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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.’