Are The Shopping Channels Courting?

Two home-shopping channels are doing a little shopping of their own. Rivals QVC and HSN, which dominate the $2 billion shop-at-home market, have grudgingly acknowledged that they're discussing the possibility of a merger or joint venture. QVC Executive Vice-President William Costello stressed that talks are "very preliminary" and the releases were issued only in response to heavy trading in HSN stock, which rose to 8 from 6 1/2 in late February.

The companies' caution is understandable. After QVC bought CVN, then the No. 2 channel, in 1989, regular CVN viewers kicked up quite a fuss. To avoid alienating the 20 million viewers who receive both channels, HSN and QVC would probably keep separate shows if they entered into some kind of combination.

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