First there was corporate video, distributed on VHS and now more usually on DVD.
Then came CD-ROM, combining video with interactivity.
Then came business tv, using television production and transmission facilities to broadcast live via satellite to a network of branches, dealers or other interested parties.
Now there is corporate interactive television. This combines the live tv broadcast with a feedback loop via the internet, so that viewers can vote, ask questions, answer multiple choice tests – instantaneous and online, so the broadcasters respond to the audience during the actual broadcast.
What are its benefits?
When business tv appeared, it offered the promise of instant communication, without the delays caused by replicating and distributing CDs, DVDs or VHS tapes. In reality, it is very simple for the branch or dealership to record the live transmission on a VHS video recorder. Employees can then watch the tape as and when and if they have time. Much of the immediacy of a live broadcast is then lost and the producers have no real idea of how many people have seen the broadcast or what they thought about it.
An alternative is the internet/intranet, where video streaming technology is steadily improving. Material can be viewed on demand. Even so, pictures are usually small and low definition, and may require a delay while the video file is buffered.
Corporate Interactive Television, on the other hand, combines a full size broadcast television picture with interactivity. Specifically the benefits are:
Immediacy – get the message out faster than VHS, CD-ROM or DVD; corporate
interactive tv is live television
Interactivity – the audience participates in the broadcast
Management – the broadcaster knows how many branches or dealers are connected to the broadcast
Feedback – marketing and technical management can get an immediate reaction to their message and identify key issues from the audience’s
Incentive – because viewers know they will lose the opportunity to participate if they record the broadcast, most will watch the programme live
How does it work?
As with any live television broadcast, there is a production facility with a studio and a control room, with the ability to direct the live performance, insert pre-recorded video and so on.
In addition there is an online editor, whose job is to monitor the feedback loop and pass quiz results on to the show’s presenter and select questions from the audience to be answered on air.
The programme signal is bounced to a satellite and picked up by a dish at the branch. It’s decoded in a set-top box and viewed on a PC, which must have a sound card. Individual viewers use a USB headset, so as not to disturb colleagues, although the programme could equally well be shown to a group, using a projector.
The feedback loop is via the company intranet and is protected by a firewall, so commercially sensitive information is secure.
Because viewers log on to each broadcast, programmes can be targeted at and restricted to particular types of viewer.
How Volkswagen use corporate interactive television
VW have been using interactive television for two years as a means of keeping in contact with their dealer network in Germany. The success of the project means that it is to be extended to other countries. The production studio is near the main VW plant at Wolfsburg.
Programmes are in three categories – Training, Sales and Urgent Product Information (such as technical fixes, modifications, etc). Most are broadcast twice in the same day, with the exception of sales programmes, which are at 10am, when salespeople are least likely to be seeing customers. Typically around 80% of the dealer network will tune in. Over 75% of viewers are satisfied or very satisfied with VW’s interactive television programmes.
Presentation of each programme is by a professional tv journalist, supported by one or two technical experts to demonstrate equipment or processes and to answer questions. Around 600 questions will be sent in online during any one broadcast. Those audience questions which are not answered on air are grouped into themes and posted with comment from the experts on the VW intranet.
The Leonardo project
Enlightenment Interactive is a member of a project, part funded by the EU under the
Leonardo programme, to see how the Volkswagen interactive television model could be applied to other sectors, in particular those with a large number of SMEs who share a need for information delivered rapidly in a visual form and the ability to put questions about that information to technical experts.