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Just last Friday, we reported on the "in-store TV network industry,” which some value as a more than $450 million business with the potential to be generating more than a billion dollars a year in revenue by the end of the decade.

The Newark Star Ledger reported that while “some shoppers say they feel besieged by the escalation of commercial messages as well as news and instructional information,” many “retailers and advertisers view the electronic displays as a way to boost sales, educate workers and, in some instances, give customers the perception of a shorter wait in line.”

Now comes the New York Times weighing in on the same subject, noting that the Wal-Mart TV Network “captures some 130 million viewers every four weeks, making it the fifth-largest television network in the United States after NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox,” offering a mix of “previews of soon-to-be-released movies, snippets of sports events and rock concerts, and corporate messages from the world of Wal-Mart, including some intended to improve its battered public image” – not to mention a constant stream of commercials paid for by manufacturers who supply the retailer with product.

“While other retailers have experimented with in-store television, Wal-Mart's network, which is available in almost all its 2,600 locations, is the most extensive,” the NYT reports. “The company, eager to promote it, is upgrading its broadcasting plans and equipment” and charges between $137,000 to $292,000 per commercial, depending on how long the ad is and how many stores it is shown in.

Manufacturers are supporting Wal-Mart TV, according to the NYT, not just because it is an initiative created by their largest customer (which doesn’t hurt), but also because they are more and more focused on targeted rather than mass media.
KC's View:
We commented on Friday that the problem with a lot of retailers’ TV networks is that they have been created by outside companies and offer little if any differential advantage since much of the programming is the same, with some proprietary ads thrown in.

Wal-Mart’s network is exactly that – Wal-Mart’s network. It is all differential advantage. Even when it becomes just noise, it is all Wal-Mart’s noise.

The important lesson here isn’t that an in-store TV network can provide a new promotional avenue. The important lesson is that retailers need to be different than the other guy, not take a me-too approach.