By Booth Moore
Los Angeles Times
Rather than merely being paid to insert products into their shows, TV networks are moving into the clothing business themselves.
Bravo tested the waters last year, partnering with Kooba to introduce four exclusive handbags worn by the lead characters on the show "NYC Prep" and sold at the same time through Bravo.com. Now, networks are taking it a step further, getting involved on the front end in designing product to be incorporated into story lines and selling it at the same time it appears on-air.
Spanish-language network Telemundo has launched its own jewelry line, in hopes that viewers will want to buy baubles worn by their favorite telenovela heroines. Priced from $50 to $200, the line is sold only online now at Telemundojewelry.com but will be introduced in stores with a retail partner in the fall.
"We started doing product integration for our (advertising) clients, then we figured: Why not do it for ourselves?" said Susan Solano Vila, senior vice president of marketing for Telemundo. "If the story says there's a locket that a mother left to her daughter, we think about how to design one that looks contemporary and relevant."
Designed by Udi Behr, the Telemundo jewelry collection includes an exotic-looking turquoise cuff and gold bead necklace worn by the young heroine Jade in the series "El Clon," which focuses on star-crossed lovers and a clash of cultures, and the chunky pearl stretch bracelet and matching cocktail ring worn by the trophy wife Cecilia in "Donde Esta Elisa," which centers around the disappearance of her beautiful 17-year-old niece.
"We see Telemundo becoming a lifestyle brand," said Joni Camacho, marketing director for the NBC Universal TV Consumer Products Group. (NBC Universal owns Telemundo.) "We're going from jewelry to other personal accessories and home decor."
CBS Television Studios is introducing a branded clothing line this fall — Bebe for "90210" — based on its "90210" TV series, entering its third season on the CW. The collaboration was put together by American Groove, a new branding company that's bringing fashion and entertainment properties together. The show's wardrobe stylists and Bebe's creative team are working together to design the line, which will be introduced simultaneously on-air and in Bebe stores.
"We started looking at how the show is all about fashion and style, and saw that the actresses were appearing in the pages of People and US magazine, and we thought of this different approach to licensing that is not a literal logo on a shirt but real fashion items," said Liz Kaldoner, executive vice president and general manager of the CBS Consumer Products division.
"It parallels what's happened in the past few years in music, with TV shows launching artists. We took the idea and mimicked it for fashion."
The fact that Bebe is a fast-fashion apparel brand, capable of quickly turning around styles, made it a good fit, she said. "Bebe's audience is the same as "90210's." It's young, contemporary, sexy women. Once we got the idea, we had to figure out how to align the production schedules as well as the seasonality of the clothes. There were a lot of logistical challenges," Kaldoner continued, adding that she has plans for similar projects with CBS' daytime shows.
"We are seeing a shift in how people shop," she said. "We have to think about where the customer is, not making the customer come to us."
It will be interesting to see who gets it right, if anyone. One thing's for sure, soon every network will be a home shopping network.