ValueVision on the move

May 14, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Cable home shopping network ValueVision is in talks with interactive television platforms Microsoft TV and AOL TV about creating a digital cable channel that would operate at broadband speed while still celebrating the tradition of the broadcast networks.
“We’re under a nondisclosure agreement,” ValueVision Chief Technology Officer Kevin Hanson said about the timing of the forthcoming channel’s introduction to multiple system operators’ digital customers.
AT&T Broadband, which is gradually rolling out digital interactive service packages, has yet to deploy Microsoft TV’s interactive TV software platform. However, the cable operator could finally watch its investment from Microsoft bear fruit once AT&T settles the long-standing question of whether Chairman Michael Armstrong will shift to managing the telco’s cable and broadband arm. AT&T Broadband’s ties to Microsoft TV are strong, given the $5 billion investment Microsoft made in AT&T in May 1999.
Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable is hoping to soon offer the affiliated AOL TV’s Internet-on-television service to its customers-despite the fact that the multiple system operator’s launch of the TV Web portal is only a second priority to rolling out iN Demand’s video-on-demand offering.
If ValueVision is able to finalize deals with Microsoft TV and AOL TV, the pacts would open the door for the home-shopping channel to provide digital cable viewers access to a high-powered shopping network. Such a technological backbone would enable their audience to send product orders through their televisions without waiting for telephone dial-up access.
To be sure, ValueVision’s digital broadband initiative represents the cable network’s vision of its future maturation in a high-velocity wired world, and the channel will have to take several baby steps to get there. In June, ValueVision will change the name of its home-shopping television networks to ShopNBC, although the parent company’s moniker will remain the same.
ValueVision licensed the ShopNBC logo from the network in November as part of an agreement that also allowed NBC to purchase 6 million shares of ValueVision stock. The pact will allow audiences to order products via digital remote control from their home for the first time with Wink’s t-commerce application.
The Wink-enabled channel won’t be supported by the omnipresent return path that digital cable services offer. That, however, is expected to change once DirecTV affiliate Hughes Network Systems unveils its long-planned Spaceway satellite-based interactive service that would let audiences send information from their remote controls to a broadband network without enduring dial-up delays.
At a time when television broadcast networks are suffering the ills of a soft advertising market, industry executives are clamoring to devise new subscription- and sales-transaction-based TV offerings. ValueVision’s Mr. Hanson, for one, thinks the business of selling products directly to consumers via television-a business whose soundness has already been demonstrated by cable networks such as ValueVision and QVC-will only be strengthened as the industry bolsters its investments in broadband technologies.
“We took over a group from NBC that had been doing ITV for about five years,” Mr. Hanson said at the TVision 2001 conference last week in Los Angeles. “We looked at ITV and said … consumers won’t pay for content. They’ll pay for commerce.”
Mr. Hanson said in addressing the audience that ValueVision is pushing to capitalize on the ShopNBC logo by displaying it prominently on its own television channels.
“We don’t know if it’s gonna work, but we’re gonna try a banner ad on TV,” he said. “Our aspiration is to be the most sophisticated and aggressive commerce application on television.”