Diller taps 2 at QVC

In preparation for the proposed merger between rivals QVC and Home Shopping Network, QVC chairman Barry Diller is planning to bring aboard two key executives to help build his burgeoning home-shopping empire.

Diller’s first target is QVC sister channel QVC the Fashion Channel (QVC2), which will get a complete overhaul. Diller has tapped Candice Carpenter, president of Time-Life Television, to oversee the relaunch of Q2, according to industry sources.

QVC2’s new president Carpenter has reportedly been given the mandate to move the channel away from apparel and toward upscale merchandise. Carpenter has an extensive background in direct marketing, having previously toiled for American Express. She recently engineered Time-Life’s acquisition of Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” for homevideo.

Diller is also bringing in former Fox deputy Stephen Chao to work on the venture. Chao worked under Diller when the QVC chairman was running the 20th Century Fox empire and Chao was a programming executive developing such shows as “Cops” and “Studs” at the studio. Newsweek reported Monday that Chao would be joining QVC, but the controversial ex-Fox News chief will be on-board strictly on a consulting basis, according to industry sources.

The controversial Chao was dismissed from his post as Fox News prexy by Rupert Murdoch, chairman of parent company News Corp., after an incident at a conference in which Chao hired a male stripper to perform as part of his presentation. Earlier this year, however, Chao came back into the company fold when he cut a film distribution deal with Fox (Daily Variety, March 18).

“We talk to Stephen Chao all the time,” said a Fox spokesman. “He continues to be excited about producing films for us.”

While his deal with Fox doesn’t prevent him from working in TV, according to Fox sources, Chao asked for and received Murdoch’s OK before he accepted Diller’s offer to consult. Chao and Carpenter could not be reached for comment. A QVC spokesman declined comment on the Carpenter appointment and the Chao deal.

The flurry of activity surrounding QVC and its proposed merger with HSN has fueled talk of a fifth network, based around HSN’s right of first refusal of the Silver King station group — 12 UHF stations located in or near major markets. Chao’s emergence in the unfolding home-shopping drama has only heightened speculation. Before the proposed QVC and HSN merger surfaced, a plan had been bouncing around HSN about launching another network, using the Silver King group as its foundation. Dubbed “Best TV,” which would be a mix of home-shopping and shows gleaned from other cable channels.

Sources inside QVC say that plan is on the back burner. “(Best TV) was an idea hatched at HSN, not here — I don’t think it has much validity anymore,” said a QVC source. “Our focus here is making the merger work. Any talk about a fifth network at this point is pure speculation.”

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