Already equipped with its own Hollywood film studio, the Church of Scientology is furthering its media ambitions. The religious movement will launch a television channel, Scientology TV, tonight (March 12) at 8pm eastern time on DirecTV and several streaming platforms.
According to a pre-launch page in the Apple app store, the channel will air original series produced by the group, including “L. Ron Hubbard: In His Own Voice,” “Voices of Humanity,” and “Meet a Scientologist.” An advertisement for the new channel plays like a corny commercial for an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, and ends with a simple question: “Curious?”
Founded in 1954 by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology has grown into a religious movement with outposts around the world and some very famous members. It’s best known, however, for its slew of controversies, including, but not limited to: allegations of physical and emotional abuse, blackmail, wiretapping, homophobia, harassment, censorship, coerced abortions, and homicide.
A number of books and documentaries have recently investigated these allegations, which is perhaps why the church now wants its own, unfiltered TV network to present a different public image than the one created by its alleged misdeeds.
Based on the ads and the lineup of shows, Scientology TV is a network aimed not at current members, but at everyone else—including those who watched Going Clear or Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath and have come away thinking Scientology is less of a religion and more of a cult. Most estimates peg Scientology at around 20,000 to 50,000 members globally, with the majority of those in the United States. The church operates 104 outposts in the US across 31 states and Puerto Rico. Forty of its churches are in California, the state where Scientology is headquartered.
For years, Scientology has advertised during the Super Bowl for an audience of 100 million. A dedicated TV network is a much bigger undertaking—one usually attempted by organizations much larger than Scientology. There are dozens of Christian TV networks, for instance, but there are also more than 2 billion Christians in the world. The National Rifle Association, whose propaganda-heavy NRA TV streaming network has recently come under scrutiny in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, has around 5 million members.
Unfortunately for Scientology, the church picked literally the worst time to get into the TV game. The number of cable and streaming TV channels and series has increased exponentially in recent years—making it harder and harder for brands to stick out in the era of “peak TV.”
If this doesn’t work out, maybe Scientology can try Snapchat.