NBCU Vendor Hawks 'Top Chef’ Wares

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Programming networks are providing viewers with a growing number of opportunities to first watch the show, then buy the merchandise.

Such marketing has moved beyond selling series episodes on DVD or soundtracks on the networks’ own Web sites.

Now, viewers are given the chance to purchase clothes they see the characters wear from someplace other than the network or show’s homepage.

NBC Universal’s broadcast and cable networks are using outside vendors to sell their on-air products and provide links into shows’ shopping sites.

The effort is just another way for fans to interact with the content they love, said Kim Niemi, senior vice president of music, video and product development for NBC Universal licensing and merchandising.

One year into a deal with San Francisco-based Delivery Agent to service eight different network “stores,” NBCU’s e-commerce revenue has jumped by “leaps and bounds,” according to Niemi, although she didn’t provide specific revenue figures.

Delivery Agent, a five-year-old e-commerce company, deals with 14 networks, 23 studios, 7,000 brands and 40 stores.

Its separate site, www.seenon.com, provides a list of shows ranging from ABC’s Desperate Housewives (225 items for sale, including clothing seen on the stars) through Bravo’s Project Runway and USA Network’s Monk. SoapNet is another recent Delivery Agent contractee, according to the company.

Delivery Agent says it has the flexibility to sell products and fulfill orders on its own, or to link to a show’s Web site for the order to be handled there.

The company has predictive merchandising models that determine which sites should handle the order — the show site or a link to a manufacturer’s site.

Delivery Agent CEO Mike Fitzsimmons said his clients decide which products to offer for sale. Items available for sale — beyond DVDs and soundtracks — have increased about 40% in the past year, along with the rise in product placements in shows.

At the Top Chef page at seenon.com, consumers can buy Calphalon cookware, Cuisinart appliances used on the show or the book Think Like a Chef by judge Tom Colicchio.

Products for sale are promoted in crawls, bumpers and 15-second spots following shows. No in-show promotion is considered at this time, Fitzsimmons said, for fear of alienating fans. “If people stop watching the shows, none of this matters. We’re very sensitive to that.”

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