INTERACTIVE: CASE STUDY/CHANNEL 11; Will Channel 11 live up to its promise of making the Internet accessible?

Channel 11 launched with the aim of providing a Net service that everyone can use. Report by Mairi Clark

Channel 11 launched with the aim of providing a Net service that

everyone can use. Report by Mairi Clark



If there’s one thing most people agree on about the Internet, it is that

something should be done to make it more accessible.



Channel 11 launched on 1 July with the ambition of getting everyone -

from housewives to businessmen - to use the Net. How? By offering a

simple, useful service they can return to time and again.



Channel 11 will initially offer three services - Food News Network, Wine

News Network and Drink News Network. These will each effectively carry

two separate channels: one showing business programmes, the other

targeting the consumer. The business programmes have been up and running

since 1 July, while the consumer system is planned for a September

launch.



The business programming consists of trade items about products, best

buys and special offers, in addition to stock-market information and

weather reports. For a subscription fee of pounds 29.95, companies can

have a twice-daily news bulletin delivered by fax or e-mail, and will

also be able to access information about credit ratings, businesses for

sale and job vacancies.



Once the consumer services are online, users will be able to buy food,

wine and drinks from virtual shops on the networks using a credit card

ordering scheme.



By the end of the year, a further three networks should have launched:

Passenger News Network, which will carry airline prices and holidays;

Technical News Network, aimed at computer users; and Growers’ News

Network, for the horticultural industry.



Channel 11 wants to stand out with its combination of real-time video

and standard text. There will be staggered programming during the day

with Business News Morning starting at 6am.



There are obvious technological barriers to this approach: most people

currently don’t have the necessary software.



To get around this, Channel 11 mailed 180,000 businesses with CD-Roms

during June. These provide enhanced memory and graphics and will cut

down the time it takes to load the images. A mail-out to Britain’s 26

million homes of a similar CD-Rom will take place over the summer.



There are still drawbacks. Digital it may be, but it is not entirely

interactive. The rolling news system means users coming online in the

middle of a story won’t be able to see the beginning until the pages

roll around again.



Channel 11 also offers opportunities for advertisers. Tony Fitzpatrick,

the controller of marketing at Channel 11, believes the channel will

change the way advertisers use the Internet. He says: ‘If an advertiser

doesn’t have a Website, we’ll create one for them. We can tell

advertisers who has looked at their ads and provide e-mail addresses and

hotlinks to their sites.’



Channel 11 is the creation of Intercast News Network, a company backed

by, among others, Chris Ingram, the chairman of the CIA Group, and

Richard Humphreys, the former chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi.



Agencies are giving the service a cautious thumbs-up. Russell Davies,

the head of interactive marketing at Leo Burnett, says: ‘It sounds very

clever. One of the problems of getting decent services on the Internet

is the time it takes to download images. But if you’re only allowing

people access via the CD-Rom, it might limit your audience. The good

thing is that someone is investing reasonable sums of money on something

people might use.’



Fitzpatrick believes that Channel 11 will eventually be required

viewing. ‘We’re looking at loyalty schemes where, if you visit one site

so many times, you get points you can exchange for goods. It holds

unbelievable opportunities for consumers.’



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