Archive for June, 2010

HSN To Launch Mobile Shopping Site Using WAP Technology Thursday

June 30, 2010

HSN will debut HSN Mobile — a user-friendly, mobile-optimized version of the home shopping network’s Top 10-trafficked e-commerce site, hsn.com — on Thurday, the company announced Wednesday.

The new site will be available on all Internet-enabled mobile devices and is a key element of HSN’s strategy designed to provide consumers with “a compelling shopping experience whenever and wherever they desire,” or so we are told in the press release.

“In today’s retail marketplace, offering a true multi-channel experience is crucial to achieving success,” Brian Bradley, executive vice president of HSN.com and Advanced Services, said in a canned statement. “We understand that customers need access and service on their own terms, and we are excited about the opportunities that mobile technology offers as we introduce HSN to even more consumers and leverage our robust site.”

Utilizing WAP technology, HSN Mobile is meant to enhance the customer’s ability to shop via the phone, offering all smart phone users an engaging experience that is similar to what is currently available via the HSN Shop application for iPhone and Android devices without the need to make any downloads.

Those with handsets that support streaming video will be able to view HSN’s live broadcast as well as product demonstrations and original content that are currently available on HSN.com.

Customers will also have the ability to search and access products, including HSN’s special value of the day “Today’s Special” which will be called out on the home page.

Additionally, users will be able to create a new account and complete transactions, all via the mobile site.

HSN plans to expand the features available on HSN Mobile in the future to include more of the offerings available to HSN.com users, including the HSN Program Guide to view upcoming must-see shows and sign up for e-mail alerts for their favorite brands. Additional applications will vary based on specific mobile devices.

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Final Say On This: ‘HSN Today’ Weekend Edition Kicks Off Fourth Of July Weekend

June 30, 2010

With the help of one of our readers and HSN PR, we finally have the final dope on “HSN Today” going seven days a week.

One of our posters, Joanie-B — and we thank her — did some sleuthing, checking the HSN hosts’ schedules. She saw that
“HSN Today” starts its weekend run this weekend, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m, hosted by Alyce Caron and Guy Yovan.

And we heard from HSN tonight, as to why the expansion.

“The decision to extend our HSN Today programming to 7 days a week was based upon feedback we’ve received from our customers and the success of the weekday shows,” HSN PR said in e-mail. “‘HSN Today’ extends to 7 days a week starting this weekend and the weekend hosts will be Alyce Caron and Guy Yovan.”

Thanks guys, but Joanie-B told us that last part already.

HSN Expands Its Morning Show, ‘HSN Today,’ To Weekends

June 29, 2010

HSN is extending its “HSN Today” morning show to weekends, according to show host Adam Freeman.

We caught that tidbit watching the ever — and sometimes annoyingly — chipper Brit Tuesday morning on the show, which airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Currently, “HSN Today,” co-hosted by Freeman and Tamara Hooks, only runs Monday through Friday.

We’d like to tell you why HSN is expanding “HSN Today,” or when the weekend edition starts or who will host it, but we can’t.

We e-mailed two PR people at HSN this morning with those questions, and never got a response.

High-End Jewelry Designer Sonia Bitton Returns To ShopNBC — Hawking Cubic Zirconia

June 28, 2010

Well, luxury jewelry designer Sonia Bitton is back on ShopNBC — selling a line that’s in sterlng silver and cubic zirconia!

French Bitton, who once brought ShopNBC glorious pieces that were thousands of dollars — with high grade diamonds and set in gold — now has the Sonia Bitton for Brilliante Collection on the No. 3 home shopping network.

Brilliante is ShopNBC’s simulated diamond line, i.e. cubic zirconia, the item that gave home shopping a bad rap. QVC’s brand name for this fake bling is Diamonique, while HSN calls its Absolute.

Exiled ShopNBC host Charla Rines was a huge fan of Bitton’s work, and always wore one of her huge diamond rings on-air.

But when Rines got the boot in January, Bitton became MIA from ShopNBC, too. We believe Rines was working with Bitton at an Australian home shopping channel for a bit earlier this year.

This is all part of the de-evolution of ShopNBC, which once targeted affluent customsers with high-end jewelry.

Former Jailbird, And Jersey Girl, Martha Stewart Is Coming To HSN July 19

June 27, 2010

Lifestyle doyenne Martha Stewart, who hails from our former town of Nutley, N.J., is coming to HSN, debuting her Martha Stewart Living line July 19.

Stewart, who did jail time for a little criminal charge involving stock trading, several years ago had a line on QVC. We remember seeing her on-air with Kathy Levine, that’s how long ago it was, and ol’ Martha was quite prickly and nasty. She didn’t last too long on the No. 1 home shopping channel.

On Facebook Sunday HSN host Colleen Lopez posted about Stewart’s debut July 19, and we checked the HSN website and several of Stewart’s items are already on there.

Those include an American flag, “patriotic” tubs, handheld flags and banners. The stuff is perfect for the Fourth of July, so we’re surprised that Stewart’s debut isn’t until July 19.

Lopez said she can’t wait to meet Martha.

This HSN deal isn’t all that Martha has cooking. Her company did a deal earlier this year to produce daytime programming for the Hallmark Channel. That programming starts airing in the fall, with Stewart’s signature “The Martha Stewart Show” moving to Hallmark.

We have a soft spot in our heart for Stewart, and not because we’re into cooking or home decor. She is from Jersey, and you know that endears her to us. She is from the working class town of Nutley, where we lived for about a dozen years while we were working for The Herald-News.

And we like Stewart because her birthday is Aug. 3, the same as our niece Sydney. Two Leos.

HSN Rock Star Jay King’s Buddy Marty Colbaugh, Owner Of THE Kingman Mine, Doesn’t Play Favorites: He Sells Turquoise To HSN Rival QVC

June 26, 2010

Kingman Mine owner Marty Colbaugh (on the right, we think)

Marty Colbaugh, the owner of the Kingman Mine in Arizona, doesn’t play favorites in terms of which home shopping network he sells his turquoise to.

QVC’s Today’s Special Value Saturday is a blue Kingman turquoise necklance and enhancer made from Kingman turquoise that was found in a huge vein in the mine last year.
So Colbaugh is appearing in on-air promos on QVC and on videos on the network’s website.

But Colbaugh is also a business associate and friend of Jay King, who does the Mine Finds line for QVC rival HSN.

HSN's Jay King, Marty's friend and business associate

Just over a month ago, Colbaugh appeared live on HSN with King when the Today’s Special was a Kingman turquoise ring.

The blue Kingman turquoise used for both pieces is apparently from the same “find” last year, and there has not been such a turquoise score at the Arizona mine since the late 1960s or early 1970s, Colbaugh said on both HSN and one of his QVC videos.

When QVC host Jill Bauer said that the Today’s Special Valyue was manufactured in Albuquerque, N.M., we almost jumped out of our chair, because that’s where King’s factory is. But of course he is not making the QVC necklace.

Veteran QVC Southwestern jewelry vendor Carolyn Pollack, who like King is based in Albuquerque, is making it.

FX’s ‘Rescue Me’ Was Once Headed To USA Network, And Denis Leary’s ‘Tight Little Irish Ass’

June 25, 2010

Rescue Me cast at screening

Denis Leary on the red carpet Thursday

We went to the screening last night of the 6th season premiere episode of “Rescue Me,” hoping to see the cast get into the hijinks that made the headlines in the past – dropping their pants to moon (as we recall) bystanders and behaving rowdy enough to be the lead item on Page Six.

We had hoped to catch a view at what one of our high school classmates on Facebook described as “Rescue Me” creator and star Denis Leary’s “tight little Irish ass,” and she meant that in a complimentary, lustful manner. (See what we can write about in a blog, as opposed to the bible of the cable industry?)

Well, unfortunately for us the cast behaved themselves this year, at least up until the time we left the premiere after-party at the rooftop terrace of the Empire Hotel on 63rd Street. So we didn’t a good look at Leary’s butt.

Michael Lombardi heisted a bottle of water

But we were still shocked by something we learned at the screening at the 42nd Street AMC Theaters: “Rescue Me” almost wound up on USA Network instead of FX.

We can’t imagine what “Rescue Me” would have been like if it had gone with USA. At FX, then-new president John Landgraf was looking for raw, edgy, dark dramas when Leary approached him about the show.

Lenny Clarke is a stand-up guy

Landgraf gave lanky Leary, who plays tortured firefighter Tommy Gavin, the freedom to make “Rescue Me” a breakthrough drama, with lots of sex and the constant pushing the boundaries of taste.

That couldn’t be more different than USA’s programming strategy which, as chief Bonnie Hammer told us once, was to do upbeat, “blue sky” series. That strategy definitely works: USA is No. 1 in the ratings.

But the skies in “Rescue Me” aren’t blue. They’re grey, still filled with the ashes of the crumbling towers on 9/11 and the bodies of World Trade Center jumpers, exploding like water balloons when they hit the ground, as Tommy Gavin graphically put it in one episode.

We're available Adam Ferrarra

Landgraf said, and Leary confirmed at the screening, that USA had offered to order six episodes of “Rescue Me.” But that would have been a very bad fit.

USA’s tagline is “Characters Welcome.” But Landgraf said, “I’m pretty sure these characters aren’t welcome,” referring to the alcoholic, dysfunctional, womanizing, promiscuous, violent but brave denizens of “Rescue Me.”

When Leary, in an orange T-shirt and jeans, got up to speak he said when he met with FX he was impressed with the marketing plans that John Solberg, who is actually PR chief for the network, already had cooked up to promote “Rescue Me.” That helped make Leary go with FX.

John Scurti

Leary also poked fun at himself before the screening.

“I’d like to thank myself for having a giant forehead,”
he said, noting saying if he didn’t have such a big noggin, there couldn’t have been ads for “Rescue Me.” The campaign features a close-up of Leary’s forehead with the word “Rescued” on it.

So enough of the serious stuff, we know you want to hear the skinny about the cast members that attended the screening and after-party.

The men, a handsome lot, all dressed down, while the women dressed up. Actor Michael Lombardi, who plays childlike dummy firefighter Mike, was behind us at the concession stand at the AMC theater trying to get a bottle of water. He was told he had to stand on line by concession workers who didn’t know he’s one of “Rescue Me’s” stars.

Natalie Distler and Olivia Crocicchia, who play Gavin's two girls

Lombardi was polite: He didn’t say “Get me a friggin water, I’m part of the cast.” But after patiently waiting, he grabbed a water and took off, as the concession workers yelled out to him to stop.

Actor Steve Pasquale, who plays the dumbbell Sean, was on crutches. John Scurti, who plays the smart and sarcastic lieutenant Lou, has gained a ton of weight, all in the belly (sorry Lou).

Rescue Me guys' cast

And Leary’s fellow stand-up-comedians-turned actors, Lenny Clarke and Adam Ferrarra (sexy, but with his girlfriend), were at both the screening and the party.

At the party the food was great, short ribs and delicious chicken and pasta. Even better, the alcohol was free. And despite a weather report of big thunderstorms looming, we were out on the rooftop terrace – on a balmy summer night – enjoying the gorgeous view we had of Manhattan.

Leary as Tommy Gavin, FX publicity shot

A footnote on PR maven John Solberg, who is so much more than a publicist. We’ve heart Michael Chiklis, star of FX’s “The Shield,” personally thank John for his work. And Leary cited Solberg as helping him to believe that FX, not USA, was the proper home for “Rescue Me.” Talent never cite and praise network PR people by name, but Chiklis and Leary did.

John also told us on the rooftop terrace last night that he was the one who lined up Yankee Derek Jeter to appear in the promo ads for “Rescue Me,” whose sixth season debuts next week. John has been with FX basically from the beginning, and has played a big part in its success.

Leary and Callie Thorne, who plays Sheila

FX president Landgraf, who we have had our arguments with, is nonetheless a smart, talented programmer who has made FX into basic cable’s HBO.

“Rescue Me” doesn’t sugar coat the flaws of the FDNY, or what happened on 9/11, or its repercussions. As the daughter of a retired NYC firefighter, we thought the way Leary addressed the lingering issues of the tragic terrorist attacks brilliantly in the first season of “Rescue Me,” without being maudlin.

Right off the bat, Leary tried to convey the horror of the bright, crisp September day. Leary’s cousin, fellow fighterfighter Jimmy Keefe, was decapitated when the Towers fell. His ghost, head intact, has been a recurring character on the show. Tommy is involved in a tumultuous affair with his cousin’s widow Sheila, played by Callie Thorne.

Callie Thorne, Tatum O'Neil and Natalie Distler

The fact of the matter is that the World Trade site was a scene of carnage, with severed limbs and body parts strewn about. The Daily News caught flak for running a photo of a hand lying on the ground. One of its reporters saw a man cut in half by a falling pane of glass.

But we have had our arguments with Landgraf about “Rescue Me,” as wel. The memoriable one was about a controversial scene where Tommy essentially rapes his estranged wife Janet. Landgraf defended the scene as realistic for the characters. It turned our stomach as women.

Spoiler alert: The first episode of Season 6 is masterful. Tommy, shot by his Uncle Teddy (played by Clarke) in a cliffhanger last season, is seen lying on the floor in his own blood. This seaaon, he dies in an ambulance. His “going-to-the-white-light vision” when he passes gave me goosebumps.

It looks like the rest of the season will deal with a recurring battle for Tommy: His fight against alcoholism.

Co-executive producer Tom Sellitti, Leary and FX president John Landgraf (right)

Speaking of alcohol, there was an open bar at the party, as we mentioned. We ordered our two appletinis, but only drank one and half. Some woman hit our table, and we wound up wearing half of our second appletini on our snakeskin print cocktail dress.

Rushing out to catch the last bus back to Montclair at 12:45 a.m., we grabbed a white chocolate cookie and brownie, and stuck them in our purse “for tomorrow.” They were gone before we went to bed in the wee hours this morning.

Diva Liza Minnelli’s New HSN Apparel And Jewelry Line Is Not As Colorful As Her Past

June 25, 2010

Liza Minnelli

Believe it or not, Liza Minnelli will be appearing on HSN next Wednesday to kick off the home shopping network’s 33rd birthday in July. Ms. “New York, New York” will be premiering an apparel and jewelry line inspired by her own wardrobe and baubles.

HSN announced back in May that it had rounded up Minnelli for its big birthday festivities, in which it is partnering with Harrah’s for a multi-million dollar promotion that will be shot on-site in Las Vegas.

HSN has already begun running promos with Minnelli for her June 30 appearance, and those eager to see what The Liza Collection is all about can now find her mechandise on HSN.com.

Jewelry is our thing, and we think Minnelli’s fashion jewelry pieces for HSN are OK, but nothing particularly different or earth-shattering. She has one of the largest collections of Elsa Peretti jewelry in the world, and several of her jewelry items appear to have been “Inspired” by Perretti, including two pendants on cords.

Peretti now designs for Tiffany & Co.

Minnelli’s HSN clothing includes a black velvet halter jumpsuit, black velvet pants and a velvet jacket, an odd assortment of items to be selling when it’s 95 degrees out with 90 percent humidity.

It’s interesting that HSN is partnering with a scandal-stained, albeit talented, figure like Minnelli. She’s been keepig a pretty low profile, but several years ago she was constant fodder in the Big Apple tabloids. That was when she “married” David Guest in 2002, where singer Michael Jackson served as best man and Elizabeth Taylor was maid of honor.

We just don’t believe, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, that Guest plays on the same team as Liza and The Homeshoppingista, if you catch our drift. And they both filed for divorce in 2003, after just over a year of marraiage.

And then in their incredibly nasty divorce proceedings, Gest alleges that he was a victim of domestic violence during their ill-fated marriage. There were lots of other ugly accusations.

However, in January 2007 Minnelli and Gest finally settled their bitter differences and had a no-fault divorce.

Minnellli’s had a rocky life, like her mom legend Judy Garland. And she’s got talent, and is a survivor. So in the end, that’s all that matters.

Will NBCU’s Plans To Keep Its ShopNBC Stake Derail Any Sale Of The Home Shopping Network?

June 24, 2010

What's Keith Stewart got cooking at ShopNBC?

ShopNBC was put up for sale in 2008, and then was taken off the block a few months later. Well, we heard it’s for sale again.

ShopNBC declined to comment, by the way.

There’s been a lot of talk about possible home-shopping-network sales this week, so we’ll add this to the mix.

The ShopNBC-sale scenario we had heard about would potentially have been made easier because of NBC Universal’s plans, announced in May, to sell its 20 percent stake in the home shopping network. But on Thursday NBCU threw a monkey wrench into that possibility. Citing ShopNBC’s low stock price, NBCU announced that it wasn’t going to unload its share in the network.

Wall Street Journal blogger James Altucher was bullish on ValueVision Media, ShopNBC’s corporate parent, in a blog earlier this week. The home shopping network has 75 million subscribers, and Altucher values it at $270 million to $300 million in his blog.

He bases that price on payment of $3.92 per subscriber, which he says is “the cheapest price paid for any network on a subscriber by subscriber basis” in the past.

Altchuler, who says that Barry Diller unsucessfully bid on ShopNBC twice, has the inside dope on the initial attempt to sell ShopNBC. ValueVision shopped the network to more than 100 companies. It wound up with four serious suitors, two of them strategic buyers and two financial sponsors, according to Altuchuler. But a deal was never struck

“I think the clearing of the NBC Universal stake finally bring buyers into the loop here,” Altchuler wrote.

Well, that’s off the table now.

There’s been a lot of buzz on Wall Street about home shopping networks this week, following news that Liberyr Media Corp. was spinning off two companies to leave Liberty Interactive, which QVC is part of, as essentially a standalone company. That fueled speculation that this move by cable legend-cowboy-God John Malone was a prelude to merging QVC and HSN.

We’ll see about that one.

ShopNBC chief Keith Stewart has said that with NBCU selling its take in the home shopping network, ShopNBC will rebrand itself next year. The network has been working for months on coming up with a new name, according to Stewart.

Would you go through that trouble if you were selling your network? Or is it an attempt to dress up the property to attract suitors?

We haven't seen too much of Suzanne Somers on ShopNBC

Meanwhile, people familiar with the situation say that ShopNBC’s infrastructure, like its call centers, are not big enough to support the network.

As one sign of the times, ShopNBC is ordering a just a fraction of the amount of merchandise a month from vendor Suzanne Somers that HSN used to order, according to sources. In fact, although Somers initially said she would be on ShopNBC once a month, her visits have been much less frequent.

And we’re told some apparel vendors have to carry orders, meaning if their merchandise doesn’t sell ShopNBC can return it to them.

We wonder if they can only return it within 30 days?

NBC Universal Shelves Plan To Sell Stake In ShopNBC

June 24, 2010

NBC Universal, citing the low price of the stock, has dropped its plan to sell its 20 percent stake in ShopNBC, the home shopping network said Thursday.

In May NBCU, one of ShopNBC’s largest shareholders, said it planned to sell its 20 percent stake in the the network.

In a press release Thursday, ShopNBC said that NBCU “has decided not to pursue its offering of 6,452,194 common shares in the company at this time due to prevailing prices.”

The stock of ValueVision Media, ShopNBC’s parent, was trading at about $1.95 Thursday morning, with the company’s 52-week high being $5.27.

NBCU is one of the company’s largest shareholders.