HSN To Launch Shopping Channel in Italy

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Home Shopping Network, St. Petersburg, FL, formed a joint venture with Scandinavian Broadcasting Systems SA, to launch a live TV shopping program in Italy this year. The move into Italy follows HSN's expansion into Japan, Germany and into Hispanic shopping programming in the United States. Its biggest U.S. rival, QVC Corp., has operations in Germany and the United Kingdom.

Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, each company will own 50 percent of the joint venture, called HSN-SBS Italia.

Scandinavian Broadcasting Systems, a $242 million commercial broadcast company based in Stockholm, owns 10 percent of the Italian television network Rete Mia TV, which reaches 14 million of the 20 million television households in Italy. Rete Mia is one of 12 national TV channels authorized by Italy's government to cover the entire country. SBS has an option to buy 100 percent of Rete Mia in the future.

"We will start with one or two hours of live shopping programming a day," said Jean Louis Velaise, managing director of Rete Mia TV, based in Lucca, Italy. "Eventually, we expect it to fill most of the schedule."

He said that although the deal does not mark the first time the network has aired shopping programming, the venture with Home Shopping Network will help to streamline operations and offer integrated service to Italian customers.

"We'll have a very broad-based product offering," he said. "We'll make full use of all products available in Italian market."

The HSN-SBS Italia joint venture is now in the process of coordinating the operations of the shopping channel and had not determined the location of its telemarketing and fulfillment facilities, he said.

While Europe is no stranger to DRTV spots and infomercials that sell products, the growth of the home shopping industry is expected to have a greater impact on the way products are marketed through television. Italy is considered one of the most mature broadcast markets in Europe, with early growth of commercial networks during the 1980s that rivaled state-operated networks.

"With nearly 60 million people and a per capita GDP of more than $21,000, Italy is one of Western Europe's most exciting opportunities for electronic commerce," said Woody Knight, chief operating officer of SBS. The broadcast company has controlling interests in eight television and 12 radio stations in Western and Central Europe. Among its TV holdings, it also operates TV Norge in Norway, Kanal 5 in Sweden, VT4 in Belgium, SBS 6 in the Netherlands, TV Denmark and Kanal A in Slovenia.

"Since acquiring our initial stake in Rete Mia nearly 18 months ago, SBS executives have been investigating various programming strategies," said Harry Evans Sloan, chairman and CEO of SBS. "Our research showed that Italian viewers and consumers would welcome quality live home shopping."

The HSN-SBS Italia joint venture follows the November launch of another Italian shopping program produced by Shopping America Srl., based in Rome. The company was founded by Nando DiFilippo Jr., the former general counsel for Home Shopping Network, who was unavailable for comment.

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