A&E: From TV to Web to print

In recent years, most catalogers have jumped on the Internet bandwagon and started producing variations of their print titles online. Now A&E Television Networks is reversing course. Sparked by the overwhelming success of its online sales, the company in March launched The World of A&E print catalog.

New York-based A&E, which was already selling goods via direct response TV, debuted on the Internet in 1996, eventually launching spin-off Websites for the History Channel (itself a cable-TV network spin-off of the flagship A&E network) and for A&E’s popular Biography series. The “store” sections of the sites sell only videos, says Donna Krampf, direct marketing manager for A&E, but the unlimited space of the Web enables the company to sell its entire video collection of more than 2,000 titles.

Sales from the Websites grew 300% year to year over the last two holiday seasons, Krampf says. “So we started thinking about how we could extend these businesses and attract new buyers.” Taking inspiration from the success that television networks PBS and The Discovery Channel have had in translating their brands into the catalog marketplace, Krampf decided to take the plunge with The World of A&E print catalog.

The 32-page debut edition mailed to 500,000 names, a combination of A&E Internet and direct response customers and names from list rentals and exchanges. Although at press time it was too early to quantify the response, Krampf already plans a more aggressive mailing campaign for the fall-holiday edition.

In addition to a selection of videos, the print catalog sells apparel, including $20 T-shirts commemorating The Avengers TV series-which is now an A&E property-and gifts such as Victorian-style jewelry, aromatherapy candles, and a $200 tranquility water fountain. While many of the gift items don’t directly relate to the network’s programming, Krampf doesn’t see that as a problem in terms of building A&E’s brand image. “Our job is to complement the brand, not to mimic it,” she says. “We need to expand the viewers’ experience.”

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