As former president of the Turner Broadcasting empire, Bradley Siegel presided over the TBS Superstation and Cartoon Network and helped to make TNT the No. 1 basic-cable network in America four years running.
But Siegel told WND he and his business partner, Charles Humbard, recognized the need for a positive, entertaining alternative to broadcast television. While the top on-air and cable channels were pumping out programs he calls “denigrating,” Siegel and Humbard determined to create a new network that affirmed values, faith and family, but without sacrificing production quality.
In other words, Siegel said, he wanted a network families could enjoy and trust without feeling it was done “in a prudish, milquetoast sort of way.”
“Television programming was increasingly becoming very negative,” Siegel told WND in an exclusive interview. “It was relying on personal train wrecks, on salaciousness, on profanity, on things I thought were causing considerable harm to human values and the fabric of families, no matter what your faith.
“I believed, as did Charley Humbard, that there needed to be a place on television where audiences can get the same kind of entertainment values that they tune into the broadcast networks for, but without relying on the kind of denigrating, negative, exploitative themes that attract so many,” he continued. “So we worked very hard to create a network where families that want positive, uplifting, faith-affirming, family-friendly entertainment can still feel like they are watching an entertainment network, just like TNT or ABC or Discovery – only without having to jump for the remote because something’s on they find offensive or they don’t want their child to see.”
The result has been an unprecedented boom in popularity for GMC TV, now the fastest-growing network in all of ad-supported cable television.
Though Siegel’s GMC first started as a home for Christian music videos – an “inspirational version of MTV” as Siegel described it – the network has since expanded to include not only reruns of family favorites like “7th Heaven” and “The Waltons,” but also brand new, original programming and movies that are winning awards, setting records and even drawing more viewers on a Saturday night than many R-rated movies get in a whole weekend.
“We launched in 2004 in 7,000 homes in Tennessee,” Siegel told WND, “but we’re now in 55 million homes nationwide, carried by virtually every cable and satellite provider.
“Our recent, original film, ‘Raising Izzie’ was the No. 1 most-watched film on all ad-supported cable for a Saturday night,” he added. “For a young network like GMC, that No. 1 ranking for a Saturday night is extraordinary. It took us at TNT 20 years to do that.”
When asked how families are responding to GMC’s lineup, Siegel said the feedback has almost universally been, “What a blessing GMC is to our family.”
“We hear over and over, moms saying how happy they are that GMC exists and is now available in so many homes,” Siegel told WND. “Parents tell us, with the films and original programming we’re producing, that if they had their dream channel for their family, GMC would be that network.”
Siegel gave WND a list of some of the projects GMC has been developing:
- Last year’s GMC original movie, “The Heart of Christmas,” which drew 6.5 million viewers for its premiere and was just nominated for a prime-time Emmy
- This month’s “Somebody’s Child,” based on an award-winning script and starring Emmy and Academy Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield
- Premiering this Thanksgiving weekend, “Christmas Angel,” starring Della Reese, Kevin Sorbo and Tamera Mowry-Housley and featuring an original song by recording artist Mandisa of “American Idol” fame: Seigel calls it “the Christmas movie of the year”
- Debuting this November, a prime-time special called “I Forgive You,” produced by Arnold Shapiro, winner of an Academy Award and 16 Emmy Awards
- GMC TV is also home of 25th Anniversary of “A Very Special Christmas” in support of the Special Olympics.
Siegel explained how the network – which is now releasing as many as 16, original, GMC world premiere movies each year – is making waves in the entertainment industry as it’s becoming known as “the home” for family-friendly, faith-friendly films.
“People are beginning to see the quality – in production value and entertainment value – in our films, but still recognize the messages of hope and inspiration that we look for,” Siegel said. “More and more people in the industry say, ‘I love what GMC is doing, and I’m going to go pitch them my next movie.’
“There’s a reason we’re the fastest growing network in television,” he continued. “It’s because more and more people are finding us and want to see the kinds of original movies and series we’re doing, productions that are defining uplifting entertainment. And the more audiences see them, the more producers and writers and actors see them, and it becomes a snowball effect. People want to come here and pitch projects that other networks aren’t willing to do.”
Siegel shared with WND an anecdote that illustrates the radical divide between GMC’s programming and what most other networks are producing.
“We were at the Real Screen Summit, a big conference for the reality television and documentary industry,” Siegel said. “We talked to hundreds of producers of reality television, and they asked what we were looking for. We said we want to do original series and reality series with good people doing good things.
“And they say, ‘Wow, we have just the thing! The other networks used to want shows like that, but now all they want are train wrecks and salacious behavior and swamp people,’” Siegel continued. “All the shows that were good people doing good things – like ‘Extreme Home Makeover,’ for example – producers drafted tons of sizzle reels and pilots for, but networks are saying they don’t want that anymore. But we’ve become the beneficiary of that, for now GMC is looking for precisely the kinds of things the other networks are starting to run away from.”