Sears Inks One Year Ad Pact With Gemstar-TV Guide

NEW YORK — First Ford. Now Sears.

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. has inked a second advertising pact that involves a leading marketer making use of its interactive program guides. The deal is expected to be announced formally Monday.

The 12-month agreement calls for Sears, Roebuck and Co. to place advertisements on Gemstar’s interactive program guides during key sales periods from the fourth quarter of 2001 through the third quarter of 2002. Sears is expected to put a heavy emphasis on the holiday selling period.

Sears has been “looking for new media that complement the overall marketing plan,” said Perianne Grignon, director of media services for the Hoffman Estates, Ill., retailer. The program-guide ads, she added, “will be a good mix of both strong branding and promotional offers that will support each other.”

Gemstar’s interactive program guides allow cable consumers to scan program listings, order movies and peruse “clickable” advertisements. They are also integrated in certain cases into TV sets and videocassette recorders. The guides reach approximately 12 million homes, and are expected to reach 20 million by the end of 2001.

In May, Gemstar unveiled a wide-ranging, 18-month pact with Ford Motor Co. that one person familiar with the deal at the time suggested was worth between $1 million and $2 million. Neither Sears’ Ms. Grignon or Jeffrey Mahl, president of media sales for Gemstar-TV Guide, would comment on the financial terms of the Sears agreement. An industry source put its value at about $1 million.

“The focus of this deal and this announcement is the interactive program guide,” Mr. Mahl said, but Sears “is doing other stuff with us. We are already talking to them about some other multiplatform deals.” Gemstar also owns TV Guide magazine and related media platforms. On Wednesday, Gemstar completed its acquisition of SkyMall Inc., a specialty retailer best known, perhaps, for its operation of a catalog aimed at consumers who travel by airplane.

Mr. Mahl said the Sears and Ford agreements show marketers growing more comfortable with the program-guide technology and placement. He said Gemstar has “a number of other deals that are teed up,” and indicated that the company was hopeful it would be able to complete an advertising deal with “a major credit card company” in the near future.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.