SURVIVAL TACTICS: It isn't easy being a pioneer.

Joan Rivers's "Can We Shop?" -- the first home shopping program to be syndicated for broadcast television -- has been the subject of rumors that put the future of the show, which has one of the lowest ratings in TV, in jeopardy.

A spokeswoman for Tribune Entertainment, the show's syndicator, denied the show will be canceled, but added that no decision had been made beyond June 16, when its current 13-week production schedule is slated to end.

Producers hoped that sales revenue would compensate for ratings, since shopping programs have difficulty attracting an audience on broadcast TV. For some stations it has, but for others, sales have been disappointing.

"We've done fairly well with it in Miami," said Ed Wasilik, program director of WBSF-TV. "We're one of their top-performing markets."

KTVU-TV in San Francisco moved the program from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

"After watching the show and its rating performance, late night seems to be the best environment for people to order products," said Kevin O'Brien, KTVU's general manager. "We're still intrigued by the concept. We like being revenue partners. It was just in the wrong time period."

KITN-TV in Minneapolis moved the show from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

"Technically they've done a good job," said Rip Riordon, KITN's general manager.

Mike Dunlop, general manager of KTXH-TV in Houston, said, "We've been very disappointed with it thus far. We're going to give it another month and then decide whether to move it to another time slot or drop it.

"We felt this was a new revenue stream and we wanted to experiment with it," Dunlop said. "The syndicator came here with projections of what home shopping has done in the marketplace. The show's revenues fell far short."

The Tribune spokeswoman said there have been production changes. All programs now have themes, such as gifts for Mother's Day. In addition, there has been an effort to book guests more interesting to the general public, like Rita Rudner and Carrie Fisher. (Both had books to sell.)"They're starting to do a lot more 'fun' segments," the spokeswoman added. "They are going to be selling an island off the coast of Florida for $2.8 million on an upcoming show."

Q2's SIMPLE STYLE: Q2, which is advertising itself as "Resource Television," plans to educate consumers about how the products it sells will fit into their lives.

One step in that direction is "Chic Simple," a weekly one-hour program based on a series of lifestyle books of the same name. The books, by Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone, talk about living stylishly for less money, with tips on decorating, dressing and cooking.

The authors are also designing a line of private label Chic Simple merchandise including men's, women's and children's apparel, accessories, products for the home, footwear and health and beauty items.

The programs will be hosted by Gross and Stone.

INSIDE STORY: Conventional wisdom has it that apparel is hard to sell through infomercials. First there are the sizing issues. Then there is the question of managing the inventory.

Nevertheless, California Infomercial Association is introducing an infomercial on May 1 for a group of bodysuits designed by Carol Maloney, a Los Angeles lingerie designer. Cristina Ferrare will host.

Lenny Shabes, president of CIA, dismisses the sizing problem, saying, "The bodysuits are stretchable and more forgiving than regular clothing. All the bodysuits have Lycra spandex."

Maloney said that because the bodysuits are made in California, quick turnaround on back orders shouldn't be a problem. There are four styles in three sizes for about $49. The colors are white, black or ivory.

HSN, A SHOPPING PRODIGY: HSN Products Inc., a subsidiary of HSN, has signed a letter of intent with Prodigy Services Co. to develop an online store for personal computer users.

Product lines for the online store will be similar to those sold on the Home Shopping Club. They include jewelry, housewares, fashion and electronics. For the first time products will be depicted with full color photos instead of drawings on Prodigy.REEBOK MAKES CABLE HEALTHIER: Reebok International Ltd. and Liberty Media Corp. have signed letters of intent to acquire minority equity interests in Cable Health Club, a cable health and fitness network.

Cable Health Club, owned by Cable Health TV Inc., a subsidiary of International Family Entertainment, and Body By Jake Inc., was launched in 1993. The amount of each investment was not known.

Reebok will also be involved in developing programming and selling its products on the home shopping component.

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