The Church of Scientology on Sunday surprised the media business by unveiling its plan to launch the Scientology Network on platforms including DirecTV, Apple and Amazon starting Monday.
Scientology distributed a "network countdown" video Sunday afternoon via social media touting the launch of "a new voice, a new network" at 8 p.m. ET on March 12. The two-minute video obliquely references Scientology's battered reputation after numerous exposes about the group's practices and tactics in dealing with those who leave their orbit.
Actress Leah Remini and filmmaker Paul Haggis are among the former industryites who have sounded the alarm about the organization and its leadership. Remini toplines the Emmy-winning unscripted series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath for A&E Network. Documentarian Alex Gibney put a harsh light on the org in his 2015 HBO documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
The Scientology Network effort appears to be a stepped up effort by the group to address those critics. The countdown spot featured several young women talking up the org's offerings and hinting at the general public perception of its tarnished reputation. "The only thing more interesting that what you've heard is what you haven't," reads a slate on the promo video.
The promo materials promise six original series productions hailing from Scientology Media Productions in Hollywood. Scientology in 2011 acquired the Los Feliz studio lot that was home for decades to public TV station KCET Los Angeles. The video featured various scenes of activity on the lot and at other Scientology facilities, as well as a lingering shot of an "E-meter" electro-magnetic recording device used in the organization's instructional classes, and a shot of founder L. Ron Hubbard's ubiquitous Dianetics book.
Scientology promises the channel will be available on Apple TV, iTunes, Roku, DirecTV, Chromecast and Google Play, and Amazon's Fire TV. A rep for DirecTV and others did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The recent focus on the National Rife Association and gun -control laws in the wake of last month's high school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida, has raised public awareness of the growing number of corporately-owned channels that are gaining distribution on startup OTT platforms hungry for content. Apple and Amazon have come under fire for carrying the NRA TV channel that promotes gun ownership and the lobbying org's legislative agenda with numerous programs done in the vein of traditional unscripted reality shows.
Scientology Network appears to be another example of a well-heeled brand sidestepping traditional media and advertising platforms for a direct-to-consumer approach, with a 24/7 TV channel to spread its message. Scientology has been expected by longtime observers to beef up its high-end media production infrastructure after it acquired the KCET lot.
The grave concerns raised about Scientology's practices and the conduct of its leaders will also undoubtedly lead to pressure from activists on distributors who agree to carry Scientology Network.
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