Bid TV (2000-2014)
I had never watched much shopping TV before. There used to be a channel in the OnDigital days called Shop! which I watched occasionally, which after it closed was replaced by QVC, which is a successful channel but one I’ve never had that much interest in. After the launch of Freeview, in January 2003 another channel joined the line-up called Bid-Up.TV, I heard a little about it but had never seen it for myself. So on the first night it was available I had a quick look to discover what it was all about, and I instantly became hooked, and there are a few reasons why.
Bid-Up.TV launched in October 2000 and had a rather innovative idea for the time, they would sell items but in the format of an auction, so people would bid with their phone or on the website and when it was over the host would bang the gavel. I found this particularly entertaining as it was like nothing I had seen before, although I actually never bought anything from the channel myself it seemed very well put together and I watched it endlessly, some of the presenters were great too.
One of my favourites was Andy Hodgson, I remember enjoying him on radio station LBC before I saw him on TV so I was interested in seeing him. After getting past that weird thing where his voice doesn’t match the face you’d imagined him to have, he was great. He was very witty and always had amusing asides as the bidders’ names appeared on the screen, saying things like “Mavis is in Northampton, cobblers, no it’s true”, and engaging with them by saying “ooh, I went there once, a lovely part of the country, I went to this cafe, I had pie, chips and gravy, I might have seen you there. I haven’t been for a while.”
Andy was particularly brilliant when paired with his assistant Jenny Harrison. In the early days he always carried on as if he was vaguely in love with her and she was the only one that he would ever work with. She seemingly couldn’t stand him which made it even funnier and the way she looked at him as he did his Alan Partridge-style routine was terrific. Andy is a brilliant presenter and although he’s appeared in a few other things it’s a shame that he’s never gone mainstream.
Best of all though was Peter Simon. I have already written about him a lot on here, about how I have enjoyed his various shows over the years such as Double Dare, so I wondered what he would bring to the channel. Again, he was wonderful, like nothing else I’d ever seen on shopping TV. His style was unique, watching him endlessly shout phrases like “you can’t go wrong” and “it’s two tenners, one fiver” was very funny.
You never knew what was going to happen next with Peter but you knew it would make you laugh, especially when he was doing speed auctions against the clock and watching him go off-message and start to do things like dancing along to the music and telling terrible Larry Grayson-style jokes, taking his trousers off or running around around the studio and falling over really was great, and he amassed a huge fanbase. The night he was presented with a figurine of himself to celebrate his 10 years with the channel is rather unforgettable.
There were lots of other great presenters too, including Mike Mason who liked to burst into song and say “Simon, bid again, Simon!”, and also Paul Ross with his DVD evenings. I never expected so be so entertained from such an unlikely source, the first year of Bid-Up that I watched is one of my favourite things on that I’ve seen on TV. After a while they also launched Price-Drop TV and I’ll be writing about that too soon.
There were other great ideas too including exciting competitions and they even won some awards. But things change. Producing 17 hours of live TV a day takes its strain, and presenters start to move on, and there are different ideas. In 2004 an inferior new format called Best Bidding was introduced, and then after the Auction World scandal live rising price auctions were just about dropped altogether and replaced with the falling price format, meaning that in 2005 the channel was renamed Bid TV. They then stopped using auction terminology and the quality of items decreased, and seeing presenters insisting that every piece that they sold was a “great product” was rather dull.
Around 2009, something strange happened. Quantities started to become increasingly slow to sell out, and they had to start using clocks to end sales, with many still left unsold when time ran out. They also did stupid gimmicks like locking the phone lines and not having the price on the screen for about half the sale, it became increasingly dull and viewers started to lose interest. There was also increasing discomfort with the high price of the phone call and postage and packaging.
After a lot of changes the format was so tired that by the end they had changed the channel to an QVC/Ideal World type one which made it seem like they had finally run out of ideas, and when they closed in April 2014 it wasn’t as sad as it should’ve been, because with very few exceptions the final year of Bid was really bad and even I stopped watching regularly. But it shouldn’t take too much away from the golden era of the early days.