devotional series, as well as live Sunday Mass and the Rosary. The network’s schedule includes creative content such as religious cartoons, a Catholic trivia game show (see this Register article), a movie review program featuring two Archdiocese of Boston priests, and a reality-style show featuring local Catholic families.
In addition to its regular programming, the network has made vocations promotion a priority.
“Cardinal Sean O’Malley has said that vocations are everybody’s business,” said Rodgers. “That’s our goal.”
CatholicTV has created a block of programming known as “The Call,” during which they allow vocation directors and lay apostolates to tell others about their charism and ministry. The programming airs five times per week.
Rodgers said that it’s less likely for youth to encounter religious in schools today, so new methods need to be found of reaching them with the vocation message.
“If they have that encounter in their living room [via TV], there might be an opportunity to plant this little seed,” said Rodgers.
CatholicTV’s website features a page where they are encouraging individuals to sign a petition that asks their local cable operators to include CatholicTV as part of their programming. They hope that the network will be available across the country within five years.
“We get notes from people all over the world who watch CatholicTV from our website,” said Rodgers. “That motivates us to seek out these cable agreements, knowing that our programming is making a difference for the universal Church.”
Tim Drake is based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.