CHICAGO — Time Warner Inc. and Spiegel Inc. said Monday that they will launch two cable television home shopping channels next year, including an interactive "video shopping mall."
The joint venture marks the first attempt by either company to develop a home shopping business. If it succeeds, they would leapfrog competitors QVC Network Inc. and Home Shopping Network Inc., neither of which has announced firm plans for an interactive channel that lets shoppers choose what they want to see with the touch of a button.
"Conceptually, it's a step ahead--not that the others won't wind up doing it sooner or later," said John G. Nelson, a stock analyst who follows New York-based Time Warner for Brown Bros. Harriman.
The channels will feature clothes, accessories and home furnishings from Spiegel's catalogue and from its Eddie Bauer and other specialty divisions. The partners said they are talking with other upscale catalogue companies about offering their merchandise for sale.
The interactive channel will make its debut in April on an experimental cable network Time Warner is building in Orlando, Fla.
"The interactive channel will, in effect, be a video shopping mall," Time Warner and Spiegel said in a statement. "Cable customers will be able to enter any catalogue 'store' at any time, view a variety of merchandise in full-motion video and make purchases on demand."
A more conventional home shopping channel, with a working title of The Catalog Channel, will bow in the first quarter of next year on Time Warner cable systems, the nation's second-largest collection with 7.1 million subscribers in 36 states. The channel will later be offered to other cable operators.
Jack Shea, Spiegel president and chief executive, said the joint venture "represents a tremendous opportunity for us and other cataloguers to pioneer new channels of distribution in exciting and compelling ways."
New York department store chain R.H. Macy & Co. plans to start its own home shopping channel on cable TV next year, using the order and customer service facilities of Florida-based Home Shopping Network.
American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and cable network company Viacom Inc. have announced plans to cooperate in a test of interactive TV services, including home shopping, in Northern California.
Retailing analyst Thomas Tashjian of First Manhattan Co. said home shopping is a natural fit for mail-order merchandisers such as Spiegel, a $2.2-billion company based in Oak Brook, Ill. "Mail-order operators already have a telemarketing and distribution infrastructure in place," he said.
Spiegel stock soared $5 to $41.50 on Nasdaq; Time Warner added 25 cents to $42.375 on the NYSE.
Time Warner owns less than 10% of West Chester, Pa.-based QVC, which has proposed a merger with Home Shopping Network. That deal has been put on hold by QVC's buyout bid for Paramount Communications Inc.