The potential for extensive t-commerce has come at an opportune time for networks. With the drop in inventory thanks to DVR-enabled ad skipping, t-commerce offers an opportunity to charge a premium for product placement.
It’s one thing for a marketer to weave a brand into a show (presumably a DVR-proof tactic). It’s another if a viewer has an easy and inviting opportunity to purchase it instantly. Networks now have the chance to cut deals offering an advertiser that full package.
There are all kinds of companion and social-TV viewing opportunities via iPads and smartphones sprouting up that offer a virtual store. But the prospect of large-scale t-commerce (television commerce) might be less attributable to technological advances and more to a mass behavioral change: people watching TV with a mobile device in hand.
For networks, t-commerce doesn't just offer the chance to charge, say, a retailer for slotting a product in a drama that's really for purchase with some keystrokes in real-time, but to also bill a credit card company attached to the payment method.
A blueprint may be found in an initiative that American Express has rolled out with Fox. Viewers watching comedy “New Girl” can purchase products such as a watch worn by a character or a salt-and-pepper set seen on a table via a “Fox Now” iPad app (or Fox.com microsite). AmEx is giving cardholders an opportunity to get a $35 credit if they use a card linked with a Facebook account to buy one of the “New Girl” items.
The company has a similar t-commerce program with NBCUniversal using the zeebox second-screen application, which involves Bravo’s “Life After Top Chef,” E!’s “Fashion Police” and Style’s “Tia & Tamera.” NBCU’s Daily Candy "curates the show-inspired products."
(American Express also has a year-long interactive TV initiative going, where a viewer may be prompted during an ad to click through to a dedicated VOD-type hub with videos, games and offers. The AMEX Channel will be available in 50 million homes served by cable, satellite and telco TV providers and those with LG and Samsung smart TVs. Interactive TV facilitator BrightLine and American Express agency Mindshare have worked on development.)
For networks, revenues from product placement and related t-commerce will likely never replace any dollars lost from commercial-zapping, but this thing called e-commerce seemed to work out OK.