By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
As much as women enjoy entertainment television, including hits “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI: Miami,” or female-oriented cable outlets such as Oxygen and Lifetime, many female viewers find must-see TV on the shopping channels.
It’s not surprising that QVC and Home Shopping Network are Nos. 1 and 2 in the merchandise TV genre, but coming in at fourth-and on track to soon rank third-is Jewelry Television.
“We’re 4 right now, but we’ll probably surpass ShopNBC by the end of this year,” said Kelly Fletcher, director of public relations for Jewelry Television. The network, which began in 1993 as America’s Collectibles Network, relaunched with a focus on fine jewelry and gemstones in 2002 under its current name. “We’re the first shopping network to hone in on one category and become subject experts on jewelry and gemstones, and now we are the 15th-largest retailer of fine jewelry in the country,” Ms. Fletcher said.
The success of Jewelry Television is based largely on its appeal to female viewers. The channel is in 90 million U.S. homes (70 million full time; 20 million part time), and “90 percent of our audience is women,” Ms. Fletcher said. “Most women tune in for two hours, but we have some people who watch us all evening or all day long. If they’re home, they’ll have us on in the background.”
JTV’s philosophical approach to winning female watchers is basic. “We take care of two of women’s favorite pastimes: shopping and jewelry,” Ms. Fletcher said. “We fill both of those niches, those desires that women have. Jewelry has always been a sign of status and beauty and glamour. And shopping, particularly in the last few decades, has become almost a sport or hobby for women.”
Jewelry TV does more than just parade pretty baubles before the cameras. It wants to entertain viewers, and educate, too. “Our network is very much geared toward educating the consumer,” said Ms. Fletcher. A typical female consumer, for example, may watch JTV for two or three weeks to learn about a particular gemstone or style of jewel before making a purchase. “They’ll watch and they’ll learn everything there is to know about tanzanite, for instance, before they make their decision about which piece they’re going to buy,” Ms. Fletcher said.
The hosts and moderators are adept at creating an inviting atmosphere. One of the most-watched programs on JTV is “Girlfriend Friday.” “We have two hosts that do the show, Sharon Scott and Angela [Morgan], and we gear the show toward the following they’ve developed,” Ms. Fletcher said. “It’s really a very simple concept. Viewers write in with stories about their jewelry and they rate them on the air and give prizes to those that are read on the air. They’ve developed this cultish following where women are getting together on Fridays and watching the show together. It’s bringing women together to do something fun. It’s on for four hours. It’s a clubby kind of thing and we get lots of letters saying they love `Girlfriend Friday.”‘
Another way that Jewelry Television woos women is by giving them a lot of choice. “You can view more of a selection and products on our shows than you would ever see in a brick-and-mortar store,” Ms. Fletcher said. “You can sit home and in one hour see more jewelry than you would see driving from store to store, especially rare things, like colored diamonds. People don’t realize that diamonds come in every color of the rainbow. We sell them in every color of the rainbow. Your typical mall jewelry store is not going to do that.”
Keeping prices low for many items ensures a loyal consumer base, and the JTV pros understand that. “We sell anything from $9.99 on up, but by and large, our average price point is $100,” Ms. Fletcher said. “There’s something for everybody, and I think that’s something that Jewelry Television has done. It’s sort of breaking down the barriers, broken down the myths that fine jewelry and gemstones are only for the elite. We’ve made them affordable for the masses.”
Comfort also plays a role. “We have focus group research that substantiates how intimidating it can be, particularly when you go into a high-end jewelry store,” Ms. Fletcher said. “You have to ask somebody to get something from behind the counter. Then they stand there and watch you while you try it on. You can order from us, try it on in the comfort of your home, decide if you want it, and if you don’t, you just put it back in the box and send it back.”