MEDIA ANALYSIS: Switch on to the future of the net

The Telegraph's online TV service has been expanded after a successful first year. Gemma O'Reilly looks at how PROs can get on board with the new technology.

Online TV services seem to be proving the doubters wrong. Telegraph TV's on-demand video programmes had 3.5 million downloads last November and 800,000 unique users.

Buoyed by these impressive numbers, The Telegraph Media Group expanded its online TV service last month, working with ITN and online video provider Brightcove, to launch seven new programmes. The service has been extended from its news bulletin, launched last year, to cover a broad range of subjects including politics, food, culture, travel and motoring.

The new shows feature a combination of household names, including TV chef Loyd Grossman and Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, as well as some of The Telegraph's best-known journalists, including Simon Heffer, Sarah Crompton and Andrew Pierce.

The new online line-up includes political TV show Right On featuring Widdecombe. The show deliberately starts from a right-of-centre perspective, which Telegraph Media Group multimedia editor Guy Ruddle says would not be possible on terrestrial TV. It also includes Heffer Confronted, which sees Simon Heffer challenged each week by leading political blogger Iain Dale.

Wide appeal
Another addition to the service includes 10 Minutes to Table starring Grossman and Telegraph food writer and critic Xanthe Clay. The weekly programme runs for ten minutes and Ruddle says: 'There is no cheating and no pre-preparation time. It is filmed in real time.' The programme means viewers can make a meal from scratch in ten minutes.

Other programmes include The Culture Minute, a daily one-minute review of the latest books, films and music by The Daily Telegraph's arts editor Sarah Crompton. Technology show Gadget Inspectors, car programme The Wheel Deal, travel show Real Trips and financial programme Your Money, Their Hands complete the new line-up.

For Ruddle, the move online by the media group was made 'because we could'. He said: 'We are convinced the future of the internet is text and video combined. There has been a blurring between traditional internet and TV. We foresee the future to be a screen on which you can surf the net, play computer games and watch TV. It won't matter if you are switched on to BBC1 or the Telegraph website. This is a future that we feel we aren't far away from.'

While some commentators say watching TV on the internet will be slow to take off, the move into online TV is working. 'So far it has been a success,' says Ruddle. 'And while we have plans to further expand it in the future we want to keep making sure we've got it right now.'

In order to keep the programme fresh and up to date, Ruddle says they are always looking for content from PROs to help with the filming process. 'Making TV is complicated and is a logistical nightmare. If you can help with logistics, interviews, places to film, that's great.'

Christian Mahne, head of Lanson Communications' broadcast and multimedia arm Live, advises that providing any online TV service with multimedia content will help to get your story noticed. Mahne, who has provided content for Telegraph TV's Your Money, Their Hands programme, says the internet can no longer be seen just as print in cyberspace: 'A press release isn't enough anymore and we tell our clients that they must offer a multimedia back-up as well.'

Mahne adds that it has been an education issue to get clients to understand that internet TV is another opportunity to get brand messages across. 'They still want to get content in the paper. But because it is run by The Telegraph it is perceived as reaching the same readership as the paper.'

The Telegraph TV offering is not the first online TV news service from a newspaper. The Times and The Sun also have TV services, which launched in 2006. However, Ruddle says, somewhat predictably, The Telegraph's offering stands out for its 'professionalism and obsession with quality'.

This view is echoed by Citigate Dewe Rogerson account manager Billy Partridge, who adds: 'Telegraph TV has very high production values. As the content is produced by ITN you feel you are watching something slick and professional. In that respect it has the edge over Sun TV, which has more of a YouTube feel to it.'

Growing competition
Elen Thomas, account manager in the broadcast and digital unit of Ogilvy PR, says that while the Telegraph TV service hasn't been a target for Ogilvy's clients yet, she has worked with the rival online TV service for The Sun, which she says is a 'very slick operation'. Sun TV currently has 50 free channels, which is more than Freeview.

For Thomas, getting clients to open up to accepting online TV as an opportunity for coverage has not been difficult: 'Clients are interested in online content because it can bring key messages to life. Clients recognise that they want an extra element to their campaigns.'

For Thomas, providing help for the journalists is key: 'We offer the content digitally by sending through a hyperlink to allow them to download content easily. Providing the material in a B-role form also allows them to pick and choose the content they want.'

Achieving coverage on Telegraph TV should not been seen as the easier option, warns Citigate's Partridge. Getting exposure on Telegraph TV is just as difficult as trying to get news on the Telegraph.co.uk website or newspaper: 'The best opportunities aren't in getting your stories on there, but in developing creative ideas that translate into content they can use in the long term.'

He adds: 'The News Now programme tends to have a business edge and has retained the natural business appeal of The Telegraph. However, as its content broadens, Telegraph TV will become a more important medium to explore.'

For Ruddle, the service is a work in progress that will continue to expand, but he is currently focused on providing the best quality programmes that he can, and wants the PR industry's help.

QUICK FACTS

- History Telegraph TV was launched in March 2007. The initial programme schedule included News Now, On This Day, Fantasy Football, Hilary & Co and Business Show

- Deadlines News bulletins on the website are updated throughout the day. Deadlines for each programme differ each week and in some cases may be made weeks in advance

- Contacts Fiona.macdonald@telegraph.co.uk

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