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Challenger Beats eBay To Airwaves

An auction site launched by a disgruntled eBay user will begin promoting its wares in a half-hour TV show debuting Sunday.
Upstart eBay challenger Gruvo has a long way to go to match the online auction giant's 37.6 million registered users, but after just two weeks online, the site is pulling off something this weekend that eBay says it's still a year from doing: hosting a TV show.

Gruvo's half-hour show, thought to be the first of its kind for a Web auctioneer, will debut on AOL Time Warner's Channel 35 in New York City at noon EST Sunday. The program, which will also be streamed on Gruvo's site, is an animated commercial during which "virtual hostesses" Lucky, Cristina, and Fuji promote Gruvo and some of the items listed on the site.

"It's like home shopping, but a little futuristic," says Maria Patel, a disgruntled former eBay seller who founded Gruvo with a friend eight months ago. She says Channel 35 averages 200,000 to 300,000 viewers. Patel plans to expand the TV segment to other markets in January.

For more than a year, eBay has talked of its own TV show; most recently, company officials in August said a daily half-hour show would launch in fall 2002, syndicated by Columbia TriStar Television Distribution and focusing on personal stories from collectors who connect on eBay.