It will be a lot quieter at QVC in the coming weeks. Now that Barry Diller has officially departed as chairman (he unofficially departed months ago), the intense media scrutiny of the electronic retailer will likely die down.
That is probably fine with Doug Briggs, the eight-year veteran of QVC who last week was named president.
Diller’s stint at QVC drove the stock of the company up and gave it unprecedented media coverage. That has its downside, too. Whenever a project or network idea such as Q2 failed to take off, the coverage, because of Diller, was all that more intense.
Indeed, there is some concern among cable operators about how the company reacts to its new status. QVC has been in something of a standstill over the last several months as Diller prepared to make his exit and Comcast and Tele-Communications completed their acquisition of the company.
“Of course there will be less attention paid to the company,” says Briggs. “Diller was a celebrity executive.” But, he adds, the “company was successful before Diller and it will be successful without him.”
But, he adds, “there is a lot to do. We will try to move the company forward and develop new businesses.”
According to Comcast, QVC had gross sales of $1.4 billion. Growth abroad has not been so fast in coming to QVC. Start-up operations in Europe have dragged on QVC’s bottom line as has Q2. International joint ventures lost over $27 million in the nine months of 1994.
“It’s been a struggle abroad,” confirms Briggs, who is optimistic that the hard days are behind the company. “We will break even in England by 1996,” he says.
Briggs is also prepared to work on Q2, which did not take off as expected and found itself merged with another QVC channel, onQ.
“Q2 was not a raging success,” says one top-five cable operator executive. “They need to make some noise.”
Q2 no ‘slam dunk’
“Since 1986,” says Briggs, “40 companies have either launched or were close to launching shopping channels; there are only 2 on the air. Q2 is not going to be a slam dunk. We have to find the secret and create something different. We can’t just put QVC on again. If it were easy, everyone would have done it.”
Operators who fear that Diller’s departure may mean a loss of vision at QVC may be concerned over nothing.
Briggs is already mapping out the next territory for QVC, which will be an online shopping service. He is currently in talks with online services and hopes to have a deal in place in the fall. Briggs also knows that part of QVC’s continued growth will be based on technology.
At the ready
“We are a retailer. It is technology that will be what moves this business forward,” explains Briggs. “We are not in control of that nor smart enough to predict it, but we will be ready to satisfy the needs of the American consumers when the technology is there.”
Briggs will rely mostly on QVC veterans. Many of Diller’s hires were rather glamorous, including Candice Carpenter, who was prexy of Time-Life Books Television Video unit when she came on board to head up Q2. She left the company several months ago as have other Diller hires.
Diller was unable to move the service toward new customers. The bulk of QVC customers still are repeat users. Briggs hopes to bring in new users.
He’ll also strive to keep Wall Street’s eye on the business, even if he is not a celebrity executive.