‘The Bible’ miniseries extends reach with merchandising line

Published: Saturday, March 9 2013 9:40 p.m. MST

This publicity image released by History shows Diogo Morcaldo as Jesus, center, being baptized by Daniel Percival, as John, in a scene from "The Bible." The History network's first installment of the miniseries "The Bible" was seen by 13.1 million people Sunday, March 3.

Joe Alblas, Associated Press

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The first episode of the History Channel’s miniseries “The Bible” made a big splash Sunday with eye-popping viewership, according to Nielsen ratings. An estimated 14.8 million Americans tuned in to watch the miniseries created by reality TV godfather Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice”) and his actress wife, Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”).

With four more episodes still to come — the final installment doesn’t air until Easter — there’s little reason to believe the series won't pile up tens of millions of additional viewers. But even after “The Bible” finishes its high-profile first run, the miniseries’ influence will continue to reverberate thanks to an extensive merchandising line of study guides and books.

Last week, the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that “The Bible” is availing itself as a framework for Sunday sermons: “The real masterstroke of the (marketing) campaign may be the deal struck with Outreach.com, a Colorado Springs purveyor of church curricula and multimedia that Burnett says has a sales reach of 180,000 churches. Outreach has made a sermon package linked to ‘The Bible,’ for use in churches every Sunday during the five weeks of the History Channel broadcasts. … The $59.95 package includes ‘five customizable sermons featuring clips from the epic TV miniseries,’ along with a DVD home study guide, a viewing party kit and an advance copy of a book version of the series.”

Indeed, Bloomberg detailed Monday that, over the weekend, prominent pastor Rick Warren told an assemblage of several hundred clergy “he would shape his next five Sunday sermons around the series. He urged clergy, including others watching a webcast of the event, to do the same.”

In addition to the sermon kit, Outreach is marketing a line of materials that includes the entire miniseries on DVD, a DVD study kit, an “experience guidebook,” an 8-page Easter booklet, wristbands emblazoned with “I Like The BIBLE” and a novel titled “A Story of God and All of Us.”

Hachette Book Group published “A Story of God and All of Us,” which at the writing of this article ranked 196th on Amazon.com’s list of top-selling books. Hachette is also selling two other books related to the miniseries: “A Story of God and All of Us: Young Readers Edition” and “Reflections: 100 Daily Inspirations.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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