FOCUS: BUSINESS TV - Cast a wider net/Technological advances have pushed business television to third party stakeholders as well as on to the desktop. Nick Purdom reports

Interest in business television has never been so great. Those working in the sector say they are dealing with record levels of enquiries, and a number of new BTV networks are set to come on stream in the next few months.

Interest in business television has never been so great. Those

working in the sector say they are dealing with record levels of

enquiries, and a number of new BTV networks are set to come on stream in

the next few months.



Uden Associates, which has worked on Ford’s BTV programming for more

than ten years, reports it is pitching for two new networks, both in the

automotive sector. Visage, which has a long relationship with BMW, has

just won a contract for a new network. And Jacaranda, best known for its

work for The Body Shop, has received a number of enquiries from

companies in the retail sector.



There have been surges of interest in BTV before, but this time the

market really could be set to explode because of technological

developments.



’About 80 per cent of the enquiries we are getting about BTV are from

companies that want to distribute video to the desktop,’ reports Phil

Govan, vice president of marketing and development EMEA for

Cyberstar.



The company claims to be the world’s biggest player in BTV, transmitting

10,000 hours of programming last year.



Stephen Watson, managing director of CTN, one of the production

companies most active in BTV in the UK, notes a real switch in emphasis

in the company’s work: ’A year ago traditional satellite-delivered BTV

was about 75 per cent of our work. Now it is well under half, and TV

delivered on new digital platforms is far and away the biggest growth

area.’



In the light of these changes, Watson thinks the definition of BTV has

to be expanded. ’The historical definition of BTV - live,

broadcast-quality programmes delivered by satellite - is no longer

relevant. It’s been stretched quite considerably, largely because of

what’s happening in technology.’



But others think a distinction needs to be made between BTV and desktop

video. ’The distinction needs to be drawn between the desktop as a tool,

and the best BTV as a motivator. The impact of BTV on groups creates an

altogether different effect, and will continue to be deployed for

specific messages,’ says Jacaranda managing director Katy Eyre.



Most of those working in BTV believe that the quality of desktop video

is not yet good enough.



’Boeing in the US is delivering BTV primarily using the internet and

RealPlayer software, but I’d be amazed if many people bothered to watch

it, because of the quality,’ says Barnaby Logan, head of development at

Uden Associates.



US-based company SightPath, however, claims to offer technology that

delivers TV-quality video via the web. Users simply click on a URL

embedded in a web page and play video through standard media players

such as Windows Media or QuickTime. A Local Area Network is needed, but

SightPath points out that any company with 20 or more employees is

likely to have this in place.



SightPath has no UK customers yet, but a high street bank and major

pharmaceutical retail chain are testing the product. In the US,

advertising agency MVBMS is using the technology to send commercials and

other creative work to clients for review, saving thousands of dollars

in tape duplication and distribution costs.



Cyberstar’s Govan has no doubt about the future of desktop video. ’We’re

all going to be streaming video in two to five years,’ he

speculates.



The key factor driving change is the convergence between video and

internet technology: ’The buzz phrase is IP - Internet Protocol -

video,’ Govan adds.



The big breakthrough came when video became IP compatible. A number of

companies in the UK are now looking to run IP video on their BTV

networks, including Cyberstar client Cable and Wireless. CTN is working

with Shell, which is hoping to introduce videostreaming this year.

Watson reports that BAe Systems has also made a big investment and has

done some videostreaming around its network.



The prospect of delivering video to the desktop is set to give further

momentum to one of the other big changes taking place in BTV - using it

to communicate with third party stakeholders as well as staff. This is

blurring the line with corporate video. ’We’re now seeing organisations

using BTV to talk to their partners all the time,’ says Govan. ’It tends

to be for a one-off event, for example a pharmaceutical company

announcing a drug release to doctors, but I think we’ll see a lot more

in the future.’



Tony Charlesworth, senior producer at APTN, agrees: ’BTV isn’t

restricted to communicating with staff anymore - there are unlimited

possibilities.’



Shareholder meetings, conferences, product and press launches are areas

where he sees BTV increasingly being used. APTN recently produced a

multi-destination satellite videoconference for Societe Generale to

publicise investment opportunities in the Philippines. The President of

the Philippines and members of the government used the event to speak to

selected financial groups worldwide.



PricewaterhouseCoopers also gave a client briefing about internet

developments featuring Bill Gates as guest speaker. An audience of CEOs

was invited to the QEII Conference Centre in London, but the event was

also webcast to those who couldn’t attend in person.



Webcasting is a booming area for CTN. The company is doing quarterly

analyst briefings for BP Amoco, and announcements and marketing launches

for Vodafone. Earlier this year Nike decided to do a pan-European press

briefing via a webcast rather than the usual roadshow. More than 200

journalists around Europe logged on. BTV is also offering an opportunity

for companies to communicate effectively with targeted audiences at

conferences and exhibitions.



Communications agency INM transmitted regular programmes during World

Telecom 99 to hotels and homes in the Geneva area, and via satellite to

Reuters Business TV, targeting telecomms professionals and the financial

community.



For Americas Telecom 2000 in Rio this month, INM will be broadcasting by

cable to top business hotels and via satellite to CNN En Espanol.

Programmes will also be webcast across the internet, and within the next

six months the company believes the web will be the primary medium used

to transmit the broadcasts.



Ad hoc use of BTV to communicate with external audiences looks set to

flourish, but more and more organisations are also using the medium for

regular broadcasts to stakeholders other than staff.



Norwich Union has been using BTV to communicate to an external audience

of independent financial advisers (IFAs) for several years, and recently

ran a live programme about the Budget. In the US, Cisco is using its IP

TV to communicate with partners and suppliers about product

specifications, its requirements and strategy. And now Xerox (see case

study) is about to start frequent communication to dealers using

BTV.



’I see communication with other stakeholders as a very positive trend,’

says Hugh Smiley, managing director at Visage. He has just won a

contract with an unnamed client for a new network that Smiley says will

be used to communicate to third parties. ’It’s a substantial potential

development for clients to use BTV in that way, and for recipients of

the medium to use it likewise.’



There is some caution about using BTV to communicate with external

audiences as this may not be appropriate for some information. However,

Logan is seeing greater consistency in messages to internal and external

audiences, and says there are economies in using the same material to

communicate with both.



The availability of other delivery platforms is also likely to have a

profound influence on the growth of BTV. ’Interactive TV is going to be

the platform many companies will choose to use to reach new

constituents, including customers,’ says CTN’s Watson.



For instance, The Medical Channel is using Open to reach GP surgeries

around the country and providing around two hours a day of programming

from a variety of sources, some sponsored by pharmaceutical

companies.



’This is narrowcasting in the best definition of the phrase, using a

very accessible platform,’ adds Watson. Whatever delivery platform is

used, interactivity in the form of video-on-demand seems sure to play an

increasingly significant role in BTV.



Visage’s Smiley is a big supporter of live interactivity. His client BMW

has been successfully using the One Touch interactive keypad for over a

year now, and he says the cost benefits of this are clear. ’There is now

a medium where you can start to quantify the benefits, and not just in

training but for any sort of communication where you want to get a

degree of measurement from the audience.’



One Touch has traditionally been used in training, but is increasingly

being used in high-level management meetings. ’One of the significant

issues in business today is the speed with which information reaches the

market. Being able to feed back audience opinion to influence the

decision-making process is a major benefit of the technology,’ says

Smiley.



These are exciting times for BTV, and further technological advances

mean that this will be the case for the forseeable future. Govan at

Cyberstar says: ’People want video, there is an almost unquenchable

desire for it, and as technology brings the price down the desire is

increasing.’





XEROX TAKES ITS BTV INITIATIVE FROM THE TOP



In the first two months of this year Xerox broadcast more than 100 hours

of programming on its BTV network in Europe. This compares to a total of

80 hours in 1999, which itself was more than in the whole of the

previous three years.



Ian Weeks, operations manager for XTV (Xerox Television), attributes the

phenomenal growth in the use of BTV at Xerox to the arrival of new

president for Europe, Pierre Danon. ’He bought into the idea, and when

something is driven from the top, success follows,’ says Weeks.



At the beginning of 1999, Xerox decided to change the way it delivered

training, with a target of delivering 50 per cent using technology by

2001. The cost benefits of BTV were compelling.



’Costs vary, but if 3,000 people receive a programme that costs, for

example, pounds 120,000, the unit cost of delivery is only pounds 40 per

head. It would be impossible to get close to that by conventional

delivery methods,’ Weeks explains.



At the beginning of 1999 the network had only 20 downlinks, but this has

now been expanded to over 70 sites around Europe. The most significant

change taking place, however, is the addition of 45 links to dealers who

exclusively sell Xerox products.



’Typically in the past dealers were not sending people for training

because they want them in the field as much as possible to maximise

profits,’ says Weeks. Rather than asking salespeople to come to a

central location for training, and take up a whole day of their time,

Xerox has decided the solution is to deliver the training directly to

them.



’Salesforce attrition means there is a constant requirement for

induction and basic selling skills training, and BTV will be used with

other technologies to help deliver this training,’ says Weeks. The BTV

network will continue to be used to support new product training.



XTV has been used primarily for education, but the network is

increasingly used for corporate communication. Quarterly ’Business View’

addresses by Pierre Danon that were distributed on video will now be

transmitted on the network. And short magazine programmes are being

broadcast to specific work groups.



The corporate communications group also used XTV to support a press

event to launch a new structure, the Finance Sector Entity. The

programme was broadcast to the US, and was picked up by CNBC, which

interviewed Xerox Corporation president, Rick Thoman.



Post-event evaluation has shown a high level of satisfaction with

programmes, with 90 to 95 per cent of respondents saying they were

satisfied or very satisfied. Future evaluation will examine the

long-term effectiveness of the training.



Future plans include more live interaction, and digital storage of

programmes for viewing by people who missed the original transmission.

Xerox is also looking at streaming video to the desktop. This will mean

that no one has to travel to one of the linked sites to watch a

programme. ’In the future people will probably even be able to watch at

home,’ says Weeks.



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