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On-Q: at that Awkward Age

NEW YORK -- Unlike some of the new home shopping services that were several years in development, On-Q was born in a quick burst of energy after only five frenetic months of planning.<BR><BR>The channel hasn't had time to lose its spontaneity, nor has...

NEW YORK — Unlike some of the new home shopping services that were several years in development, On-Q was born in a quick burst of energy after only five frenetic months of planning.

The channel hasn’t had time to lose its spontaneity, nor has it had time to polish its rough edges.

On-Q, QVC’s latest shopping service, is geared to 18-to-35-year-olds. It aired its first programs on March 21 and 28 and has slowly been adding hours to its schedule.

On-Q is testing viewer habits by running three hours of programming each of three days: Monday mornings, Wednesday evenings and Friday afternoons. On-Q’s full-scale launch is scheduled for mid-summer, when it takes over QVC’s Fashion Channel during the week. Q2, a new lifestyle channel, will control the weekends.

With its raw energy, offbeat camera angles and young program hosts, who seem to be in the process of developing their on-air personas, On-Q’s programming has the feel of a work in progress.

Karen Lerner, director of On-Q, agrees with the characterization.

“All elements of the broadcast need to be fine-tuned and further developed,” she said. “We’re still in the process of building and developing new sets. We’re trying to create an environment that doesn’t represent a home, that is partly an attitude and partly abstract.”

For now, sets are spare, with runways made of weathered wood. Lighting can sometimes look garish. Stagehands walk back and forth in front of the cameras to give audiences at home a behind-the-scenes view.

It isn’t the most elegant way to present fashion — “Wayne’s World” meets the runway — but it may appeal to the young people who are the thrust of On-Q’s target audience.

So far, Max Studio by Leon Max, Sam and Libby, Kenneth Cole, Everlast Woman, Everlast Man, Adidas, Robert Rose accessories and Parallel have been sold on the channel. A special collection from David Dart will be sold on On-Q in mid-May, along with Esprit and Susie Tompkins, which agreed to sell apparel from their existing lines. Esprit and Tompkins will develop special products for On-Q in the future, Lerner said.

Lerner said On-Q is developing its own private label beauty lines and a collection of private label sportswear.

Mark Mendelson, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Leon Max, said, “We were pretty pleased with what they’re doing. It’s a startup, there’s no question about that. I think they have a lot to work out. But I think they’ll definitely get there.

“Leon [Max] thought it made sense to get in on the ground floor and experiment,” Mendelson added. “When they get it right, we want to be there.”

“We haven’t been focusing on the designer market, but more in the contemporary and better markets,” Lerner said. “When you’re starting out with a business that’s zero, you need to build a core of basics and then you can layer on and develop the bridge and designer pieces. If you start all the way at the top, it’s a long way to fall.”