Are churches a growth market for content delivery services? Internap Network Services (INAP) thinks so. Internap has a press release this morning positioning itself as "a preferred network provider for faith-based organizations," and highlighting several clients streaming sermons and Christian education programming.
“Faith-based organizations are moving online in rapid succession," said Tim Sullivan, chief technology officer at Internap. "The type of content they are distributing requires very robust streaming media and connectivity solutions."
Internap isn't alone. The EdgeCast content delivery network is also customizing its marketing to target video and audio sermons. "EdgeCast ensures that your church's sermons are always on the network edge, adjacent to your congregation, no matter where they are located globally," the company says.
The largest religious video portals are hosted by some of the industry's established players:
- GodTubeis hosted at Rackspace Hosting (RAX).
- Streaming Faith is housed at Multicast Media, which runs atop infrastructure from Sungard/Inflow.
- Trinity Broadcasting hosts with Savvis Communications (SVVS).
- Gospel.com, which aggregates hundreds of radio and TV ministries, is hosted by MCI Communications.
- The Salem Web Network: This network, which includes many top Christian web destinations and the LightSource video portal, hosts with Peak 10.
Internap noted research from The Barna Group showing that churches’ use of technology has grown in recent years, as 62 percent of Protestant churches now have an Internet presence, up from 34 percent in 2000. Barna's survey found that 16 percent engage in podcasting and 13 percent are blogging.
Although large churches and religious TV and radio ministries have embraced podcasting and streaming video, smaller churches tend to be late adopters of technology. Among churches with membership of 100 or less, the percentage with web sites drops to 48 percent.
"Many small churches seem to believe that new tools for ministry are outside of their budget range or may not be significant for a church of their size," said George Barna of The Barna Group. "It may be, though, that such thinking contributes to the continued small size of some of those churches."
Fifty nine percent of Protestant churches in the U.S. have 99 members or less, while just 2.5 percent have 1,000 or more members, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Those small churches could represent a growth market for Internet hosting and content delivery, but that may require a culture change.
"The fact that market penetration of digital technologies seems to top out around two-thirds of the market could easily change if the digital-resistant churches conceived ways of facilitating their vision through the deployment of such tools," said Barna. "That is what made these tools so appealing to larger churches: being able to apply the tools to furthering their ministry goals."