A growing number of bank traders are tuning in video news services on their desktop computers to get an edge in the fast-moving financial markets.
Specially equipped computers bring in video and audio of breaking financial news such as corporate press conferences, as well as interviews with top business executives and government officials.
In the past two years, Dow Jones & Co., National Broadcasting Co., Reuters PLC, Turner Broadcasting Systems' Cable News Network, and other communications powerhouses have launched direct-to-PC video news services aimed mainly at financial firms - whose appetites for information that can affect their markets seems insatiable.
Prices for the services range between $500 and $1,500 a month per trader workstation.
Wall Street firms have long received text-only wire services electronically. But live broadcasts on the computers can often give traders a head start on breaking news that moves a particular company's stock or even entire markets.
"We are overcoming the perception that there's something wrong with watching TV in the office," said Martin Schenker, managing editor of the Dow Jones Investor Network, one of the early entrants into the field. It launched its service late in 1993.
Since the mid-1980s, most banks with trading rooms have installed televisions that are tuned to CNN or the business news cable channel CNBC, but traders rarely watch them, Mr. Schenker asserted. "We felt that much of TV news programming is biased towards entertainment values and not the hard news that traders can make money on."
Editors at Dow Jones Investor Network select two or three events per day to broadcast between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. "We are using our news judgment to pick the stories that are most valuable to our subscribers," Mr. Schenker said.
For example, he said, one recent Dow Jones Investor Network interview with the chairman of Nestle delivered important news regarding a possible merger a full 20 minutes ahead of text-based news services.
Money-center banks, including Chase Manhattan Corp. and Chemical Banking Corp., have installed in their massive trading rooms desktop video technology that displays the moving pictures as a "window" along with other PC applications.
But regional banks have jumped on the multimedia bandwagon as well. For over a year, Princeton, N.J.-based UJB Financial Corp. has had the Dow Jones Investor Network available on its three-person trading desk, said Fernando Garip, vice president and portfolio manager.
"Even from an analytical perspective, the timeliness of receiving information as it happens is critical," said Mr. Garip, who helps manage the $16 billion-asset bank's portfolio of fixed-income securities and equities. "It also saves us money because we don't have to fly all over the country to attend trade shows or corporate briefings."
Mr. Garip also likes the unfiltered nature of the information being delivered to the bank's desktop computers by Dow Jones. "The regular business news programs are more sensationalistic - they're formatted more for mass consumption," he noted. "Sometimes we can learn a lot more when we get all the boring details."