As part of its plans to enter the burgeoning home shopping field, MTV: Music Television is talking with the mega rock band and its agent, Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency, about testing an ecologically friendly home shopping channel dubbed Zoo TV.
"We have had some talks with U2 and CAA, who is representing them on this project," MTV Networks Chairman-CEO Tom Freston confirmed last week to Advertising Age.
"It's not going to be the save-the-whale channel," Mr. Freston said. He added that it would be a serious marketing endeavor to sell a wide range of environmentally friendly products.
U2 lead singer Bono "likes to call it the green shopping service," Mr. Freston said.
Plans call for the service to initially be tested as a pilot on MTV this year, with the possibility of integrating it into a standalone shopping channel in the future.
The name Zoo TV stems from U2's recent worldwide multimedia concert tour of the same name, which itself is a reference to its latest album, Zooropa. The album deals with issues including advertising's effect on society and the telecommunications revolution.
The project is independent of MTV's upcoming test of several home shopping formats on three of its cable programming channels: MTV, VH-1: Video Hits One and Nick At Nite.
Those tests start in April and will run until possibly as late as August.
If results are encouraging, MTV Networks will launch a free standing home shopping channel in 1995. Ultimately, Zoo TV might be incorporated into that channel.
MTV's home shopping plans come at a time when at least two other music-oriented home shopping channels are being developed.
In September, Tele-Communications Inc. and the Bertelsmann Music Group announced a joint venture agreement to form a cable channel enabling viewers to choose their favorite music videos while having the ability to purchase a diverse array of music-related products and services via home shopping. TCI and Bertelsmann said the unnamed channel is planned for national launch in mid-1994.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros., Sony Corp. of America, EMI America Records and Polygram Records are expected to announce their own music-oriented home shopping channel soon, with Time Warner as the media partner.
The simultaneous developments pose the first real competition for MTV, which has emerged as one of the most powerful brands in music marketing.
In particular, the Bertelsmann and TCI venture could spark a bitter
battle because MTV Networks is owned by Viacom International. Viacom has been feuding with TCI Chairman John Malone ever since Viacom filed an antitrust suit against Mr. Malone, TCI and several TCI-owned units because of their involvement in QVC's bid to acquire Paramount Communications.
But unlike rivals, which are planning to launch free standing channels, Mr. Freston said MTV is taking the conservative approach of testing home shopping programming on its existing channels. His reasoning: Despite all the talk of an expanding information superhighway, new cable channel capacity is still hard to get.
MTV will begin testing various mixes of home shopping programming for about 4 hours a week on each of its existing channels. He said the programming will have its own look and be logical brand extensions of
Jeff Jensen contributed to this story.