CHARLOTTE -- TV reruns starring Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker? "Best of PTL" DVDs?
Either could happen, said an Atlanta investment banker who plans to sell 15,000 hours of original videotapes from the old PTL Club TV shows at an auction next month.
Ben Dyer, president of Gospel Properties, said he has heard from several possible bidders. They're interested in digitizing these master recordings of the shows featuring televangelism's most famous couple. Then, they would present them on cable and satellite TV, on DVDs or as streaming video on the Internet.
Bakker spokeswoman Shar Graham said she was told the tapes have been appraised at $8 million.
The tapes feature Christian talk-shows from 1974 to 1987, including "The Jim and Tammy Show," "Tammy's House Party," and "Breakfast with Jim and Tammy."
"You put them all on a satellite channel, and you wouldn't have to hit 'repeat' for three years," said Dean Becker, vice chairman of Ocean Tomo, a Chicago-based merchant bank that auctions intellectual property. His firm will handle the "PTL Library" auction March 27 at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco.
The PTL (for Praise the Lord) empire in Fort Mill Township, included a hotel, campground and Christian theme park. The centerpiece was always the TV programming, beamed to millions each day. Fans smiled and skeptics winced as Jim Bakker offered upbeat sermons from the couch and Tammy Faye, shedding mascara-tinged tears, sang about Jesus. Guests over the years included Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Pat Boone and Art Linkletter.
It all came crashing down in 1987 amid scandal: Jim Bakker paid hush money to keep church secretary Jessica Hahn quiet about their sexual encounter, and PTL defrauded thousands of followers by overselling "lifetime partnerships" in Heritage Village.
The Bakkers eventually divorced. Jim Bakker went to prison for fraud. And in 2007, Tammy Faye Messner died after suffering from colon cancer.
Despite all this disgrace and unhappiness, Dyer and Becker both insist that nostalgia and a hunger to hear the Christian message delivered in a professionally produced setting could make 20-year-old PTL shows popular again, especially with evangelical Christian audiences.
"Many grew up with this playing in their living rooms. It's feel-good," said Becker. "And of all the potential buyers, not one has brought up that Jim and Tammy had a fall. They just focused on the content."
Dyer points to the proliferation of 24-hour channels that show vintage TV and inspirational fare.
"Look at the TV Land (channel), which shows reruns of 'Leave it to Beaver,'" he said. "Baby boomers would enjoy watching Jim and Tammy for nostalgia. And their shows have a timeless Christian message."
There's also the curiosity factor: "People can watch these shows knowing how their story ended. It makes them even more intriguing to watch."
After the fall of PTL, Dyer said, its video vault was given to a Charlotte area church he could not identify. Then it was purchased by a cable content provider -- Dyer wouldn't name him -- who planned to use excerpts on a TV music channel. Dyer got the 15,069 tapes (now stored in Georgia) after the cable provider defaulted on a loan from Dyer's company.
Instead of trying to broadcast the PTL shows through Gospel Properties, Dyer said, he decided to auction them to companies that have a track record.
Besides the tapes, the PTL cache includes 16,646 slides, negatives and production stills.
Has Dyer heard from Jim Bakker, now remarried and a televangelist in Branson, Mo.? "We've had conversations with his family," Dyer says, "and we may have further conversations."
Graham, Bakker's spokeswoman, said: "He's glad to see they're preserved somewhere and in good shape. They're part of his legacy."