September 26, 2003, 12:00 AM

Taking infomercials to the web

As popular as TV infomercials are as a marketing tool, they’ve largely remained outside of the marketing might of the web – until now. Two marketing services firms, Infomercial Partners and Livemercial, are bringing infomercials to the Internet.

As popular as TV infomercials are as a marketing tool, they’ve largely remained outside of the marketing might of the web – until now. Two marketing services firms, Infomercial Partners and Livemercial Inc., are bringing infomercials to the Internet. Although the two firms are offering web-based infomercials under different business models, they share a common goal in making infomercials more broadly available to consumers. "This is going to bring a lot more attention to the direct-response business," Infomercial Partners co-founder Sam Cantanese tells InternetRetailer.com. "Our ultimate goal is to enable consumers to buy anything in an infomercial anytime they want."

Cantonese, who is president and CEO of Infomercial Monitoring Service Inc., a provider of infomercial market data, recently formed Infomercial Partners as a joint venture with SmartVideo Technologies Inc, a provider of digital media technology. Infomercial Partners expects to begin providing next month around-the-clock on-demand streaming video of more than 200 infomercials through a new web site, IMSTV.com. Shoppers will be able to search the site for particular infomercials they may have already seen on TV, or simply browse stored infomercials by product category, Cantanese says. He adds that nearly all of the major TV infomercial advertisers are expected to make their infomercials available through IMSTV.com.

Advertisers submit a video of their infomercial to Infomercial Partners, which will digitize it and load on the web in a streaming video format. Advertisers can then get customer orders from consumers who either call a toll-free telephone number shown in the infomercial or click a web link that takes them to the advertiser’s retail web site. Advertisers pay a commission on sales to Infomercial Partners. Both Infomercial Partners and infomercial marketers will contribute to marketing efforts to publicize the availability of infomercials on IMSTV.com, Cantanese says.

Infomercial Partners is working with many of the top infomercial advertisers, including Sharper Image Corp. and Good Times Entertainment, as well as with infomercial development company Gunthy-Renker, Cantanese says. Sharper Image, Good Times and Gunthy-Renker were unavailable for comment.

Livemercial is taking a more direct approach by distributing streaming video infomercials through e-mail marketing campaigns. It’s also working with major advertisers and TV infomercial providers, a spokeswoman says. The company, founded by CEO Johnny Mathis Jr., began operating in the first quarter. It recently expanded its services to include a "virtual call center" that automatically forwards e-mails of orders placed through e-mailed infomercials to an advertiser’s fulfillment center.

Like Infomercial Partners, Livemercial digitizes advertisers’ videotaped infomercials and formats them as streaming video for distribution over the Internet. Livemercial says advertisers can reach more than 20 million online customers for a cost of about $10,000.

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