NEW YORK — MTV Networks is hoping that the viewers who demanded a 24-hour music video channel in the Eighties have grown into conspicuous consumers who will chime, “I want my MTV…home shopping channel.”
On Tuesday, MTV Networks, which is a unit of Viacom Inc., said it will begin testing home shopping programming on its MTV, VH1 and NICK at NITE cable TV networks in April.
If successful, the tests could ultimately lead to a standalone home shopping channel.
“We think it could be a very significant business,” said Tom Freston, chairman and chief executive officer of MTV Networks, declining to make a volume projection. “It doesn’t have to make a huge amount of money to be profitable.”
Freston said the home shopping programs will run in 30-minute segments that “will look like any other program on MTV, VH1 and NICK at NITE.”
MTV’s product offerings predictably will be music-related merchandise, such as compact discs, cassettes, concert tickets and music videos. However, there will also be fashion and other lifestyle items for sale.
“A lot of merchandise will be non-music related,” Freston said. “We think there is room to put in some apparel items. Couldn’t you see selling Doc Martins on MTV? The same might be said for Levi’s or sneakers.”
According to the company, the concept of a home shopping channel has been under development
for more than a year. In fact, Freston said the company had discussions with QVC prior to the start of QVC’s bitter takeover battle with Viacom for Paramount Communications.
“We talked about this venture to QVC months in advance of the Paramount deal and told Barry Diller that we were interested in possibly joint-venturing it,” Freston said. “Those discussions obviously fell apart. We talked to Home Shopping Network before that.”
MTV Networks said it has appointed three key executives to develop home shopping programming, but could not provide their titles.
The executive are Brian Diamond, who has worked at MTV in a variety of programming, production and marketing capacities, including several years as executive producer of MTV Europe; Gabe Doppelt, a former editor-in-chief of Mademoiselle, and Gwynne Thomas, a former managing editor of “The Charlie Rose Show.”
“It’s a logical step that wasn’t completely unexpected,” said a Wall Street analyst. “Those formats, MTV, VH1 and Nick at Nite, lend themselves to moving products like records and concert tickets.
“How much of the other merchandise will actually sell is a question mark. At least they’ll be getting the experience.
“The fact that you see Viacom and Time Warner and Spiegel starting these shopping initiatives indicates this is certainly going to be a viable business into the 20th Century,” he continued. “All of these companies are essentially trying to position themselves.”
MTV’s shopping programming will occupy a niche that is not currently represented in electronic retailing. The programming will not have MTV’s hyperactive pace but will mirror the rock channel’s use of cutting-edge graphics and animation.
“We’re testing things such as live versus prerecorded, using an artist as opposed to a host,” Freston said.