July 7, 2017, was not just an ordinary day for the Communication Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South American Division (SAD). That day five years ago marked the launch of Feliz7Play, an online platform for series, films, and documentaries that has become one of the largest forums of value-based content in the Adventist Church.
Feliz7Play was the result of careful research with internet users to find out where the needs and the demand were in that area, leaders behind the initiative said. Its name reflects the goal of catering primarily to Adventist children, teens, and young adults, providing them with biblical content they could watch, especially on Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath.
“The term happy and the number seven refer directly to the Sabbath as a traditionally different, joyous day, seen by Adventists as a memorial of divine creation. It is a day when church members and their families engage in a different set of activities,” the founders explained.
Of course, as leaders pointed out, the Feliz7Play platform is not restricted to Adventist members, and currently it attracts viewers from other Christian and even non-Christian faiths.
“It reaches people who wish to see deep content that leads to personal reflection in a very popular format,” leaders explained. “Feliz7Play has an educational goal, as it seeks to bring to the forefront various topics from a biblical perspective.”
Now at five years of age, the platform is reaching new heights, SAD digital strategies manager Carlos Magalhães said. Magalhães, who holds a master’s degree in cinema, religion, and worldview from Walla Walla University, is considered the mastermind behind the initiative.
“Feliz7Play’s monthly average of unique viewers is currently two million,” Magalhães said. “Content can be accessed through the website, an app, YouTube, and Vimeo in Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian Sign Language, and some videos also in English.”
According to Magalhães, teenagers are their primary audience. “Most content is produced with teenagers in mind, by thinking about the quandaries they usually face,” he explained. “They have welcomed our efforts, which include reaching out to them through various social networks. It has been a successful strategy, something that connects church leaders and older members with the new generations.”
Careful Production System
Magalhães also discussed the production system and the organization behind the launch of new products. He explained that decision-making regarding new productions takes place in three ways.
“First, every year we launch online surveys and surveys for our audience to tell us which topics and formats interest them most,” Magalhães said. “Secondly, we monitor comments on our social networks and the behavior of teenagers in general. Finally, we look at what are the main topics that the church is planning to address with this audience.”
Out of this research, Magalhães explained, Feliz7Play leaders create a list of topics and formats and then look for Christian producers and screenwriters who can develop narratives in that regard. It is a nonstop enterprise, he emphasized. “Our goal has been to release new content every Friday,” Magalhães said. “Our audiences are used to it, and thus they can look forward to it.”
The Power of Audiovisual Resources
Someone might say that using audiovisual entertainment can take away the focus from the biblical text or even misrepresent the preaching of the gospel, Magalhães said. But it doesn’t have to be so, he emphasized.
“We agree that audiovisual resources are very powerful in their ability to influence,” Magalhães said. “However, they can be used for positive and negative purposes.”
Used in a positive way, Magalhães said, audiovisual resources can encourage deeper biblical research, assist in the retention and memorization of biblical stories, and clarify and exemplify abstract biblical concepts through sound and images.
Magalhães said leaders are now planning to make Feliz7Play content available on more devices, such as those which use the Alexa assistant, and on other SmartTV models besides Samsung and LG, the ones currently used.
“We have several movies, series, and 3D animations scheduled for 2023 in Portuguese and Spanish,” Magalhães said, explaining that at the same time, they would like to increase the platform offers in English.
According to Magalhães, other major projects are in the works. “For 2023, we are also planning to launch a Feliz7Play movie theater in the metaverse,” he said.