EBay partners with Sotheby's to host online auctions

EBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and international auction house Sotheby's (NYSE:BID) announced a new partnership to stream Sotheby's sales worldwide on the Web. Soon consumers will be able to buy antiques and fine pieces through the online marketplace.

As early as this fall, most of Sotheby's New York auctions will be broadcast live on a special section of eBay's website. The goal is to eventually offer online sales and the ability to stream auctions happening in any city in the world. EBay will be offering a newly designed experience on its site tailored for collectors of rare art and collectibles, as well as first-time buyers.

Although Sotheby's current customer base is about 100,000, it now has the potential to reach 145 million buyers through eBay.

"The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity," said Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby's COO. "We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world."

The two companies teamed up briefly back in 2002, but nothing came of it. But perhaps now the time is right as Sotheby's is seeking a new way to compete with its rival, Christie's. Christie's recently announced a $50 million investment to spend on Internet-only auctions and a redesign of its website, reported the New York Times.

Sotheby's and Christie's already auction goods online, but both see further potential in reaching wealthy shoppers online. Online shopping sites such as Gilt and 1st Dibs have proved that consumers are not afraid to spend large amounts on products online, even without ever seeing them in person. Sotheby's reported a 36 percent increase in online sales in 2013.

"A Sotheby's-eBay partnership is a significant milestone in our efforts to expand the live auction market," said Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces. "Sotheby's is one of the most respected names in the world. When you combine its inventory with eBay's technology platform and global reach, we can give people access to the world's finest, most inspiring items—anytime, anywhere and from any device. That is an experience we believe our customers will love."

For more:
-See this eBay and Sotheby's press release
-See this New York Times article

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