EBay iPad App Allows Viewers to Buy Products Seen in TV Shows, Movies

The company will need to rely on cooperation from studios and networks to make the TV commerce push a broader success.

NEW YORK - EBay's iPad app is now allowing users to browse products from TV shows and movies as the company pushes into the TV commerce space, in which companies have so far failed to hit a homerun, Bloomberg News reported.

EBay is looking to use its role as the largest online marketplace, with 200 million listings and 58 million mobile users, to make products seen on-screen available to consumers, but it will need to rely on cooperation from studios and networks to make the initiative a broader success, it said.

Steve Yankovich, who runs mobile services for eBay, told Bloomberg that he was motivated to develop the firm's technology while watching the film Something’s Gotta Give and seeing a toaster he wanted.

The new commerce service works with TV guide data that enables the app to show relevant merchandise in eBay’s store. In the first version, users must tell the app which channel they are watching, but the goal is to eventually automatically sync the app with the TV, according to Bloomberg.

That would allow the app to recognize the brand of clothing and props in each scene, such as a jacket worn by a character on AMC’s Mad Men, and let users buy the item on eBay. To make this happen, easy is looking to strike partnerships with cable providers, studios and networks, Yankovich told Bloomberg.

Evercore Partners analyst Ken Sena told Bloomberg though that getting cooperation from Hollywood may be the biggest challenge as eBay will need access to wardrobe and prop data and the like.

“The success has been pretty limited,” Sena said about TV commerce attempts to-date. “A lot of it comes down to the media relationships. There is a business opportunity here. You just need to make sure you have all the listings, sizes, where it’s available.”

The initial version of the eBay app will only run on Apple's iPad, but the firm plans to add other tablets and mobile phones over time.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai