ValueVision Gets Sporty With FanBuzz Purchase

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ValueVision International Inc., which does business as ShopNBC, is buying FanBuzz, presaging a move into sports-merchandise sales.

ValueVision did not disclose the purchase price, but said the deal should add about $20 million to the company's revenue this year.

Since 1996, FanBuzz — which operates the Web sites Teamstore.com and CustomFan (www.teamstore.com/customfan) — has operated online stores for established brands, mainly for sports clothing. About 90 percent of its business is in fulfillment services for other clients, including ESPN, CNN/Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times.

"We tend to be concentrated in jewelry, personal computers and home goods," ValueVision chief operating officer and chief financial officer Richard Barnes said last week. "This is part of a logical step to broaden the product line."

ShopNBC is moving toward sports merchandising even as the NBC Television Network has passed on some recent sports programming deals. For instance, it dropped its bid to retain National Basketball Association telecasts through 2003 and beyond. The NBA will now go to networks owned by The Walt Disney Co. and AOL Time Warner Inc.

Aside from the Summer and Winter Olympics through 2008, NBC's sports programming is limited to Professional Golfers' Association and National Association of Stock Car Racing events.

Sports products, however, are big sellers for ShopNBC's rivals, QVC Inc. and Home Shopping Network.

"The whole sporting goods sector is about a $10 billion [annual sales] industry," Barnes said. "We're not going to take $1 billion of that.

"I don't know how big it could be. FanBuzz will add a little over $20 million in [annual] revenue. It's a significant opportunity."

Added Barnes: "We will be making more acquisitions. We have about $230 million in cash and virtually no debt. We're interested in acquisitions that leverage our assets as a company."

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