Thanks in part to a hot Nashville real estate market, the Trinity Broadcasting Network has recently poured "millions of dollars" into the Hendersonville property once owned by country music great Conway Twitty.
At the center of the renovations that include 19 ongoing construction projects, according to TBN Chairman and CEO Matthew Crouch, is a state-of-the art television studio in which former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will begin hosting a weekly talk show this week.
Huckabee, who hosted a similar show on the Fox News network for six years before a second presidential bid in 2015, has been seen around town this summer dining at local restaurants and shooting promotional videos for the show that premieres Saturday on TBN.
Both he and Crouch spoke with local reporters on Monday about their vision for "Huckabee" - and how the world's largest Christian broadcasting network hopes to reach a wider, more diverse audience from its Hendersonville studio.
Birth of a network
Founded in 1973 when Paul and Jan Crouch bought one television station in Southern California, the Trinity Broadcasting Network now owns 38 full-powered television stations and more than 30 networks in 14 languages around the world.
Matthew, Paul and Jan's younger son, assumed his position following the deaths of his father in 2013, and mother in 2016.
TBN purchased the 33-acre Hendersonville property - a popular tourist attraction owned by Twitty from 1982 until his sudden death in 1993 - in 1994.
Crouch said his company is entering into a new phase with the launch of "Huckabee," a talk show that will focus on current events, special guests and feature a house band comprised of Nashville session musicians.
The show will be taped in front of a live studio audience on Fridays and air on Saturdays. The show's premiere will feature a White House interview with President Donald Trump.
"You can have the largest distribution system in the world but if nobody wants to watch anything that's on it, what do you really have? Nothing," said Crouch. "With Christian broadcasting, at some point, we need to deal with current events."
Crouch said he believes "Huckabee" will bring a "common sense" approach to issues people care about like the recent tragedy in Las Vegas and the hurricanes that have wreaked devastation on areas like Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas.
"We love his approach to common sense," Crouch added.
A town 'on fire'
Huckabee said the format of his new show will be similar to the show he did on Fox with some key differences.
"We won't engage in what I call political ping-pong [where you have] predictable talking points and your guests are often talking over each other," he said.
Another key difference, he added, will be the amount of musical guests and talent he'll invite on the show.
"It would be ridiculous not to assume that we're not going to have a lot of music," he said. "Nashville is a town on fire. It's become a destination."
The former governor says he's received a positive response from Hendersonville residents as well.
"We're going to give visibility to Hendersonville, but also Hendersonville is going to give a great boost to us," the host added. "It's not so much what we're going to do for them as what they are going to do for us because when I have been out in this community I have felt unbelievable hospitality here. We've been met with open arms."
Huckabee said there's already a waiting list for those who want to be in the studio audience.
"I am delighted that Mike Huckabee has chosen our exceptional city for his weekly national broadcast," said Mayor Jamie Clary. "He will bring attention to Hendersonville that will be invaluable to us."
Crouch admitted the city almost lost the new opportunity to nearby Nashville.
The California native and film maker who has several Christian movie projects to his credit said his company was attempting to buy property in Nashville, but the asking price was "more per square foot than we paid for our studio in Manhattan.
"That lead us to re-think this entire property and re-invest here," Crouch added. "And I'm glad we did."
"Huckabee" will air locally at 7 p.m. on Saturdays on TBN (Channel 15 for Comcast/Xfinity subscribers).
For free tickets to a show taping at Hendersonville's Trinity Music City, go to https://www.showclix.com/event/huckabee or call 833-HUCKABEE.