Best Buy's in-store network preps for its 'upfront'

Company is planning to approach advertisers in December about long-term placements.

Until recently, Keith Bryan said Best Buy was a "media company in denial," but with Best Buy On, the retailer is in denial no longer.

Launched in January to coincide with the CES trade show, Best Buy's TV network is now in all its 1,100 or so stores and is preparing for an "upfront" of sorts in December, when Best Buy will approach advertisers for long-term placements. The network, which reaches some of the 50 million people who visit the stores each month, features original programming from the retailer's own Yellow Tag Productions. Content ranges from an interview with movie legend Martin Scorcese to tutorials on digital photography.

Why an in-store network? Why now? "We did some research to determine our brand's license to publish content," said Bryan, noting that consumers were quite open to the idea. Bryan said the content is almost all exclusive and isn't a loop of a few hours, but is all new and original every day.

Best Buy is not the only retailer to try its hand at an in-store network. Others, including Walmart's Walmart TV and Target's Red Network have been around for a while. But Bryan said unlike those examples, Best Buy isn't trying to use the network to lift in-store sales.

"The objective isn't promotional, it's around engagement with the product category or entertainment," Bryan said. "Our quid pro quo with advertisers isn't about [point-of-sale] lift. It's a media placement." Taking that approach, Best Buy On has managed to draw advertisers who don't sell any products in stores, such as Procter & Gamble's Swiffer mop and Tide's energy-efficient detergents. Other advertisers, however, are the type you'd expect, including Panasonic, LG and Bose.

Joe Feldman, a senior retail analyst with Telsey Advisory Group, said that Best Buy's strategy of not using the Best Buy On network to sell in-house merchandise was a bit baffling in that regard. Feldman noted that Walmart TV is often used to hawk in-store specials. "Maybe they'll change that over time," he said.

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