NBC Universal Teams with American Express to Make your TV Shop-able

For a long time now I’ve been hearing that TV may be the next channel at the forefront of digital marketers’ minds. Finally it seems some of the big guns are trying to make it happen.

According to an article in Ad Age today, NBC Universal and American Express are launching an effort to bridge the gap between TV and shopping, turning the ever-present tube into yet another digital shopping channel. The article reports that the companies have formed a partnership which will let consumers purchase products “inspired by” NBC Universal programs directly from a mobile device while the programs are airing.

Ok so maybe the TV is not magically becoming a touchscreen shopping device, but still. It’s allllll heading that way folks.

In order to make this magic trick a reality, NBC Universal will use Zeebox, a social TV app that works on certain tablets and smartphones, lets users converse in real time with friends who are watching the same show, or follow related Twitter and Facebook feeds. Under the new program, Zeebox will also give users information about how they can purchase show-related items like couture fashion and kitchenware, says Ad Age.

The partnership also includes popular editorial site, DailyCandy, owned by NBC. The website will select products that might appeal to viewers of shows such as Bravo’s, Life After Top Chef and E!’s, Fashion Police.

Through the effort, American Express card members can receive $35 back when they use an eligible American Express Card, synced with their Facebook or Twitter accounts, to purchase one of the products.

The whole idea is to play on the compulsion of consumers – many of whom will see, click, buy if the item on the screen really speaks to them. What I’d like to know is – will this trend expand? How about attaching it to the truly viral but more niche hit programs like Girls, Boardwalk Empire or the authentically British and impossibly amazing Downton Abbey (I am obsessed and not afraid to say it!)

Perhaps it would muddy the waters of such programs? How do writers and creative types feel about this integration? Will it ever be seamless enough to not intrude on the integrity of the show’s content? If Lady Mary were wearing a fabulous fascinator and on the cut to commercial we saw an ad saying, “Want to buy Lady Mary’s hat? Scan here,” would we be happy or feel the way many critics have felt with the uptick of product placement in music videos and movies? But then again, that’s public television – a whole different ball game as we all know too well.

Either way, it’s a fascinating trend to watch. Comment below with your thoughts.