Internet-enabled gadgets from laptop computers, to tablets, smart phones and now smart watches give us instantaneous and continual access to news, sports, and content of every ilk imaginable.

Who needs TV any more? TV as we know it is dead, right?


According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches about 5 hours per day of television. Blacks, as a group watch the most television daily, followed by whites and then Hispanics and Asians. For all ethnicities, average TV viewing per day increases with age so that those over 65 watch the most television.

As a result, an old-school marketing channel, DRTV (direct response TV – so called infomercials) is not only growing but, in fact, it is thriving. Revenues from DRTV product sales in the U.S. exceeded $170 billion in 2009 and were expected to exceed $250 billion in 2015. It appears that lots of people still watch TV commercials.

The PedEgg product has earned over $450 in revenues since 2007. It is just one of many DRTV product successes.

Every inventor dreams of having his or her product selling on national television via DRTV. Even with a small royalty, a successful DRTV product can earn an inventor a lucrative living. So, how does DRTV work, what are the basics every inventor should know?

DRTV Basics

Now for a reality check.

DRTV offers the potential for high rewards, but DRTV is high risk. Many otherwise successful innovative products simply do not pass DRTV testing: they fail. Perhaps 3% of products tested for DRTV actually succeed.

There are some basics, however, to help an inventor to assess whether or not his or her new product might be the next DRTV hit.

Below are 5 criteria of an “ideal” DRTV product:

  1. Has a WOW factor – a key benefit that makes viewers want to buy now!
  2. Appeals to a broad segment of buyers – niche products rarely succeed.
  3. High profit margin – mark up of 5X to 6X it typical for success.
  4. Benefits are easily and quickly demonstrated – commercials are about 1 minute
  5. Not available in anywhere else – at least, initially

The WOW factor is crucial. Viewers are very busy and attention spans are extremely short. If the product doesn't wow them, grab their attention in the first 10 seconds, it is unlikely to succeed in DRTV. Many excellent innovative products that may sell very well elsewhere, simply don't make the cut for DRTV, not enough WOW factor.

DRTV succeeds because a tiny fraction of millions of viewers chooses to buy. Niche products reduce that already tiny fraction of buyers still further. Products that appeal to a broad segment of the population generally have the best chance for DRTV success. Niche products rarely succeed in DRTV.

High profit margin is extremely important. This is because the key elements of DRTV (testing, commercial design, media buy, production) have a high imbedded cost. DRTV products generally have a 5X to 6X mark up from manufactured cost to retail price.

Benefits are easily understood and quickly demonstrated.  A typical short form DRTV commercial is only 1 minute long. Within that one minute span, the product is introduced, its key benefits are demonstrated, the offer is given, with the close being the 1-800 number and website to purchase. A lot of information must be clearly communicated within a very short time span.

The product should be not available elsewhere for purchase initially. If viewers can simply go to a local store to purchase it, why would they bother calling a 1-800 number or going to a website and paying significant shipping and handling costs? Of course, over time, all DRTV products are rolled into retail stores where over 90% of all revenues are typically earned.

If your product meets the 5 criteria described above, you have a chance to be the next DRTV success story. Your product just has to test successfully – and join the 3% of products that become DRTV successes.

Stay tuned for DRTV Basics, Part 2: Testing!