ShopNBC Winks at ITV


Thanks to a new interactive-television partnership, fans of home shopping will no longer need to pick up a telephone to order that coveted item on the small screen.

Last week, ShopNBC — the 24-hour shopping channel known until last Thursday as ValueVision — announced a deal with Wink Communications Inc. that gives viewers the option to buy merchandise by clicking their remote control any time of the day or night.

The Wink technology is currently available in more than 3 million homes, the majority of which are DirecTV Inc. households. After Wink customers set up an electronic wallet that stores their credit-card number, they can make purchases by simply pressing a few buttons and entering a four-digit personal identification number (PIN).

"I believe customers will find television commerce so reliable that it will catch on in a fury," ShopNBC chief technology officer Kevin Hanson predicted.

Once such other home-shopping channels as QVC and HSN participate in around-the-clock t-commerce, he added, the expanded profile will help to stimulate overall consumer interest in the genre.

Because DirecTV doesn't presently handle t-commerce purchases in real time, ShopNBC won't make all its items available for purchase via the remote, Hanson noted. Customers might see messages on screen touting "limited quantities — call now."

ShopNBC pays Wink a fee for each transaction, Hanson said. It's up to Wink to determine how it shares that cut with its direct-broadcast satellite or cable-operator affiliates.

The Enhanced Broadcast Technologies group at ShopNBC has also produced interactive content for programs on the NBC broadcast network, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
and Will & Grace. But on entertainment shows, the merchandise can't take center stage.

"You can't interrupt the flow of the show," Hanson said. "If you irritate the consumer, you lose the consumer."