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History of Infomercials

Posted on July 19, 2020 by Ron Reginal

It all started in the 1980's. Ronald Regan was president and one of the numerous controversial things he did in that office was to deregulate the TV market. Why did he do it? Well, as a conservative Republican he lived and breathed from the"free market principle," which said that the authorities did not belong in business, and companies should live and die by the success or failure of their own practices and market forces.

At exactly the exact same time, cable TV was just starting its expansion to the American television market, which opened up a enormous broadcast venue which simply did not exist beforehand.

Anyone with any experience in the broadcast industry was beginning his own station and pretty soon cable stations were commonplace. The most prosperous channels at the time were religious based stations that were essentially used for fundraising purposes. There were literally hundreds of themfrom local, little time reverends and ministers with questionable backgrounds, to nationally broadcast religious and spiritual shows, using well-known religious figures.

At this time, two things occurred. For one, a number of the young, fledgling stations and networks who relied on advertising revenue to keep themselves afloat attracted less than stellar ratings and starting going under. And at exactly the exact same time, the religious stations began to understand that their fundraising efforts were failing miserably in the late night and wee hours of the morning.

Cheap broadcast distance was born! And enterprising businessmen, more like vultures than saviors, swooped down and started to chew on the dying carcasses of their young cable business, buying up blocks of cheap, late night, off peak broadcast time and running 30 minute or 60 minute, inexpensively produced commercials refashioned as entertainment applications.

Pretty soon there were infomercial superstars. Celebrities, in addition to a cast of unknowns, found fame and fortune in the newly created infomercial industry. There was Jane Fonda who seized lightening in a bottle with her exercise tapes simultaneously fostering the movie business together with the infomercial business. There was Ron Popeil, who promoted every gadget and device people did not even know they had and made the change from printed contact to email so successfully he is still doing it now. And there was Kenny Kingston who left the Psychic Hotline into one of the biggest companies in the world without even having anything to sell! Only in America and just in infomercials could such overwhelming success occur so quickly.

Soon, everybody with an idea was attempting to think of the next big thing. As is always the case with any new business, immediately following the first success there is a massive wave of imitators and innovators seeking to cash in. And as always happens - most neglect. There was such a massive crush of wannabes flooding to the company which production rates skyrocketed and broadcast time became increasingly more costly and less and less accessible. Almost overnight, the infomercial industry went from nothing to the coveted haul of billions of dollars each year.

And that's only in the usa. Successful infomercials, such as Hollywood films are translated into foreign languages and played all over the globe particularly when they are celebrity driven.

The newly established infomercial business was the precursor into the Home Shopping Network and QVC which are basically 24 hour mini infomercials, product driven, cost driven and celebrity driven. And now we have The Infomercial Channel - 24 hours per day of infomercials. Gone are the days of loud mouthed hucksters, snake oil salesmen yelling into the camera, hawking the latest "it slices! it dices!" home improvement device. Nowadays, infomercials are slick, expensive and if they operate, highly profitable.