Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love

Sony pacts with shopping network on themed sales

HSN has a new product to sell: movies.

The cabler will make Sony Pictures’ bigscreen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling novel “Eat Pray Love” a major fixture on the home shopping network next month with three days of programming themed around the film that stars Julia Roberts.

The promotion is the first time that HSN has helped Hollywood market a movie. But it’s not likely to be the last, as the cabler is already looking for other opportunities to tie in with films.

In the case of “Eat, Pray, Love,” it’s doing so in a big way: In what HSN describes as a “complete takeover of its network,” the channel will devote 72 hours of airtime around the pic, starting Aug. 6, with each day revolving around products that relate to one of the three countries — India, Italy, Bali — that Roberts’ character visits in a quest for self-discovery following a divorce. The pic bows Aug. 13.

More than 400 items, from prayer beads to pasta makers, will be offered from more than 20 of HSN’s partners across a variety of categories, including beauty, home decor, travel, cooking and jewelry.

Sony Electronics will also offer hardware, while the studio’s consumer products arm will sell licensed items featuring the pic’s logo, including a line of lip glosses from Lancome, for which Roberts is a spokeswoman.

No money will exchange hands in the deal, although Sony will get a percentage of the sales from its licensed products.

The trailer and other footage, as well as music from “Eat Pray Love” will be peppered in with the sales segments, with everything tied together with a graphics package.

Execs at the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based channel have been eyeing films as a way to offer its mostly female aud original programming — and sell more products, as a result — since overhauling the net four years ago.

At that time, HSN started leaning more toward producing entertainment programming by building cooking or decorating shows around celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Todd English and home decor personalities Nate Berkus and Colin Cowie. Its goal is to make its segments more entertaining and give viewers more of a reason to keep watching, and hopefully buy what they see on screen.

“We’ve taken that philosophy and applied it to as many categories as we can,” said Bill Brand, executive VP of programming, marketing and business development for HSN. “We’re a television network and series of platforms and we work at creating compelling experiences that makes a woman want to watch and extend her length of tune in with us. Those are the same principles traditional networks use.”

Naturally, HSN was attracted to “Eat Pray Love,” given how women gravitated toward the book, which has sold more than 5 million copies. The network touts 83% of its viewership as women between 30 and 50 years old with above-average incomes. Of course, that’s exactly the kind of demo Sony is trying to attract to buy tix to “Eat Pray Love.”

“With a reach of more than 95 million homes, HSN’s core audience is a perfect fit for the target audience we know is eager and excited to see our film,” said George Leon, executive VP or worldwide consumer marketing at Sony Pictures.

Either way, the amount of airtime the studio is getting from HSN is unprecedented from any promotional partner. Most deals usually involve traditional media buys like print, TV and online ads.

But HSN will also provide that kind of exposure across its other platforms, including its website — also a major draw — mobile application, programming guides and direct mailings. HSN will also hype the pic through TV spots, print ads in Glamour, Elle and other magazines, as well as online ads, PR and events. A 16-page travel journal will be sent to 500,000 women.

“There are very few retailers out there that have the breadth and depth of HSN,” said Marc Weinstock, president of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures. “This is a unique promotion that taps into its power as a content, community, and commerce platform, and we are excited to have them on board as a partner.”To aid HSN with its marketing effort, Sony shipped 2,500 copies of the “Eat Pray Love” book to the network to give to call center operators, and organized screenings of the film for employees.

“Operators needed to be familiar with the story,” Brand said. “They’re the touchpoint to our customers.”

HSN has signed with WME to seek other film tie-ins and already has begun talks with other studios to set up similar themed on-air promotions. (WME did not broker the Sony deal.)

But “we have to be picky,” Brand said. A film “needs to target women because that’s the HSN audience.” Also key to the partnership is a way to integrate shopping with a pic’s storyline. “It needs to be about building a robust collection that supports the movie but also supports the shopping experience.”

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