FOCUS: BUSINESS TV; Turning work into addictive viewing

BROADCAST NEWS: Business TV -- interactive and live via satellite -- is set to explode before the Millennium CASE STUDIES: As Sainsbury’s and Zeneca invest in the medium, BMW celebrates its 300th programme CORPORATE VIDEO: The video format is facing increasingly stiff competition from ISDN lines and CD-ROMs

BROADCAST NEWS: Business TV -- interactive and live via satellite -- is

set to explode before the Millennium

CASE STUDIES: As Sainsbury’s and Zeneca invest in the medium, BMW

celebrates its 300th programme

CORPORATE VIDEO: The video format is facing increasingly stiff

competition from ISDN lines and CD-ROMs

The problem of communicating with employees immediately on a global

scale is being solved with the new technologies available to business TV

networks. Danny Rogers reports

Today British Airways is being re-invented on the same scale as its

privatisation almost a decade ago, according to Kevin Murray, BA’s new

director of communications.

And the ‘world’s favourite airline’ is focusing on its forthcoming

multi-million pound broadcast service - BATV - as the catalyst for this


Back in May, Stephen Watson, managing director of production company

CTN, stated in PR Week that 1996 would be the year that business TV

moved centre stage. He may well be proven right.

In the late 1980s, the medium was used primarily by sales and marketing

departments to provide information and incentives for sales teams and

dealers. Now it seems business TV is emerging as a strategic tool.

So is BATV an illustration of a new era in internal communications where

business TV becomes the dominant medium for corporate change?

Robert Ayling, BA’s chief executive since January, is certainly a keen


In May, Ayling confirmed his plans for an unprecedented international

restructuring as part of a three-year, pounds 1 billion cost-cutting


He believes there are still the vestiges of a nationalised industry

within BA and is looking for a culture change that takes the airline

into the 21st century.

‘BATV is a subject close to Bob Ayling’s heart,’ confirms Kevin Murray.

‘He realises that TV is part of our daily lives and sees BATV as both a

source of information for employees, and something that will model the

way in which BA staff behave.’

For this reason Murray says BATV’s output will be ‘brave’, addressing

future challenges with a robust dialogue.

BA has already invested around pounds 1 million in the medium and Murray

admits it will cost several million more before even the infrastructure

is in place. BA is also looking to recruit six new communications staff,

one of whom will work on the channel.

Expected to be fully operational by spring next year, BATV will be the

biggest business TV project so far. It is hoping to broadcast a daily

15-minute programme to staff worldwide. But there is still a long way

to go.

As with any business TV network, there are two primary considerations:

the physical infrastructure of the network and the broadcast content.

On the hardware side, BA is looking at installing satellite and link

equipment at its worldwide offices, as well as hotels where cabin crew

stop-over. It is also considering the interface with future

technologies. To determine what the broadcasting pattern should be, BA

is undertaking audience research.

Murray says there is still the fundamental question of whether BATV

should be treated as a programme or a channel. The latter could include

news, features and even a soap opera, although Murray admits this would

have to done very well.

BA is also considering using BATV for in-flight broadcast to passengers,

which would mean pay back of the investment across several audiences.

Many other corporate household names have invested, or are investing,

heavily in business TV including Ford, Sainsbury’s and BT. In addition

to producing its own business TV programme Vision, which goes out to

employees, BT Global Satellite Services also provides installation,

programme transmission and network maintenance for clients such as


Research conducted earlier this year by Communications Media Associates

and commissioned by satellite services company Maxat, predicts a rapid

growth in European business TV, with UK networks numbering around 50 by

1999, and European sites tripling from 14,000 to 42,000.

Such growth is driven by a combination of factors: improving

interactivity which aids training - the most popular application of

business TV; the advent of digital TV which will prove cheaper to

transmit and provides a more consistent picture quality; and the

convergence of diverse media that digital transmission allows.

Some however are cautious about a growing tendency to view business TV

as a corporate communications panacea. John Orme, director at

Countrywide Porter Novelli does not see it becoming a fundamental part

of all companies’ communications strategies.

‘Business TV is particularly valuable when you have multi-site companies

and different time zones. I would say about ten per cent of our clients

have it. It is seeping in gradually as an extension of audio - then

video-conferencing and as companies realise the cost of shipping people

around all the time,’ he says.

Orme believes that business TV will become more acceptable, but that

this will take three to five years and will occur as part of a merging

of communications ideas.

He adds: ‘Originally business TV was driven by the programme makers, but

now it will fit into more general multi-media development, alongside the

Internet and the installation of ISDN lines.’

Doug Larner, head of business TV at communications consultancy

Imagination, identifies the medium’s strategic limitations: ‘As well as

the most powerful, business TV is potentially the most dangerous

communications tool a company can use,’ he says.

‘It’s true that it can make your communications more effective than you

may have dreamed possible. And yet it can just as easily inflict

enormous damage, very quickly and very publicly.’

Larner believes that television must be treated with respect because you

can see the communicator’s body language, hear the tone of voice and

inflection and feel the emotion and commitment - or lack of it.

‘The carefully crafted written word can hide everything. TV is the great

revealer,’ he says. For this reason he believes that companies like

British Airways and Sainsbury’s should be careful in exposing their

senior management on business TV, as there is the danger of damaging

their credibility.

Bob Clarke, chairman of programme provider Visage agrees on the dangers.

‘The next phase of business TV’s development may be negative as

companies take on the medium without understanding its power. There will

be a few bruised chief executives around.’

He says there are some golden rules to follow. Firstly never expose

people who are hierarchical heads but have no operational knowledge -

choose the right person for the message rather than the most senior.

Secondly avoid propaganda. ‘TV is an unforgiving medium. To have a

corporate ‘god’ on the programme every week is a long way from the

everyday reality of staff work,’ says Clarke.

Larner adds: ‘With an open editorial policy and good, creative

programming business TV becomes compulsive, not compulsory viewing. Your

audience will start to believe what you say.’

Ultimately, business TV is another communications tool and one that is

becoming a more realistic option with technological and multimedia

advances. Its success in achieving staff motivation or corporate change

however, will depend on a combination of the quality of the message and

the skill in its execution.

Business TV adds most value when the communicator can use his or her

inspirational personality to influence a number of staff simultaneously.

TV performance can make or break an individual. Just ask today’s


Case study: Zeneca is sold on the interactive option

Drug giant Zeneca can now transmit its PharmaVision business TV service

to 17 sites throughout Europe, the US and Canada.

Its most significant transmission to date was at the end of last year

when it launched a new product by linking internal and external experts

in its Delaware studio with a live audience of 150. Another 500

participants tuned in from around the world. It enabled the whole

audience to listen to interviews with academics and provided the

opportunity to put questions to the panel.

Zeneca first invested in business TV in 1992 and now has one of the most

developed networks in an industry where high quality, cost-effective

communication is critical.

Tighter government regulation and increasing competition have placed

enormous commercial pressures on pharmaceutical companies. They must

bring more products to market and keep their customers, prospects and

staff up-to-date with the latest product news.

Developing a new drug is costly and the timing of its arrival on the

market is crucial.

Zeneca says satellite-delivered business TV has proven invaluable in

being able to communicate a drug’s benefits and place its use into an

appropriate medical context immediately, when each country needs to


‘Business TV is perfect for global communication because it enables you

to talk directly, and selectively, to an entire community of specialists

within any given country, says David Burkhill-Howarth, senior producer

at Zeneca’s multimedia communications group. He adds: ‘You can deliver

one message to different audiences without them having to travel long


Zeneca currently broadcasts between six and nine programmes a year from

its own studio at Alderley Park, near Manchester. It employs Maxat to

manage its network and an in-house team produces its programmes.

When briefing a worldwide audience - confidentially - is difficult. And

according to Burkhill-Howarth what really sold business TV to Zeneca’s

management was the ability to talk to everyone simultaneously and


Two days after the worldwide broadcast to staff, Zeneca broadcast from

Cardiff to 200 doctors in 12 sites throughout the UK.

Zeneca also sees PharmaVision as cost effective, comparing the service

favourably with the cost of conventional travel and management


‘A senior manager can be out of the office for five days just to attend

a one day international meeting,’ says Burkhill-Howarth.

‘Compared to that, the time you spend during a satellite link is limited

to the half-hour before the programme goes out, the period of

transmission and perhaps a chat afterwards,’ he adds.

Case study: Sainsbury’s favours integration

This month Sainsbury’s launched its business TV network - the first, it

claims, by a British retailer.

The whole project has taken around a year to reach fruition. The first

pilots took place in November 1995 and an introductory programme was

broadcast to selected management at the end of September this year.

Now Sainsbury’s intends to broadcast a half-hour programme monthly to

management, with additional briefings if and when necessary.

Christopher Leaver, Sainsbury’s director of group internal

communications believes the new digital network will deliver real value

to the business: ‘It will assist us in underscoring the way we think we

should be doing business in the future,’ he says.

The television output will be broadcast via satellite to approaching 400

stores nation-wide, including Northern Ireland where Sainsbury’s first

store opens in December.

‘Our senior executives will be able to brief 10,000 managers live. We

can reinforce the strategic thrust of our communication and explain our

goals and priorities,’ explains Leaver.

The programmes will feature its executives taking calls live on air,

enabling branch managers to clarify points and add any relevant issues.

Is Leaver concerned about exposing senior management in this way?

‘There will be a demand on people being good communicators. But we’re

helping by informing people. There’s always risk. Business is about

managing it,’ he says.

Editorial content is expected to be a mixture of news, best practice

advice in retail and marketing, and an element of distance learning for

staff. And Leaver stresses that the broadcasts will be part of a wider,

integrated communications campaign including printed materials and


CTN will be the producers for the network. Programmes will be broadcast

live from its studios at ITN, as well as a specially constructed studio

at Sainsbury’s head office in Stamford Street.

BT’s Global Satellite Service division installed the network and will

continue to manage and maintain it. BT claims that its digital nature

will enable Sainsbury’s to capitalise on the new technologies that will

evolve during the ongoing digital revolution.

Sainsbury’s puts the medium’s long gestation down to the high cost

involved and the need to get a ‘leadership’ project exactly right.

CTN’s Steve Watson states rather grandly that the project is evidence of

the medium as a ‘defining instrument in the management of change.’

However Leaver will not be drawn on precisely what this change will be.

‘Ours will be a focused business as the market place changes,’ he says.

‘We won’t feature our long term plans on business TV, as they are

irrelevant to the present, but we can give a vision of the future,’ he


Case study: BMW takes the pioneering route

While Sainsbury’s makes its first commitment to business TV and BA

prepares its gargantuan network, car maker BMW has just celebrated its

300th programme.

It was in the motor industry that the medium first found its feet, and

BMW was pioneering in the sense that it established the first permanent

weekly network in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, BMW’s approach has changed considerably since it first

took the plunge in 1990. Nevertheless it has retained the same

production company - Visage - throughout its experience and remains

committed to business TV as a primary communications tool.

The closeness of the relationship between the two companies is cemented

by the fact that a Visage researcher is based at BMW’s UK headquarters

in Bracknell.

The car maker has used business TV to build a ‘partnership’ with its

dealer network, an important achievement as dealers acquire more freedom

in their relationships with manufacturers. The programmes are also shown

on monitors to BMW staff but this is for information rather than action.

Programmes are broadcast to 155 dealership sites across the country.

Dealer managers are more frequent viewers than other staff but all

audiences receive at least one programme per month. An automatic

recording device enables later viewing where required.

An increasingly targeted approach means different programmes are

produced for the specific audiences. For example broadcasts for

technical staff use a straightforward ‘nuts and bolts’ format, while the

sales audience’s motivational needs are met with a more action-oriented,

interactive approach.

Visage chairman Bob Clarke says the broadcast’s format has changed

considerably over the past six years.

‘We have moved away from the single-camera, talking head style that was

used originally. As the presenters and users of the medium have become

more confident, they are more keen to harness the live capability, so

we’re using multiple cameras and outside broadcasts.’

The content is a combination of longer term pre-planned programming and

‘just-in-time’ features on issues which arise in the days running-up to

the broadcast. There is regular company news and ad-hoc items covering

specific topics.

To keep its audience interested and tailor output accordingly, BMW

implements a monitoring procedure whereby five dealers are telephoned at

random after each broadcast for immediate feedback. It has also carried

out more in-depth research every two years, after which a fresh format

has been introduced.

For the future, the BMW/Visage team is looking to make the network more

interactive, and is considering the implementation of touch-tone

telephones and response pads.

It is also looking to integrate business TV with other communications

media, such as computer systems within the dealerships.

Clarke explains: ‘BMW sends out a lot of information to its dealers and

management recognises that it must act as a gatekeeper to ensure the

messages are consonant with those communicated through other media.’

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