KALEIDOSCOPE TV ON 'SHOPPING!' KICK

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Add another channel to the proliferation of home shopping services.

But this one's different. Kaleidoscope Television targets the nation's disabled. The channel, operating since 1990 with three hours per day of programming, went to a 24-hours-a-day format on April 30 and is available in 15 million households.

Among the programming added was 35 hours per week of shopping services, called "Kaleidoscope Shopping!" and produced by ViaTV, Knoxville, Tenn. "Shopping!" will air daily from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. E.T.

Other programming includes news, information, sports, movies and children's shows.

KTV promotional literature says 49 million Americans are disabled under the federal government's definition (someone who has a limitation to some major life function, either mental or physical). This group wields annual purchasing power of $699 billion.

KTV President-CEO Bill Nichols said "Shopping!" opens up "a whole new market, perhaps the biggest new market niche for advertisers in the country."

Manufacturers can offer their products free of charge on "Shopping!" and share the profits with Kaleidoscope. Major advertisers, including AT&T, Mattel and Hallmark, pay up to $500 per 30-second spot during KTV's regular programming.

KTV's National Advisory Board, made up of heads of 112 health and disability organizations, formulates a list of products and ViaTV acquires them. With big-ticket items, the transaction is made through the manufacturer, but with smaller items they use purchase orders.

More than 5,000 companies market devices or services for people with disabilities. But many disabled people don't know the products are available.

"We are matching the products with the audience," said Keith Halford, president-CEO of ViaTV. "This is like a specialized mail-order catalog as opposed to a general mail-order catalog." Only 20% of the products on the shopping program will be geared toward those with disabilities, he said. The rest will be mainstream products for everyone's use.

Marketers have high hopes for "Shopping!"

"We expect to see tremendous growth from this opportunity," says Kenton T. Oakes, VP at Creative Industries, La Mesa, Calif., marketer of Reading Ease, which lets people read in bed without holding a book. "Reading Ease is now available in bookstores and from medical supply companies, but by offering it on `Shopping!' we plan to reach a much wider section of the market."

Independent Living Aids, Plainview, N.Y., will offer slim-line watches that have large faces and wide hands to assist those with sight impairments.

"But I myself wear one, too; and I have perfect vision," said Kyle Lemczak, director of operations at Independent Living Aids. "The watches are made to be attractive but not cumbersome."

A variety of products from Diestco Manufacturing Co., Chico, Calif., have also been requested.

"`Shopping!' is an exciting new forum that provides us with a visual as well as an audio medium to sell our products," said Diestco Senior Founding Partner Dan Diestel.

Diestco markets the WeatherBreaker, a collapsible canopy that mounts to all wheelchairs and scooters and offers protection from direct sunlight, heat and rain; the GunnySack, a protective covering of the lap, legs and feet that is 100% waterproof and comes with an optional fleece lining; and the SnugBoot, a therapeutic sheepskin boot made for individuals who have problems wearing traditional shoes.

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