November 2005 - From Viewer to Buyer

In 2006, Scripps Networks plans to take home shopping to the next dimension by integrating its Shop At Home network with programming from DIY Network, Food Network and HGTV and incorporating interactive television technology into the mix.

By Vitisia Paynich

Picture yourself at home on a Wednesday night sitting on your comfortable sofa in front of your large screen television. Suddenly, you realize it’s time for another episode of”I Want That!” You then grab the remote and turn the channel to HGTV.

As you watch show hosts Aileen Avery and Kendis Gibson showcase the hottest household gadgets on the market, one particular product piques your interest.”I could really use that in my house,” you think to yourself. Just before the commercial break, Gibson says,”If you want to learn more about any of the products featured on this episode of ‘I Want That!’ go to” However, you’re quite content right now, so you’re not about to abandon your cozy surroundings to sit in front of a computer screen. Yet, you really want to purchase that product. So, what do you do?

 DIY Network Fast Facts…
Location: Knoxville, Tenn.
Launched: September 30, 1999
Web site:
Subscribers: 23 million
President: Bob Baskerville
Description: A simultaneous on-air, online network that provides immediate access to step-by-step instructions, in-depth demonstrations and tips for the do-it-yourself home enthusiast.
Programming: “DIY to the Rescue,” “Home IQ” and “Talk 2 DIY,” to name a few.

Amy Matthews (left), host of DIY Network’s “Bathroom Renovations,” helps the homeowner hang a mirror. ©2005, DIY Network

Well, if Shop At Home has its way, soon faithful HGTV viewers will be able to simply click their remote and”shop till they drop” without ever leaving the sofa. In the near future, Shop At Home and its parent company, Scripps Networks, will be integrating an interactive television (iTV) component into a select group of cable shows.
For Shop At Home, falling under the Scripps umbrella means being able to align itself with major cable networks such as HGTV, Food Network and DIY.

“I think it’s a huge strategic advantage, which is really why we bought Shop At Home,” explains Judy Girard, newly appointed president of HGTV and former president of Shop At Home. In 2002, Scripps Networks acquired the home shopping entity to go head-to-head with the other major home shopping channels like QVC and HSN. Girard admits trying to compete against the other home shopping channels has been a challenge.”When Scripps bought Shop At Home two years ago, the network was all electronics, jewelry and coins. So, we’re slowly, but surely, [not only] trying to pull it out of the red but also increase the number of hours, merchandise and depth of merchandise in the home and kitchen categories,” she notes.”That’s taking some time but we anticipated that. I mean, this is a five-year evolution to get Shop At Home to a very dominant home and kitchen category business.”

Prior to becoming president of Shop At Home, Girard served as president of Food Network, where she was responsible for programming, content on and marketing and promotions for the network.

She says what the Scripps networks know how to do well is to tell stories and effectively connect with viewers one on one by relating to their passion for home decorating, gardening and cooking.”It really is a very different relationship with the viewer than any other normal cable network I’ve worked with. And that’s really very much what home shopping is all about. I didn’t expect those techniques to apply as well as they do to home shopping but it’s about taking a product and making a story around it that actually makes it valuable to [viewers].”

The other objective for buying Shop At Home is to transform it into a viable commerce engine that could be used on Scripps’ networks, as well as on their web sites. Thus, it allows Shop At Home to use its credibility to become a specialty store. As Girard explains,”that specialty store, which the network is about to brand next month [is about offering] solutions for your life, solutions for your home and solutions for your kitchen. This really ties Shop At Home closely to them.”

However, before the network considers diving head first into the iTV experience, Girard says it has a few things that it needs to work out first.”Shop At Home hasn’t finalized the company it’s going to do that with but it works off a data stream.” The network is just building its data stream and upgrading it for the Scripps network web sites. She adds,”We need to get the kinks out of it and then that data stream can be used for iTV.”

Four years ago, Adam Rockmore was in charge of marketing and public relations at the Food Network. One of the things Rockmore realized early on was the opportunity to improve the content on the HGTV, Food Network and DIY Internet sites. The first step was to incorporate an e-commerce component into each of the sites. When Scripps acquired the Shop At Home network, Rockmore took over the e-commerce and marketing group as the senior vice president of marketing and interactive commerce.

He says part of the vision Scripps always had for Shop At Home was to inspire all those viewers of HGTV and Food Network in their passion categories. Thus, the content would further their interest in cooking, decorating and gardening by connecting them with the products suited for those categories.

“What we want to do is start bringing that together so that we can complete the circle and they can actually get inspired and then buy through our [site] as one commerce arm, if you will…” he says.

 Food Network Fast Facts…
Location: New York, N.Y
Launched: 1993; Acquired by Scripps, 1997
Web site:
Subscribers: 83 million
President: Brooke Johnson
Description: A 24-hour cable television network. In 1997, U.S. Scripps acquired controlling interest in the network from A.H. Belo Corp., and currently owns 69 percent. The network’s programming focuses on cooking, food preparation, healthy eating, at-home entertainment and restaurants.
Programing: “Emeril Live,” “Inside Dish With Rachael Ray,” “Iron Chef” and “Sara’s Secrets,” to name a few.

AShawn Diddy (left), a Shop At Home Network host, and Emeril Lagasse
©2005, Shop At Home Network

Part of that vision, according to Rockmore, is to make the e-commerce hub for all Scripps networks.”So, what we did in the past year was we built out an HGTV store that is powered by Shop At Home,” he explains.”When you click on it from HG, you actually come into the Shop At Home world.”

This transition of the site actually began with DIY, which launched an online store in February 2005 on the Shop At Home platform. Rockmore explains that the HGTV site was initially on a different platform; however, it was rebuilt in April. He says the Food Network continues to exist on a separate platform at the moment.

“Next year, about first quarter, it will move over to the Shop At Home platform as well,” he says. Of course, in order to drive visitors to these sites, Scripps knows it must do cross marketing with the TV programming.

One of the ultimate goals is that as Shop At Home does more with HGTV, for example, on”I Want That!” and directs them to to purchase products, the platform will automatically direct them to Shop At Home without confusion. Further, Rockmore contends it will give those customers a more comfortable place to shop because, obviously, they are HGTV fans and they identify with that network. There’s no need to direct them to

What data shows the advantage for Shop At Home to align with these other networks? According to Rockmore,”About a third of the HGTV audience and Food Network audience already watch home shopping. So, the theory of that [HGTV/Food Network] audience is pretty much in-sync with this audience.” He adds that, based on the network’s own research, those viewers are about five times more likely than the general population to watch home shopping. Further, a majority of HGTV and DIY viewers are well educated and have annual household incomes of over $50,000. The proportion of this demographic is 75 percent female to 25 percent male. Says Rockmore,”For the most part, [these viewers] tend to be an older audience.”

He adds that the networks generally get a little bit ahead of the curve on products and trends. Thus, in addition to the standard merchandise that customers buy from big-box retailers like Target or Wal-Mart, they also want unique products.

“So from that [perspective], it is giving us some insight into some categories and some trends that maybe we wouldn’t necessarily see right away,” he points out.

The other advantage, according to Rockmore, is the reliability factor, especially when a product appears on a popular Food Network show.”What it says to the customer is it must be a really good product,” he notes. And from that standpoint, teaming Shop At Home with its sister networks gives credibility to [a product] when featured online or on the home shopping channel because it’s one, recognizable; and two, according to Rockmore,”it’s been already blessed.”

The influence that celebrities and hosts have on viewers’ buying decisions offers many advantages to the home shopping arm.”You see examples on Food Network like Rachael Ray [who] used a [type of] knife for a couple of years and everyone wanted that knife. Chef Emeril [Lagasse] uses certain things for his shows and when he came on Shop At Home about two months ago, we blew through the product, because everyone wanted what Emeril was talking about and wanted the items that he had used on his show,” he explains.

Rockmore is referring to an exclusive agreement between Lagasse and Shop At Home to work with the home shopping channel over the next year on a variety of new sales platforms within the electronic retailer’s kitchen category. Thus, the first two of three live specials aired in July and September. The next one airs this month. As the host of”From Emeril’s Kitchen” on Shop At Home, Lagasse demonstrates cooking products and points out the merchandise’s functions and features, while utilizing them to prepare a variety of recipes.

Home & Garden Television (HGTV) Fast Facts…
Location: Knoxville, Tenn
Launched: 1994
Web site:
Subscribers: 84 million
President: Judy Girard
Description: Features some of America’s best home builders, decorators, gardeners and craft experts, as they provide practical information to help people make the most of their lives at home.
Programming: “Decorating Cents,” “Design on a Dime,” “Design Remix,” “Mission: Organization” and “I Want That!” to name a few.

Kendis Gibson (left) and Aileen Avery co-host HGTV’s “I Want That!” show.
©2005, Home & Garden Television (HGTV) Photo by Linda Spillers

Over on HGTV, popular product-based shows like”I Want That!” seem ready-made for e-commerce. He says,”The [show] started getting e-mail requests in from people who wanted those products, because they’re unique. They must be good if they’re being featured on a credible show.”

This serves as a prime example of how TV and the Internet play a symbiotic role in achieving overall response, especially on the commerce side.

“We leverage a lot of e-mail that the Scripps network web sites already do. Those web sites together attract about 14 million unique visitors a month,” says Rockmore.”I think the last stat I saw for HGTV, DIY and Food Network was about 67 percent of these customers shop online.”

What’s more, Scripps sends out between 30 and 32 million e-mails a month to customers who are category specific and very passionate about their interests.”What we’re doing now is partnering with the networks to make sure we have a space for commerce that we can leverage,” he notes. However, he quickly points out that the information they collect on those viewers is more e-mail based.”They don’t purchase from the other networks, so the information we have isn’t as specific as if they had already shopped with us but at least we’re able to reach that audience based on where they’re coming from-whether it’s HGTV or DIY. And we’re at least [gathering] somewhat focused information,” he says.

As Shop At Home and Scripps continually strengthen the e-commerce side of their business, they will transition into the next phase of this technological metamorphosis-interactive television. However, HGTV’s Girard speaks carefully on the subject.

“I think we know how to head toward iTV technology by using your remote [for] the shopping experience and the remote just makes it easier to buy. I think anyone in this business knows that,” she acknowledges.”How will it relate over the network? That [is something] we still have to work out.” She adds that it’s easy to see it on a show like”I Want That!” because it is a product-based show and it’s relatively easy for Shop At Home to source it with merchandise.

However, Girard contends that the e-commerce side of iTV will not be suited for every show on Scripps’ networks. In fact, she believes there is a definite slippery slope.

“When it comes to [HGTV] shows like ‘Curb Appeal’ or ‘Design on a Dime’ or whatever, the products that are featured on those shows are really not based on a commerce criteria,” she says.”They are based on what’s best editorially for the show.

“If you’re going to sell the product on ‘I Want That!’ anyway, then there ought to be a piece of the revenue stream coming into the company; [we're definitely] sensitive to that. Where this can get really off-track-and I think we’ve seen it on a number of network shows-is product placement certainly can go down the same path in terms of [putting] products in shows solely for the purpose of selling them. In my opinion, the consumer and viewer hate that. It’s very manipulative.” Girard contends a clear line must be drawn in the sand.

However, as HGTV, Food Network and DIY plan future programming, the commerce aspect could possibly play a part in the creation of content but without compromising the quality or the overall viewer experience.

Shop At Home Fast Facts…
Location: Antioch, Tenn.
Launched: 1988; acquired by Scripps, 2002
Web site:
Households: 52 million
President/Chairman: James G. Held
Description: A nationally televised home shopping service that sells merchandise through interactive electronic media, primarily including broadcast, cable, and satellite television, as well as through its web site.
Programming Notes: In mid-2005, chef Emeril Lagasse joined Shop At Home with exclusive
regular appearances. Shop At Home is incorporated into the HGTV Dream Home annual sweepstakes promotion.

According to Adam Rockmore, part of the vision for Shop At Home is to make its web site the e-commerce hub for all of the Scripps networks.

So, how will partnering with other Scripps networks and utilizing iTV set Shop At Home apart from the competition? Girard says,”We have the technology here and we will have the infrastructure here, which nobody else has to support commerce on those networks. The way it works is we have the call center, we have the buyers, we have the merchants-we have the whole infrastructure. And, that’s a very big difference.”

Although there are a number of steps that need to be taken in order to fully get the network up and running with iTV, Rockmore is very clear to point out the network’s overall objective.”Being now commerce-focused and having this synergy [with the major networks], we just look at it as a way to simplify and make commerce easier for our customers. If they can buy just from watching television and not having to pick up the phone or go to our web site-all the better if that’s the right way for them. I think it just behooves us to understand how it can add dimension to the customer experience and for us to put our own vision and stamp on it.”

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