We learned through a Facebook post by former HSN host Dan Dennis Wednesday that the pioneer who co-founded HSN, Roy Speer, had passed away,
Speer died Sunday after a long illness, according to The Tampa Bay Times. He lived in New Port Richey, Fla.
“Today ends a day of sadness for me, as I mourn the death of Roy Speer, co-founder of the Home Shopping Network,” Clifton, N.J.-native Dennis wrote. “As one of their original hosts, I had unprecedented access to Roy and all I can say is that if it wasn’t for Roy Speer, there wouldn’t even be a Dan Dennis. Roy always treated me like a son, and I will always be proud to call him ‘dad’ as well. God Bless and keep, Roy. It’s your old friend Discount Dan sayin’ ‘Bye bye for now.’”
The Tampa Bay paper did an excellent obit on Speers, who was quite a character. Here’s the link to it, and it is well-worth reading.
Apparently Speer, a lawyer, was a a pretty ornery character, tight-fisted and brash.
The legendary story about Speer and the co-founder of HSN, the broadcaster Lowell “Bud” Paxson, was that they started the network with pretty unsexy merchandise: 112 can openers. Speer and Paxson owned a local radio station, and they accepted the electric can openers in lieu of cash from an advertiser who couldn’t pay his bill, The Tampa Bay Times reported.
First, Speer and Paxon sold the can openers through their radio station. Then they took the business to the next step by buying local access time on cable, forging a TV home shopping channel.
The network secured national distribution in 1985. Over the years, its name went from Home Shopping Channel to Home Shopping Club to Home Shopping Network to HSN.
“The interactive shopping that Mr. Speer pioneered began almost by accident, multiplied beyond all expectations and turned the once-kitschy purveyor of star-shaped ice cube trays and racy playing cards into an industry standard,” The Tampa Bay Times wrote.
Yes, HSN is a multi-billion company now.
Speer at one point made the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Guess he sold a lot of cubic zirconia.