Private TV Networks Grow as Business, Nonprofits Turn to Satellite Video
Jun. 21, 1988
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ When Arco, JCPenney and Merrill Lynch employees turn on their TVs, it's not always to catch the latest ''Cosby'' or ''Moonlighting.'' They may be watching their company's own TV network to learn the latest from the boss.
''There are now around 45 private television networks'' run by individual companies, said Marc Porat, head of the New York-based Private Satellite Network. ''On top of that there are about 21 industry-wide networks'' linking members of a profession, such as lawyers, educators and hospital staffers.
Private TV networks are tailored to each user's need. ARCO executives in different cities communicate through video conference calls. Buyers for Penney's view new clothing they can stock. Merrill Lynch brokers watch ''ActionLine,'' a weekly program on sales techniques and new products.
''We've got rooms in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston and Washington, D.C.,'' said Arcovision's Don Walton. The Los Angeles-based system airs 80 hours a month, mainly teleconferences. Arco Chairman and CEO Lod Cook also conducts dialogues with 14 employees monthly on ''Primetime.''
Private television is rapidly moving past conferences and meetings. Some companies air regular shows for employees. Trade groups, churches and health organizations use networks to pass along industry updates, train employees or spread the gospel.
''This is the way corporate television is going, by satellite and live,'' said Judy Noble of Merrill Lynch's Video Network. The investment firm produces two to five shows a week in its Manhattan studio, beaming them live to 482 offices for viewing by brokers and, sometimes, investors.
''I've been amazed at how many churches have used memorial funds to purchase a satellite dish,'' said Pat Correll of the United Methodist Church's network in Nashville. She said 25,000 Sunday school leaders recently viewed a three-session workshop aired at 350 sites nationwide.
There are 12,000 receiving sites with satellite dishes around the country, up from several hundred a few years ago, said Elliott Gold, publisher of BusinessTV magazine in Altadena, Calif. He predicts 42,000 locations by 1992.
''We're running at about $20 million (in annual revenues). We have about 16 networks and we're building others,'' said Porat, whose company started in 1983. ''We went from $300,000 the first year. We're growing at about 30 percent.''
Porat's firm has served IBM, Ford Motor Co. and other organizations looking to pinpoint specific audiences. Private network programs are as varied as the groups airing and viewing them.
''FedEx Overnight'' updates Federal Express employees on delivery conditions. The Hospital Satellite Network airs programs on topics ranging from sexually abused children to fund raising. Merrill Lynch's network briefed local brokers during last year's stock market tumble, and a two-way communications feature allowed some audience members to phone in questions.
JCPenney uses two-way communication on its Dallas-based network to plan advertising and promotional campaigns. The merchandising chain hopes to finish equipping 650 of its largest stores with satellite dishes by October.
Private television viewers gather in conference rooms, classrooms or living rooms, wherever there is a link to a satellite dish. To thwart video pirates, most shows are sent with a scrambled signal for decoding at approved receiving sites.
Receiving sites cost about $5,000 apiece to build; sending sites to beam the signal to a satellite run $200,000 to $300,000, said Louis Bransford of the Public Service Satellite Consortium, comprised of churches, trade groups, educators and health organizations using television.
BusinessTV publishes a monthly guide to upcoming programs on industry-wide services, such as the Satellite Conference Network and American Law Network, so readers can schedule viewings.
''You decide your people need to see the program and tell them to block out the day on the schedule,'' said Gold. ''Then you contact the programmer, who sets the price and sends the (reading) materials. On the day of the program you watch it. When you have a question you pick up the phone and ask.''
End Adv Tuesday PMs June 21