While I am heavily involved in music and songwriter these days, I still have very strong roots as a TV Shopping Host, having spent over 25,000 hours on live TV with QVC. My $11,000,000 hour still stands as an all-time record on QVC. I was their senior music, entertainment and technology host.
Decades ago, I warned QVC executives that relying on guests could someday come back and bite them in the ass. Welcome to someday!
Most of the hosts on QVC and HSN have become so dependent on guests, they are having a problem demonstrating many of the tech and home appliance products. Yes, they have guests via Skype, but while that is somewhat effective for fashion and a few other categories, it does not help the hosts operate products that require a more than a bit of study and practice.
In the first few years of QVC, we had almost no guests. Hosts had to learn to operate and effectively demonstrate the products. It took a lot of time, but it was worth the effort when a product sold out.
Back in those days, QVC had many “World Premieres.” Sometimes, I would be pulled off the air and taught how to operate a particular new product. One in particular I remember was a DAT (digital audio recorder) in the early 1990’s. They were not permitted in the United States because the recording industry was afraid of the perfect recordings they could make. When the courts allowed them to be sold, QVC was the first retailer in the country to offer them. When the approval came, I was pulled off the air, given a 30 minute tutorial and went back on-the-air with the fanfare of a “World Premier” graphic. The unit was about $1,000 and our total inventory sold out at 2 PM on a weekday.
I don’t think today’s hosts could handle a crash tutorial like that. But with the right training, they could. The fact that we were the first retailer in the country with many products, including the first Beatles Anthologies and DVD recorders, really set us apart from other retailers, especially the TV Shopping Channels.
Without ongoing training, most of Today’s hosts would probably be unable to learn, assimilate and present this kind of information quickly. These days, they are mainly a group of talking heads. A few of the female hosts are great with fashion, but that’s about it. The current cook host should more accurately be called “the eating host.” Not a lot of live cooking, except by the guests, now on Skype due to the pandemic. Let me see any of them do a 4-hour cook show with no guests. This was the norm for many years at the Q. And products sold very well.
Today, QVC is featuring full hour long shows hosted by a solo vendor, with no host, on its Q2 network. The vendor is the product expert and most of these shows are doing very well. Hosts are becoming superfluous. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company won’t eliminate most host positions in the near future. After all, most current hosts on QVC and HSN are little more than talking heads. Very few know that much about the products they are presenting.
Eliminating hosts is a double-edged sword. Yes, they will save money by not having to pay their salaries, but they will lose the personal connection with their audience that these hosts provide. It could really hurt them in the long run. I believe it’s a smarter move to train their hosts on the products they are presenting. Each host could have her or his area of expertise. That’s the way it used to be when we built the company into the multi-billion dollar giant it is today.
It’s times like this that make me want to get back in the game. I have kept current with today’s technology. One of the major shopping channels was talking to me about returning as a “senior host.” But when the pandemic hit, that all went on hold. More than working on-air, I could teach the hosts how to be a lot more self-sufficient and effective.
But given what I see on-air these days, I sure want to jump on a plane and get ready to smile into the camera. To this day, I receive dozens of emails asking for help selecting different cook, technical and music products. People trust me!
(The photo shows my two sales books. One was a bestseller and both took me around the globe teaching sales techniques, including my own “Benefit of the Benefit” ™ technique, to some very diverse salespeople. Even did a seminar in New Zealand.)
© 2021 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.