You may not know Kevin Harrington's name or his face, but he's been selling you products on television for 25 years.
The Flo Bee. The Solid Gold Rock 'n' Roll music collection. The Flying Lure. The Ab Isolator.
The booming voice of Odessa-based pitchman Billy Mays may get more press, but Harrington sells himself as a pioneer in the infomercial business, partnering with fitness guru Tony Little 20 years ago and creating signature early spots for Wolfman Jack and Mays himself.
Now the owner of Clearwater-based TVGoods.com and OmniComm Studios is preparing to step in front of the cameras this fall on ABC's new unscripted series Shark Tank. Harrington will be among five moguls tapped to evaluate aspiring business folks pitching business concepts, products, properties and services — handing out their own cash as investment funds on a show developed by Mark Burnett, the producer of Survivor and Celebrity Apprentice.
The show doesn't debut until Aug. 9, but producers will be auditioning prospective pitchers at cities across the country, including an Orlando stop on Thursday (Harrington and the other judges won't be there; producers want sharks to see products for the first time on camera).
We asked Harrington a few questions about how Shark Tank will work and why he's stepping into an unscripted series which is substantially different from his pal Mays' Discovery Channel series, Pitchmen.
Why are you doing this show?
"It's a good chance for me to look at a lot of new products. If you look at Pitchman, with Billy, it gives him a nice platform in the mass market universe. Only a handful of (applicants) will get on Shark Tank, and there'll be some opportunities for us to look at a lot of new products along the way."
Didn't ABC already do an unscripted series about entrepreneurs from Simon Cowell?
"Yeah, that was American Inventor, kinda done out of the mold of American Idol, where they started with thousands and ended up with one winner. … On Shark Tank, each product stands alone; the sharks either invest or don't with each item. … You sink or swim in each presentation. … It's about finding that angel investor, that shark, to make your dream a reality."
What kinds of products work on the show?
I look for a product that has a mass market appeal … nothing that takes years, I look for a one-year turn on my money. I look for a price point typically under $100, definitely under $300, something that has some kind of demonstration to it and a magical transformation. In the case of Tony Little, you're transforming your body … something with immediate benefit."
Why stay here in the Tampa Bay area?
I moved here in 1994 in a venture with Home Shopping Network, and I've been here ever since. There's a lot of ex-HSN people in this city, which gives you a great talent pool to pull from. Forbes Riley (SpinGym, Power Juicer) just left my office. … She moved here from Los Angeles because she's on the air with HSN every month. It's a hotbed for Home Shopping and infomercial talent in this market.