Several cable networks last week said they would partner with Global QVC Solutions for turnkey assistance with their latest electronic-commerce initiatives.
For consumers, that will bring easier access to network-related goods. For programmers like TV Land, The Golf Channel and Comedy Central, it means access to a new revenue stream and a chance to build the brand off-air.
"Contextual selling will not replace advertising revenue for the networks, but it can be a nice ancillary revenue stream," said Global QVC Solutions president Damon Mintzer.
Home-shopping channel QVC and its corporate parent, Comcast Corp., are the leading shareholders of Global Sports Inc., the company from which Global QVC Solutions emerged.
For a revenue split, Global QVC provides turnkey e-commerce support that includes everything from help with product and Web site design to call-center operations, inventory management and merchandise fulfillment.
"The jury is still out" on whether the network's e-commerce plans will ultimately deliver revenues, rather than just buttress the brand, admitted TV Land senior vice president of marketing and promotions Rob Pellizzi.
Last fall, Global QVC helped design a 50th-anniversary I Love Lucy
collectible wristwatch. The watch was promoted on the retro network and sold via TVLand.com. Other products sold on the Web site included a TV-trivia computer game, as well as classic-TV-themed cookie jars and lunch boxes.
For the past few years, Golf has sold instructional videos and branded golf merchandise and apparel. It now wants to take e-commerce to the next level, network president David Manougian said.
The products that tend to sell best through home-shopping channels or Web sites are the ones that are hard to find elsewhere or are associated with "limited-time-only" offers, he said.
Comedy Central plans to enlist Global QVC's help to expand its now-temporary shopping site at Comedycentral.com, said vice president of enterprises and corporate strategy Holly Lim.
In addition to show-related content tied to network hits such as South Park
and The Daily Show with John Stewart, Comedy Central may also promote merchandise like hard-to-find comedy CDs or videos, Lim said.
Comedy has not yet launched any TV-commerce trials, although it conducted a programming-related enhanced initiative last year.
Any Comedy television-commerce effort "has to work with the programming," she added.