For sale: Show props

AsSeenIn.com concept could help reduce production costs
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AsSeenIn.com has a deal that will help production companies cut costs while giving new meaning to the phrase "product placement." Viacom, Paramount and Spelling Television are the first to sign on.

"Traditional product placement was all about logos," explains AsSeenIn.com Chairman and CEO Samuel Baldoni. "But there are no logos on chairs or flooring, and this allows a whole new way to do product placement."

The site offers TV fans the opportunity to take 3-D tours of the sets of their favorite shows and, more important, to purchase identical or similar goods to those seen in the show. The benefit to production companies: AsSeenIn.com will help secure set, wardrobe and other items free (in exchange for giving the manufacturer an opportunity to sell more products), significantly cutting production budgets.

According to Viacom Senior Vice President, Production, Paul Mason, Ed, The Chris Isaak Show, Resurrection Blvd. and Diagnosis Murder will be among the Viacom productions working with AsSeenIn.com. The level of the partnership varies from one production to the next, but he's hopeful that the "experiment" will work out.

The cost savings will vary depending on the amount of work done, but, with wardrobe costs typically running $10,000 to $20,000 per episode and prop costs a concern, the savings could be significant. "We did 22 episodes of Pacific Palisades and saved them $1.5 million," says Baldoni.

AsSeenIn.com has a four-tier business model, he explains. "Our first revenue stream involves productions. Those productions are going on every day, and we get a percentage of cost savings. There's also advertising revenue and e-commerce, which includes a music component. And then we have the auction component."

The auction component has already been wildly successful, with an auction related to the end of Beverly Hills 90210's run pulling in $530,000 for 400 items. Baldoni says the auction concept will be expanded to include auctions at the end of every show's season, with larger auctions held at the show's conclusion.

According to Baldoni, the company makes its deal with the producers and then sends in a management team to meet with the production staff to create a wish list of wardrobe and set items. The next step is to obtain the desired goods from manufacturers. Once the sets are in place, AsSeenIn.com goes in with 360-degree cameras and creates virtual tours, which are placed on the Web sites for viewers to explore.

Most of the manufacturers are already doing some level of product placement, notes Mary Price, AsSeenIn.com vice president and general merchandise manager, so the concept isn't new to them. "Bringing the components of their product-placement division together with their Internet division together with the producers of the show is the tricky part. We connect the dots."

AsSeenIn.com does not get involved with fulfillment; instead it lets the manufacturer decide where the potential customer should be directed. "To continue a long-term relationship with the manufacturers, they have to be in the loop," Price says. "If they want us to send the visitor to Macy's, great; it just means more sales for them and for Macy's."

It's not only network shows that will have the opportunity to tap into a potential new cost-cutting and revenue opportunity. Baldoni believes local stations will also fit into the mix, and the company is starting up a feature-film unit, already working on Matthew Perry's next movie, Servicing Sarah.

"We've talked to local broadcasters, and local programming is a big play for companies that want to do that," he says. "I really believe that the local affiliates are the backbone of broadcast, and I look forward to working with them."

If the concept sounds a bit like an

e-commerce idea run amok, Price makes clear that the site isn't about e-commerce as much as it is about offering more information on the programs. Besides the 3-D tours, there will be chat opportunities with makeup and wardrobe stylists.

"What's going to make our site really popular is that we give really good information to the fans who are attached to these programs," she adds. "That's what differentiates us."

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