Would you believe that there were shopping channels around long before the launch of Bid TV, and this one was my introduction into that rather bizarre world. Shop! was an OnDigital channel that was a collaboration between Granada (that along with Carlton was one of the major backers on OnDigital) and Littlewoods. After getting a box in the late-90s, I could finally see for myself what these shopping channels were like.
First of all, this channel had to be live, so there was a chance that anything could happen. I also thought that it was rather odd that there were no advert breaks, although essentially everything that was sold could be classed as an advert. There were various strands and themed hours and so on, meaning that they might sell some clothes, or jewellery, all of the usual things that you would find on a channel like this. Call now!
I must admit that I never bought anything from this channel myself, I just enjoyed the entertainment value, so I wouldn’t really know if they offered anything that was a decent level of quality, but I can only imagine that many bargains were bagged by viewers. There were also several adverts in the OnDigital magazine, promoting offers and discounts, and we never seemed to be more than a few days away from a sale.
I don’t remember seeing it myself, but I believe that this channel also had a late-night strand, where things would be sold for the adults, if you get what I mean. But don’t worry, because I’m sure that they were all very discreet about it… But of course, this is a rather crowded market in TV, and plenty of other shopping channels were trying to attract the viewers and turn them into regular customers. I thought that something might be up when they started to be live for fewer hours a day.
And after a while, the next sale that came along was the closing down sale. Shop! went off the air after just over three years (and shortly before the total collapse of ITV Digital as it was by this point). I don’t recall seeing many of the hosts again after this (although Andy Crane was part of the line-up for a short while). Not long after this, QVC took over the slot, and remains a Freeview channel to this day.
QVC is a channel that I’ve never really been that interested in by comparison, because even though it is the biggest shopping channel in this country, and has now been running for almost three decades, they do it all properly, with no hosts trying to make silly jokes, or unexpectedly bizarre moments. When Bid TV came to Freeview in 2003, I barely gave QVC or any of the others a second look after this. But I wouldn’t have even watched that one if it wasn’t for Shop!