LONDON - A new subscription-only television channel aimed at the automotive trade and industry will be launched in UK in September and will be available throughout Europe by the end of the year.
The Automotive Channel, launched by British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), will debut on September 25. Major UK trade bodies have endorsed it. These include the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) and the National Franchised Dealers Association.
Although other car-based television channels exist, BSkyB claims the Automotive Channel is the first to target the automotive industry in Europe.
'There will be an initial bias toward the British viewpoint, but our platform is pan-European,' said Iain Holden, BSkyB commercial marketing director.
'The channel will cover motor shows worldwide from Tokyo to Detroit, starting with the Paris auto show during our first week of operation.
'Within a matter of weeks we will be able to dedicate program segments to a wider European audience, because we use the Astra satellite - which extends from Norway to Italy and from Turkey to Ireland,' Holden said.
'Our research team has spent the past 18 months developing the channel to ensure that it meets the needs of a fast-moving sector.'
SMMT Chief Executive Christopher MacGowan said his organization will actively support the Automotive Channel.
'The delivery of good quality information by television direct to businesses is going to prove extremely beneficial,' MacGowan said. 'We believe it will become the primary source of information for senior executives throughout the industry in a very short time.'
Sue Brownson, president of UK dealer body RMIF, welcomed the channel for its promise of 'factual up-to-date information without the spin.'
The Automotive Channel is based on the US automotive industry's successful business-to-business TV networks, and on BSkyB's involvement in similar UK channels devoted to medical matters and 'pub and club' interests.
'The Automotive Channel is intended to give the motor industry a powerful, unified voice and to serve as a platform for industry-wide communication,' said Holden.
The Automotive Channel will broadcast news, analysis, market information, new technology and trends, plus training and advice programs. It will utilize BSkyB's digital TV network and will be on screen each weekday from 8.30 each morning.
Program segments covering specialized areas such as components and motorcycles will be broadcast.
The channel's target audience is car manufacturers, dealers, independent motor traders, component suppliers, service organizations and trade associations. The general public will not have access to the channel. 'Several thousand' subscribers are expected, according to Holden.
'We have made presentations to all the major manufacturers and have so far received an excellent response,' Holden said. 'Through the Sky Unite service we will also offer the option for firms and organizations to buy airtime and production packages, and transmit their own tailor-made programs to specified groups of subscribers, using the Sky digital satellite platform.
'These programs could be anything from an allotted spot to a full channel, because the development of digital technology has brought down the cost of broadcasting and increased the available capacity,' he said.
'The system would, for instance, enable a motor manufacturer to broadcast sales training or details of new products to its dealer network,' Holden said. 'Programs could be passed through to staff personal computers, or routed to the TV sets of those who work from home. We are putting in place the infrastructure to allow numerous possibilities.'
The Automotive Channel will operate from purpose-built studios located in Hayes, west of London, which include a four-channel virtual reality studio and full graphics capability.
Main program producer will be Visage Group, an established provider of business-to-business TV within the UK motor industry. The senior presenter will be Kate Bellamy, who has featured in a number of business TV programs.