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Hey, Cable: Buy This Gem

A Los Angeles-based high-end jewelry channel, currently carried by direct-broadcast satellite providers, is seeking distribution on cable systems.

Executives with Ultimate Shopping Network hope operators say they want the channel to be the “Bloomingdale's of television shopping,” noting the channel's average price point of $400 per item. Cable has had success with mass-merchandising on air, said network founder Mike Reinstein. It's his hope that there's now interest in adding “boutique shops.”

Ultimate Shopping also sells merchandise such as coins and sports collectibles for the “luxury market,” but “jewelry is the key,” Reinstein said.

SATELLITE LIFT

The network has grown gradually, from a vendor buying time on low-power stations to one that currently reaches 16 million homes a day, with a channel on DBS provider DirecTV Inc., and 3.5 million more through part-time carriage (12 hours a day) on EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network.

The channel also is available via broadcasters KVMD and KJLA in Southern California, where the venture began.

USN has a bit of cable experience: Until the pop-culture and arts network Trio folded, the shopping network programmed that channel's overnight hours.

“We were encouraged to see we could perform there,” he said, noting the network saw “a blip” downward in sales when Trio went off the dial.

Other TV outlets are also pitching pricey jewelry. Jewelry Television by ACN specializes in jewelry and gems and reaches more than 11 million cable and 20 million DBS homes. Jewelry is a major part of the product mix on both the HSN and QVC shopping channels.

Reinstein said he expects cable operators would be attracted to his network's sales stats and demographics and would match up the service with systems that serve upper middle class areas. USN buyers are urban and from all states, with heavy sales volume eminating from suburban New York City, Chicago and Miami, he said.

VIEWER STATS

The USN viewer's average age is 38 or older; 63% of its audience is female. One-third of buyers represent 70% of the network's sales. Reinstein said 260 customers bought more than $5,000 in jewelry in the last six months.

Viewers are buying even though the channel offers no payment plans, a staple to attract buyers to big-ticket items on other shopping channels. If an item is purchased on USN, the buyer must pay in full at the time of purchase.

USN is open to negotiating equity stakes or revenue-sharing deals with major distributors. “It's worth it if they're a partner,” Reinstein said.