Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — After a year in the works, Interactive Video Enterprises unveiled on Tuesday its new interactive service, called U.S. Avenue.
It’s an entertainment and home shopping venture that appears ambitious and expensive.
IVE, a U.S. West company, said Ford Motor Co., Hallmark, FTD, Virgin Records and Richard Wolffer’s Auctions, which sells sports memorabilia, will participate in the service. Nordstrom Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. previously said they would offer products via the service.
According to IVE executives, the first test of U.S. Avenue will begin in the fourth quarter in Omaha. By the end of 1995, the service will roll out to 10,000 households as part of Time Warner’s Full Service Network in Orlando. IVE is also interested in introducing a version of U.S. Avenue for broadcast television and a concept called Mobile Merchandising, which is geared to the traveler. And there is reportedly discussion about CD-ROM versions.
U.S. Avenue will work on two levels. First, it will offer entertainment programming on what’s called “the viewing level.” Scheduled programs on such topics as fashion, travel, sports, music and cooking are being planned.
In one segment, Avenue talked with recording artists who have collaborated with Frank Sinatra, such as Liza Minnelli. By pointing a remote control at an icon that says “closer look,” a “buying level” appears. It lists information about recordings, including prices. The viewer can then make a purchase, by clicking the remote control, or return to the viewing level, with another click. “The goal was to create a service that appeals to the broadest consumer audience — through entertainment television — and in that way, ease them into the interactive part,” said Andrew H. Orgel, executive vice president of IVE.
Orgel acknowledged that this approach is costly, but declined to discuss the price of production.
“We know the viewer level is somewhat ambitious,” he said. “It also sets us apart. We need it to approach viewers in an environment of honest-to-goodness entertainment TV.”
After the presentation, Patrick Adkisson, operations and business development manager of Nordstrom’s, said his company chose to participate in the interactive test with U.S. Avenue — it is involved in another with Bell Atlantic — because the rollout plan seemed a little more aggressive.
Nordstrom’s will sell a selection of merchandise from its catalog but hasn’t decided on whether branded or private label goods will be featured. In the presentation, Penney’s showed private label apparel.

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