U S WEST OFFERS BRANDED SHOPPING SERVICE

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Having decided there's not enough money yet in interactive TV, U S West is developing a branded shopping service to run across various new-media platforms.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Interactive Video Enterprises, a U S West unit formed in February, last week unveiled U S Avenue.

The service will be tested as part of a U S West interactive TV project in Omaha, Neb., in the fourth quarter. It later will migrate to Time Warner's interactive TV test in Orlando and to two cable systems U S West is buying in Atlanta. U S Avenue is expected to be in more than 10,000 households by the end of 1995.

U S West also intends to develop online and CD-ROM versions of U S Avenue since interactive TV can't yet produce enough revenues, said Andrew Orgel, exec VP of Interactive Video Enterprises.

U S West has signed six major charter advertisers, and it hopes over the next two to three months to sign agreements with some large and small ad agencies interested in testing interactive TV for clients. Agencies will be asked either to pay fees or to contribute programming.

The service seems more like an evolution of today's QVC or infomercials than a quantum leap of the sort envisioned by Oracle Corp. and other aggressive interactive promoters. Major charter sponsors are Ford Motor Co., working with J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit; and Florists Transworld Delivery Association, Hallmark Cards, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney Co. and Virgin Records, working directly with the service.

U S Avenue will largely consist of advertiser-produced programming: Consumers can order flowers from FTD, shirts from Nordstrom and brochures from Ford using a remote control. It also will include ad-sponsored special-interest shows on topics like cooking or gardening.

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