LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “American Idol” has its strategically-placed Coca-Cola cups and “The Biggest Loser” has a large appetite for Subway sandwiches.
But the next big thing in television may be product integration, or creating merchandise and apparel specifically for popular shows that fans can also buy or wear.
Young female-oriented show “90210” has teamed up with retail fashion store bebe to design a line of branded clothing worn by characters on the series.
Starting on Thursday, the clothes can also be bought in bebe stores and online.
CBS Television Studios, which produces the high school series set in Beverly Hills for the CW network, says the collaboration is an unprecedented step forward in the multibillion dollar TV product placement and integration industry.
“This is a completely innovative product integration. We think it’s the first time there has been a complete collaboration between a retail design team and a (TV) costume design team,” Liz Kalodner, general manger of CBS Consumer Products told Reuters.
“It really harnesses the power of TV, so that television is not just a passive experience, but you are really interacting with it,” Kalodner added.
In a separate interactive merchandising venture, NBC announced this week that it had teamed up with novelty store The Johnson Smith Company to make and sell items inspired by its comedy series “Outsourced”.
Fans of “Outsourced” — set in a call center in India — will be able to “literally own a piece of the show” by buying hitherto fictitious joke products like a “Farting Fannny Bank” and the “World’s Largest Briefs”.
While product placement generates advertising revenue for TV networks and exposure for brands, product integration is seen as creating stronger bonds between audiences, TV shows and retailers, as well as merchandising revenue for studios.
In the case of “90210” and its predominantly 18-34 year-old audience of about 2.4 million, CBS is playing into young female fascination with celebrity fashion.
“We realized that what young women were interested in was emulating their favorite actresses and characters. We thought if we could figure out how to take those clothes and market them to the audience we could have a hit on our hands,” Kalodner said.
The “bebe for 90210” line consists of four collections throughout the year of about 12 styles each that were specially designed for, and are worn by, characters on the show.
Priced between about $59 and $159, the skirts, dresses, pant suits and blouses go on sale in a select number of bebe’s 305 stores around the United States, as well as online.
“Partnering with ‘90210’ makes perfect sense because there is a natural synergy between our bebe brand and the adventurous energy and sexiness portrayed by characters in the show,” said bebe founder and chief executive Manny Mashouf.
CBS declined to disclose financial details of the deal.
While revenue from the tie-in with bebe is important for CBS, Kalodner hopes the fashion line will also boost the “90210” brand and audience involvement with the series, now in its third season after a major overhaul in 2010.
“We are interested in the show being successful and coming to life and being vibrant,” she said.
Kalodner said CBS is planning another similar venture in the future on a daytime TV show, saying “we think this is very much a direction for the future.”
CBS Television is a unit of CBS Corp; The CW network is a joint venture between CBS and Time Warner’s Warner Bros; NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp; bebe is owned by Bebe Stores Inc.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte