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Church AV Market Size a Confusing Topic

Jul 20, 2006 8:00 AM


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Getting a grip on the actual size of the AV market in worship communities—and the corresponding sales opportunity for manufacturers, dealers, and integrators—can be a daunting job.

Some help came earlier this year with the release of an updated study of Protestant megachurches by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (HIRR), part of the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. This study revisited the findings of a similar project conducted in 2000 and discovered some interesting changes over time in the makeup of the “megachurch” population and its worship practices.

Of course, megachurches represent only a small part of the total American religious market. TFCinfo has about 336,000 churches in its national database, for example, and Infocomm International cites a total of 310,000. The Hartford Institute, in contrast, reports the number of churches with a weekly attendance of at least 2,000 (HIRR’s definition of a megachurch) was 1,120 in 2005, nearly double what it was in the 2000 study.

Behind these generic numbers, though, the Hartford study reveals some key trends that will influence AV investments by large churches in the years ahead.

More than one-quarter of all megachurches employ satellite locations for their worship services, and at least half report using either multiple venues on a single campus or satellite venues.

Worship styles have been evolving, as well. More than 93 percent of megachurches reported using electric guitars and drums either often or always in worship services. This compared with a 78 percent figure in 2000.

Video projection is also being more widely embraced. In 2005, “visual projection” was being used often or always by 95 percent of megachurches, compared with 72 percent just five years ago.

During the 12 months preceding the survey, 96 percent of megachurch respondents reported they had maintained or launched a website.

Possibly most significant, Hartford Institute found the highest growth rates among the churches reporting worship services that included projection, electric guitars, and similar resources. “More recently founded churches are less likely to use choirs and piano but much more likely to have electric guitars and drums in the service,” HIRR notes.

What does all of this mean for growth prospects in the AV marketplace? It’s hard to say. The industry has had a consensus for years that the worship segment was among its healthiest and fastest-growing. For example, TFCinfo reports that $4.6 billion is spent on audio equipment for the church market. TFCinfo also forecasts 32 percent growth next year!

Those numbers are significantly larger than similar data reported by Acclaro Growth Partners in a study for Infocomm International. Released in 2004, that study put the overall size of the AV market at about $18.9 billion. Acclaro states, moreover, that education makes up one-quarter of that total, followed by corporate and government applications, with worship trailing those three categories.

Infocomm’s 2006 Market Forecast Survey reports that the worship market generated only 7 percent of revenues for North American integrators, dealers, and other businesses. This compared to 27.6 percent of revenues generated by the Business/IT segment and 22.2 percent by education.

Additional studies are underway, and may make it easier to get an accurate idea of just who is buying what, and spending how much, on AV technology in America’s churches.



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