In the early 1990s, before everyone could instantly buy almost anything from their smartphone, the proposed combination of QVC network and Home Shopping Network (“HSN”) reportedly was shuttered due to antitrust concerns.
Now, 25 years later and a lifetime of change in consumer shopping habits, Liberty Interactive Corporation, owner of the QVC network, has announced plans to acquire HSN in a $2.1 billion deal. Liberty Interactive currently owns 38.2 percent of HSN, and hopes to acquire the remaining 61.8 percent in an all-stock transaction.
QVC and HSN are longtime rivals who have seen competition grow in the home shopping space from e-commerce retailers. While QVC and HSN will remain stand-alone brands after the merger, the companies’ public statements claim the combination of the two networks under common ownership will increase scale, increase the development of e-commerce and optimize programming across the networks.
This deal is the latest deal to attempt an antitrust “do-over.” Consumers’ changing buying patterns have influenced how federal antitrust enforcers think about retail industry mergers. The FTC’s closing statement in its investigation of the now-completed merger of Office Depot and Office Max in 2013 discussed the FTC’s evaluation of the “explosive growth of online commerce” as a significant factor in their approval of the merger. As a result, many retailers may see merger opportunities that would not have passed antitrust scrutiny 10 or 15 years ago.