Hometown Values Reflected On Screen & Now Streaming: Great American Media’s CEO Bill Abbott
“There is a desperate need for family-friendly, faith-based content, and that we’re filling that need.”
Great American Media’s CEO, Bill Abbot, talks about the company’s most recent merger with Pure Flix creating a 24/7 companion to Great American Family with uplifting films and series. We also chatted about the landscape of television, marketing and the way streaming has been a disruptor.
Great American Family has been the fastest-growing cable network for 10 consecutive months and the company’s highly-rated and highly-anticipated annual holiday program event, Great American Christmas, returns Friday, October 20, with the first premiere of the season, Saturday, October 21. The 2023 edition of Great American Christmas features 20 high-quality original holiday movies and around the clock holiday films from the network’s library. Great American Christmas originals feature beloved stars such as Candace Cameron Bure, Danica McKellar, Chad Michael Murray, Trevor Donovan, and Jill Wagner, to name a few.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Talk first about Great American Media. It’s continuing to grow with Great American Family, and now this merger with Pure Flix. For those that aren’t maybe super familiar, since it was just a couple years ago that you embarked on this, explain a little bit about the great thing you have here.
Bill Abbott: Well, thanks for recognizing that, first of all, that it’s only been a couple of years and we’re still growing awareness, and that’s our biggest challenge, because we’ve got such strong content and quality content with stars that people love. So discovery of it though is the biggest obstacle that we have.
And we’re now available in 50 million households in the linear cable space and the majority of platforms. And it’s a channel that celebrates life and celebrates positivity, and tries to uplift people, and tries to present stories that are high-quality and compelling. And at the same time give people a respite from the majority of the entertainment content that’s produced, that is dark and very not wholesome. And this gives people that opportunity to experience faith, family, and hometown values.
RM: Talk to me then specifically about what’s going on here with you, aligning with Pure Flix, and that now there’s this streaming arm. Will we see content that’s just created specifically straight to stream? Will it always be things that are aired on the broadcast channels prior? What does that look like, are you still figuring it out?
BA: Well, we’re figuring some of that out, but we do have a very strong strategy. And the reality of this merger/acquisition is that it makes so much sense in that we share the same values, the same principles, the same target audience, and the same way of looking at the landscape. And that is that there is a desperate need for family-friendly, faith-based content, and that we’re filling that need.
And I think that there will definitely be content that’s made for streaming. The beauty of streaming is that it can be different than a linear experience. And since you’re choosing what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, we can delve into more genres, from lifestyle, to being a little bit more dramatic, to being a little bit more … I think have a lot more variety than linear, where the experience is, if you’re creating a destination for a viewer, you want to always be that destination that really doesn’t change much. And so the focus on the linear cable side is much more on rom-coms and that lighter type of content. Whereas on the streaming side, certainly we’ll do rom-coms, but we’ll also delve into some of the topics that are a little bit heavier.
So we feel like we now have the best of both worlds. And there’ll be content that’s exclusively on streaming, content exclusively on linear, and then there’ll be content that will be shared as well.
RM: I can see you have your Christmas tree dressed behind you…
BA: Yeah, we’re migrating from fall on my left to Christmas on my right.
RM: …seasonal shows, especially Christmas, has been something that’s been so strong in your arsenal. And then as you’re continuing with Great American Family too. I’m ready to get in the Christmas spirit. What are some of those things we can expect coming out?
BA: Well, I think the beauty of what we’re doing is that we’re unabashedly faith-focused. And having Candace Cameron Bure on the team and a big part of what we’re doing, is a huge advantage. And unlike others in the Christmas space, we’re not running away from faith, we’re leaning into it. We want to present it as something that makes life better, that is positive, that reinforces people’s relationships and their emotions and their ability to deal with anything life may send their way.
And so that’s really the point of difference for us and something that is present in as much content as we can create that’s relevant. We don’t want to force it. We don’t want to just put faith in there just to check the box, but Candice is extremely good at creating content. Like her movie last year, Christmas Present, was a masterpiece, in that she really leaned in and created something that showed faith, part of people’s lives through the good times and the bad times, and how it helped uplift someone through each of those experiences.
And that’s really the way we want to present faith, and we want to be supportive of we believe the majority of the country, who is looking for content like this and who is driven by their faith.
RM: I couldn’t agree more. Having been in broadcast news for the past 20 years and you even longer, and film, I mean, the landscape has changed so much. I mean, rip the headlines this week alone. Rupert Murdoch, stepping down after 70 years of Fox. You’ve got Bob Iger with Disney trying to be like, “Let’s get out of this culture war.” I mean, it’s the wild, wild west. And I have to applaud you because I feel like you have figured out a decent pulse on what the majority of Americans actually want and have been vocal about, and now we’re able to see that reflected through programming.
Talk to me a little bit about some of these higher level discussions and conversations, because they have to be done delicately. Because we see Budweiser, you make one wrong move, you become a verb, right?
BA: There’s no question about it. I think that it’s always certainly a sensitive topic, but again, there’s room for everybody, and there’s room for positivity certainly. And there’s room for uplifting and overall supportive emotional characters who are experiencing the ups and downs of life.
And so I think that the lack of presence of family and faith, or when it’s included in entertainment and how it’s demeaned almost more than … It’s certainly more than it is celebrated, that’s where we really want to focus on that celebration. So we feel good about where we are.
And you mentioned that how things have changed, and I think the biggest change, Kelli, is that advertisers support that content now. Whereas 20 years ago, certainly, and even 10 years ago, they never would’ve run in a movie that was PG-13, much less sponsored something that was dark and vulgar and assaulted your senses. And because of that advertiser support and that lack of really curation of content in a way that doesn’t reward those who produce content like that, that has broken down the walls too. And it’s one of the big game-changers really that we’ve seen in the last period of time that has really opened the doors for anything goes.
RM: The whole idea of how the pandemic forced us to all consume in different ways, which just the idea of streaming has just completely changed the way that people consume. And so I think it’s fantastic that there is the opportunity within your whole media structure that there’s traditional, there’s streaming, there’s … What’s this new FAST?
BA: Yeah. Well, if you don’t have cable or you just go to HDMI2 I guess it is, or I’m not even sure, live TV, that you can consume a lot of different content, a lot of different places. It’s very confusing. Even for those in the industry like myself, it’s confusing, FAST and Roku and streaming and linear, and there are just so many ways that can consume your content. That’s also changed the way, certainly streaming.
RM: I appreciate the fact that you have the smorgasbord of them all so that no one gets left out of the opportunity to be able to engage and experience that. So I am excited about your upcoming slate and what you’re doing, and I would just encourage you to keep doing it, and I’m excited to be part of the process that brings awareness to the brand.