Media ProductionChristian Media

In Praise of Broadcast TV in an Online World

In my work with non-profits, religious organizations, an even businesses, more and more people are turning away from the TV broadcast world to the online world.  To some degree, it’s natural, and digital media should be an important part of your strategic plan for connecting with a larger audience or customer base.  However, in a world that’s crazy over online media, content producers shouldn’t forget what broadcast media does very well, and especially why you shouldn’t be too quick to walk away from traditional TV:

1)  When it comes to full-length programming, TV is still the king.  YouTube, Vimeo, and similar sites generate enormous views, but it’s still mostly short clips.   As filmmaker George Lucas described, “Videos of puppies crossing a freeway.”  He used that illustration to describe the way that YouTube captures attention and can be interesting, but rarely a long-form, compelling experience.

2)  As a result, TV is still “America’s campfire.”  Nothing online generates the type of water-cooler conversation that “American Idol” does.  For all the talk about “community” online, we actually watch online videos primarily as individuals, but we still watch TV in groups.  As a result, the experience is different, and in media and entertainment, that issue matters.

3)  Amassing a big audience online doesn’t yet guarantee big ad revenues.  The TV audience is a buying audience.  Online?  We’re not sure yet.

4)  TV & film content still drives most entertainment.  Even the most successful online entertainment venture – – for the most part is TV programming re-purposed online.  The most popular online programs are simply TV programs on a different medium.

Don’t get me wrong.  The world is moving online, but that doesn’t mean TV is going away.  Radio didn’t displace movies, and TV didn’t replace radio.  New platforms perform new purposes and don’t necessarily displace old media.  TV has a lot to offer, and in an effective media strategy, don’t forget that component.

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  1. Great word Phil!  As our consultant, you have showed us how to broadcast with a purpose and for that we are grateful!  For pastors considering a television ministry, here’s been our experience:  Our online presence is a must, but the truth be told, the unchurched still let the TV drive them before checking out a church online…church people go to the online presence before non-believing people.  TV stil dominates, so if you want to touch lives by the masses you may want to consider broadcasting on your local cable networks or at the very least creating good commercials to drive visitors to your church.  Just a thought.  Keep up the great work Phil!  The church needs what you have to say.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Phil.

    A church or ministry should keep all digital and traditional media options on the table.

    Integrated media synergy is a powerful ally to the communicator and his/her message … when each medium is used correctly. And there’s the rub.

    As you well know, it takes millions of dollars to effectively use radio, television and the internet on an individual basis. Only a handful of ministries successfully deploy all three. And digital technology is changing so rapidly that it’s a challenge for many radio/tv ministries to maintain balanced budgets and do the R&D required to take full advantage of the new technologies.

    It’s a dilemma for broadcasters.

    I see more and more churches of all sizes building media platforms, without using broadcast. Digital Missions and the Web Campus strategy are examples. Over 7,000 visitors jammed into the web campus of North Point Church for their inaugural live online service.

    I believe you said once before that a new business model is needed on the radio/tv side. You’re right. Stations and churches working together on innovative new approaches would be a good place to start, in my view.




  3. I also tend to agree. Traditional TV isn’t going anywhere…soon. Then again, as a formally-schooled still photographer, I’m the guy who raised his hand (circa 1995) and loudly proclaimed “Digital cameras will NEVER replace 35mm photography.” Good thing I didn’t work for Kodak.

  4. Great points, Phil.

    I was lucky enough to be asked to give a talk on “online distribution” two weeks ago, and, as an online content advocate and producer, I had to offer up some startling facts:

    • The average American watches 7 hours of online content a month vs. 151 hours of TV.
    • The advertising pool for TV is $60 billion, but only $1.6 for online video.  The online world is growing, but not so quickly that we should jettison all TV-focused dreams and plans.
    • 20 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute.  Your 3-minute video had better stand out.

    It’s obvious to me that TV is still (and will remain to be) a dominant social force.  But it also remains expensive to produce and difficult to “break into” for artists and creators.  So online content represents a unique opportunity to gather a niche audience — an audience you can faithfully serve that may not be reached on TV — for a relatively low cost.

    But, of course, if it’s cheap for you to upload/distribute online content, it’s cheap for everyone.  It’s all the more important to have some unique branding, artistry, message, or offer.  Competition the “online eyeball” is fierce.

    Appreciate your work in drumming up excitement for media, no matter how new- or old-school it is!  Keep it up!

  5. I like Alec’s comment as well.

    Yes, TV still drives our culture. The online world is just opening up and it offers an open array of choices and opportunities for us, lesser known producers.

    My experience is more with the Spanish-based religious media, which seems to be lagging behind not only in money and experience, but in thinking. This sector is just now beginning to see media as the great tool of evangelism it is, but they are still not willing to invest in it.

    Anyone else have any experience here? I would love to hear what you guys have to say.

  6. The online video world will dominate TV broadcast on one condition and that’s if you’re able to merge the best of both worlds – the convenience of the internet with the comfort of your home TV.

    As of right now, people limit themselves to a certain viewing length if they’re watching online because it’s just not as comfortable watching on a computer as it is a TV – straining eyes, smaller screen, no couch to sit on, limited space for others to join you…

    However, I have a feeling that it’s going to get easier and easier to display your favorite online videos right on your TV. Already existing conveniences include PlayStation3  with web browsing capabilities and XBox with access to NetFlix. Also, I’m guessing YouTube will probably catch on pretty quickly to the “genuis” phenomenon that Apple has started, making it convenient and compelling to sit in front of a computer for hours, especially if it’s being displayed on your television one way or another. 

    There are at least 5 television shows that I try and watch on a weekly basis. I don’t even know when these shows air or what channel they are on because I watch every single one of them on Hulu. I hook up my computer to the television and sound system and whala! But that’s because I have some knowledge of technical media.

    So just imagine, once technology starts developing “no-brainer” methods/gadgets/resources for viewing online videos on your TV – the online world will quickly move ahead of TV broadcast. And it will be slightly painful, because not only will they prevail over the other technology, they will take the successes of the other technology and combine it with theirs to completely dominate.

    That’s my prediction….

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