Network may add church-based dating show

Attention television executives: yes, there is an audience for this kind of programming. Take note.

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Spurred by the success of an original game show that rewards knowledge of the Bible rather than, say, how much grocery items cost at the supermarket checkout, the GSN cable channel is considering a dating show with a religious twist: congregations will seek suitable mates for single parishioners.

At an “upfront” breakfast in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday morning, GSN outlined its plans for the 2013-14 television season, a season that is being reshaped by the popularity of “The American Bible Challenge,” which was introduced during the 2012-13 season and is already back for a second go-round.

Still, GSN executives told reporters they were not planning on creating a channel dominated by faith-based programming. The network, they said, will continue to offer viewers secular shows like “Baggage”; “Family Feud,” in a new iteration with Steve Harvey as the host; “Minute to Win It,” which will have its debut on June 25 with original episodes and a new host, the Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno; and “The Newlywed Game,” also in a new iteration, with Sherri Shepherd as the host.

“We still need to be a broad-based channel,” said Amy Introcaso-Davis, executive vice president for programming and development at GSN.

Even so, the success of “The American Bible Challenge,” hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, is hard to ignore.

“Literally, it put us ahead of the game in the year’s most talked-about programming trend,” Ms. Introcaso-Davis said, referring to the renewed interest among viewers in programming with religious themes like “The Bible,” the miniseries on the History Channel.

“The American Bible Challenge” is the most-watched series in GSN’s history, Ms. Introcaso-Davis said, and “in general, it doubles” the ratings “of anything we’ve ever done.”

The increased viewership for the Bible game show, along with more conventional shows like “Family Feud,” helped GSN’s ratings grow among adults ages 18 to 49 as well as adults ages 25 to 54.

And GSN is enjoying “much greater interest from the advertising community,” said John Zaccario, executive vice president for advertising sales, adding that he and his colleagues had “signed over 100 new advertisers.”

The proposed dating show with a religious setting, called “It Takes a Church,” will ask congregations, pastors, friends and family to find a suitable potential mate for a parishioner who is single. Plans call for hourlong episodes if it becomes a series.

The show is a contemporary version of how “the ladies of the church are always trying to fix up the few single” parishioners, Ms. Introcaso-Davis said, and would be “aimed specifically at that new audience” that has been brought to GSN by “The American Bible Challenge.”

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