TBN Extends Reach Through iPhone App, Social Media
LOS ANGELES — The days of being tied down to a cumbersome big-box TV set in order view your favorite Christian programs are gone forever. Sure, you and your family can still enjoy an evening of uplifting and inspirational movies and shows in front of your home entertainment center complete with a giant flat-screen TV the size of a garage door. But today’s TV viewing options also include your personal home computer, your laptop, and even your iPhone.
“What’s that?” you ask. “I can watch inspirational television on my iPhone?”
Yes, that’s right! Trinity Broadcasting (TBN), the world’s largest religious broadcaster and America’s most popular inspirational channel, has introduced an application that allows viewers to access all of TBN’s 24-hour networks right on their iPhones. “We live in a mobile society, where people just don’t sit down and watch TV at home as much anymore,” said Paul Crouch Jr., TBN’s Chief of Staff. “But they still want access to their favorite programs, and we’ve developed an iPhone ‘app’ that lets them watch all of TBN’s channels at home, at work, on the road, or wherever they are.”
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.
Offering its networks to viewers via cell phones and mobile devices is part of a larger TBN strategy of using the latest technologies and most popular social networking applications to make inspirational programming accessible and relevant to the increasing numbers of viewers spending less time watching traditional TV and more time online. “There is a whole segment of young adults today who not only want the ability to watch their favorite shows from their iPhones and mobile devices, but they’re also keyed into the added dimension of becoming part of the broadcast experience through social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Skype,” noted Crouch. “During programs like TBN’s daily Behind the Scenes, viewers are actually sending in real-time comments and feedback through Twitter and Facebook, and we’re using Skype for live-feed broadcasts and on-the-scene updates.”
Crouch’s son Brandon, who is the third generation Crouch to make Christian television his vocation, is using Skype as the major broadcast platform for his own program Off the Record, which appears weekly on JCTV. The younger Crouch explained that Skype enables him to spontaneously broadcast segments of his show from locales like international airports, New York’s Time Square, or even the upcoming National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville. It also allows 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.
He pointed out that there is a new generation of viewers who embrace Christian television, but who aren’t satisfied with just being part of the TV audience any more. “They want to take an active part, to offer their input,” he said. “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.”
Paul Crouch Jr. 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 with a tiny UHF station 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 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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