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@Home makes auction deals

The broadband Net-access company signs on and First Auction as anchor tenants of its shopping channel.

Two auction agreements signed yesterday bring new meaning to the idea of shopping at home.

@Home Network has signed partnership deals with online software retailer and Internet auction house First Auction to be the anchor tenants in a new auction section on the company's high-speed cable modem service.

Egghead and First Auction will be the showcased auction services on the @Home Shopping Channel, the company's electronic commerce section. Terms of the deals, @Home's first foray into auctions, were not disclosed.

"We wanted to build the ultimate auction site, so we said, 'let's go out and partner with the best auction services available,'" said Tom Latinovich, manager of e-commerce for @Home. "E-commerce is going to be a big push for us in 1999."

The company believes its broadband network, which typically allows users to surf the Web at speeds between 1.5 Mbps [megabits per second] and 3 Mbps, will provide a more enjoyable shopping and auction bidding experience for users.

Advertisers and retailers are likely to benefit from broadband auctions.

"Broadband allows for impulse purchases and the ability to get directly through to that decision point," Latinovich said.

The alliance gives @Home a solid partner for software and consumer electronic equipment, a market segment that accounts for a large portion of e-commerce sales. Egghead is so confident of the e-commerce marketplace that the company closed all of its brick-and-mortar retail stores last year.

First Auction, part of the Internet Shopping Network, is a leading seller of apparel, health, beauty, and jewelry goods. The Internet Shopping Network is a division of USA Networks Interactive. Led by Chief Executive Barry Diller, USA Networks owns the Home Shopping Network, a major cable television shopping channel.

The Internet industry, and Wall Street investors, have been enamored with online auctions since the successful initial public offering of eBay.

Many retailers are drooling over eBay's business model, one that carries very little overhead and no order-fulfillment burdens. Sellers work directly with prospective buyers to deliver the goods while eBay takes a cut of transactions.

@Home would like to conduct similar direct auctions. "This is not the end of the auction section for us," @Home's Latinovich said, hinting at future announcements.

@Home also said it will use the Enliven technology it acquired when the company bought Narrative Communications last month to develop advertisements that integrate auction products and real-time users' bids.

The data-over-cable company bought Narrative, which will soon become @Home's Enliven Business Network unit, to help create so-called rich media, or bandwidth hungry multimedia, advertisements.