Who said competition in network TV had to come from rival broadcasters? CBS found itself doing battle with the unlikeliest of competitors last month — eBay — when two anonymous peddlers posted advance video copies of the Eye’s Nov. 26 special ”Ricky Martin: One Night Only” on the popular auction site. Such tapes are distributed to critics and are typically labeled ”for review purposes only,” but in this case, the only ”reviewing” going on was over the auction price. The first tape — posted by a seller in Seattle — started at around $3 and skyrocketed into the $200s before CBS snagged it for $305. Another advance copy of the hour-long special surfaced out of New Jersey before CBS was able to persuade eBay to remove the unauthorized tape. ”If anybody believes there is legal infringement, we will act as fast as we possibly can,” says eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove.
Despite the official stance, show-related items have become a staple on eBay and other auction sites: Rabid fans of, say, ”Angel,” ”The X-Files,” or ”Xena: Warrior Princess” can find signed scripts, old press kits, and yes, review cassettes. Though it was able to keep the Ricky Martin video out of circulation, CBS admits to being blindsided by the new trend and now plans to label review tapes with the warning ”not for sale.” Says CBS spokesman Chris Ender, ”Future offenders could be living la vida lawsuit.”