This time last year, ‘Hillsong Channel’ was nothing but an idea incubating in the brain of Matt Crouch –the boss of the US-based Trinity Broadcasting Network.
At the time TBN, which is the world’s biggest religious broadcaster, already had a ‘Church Channel’ running 24 hours a day. It featured all the big names in Christian television including preachers Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Joseph Prince and Joel Osteen.
But Crouch wanted to give the channel a revamp, and Hillsong was the church he believed had the right content, skills and heart to make it happen.
“They basically said, ‘we want to push reset on the Church Channel and bring the best of what Hillsong Church around the world has, to that platform,” explained Hillsong Channel’s content director, Ben Field.
“That’s where it all started.”
The idea was presented to Hillsong’s pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston over dinner, contracts were eventually signed, and four months and many sleepless nights later, the Sydney-based Hillsong Church launched their own branded 24-7 TV channel.
It’s now broadcasting worldwide to more than 100 million people.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
How To Build A TV Station In 4 Months Flat
In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings, Ben admitted the leadup to the channel’s July 1 launch was a frenetic period.
“That four month journey was an interesting one…no sleep!” he said. “But it was an exciting ride. I’ll look back to moments like this and think how amazing, that God would bring that opportunity to us, and give us the grace and the capacity and an amazing team really quickly to be able to facilitate it.”
Hillsong’s role is to fill 50 per cent of the channel’s programming time, with the rest filled by other preachers and ministries.
So that’s 12 hours of TV a day—which, even if you’re an international megachurch creating multimedia at every turn, is a tall order.
“As a global church we already run at 120 miles an hour, just getting weekends and conferences and everything done,” Ben told Emma Mullings.
“The thought of running then a channel 24 hours a day was daunting, but I think the reality of it didn’t really set in at the beginning, because it’s an amazing and miraculous opportunity. I think the excitement far outweighed the reality. Then over the next six months, that’s when we started to work out what it really takes to run a TV channel.”
How a Church Fills 12 Hours of TV a Day
Once Ben’s team realised that Sunday services and conference videos weren’t nearly enough to fill 12 hours a day, they begin collaborating with creatives to come up with new ideas.
New programs were born such as What’s Cooking With Young & Free (a youth show centred around music and food), Worship by Hillsong featuring the church’s most popular music, and What Do You See – a documentary-style teaching program hosted by Hillsong preacher Robert Ferguson.
Hope 103.2’s own Emma Mullings will present a number of the channel’s programs, including Hillsong Conference Live, a 20-episode program taking a behind-the-scenes look at the church’s 2016 conference in Sydney.
Ben said the process of building the channel has been a journey of discovery.
“God just had people come out of the woodwork that we didn’t know existed, that had a certain skill set, or had dreams to be part of something like that,” he said. “It’s been a real interesting journey to see…how God works behind the scenes preparing people and their hearts for the right time.”
Just A New Arm Of ‘The Local Church’
When the channel was in its planning stages, Hillsong pastor Brian Houston was determined that it wouldn’t deviate from the church’s existing mission: to share the hope of the gospel.
“The Hillsong channel is an extension of Hillsong church,” Ben explained. “It is bringing the best of what we do to the screen, to keep building the local church around the world.”
In addition to church-based programming, Hillsong Channel will present shows that help people with their everyday life.
“We’re looking at programming that looks at health and wholeness, how to help people lift their eyes out of depression and things like that, and forming programs that have expert opinions in those things,” Ben said.
He said the channel is keen to break the traditional mould of faith-based programming.
“I think the channel has the opportunity to shift the landscape of what has been perceived as Christian television,” he said. “How we do that, really is up to God.”
In Australia, Hillsong Channel can be viewed online at HillsongChannel.com, on Fetch TV, and will be available on Foxtel in the future.