“There is simply too much television.” It was a matter-of-fact pronouncement delivered without histrionics by FX CEO John Landgraf last summer at an industry presentation, but voiced with the certainty of a small-screen Nostradamus. He even conveniently came up with a catchy term, “Peak TV,” to name the overcapacity, and predicted the number of shows would soon decline to match TV’s declining ratings.
Landgraf wasn’t exaggerating: There is too much content out there, at least for any one binger to watch without contracting bedsores.
In 2015, there were 412 scripted TV shows on cable, broadcast, and streaming, almost double the number in 2009. For 2016, the amount should reach 450.
Those 450 shows are matched in jaw-dropping potential by the number of outlets on which to see them. Last Sunday, a friend asked me what to watch on a “Postmates-and-chill” date, and then demanded to know where she could view my suggestion. “Apple TV? YouTube? Amazon? Netflix?” As I pretended to rack my brain (her provider savvy made me embarrassed to admit I used Fios On Demand), the questions took on an incredulous cast: “HBO? Hulu? Crackle?!”
Or Mr Porter? Last week, the luxury men’s e-tailer jumped into the crowded on-air fray with the launch of a shoppable app specifically designed for Apple TV’s operating system. It works alongside Mr Porter’s existing iOS app, allowing Apple TV customers to use their iphones or ipads to shop videos that appear on the Mr Porter’s weekly digital magazine, The Journal.
Think of Mr Porter’s endeavor as not a new outlet, but a new category of outlet. Specifically, it’s television entertainment that combines content and commerce, but next-leveled for savvy sartorialists: using the app, you can scroll (on your couch, clothes, ironically, optional) through the site’s editorial features and purchase what you see directly from your TV. It’s T-commerce, tailored for the streaming generation.
Of course, the concept of shoppable “television” content is not novel. Last year, Bravo debuted The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce with a complimenting online micro-site that let you know where to buy the stars’ outfits in real time. In January, Burberry unveiled an Apple TV app of its own that allowed users to livestream its menswear show and get instant VIP access to swipe the apparel straight from the runway. In March, Amazon launched Style Code Live, a QVC-esque show hosted by YouTube stars gushing about seasonal trends complete with carousel under the video player where viewers could scoop the corresponding products. But Mr Porter’s interpretation of the trend is more comprehensive—with the app, all of its video content is available for purchase in one place.
The project kicked off (as many projects do) after a visit to Apple’s Cupertino, California HQ in May by Federico Marchetti, CEO of Mr Porter’s parent company, Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, who says he’s thrilled his customers will “be able to connect their shopping experience with the viewing-pleasure of video series and short films within Apple TV’s network of innovative channels and first rate content.” Jeremy Langmead, Mr Porter’s brand and content director, is equally tickled when it comes to the app: “We couldn’t be prouder … Mr Porter is among the first to give luxury customers a great new way to shop.”
Even though my queue of stuff to watch is already daunting, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Mr Porter’s spin on the fresh way to shop that is T-commerce—it would be a fine thing to prove to the TV industry doomsday soothsayers that, as Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said in response to FX’s Landgraf, “There’s no such thing as too much TV.” Plus, since the Yoox Net-A-Porter group is known for its groundbreaking technology game and omnipotent sense of all things stylish, I figured that if anyone was going to successfully blur the lines between advertising and editorial, it would be them.
Though my sense of journalistic commitment didn’t stretch to buying a shiny Apple gadget (as I said, I’m still stuck on Fios!), a little gumption goes a long way, if gumption means knocking on my neighbor’s door to propose a little retail therapy on his Apple TV.
The process was seamless and simple. In less than a minute, we were browsing The Journal, a sophisticated and slickly packaged editorial destination that would be remarkable for its depth even if it weren’t attached to a retailer—video titles for our viewing pleasure ranged from “Five Ways To Wear Prada,” to “24 Hours With Public School,” but we settled on a short film, “A Saturday With…Mr Ronnie Fieg,” part of a series that follows a Mr Porter-approved subject over the course of an action-packed day.
In this installment, we were able to hang around New York City with the sneaker impresario, stop at Kith (his trend-setting boutique), peak into his shoe closet, visit Queens to meet the parents, and joy-ride in his matte-black Porsche Panamera. The instant we pressed play on our journey with Fieg, the Mr Porter app automatically populated with Fieg’s “looks” — with one click we could scoop up, say, Fieg’s $3,100 satin-twill visvim bomber jacket, though sadly his Acne jeans were sold out.
It was a neat feat of technological magic, but once the newness of the format wears off, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the app becomes habit-forming for The Journal’s approximately 650,000 unique monthly visitors, recruits new consumers to the site, or even converts viewership into meaningful revenue. [No sales or viewership goals were made available to the press.]
A quick survey of some of Mr Porter’s most popular brands, however, revealed that on the wholesale side, the concept is a surefire hit, especially when it comes to the melding-content-and-commerce thing.
“I think it's a great idea and more importantly it’s the right time,” says Ryan Babenzien, the founder and CEO of sleek footwear label Greats, explaining that this initiative could effectively capitalize on the “generational behavior differences” of millennials and Gen Z-ers. “It’s the clash of the first digitally native consumer demographic combined with the technology to deliver a great experience inside world class content that makes content and commerce super interesting.” Babenzien calls Mr Porter and Apple “two best-in-class companies” that are ideally positioned to “crack the code and make this idea finally stick.”
Daniel Corrigan, creative director of cult denim studio Simon Miller, says he will definitely be tuning in to Mr Porter TV: “Content is engaging and is what drives people to websites … There is so much out there now that commerce alone can’t keep people’s attention.” For him, Mr Porter is the perfect vehicle to bridge the gap: “They’re very connected with the brands they work with and take a lot of consideration into how these brands are perceived online.”
Beachwear brand Faherty’s founder, Mike Faherty agrees: “They curate the best product out there … so we have no doubt that the clothes featured will resonate with their customers. It’s particularly relevant given the whole ‘buy now, wear now mentality.’” And for those loath to mess with a man and his remote, Faherty says “men like to be able to see product in movement … it’s a way to visualize how the clothes translate to wearability in real life. A guy sees something he likes in front of him and—boom—he can buy it. He doesn’t have to figure out who makes it, how it looks on a real dude, or where to find the product. It’s all at his fingertips.”
Greg Chait, founder of The Elder Statesman, a.k.a. the world’s coolest cashmere brand, is positive the site’s TV foray will be a winning formula: “In my opinion, the marrying of content and commerce could end up being the most enjoyable and natural way to shop online. If anyone could do it properly, it would be Mr Porter. Can’t wait.”
John Elliott, whose namesake label is Fashion Week’s cool kid, continues Chait’s sentiment, prettily summing up Mr Porter’s on-air ambitions: “This marriage is the new reality. It’s what you have to do to give context to your product. Consumers are becoming more and more educated and they want to see the ideas behind your product. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
For now, the e-tailer is sticking to streaming the type of bread-and-butter fare that the site does best, like designer profiles, how-tos, and insider-knowledge based guides. And they’re interesting, to be sure. But what about shoppable scripted shows?
I can’t help but fantasize about the type of epic serial TV Mr Porter could concoct, particularly given the company’s high production value and access to fashion’s most creative brains. A witty courtroom drama accented with sharply tailored suits? A sexy, noirish thriller set in Berlin and full of dangerous leather motorcycle jackets? A situational surfer comedy complete with summer’s best bathing suits modeled by Australian hard-bodies? When pressed, a company spokeswoman politely deflected my slightly fanatical queries regarding plans for any original Mr Porter scripted series, but if that should ever come to pass—and it should!—I, for one, will not be complaining about silly things like too much TV.