When HSN gives its call center people a private screening of Snow White and the Huntsman next month, it's not just to boost morale. Workers are expected to answer customer questions when the TV shopping network makes the movie's premiere a 24-hour shopping event May 30.
Snow White becomes HSN's fourth film tie-in since the St. Petersburg e-tailer — no stranger to celebrities pitching products — pioneered the first TV shopping channel deal with Hollywood studios for Eat Pray Love.
"At first the studios were leery," said Bill Brand, HSN executive vice president of programming, marketing and business development. "Now we're doing two films a year and working on the first one for 2013."
The network next wants to link with a fashion-worthy TV series.
Helping make the case: 70 percent of viewers who saw the HSN Eat Pray Love show bought tickets to the movie. The promotion, viewable in 96 million homes, also packs cover photos on HSN program guides mailed to 1.5 million regulars and weeks of an escalating drumbeat of promotions on hsn.com.
Treated like an ad buy, the studios pay HSN for the exposure — some in cash but mostly airtime barter — while sharing profits from products HSN developed exclusively for its large, female-dominated audience. Around-the-clock movie premieres have provided HSN a "lift in both sales and viewers," Brand said.
Unlike Disney's Cars or NBC Universal's Transformers, which became platforms to sell $10 billion of licensed toys, HSN's movie partnerships are not about moving garden-variety licensed goods like T-shirts. Most prices are clustered from $79 to $150.
"We've charged our best jewelry, apparel, accessory and home designers to imagine items inspired by a movie's costuming, motifs and story lines," said John Bosco, senior vice president of merchandising. "We don't literally pull things straight out of the movie, so it's very wearable."
No Disney cartoon, this version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale is a dark, action adventure film in which a Snow White marked for death is turned by her would-be assassin into a warrior who goes after the evil queen.
The 200 Snow White-inspired products HSN created range from $25 nail polish to a $469 laptop with an apple-shaped screen. The jewelry features a poison apple brooch and a beaded top with patterns of cobwebs and a shattered mirror.
HSN is upbeat despite Mirror Mirror, another Snow White remake that opened last month to middling box office returns. It's just part of Hollywood's new fixation with evil queen types played by big-name actresses. Mirror Mirror stars Julia Roberts. The film HSN tied in with gave the big, bad girl role to Charlize Theron, while Rachel Weisz is lined up as a wicked witch in Oz The Great and Powerful. Angelina Jolie will play Maleficent in a 2014 prequel to Sleeping Beauty.
G'day and g'night: The parent of Outback Steakhouse will change its name from the nondescript OSI Restaurant Partners to Bloomin' Brands Inc. when the Tampa company goes public shortly. It's an homage to the Bloomin' Onion, an Outback innovation that turned cheap, 1-pound Bermuda onions into a premium-price dish.
Getting organized: Site work has begun at the market's first Container Store, which opens next spring in the Corner at the southwest corner of West Shore Boulevard and Spruce Street. The store for organizers takes more than half the space in the 40,000-square-foot center. Nothing firm, but there is enough space left for a Trader Joe's, which looked at the spot recently.
Lights out: Best Buy's woes are being felt in Oldsmar where the electronics chain's store at 11655 W Hillsborough Ave. is closing May 12. One of 50 stores the chain closes this spring, the move leaves Best Buy with 14 big boxes and nine mobile stores here.
Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.