BY ALEX WEPRIN | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren for CNT #Digital
NBCUniversal joins YouTube, Twitter and others in exploring an emerging market that may hit $11 billion this year.
Jason DeRulo was frosting some cookies. He just didn’t know how to decorate them. So he turned to his viewers.
“Should I decorate them with an ornament? A present? Or a snowflake?” he asked. The singer-songwriter wasn’t performing any music, nor was he acting in a TV show, per se. Instead, he was live on Twitter on Nov. 28, as part of a live-stream shopping event the platform hosted with Walmart. DeRulo’s job? Showcase Walmart products, and interact with followers of the stream (the cookie dough was made with a KitchenAid stand mixer).
As for their frosting pick? “Snowflake? Ya’ll went and picked the hardest one for me to do,” DeRulo said, before trying (and failing) to frost a sugar cookie.
The merging of shopping and TV is not a new concept (the Home Shopping Network was founded in 1982, after all), but the emergence of social platforms, and the ease of one-click buying through PayPal, Apple, Instagram and TikTok have transformed the experience into one that allows for seamless interactivity, unusual entertainment concepts and fewer “call now!” hard sells.
It’s not just Twitter; TikTok, YouTube and NBCUniversal have been exploring the space this holiday season, using it as a testing ground for formats, and betting that live-stream shopping, which is already an enormous business in China and elsewhere, is about to blow up here.
“If you look here in the U.S., we are just at the tipping point of what live-stream commerce can be,” says Josh Feldman, chief marketing officer of NBCUniversal advertising sales and partnerships. “The stats I have seen is that we will be at $11 billion in sales as a country this year, and that will probably double rather quickly.”
NBCUniversal has been active in the space this holiday season on both linear TV and digital platforms, tapping influencer Remi Bader to host a live-stream shopping event called Impulse Try on the company’s social media, Peacock and Comcast Xfinity over Thanksgiving weekend. There’s also live shopping program America’s Big Deal, which airs on USA Network.
The connective tissue across these efforts is the talent making the sell. Bader was joined by “Bravo-lebrities” during her live stream, while America’s Big Deal leans on its star, Joy Mangano. YouTube, meanwhile, had a weeklong slate of live streams led by people like chef Gordon Ramsay and popular creator MrBeast.
“Packaging is everything, and bringing credibility to a format is key,” says Tony DiSanto, CEO of Diga Studios, which produces America’s Big Deal. “It isn’t just the idea, it is the combination of the idea and talent, which brings with it credibility.”
One thing that unites these efforts is a desire to create something entertaining, but ultimately the goal is to sell goods, and balancing those needs is critical.
“As you start branching out in bringing content like this to traditional entertainment-based networks, it is essential to make sure that the commerce is integrated into a compelling piece of content,” DiSanto says.
It helps to have a consumer base that is increasingly used to buying things through Instagram, TikTok or other digital channels already (during New York Advertising Week in October, the Hudson Yards neighborhood was filled with people carrying tote bags handed out by TikTok with the slogan “TikTok Made Me Buy It”).
Shawn Strickland, Diga’s president, notes that during the pandemic, many restaurants switched to QR code menus, which in and of itself can change behavior.
“It teaches people to sort of bridge the offline world and the online world, and I think that is an indicator of the potential to see a number of new formats and shows come out of this first effort,” he says.
But it’s still early days, and even with some of the biggest players in tech and entertainment exploring the space, the expectation is that the format is still nascent, with a long runway to evolve.
“The convergence of media and commerce, and entertainment and commerce, is just a Wild West right now,” DiSanto says. “I think we will see things over the next couple of years that would surprise us right now.”