A pioneer in business to business journalism, GrocerTV has provided a revolutionary service for retailers and key lessons for the evolution of digital television The digital television revolution truly hit the grocery industry six weeks ago when The Grocer went live on Sky Digital channel 642 with Grocer TV. Broadcasting at 7am and 7.30am every Wednesday from September 6 for 12 weeks, Grocer TV has broken new ground in business to business communications. Its aim is to give useful business advice, information and inspiration to help independent retailers improve their profits. The programme content ­ overseen by Convenience Store editor Sonia Young ­ is packed with news, analysis, competitions, advice from agony aunt Jac Roper, new product taste tests, as well as "category makeovers". And the programme has its own web site, www.grocertv.co.uk, with highlights of the programme, and more detailed information about the category makeovers. Retailers can log on to enter the competitions mentioned during the programme. Grocer TV has been first with the news. It reported from the front line during the fuel crisis. In addition The Grocer's editor Clive Beddall interviewed agriculture minister Nick Brown during Labour's Brighton conference about the government's Rural White Paper and its plans to help country shops. It also exclusively broke the story about Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Trevor Dixon seeing Home Office minister Charles Clark to push for stores to claim tax relief on investment in security. The pace at Grocer TV has been fast and furious and it has provided useful lessons for the future of business TV. Jerry Gosney, chief operating officer of William Reed Publishing, says: "The challenge has been to get the content right. People are pleasantly surprised by the quality and high production values of the programme ­ produced by Brighton based production and broadcasting company Bite TV ­ almost as if they were expecting some kind of amateur home movie. "It's also been a challenge getting commercial backing from advertisers, as well as dealing with products that are not normally put in front of the camera. However, these are consumer products with trade implications. We are talking about products retailers need to stock, not things they need to eat." A major issue has been conforming to the Independent Television Commission regulations. Sean Mahoney, head of Bite TV, says: "It is a tribute to the production skills of Bite TV in finalising a format which accommodates the various ITC rulings that all programmes must adhere to. With a strong product content, it must be well balanced with various contributors spread across the whole series. We have worked closely with the ITC to make sure it was happy with the content." Response from the industry has been extremely positive, says Gosney. "It's currently a trial, so we are sampling every third programme with a panel of people, and retailers have told us they like the programme and enjoy taking in the information in a different way. The viewing figures are in the thousands rather than in tens of thousands, but the audience will take time to build. "We are very encouraged by the feedback and we will definitely do another 12 programmes ­ but that isn't likely to be until next spring. And when the bandwidth allows we will broadcast on the web which will allow retailers access whenever they want it. It's definitely the way to go. We have taken The Grocer to a new platform and have delivered the audience to advertisers in a new way. We salute the brands that have had the courage to come with us." The roll call of big brands which have supported Grocer TV include Britvic, Walkers, Heinz, and McVitie's as well as Tetley, Pasta Reale, Bass Brewers, Kimberly-Clark, Pedigree, Kerry Foods and Nestlé. Britvic took part in the first category makeover and even did a specially prepared TV commercial for the trade. Britvic's trade communications manager Liz Power says: "Anything The Grocer does is bound to be important within the industry. We are impressed with the professionalism of the series and pleased to have been invited on the programme as the leading soft drinks supplier." Booker Cash & Carry went one stage further and did a special promotional slot which ran in between the 7am and 7.30am programmes. Steven Sharp, marketing director at Booker Cash & Carry, says: "TV is the most powerful medium available to anyone in this country (that's why it's still regulated by the government). Being able to reach a busy audience with its own special programme is a major step forward. Booker is delighted to be part of Grocer TV's development." Walkers Snackfoods did the second category makeover and tracked subsequent sales. Ben Bouldin, trade marketing executive at Walkers, says: "It was a chance to get involved in something innovative and adventurous. We are pleased with how it went. We have seen a sales uplift of 65% in the store that did the category makeover." Bouldin is keen on developing web site links between Walkers and GrocerTV. "Ten years down the line, GrocerTV is something you may subscribe to over the internet so it is a good idea to get involved with both the TV programme and the web site.Who knows what the future holds." Watch this (digital) space! {{FEATURES }}