BT hires young American for Net expansion

FRESH FROM detailing plans to launch high-speed Internet service and online movies early next year, British Telecom has turned its attention to upgrading and expanding its Internet business division.

It has hired John Raczka, a San Diego-based specialist in Internet marketing, content and e-commerce, as BT Internet's head of content and advertising. Mr Raczka has worked in online marketing and entertainment with the US entertainment group Hanna Barbera as well as Sony Pictures and GTE, the US phone company.

His appointment two weeks ago coincides with a recruitment drive to hire a fleet of young media managers who will oversee the organisation of online content into various vertical genres, targeting music, sports, film and other subject areas. The team is to be housed in a new hi-tech loft facility, formerly a local phone exchange, under development in the City.

"We are strengthening our management team for content, rights issues involving the Internet as well as developing relationships with content providers and other entertainment companies," said John Swingewood, director of BT Internet and Multi-media.

"We have created a compelling broadband portal," Mr Swingewood said, referring to the asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) services that BT is to launch next April. "What I'm doing is putting in place a management team that can deliver on making us the leading broadband portal."

BT is also understood to be planning high profile marketing campaigns to target young Internet users. This will include joint marketing programmes with high-street retailer and leisure chains.

Content specially rendered for BT's trial high-speed ADSL service in west London includes BBC On-Line, video streamed ITN news clips, the Cartoon Network and the BBC Schools channel. The service also includes a movie data base offering previews, cinema listings and ticket booking facilities.

Mr Swingewood said the ADSL trial has experienced no disconnections among 900 test users paying pounds 30 per month for unlimited high-speed online access. "It's a far more compelling experience than the flat experience you get today from the Internet," he said. "And we think there are a lot of e- commerce opportunities around that."

ASDL allows users to access the Internet at speeds 50 times greater than existing modem technology. This makes it possible to watch moving video images at the click of a mouse.

A subscriber interested in, for example, the latest Porsche could access Top Gear's video data base, watch the video clip and then arrange a test drive. BT believes this turns traditional broadcast content into a potent e-commerce proposition, since automobile dealers are likely to be willing to pay commission for sales leads.