GMC TV gets a name change to UP but keeps focus on faith-friendly programs, executives say

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – First it was Gospel Music Channel, then it became GMC when it expanded beyond music programming. Now the cable channel said it’s changing its name again, but not its identity.

Beginning Saturday, the 8-year-old channel will be reintroduced as UP.

Don’t call it a “rebranding,” said Charles Humbard, the channel’s president and CEO, who started his broadcasting career with his TV-minister dad, Rex Humbard, and was an executive with Discovery Networks.

“We’re ‘refacing’ or renaming the network to be clear about what we really stand for as a brand,” he said. “For us, the move to UP is a way to very succinctly say something that’s always been.”

The Atlanta-based channel’s focus on “uplifting and faith-friendly entertainment” will continue with an expansion of its mix of original movies, plays and series and reruns of network programs, said Brad Siegel, its vice chairman.

On June 7, UP will introduce “Family Addition With Leigh Anne Tuohy,” its first original reality series. Hosted by Tuohy, who was portrayed in “The Blind Side” movie, the program will follow families through the adoption process and help with a home makeover.

“Bullock Family Ranch,” another reality show debuting in July, is about a Florida couple who have taken in more than two dozen teenagers whose hardships range from homelessness to gang life.

In its recent presentation to advertisers in New York, UP also announced seven new movies that include the holiday titles “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas,” starring Drew Lachey, and “Silver Bells,” with Bruce Boxleitner.

The programming schedule, which is bookended by the music video blocks “Uplifting Urban,” ”Uplifting Pop” and “Uplifting Country,” includes repeats of dramas and sitcoms including “Touched by an Angel” and “Moesha.”

The ad-supported basic cable and satellite channel, available in about 62 million U.S. homes, did a road test of the new name and found significantly more people said they would watch UP over the alphabet-soup GMC.

“This is how much of a roadblock that GMC was to some people,” said Siegel. “They didn’t know what it stood for or what to expect.”

“Its new name is more in line with the type of programming they’re offering viewers,” said analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. “It’s probably got wider appeal than gospel music.”

It’s also part of a trend in which generally lower-rated cable channels reboot themselves in order to boost ratings and revenue, Adgate said. He cited examples including the planned changeover of the G4 channel to Esquire Network.

GMC has been drawing its biggest viewership — in the 300,000 range — with theatrical movies and its original films, according to Nielsen Co. figures. It ranked among the top 50 channels for women ages 25 to 54 in 2012, according to GMC.