ABC Deal Delivers Product Placements--Into Viewers' Hands

While networks fight to integrate product placements into shows, one company looks to help networks take the product placement out of shows--and into viewers' hands.

Three-year-old San Francisco-based Delivery Agent has struck a deal with ABC Entertainment that will enable viewers to buy products that appear in series such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Viewers can buy Gabrielle's Yoga Pants, Bree's Martha Stewart Signature Couch, or Edie's Rouge Guitar online on ABC's new Delivery Agent already sells product for ABC's daytime shows, "All My Children," "One Life to Live," "The View," and "General Hospital."

"This isn't product placement--this is done after the fact," said Bruce Gersh, senior vice president of business development for ABC Entertainment. "Delivery Agent creates a close relationship with prop masters to figure out what products to sell. It's a significant business over the long term."



After working the prop masters of TV shows and film, Mike Fitzsimmons, CEO of Delivery Agent, says his merchandising team then arranges a retail relationship with product manufacturers for sale off of media companies' Web sites. The media companies and Delivery Agent share in the revenue from the retail sales.

"This is the after-market for product integration," says Fitzsimmons.

The company started by selling products off of Sony Pictures Entertainment's theatrical movie, "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," as well as for shows on Showtime. Other studios in their stable include Miramax Films, Lions Gate Entertainment, and SoapNet. Delivery Agent also has a deal with NBC and Bravo that was made a year and half ago. Overall, the company has 75 TV and film properties.

For a typical one-hour show--for example, "Desperate Housewives," says Fitzsimmons--there can be as many as 170 products placed per episode. Over the course of a season, this would amount to some 3,750 product placements--including some products that are repeated. For "Desperate Housewives," Delivery Agent has picked some 300 products--mostly apparel from the four lead women characters.

Despite the current wave of branded entertainment activity, he says, "the reality is, 99 percent of the products are not paid to be placed." Fitzsimmons says his company doesn't really work with typical branded entertainment or product placement agencies to spin out sales of actual products.

"We don't care how it got into the show," he says. "We are agnostic."

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