Convergent Shopping Format Targets High-End Customers

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A new convergent home shopping format called uShopTV will make its debut on the Product Information Network June 28. UShopTV is both a television home shopping and Internet concept offering products from e-commerce sites targeted at baby boomers.

A full week's worth of prerecorded programs -- which will air from 10 p.m. to midnight Eastern time weeknights and during select weekend slots -- will be made available first to potential customers through an archived Webcast on

When the shows air during the week, viewers also will be able to tune in to a specially delineated simulcast on the site.

UShopTV, Pompano Beach, FL, is taking a chance on its concept, high-end products and demographics. But depending on the success of the format, it seems possible that it could encompass most or all of PIN's programming within the next two years.

PIN, Englewood, CO, which has a stake in uShopTV, is a 24-hour infomercial network reaching more than 30 million cable subscribers on the nation's 10 leading cable services. PIN's chief operating officer, John Shaver, is excited about the network's move to more original programming.

"They are taking a significant portion of our broadcast time," Shaver said. "And we are more than happy to have them. The idea of reaching this audience in this way is compelling, and we think it is going to work. It's new and exciting; there has never been a home shopping network that has singled out e-commerce sites like this."

The nightly format is split into four shows sponsored by and including five products from an e-commerce site. The first two companies to sign on are, a vacation and travel site, and, an online high-end jewelry dealer.

Sandy Goldman, CEO of uShopTV, said the company has signed enough e-commerce sites to fill the first week's programming schedule but is not ready to announce these partnerships. Product categories these companies will fill range from kitchen and houseware products to sporting goods and toys.

The overall target of uShopTV is upper-middle-class baby boomers who can afford and would be interested in purchasing products priced around $200. This demographic also is connected to high-speed broadband Internet access, making the Webcast portion of the format more reachable and better-suited to these viewers.

"This is where the industry is headed," Goldman said. "We expect that within the next couple of years, our Internet orders will outpace those from television. We figure, why make people wait? If they want to go to our site and check out what products are going to be for sale and buy them, how does that harm us? It basically allows for more freedom for the customer. We'll still get people channel surfing or tuning into the shows."

All of the shows will be shot using an eye-grabbing "virtual set." The virtual set pits the hosts against a futuristic background, while in reality they are standing in front of a blue screen. Goldman said the company is taking special care to lessen any blue-screen blur and make the sets look more real.

Goldman created uShopTV after a successful run at SkyMall, the upper-end in-flight catalog. As vice president of business development, Goldman claims he helped increase Internet orders on and to 34 percent from 5 percent of overall sales.

"The whole format and target audience of the shows will be very different from the industry leaders at this time, QVC and HSN," Goldman said. "What I learned at SkyMall, I am using at uShopTV. In order to appeal to this demographic, our presentation and marketing will be more stylized and informational."

UShopTV is promising its e-commerce partners that their names will appear in local TV listings and on the TV Guide Channel, along with commercials spots on PIN and local cable stations. Though two hours of programming are scheduled every night, new programs will debut only once a night, meaning that the other hour and a half of repeats will result in more viewers for each show.

Links will be provided from the Webcasts to the e-commerce sites, and during the television programs both an 800 number and the URL will scroll constantly across the screen.

"The market we are targeting is upscale and Internet-savvy," Goldman said. "They are ready for this type of convergent shopping now, and they are able and willing to spend the money on more high-end products targeted to them in a refreshing, high quality way."

The venture will save time and money by having most of its customer service and order-taking done by the e-commerce sites themselves. When customers call the 800 number, uShopTV representatives will enter orders directly into the e-commerce sites.

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