The Brave New World of Enterprise Television

4/21/11

Successful businesses take pride in knowing their customers, listening to them, and exceeding their expectations. They evolve their products, services, pricing, terms, and distribution based on what the market is looking for and how the landscape is changing—not on what worked in the past. This quality has never been more important than in the past two years of jarring recession and slow recovery.

Yet most businesses are not prepared for a momentous shift in their customers’ behavior, one that transcends any particular product or industry. This shift affects not only customers but employees, suppliers, partners, and investors—in fact, every audience companies need to reach, motivate, influence, and satisfy in order to survive and thrive.

We are changing the way we consume information, more profoundly and rapidly than most of us realize. The explosion of online and mobile video is the catalyst, and the future of corporate communications clearly will hinge on the ability to exploit this shift smartly enough to gain and keep the attention of the people whose impressions, decisions and behavior determine a company’s fate.

“Enterprise Television” will be the 24×7 media identity of successful businesses. With video as the dominant vehicle for nearly all communications, Enterprise Television can significantly increase the ability to:

• Market and sell products and services;
• Increase employee engagement and commitment;
• Build and enhance brand identity and loyalty;
• Project and protect corporate reputation and image; and
• Pro-actively manage and contain all forms of crisis.

The numbers are astounding. In November 2010, 172 million Internet users in the U.S. spent an average of almost 30 minutes per day watching online video. That’s 40 percent more time per day than in 2009. Also during November, Americans viewed 5.4 billion online video ads, which reached 49% of the total U.S. population. YouTube, the most popular online video site, is experiencing more than two billion playbacks a day (150 million of those through smart phones and other mobile devices), as 35 hours of new content is uploaded to its site every minute. The number of people watching video on their mobile phones is growing at a 40 percent annual clip. As broadband pushes rapidly into even more homes, businesses and wireless communications networks, these trends will only keep rising. Cisco, the leading provider of the communications gear that keeps the Internet humming, estimates that within four years, 90 percent of the traffic moving across the Web will be video.

The opportunities for business leaders and marketers may sound familiar: reaching audiences on their terms, targeting them more narrowly and efficiently, and reaping the benefits of interacting with them constantly. Sounds like the call of the Internet, right? The dominance of online video will enable these benefits, to be sure, but also will introduce an entirely new level of possibilities—for good or ill.

Consider GE. An iconic brand with a history of polished marketing campaigns, GE wanted younger audiences (its future customers, investors, and employees) to relate to its Ecomagination green initiatives. Rather than producing slick ads and buying expensive spots on traditional … Next Page »

Stuart N. Brotman served as President and CEO of The Museum of Television & Radio and currently teaches at Harvard Law School and in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. Mark Fredrickson is a marketing and communications consultant and former Vice President of Corporate Communications at EMC. R.D. Sahl is an Emmy-award winning television journalist and former prime time anchor at New England Cable News. Follow @

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  • http://www.harriscom.com Anita Harris

    Interesting post. As consumer and former TV journalist, I hope you’re wrong: It would be terrible if enterprise TV becomes powerful enough to compete with or replace “vetted” TV–especially news–for viewers. Plus, who has time/patience to watch informational video as opposed to skimming written content? But as a communications consultant…I agree that there’s huge promise for companies in being able control of the messages they convey to mass audiences–at much lower cost than current TV advertising.

    Anita Harris, President
    Harris Communications Group
    Cambridge Innovation Center
    1 Broadway
    Cambridge, MA

  • Mark Fredrickson

    Anita, I think we agree completely. The diffusion and splintering of audiences for traditional media is a fact of life and well under way. I believe the most compelling and informative content will always win in the long run, and independence and authenticity are natural advantages for the professional news media. Our challenge to companies is to learn how to become good at television, the way they’ve become good at text-based communication. Not to replace text or traditional media, but to augment them. It is no longer cost-prohibitive to become your own network and control your own messages in a way that some audiences prefer.

  • Eric Woodman

    Very interesting subject and take. I will disagree with the characterization that giant firms like GE are better able to spot trends, however. In my experience the bigger the organziation the slower they are to recognize &/or react to real cultural shifts. Still, a thought-provoking piece.

  • http://www.e-sagacity.com Ellen Hassett

    This is an extremely timely and valuable piece; thanks to Stuart, Mark, and R.D. for its development. To me, enterprise television is not as much about controlling the message as it is about ensuring the most effective communication channel is open–and two-way. That’s the key difference between the Gutenberg/written-word parallel with online-video/corporate communications. Enterprise television must enable the conversation inward and outward, internally and externally, among staff, customers, and partners, even competitors. Therein, in the two-way conversation, lies both the greatest challenge and the greatest benefit.

    Ellen Hassett
    Principal, e-sagacity
    http://www.e-sagacity.com