Shopping Networks: Shoppers Find ExpoTV Homey

Aug 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

As the television industry tilts daily toward new distribution models, the home shopping genre is shifting too. Once the sole purview of on-air behemoths such as QVC and HSN, shopping networks are now taking on new shapes and forms, following the path that TV programming in general is taking.

ExpoTV is a case in point. The shopping network debuted in late 2004 and has reached 50 million homes passed through various means of distribution such as video-on-demand, subscription VOD, pay-per-view and linear. ExpoTV is similarly agnostic and has amassed carriage on VOD, on its own Web site and via online portals. Its approach, to be present across multiple viewing venues, is the new reality for shopping on television.

ExpoTV first launched with Insight as a video-on-demand network and also online at Expotv.com. It then quickly expanded its cable carriage to the tune of 12 million VOD homes and this year began expanding its online distribution. The network, which features detailed product demonstrations and product research, formed a partnership in April in which it will be carried through Google Video and in late July joined up with AOL Video to be a content provider in the consumer launch of its new download-to-own online video store later this month.

Out With the Old

ExpoTV traffics in long-form product commercials, or infomercials, although the company’s executives bristle at that word. Cable partners have described ExpoTV’s spots as slick and professional, in contrast to the cheesy, old-school infomercials of the 1980s.

The infomercial label hasn’t hindered the network in gaining distribution. Though it launched only two years ago, the network is carried on Comcast, Charter, Verizon and Adelphia, which was purchased by Time Warner and Comcast, in addition to ExpoTV’s online partners. The network has also upped its number of advertisers peddling their products to about 100, from 50 to 60 a year ago.

Under the AOL partnership, the Web giant will feature ExpoTV in the AOL Video service when it relaunches in late August with a download-to-own video service.

ExpoTV will provide user reviews, product reviews and demonstrations from experts and viewers on a variety of topics including cars, electronics, home and kitchen appliances, and parenting gear, to the service.

Another new initiative is a section of Expotv.com dedicated to user product reviews. That’s critical today, said CEO Daphne Kwon, because it allows shopping to feel more like a community experience.

“TV shopping is pretty solitary right now. You feel like you are doing it by yourself. Expo is really going to focus on the social aspect of shopping,” she said. Web views have grown 40 percent on a month-to-month basis since January, she said, and VOD views have gone up exponentially in the past year, averaging 30 percent growth each month for the past 12 months.

Expo carries on its Web site video clips from About.com covering home and garden, electronics and travel that also contain shopping information. “Our niche is much more of a social atmosphere. We do our own original programming about how to buy,” Ms. Kwon said.

The goal, she said, is for ExpoTV to be a destination for consumers to learn about products and obtain information through video and the input of other shoppers. “For us it’s a different demo: people who are looking. Rather than feel like you are coming to get sold to, we get people to select to watch [the network] as opposed to stumbling [onto] it,” Ms. Kwon said.

Top-selling categories on ExpoTV include house and home, beauty and fitness.

The network has also worked closely with Adelphia to create long-form spots for local advertisers that reside inside ExpoTV on the VOD service. Ms. Kwon said she hopes to continue that service under Adelphia’s new ownership.