GETTING PLUG ON TVS;RETAILERS, ADVERTISERS CO-STAR IN STOPWATCH EFFORTS ON SHELVES

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In a typical electronics store, about 200 TVs-blaring a cacophony of different programs-line the walls as consumers browse.

Stopwatch Entertainment saw this scene as a marketing opportunity. The Los Angeles place-based media company, founded in 1990, now broadcasts its own programming over TV screens in 1,200 electronics stores nationwide.

Programming consists of movie trailers, music videos, network and cable TV promotional clips as well as commercial advertising and retailer messages.

"We saw a need for the retailing community to spice up their environment and make it more fun for the consumer," said CEO Michael Baruch.

Stopwatch has attracted major entertainment advertisers like Columbia Pictures, MGM Studios, Universal Pictures and Home Box Office, plus other companies like American Suzuki Motor Corp. and Visa USA.

The company also has an extensive list of retailers including Circuit City Stores, Montgomery Ward's Electric Avenue, Nobody Beats the Wiz, Service Merchandise and Tandy Corp.'s Incredible Universe.

However, programming hasn't been the only item on Stopwatch's menu. The medium has become a promotional vehicle for both advertisers and retailers.

Promotional opportunities

"We knew at the beginning that we had to provide more than just a media opportunity to these companies," Mr. Baruch said. "We wanted to give them promotional opportunities."

Just recently, United Paramount Network linked up with the place-based media company, Circuit City and Suzuki to promote its new fall lineup.

Stopwatch created a sweepstakes called "Walk Into Circuit City. Ride Out on This Suzuki." For consumers to enter, they must watch the Stopwatch programming and write down the names of characters from the four UPN programs advertised in a trailer. Consumers can win a Suzuki RF-900 Sports Bike, trips to Hollywood to the sets of UPN's programs or a Sony Super Home Theatre package.

"Laughing" with HBO, Ward's

Also in September, HBO has hooked up with Montgomery Ward's Electric Avenue in a "Laugh in Your Living Room" promotion, which offers one free month of HBO service as well as HBO-theme merchandise to consumers buying a TV set. Consumers can also enter a sweepstakes to win a grand prize consisting of an HBO comedian performing at a party in the winner's home.

Currently, Stopwatch is working on promotions with MGM Pictures and Service Merchandise and 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and Nobody Beats the Wiz stores.

Going into the future, Stopwatch's challenge is to expand its store base and increase its reach.

The company's goal is to have 2,000 stores by the end of 1996 and reach about 20 million people per month. The company is targeting two major electronics chains, Best Buy and Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s Brand Central.

Stopwatch is also seeking an automotive advertiser as well as electronics vendors like Sony Corp., IBM Corp. and RCA.

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