Shopping channels register on-air success

Teuton TV buyers getting more access with spending skeins

COLOGNE — German shopping channels are forging alliances with private webs in a move to boost sales this year. In early October, round-the-clock newsie N-TV broke its editorial traditions by opening a window for Via 1, a TV travel agency that so far was confined to limited digital broadcasting with a range of hardly more than 2 million households.

For one hour a week, Via 1 now has access to 33 million German households, with a program designed for “sophisticated viewers with a high income.”

“Via1’s show on N-TV is actually a travel magazine especially designed to fit into our schedule,” an N-TV spokesman says, defending the apparent contradiction.

For its own 24-hour operation via Astra satellite, Via 1 has a media service license that allows advertising, but limits the journalistic content. Via 1 was launched last year in March, and has since been copied by another such web, TV Travel Shop.

On a larger scale, RTL has just entered the TV-commerce scene this year, attacking traditional channels QVC Germany and Home Shopping Europe.

“Microwave dishes and home trainers just sell better than in a shop when presented on TV,” says Heinz Scheve, managing director of media service RTL Shop.

RTL Shop can benefit from natural synergies with the RTL Group. Launched in March, RTL Shop channel reaches 10 million households via satellite, paralleled by one daily hour of general exposure with a specially designed show in RTL TV’s breakfast sked, where it reaches a market share of between 6% and 9%.

In the Formula One season, its “Boxenshop” window on Sunday mornings, specializing in items for motorheads, attracted substantial numbers of viewers.

The pioneer among RTL Shop’s rivals in Germany, Home Shopping Europe (HSE), has meanwhile expanded, this year starting to broadcast in Italian, French, Dutch and going on the air in the U.K. Oct. 17.

HSE was created six years ago as HOT — Home Order Television — a joint venture between ProSieben and mail order house Quelle. Today its shareholders also include Georg Kofler, formerly head of ProSieben and now topper of HSE’s holding company, Hot Networks.

In Germany, HSE achieved a sales volume of DM476 million ($220 million) in 2000, and expects an increase of more than 10% this year.

Europewide operators like HSE are likely to benefit from the equalization to the euro currency, as presently prices are given onscreen in different currencies for viewers of different respective countries.

Close on HSE’s heels is QVC Germany, which last year boosted its revenues by 54% to $134 million, and forecasts $185 million for 2001.

Via cable, QVC reaches some 29 million households, and is presently investing $88 million in a second distribution center, which should be ready to deliver by December2002.

A somewhat different path has been taken by TM3, which six years ago started off as a women’s web, and has just been renamed Neun Live, marking a change to interactive TV. Neun Live’s concept allows shopping formats, but is mostly based on call-in quiz shows, with revenues generated through telecom fees.

“The arts pages complain that stations like us take the magic away from TV, but that’s fine with us,” says Neun Live topper Christiane zu Salm.