IS MTV DELIVERING ‘THE GOODS’?

Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — Is “The Goods” good enough? That is the question MTV Networks is pondering, now that its test of home shopping programming has officially ended. The final show, called “Watch-It,” aired last Friday on Nick-at-Nite.
The test had some successes, namely concert tie-ins and licensed products, but fashion simply fell flat.
Some read the fact that MTV still hasn’t made known its plans as an ominous sign.
According to MTV, “The Goods” was intended as a six month test. When the concept was announced in March 1994, the company said it could lead to a stand-alone shopping channel if it proved successful.
According to an MTV spokeswoman, there will now be an evaluation period, but what happens after that is anybody’s guess. A documentary about 7th on Sale, airing in May, will include home shopping elements but is not considered part of “The Goods.”
The executive in charge of “The Goods,” Mark Rosenthal, is still optimistic about home shopping, and the staff is still in place — a good sign.
“We’re in the process of taking a look at a bunch of business plans so we can decide on the next step,” Rosenthal said. “Whether it will be a 24-hour-a-day channel, we don’t know yet. We’re really bullish about the whole outcome. We found that there’s a real appetite for this kind of stuff out there.”
“We now have to design a channel,” said Gabe Doppelt, head of nonmusic merchandising. “It takes a lot of brain mashing to get there.”
But 1994 wasn’t a good year for home shopping. Nearly every major shopping network that started up last year was either scaled back or canceled. One challenge faced by “The Goods” was selling to MTV’s audience, which is largely composed of teenagers who don’t own credit cards.
Industry analysts said that if “The Goods” test was successful, MTV would not hesitate to launch a new channel or would at least continue to air home shopping programs on MTV, Nick-at-Nite and VH1.
Earlier this year, enthusiastic analysts said the venture had the potential of reaching $1 billion in sales in several years as a stand-alone channel. But some appear to have second thoughts.
“The bottom line is that there weren’t enough product categories, and there was the question of whether they could come up with enough critical mass to spin off a shopping channel,” said Steven Kernkraut, a managing director of Bear Stearns.
“There were a number of categories that didn’t appear to sell that well,” Kernkraut added. “They weren’t able to get a lot of consistency in terms of what they could sell.”
“You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can’t get channel capacity, you just have to wait,” Rosenthal said. “Also, we know we can produce hour-long shows. But there’s a big difference between that and a 24-hour-a-day network.”
“The Goods,” which was heavily promoted by Cindy Crawford, did well with music-related items. The first installment, which featured Woodstock paraphernalia, reportedly sold more than $1 million worth of products. But the vehicle was not as effective for selling fashion.
Mark Jacobs, who sold a rhinestone-studded T-shirt dress on MTV, said, “Apparently it didn’t work out very well. One of my reservations was that young girls really enjoy the process of shopping. They want to try on 50 T-shirt dresses before buying one.”
The company said it had better results with Todd Oldham on VH1, probably because VH1’s targeted viewer is older than MTV’s and is equipped with a credit card.
“I think our focus is primarily going to be entertainment-related, licensed merchandise,” Rosenthal said. For example, “Watch-It” featured wristwatches modeled after classic shows that air on Nick-at-Nite, like “Taxi” and “Twilight Zone.” Rosenthal said the show should bring in more than $1 million.