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USA Networks to link two auction sites

First Auction and Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch combine auction formats, allowing consumers to buy and sell among themselves or through an auction house.

2 min read
Two Internet auctions controlled by Barry Diller's USA Networks are combining capabilities so would-be buyers can bid on new merchandise or local goods being offered by individuals selling in a person-to-person format or by the auction site hawking its own goods.

The deal, which involves First Auction and Ticketmaster Online-City Search, bridges two auction formats and means consumers can buy new PCs and cosmetics along with Beanie Babies and antique autos from either site.

"We think it's better for the consumer," said Alan Citron, president of USA Networks Interactive, who oversees the Internet properties of USA Networks. He also serves as chairman of Ticketmaster-City Search. "It's an added value to consumer if we allow listing and access to all auctions in one place."

In part, the move reacts to an expectation that person-to-person auctions at eBay and Amazon.com will experiment with selling their own goods, rather than simply listing others' items.

"We have the advantage of already being there in both places so it makes good business sense since that seems to be a direction others are taking," Citron added. First Auction today is launching a redesign of its site, and Citron called today's move as the first phase of a deeper integration, if customers like the change. Ultimately, that could result in merging First Auction's site with CityAuction, the person-to-person auction that City Search acquired in January.

First Auction is the operating division of Internet Shopping Network, purchased several years ago by USA Networks.

USA Networks also owns 58 percent of CitySearch, which merged last year with Ticketmaster Online, then went public in December.

First Auction is a business-to-consumer online auction site that sells new items such as PCs, jewelry, furniture, toys, apparel, and home electronics in a real-time auction format. CityAuction manages person-to-person auctions similar to eBay's. City Search touts local auctions as more appropriate than national auctions for expensive or hard-to-ship goods like refrigerators or motorcycles.

Online auctions have become a huge Internet phenomenon, led primarily by popularity and stock market performance of eBay. Jupiter Communications said 1.2 million people made auction purchases last year, a figure it projects project to climb to 6.5 million in 2002.

Tomorrow, CityAuction is expected to announce that it will serve as the exclusive national sponsor of Phantom Menace: An Interactive Guide to Star Wars. The interactive guide also appears on more than 50 national newspaper Internet sites.