The houses of worship market is one of the fastest-growing in the entertainment technology industry. By some technical solutions supplier estimates, “up to 80%”of new installations or extensive upgrades are occurring in this vertical – and this trend is only set to continue, as more and more houses of worship look to extend their AV capabilities by adding high-quality audio solutions and video streaming to their production offering.
In this feature, ETECH presents some research into the top technological trends for the houses of worship vertical for 2020.
SERVICE AS PRODUCTION
Of all the entertainment technology sectors, houses of worship is arguably the fastest-growing, as churches and other religious spaces look to reinvent themselves as dynamic, interactive venues with cutting-edge AV technology. This trend, of viewing the traditional service, instead, as a production, is a natural way for houses of worship to compete with secular forms of entertainment such as live music events and has far-reaching implications for the technology industry, as houses of worship look to invest in a wide range of technologies, including new PA systems (the bigger venues often going for line array systems); professional-level microphones and monitoring solutions; LED screens and/or projection technology; and video capture technologies.
Although video capturing tools are essential for enlivening services – as the congregation can see the ‘action’ on stage more closely, as well as images of themselves on screen – perhaps the greatest advantage of a rigorous video capturing system is the ability to stream or broadcast the service online. This is the single biggest factor in the recent explosion of ‘mega’ houses of worship (particularly from the US), as congregants around the world can tune in and choose worship from the range of various VOD services afforded to them. This may require investment in a solid AV over IP backbone, though there are companies – such as Living As One – that specialise in creating technology to help houses of worship stream and manage online content and playlists.
Related to the explosion of streaming in the houses of worship market is the consolidation of congregations and the emergence of ‘satellite’ worship spaces. Simply put, a church or mosque’s ability to stream content online helps them to create a faithful audience – even if that audience is not close to the central venue in a geographical sense – and what this has resulted in is a proliferation of ‘satellite’ spaces, or the same church moving into new venues (often different cities but even sometimes across international borders). These satellite venues often function as ‘broadcast zones’, allowing houses of worship to exponentially increase their following with relatively minimal extra investment – an idea that savvy systems integrators have cottoned onto and will often present as part of their proposed (long-term) AV solution.
Perhaps the greatest technological trump card in the houses of worship market concerns the issue of risk and return on investment. Cutting-edge AV technology is expensive – and, when overhauling traditional spaces such as churches to make them future-proof and online broadcast-ready – the initial capital outlay can be eye-watering. However, houses of worship are perhaps uniquely positioned in that they can rely on at least two revenue streams to offset these costs: they have a loyal ‘clientele’, the worshippers, who often help to fund the church through tithings and donations; and they also have a venue replete with cutting-edge AV technology for anyone who wants to host events, conferences or concerts. Expect, as houses of worship continue to invest in technology while other venues lag behind, that these venues will become more multi-functional in nature.