By Walter Sabo
NEW YORK — Founder of the Home Shopping Club, Bud Paxson, died this week. His lessons and legacy are not to be ignored. Here’s what I learned from him while serving as a content and management consultant to him and his company, Pax Net.
“Bad live television is better than any recorded television.” The thrill of live TV is unbeatable. That’s why NBC goes through the horror of producing annual musicals live when elaborate productions are better suited to pre-recorded. “Live” is why, whether you love it or not, you respect “Saturday Night Live.”
Do It Yourself, or Bureaucracy Is Bad
In the beginning, the Home Shopping Club was mass, mass appeal. The products were cheap, often grey-market electronic items, cheesy porcelain and fake pearls. I watched it for thousands of hours. I asked Bud who bought the merchandise for the Club? “I bought everything.”
When in Doubt, Get Off Your Ass and Sell
When things were slow on the Home Shopping Club, Bud would hit the set and lead the on-screen operators with rounds of singing on air. Watching Bud lead 100 employees through “God Bless America” was not to be missed. Then he’d get on stage with the host and sell. It went like this:
Bud: “Look at this, don’t you want this crap?”
Bud: “Oh it’s all crap, no one gets up in the morning wanting this, but you see it and you want it!!!!”
Bud was a pragmatic populist, something he learned at Syracuse University.
People Want to Join Something
Home Shopping Network was originally called the Home Shopping Club. That’s why it was a success. To buy a product, you had to join the club. Callers were called Club Members and when they bought a product the host said, “Congratulations for getting in on the Capodimonte porcelain.” His network defined media engagement.
He Had a Strong Personal Agenda: Success
When he bought radio stations, he had many hot, controversial hosts under contract. Bud’s strong Christian views were never comfortable with hosts such as Howard Stern and Neil Rogers, but he never interfered with the content of those shows, nor did he order them fired. His relationship with the Christian community was powerful in protecting content.
He Got Rich After 45, When He Threw Out The Rules
He would brag about being viewed as a “mad scientist down in Florida.” He was. He hated trade organizations and conformity. Staying in the lines never worked for him. Until he started the Home Shopping Club, in middle age, he was poor. When HSC started, he couldn’t get a MasterCard.
Nobody thought HSC would work. Cable systems didn’t want it. Investors didn’t want it. Vendors were tough. But he stuck with his idea, saw the growth, knew his viewers and prayed.
As owner of the Home Shopping Club he pitched his IPO on the Home Shopping Club to a viewership of BUYERS. As a result, HSC was the fastest, highest opening-day stock in the history of the American Stock Exchange: $14 to $63 per share, day one. Have you ever seen a red herring pitch for a new stock on TV? If you do, buy that stock.
The on-air pitch for the IPO was only scheduled six times
He Knew and Respected His Audience
With his money he built a church, bought a 727, several mansions. He was as complex as they come, but ultimately he knew how to make a show and he loved a show because he respected the audience.
Bud, thanks for giving us permission to be crazy rich.
Walter Sabo is CEO of New York City-based media consultation firm Sabo Media. He can be phoned at 347-380-1581 or emailed at email@example.com.