A NEW television service directed at members of the Christian faith claims it can rival Netflix with its religious programmes – which are strictly limited to biblical topics and contain no swearing, violence or explicit material.
The New Faith Network, which describes itself as the Christian alternative to Netflix, has just launched in Ireland, offering a streaming service for films, television series and original productions based entirely on Christian values.
Marketed towards Christian individuals and young families, all content is screened to ensure it meets strict criteria.
Unless directly relevant to the story of Jesus Christ, violence, profanity and nudity are prohibited.
The company even removed material which featured magical themes last year, following a negative response from multiple subscribers.
CEO Henk Bout explains how the organisation handles the process of handling criticism.
“We ask our viewers what they think and we have a group of pastors who help us to decide in these matters,” he says.
Controversial social issues, such as reproductive rights and marriage equality do not feature in any of the platform’s content.
But Bout claims that New Faith Network does not have a political agenda.
“We want to inspire and we want people to connect with each other.
"We think discussions about abortion and gay marriage should be answered in local churches with the pastors,” he told The Irish Post.
After first breaking into the market in the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, the Dutch company claims it received thousands of requests from Irish residents for the service to be made available in Ireland.
Bout now believes that same Irish audience can help diversify its offering.
“We would like to invite Irish content owners, professional or not, to submit their content to our editors so we can have a look at it and consider publishing it on our platform,” he confirmed, before adding that he would welcome the contribution of productions in the Irish language, noting that the company employs a large team of translators to ensure correct subtitling.
Not only does this expansion to other cultures support homegrown projects, it fosters unity within the Christian community, he claims.
“It gives a very nice local flavour and it connects the different Christian people,” Bout explains.
The idea to spread the Christian message in Europe through broadcasting came to Bout when he was a teenager.
Struck by the growing influence of video, he realised the importance of utilising modern media to promote Christianity.
His vision was initially rejected by his traditionalist father: “I had some arguments when I was 17 with my father about how you bring the story of Jesus to young children - he didn’t agree with what I proposed.”
Intent on demonstrating the value of television and film in evangelism, he persevered and founded the New Faith Network in 2017.
Its launch in Ireland comes at a time when religious practice in the country is at an all-time low.
Only 35 per cent of the population attend mass weekly - down from 91 per cent in 1973.
This decline can be attributed to a number of factors, including the exposure of the Catholic Church’s crimes against children throughout the twentieth century.
Although Bout acknowledges the difficulty in reversing this decrease, he hopes that the service can help to attract people back to the faith.
“It’s a very high target, but we would be very happy and proud to see that happen as a result of what we are doing.”
In the meantime, New Faith Network’s mission is simple: “Our primary goal is to present the best story ever told in the best possible way.”