During A Segment on a recent episode of Extra, host Renee Bargh announced that it was time for some “extra hot deals.”
Bargh introduced Extra style correspondent Shae Wilbur, who showed off a series of items—Base Buds earbuds, Suz Somersall earrings and Vivant Skin Care serum—available at discount prices to viewers. “To check out these hot deals, and some extra secret bonus buys, head over to StyleMined.com,” Bargh said.
Behind StyleMined—and a large number of “flash sale” discount segments on a variety of talk shows—is Telewise Media Group. Telewise secures the products, works with programs and producers to make sales segments blend in with the show and runs the website where viewers can purchase the products.
In addition to Extra, Telewise says it is working with E! News, The Wendy Williams Show, The View, The Talk, The Real, Dish on Deals and Extra at the Movies. It says its live flash sale segments are seen by 27 million consumers weekly and have generated about $350 million in sales since 2011.
Most people are not familiar with Telewise, and that’s because the company wants its segments to blend in with the programs in which they appear.
Telewise got into the business by creating the e-commerce technology that can handle the kind of traffic a TV show can generate. CEO Dexter Hutchison says Telewise has processed nearly 100,000 orders within a span of an hour. It then branched into securing products to sell and making deals with programs and networks. Its first segment aired on Extra in March 2013.
Hutchison has an aggressive agenda for what he calls shoppable television. He’s working with networks on shows built around shoppable elements and he wants to get involved in selling products in scripted series as well.
Television commerce has looked like the medium’s low-hanging fruit for years. Yet the idea that millions could be made by getting viewers to buy the dress Jennifer Aniston wore on Friends by clicking on a remote or going to a website hasn’t taken off.
Many companies are looking to technology to turn viewers into shoppers—Delivery Agent is selling Shark Week items via connected TV, for example. And there are other companies that create shopping segments in talk shows. But Telewise appears to be the leader.
“Telewise seemed like a well-oiled machine,” said Antoinette Clarke, VP of branded entertainment and media innovation at CBS, which works with the company on segments in The Talk. CBS did three test segments with Telewise at the beginning of the year before agreeing to do 12 segments over the remainder of the year. “They delivered everything they promised,” she said.
On one “Friday Finds” segment on The Talk, Sharon Osborne admires an Akribos watch that retails for $650 but is available to viewers for $69. And members of the studio audience each received a Mica curling iron—the kind Beyoncé uses—which is available online for $39, a bargain compared to the regular price of $200.
“There’s a lot of time and effort and conversation about making the segment creatively fi t with the show, and not make the show look like an opportunity to ring a cash register,” said Jared Zerman, senior VP daytime sales at CBS.
Zerman wouldn’t go into details, but generally these deals involve a revenue share of sales the segments generate. There’s also sometimes an upfront commitment. “We will not go into a deal unless there’s at least some degree of guaranteed money,” he said.
Hutchison also declined to provide financial details. “Generally we work with shows in a partnership model where they want to put their best foot forward,” he said.
To make shoppable TV a bigger deal, Hutchison is aiming to make it seem cool and hip. To some degree it’s working.
In 2010 most of the company’s sales came from 45-to-65-year-old women. “Now we’ve seen a huge uptick with audiences as low as their younger 20s,” he said.
Hutchison notes that the data Telewise gets about people who buy products is shared with networks and the shows—valuable information that can be used to build ratings.
The segments are also starting to attract advertisers. On E! News, Telewise worked with Macy’s and Dove to sponsor specific segments.
And Hutchison wants to do business with scripted shows as well, using audio cues to alert connected devices to let viewers know items are for sale.
“We’re currently in discussions and developing our technology further to make it a lot more seamless and integrated,” he said. “I do feel that opportunity is just around the corner.”
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.