Universal's attempt to hawk music by keeping operators standing by is a direct response to large retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc., which focus almost exclusively on current releases, not past hits. As more and more of the nation's music is sold at such big-box retailers, Universal executives say, classics are getting overlooked.
"The catalogs of Motown and the soul '70s and rock 'n' roll '60s are disappearing from retail shelves," said Ira Pittelman, who will head Universal's new division. "TV is the best way to talk to that audience now."
It has proved to be successful. Before coming to Universal, Pittelman ran Heartland Music, which sold more than 100 million CDs, cassettes and vinyl albums through television infomercials in partnership with Time Life Inc.