TBN Extends Reach Through Emerging Technology, Online Media
Brandon. Crouch is too young to remember the beginnings of the Christian broadcasting network his grandparents launched in 1973 from one tiny UHF station in Southern California. By the time he showed up on the scene, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) was well on its way to becoming the world’s largest religious broadcaster and America’s most popular inspirational network.
But as the third-generation family member to make Christian broadcasting his vocation, Crouch has taken it as his personal mission to make TBN accessible and relevant to the increasing numbers of viewers spending less time watching traditional TV and more time on laptops, iPhones, and mobile devices. “My grandparents, Paul and Jan Crouch, had a far-reaching vision that took Christian television around the world. And my father has led TBN’s expansion into the online and digital age,” he said, referring to TBN’s Chief of Staff, Paul Crouch Jr. “My goal is to reach that generation of young adults who are keyed into the social networking culture that has emerged through applications like Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.”
The younger Crouch has spent the past several years producing popular shows like Top Three and Cruise With a Cause for TBN’s youth network JCTV. Now he is using Skype as the major broadcast platform for his latest project, the weekly JCTV interactive show Off the Record. He explained that Skype has enabled him to spontaneously broadcast segments of his show from unconventional locales like international airports, New York City’s Time Square, and last month’s National Religious Broadcasters convention. More importantly, it has allowed him to have guests join him from anywhere in the world, as when he contacted a friend in Haiti just hours after the earthquake, getting an on-air video report of the devastation and need.
“There is a new generation of viewers who love Christian television, but they’re not satisfied with just being part of the audience any more,” he explained “They want to take an active part, to offer their input. And with technologies like Skype, along with all the social networking tools available to them, they’re becoming a more and more important part of the television experience.”
Recently TBN introduced an application that allows viewers to access all of TBN’s networks right on their iPhones. The TBN app is available on the Apple iPhone, as well as on the iPod Touch mobile device, and can be installed for free by logging on to Apple’s online store and typing in “TBN.” The download is automatic and gives users immediate access to TBN, America’s most popular inspirational channel, as well as the Church Channel, the JCTV youth network, Smile of a Child kids network, TBN Enlace USA Spanish language network, the Arabic language Healing Channel, and Nejat TV in Farsi.
“We live in a mobile society, where people just don’t sit down and watch TV at home as much anymore,” said TBN’s Chief of Staff Paul Crouch Jr. “But they still want access to their favorite programs, and TBN’s iPhone ‘app’ allows them to watch all of TBN’s channels at home, at work, on the road, or wherever they are.”
He emphasized that with TBN’s ever-broadening global reach and the increasing options for delivering programming to viewers, it is important to keep the ultimate goal of Christian television front and center. “Our mission today at TBN is the same as it was when my parents started this network over 35 years ago,” he said. “And that is to change people’s lives with the hope of the gospel. At the end of the day, our goal is still to make sure the good news we have is spread to every corner of the earth. And we are thankful for the level at which we’ve been able to do that.”
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