Dot-Com Uses Auction to Step Into ITV

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AsSeenIn.com, an online retailer of products featured on television programs, is using an auction of items from Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210" show to generate interest in the Web site and spearhead a move into interactive television.


The auction on Amazon.com from May 1 to May 20 features some surprise items that went up for sale yesterday -- the airdate for the final episode of the program, which had a 10-year run.


The auction has generated significant interest with little marketing outside of the site or Amazon. Several bids, including one for $4,000 for a chair seen in only the background of the program, made the event very profitable.


"The auction was very successful," said Sam Baldoni, CEO of AsSeenIn, Los Angeles. "Right now, we are selling recognizable television memorabilia on the Net, but we consider ourselves an interactive television company. This auction is just the beginning and a solid way to capitalize on the last episode and give people a chance to get to know our site for the future -- which is interactive television."


AsSeenIn provides visitors with information, interviews and 360-degree interactive tours of the sets of their favorite shows, enabling them to see and order the featured products. This visual demonstration is the first step toward a move into ITV.


Baldoni started AsSeenIn after working for many years in product placement for television icon Aaron Spelling's Spelling Television Productions. When Spelling sold his company and stake in AsSeenIn to Viacom, the entertainment conglomerate made both entities a part of Paramount Television. This left Baldoni in the enviable position of being able to tap into Paramount for more deals for the site, including the addition of two new shows airing on Showtime next season.


"We have actually patented a business process for purchasing products through interactive television," said Baldoni. "We see our company as the enabler for 't-commerce.' We want to be the place where you are watching TV, and when you see something you like, you click on it. But nothing happens because you are there to watch television, not to buy something or shop. At the end of the program, it downloads into AsSeenIn.com.


"That's the future of this site. You have to look to tomorrow, and we have patented the business process to do that."


Baldoni said the company is in discussions with major interactive television companies such as TiVo and Wink to make this process a reality within two years. But some people in the ITV industry, including Michael Kokernak, president/CEO of ITV media buying firm Back Channel Media, Boston, see the process as a risk.


"There are thousands of merchandise choices within each TV show," Kokernak said. "Viewers will lose interest if every item isn't available in their interactive mall. Is AsSeenIn.com prepared for consumers to ignore their services after they click on an item for the fifth time and nothing happens?"


Baldoni has taken this into account and plans to include information about where a product can be purchased, even if it isn't directly available through the site. He also said his deals will be made with producers and not cable operators, ITV service providers or networks.


Baldoni envisions that each show will be designated an "AsSeenIn" show with an opening graphic similar to those used for closed-captioning.


"Being nonintrusive is the key point," said Baldoni. "But we realize people have to know what is going on. The main point, though, is that there is not a producer worth his salt that would want you to go shopping while you are watching his two-hour dramatic performance."
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