April 27, 2009

CNBC's take on DRTV

I caught Darren Rovell's CNBC special on the 'As Seen on TV' business this weekend. Overall, I thought it was pretty fair and accurate. However, it was more fair to some people than others. I cringed during certain parts, along with most other industry insiders I'm sure.

Rovell's treatment of AJ Khubani, president of Telebrands, was especially rough. I'm sure it was a long interview, but the editors chose to focus on the negatives of that interview and make AJ take the hit for some of the harder-to-explain practices of this industry. He did a good job and was cool under fire, but it wasn't really fair to him. Meanwhile, Scott Boilen, president of Allstar, received better treatment, and he came off well. He was every bit as witty and on point as he is in real life. (See below for a sample of what I mean.)

The pitchmen were also well portrayed. I haven't seen Ron Popeil for years, since he sold Ronco, so it was good to see he is still at it, doing what he does best. Billy Mays also gave a fun interview, but I remember thinking: It must have been a small room, or they must have asked him to keep his voice down. Even when he pitched Rovell's phone (you have to see it to understand), he was much more subdued than normal.

Incidentally, Rovell called Billy the "heir" to the King Pitchman throne. But as far as I'm concerned, that coronation has long since passed. Nothing can take away from Ron's former greatness, but Billy is definitely the reigning monarch. (See below for a portion of the Ron and Billy segments.)

To find out about future airings of this special or watch certain segments online, visit AsSeenOnTv.CNBC.com. Below are two videos from the site.

The first is about Snuggie pub crawls and features part of the interview with Scott Boilen:

The second includes some of the stuff they did on Ron Popeil and Billy Mays:


  1. Thanks for the review. I appreciate you taking the time to write this up. I don't think we treated AJ rough at all. Since we weren't doing a profile on any of his products like we were with Scott, we used him to explain the industry in general. He was great at explaining it.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I did appreciate that your piece was generally positive and well informed, devoid of the usual stereotypes and clichés the media tends to fall back on when reporting on our industry. You can tell you did your homework and really listened to the people you interviewed.

    I guess someone had to answer those tough questions about our industry. But having it all fall on AJ seemed unfair. People should know that AJ isn't the only one who has ever faced these issues. Indeed, he wouldn't have been successful for nearly three decades if he didn't try his best every day to run a clean business.

    The "problem" is he was a pioneer in this space. When you're blazing a trail and enjoying the level of success he did, you're bound to attract attention from regulators and other self-righteous government types. The truth is, THEY don't know what the rules are until someone comes along and gives them an opportunity to refine their various and vague rulings.

    In that sense, the industry owes a large debt of gratitude to AJ for helping define the boundaries -- on his dime. I know I'm certainly grateful. "Standing on the shoulders of giants" and all that.