Debuts Convergent Shopping Channel

Share this content: Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of ISA Internationale Inc., Burnsville, MN, will launch a television network and a Web site this spring that will meld two formats into one full-service network of commerce, information, programming and cross-promotion.

The concept behind the television network will be the two distinct styles of show and product pitch. Dramatic and educational programs will be targeted to specific age and interest demographics with a focus on younger viewers.

The first and last minute or so of each dramatic program will feature a sequence using reoccurring characters and plots that are both driven by and that feature products. For example, if the dramatic intro skit features little Skip's basketball game, the company would then sell that basketball during the next segment, hosted by an on-air personality. That same basketball would also be at the center of a plot twist viewers can vote on by calling a toll-free number or by visiting the Web site. Viewers can then watch and see how their votes affected the drama when it is played out during another short segment at the end of the show. These characters will be involved in segments before and after every show, thus hooking viewers to the drama and the featured product.

"The drama serves a strategic point for keeping viewers tuned to it," said Jeff Abrams, president and chief operating officer of

"The focus will be 100 percent on the product," he said. "There will be a longer introduction segment that tells what's coming up, talks a little about the product and then hooks viewers by going into the drama. These dramas will have characters we are creating. Besides the show hosts having a viewer following, the characters will develop this same relationship with people."

The segments will be exclusive: The hosts will never be actors and the actors will never pitch the product. The hosts will discuss the drama and encourage viewers to vote by either calling in or going to the Web site.

The educational segments will mix product advice, demonstration and instruction with historical information in a format similar to "This Old House," and it will invite viewers to call in or visit the site to purchase or learn more.

"We feel that from past experiences in business as well as research we've tapped into that the more information you can impart upon the consumer, the more they are going to make an intelligent decision, and the less return there is going to be. The returns overall in the direct response business are very high," Abrams said. will feature live streaming video of the television network and will be heavily concentrated on entertainment value and ease of purchase. The company worked with a Web design team at Visual Fire, Miami, to bring a slick entertainment destination feel that is full of video and audio. Advertising on the site will include enhanced banners and video ads. Product instructions, polls, contests and in-depth technical information are just some of the announced areas also covered on the Web site.

The venture is aimed largely at targeting a younger demographic than the pre-eminent home shopping networks like Home Shopping Network and QVC. Gerald J. Durand, founder and CEO of, said the television network is changing the product offering and style of programming to coincide with the dominant presence of the Internet throughout the venture. To accomplish this, Durand relies on his own background in direct response television and on that of Gerard Ferri, his executive producer of television operations.

Durand foresees this change in broadcast style to be successful because the network has made a concentrated effort to focus on what makes money; making consumers happy enough to return, and selling as much product as possible using all available avenues of up sells and cross-sells.

"Until the consumer has a comfort level with certain technologies, it doesn't matter how advanced you are," said Durand. "That's a balancing act that businesses have to be aware of. We have made this convergence extremely consumer friendly. The Web site was built for ease of use in both navigation and for commerce. And the television network is geared to serve its specific purpose and have a large element of fun."

Initially the network will broadcast 12 hours a day. It will either be sharing time with other start-up cable operations or buying a station and back-selling the remaining hours. Abrams expects to begin broadcasting full time within two years of its debut. He said he expects the company will grow quickly through the sale of mostly consignment items, close-outs and selling last year's models at reduced prices. Abrams also said that the company is investigating the addition of truly interactive elements available through set-top systems like WebTV, AOLTV and Excite@HomeTV.

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