Senator blasts HSN deal

Liberty Media Corp.’s proposed investment in Home Shopping Network has drawn the wrath of Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio).

Metzenbaum, in a letter to the U.S. Dept. of Justice this week, warned that the deal would allow Liberty’s parent company–the giant cable MSO TeleCommunications Inc.–to “dominate the lucrative and popular video home shopping market.”

TCI is a partner with cable MSO Comcast Corp. in QVC, the sole competitor to Home Shopping Network that will soon feature former Fox Inc. topper Barry Diller at the helm.

Liberty last month unveiled plans to pony up $ 160 million in stock and cash to buy a controlling stake in Home Shopping Network.

Even before Metzenbaum sent his missive, the deal was being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible antitrust violations.

Metzenbaum, a liberal who has been a frequent cable industry critic, urged Justice to “scrutinize closely” the proposed acquisition and to challenge the HSN/QVC merger “if it would force consumers of cable home shopping services to pay higher prices.”

The Ohio Dem also warned that approval of the merger “could make it extremely difficult for a rival to launch a competing cable home shopping program” due to the “strong disincentives” TCI and Comcast would have in carrying a rival start-up channel.

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