|Ashley Heather says his company serves three masters: consumers; brands and retailers; and studios and networks.
Why you need to know him: As part of the StarStyle launch, Mr. Heather, who became an Internet junkie in the nascent days of the medium, has forged deals with production companies, studios and networks, retailers and fashion stylists to offer a variety of merchandise on the site.
Credentials: "I have always been fascinated by media and technology," Mr. Heather said. He started his career creating and selling computer games with his brother for Acorn Archimedes back in the late '80s. He then spent eight years in London working for Fortune 500 companies, focusing on implementing new technologies in the banking, insurance and retail arenas. When he moved to New York in 2001, he switched his focus back to the media world and started MusiKube. "The philosophy behind MusiKube was very similar to EMW in that we helped consumers capture their interest in products and driving sales," he said. "The move from MusiKube to EMW, which helps consumers capture their interest in products they see in TV, music videos and films, is a natural extension of my original business philosophy."
What does StarStyle do? "StarStyle is just the first in a range of exciting solutions that EMW is building, but it has generated a lot of interest in the marketplace. StarStyle is a unique supersite that allows consumers to find all the products they see in TV, music videos and films. Once they have found the product they are looking for, we provide a range of purchase options from our 250-plus retail partners. In addition, we have partnered with dozens of fashion experts to contribute exclusive behind-the-scenes editorial content and product reviews to help our visitors learn about the latest fashion trends and tips."
Who are your clients? "We serve three masters really: consumers; brands and retailers; and studios and networks. EMW works with its studio/network partners -- like WB, ABC, Fremantle, 19, Sony Pictures and Televest -- to identify all the products in their shows. We work with the brands to maximize exposure of their products and then provide consumers the ability to buy through StarStyle and other channel partners."
You sell products seen on TV shows and films, but also on the Web and mobile devices. How does that work? "EMW's platform allows us to integrate into any form of digital media, so whether a consumer is watching entertainment media on their TV, on the Web or through portable devices, we can identify the products and allow consumers to bookmark products they are interested in and then buy them."
What kinds of products does StarStyle sell? "StarStyle features a whole range of products, it's not just about clothing. You can buy anything from the coffee maker featured on the set of 'The Real World Key West' to the furniture on 'What I Like About You' to the jewelry on 'American Idol.'"
So far, what sells best? "Shoes are a big seller for us. It's something our customers are very comfortable buying online. Undergarments have also been a surprise best-seller. I guess it's not just the obvious products that sell well. Also, we get a lot of requests from our visitors to purchase the music that they hear featured on TV shows. This is something we will be launching on the site."
What doesn't sell well? "It's still to early to say what doesn't sell well, but obviously the bigger and more expensive the item, the less likely our customers are going to buy as many online."
Talk about the financials. How do you split the money between StarStyle, the various production companies, networks, studios, etc.? "I can't go into specifics as all our deals are confidential. What I can say is that we have created a very flexible business model that allows all our partners to share in the additional revenue streams created. Luckily, all our partners seem to be happy so far with the results."
What are some of the challenges you face in selling the goods that we see in our entertainment? "Our job is to identify the unidentifiable. We call these products 'implicit products' rather than 'explicit products.' A can of Coke is an example of an explicit product. We have developed technology that is patent-pending, which helps us identify as many products as possible. But, of course, some of the products seen on TV are actually one-of-a-kind or custom and are not available for purchase either online or in a store. In these cases, we use our team of in-house stylists to point the consumers to the best similar item that we feel will match their needs."
How do you work with various retailers like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Best Buy? "We have over 250 retail partners ranging from major stores like Neiman Marcus and Macy's to smaller boutiques like Satine in Los Angeles. Given that the stylists on TV shows pick their products from all kinds of stores, large and small, we need to partner with as many retailers as possible to offer our visitors the most options. A typical relationship with a retailer starts by setting up an affiliate scheme through our site. This type of partnership quickly involves many different types of cross-promotions as well. With our premium retail partners we even help them to connect with TV producers whom we have relationships with in order to allow the retailer to create new placement opportunities."
Since StarStyle is dedicated to selling products, why did you decide to include a fan community on the site? "As with any Web site, it is very important to listen to your customers and offer them a platform to comment and make suggestions. We get hundreds of e-mails from fans with ideas and suggestions for shows that they would like us to cover. This also helps give the site more of an editorial feel, so it's not just like your typical catalog."
You've been in the interactive space for some time. What do you think are the most interesting changes recently? "Yes, I have been in the interactive space since the late '80s and every year the possibilities continue to grow. My last company was very mobile-centric, and there are a lot of very interesting things we are now developing in the mobile arena. Naturally, I can't share all our ideas because you never know who is reading this article. But suffice it to say, location, location, location!"
Are you a big Web surfer in your personal life, or just professionally? "Wow, that's a tough one. I feel I spend every waking minute in front of a glowing screen, so I guess you can say I am a big Web surfer. I enjoy networking and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit here in New York, so I spend a lot of time on business networking sites like LinkedIn and It's a Small World. Other than those, I love music, so I spend time searching for new music and downloading cool new songs to my cellphone."
What are your go-to sites? "Linkedin.com, asmallworld.net, starstyle.com."
What do you do in your downtime? "Downtime? Who has downtime in this industry? Only joking. As an Englishman in New York I love to travel back to the U.K. and catch up with friends and family. Golf is a big passion of mine, and I am looking forward to a planned trip to Portugal this summer."
What's on your TiVo? "Well, before EMW, I watched very little TV, and a lot more music videos and movies. Of course now it's filled with all my partners' shows, like 'American Idol' and 'The Real World.' We even had TVs installed in all our offices so we could all keep in touch with what is going on."
What's on your iPod? "I am one of those convergence folks and so three iPods later, I now listen to my tunes on my Motorola SmartPhone. In terms of what is on it, I would have to say everything but country. Sorry, but even Carrie Underwood could not get me there. So it's mostly old-school disco to wake me up, and chilled electronica to wind me down in the evening."