The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is an American conservative evangelical Christian religious television network and production company. Founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, its headquarters and main studios are based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States. CBN has been described as having been “at the forefront of the culture wars since the network’s inception in the early 1960s.”
CBN was founded in 1960 in Portsmouth, Virginia by Pat Robertson, who had recently become a born-again Christian. In late 1961, he began broadcasting religious content, funded by small donations from individuals and local churches. One of the company’s mainstays is The 700 Club, which uses a religious variety program that mixes sermons, interviews, and religious music (such as hymns and gospel). The name refers to a fundraising drive where Robertson successfully sought 700 viewers willing to contribute $10 a month to sustain the station. The 700 Club is the longest-running program in the variety format. Initially focused on devotional content, The 700 Club became increasingly political in the late 1970s, adding news segments.
Today, the network’s journalistic branch, CBN News, provides news updates to The 700 Club and produces religious news programs such as CBN NewsWatch and Christian World News; it also produces a special hour-long block of prime time election coverage hosted by Robertson during American presidential and mid-term elections, airing on Freeform, which also carries The 700 Club and the half-hour talk show 700 Club Interactive. CBN also operates online channels on its website, such as the CBN News Channel.
CBN Asia manages Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation (OBI), an international relief and missionary effort, and has international programming, producing local programs including Solusi in Indonesia and From Heart to Heart in Thailand; CBN India produces three shows, a daily Hindi program Ek Nayee Zindagi, a bi-weekly Telugu program Nireekshana and an award-winning weekly Bengali program Samadhan. The company also produces versions of The 700 Club aimed at Latin American (Club 700 Hoy) and British audiences (The 700 Club With Paul and Fiona). CBN has broadcast programs in over 70 languages.
On April 29, 1977, CBN launched a religious cable network, the CBN Satellite Service. The channel was later revamped as the CBN Cable Network in 1981, and began incorporating secular programming alongside religious content. In August 1988, it rebranded as The CBN Family Channel (later dropping the “CBN” name outright in September 1990), before selling it to International Family Entertainment (owned by Robertson’s son, Timothy) two years later as the network became too profitable for CBN to maintain its nonprofit status. In September 1990, it rebranded as The Family Channel. IFE later sold it to News Corporation in 1997 (rebranding it as the Fox Family Channel in August 1998), which later sold it to The Walt Disney Company in 2001 (and rebranding it as ABC Family, now known as Freeform). The terms of the sale to International Family Entertainment stipulated that the channel continue carrying two CBN programs, including The 700 Club. It is often thought the deal stipulated that the channel maintain the word “Family” in its name in perpetuity, however this was later dismissed by network executives as an urban legend.
CBN now serves mainly as a production company for The 700 Club, and four other syndicated shows: CBN NewsWatch, Christian World News, 700 Club Interactive and The Brody File, a news-analysis program hosted by political journalist David Brody. CBN and Regent University jointly produced the film First Landing.
Some of CBN’s programs also air on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Cornerstone Television, FamilyNet, LeSEA Broadcasting Corporation, TCT and Middle East Television (which was founded and owned by CBN, until it was sold to LeSEA in the early 2000s), all of which are Evangelical Christian networks. The secular commercial stations that continue to air The 700 Club in syndication (along with Freeform) air CBN’s annual telethon during the last week of January.