An Open Letter To The National Broadcasting Company

Dear NBC,

I would respectfully submit that you have not yet realized the world has changed both culturally and technologically.  I concede that you seem to be using all of the new technologies available to you.  Let me compliment you on your easy navigation web-site and your Facebook fan pages and of course your deft ability on Twitter.

The source of my dissatisfaction is simply this: you don’t really “get” me or how I want to watch some of your shows.

The 2010’s being what they are, my weekly schedule is unpredictably different each week.  So, sometimes I like to watch one of your shows as an entire season on DVD.  More recently, I have enjoyed being able to watch your shows as part of the “On-Demand” line up from my cable provider.

In an attempt to watch one of your 22-minute sitcoms in its first season entirety I learned that you don’t really care about me at all yet you are very proud of yourself and what you offer.  I learned that my FF (fast forward) button has somehow been magically disabled while I watch the 22 episodes of your very funny show (and now it takes me 30+ minutes to watch the 22-minutes I want to see).  I understand now that it was simply disabled to force me to watch your commercials.  I guess it is hard to remember if the reason you provide quality shows if for the enjoyment and even edification of the viewer or simply to have a vehicle to run an advertisement to pay for the show.  I get this; you are simply not a pay-for cable channel so you need to make some greenbacks.

But here is my confusion: you didn’t advertise products, you advertised yourself.  Often you run the exact SAME ad, show after show after show.  BORING!  You also, for some reason I cannot comprehend, advertised the show I was attempting to watch “on-demand” by telling me when I could show up to watch it once a week at a certain time convenient to your schedule alone.  I think you don’t really get “on-demand” viewers.  And why disable my FF button to do this?  Is your goal to make me dislike interacting with what you offer?  It seems so.

You see, I am perfectly capable, without any assistance from you, to figure out what shows would help build me up through laughter and/or education or just for pure joy.  I can read a schedule; I don’t need you to read it for me.  After interacting with your fan pages and tweets, I have a great idea of what you offer.  I don’t really care that you once showed the Olympic games the last Quadrennial and you plan to do it again this Quadrennial as well.  And by the way, it is the athletes who should be celebrated not you who simply showed what the athletes did.

Some reading this letter might think I am being petty.  I probably am.  But you see I serve in ministry in United Methodist contexts.  I have watched my beloved Church make these exact same mistakes, ignoring cultural change, mis-understanding/underestimating technology, and I see now that we are making half as many Disciples as we used to make (assuming we actually make any at all).  I would hate to see one of my favorite program providers go the way of the UMC and simply become somewhat irrelevant to an emerging generational culture that “gets it” without any help from you.

So my request is this: let me use my FF button when I want.  Trust that I can figure out how great your programs are without any extra push from you.  Hire some people younger than me to help you understand the technology you seek to use and take time to listen to them about what they want, truly want, from being in community with you.  Don’t insult them by telling them that they really want what you need them to want.  Let them have a say.  And please, please, please do not disable their FF buttons for any reason.  They want to move forward, let them.


Thank You,

Charles W. Harrison


  1. You are the master of all things right! Thanks for telling NBC how it is and at the same time drawing an analogy between them and the UMC.
    Priceless and spot on!!
    Thank you, Charles.

  2. Mary Beth Taylor

    Hmmmm…I guess you don’t have to have a PhD to wear that blazer AND write a exceptional article. No offense, Andy. Well said, Charles. Articulate and creative.

  3. Thank you Rod and Mary Beth!

    I had this epiphany that we spend a lot of time doing exactly this in worship announcements, on the web-site, etc. and then wonder why young people find us dull, boring, and well…..irrelevant at times. And the truth is, some less-than-young-people are tired of it as well.

    We simply must find a way out of only offering 1 hour a week to show up to and putting 70% of our budgets behind that 1 hour and trying to get folks to show up on our schedules.


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